23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question to the Minister for Trade relates to the depressed state of the Tasmanian timber industry. Is the Department of Trade giving close attention to this problem, about which urgent representations have been made by timber interests in Tasmania? Does he now consider it desirable that a more thorough investigation should be made of the industry generally with a view to affording it a measure of protection?
– My department’s awareness of the circumstances of the timber industry, as of the circumstances of other industries, arises from a system which, I think it can be said, has operated with success for some time. First there was the system of import licensing, but more recently there has been a system by which an industry that feels that its interests may be impaired by imports creates a panel. That panel may express a desire to discuss with senior officers of the Department of Trade the circumstances in which the industry is affected, or is claimed to be affected, by imports. This has been done by the timber industry. I am sure the honorable member is aware that it did lead to a request for a reference to a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board. This was not acted on and did not produce additional protection for the timber industry. I have stated since then that if it can be shown prima facie at any time that the timber industry is being seriously damaged by imports, we shall be ready to refer the matter again to a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board. The case should be handled through the panel system of the industry.
– My question is also directed to the Minister for Trade. Can he say what stage has been reached by the signatories to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in considering the effects of the European Common Market on tariff arrangements that have been negotiated under the agreement? Are there any indications that Gatt is coming to grips with world trade problems resulting from developments in relation to the European Common Market?
– The honorable member has interested himself continuously in this matter. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade provides that, in circumstances such as may be brought about by the creation of a customs union or common market area in Europe, there shall be negotiations between the members of Gatt for the conversion of the concessions accorded by individual countries in the new area to the common external tariff agreed on. Where necessary, concessions shall be made to external countries to avoid any impairment of their trading relations. Such negotiations with Gatt commenced in August of last year, and they have proceeded more or less continuously. I am bound to say that, in respect of agricultural products, the position is rather unsatisfactory, because the countries of the European Economic Community themselves have not as yet determined the details of the community’s internal agricultural policy. Indeed, the arrangement appears, increasingly, to work with precision, expedition and effectiveness when industrial products are in question, but is disappointly slow and very inadequate when the issue is the sufficient protection of the bulk rural commodities.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question related to one that I asked last week about the availability of an additional £5,000,000 for borrowing by local government authorities under the provisions of the Budget. I have since been advised by certain municipal councils that they have been unable to obtain the loans for which they already had received approval from the Australian Loan Council, the reason being the provisions of the recently enacted Commonwealth measure requiring a specified proportion of life insurance and superannuation funds to be invested in Commonwealth loans. Will the Treasurer consider a specific loan to municipal authorities through the agency of the States so that councils may provide employment by commencing public works now instead of at some later date?
– The honorable member is getting a bit nervous!
– Not a bit of it.
– Before 1 answer the question, I should like to deal with a comment made by the honorable gentleman about the authorization of the borrowing of an additional £5,000,000 by local government authorities, since I have not previously advised the House of this. I am glad to be able to tell honorable members now that all States have agreed to the increased provision, and arrangements for the authorization of the additional borrowing will now be concluded.
The position of local government and semi-governmental authorities generally is that last year they were able to use their borrowing authority virtually up to the full amount authorized. In at least five States, every pound of the authorized borrowings was obtained by way of loans. We are only in the second month of the current financial year, and my information is that, generally speaking, local government and semigovernmental authorities are doing reasonably well in their efforts to raise loans. Indeed, the insistence of representatives from some of the State Parliaments that more could be raised if authority were given influenced us to signify our agreement to an increased authorization.
Far from making the position of local government and semi-governmental authority borrowers more difficult, our legislation, Sir, should have the certain effect of ensuring that they get a bigger proportion of the available loan money. The proportion which life offices and superannuation funds would require to invest in local government loans in order to qualify for the benefits of our legislation is somewhat higher than the proportion that they have invested in these loans during recent years. In particular cases there may be immediate problems, but I am certain that in the long run the legislation will prove to be of benefit.
Let me say that there is nothing to prevent State governments assisting the local 1 authorities from their own resources if n particular cases of difficulty arise. Significant increases have occurred this year in the Commonwealth provision for the States, in respect of the normal financial grants and also the States’ public works programmes.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question. In view of the right honorable gentleman’s recent statement that those who propose to stand as Liberal candidates against him and at least six of his colleagues at the forthcoming elections, because of dissatisfaction with the Government and its policies, are being well financed by certain sinister shadowy figures-
– Order! The honorable member is now proceeding to give information. He may direct a question, but he must not exploit the forms of the House by giving information in this manner.
– With all due respect to you, Sir, it is my desire to point out that the Treasurer-
– Order! The honorable member cannot canvass the matter. The position is that an honorable member may direct a question to any Minister on any matter for which that Minister is responsible to the House. A question concerning a Minister’s opponent in a forthcoming election would have nothing to do with the House.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would the honorable member be in order if he put his question interrogatively?
– The honorable member for Scullin may proceed.
– In the circumstances, because I do not agree with your ruling, Mr. Speaker-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– May I be allowed to raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker? The honorable member has been permitted to go a certain distance in publicly making an inquiry of me, which, in point of fact-
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, is the Treasurer in order in replying to a question that you have disallowed?
-Order! The Treasurer is in order as far as he has gone.
– Why? To what question is he replying?
– Are these your general tactics, to allow a complete distortion of something I have said to be expressed, without allowing me an opportunity to reply?
– Sit down!
– Order! Honorable members will resume their seats. The Treasurer is speaking to the point of order.
– The point I am raising is this-
– I wish to raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
– Order! We are already considering a point of order. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will remain silent.
– I would like an opportunity to state my point of order. The honorable member for Scullin, in purporting to put a question to me, has introduced material which is not factual. It relates to statements made by me, and it misrepresents my position to some extent. You, Mr. Speaker, have ruled that question out of order, and the point I raise is this: Other than by making a personal explanation, in what way can I deal with the material already presented to the House?
– Order! I call the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General-
– That is what the Speaker thought of the Treasurer’s point of order; he was wiped.
– Mr. Speaker, having regard to what has been said, I take it that my .remedy lies in making a personal explanation.
- Mr. Speaker-
– Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will resume his seat.
– I am getting a raw deal.
– Order! The honorable member for Scullin endeavoured to ask a question but he was ruled out of order by me. The Treasurer does not have the right to reply to that question.
– May I, Sir, at the end of question time make a personal explanation?
– The Treasurer may, by leave, have full opportunity to do whatever he thinks fit. I remind honorable members that if we stuck rigidly to the Standing Orders during question time, questions would occupy, not 45 minutes, but only about fifteen minutes. Many of the questions asked are, on a strict interpretation, out of order, and many are difficult to follow. If I enforced the Standing Orders rigidly, 80 per cent, of the questions asked would be ruled out of order and we would have a regulation strike. I have called the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith.
– Mr. Speaker, if this chamber goes on strike will you ensure that the Opposition will not be called before a court of pains and penalties?
– I could add a little to that.
– Order! The honorable member will ask his question or resume his seat.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that some time ago the honorable gentleman promised to set aside the necessary money for the construction of a modern post office at Matraville, in the electorate of KingsfordSmith? Is the honorable gentleman aware that so far no provision has been made in the civil works programme for that job to be done? Will the Minister state why no provision has been made for this work in the estimates for this year? Finally, when can the long-suffering residents of Matraville expect to receive some relief from the primitive conditions that now exist in the post office there? I suggest-
– Order! The honorable member is now making a comment. He has already asked his question.
– May I suggest that the Minister-
– Order! The honorable member has asked his question. He will now resume his seat.
– I thought I was getting a raw deal.
– I do not want to convey the impression that the honorable member is about to get another raw deal, but I will say that I have no recollection of giving, and I am sure that I have not at any time given, a definite undertaking that a specific sum of money would be set aside for the erection of a new post office at Matraville.
– You have a bad memory. You gave the undertaking to me.
– Order! The honorable member will cease interjecting.
– Certainly the requirements of the residents of this area, so far as post office and other services are concerned, are given constant attention. Similar attention is given to many other places where the position is similar to that of Matraville. The determination of this year’s programme of capital works and expenditure has recently been made by the Post Office, having regard to the Budget announcement of further increases in the amounts made available by the Government for that purpose. I am not aware of the exact position that exists in relation to the Matraville post office, but I certainly combat the suggestion that any firm commitment was ever made to expend specific sums of money on that work.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Is there any truth in a recent announcement that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have abandoned the production of penicillin and have reduced greatly the production of insulin because of competition from imports?
– I understand that a similar question was asked in the House yesterday during my absence. The short answer to the honorable member is, “ No “. It is perfectly true that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have large stocks of insulin and penicillin and did suspend the production of both substances, but the reason for that action was not, in the main or, I think I could say, even at all, because of imports. Even during the height of import licensing, importers of drugs had an overall licence within which they could vary the quantities of the various drugs that they imported. So there was in fact no effective limitation of the amount of insulin or penicillin that importers could bring in at any time. There have been various factors that have accounted for the very large stocks held by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. One is that, with better techniques of production, they are now, and have been for some time, able to produce much larger quantities of both insulin and penicillin from the raw materials which they use for their production.
Another factor is that in the insulin field later types of insulin, the slow acting insulins, have replaced to a large extent the type of insulin which was produced by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory. Similarly, in the penicillin field, the new antibiotics - the newer penicillins - have largely replaced the conventional penicillins which were in use. As a result of these various factors, very large stocks were built up and it was only sensible that production should be suspended until those stocks could be diminished. In fact, it is rather interesting to notice that since the abandonmentof import licensing, although not as a consequence of it, imports of both insulin and penicillin into Australia have fallen.
– I desire to ask youa question, Mr. Speaker. If a leading member of the Government says that there are sinister - that is, corrupt and evil - forcesat work in this community seeking to secure the election of people to this Parliament,am
I not entitled to secure from him information with a view to preventing such people securing election into -this.- Parliament?
– Order! I am answerable to the House, for. all things in relation to this House, and sometimes I find it difficult to control what is said. here. What is said outside the House has nothing at all to do with me. So far as a Minister is concerned, I hope I shall never be charged with asking him to remain silent.
– In view of the welcome statement by the Minister for Lands in the Queensland Government that a further 40,000 acres of vacant Crown land on the wet tropical coast will be opened for cattle fattening purposes, I ask the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization whether he can say when he expects the organization’s Division of Tropical Pastures to be established at Townsville so that further research may be carried out on many more thousands of acres of vacant Crown land which could be used for this very necessary and desirable purpose.
– What was your majority in Herbert?
– Order! I warn the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, who is continuing to interject, that he is discourteous to honorable members who are seeking information and he is interfering with their right to hear the replies of Ministers. If it occurs again, I shall have to-
– I have got to take it on the chin!
– Order! I name the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) put -
That the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The honorable member for Herbert asked about’ the establishment of a pastoral research laboratory in north Queensland. This’ is a very important matter, in which the honorable gentleman has done a great deal of work and made a great many representations. It is part of a developmental programme which is regarded by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization as very important. As the honorable gentleman will know, this laboratory will complement the laboratory already established at St. Lucia, in Brisbane, and the cattle breeding research station at Rockhampton, further north. I am sorry that I cannot tell the honorable gentleman the precise date at which we hope to have this further extension. It is a major undertaking and will require both considerable expenditure and the services of a number of scientists. However, the organization is actively pursuing the project, and I hope it will be possible to bring the laboratory into operation at a reasonably early date.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply. Has the Government recently sold a process developed by the Defence Standards Laboratories - a metallurgical process - to the Du Pont Corporation of America?
– The honorable member for Bonython asked me a question on this matter last week and I indicated then what the circumstances were. I think it is unnecessary to repeat what I then said. We have not sold a process; we have sold to the Du Pont organization a licence for further development of a process.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Primary Industry by saying that I have heard that the Australian Tobacco Growers’ Council might ask the Commonwealth and State Governments for assistance to conduct an investigation into the general problems concerning the tobaccogrowing industry. Will the Minister inform the House whether the Government would be willing to aid the tobacco-growers in conducting such an investigation?
– I am able to inform the honorable member that a request has been made to the Government on the lines suggested by his question. Representatives of the Australian Tobacco Growers’ Council are in Canberra to-day and I shall be meeting them, perhaps with the Minister for Trade as well, to discuss this matter. We will tell the council’s representatives that the Commonwealth is willing to assist them in their investigations. We are prepared to provide technical officers and some clerical assistance, and to meet some of the cost of the investigation. We hope that the State governments will fully co-operate in the work of this committee, but I shall be able to give the honorable member more information after the conference to-day.
– Will the Minister for Health set up an inquiry to ascertain to what extent proprietary drugs and products coming within the ambit of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme are too expensively packaged and too elaborately labelled? I refer, not to the security of the packages, but to the unnecessarily expensive advertising on the packages and the printed material with which they are labelled.
– This seems to open up a pretty wide field. I do not know what powers the Federal Government would have in such a matter and I certainly do not know what powers the Department of Health might have. The honorable gentleman might perhaps prefer to address his question to my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Will the standard gauge railway line between Albury, New South Wales, and Melbourne, Victoria, when completed, be of special value in speeding the passage of Queensland beef, fruit and many other products to southern markets, as well as having great national value? I ask this question because of the condemnation last night of the standardization of this line by the honorable member for Kennedy, who is a member of the Australian Labour Party.
– I do not doubt at all that the honorable member for Wide Bay is correct. Indeed, among the more powerful reasons put forward for the standardization of the Wodonga-Melbourne section of that line was the proposition that this would lead to cheaper and more effective transport of goods, including, of course, goods from the northern State.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has he received any official advice which would indicate, first, that the Government of Soviet Russia has decided that its suspension of nuclear tests will end and that it will proceed with nuclear tests, and, secondly, whether this shows complete lack of faith and sincerity on the part of Soviet Russia?
– We have had no official information on this matter yet, but it has been reported, I am told, through Reuters agency, that such an announcement has been made. If it were not for the fact that nothing that comes from the Soviet Union surprises one it would be rather surprising because, as the honorable member knows Russia has for some time now been engaged in negotiating with the West about the suspension of nuclear tests. The Western Powers have, 1 think, displayed great patience - some might have thought too much - but at any rate they have kept to their own suspension of nuclear testing. They have put to the Soviet Union very reasonable and proper conditions about supervision and control of nuclear testing and the Soviet Union has rejected them. Now, if this report is right, it would appear that Russia, while still professing to want a suspension of nuclear tests, is resuming the tests without warning to the other countries concerned.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Government determined what it regards as a satisfactory level of motor vehicle production in Australia? Has the Minister’s department made any assessment of how many additional workers the motor vehicle industry could now employ without endangering the proper balance of the nation’s economy? Finally, is the motor industry again to be left in the dark on these matters with the threat of the present oppressive measures being repeated by the Government at some undetermined level of future production?
– It is not for the Government to determine what is a sustainable level of production and sale of motor vehicles in Australia. It can form an opinion about what it regards as an unduly high level of production and an unduly high capacity for production. I think that is the answer to the honorable member’s first question. To the second question, the answer is, “ No “. My department has not, for the reasons I have stated, regarded it as part of its function to estimate the number of workers that might be employed in the industry. The last question is purely political and I think most honorable members can form their own judgment on it.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I preface it by saying that car sales to-day are less than they were in March, 1956, when sales tax was increased to 30 per cent. Will the Treasurer cancel that increase in sales tax as he cancelled in February, 1961, the 10 per cent, increase imposed on 15th November last year. In this way he could stimulate sales and so increase employment in the motor and subsidiary industries. In view of the extremely large profits which have been made by motor car interests in recent years, will the Treasurer approach them with a request that they reduce the price of their products and in this way help to stimulate employment? Has the lifting of import controls brought about a reduction in the price of motor vehicles?
– The Government’s revenue proposals, embodying sales tax changes, have been announced in the Budget, and I have no policy proposals to put before the House which would vary matters at this point. The price policy followed by the motor car industry is a matter for the various organizations to determine for themselves. This Government does not attempt to dictate those policies to them. A feature of the industrial experience of this country during the period in which this Government has been in office is that there has been a quite phenomenal expansion both of automotive productive capacity and of the number of motor cars on the road. In the last year before this Government took office, 125,000 new motor vehicles were registered. Last year the number was 310,000. At the earlier period to which 1 have referred there was one car on the road for every 7.2 people - men, women and children - in the community. Last year there was one for 3.6 people. It will be seen, therefore, that this industry has enjoyed a remarkable expansion. My colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, has dealt with other aspects of the question in which other honorable gentlemen are interested.
– My question is addressed to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and arises out of an incident which occurred in the House last night. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member referred to the-
– 1 take a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have already ruled this morning, in relation to another question, that a Minister is responsible for the administration of his department, and nothing else. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not have a department to administer. How can he be asked a question?
– Order! As yet I do not know what the question is. I shall allow the honorable member for Mackellar to proceed. If the question refers to something for which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not responsible to the House, the question will be out of order.
– I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is responsible to this House for his own words. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that last night he referred to the Communist Party as another Labour Party - whether by inadvertence or by a slip of the mind, I do not know. I mentioned this and he denied it. I now find-
– Order! The honorable member is out of order.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. What is the Government’s view of the desirable number of motor vehicles to be manufactured in Australia at this time, having regard to the present state of the economy? What is the Government’s view of a desirable manufacturing capacity for the motor vehicle industry in Australia at this time?
– The first part of the honorable gentleman’s question relates to the desirable number of motor vehicles to be produced. I do not know what the production capacity is, but in November last year we formed the opinion that a production rate that reached a level as high as 310,000 vehicles a year, and perhaps could have gone higher, was too great in the circumstances. As to the second part of the question, it is not the function of any government to enter into the matter of the commercial judgment of firms on how many vehicles they should produce. Nor are we in a position to form an opinion on the exact number of vehicles that can be sold satisfactorily on the Australian market. civil aviation:
– Can the Treasurer supply precise figures showing the amount of Government business that goes to the Government-owned airline and the amount that goes to the private operator? I have in mind recent statements that 66 per cent, of Government business goes to TransAustralia Airlines and 33 per cent, to Ansett-A.N.A. Can the Treasurer ascertain the amount of business, department by department, which is allotted to each of the two operators? How does the present situation come about? Why is Government business not divided more evenly between the two airlines?
– I shall see whether I can secure from the Minister for Civil Aviation, if he is the appropriate Minister to give the information, the details that the honorable gentleman has requested. However, at this stage, I think I should point out that, for some considerable time during the period of operation of these two airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines concentrated rather more than the other airline on the provision of services to this National Capital and to meeting the requirements of members of this Parliament. I am not in a position to say whether there has been any variation of that arrangement recently, but I think it could have had a bearing on the proportion of Government business enjoyed by the two airlines at an early period.
Mr. Pollard said leakages had gone on and would always go on.
I did say that. The following words then appear: -
Those making the charges to-day had been some of the worst offenders in the past, when it suited their own book.
I did not utter any such words. The press may have received that report and may have printed it in good faith. If any one gave it to the press, it is a lie. If the press concocted it, it is worse still.
I made the statement that in my own electorate - it would appear to be possible, if not probable, that this occurs in other electorates as well - candidates calling themselves independent Liberal candidates presented themselves with the claim that they were doing so because of substantial support in the electorate. This was claimed in the case of my own prospective opponent. I made the point that I was not able to discover this “ substantial support “ in my electorate. Indeed, the presidents of my ten branches indicated their willingness to meet with me - in fact, they volunteered that proposal - so that we could present a united front against any challenge of this kind. I made the comment that I thought that if. in those circumstances, an opponent claimed to have substantial support - support which was not evident in the electorate - the electorate was entitled to know just where that support was coming from.
There was reason to believe that in this instance the support would come from outside the electorate and from organizations which may be interested in opposing Government candidates. I therefore recommended to members of our own party organization that, in any such case, they examine the candidature and require from a candidate so presenting himself a statement of the source of his support, the purpose being, to see whether there was something in the affair more sinister than the claim that the support came merely from within the electorate. Opposition members are interjecting. I know that they do not accept this democratic proposition.
– Order! I direct the Treasurer’s attention to the fact that he did not obtain leave of the House to make these remarks. Leave was not necessary for him to explain how he had been misrepresented. However, I think that ‘he is now entering into a debate.
– I was provoked by interjections from honorable members opposite into making the comment that I have just made. I say that a party organization in any electorate has the right to require candidates who claim to represent a particular set of interests or the particular party to indicate the basis of their support.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I contend that the Treasurer has gone much beyond the scope of a personal explanation. If you permit him to continue in that fashion, the honorable member for Scullin ought to be given leave by the House to make a statement, also.
– Order! It is- the custom of the House to permit an honorable member who claims to have been misrepresented to state how he has been misrepresented. Debating of the subject-matter involved’ is contrary to the Standing Orders. If an honorable member wants to make a statement to clear his character in any way, he should seek leave of the House to do so.-
He has the full right to ask for leave for that purpose.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to exercise the right to make a statement to clear my name.
– The honorable member is seeking the leave of the House to make a statement. Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to confine his remarks to the personal explanation and not to debate the subject-matter.
– The honorable member for Mackellar asserted in his question that I had stated that the Communist Party of Australia was another Labour party. He put that interpretation on the following passage which I read from page 669 of “ Hansard “:-
If honorable members opposite are genuine in this matter and if they really want to help us see that no members of the Australian Labour Party associate with members of any other Labour Party, they will give us the information which will help us do that.
There is a more extended reference on the previous page in which my thought was made more amply clear. I cited the instance of a prominent member of the Australian Labour Party whose name had appeared on how-to-vote cards issued in union elections by members of the Communist Party, by members of the D.L.P. - I use that description, Sir, although “ Hansard “ spells it out as the Australian Democratic Labour Party when it is first mentioned - by members of the Australian Labour Party and by persons who are members of no party at all. I have never said anything which would indicate that any party other than the Australian Labour Party was a Labour party in the sense of being the political voice of the trade-union movement - the industrial movement. I do not believe that the Communist Party and the D.L.P. have any such claims, since they were not founded by the trade unions and the trade unions are not affiliated to them and do not appoint delegates to them.
– Order! Since the rules of the House were greatly relaxed for the Treasurer, I find it difficult to ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to limit his remarks, but I must ask him to do so, because two wrongs do not make a right. I ask him to co-operate with the Chair.
– Sir, my view is that the Australian Labour Party is the only party which is entitled to be called a labour party, and that members of the Australian Labour Party are the persons who are entitled to receive, in trade union elections, the support of all members of affiliated unions. The most loyal trade unionist is not the one who votes for the Communists, the D.L.P. or for any Liberal candidates who can be found.
– Mr. Speaker, having been misrepresented, 1 should like to make a statement to the House.
– It will be necessary for the honorable gentleman to obtain leave.
– But I have been misrepresented, Sir.
– A personal explanation about a misrepresentation and a straightout statement are in two different categories. The honorable gentleman evidently wishes to make a personal explanation. He has the right to do so, but he may not debate the subject-matter involved.
– A few moments ago, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition accused me of having misrepresented him. If he looks at page 673 of “ Hansard “, he will see that I was at least generous enough to suggest that he may have made an inadvertent slip of the tongue. I do not know whether he did. But I did not misrepresent him. I invite honorable members to look at the passage which was quoted by me last evening and to consider it in its context and see whether, taken in its context, it means that, at the stage in the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s remarks at which that statement was made, he had referred to the Communist Party of Australia as another Labour Party.
– I have been misrepresented, Sir.
– Order! The honorable member has the right to make a personal explanation if he claims to have been misrepresented. But I am beginning to think that we ought to consider whether the forms of the House are being abused.
– The honorable member for Mackellar asked in the House last night whether, shortly before he began his speech, I had used the phrase “ any other Labour party” to describe the Communist Party. I said, by way of interjection, that I had not done so. As I have already indicated by quoting from “ Hansard “, I had referred to members of other parties - members of the D.L.P. as well as members of the Communist Party - and to persons who are nol members of any party, issuing how-to-vote tickets in union elections. The reference which I made could not be attached to the Communist Party alone.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. This morning, I endeavoured to ask a question about a statement alleged by a Melbourne newspaper to have been made by the Treasurer - a statement about which the right honorable gentleman was questioned the other evening on the radio programme, “ Meet the Press “.
– Order! The honorable member may not discuss subject-matter which has been ruled out of order. To do so would be to reflect on the Chair. 1 suggest that he has not yet established that he has been misrepresented.
– The misrepresentation arose when the Treasurer, a few minutes ago, alleged that he had not made the statement that I said he had made, and said that 1 apparently was seeking to gain some political capital out of the matter. In reality, what he did was to accuse me of telling deliberate lies. I resent that.
– Order! The honorable member may not debate the matter.
– The Treasurer debated it for five minutes.
– Order! The honorable member may state how he has been mis represented and give his explanation. I must ask him not to endeavour to debate the subject. If he does he will be out of order.
– The right honorable gentleman said, and he admitted that he said, that sinister, shadowy, wealthy interests were seeking to defeat not merely-
– Order! The honorable member is now going beyond the making of a personal explanation concerning a misrepresentation. He is debating the subject.
– Apparently, if I am not to get the same-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– On 15th August the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) asked that a paper be prepared collating documents on the situation in Berlin. For the information of honorable members, I now lay on the table of the House a paper - a fairly substantial one - containing a collection of documents concerning Berlin and Germany, and relating to the period from May, 1959, to the present time. The paper also contains a chronology of events since 1944.
The collection includes most of the documents of chief significance over this period, though in some cases it has been necessary to rely on cabled texts. Copies of a comprehensive collation of documents prepared for the United States Senate and covering the period before May, 1959, are available to honorable members in the library. We have not sufficient copies to distribute them to all honorable members, but the collection is available in the library.
In tabling this document I want to say that I propose, at a time which I hope to arrange .with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), to make a comparatively short statement on these matters, and to move that the paper be printed so that a discussion of the subject may ensue.
– That will be soon?
– Yes. We will arrange a date. We do not want to interrupt the
Budget debate. I thought that in the .meantime it would be of great advantage to honorable members interested in this matter to be able to have a look at these documents during the week-end, rather than having them placed .before them at the last moment.
-Suspension of “Standing Orders.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the notice of motion standing in the name of the honorable Member for the Australian Capital Territory proposing the disallowance of the Commonwealth Dwellings (Rent) Ordinance, No. 18 .of 1961, being proceeded with forthwith.
: - I move -
That the Commonwealth Dwellings (Rent) Ordinance, No. 18 of 1961, made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910- 1959, be disallowed.
The ordinance, which was promulgated on 18 th July, was prepared by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) and tabled in this Parliament. Its purpose was to clarify the Government’s right to vary rents charged by the Commonwealth for dwellings it provides in Canberra. In February of this year the Minister announced that rents of government dwellings built since 1945 in the City of Canberra would be increased by amounts ranging from ls. to 29s. a week. It was subsequently revealed that the upper limit of increases would not be 29s., but that rents of some homes would be increased by £2 a week.
At that time, the Minister made a statement which showed that the rents to be charged were being based on the formula set out in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945, and on the variations provided in subsequent agreements made from time to time. I do not propose to take up the time available to me in giving the method of calculation of the rents as outlined by the Minister.
As may be readily appreciated, the Minister’s announcement of these very substantial increases of rents payable for government homes provoked a great number of ^protests. .As the member for the Australian Capital Territory I received literally hundreds of letters and telephone calls, and had many personal interviews with constituents protesting against the proposal to increase rents in this arbitrary manner. Numerous letters were written to the press. The Trades and Labour Council of the Australian Capital Territory, which represents thousands of .affiliated trade unionists, took the lead in callings meeting of protest. Some 500. persons crowded the Albert Hall at that meeting, at which was appointed a Citizens Rights Committee representative of various -sections of the community. This committee has .conducted a campaign of protest against the Government’s decision. Support has been given to the protest by various public service organizations.
As a result of these protests the Minister announced in April that the introduction of the increased rents would be postponed so that the Government’s legal position could be clarified. .He pointed out that some doubt had been expressed as to the Government’s legal right to vary rents payable under existing tenancy agreements. The ordinance which is now before the House, and which I have moved to disallow, is the result of the attempt to clarify the Government’s right to vary rentals during the currency of a lease. The operative section of the ordinance is section 4, subsection (1.) which says -
From time to time during the currency of a lease to which this Ordinance applies, the Minister may, by order under his hand, direct that the rent payable under the lease be decreased or increased to an .amount specified in the order, -and the Minister may, in any such order, specify the commencing date of the order.
I want to make it perfectly clear that the people of Canberra are prepared to pay reasonable rents. It is not to be said that Canberra people are being subsidized by the rest of the people of Australia. Evidence can be produced to show, indeed, that in many respects the people of this city are unfavorably placed by comparison with residents of other cities, both as to facilities and cost of living. It might be argued that rents should be increased to a minor extent to compensate for increased costs of maintenance, of administration and of insurance, but there can be no justification for increases of the magnitude announced by the Minister. In some cases put to me it has been shown that rents are to be increased by 54 per cent. These are very substantial increases indeed. “I suggest that the increases announced by the Minister are harsh and unjust. I shall deal, first, with my comment that they are harsh. They are harsh because of their effect on family budgets of people living in this city. I suppose all honorable members in this House know how difficult it is for people to frame a budget which will permit all expenses to be met from the incoming amounts available. To have suddenly thrust into that budget an obligation to pay an additional 29s., 30s. or £2 a week confronts the worker and his wife with a problem that they cannot surmount. I have received hundreds of letters protesting against the proposed rent increases. I have had many hundreds of telephone calls on this matter and I have had numerous visitors to my office. All of those callers have stated that the rent increases will bear harshly on them and on their families. The increases will bear most harshly, of course, on the family man with responsibilities for the care, upbringing and education of his children.
By question in this House, I asked the Minister whether consideration could be given to cases of hardship which did not fall within the provisions of the rental rebate scheme as it applies in Canberra. The Minister said that he would be prepared to .consider individual cases df hardship. Following that, I submitted a number of cases to the Minister. From the many letters that I had received I summarized the points made by my constituents and submitted them in letters to the Minister. I should like to read to the House from the Minister’s reply, the .Minister having previously undertaken, as I have said, to consider particular cases of hardship if they were referred to him. On 18th July the Minister wrote to me, replying to letters submitting summarized cases to him. He said -
I have read carefully the extracts forwarded under cover of your letters and find that generally the tenants have indicated that they will experience financial hardship in meeting the increased rents. Other than under the rental rebate scheme mentioned above there is no authority under which tenants may receive a reduction in their rent.
The rental rebate scheme, of course, takes no account of the family responsibilities of the tenant. It has relation only to the family income - the income received by the people living in the .house that is the subject of the tenancy. The basis of fixing rentals announced by the Minister, according to the formula of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, has no regard for the fact that houses in Canberra are, in general, built to a standard above that specified in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. That fact has been noted by previous Ministers when reference has been made to the application of the rental rebate scheme. Formerly the rental rebate scheme here applied only to houses built not above the standards laid down in the Commonwealth and- State Housing Agreement, but in 1955 the then Minister for the Interior was provoked into an announcement that the rebate would apply to all government-owned houses in Canberra. That is the position to-day, but the rebate scheme takes no account of the particular circumstances of the family. It takes no account of the family responsibilities of the tenant and of the continuing expenses that he may h?.v* for medical treatment and hospital treatment of members of his family. It takes into account only the family income.
Although houses in Canberra are admittedly built to a standard above the general standards laid down in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, in applying the formula of the agreement here the Minister fixes rents that are considerably higher than those being charged by housing commissions for houses built under the agreement to which the Minister has referred. I admit quite readily that since 1950 a number of abnormal costs that previously were weighed into the cost of housing in Canberra have been removed, so that, in effect, before the formula is applied the capital cost of the house is reduced by some 20 per cent. When Mr. McBride was Minister for the Interior he took action to remove abnormal costs from the capital cost of houses in Canberra. At that time all sorts of things were written into the cost of houses. Some of the losses sustained by the Government in conducting workers’ hostels, for example, were added to the cost of houses. The Governnent of the day said that it was providing hostels in order to give accommodation to workers who were building the houses. It was losing money on the hostels and therefore was charging that loss against the capital cost of housing. That extra cost was reflected year after year during the life of the houses, until, as I have said, action was taken by a former Minister to remove it.
I have admitted freely that the people of Canberra are prepared to pay reasonable rents. They do not want to be subsidized. They do not want to be placed in a position of advantage over other citizens of the Commonwealth, but they want to be given the same treatment as other citizens of the Commonwealth. They want the same avenues of appeal as are granted to other citizens. I submit that when the Commonwealth enters into the field of providing houses for people - here it provides houses not only for its own servants but also for other citizens - it is not entitled to make a profit from its transactions. I submit that when the Commonwealth uses public money to provide houses for the public it is entitled to charge only such rents as, over a set period of years, will repay the capital cost of the houses and meet the other outgoings in relation to maintenance, administration and insurance.
– Is that not how the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is drawn up?
– Yes, but there is included, as the honorable member should know, a figure representing interest, which, in relation to housing in Canberra, I submit is completely unreal and leads to the Commonwealth making a profit from its housing ventures in the capital city. If the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) will be patient I will come to his point later.
The rent charged for a house should not be more than sufficient to meet the Commonwealth’s inescapable obligations. I submit that the interest component in Canberra rents is exorbitant. In 1954 the then Minister for the Interior, Mr. Kent Hughes, provided me with a break-up of each £1 of rent charged in Canberra. I propose to refer to that break-up as it relates to brick houses. In 1954 the then Minister stated that in relation to brick houses, for each £1 that was paid in rent, 12s. 6d. represented interest, 2d. was for insurance, maintenance accounted for 5s. 3d., sinking fund accounted for ls. 8d. and administration accounted for 5d. I submit that that interest component is exorbitant. To assess 12s. 6d. as the interest charge in each £1 of rent paid leads the Government into the position of taking a very substantial profit from its housing undertakings here. As has been revealed in answers given by the present Minister, not one house built in Canberra since 1937-38 has been built from, loan funds. All housing here has been financed from revenue - from the consolidated funds of the Commonwealth. 1 for one cannot see any justification for the inclusion of such a high proportion of interest in the rents that are charged.
I have referred to the figures given by the Minister in 1954. In April, 1959, I addressed a question on notice to the present Minister, asking for the present break-up of rents. He replied -
There is no break-up. However, for each £1 received by way of rent for new houses the Commonwealth’s inescapable commitments are - Insurance, 4d.; maintenance, 9s. 6d.; administration, 9d. The balance of 9s. 5d. is payable towards interest and sinking fund.
So we find that in 1954 the maintenance element in each £1 of rent was 5s. 3d. In 1959 the Minister said that there was no break-up, but an inescapable commitment for maintenance was 9s. 6d. in each £1. In reply to other questions the Minister revealed to me the amounts being received at present by the Commonwealth in rent in Canberra. As at 26th April this year the amount received fortnightly by the Commonwealth as rent for houses in Canberra was £47,828. From that it will be seen that the annual take to the Commonwealth was £1,243,528. The Minister revealed that if rents are increased as proposed the fortnightly take will amount to £61,820. That is a fortnightly increase of approximately £14,000. The Government’s annual income from rents in Canberra will amount to £1,607,320. The Minister said that an inescapable commitment was 9s. 6d. in each £1 rent for maintenance. If we apply 9s. 6d. in the £1 to the present government income from rent of £1.234,528, we find that the maintenance component assessed by the Minister comes to £590,672. But in a later part of the same answer the Minister quoted to me the actual cost of housing maintenance in Canberra. In 1959-60, the year in which the
Commonwealth was taking £390,672 for maintenance, the actual cost was £307,723.
– Profiteering indeed! Where this extra money goes is never revealed to this Parliament. If we take the figure that will apply with the new rents, the Commonwealth’s take is £1,607,320. According to the Minister’s figures, the maintenance element in that would be £763,477. If we admit that maintenance increases even to an extent that it will cost £400,000 this year, the additional rake-off to the Commonwealth is over £360,000. I suggest that is a very substantial profit to the Commonwealth and therefore the Commonwealth is in a position to reduce the rents that it is now charging on houses in Canberra.
I have said that the interest proportion is unjustified. I want to quote the increase in rents for houses and fiats compared with the rents charged by the Housing Commission in New South Wales. In Canberra, under the new proposal, the rent for a four-bedroom brick veneer house will be £5 15s. lid., an increase of £2 from £3 15s. lid. For a three-bedroom house, the rent will be £4 10s., £4 13s. and £5 a week, an increase of £1 9s. The rent for Northbourne flats will be increased to £9 3s. a week for a threebedroom flat. The previous rent was £7 14s. 3d. For a two-bedroom flat, the rent has gone from £6 14s. 3d. to £8 3s. and for a one-bedroom flat it has risen from £5 10s. to £6 6s. At Allawah and Bega flats the rent for a two-bedroom flat has risen from £3 9s. 3d. to £4 6s. 7d. At Currong flats, the eight-story block, the rent for a one-bedroom flat has increased from £4 6s. 3d. to £5 3s. 3d. and for a twobedroom flat from £5 0s. 3d. to £6 9s. Two large blocks of two-bedroom flats - Stuart flats and Gowrie Court - have been constructed recently. There is no change in the rent of the Stuart flats, for which the figure is £5 15s. nor is there any change in the rent of £5 5s. for the flats in Gowrie Court. I now compare those figures with the rents charged by the New South Wales Housing Commission which operates under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. These are figures for new constructions. The New South Wales
Housing Commission has no brick fourbedroom houses, but for a four-bedroom timber house the rent is £4 15s. as compared with £5 15s. lid. in Canberra for a brick four-bedroom house. For a threebedroom brick veneer house, the rents are £4 13s. and £4 17s. compared with approximately the same figure here - £4 10s. and £4 13s. For a two-bedroom brick veneer the rent in New South Wales ranges from £4 14s. to £4 I5s.
– Will you look at the Canberra figure for that?
– I have quoted the rate for two-bedroom flats.
– There is a wide variety of flats. We are talking about houses now.
– I have not the figures for two-bedroom houses because the department had discontinued the construction of two-bedroom houses and I thought the Minister would have known that. There might have been very recent changes, but none of them has yet been applied.
– They are far lower.
– We are talking now about new constructions. I will deal with flats in a bit more detail if I get the time, for the Minister is interested in that subject. At Northbourne flats, the rent for a three-bedroom fiat has increased to £9 3s. from £7 14s. 3d. For three-bedroom brick flats, the rent charged by the New South Wales Housing Commission is £4 8s. and £4 15s. a week.
– With central heating?
– The rent charged for two-bedroom flats by the New South Wales Housing Commission - and I can compare these with the rent for twobedroom flats at Northbourne-
– That is gross distortion.
– Order! The Minister will cease interjecting.
– It is gross distortion.
– There is no gross distortion whatsoever. These are the figures. If the Minister likes to dispute them, let him use his time in the debate 10 dispute them. 1 am saying the rents charged here are exorbitantly high. The Government should reduce them, and the House should disallow the ordinance.
– They are concessional rents.
– The Minister who interjects is one who took very substantial advantage of occupying a home provided by the Government at a rent very far below the economic rent that should have applied to that home.
– Do you say they should not apply?
– I say that the rents are unjust because they apply to all types of houses, including those that have been proved to be sub-standard or unsatisfactory. I refer now to monocrete houses. The figures show that 963 of these monocrete houses were constructed and more than 340 of them were proved to be damp. This means that there are families living in homes in which there was water running down the walls, there were mould and mildew in the homes, and floors and floor-coverings were rotting. Construction of these houses continued over a period of ten years. The condition of them has been brought to the notice of the department and the Minister, and the Minister himself recognizes that they are unsatisfactory. He has said that all these houses will be brought to a satisfactory condition. They have not been brought to a satisfactory condition, but the rents for them are going up by from 27s. to 30s. a week. Here it might be appropriate to refer to the common practice of housing authorities of not permitting any increases in rents while repairs remain unexecuted. For instance, the United Kingdom Rental Act of 1957 contains this perfectly clear provision -
The notice of increase shall be of no effect if given at the time when works of repair remain unexecuted.
That is to say, where the tenant has given notice to the landlord of repairs that are necessary, no increased rental can be applied until those repairs have been carried out. This Government does not adhere to that practice.
I say the rents are unjust. They are unjust to the Government’s own employees who have been transferred here from Mel bourne and other places with the transfer of defence personnel. These people were forced, in the course of their employment, to transfer to Canberra. They accepted tenancies. They were shown illustrations of the types of houses that were available, and they were quoted the rents that would be charged for those houses. They selected homes on that basis, and transferred, with their families, to Canberra. In some cases, within weeks of their arrival hare, they have been confronted with substantial increases in the rent - increases of from 29s. to £2 a week. Some of these cases I have put specifically to the Minister, but the Minister has riot seen his way clear to make any alteration to the rents.
I say this is an obvious confidence trick on the part of the Commonwealth, or at least a breach of faith by the Commonwealth because, in transferring departments here, and requiring its public servants to transfer from Melbourne to this place, it showed the people the houses that were available and they were enabled, from the illustrations, to make their selection of the type of house they preferred, and they were quoted the rents. In reply to a question, the Minister said that these figures were not quoted as firm rents but were quoted as approximate rents and the employees could not expect that the rents would not be varied. But I do suggest they would not expect the rent to be varied by amounts ranging up to £2 a week in a matter of weeks. I say that the defence personnel were quoted these rents when selecting the houses and the rents quoted undoubtedly played a significant part in their selection of housing and their ultimate decision to transfer to Canberra. Many of the defence personnel living in Canberra have found that costs in Canberra are much above those in Melbourne, so that their net income has been greatly reduced as a result of the Government’s decision to increase rents. The Government has, quite without any statutory authority, continued to deduct from the pay of its public servants the rent that is charged for governmentowned homes occupied by them. In May this year I addressed a question on this matter to the Treasurer, in which I asked him on what head of power the Commonwealth relied for its action in deducting rent from the salaries of its officers and for refusing to accept instructions from those officers that the deductions were to be discontinued. A reply to that question is available. I have not time to read it in full, but the reply makes it perfectly clear that there is no statutoryauthority whatsoever for the Government’s action and that the Commonwealth, in continuing to make these deductions of rent against the wishes of those public servants is doing something which is quite illegal. When public servants have issued instructions to their paymasters and officers in their departments that they are no longer to deduct rent from their salaries, or the increased amount of rent, here is the type of notice that is received - and this one came to me yesterday, lt is in reply to a letter dated 17th August and is itself dated 29th August. This is signed by the secretary of the Department of the Interior and reads in part -
The deduction of rent from the wages or salary of a Commonwealth employee who is a tenant of a Commonwealth house or flat does not depend on the receipt of any prior authority or consent. The practice of deducting rent from salary ot wages in these cases has been followed for a number of years and it is not intended that there should be any variation from this practice in the immediate future.
I suggest that the Commonwealth is acting completely beyond its powers, and is treating its public servants with arrogant disdain in denying them the rights that are theirs, and I hope that one of the Public Service associations will take this matter to court and test the Commonwealth’s authority to continue to deduct rent from the salaries of its public servants. Admittedly, those public servants pay their rent a fortnight in arrears and other tenants pay their rent a fortnight in advance; but any public servant who is in a position to bring his rent up to a fortnight in advance and says to his department, “ You must no longer deduct the rent from my salary “, has the weight of the law behind him. I should like to see this matter tested, and I hope that it will be tested.
The Commonwealth should not act as it is doing. The Commonwealth has statutory authority to deduct from salaries income tax, provident fund and superannuation payments, but it has no authority for the deduction of rents from salaries other than that the practice of doing so followed a
Cabinet decision taken on 13th April, 1930, and it has simply gone on doing so because it finds it- convenient. Where the Commonwealth receives instructions from its employees to discontinue the deductions it should be bound to discontinue them.
The rental increases in respect of Government homes in Canberra have been made by a Government which has asked every one else in the community to exercise restraint in their demands and profit taking. This is the Government which has refused to hold an inquiry into rents in Canberra. This is the Government which has refused an inquiry into prices in Canberra and has refused an inquiry into the cost of living in Canberra. The Minister for the Interior refused such a request, and the Prime Minister refused such a request. This is the Government that has refused an inquiry into the establishment of a separate basic wage for Canberra. Yet this is the Government which, by its actions, has increased the cost of living in Canberra, because soon after its occupation of the Treasury bench this Government first of all abolished prices control. Later it abolished rent control of business premises in Canberra and subsequently took away from the tenants of business premises in Canberra all the protections they had under the landlord and tenant legislation. The result has been to increase costs in Canberra, which are demonstrably higher than costs in other capital cities.
The Government admits that building costs are higher by 20 per cent, in Canberra than they are elsewhere. Surely the corollary is that other costs of living in Canberra are higher. The Minister has refused requests to review rents. He has refused requests from the Canberra Trades and Labour Council and requests from the Advisory Council, which is there to advise him on those matters-
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker I have been misrepresented. In the course of his remarks the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) suggested that I enjoyed some advantage in my tenancy of a Government house. I wish to inform the House that I entered into occupancy of that house after having waited for five years on exactly the same terms as any other tenant of a house, and that I pay exactly the same rent as any other tenant of that house would pay. There has been no concession. The rent is low, but it is the same low rent as would be paid by any other tenant.
– I too, Mr. Deputy Speaker, now claim that I have been misrepresented. The Minister knows that I was referring to his occupancy of a house provided by the Australian National UniverSity, which I made the subject of a question in this House some years ago. I am not referring to the present tenancy. The Minister knows the conditions under which he had that house, and he knows that he had it on a rental much below what it would have cost an ordinary tenant.
– We heard from the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) a long dissertation about the quantum of rents which he considered should be applied in Canberra. Very little of it was relevant to the ordinance that the House is now considering. The ordinance before the House, simply provides a method of variation of rents. It gives power to the Minister for the Interior, by notice, to vary the rents provided for under the normal fortnightly tenancy agreement. The honorable member did not argue that this was an excessive power or authority that the Government would have. I can quite understand that he would not consider this to be an excessive power because already, in the Leases Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory, in cases where the Minister has power to lease land for 99 years or any other period, the ordinance provides -
Any lease may, without prejudice to the period tor which the lease is granted or to any covenant or condition of the lease, be granted subject to the condition or agreement that the rate at which the rent shall be payable for any period of the lease may be determined by the Minister or otherwise, and the rate may be determined accordingly ….
Of course, in these cases the position is much simpler than that because the tenancy agreement under which a tenant in the Australian Capital Territory holds a dwelling house is a fortnightiy tenancy which may be determined by either party on giving a fortnight’s notice. Therefore, all the arguments that the honorable member produced about the quantum of rents were largely irrelevant to this particular question.
The question simply is: Shall the Minister have power to vary the rents by notice to the tenants, or does he have, to go through the rather cumbersome procedure of determining each tenancy by giving a fortnight’s notice and then offering a new tenancy at an increased rental? That is simply the position. When the Government is the owner of a large number of houses in Canberra, does the House think it is right that it should have the power to increase the rentals by notice to the tenants, or does the House consider that the Government should go through the procedure of determining the tenancy and then offering a new tenancy at an increased rental?
There is no great distinction in the matter. If the tenant feels aggrieved by any increase or variation in the rent, he is at perfect liberty to terminate his tenancy by giving a fortnight’s notice. There is no injustice to the tenant in that regard. I would remind the House that the sole reason in this instance for bringing in this ordinance is to avoid discomfort and inconvenience to a large number of tenants who have already signified that they are quite willing to pay the increased rent. Why should the Government cause them disturbance of mind by determining their tenancy when in fact most of them quite probably are prepared to pay the increased rentals? That is the position except for the hot-heads and malcontents in the community who are always demanding concessions far in excess of what the Government can reasonably be expected to provide. The rest are quite willing to pay the increases - not cheerfully, because I do not suppose any one looks cheerfully on any prospect of paying extra money; but most of them recognize that the Government is entitled to fix the rents of the houses they occupy. The great majority of them - we do not know which of them yet - are quite willing to pay the increased rents.
The honorable member spoke of the citizens of Canberra not wishing to have any special advantages over citizens in other States where the Commonwealth Government makes money available for housing. In the very next breath, he said that it was quite wrong for the Government to charge an interest component on the money it made available for housing here, although in every State the tenant has to pay an interest component in his rent. In other words, according to his proposition, the citizens of Canberra who are government tenants should have interest-free money for their housing although it is not provided anywhere else, in Australia or, so far as I know, anywhere else in the world.
The honorable member compared the rents that the Housing Commission charges in New South Wales, and never have I heard a more deliberate distortion of the true position. He took for his example two and three bedroom flats in Northbourneavenue - the most expensive flats in Canberra, designed for the sort of people who can more than afford the rentals. These two-bedroom or three-bedroom flats do not provide ordinary standards. They are flats built to luxury standard with heating and hot water and all sorts of inbuilt conveniences. The honorable member compared these with two-bedroom and threebedroom flats provided by the Housing Commission of New South Wales. That commission, of course, does not build for people on large and substantial incomes.
The Northbourne flats were intended for the higher-ranking service officers who come here; for professional men, for people attached to the Australian National University and members of the business community. They were not intended for the sort of person for whom the Housing Commission of New South Wales builds houses. Of course, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory knew that, although he did not have the honesty to deny it when I challenged him. He freely admitted that the three-bedroom brick houses which we are now building are let at approximately the same rental as are the timber and brick veneer houses built by the Housing Commission of New South Wales.
Some of the people in Canberra say that they find it difficult to understand why the Government finds it necessary to increase rentals. I want to indicate briefly the sort of position that the Government had got into. Rents were being fixed based on an average of costs during the period between 1945 and 1954 when costs were rising steadily. At the point of fixing that average in 1954, the rent was fixed on a result which was below the actual cost of construction. From that there was deducted 20 per cent, of the capital cost of construction. In the result, the gross return to the Commonwealth Government from rents levied under that principle was less than 3 per cent, per annum of the annual cost. Out of that had to be paid all the investment of housing including fencing, paths and drives, architectural services, maintenance, insurance and administration as well as losses due to bad debts and vacancies. At the same time, the comparable returns received by the New South Wales and Victorian housing authorities were 6.1 per cent, and 5.9 per cent, respectively of the capital cost of construction.
Under the new formula, the rents are related to the actual cost of construction of housing, but the 20 per cent, of the cost is taken off before a new assessment of the rent is made. We find that on houses built between 1945 and 1954, we have a return in respect of the pure rent component - amortization plus rent - of 3.03 per cent, of the capital cost. For houses built after 1956, the return is 3.65 per cent, of the capital cost. To that is added approximately 1 per cent, for maintenance and for all the other costs - administration, vacancies, defaults and insurance - a figure of 19 of 1 per cent. So in total, we receive in relation to the cost of a house, 4.42 per cent, for houses built up to 1956, *and 4.84 per cent, for houses built after 1956. I cannot think that that could be regarded as an excessive rental to be received by the Government in relation to the normal practices applying elsewhere in Australia.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has said that the tenants do not require any special concessions. They get a very substantial concession already. Of course, when he asks that the Government should fix rents at a much lower level, he quite disregards all those other people in Canberra who have a little bit of independence and who do ‘not depend on the Government for everything. I refer to the people who have built their own homes and who, if they so wished, could quite easily invest the capital they expended on their houses at 5 per cent, or even better in government loans or other investments, and could turn to the Government to provide housing.
Why should the Government place itself in a position where it is so much to the advantage of a person who is well able to build his own home to call on the Government to provide housing? Obviously, it would be an absurd situation and quite unfair to those citizens who, for reasons of their circumstances, are temporary residents here and for other reasons are the sort of people for whom the Government has to provide housing. There are 3,000 of them on the waiting list who are ready and willing to take houses at the new rentals.
– They have refused them at these rents.
– They may have done so, but the fact remains that there are 3,000 on the waiting list, and I guarantee that if there are any tenants who object to the new rents and are ready to get out, the houses would not be vacant for long. I make it clear that the procedure that the honorable gentleman has attacked is not a device which will achieve any alteration in the rents that the Government has decided are reasonable and which, in the light of all the circumstances, I have demonstrated to be reasonable. This procedure will not achieve any alteration in the rents; it will merely be an obstruction.
I regret very much that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has alined himself with those who are simply taking obstructive action in regard to rents and are prepared to expose so many tenants in the Australian Capital Territory to the unpleasantness of having their tenancies terminated. That would be the result if this ordinance were disallowed. All tenancies would have to be determined because we cannot tell in advance who is or is not going to pay the new rent. Then we would have to negotiate .a new agreement with every individual tenant or evict those who were not willing to pay the new rent.
This ordinance is simply a device to prevent discomfort to those tenants who are willing to accept the Government’s decision in this matter. Quite plainly, since April of last year the Government could have taken that other action if it had wanted to do so. We have considered the various ways in which this could be implemented without inflicting hardship and discomfort on tenants. I think that when the House realizes that, there will be no doubt in the minds of honorable members that this is the fairest and best way to proceed.
.- The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) and the Australian Labour Party believe that the Government should not make a loss on housing in Canberra. They also believe that the Government should not make a profit on housing in Canberra. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) has this morning been confronted with an opportunity to explain the profit or the loss involved in housing in Canberra hitherto or prospectively. He has not given any account of the profit or loss.
The Minister has referred to the .hotheads and malcontents who are protesting at what is now happening and the way he is going about it. Nobody disputes that the Commonwealth Government, in its Territories, can be as autocratic and as arrogant as it likes. It is perfectly within the Constitution, the statutes and the ordinances for the Government to be autocratic and arrogant, but there is no need for it to be; it is not compelled to be.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has for many months, and in fact for some years, sought an explanation of the cost of housing in Canberra and he has, particularly over the last few months, made very great efforts to get an explanation from the Minister and from the department. The Minister, in answer to a question without notice asked by the honorable member last March, said -
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.
The Minister did not say then, or subsequently, or to-day, that the Government is providing -housing in Canberra at any loss, let alone a considerable loss. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has quoted varying replies which he received from the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) when he was .Minister for the Interior back in 1954, and from the present Minister, as to how the rentals in Canberra are apportioned lor interest, maintenance and so on. There is no doubt from those replies that the Department of the Interior and the Government are quite in the dark about this matter.
The Minister for the Interior asks the House to believe that the ordinance which we say should be disallowed has been brought in to save a more cumbersome procedure. The cumbersome procedure which he wishes to spare tenants is that which has hitherto applied to the Australian Capital Territory for some decades and under which, if the Government wishes to put up the rent on some dwelling, it determines the tenancy and then offers a new tenancy at a higher rent. I would not have thought that that procedure was any more cumbersome than the one which is now being followed, because the procedure I have just referred to involves, I suppose, only one letter, the proposal in which can be rejected or accepted.
The present procedure is to send a letter to the tenant saying, “ Under the new ordinance your rent has been fixed at suchandsuch “. There, again, the tenant is faced with acceptance or rejection. The Minister uses the happy phrase “ that the ordinance is merely a device to prevent discomfiture for tenants “. The Minister, of course, adopted another device to prevent discomfiture for himself, because last December, he in fact quitted the flat he occupied at Northbourne flats, and for which he was paying a weekly rental of £7 14s. 3d. and forthwith took the lease of a more modest flat in Stuart Flats at £5 15s. a week. In the previous month the Cabinet subcommittee had made its recommendations on the raising of rents for housing in the Australian Capital Territory. That was in November, 1960.
In the following month the Minister moved from his exclusive flat to a more modest flat and then, in March, he announced the increase in rentals. Significantly, the rental of the exclusive flat which the Minister vacated - where he terminated his own tenancy - was raised from £7 14s. 3d. to £9 3s. a week, but the rent of the more modest premises into which he moved has not been raised at all. There is nothing secret about these matters. They are a local scandal in the Australian Capital Territory and should be a scandal throughout Australia, because these facts, these dates, these addresses and these rentals were published in the “ Canberra Times “ of 30th March last. The Minister on that occasion made a reply which I will read to the House. I want to be quite fair to him.
– Yes, without giving me a chance to reply.
– If you want leave to make another explanation after this, 1, for one, will give it to you.
– So long as you speak for your party.
– Opposition members will give you leave to exculpate yourself if you can in this way. You exculpated yourself from the discomfort .of an imminent rise in rent. If one may paraphrase a hymn with which you are no doubt familiar, You saved yourself; others you would not save.
So much for the Minister’s own reflections on the hotheads and malcontents in the Australian Capital Territory who are resenting the increase in rents; but the increase in rent which the Minister saved himself is not the only feature in this scandalous conduct on his part. There is also the preferential time factor, because the Minister told the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, in reply to a question on notice which was delivered on 12th April last -
The ‘tenancy agreement in each case-
That is with regard to Ministers and presiding officers - is on the same terms and conditions, including rental as would be granted to any other occupant.
However, on 19th April, in another reply which he gave to a question on notice by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory the Minister stated -
At 24th March, 1961, 3,181 applicants were registered on the general waiting list for housing.
This includes 2,334 married persons and 847 unmarried.
The waiting time at present for first offer of a three-bedroom house in 36 months. The waiting time for a flat-
And of course the Minister was in a flat. He terminated the tenancy of one and granted himself forthwith another flat - varies according to the class of accommodation required but generally is eighteen months to 24 months.
The Minister gave himself immediately a new lease and saved himself thereby eighteen months or 24 months of additional rent in the old place - if he is here so long to enjoy any flat in this place at all.
I now come to the general question of the profit or loss on accommodation in Canberra - on housing in Canberra. We have not been told that there is any loss at all, and the Government has not said there is any profit, although the figures which the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has given would suggest that in fact there was a profit. The figures for maintenance have been sought by the honorable member for many years. Honorable members will recall that on 4th November, 1954, the honorable member for Chisholm, when Minister for the Interior, told the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory that out of each £1 paid in rent in Canberra for a government house a brick house cost 5s. 3d. in maintenance and, a timber house, 5s. 7d. On 21st April, 1959, the present Minister for the Interior told the honorable member that for every £1 received in rent the Commonwealth’s inescapable commitment for maintenance was 9s. 6d. On 26th April this year, in reply to another question which the honorable member had put on the notice-paper, the Minister gave figures showing the income by way of rentals under the old and the new scales, and the outgoings for maintenance in each of the last five years. The annual amount of income from rentals in the Australian Capital Territory at the scale now being superseded was £1,243.528. Under the new scale it will be £1,607.320. The outgoings for maintenance in 1959-60, for instance, were £307,723. In those circumstances, how can the Minister claim that the inescapable commitment for maintenance in respect of every £1 of rent is 9s. 6d., when, in actual fact, the amount spent on maintenance last year was £307,000 and the rentals received amounted to £1,250,000?
– ls not one a constant and one a variable? The maintenance varies from year to year. It could be higher in one year than in another year.
– It has been rising. The total maintenance cost has been rising, but the total maintenance cost for 1959-60, the latest year for which the Minister provided figures, is not nearly 48 per cent, of the rents, which is what the Minister stated in a considered reply on 21st April, 1959. If one goes back to the latest figures available at that stage - those for 1957-58 - one will find that the cost of maintenance was £240,104. In other words, only about 20 per cent, of the rent collected was spent on maintenance at that time. Yet only a few months ago the Minister stated that the figure was 48 per cent. Obviously the Minister’s replies are not accurate. I do not expect him to work out all these problems for himself, but whoever prepares his replies to questions has not bothered to see that the replies tally. One or other of the replies is inaccurate.
Is it any wonder that there is such confusion in these matters? When one looks at the reports of the Auditor-General relating to housing in the Australian Capital Territory one finds that this matter has been brought to the attention of the House on several occasions. In his report for the year ended June, 1958, the Auditor-General stated -
The only financial statement currently prepared by the Department of the Interior in connexion with these activities is a statement of ledger balances of the Australian Capital Territory Housing Trust Account, through which the advances mentioned in (c) above are financed.
Paragraph (c) relates to advances for the purchase or construction of dwellings privately. The report continues -
This statement is not designed to show the operating profit or loss of the scheme.
The Department was informed that additional accounting was necessary to enable competent authorities to have accurate information regarding profit or loss involved in various categories when rental, sale and advances policy is being reviewed, and that complete audited statements are desirable in the interests of public accountability.
The Department replied that for the purposes of departmental management additional financial statements are not required.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, the matter has now been referred to the Department of the Treasury.
In the following year the Auditor-General again reported to the Parliament in these terms: -
During 1958-59, the matter of improved accounting has been under consideration by the Department and the Treasury.
At the time of compiling this Report no proposals for improved accounting have been received, and the departmental accounts for 1958-59 are in (he same unsatisfactory state as previously reported.
In his report for the year ended 30th June, I960, the Auditor-General had this to say -
Previous Reports have referred to the inadequate accounting for the various housing activities in the Australian Capital Territory. The position has not changed.
Finally, the Auditor-General’s report for the last financial year ended 30th June, 1961, stated -
The Joint Committee of Public Accounts, in its Fifty-second Report, agreed “ that the interests of public accountability warrant the annual submission of complete audited financial statements covering the Commonwealth’s investment in housing in the Australian Capital Territory “, and added that any such statements prepared should be made available to the Parliament. At the date of compiling this Report, the responsibility for the preparation of financial statements for the housing activities had not been determined.
In its fifty-second report, dated 30th November, 1960, the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, dealing with this matter, stated -
Our inquiries into the matters raised by the Auditor-General in relation to the Department of the Interior have illustrated the breakdowns in administrative machinery that can occur when there is a serious lack of appreciation by governmental authorities of the points of view and respective responsibilities of each other. Many of the matters, relatively unimportant when initially raised by the Audit Office, became major issues as the parties concerned maintained rigid attitudes and determined efforts were not made to achieve a solution. In our assessment, there were faults on all sides - on the part of the Treasury, the Audit Office and the Department of the Interior.
For four consecutive financial years the Auditor-General has reported on the unsatisfactory ‘housing accounts in the Australian Capital Territory. The Joint Committee of Public Accounts has unanimously reported on the chaos that exists in this matter but has stated that the Auditor-General and the Treasury have been equally as procrastinating and intransigent as the Department of the Interior. Despite the fact that we have not been given any of the information that has been sought, we now are being asked to give the Minister the power to increase all rents.
Are we to be a responsible legislature or not? Maybe this Government thinks that the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council should not be given any really serious consideration, despite the fact that it is elected by, and, in some cases, consists of some of the most highly educated and responsible people in this Commonwealth. The Australian Capital Territory has hundreds of men and several women on whose expert advice and integrity the Commonwealth relies in matters of the greatest moment affecting this country, but, when a question relating to housing arises, they are completely ignored and their views disregarded.
Recently the New South Wales Labour Government appointed a royal commission to inquire into the question of rents. About five years ago the Victorian Liberal Government also appointed a royal commission to inquire into this matter. Why is it not possible to have a public inquiry into the question of rents and housing in the Australian Capital Territory? The information which we have sought and which we are entitled to receive has never been given to us. Now the Minister is seeking to cover up. He is acting on the report of a Cabinet sub-committee which has not been revealed but of which he knew and of which he took advantage.
In conclusion, I should like to say something about this ordinance. The Minister has referred to the cumbersome procedure which is now being displaced and the discomfiture which will be prevented under the new procedure. Under the old arrangement, if the Minister made a determination of rent, a dissatisfied lessee could, under section 7 of the Land Valuation Ordinance 1936, apply to the Minister to have the rent varied. But the ordinance which we now are seeking to disallow states that for the purposes of the Land Valuation Ordinance 1936-1937 the Minister’s order fixing the rent shall not be taken to be a determination of the rent. Thus, a right of appeal which hitherto has been allowed is being taken away, despite the fact that the Minister, in reply to a question without notice asked of him on 15th March last by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, stated -
If any cases of hardship are brought to my notice over and above the rental rebate system-
Which does not apply to all flats in the
Australian Capital Territory - they will be closely examined.
So much for the Minister’s undertakings.
The ordinance will deprive the Minister of any power to examine such cases.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition assumes that that right existed. It has never existed.
– The Minister himself
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Mr. Speaker, 1 ask for leave to speak again briefly on this subject, confining my remarks to the personal attack on me that has been made. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he would agree to my being given leave for that purpose.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Mr. FREETH (Forrest- Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works). - Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has accused me of knowingly taking, in a specific situation, an advantage which I am not prepared to concede to other government tenants in Canberra. 1 think that I owe the House an explanation which will clarify the matter and put the record straight. Early in 1959, when I was seeking accommodation in Canberra, the Northbourne flats, which had just been built, were the only flats which were reasonably suitable. I took a tenancy of one of those flats on the same principle that key administrative personnel in any of the government departments are granted priority in housing, and on the same principle on which I am prepared to grant priority to any Minister of the Crown who requires accommodation in Canberra in order that he may effectively administer the department of which he is head.
At the very time of which I speak, Sir, there were before the Cabinet proposals for an increase in the rents of governmentowned dwellings in Canberra because of the problem that then existed. Those proposals were afoot from time to time during succeeding months, until November, 1960, when a final submission was made to the Cabinet. In August, 1960, it became apparent that more suitable two-bedroom flats were being provided in the Stuart Flats then being built at Manuka. I arranged to move to one of those flats as soon as the building was completed. But I checked carefully with the Commissioner for Housing in Canberra to ascertain that any other person who was on the transfer list, and who wished to move to a smaller dwelling, would be able to do so. There is a waiting time for those on the transfer list who wish to move to larger units, because nearly every one on the list wants to move, say, from two-bedroom accommodation to a three-bedroom or a four-bedroom dwelling, but there is no waiting time for any one who wishes to vacate a three-bedroom unit and move to a smaller unit, as I wished to do. I was assured by the Commissioner for Housing that I was taking no advantage of anybody in seeking such a transfer. That was in August, 1960 - not November or December of that year, as alleged by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - long before a decision about increasing rentals was in fact made.
Moreover, Mr. Speaker, the large increase in the rentals of units in the Northbourne flats was not due to a decision made by the Government at that time about the rental formula. I point out that that was the only subject relating to Canberra rentals which was before the Cabinet at that time and of which I had any knowledge. The Northbourne flats were then being let at economic rents based on 5 per cent, of the cost, and the large increase arose purely from the increase in cost as a result of the provision of hot-water and central-heating services in those flats. It was always intended that the cost of those services would be met by the tenants. I had no idea at that time that there was to be any increase in the rents of the Northbourne flats.
I think I have made it quite clear - this is altogether irrelevant to the general questions before the House - that I tried to take no unfair advantage and that I did not move simply to avoid paying a higher rent, or for other reasons which have been ascribed to me. I think that this suggestion that I have done something discreditable has been made simply for the purpose of clouding the issue of whether or not the formula which determines the rentals charged by the Commonwealth in Canberra is a fair one. This represents an outrageous attempt by the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition to make a personal attack on a Minister instead of judging an issue on its merits.
Motion (by Mr. Freeth) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 700) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.49 to 2.15 p.m.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 30th August (vide page 661), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division No. 101 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances £34,250”, be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
.- The first item in the Budget to which I shall refer is that which provides money for research into the tobacco industry and for the expansion of the advisory services in the various States. There is no doubt that a pressing need exists for the provision of finance for these purposes.
I would like to give the committee a few brief comments on the complex situation of the tobacco-growing industry and the serious problems that it faces, particularly in the north-east of Victoria, although I realize that tobacco-growers in other parts of Australia have also been seriously affected from the financial point of view. At the outset let me say that I am not making out a case on behalf of some persons who have entered the tobacco industry and failed because of their own fault. The problem about which I speak is a very human one. It affects many growers and their families, and it is a problem that concerns not only this Government but also the various State governments. It has been suggested that quite a number of tobacco-growers are themselves to blame for their failure. I just do not subscribe to that view at all. I firmly maintain that the failure of these people has not been their own fault. Certainly those who have entered the industry must accept a share of responsibility for their position, but let us consider the facts.
As most people know, tobacco-farmers prepare for the planting and growing of a crop while sales of the previous season’s crop are proceeding. In other words, people are now preparing to plant next year’s crop. At this time last year, and at the same time in the three or four years immediately preceding, tobacco produced in north-eastern Victoria, in Queensland and in Western Australia was selling very well and at very good prices. Many people, therefore, said to themselves, “ Tobacco is selling extra well, so I will enter this industry “. Established tobacco-growers said, “ I will increase my acreage “. Those who were thinking of entering the industry sought advice. They interviewed representatives of various organizations, and they sought advice from brokers and manufacturers. They were told, “ The industry is pretty sound, and we think you will be quite safe in going into it “. Manufacturers were paying very high prices at this time last year for practically any kind of leaf, and this induced growers to increase their acreage, and it also encouraged other people to engage in tobacco-growing for the first time.
It has been said that warnings were given to those engaged in the tobacco-growing industry, but I have yet to be shown that those warnings were strong enough or that they got through to the persons most concerned, the growers themselves. It appears that there were discussions at various meetings held some time last year, but it seems that the most important person, the grower himself, is the only one who was not told that he should think very carefully before entering the tobacco industry, because overproduction was likely.
It has also been said that the quality of this year’s leaf is not as good as last year’s. In this connexion I would like to refer to a couple of sales slips that I have here. They are two of many that I have in my possession. I shall refer to only three grades, L3M, F4M and L4M. One slip shows that the prices received for these grades at last year’s sales were 136d., 125d., and 125d. per lb. respectively. This year, not one of the three lots covered by this sale slip received a bid. A good price for tobacco is about 120d. Here we have three grades, exactly the same grades, graded by the same people, as those which brought more than 12s. per lb., on the average, last year, which this year could not attract a bid. Is it any wonder that the growers are perturbed?
The people engaged in tobacco-growing are very industrious. They are mostly new Australian from Italy, and they have had experience of tobacco-growing. There is a popular misconception that a lot of these growers entered the industry only in the last year. I agree that many of them began to operate for the first time during the last year as owners of farms, but they have had years of experience as share farmers. They have worked hard during the last ten years or so, and their families, their brothers and sisters and their children have also worked hard. Share farming with other successful growers they have accumulated some capital.
As I have said, this is a very human problem. Most of the people concerned received no warnings. They were not told to think carefully because of the danger of over-production. They have put anything from £8,000 to £14,000 of their own money into properties. It is a very expensive industry to break into. They have put in this money in good faith, knowing that the last three or four years have been very good ones. They have had their ground tested. They have had the water to be used for irrigation tested. Finally they reaped a crop and sent their tobacco down to be sold. What happened? The tobacco in many cases did not attract a bid, and a good deal of it finished up as unsold and passed in, as the phrase is used in the industry. In other words, the tobacco did not bring a decent bid and could not be sold even at the reserve price.
I think every one in this committee can realize what a tremendous shock, not only from the financial angle but also psychologically, the results of this year’s sales have been to these growers. I have had a fair bit to do with them over the last three months. They are mostly very good types of people who have been very industrious in previous years. They worked very hard, of course, to produce their tobacco this year. It is an industry that involves those engaged in it in a lot of hard work for long hours, and they must have a certain amount of technical skill. Whilst quite a few people have sold their tobacco at decent prices, a number of people are faced with enormous debts - some bigger than others - and they do not know where to go from there.
The Government is to be congratulated on the appointment of the review committee to examine the tobacco for which no bids were received. The members of the review committee have agreed that quite a lot of that tobacco was not usable. Every grower, without exception, to whom I have spoken, has agreed that, if the experts say that the tobacco was not usable, then it was not usable. The growers say, “ 1 accept that decision, but what about the stuff that is usable? Why cannot I get a fair price for that? “ These people owe money to all sorts of different organizations which have encouraged them to go into the tobacco-growing industry. The growers have been given encouragement by bankers, big stock and station agents and hirepurchase companies. These big organizations have their expert advisers and they have all accepted that the tobacco industry would be all right this year. Those are the problems of the owner-growers.
The share-farmers owe the storekeepers money for food and the very essentials of life. They are not in a position to pay at the present time. That brings us to the last group of people involved financially in this industry, the country businessmen. Certainly, some city-based firms with a lot of finance behind them are involved, but in the main, the money is owed to country business people who have allowed the growers credit for their purchases. No one is denying that the business people tried to make a business deal out of it, but 1 understand that in previous years the country businessmen had to carry the load when they were left with big debts. We must not let that happen in this case. I fully realize, and so do the hire-purchase firms, the local dealers, the solicitors and various other creditors, that this position will not finally be resolved until the sales finish on 6th October.
I want to pay a tribute to the vast majority of the creditors, who have said, “ We are prepared to give these fellows a deal. We are prepared to wait until the end of the sales instead of repossessing their trucks, machinery and irrigation pipes now.” I feel that that is the right spirit. It does not really matter whose fault it is in this case. All ordinary members of Parliament, particularly those who have tobacco-growing electorates, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and members of the Cabinet, must make certain that everything possible is done to assist these people. I should like to pay a tribute to the work which the Minister for Primary Industry, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) have done for this industry over the last three months. They have shown a tremendous interest in it. They have put themselves out in order to attend meetings with representatives of the industry at very short notice.
We must all, and particularly members of the Country Party, make absolutely certain that this will not be another primary industry which is exploited by powerful interests. We must ensure that advantage will not be taken of the growers because of their ignorance and, perhaps, because of their lack of education. Growers themselves have said to me, “ We know that we have not a very good education. Some of us come from Italy. We want some one to help us.” I have said to them, “ I am certain that the Commonwealth Government will do that “. It is very important that we do not lose sight of the fact that advantage might be taken of this primary industry. A lot of people have said to me, “ This has happened before in primary industries “. It has not happened in my time. It is the responsibility of the Country Party in particular and of the Government in general to make certain that advantage will not be taken of a primary industry by the large interests which exist in every community.
At the end of October we will see how the tobacco-growers have fared and we will be able to form an opinion on the whole question. If the owner-grower can prove that his soil is suitable for tobacco and that the water available is suitable for irrigation, and if he has the necessary experience, then, if he has invested a lot of capital with a view to staying in the industry for a long time, I should like the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Government to tide him over until he is out of his difficulties. I have tried to give the committee an idea of the conditions in the tobacco industry, but the industry is so complex that probably you could not deal with it all in a couple of days, let alone a quarter of an hour.
I think that the Budget is sound and sensible. With my limited experience I am not trying to set myself up as a judge. I do not profess to know more than the Government and its advisers, who have led this country so wonderfully during the last twelve years. I do not pretend to be more expert than those people, because that would be ridiculous. I think the Government had to say, “ We have some unemployment, but we must balance development and what is required to get us out of the position that we are in at the moment against the risk of increasing inflation “. So the Cabinet, in its wisdom, decided to budget for a deficit of £16,000,000.
On the subject of unemployment, no one with any common sense, whether he is a member of the Opposition or a writer for a newspaper; can seriously say that this Government, which has been in power for twelve years is deliberately creating unemployment, is deliberately trying to make itself unpopular with the Australian people, and is deliberately guiding Australia along the wrong path. Of course, every one is worried about the men who are out of work. We all know that there are some people who are unemployable, unfortunately for them. We must do everything we can to assist them. It is the fellow who wants to work and who has been affected by the present economic conditions who most concerns me and, I am certain, every member of this committee. What many people overlook is that the present unemployment situation - if we like to take just that sector of the community, which in my opinion is most important at the moment - is not caused by factors entirely within the Government’s control. Very few people have stressed that the reduction in the prices being paid for the primary products we export is a major contributing, factor. It has been said in this chamber before, and I repeat it now, that if we were getting to-day the prices we received in 1953 for the goods we are exporting, our export income would be £1,320,000,000 instead of about £880,000,000. The crux of the situation is that our export income, upon which we depend to finance our internal development, has fallen by £440,000,000, based on 1953 prices. The people of Australia should remember that.
Another important thing to remember is that varying seasons play a big part. For instance, our beef production was down 130,000 tons on last year’s production, and this, naturally, has reduced our export earnings considerably.
I come now to the importance of primary industries. We all know that our export income depends mainly upon our primary producing industries. We must remember, too; that in the last ten years our primary industries have earned £6,750,000,000,. or 91 per cent., of our total export income of £7,456;000,000 for that period. Do not let the people of Australia ever, lose sight of that fact.
Naturally, when we start to talk about primary industries we think of Great Britain’s contemplated entry into the European Common Market and the threat which that could be to our primary industries. To my mind, the possible entry of the United Kingdom into the Common Market only highlights the precarious financial structure of our primary industries, as well as those of other primaryproducing countries. Here we have an unrealistic picture. Almost every major primary-producing country except Australia subsidizes its primary industries to the tune of thousands of millions of pounds in order that its farmers may enjoy a decent living. I say it is unrealistic, because the primary producers are the people who produce the goods without which there would be no human life on this earth. They should not have to be subsidized in order to keep their industries going. The primary producers of a country are of vital importance to the rest of the population, yet a constant battle is waged for a fair deal for the primary producers. I know the battle has not started this year - it has been going on for hundreds of years - and apparently nobody has yet been able to get down to the fundamental reasons why it is now necessary to subsidize primary producers. I have often been laughed at by my colleagues in the Country Party for advocating the subsidization of our primary industries, but they have never been able to convince me that I am wrong when I say that if all the other countries in the world cannot think of any other way of ensuring a decent living for their primary producers we should not disagree with them. For instance, why should we disagree with America, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and, indeed, any great primary-producing country if they all believe that there is no other solution to the problem?
– Are they not in a position of having markets for their primary industries which we cannot have?
– I do not know about that point. I feel that the terrific interest that- has been engendered in primary production by the possible entry of the United Kingdom into the Common Market affords an opportunity for Australia to call or ask for. a world-wide investigation into all the ramifications of primary industries. There could.be a similar investigation into secondary industries, but let us deal with primary industries first. Let us endeavour to get the major primary-producing countries to investigate the problem with a view to discovering why it is that for the last ten years, while secondary industries have been able to increase prices and income constantly the returns to primary producers have been steadily falling. If we cannot initiate this world-wide inquiry, then, I suggest that, before negotiations by the United Kingdom for her entry into the Common Market are completed it is essential that Britain refuse to consider entering that market unless she is prepared to retain all the duty and tariff preferences- which our vital primary industries enjoy on the United Kingdom market. One thing in: our favour is that there will be tremendous pressure from the farmers of Britain for the retention of the present system of heavy subsidies and guarantees to them. 1 am still of the opinion that it is not in Britain’s best interests, either politically or economically, to join the European Common Market under present conditions. 1 have much pleasure in commending this Budget to honorable members.
.- In this debate I should like to deal, first, with the Commonwealth-States financial arrangements. In June, 1959, the Premiers’ Conference devised a new scheme of grants to replace the tax reimbursement grants which had operated since 1946. This new arrangement was to operate for a six-year period commencing with the fiscal year 1959-60. The view has been held by the State of Tasmania that the basis adopted for calculating the new grants is of particular advantage to the non-claimant States, which, as we know, are New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. This opinion has been confirmed by the very definite improvement which has taken place in the revenue positions of those non- claimant States. The claimant States - Western Australia and Tasmania - do not derive the same relative benefits from the new grants and their ability to achieve satisfactory budgetary results will continue to be dependent upon the receipt of substantial special grants.
A study of the Budget papers reveals that every mainland State will receive Commonwealth assistance for special projects and that Tasmania is excluded from such benefit. The Tasmanian Premier, Mr. Reece, submitted, many months ago, a schedule of special works of national interest that could make a major contribution to the Australian export drive, but it is apparent that this Government is not interested in furthering the economic development of Tasmania. Let me mention a few of the projects in Tasmania to which assistance could be given - the establishment of a thermal power station in the Fingal Valley, the extension of the Burnie wharfs at an estimated cost of £7,330,000 and the construction of an outlet road from the west coast which would no doubt open up new mineral belts. The opening of such mineral belts is of extreme importance when we remember that the return from minerals forms a major part of our export earnings. Major works are involved in the rehabilitation of our highways to cope with the heavy increase in the volume of road traffic which is the direct result of the operation of roll-on, roll-off type of vessels such as “ Princess of Tasmania “ and “ Bass Trader “.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) referred repeatedly in his Budget speech to the Government’s concern about the extent of unemployment. However, the 4,000 unfortunate Tasmanians who are out of work can take little comfort from the programme that has been outlined by the Treasurer. His Government’s economic and trade policies have caused widespread unemployment in the timber industry, the textile industry and the paper industry at Burnie. On that point, I disagree with the previous sneaker because I believe that the unemployment was caused by design.
This Government should consider cancelling the interest bill that is payable by Tasmania, at least on that money which has been lent to us for our State works programmes from Commonwealth revenue.
If the interest were remitted we could finance more works and reduce unemployment. This should be done if we are to be denied special grants. One of the worst features of the Menzies Government’s administration has been the collapse of the loan market. Last year, investments in the loan market fell by approximately £220,000,000. Revenue was used to pay for the whole of the Commonwealth’s public works programme costing approximately £140,000,000, and £86,000,000 of Commonwealth revenue was used to fill the gap in the amount raised for State public works.
In the current year, 1961-62, the gap in the loan raisings will be even greater. State government works will require £240,000,000, and capital works of the Commonwealth will cost £152,000,000. Of this total of £392,000,000, the Commonwealth has provided £227,000,000 out of revenue to cover the whole of the Commonwealth’s capital works amounting to £152,000,000, and £75,000,000 to supplement State works programmes.
The new White Paper circulated with the Budget papers shows that in the eleven years ending this financial year, the Commonwealth has provided, mainly from revenue, £865,000,000 in support of State works programmes. This money, raised from the people by taxation, has not been given to the States, but has been lent to them at current bond interest rates, involving the States immediately in the repayment of principle and interest - burdens that will continue for the next 53 years. Under the policies pursued by this Government since it took office at the end of 1949, revenue amounting to about £2,242,500,000 has been used for Commonwealth and State capital works. Of that figure, £1,377,400,000 has been expended upon Commonwealth works and, as I have already stated, £865,100,000 on State public works.
It is little wonder that throughout the term of the Menzies Government, while the public debt of the Commonwealth has fallen by £316,000,000, the public debt of the States has increased by £1,693,000,000. Over the same period, the annual interest bill of the Commonwealth has fallen, while that of the States has risen from £32,000,000 to £116,000,000, or by £84,000,000 per annum. This constitutes a colossal burden upon State budgets. A very large portion of this interest represents interest on the total sum of £865,000,000 contributed from revenue in support of State works programmes.
The effect in the case of Tasmania is that the public debt of the State has risen from £37,700,000 on 30th June, 1949, to £177,500,000 - an increase of approximately £140,000,000. That means an increase in the interest liability of Tasmania of approximately £6,000,000 per annum. The finances of the State of Tasmania would be revolutionized if the Commonwealth were to cancel that portion of its public debt which is represented by moneys provided from revenues subscribed by the taxpayers and raised without interest, and upon which the States now not only have to pay interest, but also have to repay the principal by instalments.
The Commonwealth is both the issuer and the holder of the Commonwealth bonds in these cases, and the very least it could do would be to cancel the interest liability of the States. The release from this obligation would provide ready money for the States, enabling them to proceed with developmental works and to initiate projects which would not only relieve unemployment, but would also give a general stimulus to the economy of each State.
Unemployment is a grave problem. What a shocking indictment of this Government it is when we consider the plight of more than 113,000 persons - each representing an individual human tragedy - who have been thrown out of work by the economic and trade policies of the Government. In the Budget, the Treasurer repeatedly expressed concern at the level of unemployment. He said it was “ the most urgent feature of the present situation “ and that it was “ the immediate problem “. He said the Government would do its utmost to remedy the situation. What hollow words and empty assurances they are, when we consider that the Government has the remedy at hand to assist - for one example - the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills at Burnie in my electorate, whereas it is slowly but surely crippling this industry and bringing it to the point of closing down.
This week, the total number of persons dismissed from the mill will total 200, and there are 1,400 workers on part-time. The resultant loss of wages amounts to £10,000 a week. Every town, village and hamlet between Deloraine and Smithton, as well as the coal miners in the Fingal Valley on the east coast, are affected - all because this Government has allowed unrestricted imports of paper to flood into the country. We do not mind competition, but when imported paper is brought in below the cost of production in the country of origin, we cannot compete.
We cannot go on stockpiling for ever. The cost of paper produced in recent weeks at Burnie - not the selling price but the cost of paper produced for stock - ranges from £100,000 to £150,000 a week. Hence, stockpiling is not practicable for long. The Associated Pulp and Paper Mills began operations in Burnie in 1938 when the population of the town was 4,000. The industry made great and rapid strides, and Burnie grew with it until now it has a population of 16,000. Last year, the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills produced 71,000 tons of paper, 106,250,000 square feet of Burnie board and 4,800,000 feet of sawn timber. The mills paid £3,250,000 in salaries and wages to 2,700 employees. They provide work indirectly for hundreds of others. This industry is responsible for 150,000 shipping tons through the port of Burnie each year. It has built and maintains a network of 130 miles of roads.
In his Budget speech, the Treasurer said that the Government would do its utmost to remedy the situation; yet it has allowed imports of paper comparable to that produced at Burnie and Shoalhaven in New South Wales to come in at the rate of 3,400 tons for the last September quarter, 4,700 tons for the December quarter, 4,500 tons for March and 4,100 tons for June. The quantity of paper imported into Australia in 1957-58 was 266,541 tons valued at £26,167,000. Look at the figures three years later, in 1960-61. The amount had increased by 98.9 per cent, to 530,372 tons, valued at £41,353,000. The managing director of Shoalhaven Paper Mills, in New South Wales, told the Tariff Board some weeks ago that bankers had made finance freely available to importers after the credit squeeze and this had accelerated the rate of imports. We know of some importers who are granting their clients six months’ credit, but our local industry cannot do this because of the general economic conditions prevailing in this country and caused by this Government.
As though to add insult to injury, this Government awarded a tender to supply the Government Printer with Kraft paper, a paper of Portuguese origin, at a landed price lower than Scandinavian and Austrian prices and almost as low as the cheapest Asian and Polish prices. This statement was given to the Tariff Board by Mr. Wilson, the managing director of Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited, who said that whilst he was unable to say whether the Portuguese price constituted dumping, the suspicion of it was strong. And so the industry is crippled while imports of paper, textiles, timber and so on are allowed from low wage level countries. How discouraging it must be to see the Commonwealth Government purchasing its own requirements from overseas at dumping or preferential prices at a time when Australian industry is working well below full capacity!
I understand that an order was placed last week for Burnie paper, but, if that is so, it just goes to show how tired and disinterested and out of touch with things this Government has become. About two years ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) opened a £1,000,000 drive to “Buy Australian “, and now, two years later when an Australian company is forced almost to the wall, the Government decides to place an order with it. But this order, I am assured, will not help the company very much, because the tenders for it close on 26th September. It is for some 3,000 tons of paper, which would keep the Burnie mill rolling for about four weeks, and naturally the Burnie mill cannot expect to have its tender accepted for the whole of that paper, particularly when the Shoalhaven mill in New South Wales is in the same position as the industry at Burnie.
I desire now to deal with the crisis which exists in the home-building and allied industries. It is well known that the key to the economic arch of any State is the well-being of its building industry, yet the great Australian timber industry, seriously affected by the credit squeeze, the heavy imports of timber from eastern countries and the failure of this Government to grant adequate and reasonable tariff protection, is struggling to recover from its third slump, all in the space of ten years of the present Government’s control. To-day the building industry in Victoria is facing one of the greatest recessions in its history, with very little prospect of early improvement. As is also well known, a depression in Victoria’s housing industry has an immediate repercussion on the Tasmanian timber industry - repercussions which have meant that already over 1,000 men have been dismissed from the industry in Tasmania, while more than 1,000 others are working part-time, and 30 mills in Tasmania have closed down and have not yet re-opened. This, when taken in relation to the population of Tasmania, is a tragic blow indeed at one particular industry. However, worse is yet to come.
Because of the trenchant criticism of the Federal Government in Victoria, due to the callous manner in which it shortsheeted the Victorian Government in respect of housing finance and because there was to be an election in that State, there was a sudden and dramatic improvement in the housing approvals for June. The combined approvals for houses and flats for June, according to the Commonwealth Statistician’s Bulletin No. S.B. 964, page 3, were 2,112, which compared very favorably with the figure of 2,182 for November, 1960. Included in the June figures, however, were approvals for State Housing Commission homes, of 704 dwellings, or more than 500 in excess of the usual monthly average of commission approvals. I am authoritatively informed that the sudden lift in the June figures was regarded so suspiciously that inquiries were made of the secretary of the Housing Commission by representatives of interested organizations and elicited the information that the monthly average approvals by the commission numbered 170, yet for June they numbered 704.
The position, viewed in its right perspective, is therefore that the monthly figures of approvals for houses and flats for June, if the normal commission average was included, would have been about 1,580, which would have brought them about 600 below the November figures and to a little more than half the figures for June, I960, which were 2,970. The figures for July, which have just been released, show a further deterioration in the housing position in Victoria, which means that Tasmania can expect further dismissals in the timber and plywood industries, because this 1961-62 Budget makes no provision for relief. In the Melbourne “ Age “, of 24th August, 1961, under the heading “ Marked Downturn in New Housing Projects Last Month”, appears the following: -
The upward trend in home-building approvals - evident in May and June - was sharply reversed last month. The July fall in the number of approvals granted for new houses and flats occurred despite the decision by the Government late in May to give a prompt stimulus to home-building. The July figures issued to-night by the Commonwealth Statistician showed that approval was granted for 7,014 new houses and flats, a fall of 1,048 on the June figure. It was the lowest monthly total since April and 2,377 below the July, 1960, figure.
What is the position in which some sawmillers have been left? Honorable members can see how some of the unfortunate sawmillers in my electorate were taken in, because we look upon the Housing Commission figures which are released in Melbourne as a basis upon which to plan our work in the mills. If the figures are rising, as they were in May and June, the millers in Tasmania look around and organize the industry and put more men back on to a five-day week in order to cope with the increasing demand. But the figures released for June were proved wrong and so our timber millers were caught in July when the figures showed this marked downturn. As I pointed out in this House on 8th March last, cheap timber imported from South-East Asia, particularly Ramin and Meranti, was in direct competition with Tasmanian timbers. It is understood that in June this year stocks in the yards of timber merchants in Victoria were from 600 per cent, to 700 per cent, higher than the stocks in the same period twelve months ago.
We admit that the rate of timber imports has slowed down over the last few months because of the credit squeeze. But because the import controls are still relaxed and there is only limited tariff protection if, by some miracle in this Budget which I have been unable to discover, there is an improvement in demand for timber, the rush of imports will be on again and the Tasmanian timber industry will fall flat on its back through extreme malnutrition.
In addition to this menace of imported timbers, many Victorian timber yards are carrying many times their normal stock of Tasmanian timbers, because of the drop in housing activities on the mainland. In one case the normal stock of Tasmanian flooring is 50,000 lineal feet, but it is now 1,000,000 lineal feet. Thus, with the most favorable conditions, there will be a disastrous time lag in the forward move in the Tasmanian timber industry, where we have 76,000,000 super, feet, valued at £4,500,000, in stock piles in Tasmania awaiting orders. In other words, despite this major opus of economic planning by the Treasurer there is worse yet to come for the Tasmanian timber industry.
In my examination of this tragic Budget I also failed to discover any palliative for the situation created by the credit restrictions imposed last year. This has been particularly noticeable in the Victorian building industry in the payment of accounts. 1 must emphasize this, because Victoria is the traditional market for timber grown in our State. The Building Industry Congress, in its annual report, at page 4 states -
On comparing the month of May, 1961, wilh the corresponding month in 1960, there has been an increase of 32 per cent, in amounts overdue 30 days. In the same- period, there has been a rise of 57.2 per cent, in amounts overdue ninety days and over, and the total indebtedness has increased by 35.1 per cent.
The restrictions have had a great deal of influence on the credit position within the industry. From the period November I960, to May 1961, overdue indebtedness has risen quite rapidly and the following increases have taken place: -
Overdue thirty days - Increase 17.6 per cent.
Overdue sixty days - Increase 35.3 per cent.
Overdue ninety days - Increase 106.2 per cent.
Total overall indebtedness - Increase 55.8 per cent.
That is the position in Victoria, I shall refer now to the position in Tasmania. Only the 0 her day, one of the biggest timber millers in Tasmania said that even in the depths of the depression he could always get money for his timber within 30 days. Now he has more than £50,000 outstanding on his books, and this has been so for some six months, because the credit squeeze and the volume of imports coming into the country have both had a disastrous effect on the building trade and associated trades in Victoria and. Tasmania, as well as in. other States.
It is also revealed in that annual report that building’ figures, for Victoria for the six months period that ended in June, 1961. have shown a decrease in every group. In actual fact, the building industry and all the firms engaged in, or associated with, the building industry in Australia are operating at only 50 per cent, of their normal trading. If this Budget were a document worthy of the name it would have contained some provision designed to improve the building industry, particularly in Victoria, which seems to be the worst-hit State on the mainland in regard to housing, and which is the traditional market for Tasmanian timber.
The growth of the States in recent years, and the increase of population, pinpoint the necessity for a constructive lead by all governments, both Federal and State. However, the State government’s look to this Government for the first move, as this Government controls the finances of the country. It must be obvious to those who advise Cabinet that there is a dramatic .change coming in the disposition of the age groups in our population, commencing from now. and this change will gather weight over the next 50 years. By 1975, the population of Australia will have increased to approximately 14.000,000 according to the projections prepared by the inter-departmental inquiry committee on the retiring age. and of that total nearly 2,500,000 will be migrants, based on an intake figure of 100.000 annually. This figure has never been attained, and it looks as though it never will be, particularly as this Budget makes no provision for the maintenance of such an. intake. However, taking the average intake at 50,000 annually, the population may reach approximately 13,000.000 in that time. Included in. this figure will be more than 2.000,000 in. the twenty to 30 years age group. The majority of these people will need homes, and they will form the greatest buying segment in the population. If they are frustrated in their efforts to set themselves up in their own homes a dangerous situation could be created, a situation which could have far-reaching effects on our domestic and foreign policy.
I want to refer now to something to which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie referred last night when he asked that Geraldton be included in the tax concessional zone. He said that he doubted whether there was any place in Australia which had as high a cost of living as Geraldton. I invite him to come with me to King Island, which lies half-way between Victoria and Tasmania, and where the cost of freights and the cost of living are indeed very high. As early as November, 1951, the former Treasurer pointed out that concessions under section 79a of the act were introduced as a form of practical recognition of the disabilities to which residents of the areas concerned are subject because of uncongenial climatic conditions, isolation and the high cost of living in comparison with other parts of Australia. All three of those conditions exist in King Island, yet the Treasurer has again turned down the request for the inclusion of this area in the zone where tax concessions apply. I ask the Treasurer to have another look at the matter - although I must say that the Government has been looking at it since 1951.
I am pleased to see that the Government has agreed to pay medical sustenance at a rate equal to the special rate war pension during periods of convalescence ordered on discharge from hospital, and has removed the limit of £30 deduction allowed for dental expenses within the maximum of £150 at present allowed for medical expenses. But here again Tasmanians fare badly. In Tasmania, registered dental mechanics are permitted to deal directly with the public, but despite numerous representations the Treasurer will not recognize them for tax purposes, and people who have dental work performed by these registered mechanics are not permitted to claim the cost as a tax deduction. This is most unfair, and we all thought that the Treasurer would have rectified this glaring anomaly by making some appropriate provision in the current Budget.
I wish to refer now, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to the failure of the Government to grant tax concessions in respect of tin mining operations. The price of tin is about £1,000 a ton, and we are at present importing about half of our requirements. The granting of such concessions as I have advocated to the Treasurer from time to time could stimulate the mining of tin, particularly in marginal areas, and so assist in the conservation of Australia’s overseas reserves.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not intend to traverse the points raised by the previous speaker, who mainly confined his remarks to the position in his own State. However, I should like to tell him that, prior to 1949, I personally saw huge stacks of lumber at Launceston during the regime of the Labour Government, when there was a shortage of timber in Victoria. That timber could not be moved because of a shortage of shipping. Various things have affected the building and timber industries in Tasmania. As far as Victoria is concerned, I do not think that the Victorian Government would subscribe to the gloomy predictions of the honorable member as to the future of the home-building industry in Victoria.
Over the past twelve years, the Opposition has shown Australia how completely inconsistent it is in its attitude towards the administration of this country. The Opposition has reared Aunt Sallys on every possible occasion without any thought as to what the overall pattern would be if their general ideas had to be translated into action, should the electors be gullible enough to accept their promises and elect them to office. In 1955, honorable members opposite accused the present Government of failing to put value back into the £1 and of not spending sufficient money on social services. Yet their own projected programme at that time was assessed by competent people to cost an additional £187,000,000 per annum. When challenged as to where the money to meet this additional cost was to come from, they said it was to come from additional taxation on industry and from cutting the defence forces in half. After these plans and promises were not accepted by the people at the general election, the Opposition then made attacks on the Government on the ground that insufficient money was being spent on the aircraft industry - an industry which at the time was making mainly service planes, which were already fast becoming obsolete, if they were not already obsolete. At the same time, honorable gentlemen opposite pressed, through the trade unions, for increased wages which would have involved an increase in Australia’s cost structure.
After this Government was returned to office, in 1958, it was again attacked because of increasing inflation, but the Australian Labour Party, through the unions, was still pressing for higher wages and shorter working hours. On the one hand, the Opposition criticized the Government for not halting inflation; on the other hand, it reduced productivity and added to our costs.
A case in point is the Opposition’s recent demand that naval vessels for the Royal Australian Navy be built in Australia. This demand has been made irrespective of the time lag and the enormous costs that would be involved. This Government, however, by shrewd buying, has saved the taxpayers of Australia a great deal of money.
– How can you prove that?
– 1 shall prove it to you if you come to see me later. The Type 12 frigate which is built in Australia costs approximately £9,400,000. The “Charles F. Adams “ class destroyer, which is twice the size and has twice the horse-power of the Type 12 vessel, and is equipped with guided missiles, electronic controls and many other features, would cost us probably £25,000,000 to construct in Australia, without the guided missiles, electronic controls, &c. And that does not take into consideration the time lag involved, because the vessel would not be ready for service for seven or eight years. The cost of one such vessel built in Australia would use up the entire Navy vote. How can the Opposition reconcile its proposal to cut the defence vote by one-half with its proposal to press for a stepped-up defence programme merely to give employment to a handful of the work force?
– Who said we would cut it by one-half?
– You did.
– I did nothing of the sort.
– What about the petition which was presented to the House yesterday by the honorable member for Cunningham?
– That is not a policy matter. It is not a party statement.
– It was a petition and it was a policy matter. 1 could supply addi tional direct evidence to support that and many other inconsistencies in the Opposition’s proposals. The “ Hansard “ of this Parliament fairly bristles with reports of Opposition statements which confirm the accusations that I am now levelling.
However, let us forget past history and come to the present. Let us think of the wonderful picture that was painted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in his recent speech on the Budget. At a time when this Government has sought to stabilize the economy in the face of one of the greatest booms in our history, to which world pressures have contributed, the Leader of the Opposition has given a pledge to the Australian electors that if his party is returned to office at the next election he will introduce an interim budget which will provide for a deficit of £100,000,000. Who will pay for it?
It is all very well to borrow money to get yourself out of an immediate difficulty, but how will you pay it back? Does the Leader of the Opposition intend to budget for increasing deficits over the years and, like Micawber, wait for something to turn up - such as the discovery of oil in commercial quantities or something of that nature - to enable him to balance his budget? He is prepared to gamble with Australia’s future to derive the benefits of office. I put it to the electors of Australia that, having regard to existing world conditions, and in view of the likelihood of the United Kingdom joining the European Economic Community on conditions which perhaps do not fully protect her Commonwealth commitments, the proposals that have been advanced by the Leader of the Opposition are similar in nature to going to the races and backing a 100 to 1 shot in the last race to try to recoup your losses in previous events.
There is another aspect of the proposed deficit of £100,000,000. It will meet the cost of various items which we shall be able to afford only from February to June. 1962 - four months out of a full year. It must be apparent to every one that if costs continued at the same rate for a full year, the deficit would be much greater than £100,000,000. I have heard some people estimate that it would be in excess of £300,000,000. If anything is patent to the people of Australia, it is that this Government will not gamble with our future. It has guided Australia from strength to strength, and now we are able to withstand the economic pressures which undoubtedly will arise from changing world conditions. I put it to the committee that we are nothing but a board of directors in this corporation of Australia. What shareholders in a company would have faith in their board of directors if it declared a large dividend and then, year after year, produced a loss? Do you not think that investors would support a company which consistently each year paid a reasonable dividend from profits?
– After sacking onehalf of the work force.
– 1 shall come to that later. The Opposition has made capital out of the unfortunate unemployment position which has followed the restriction of credit - a step taken by the Government as an anti-boom measure. But not one Opposition member has emphasized to any extent the effect that the Government’s measures have had on the employers of labour. Increases in wages and overtime work have already placed great burdens on industry. Undoubtedly, if the Opposition were returned to power after the next election, this burden would be increased by the imposition of heavier taxation.
Let me give a word of warning to some of the industries which at present are smarting a little as a result of the recent credit restrictions. If they do not approach this matter with a good deal of common sense, they will jump out of the frying pan into the fire. Let me remind honorable members, and employers and employees alike, of what might have happened if the Government had taken steps similar to those which the United Kingdom Government was forced to take some time ago to meet similar conditions. The interest rate was increased by 2 per cent., and a surcharge of 10 per cent, was imposed on nearly every avenue of taxation. This fact alone highlights to me, and should highlight to the people of Australia, that the severity of the steps which were taken by the Government to meet the position was kept to the absolute minimum. There is no doubt that the Opposition’s tactics have had the effect of instilling great fear in the mind of a large sector of the working population. In an atmosphere such as this, it is only natural and human that people will button up their pockets, thus causing goods to stockpile on the shelves and production to be decreased.
The policy of this Government has always been a policy of full employment, but under a private enterprise system. The policy of the Opposition has also been a policy of full employment, but under a socialist system. I have seen the socialist system operating in Russia, where three shifts of eight hours each are worked for six days a week. Great blame has been attached by the Opposition to the Government for the measures which have resulted in unemployment. I consider that the Opposition, by employing the tactics that it has employed, is far more culpable and far more to blame for any unemployment that exists. I ask the Opposition this question: What effective steps has it taken to maintain its policy of one man, one job? A fairly large sector of the community offends in this regard. To me, the greatest evil in our economy at present is the payment of overtime. I have been reliably informed by the manager of a large undertaking employing 800 people that if he did not have to provide overtime to keep his skilled workers he could employ 1,000 people. The evil lies in the fact that once you give overtime to the skilled workers, it must be given also to the semi-skilled and the unskilled. I consider that the unions would have adopted a much better approach to this matter if they had pressed for higher margins for skill instead of this overall payment of overtime.
I turn now to the question of productivity, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I was recently informed by the managing director of another undertaking which comprises three or four factories that it had cut out overtime in January of this year and was amazed at the result. It lost two employees and production fell by only 1 per cent. This indicates to me that those employees were not giving full value for their pay and were not putting a proper effort into their work. I remind Opposition members that, in 1950, the late Ben Chifley, a former leader of the Australian Labour Party, said that he believed in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. On Wednesday of last week, speaking in this debate, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), .also mentioned this matter. As reported at page 413 of “ Hansard “, hp said -
Some firms .have put eight out of 25 employees off and are finding that they are getting just as much production from the reduced staff as they get before, so they will not put any more men on again. That is happening all over the country to.day. I know of two .cases in Melbourne where this sort of thing has happened. In one instance a Arm is saving itself £100 a week in wages and is getting the same production as it got before.
The point is, Sir, that the honorable member puts on .this situation a construction different from that which I put on it. He says that somebody is sweating somebody else. Has he not any faith in the unions? Does he not think that they are doing a good job and preventing sweating? Of course, they are! I think that the construction that I put on the situation is the correct one. lt cannot be denied that the Government’s measures have increased productivity. The evidence is there. Once this false fear which has been induced by Labour tactics fades in the light of truth, inflation will be halted, our costs will be lowered and our export trade will benefit. Expansion will undoubtedly follow, and the corresponding increase in job vacancies will take care not only of the present employment demand but also of that of the future. On the one hand, we have Labour policies designed to obtain a shorter working week of 35 hours, longer leave and higher wages. Surely the result of these policies is patent to anybody. One does not have to be an economist to realize that they will have an adverse effect on productivity.
I now turn to the Budget, Mr. Temporary Chairman. The Government, in making a sensible and honest effort to cut its coat according to its cloth, has given reasonable incentives and widespread relief to the community. In this Budget, the Government has endeavoured to build up pensions to some extent in order to offset the effect of the increase in the cost of living on people who depend on fixed incomes. It has reduced sales tax on certain goods which are bought by young married couples when setting up their homes, and has endeavoured to stimulate the furniture, textile and building trades. More credit has been made available for home-building. The
Government, by increasing loan allocations for municipalities, has endeavoured to induce a pattern of decentralized work demand throughout Australia which will take up the slack, particularly in the field -of unskilled labour. Above all, the Government has had the guts to stick to its guns, >despite adverse comment, and to do what it believes is best in the interests of Australia.
However, 1 am disappointed in this Budget in certain respects. I consider that an additional £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 of expenditure in the field of social services could have been provided for. I am disappointed, first, at the fact that the residential qualification for .age pension entitlement was not reduced from twenty to ten years. As I stated last year when the estimates for the department of Social Services were being considered, this qualification was introduced about 50 years ago as a safeguard against age pension claims by people who, though born in Australia, had lived overseas for most of their working life and contributed nothing to Australia in the way of taxation, and finally returned to this country. When this qualification was introduced, nobody envisaged the vast immigration programme of recent years which has introduced an anomaly. Migrants to this country may live and work here and pay taxes for nineteen years until they die, and they cannot draw one penny in pension in all those years. The cost of reducing the qualifying period from twenty to ten years is difficult to estimate reliably, but calculations based on the ages of migrants already in Australia and the number of applicants for age pension indicate that the cost would not exceed £1 ,000,000 in the current financial year and that it would increase to only about £2,000,000 a year by 1966.
The existing allowances of £1 15s. a week for the wife and lis. 6d. a week for the first child of an invalid pensioner are to be increased, under the provisions of this Budget, by 12s. 6d. and 3s. 6d. a week. The child endowment of 10s. a week paid for subsequent children is not, of course, to be increased. I think that these allowances could well have been doubled. The cos- of such a proposal is estimated at about £1 ,800,000 for a full year.
There are other social service benefits which have only a small impact on the
Budget and on expenditure. The allowance of 10s. a week for pensioners who pay rent could well have been extended to all pensioners who are dependent entirely on the pension. The funeral benefit, too, could have been increased from £10 to £25 in cases where a pensioner has to pay the entire cost of the funeral of a spouse, provided that the surviving pensioner is dependent entirely on the pension.
There are several anomalies with respect to widows’ pensions. A class A widow who has three children loses the allowance for each of the first two children when they attain the age of sixteen, but she retains the allowance for the third child so long as that child is a full-time student. This, of course, prevents the older children from receiving the benefit of higher education. All the children of a widow should be entitled to better education if they want it, provided that those children are in the care and custody of the pensioner widow. Another anomaly is rather amazing. It relates to the definition of class B widows. A class A widow - that is, one with children - who is under 45 years of age loses entitlement to pension when her youngest child attains the age of sixteen. She receives no further pension until she reaches the age of 50, and she then can qualify for the class B widows’ pension. Of course, there are quite a few women who, in the four or five years after their youngest child becomes sixteen and before they themselves reach the age of 50. are precluded from acquiring any skill which would permit normal employment. I think that this anomaly should be removed. It could be eliminated simply by removing the age limit of 45 years from the definition of class B widows. That may seem only a small thing, but it is a major matter to the widows who are affected.
Despite the terrific strides which have been made by this Government in the field of social services, particularly the major step which it took last year in introducing the merged means test, and the repeated increases in the base rate of pensions from year to year, I still feel that the whole approach is unrealistic. I am appalled at the amount being spent on social services generally and on health services, as disclosed by this Budget - an estimated £358,230,000 this financial year. The introduction of a contributory scheme would ultimately rid the economy of this enormous drain on its resources. Members of the community are well able, under present conditions, to make provision for security in their old age. Numerous schemes of this kind have been submitted previously to the Government, but that submitted by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), which was known as the assessment method, is one that I think should be commended. It requires no investment of capital to produce income, which is a common feature of normal superannuation schemes, and it also has the advantage that payments can keep pace with changes in money values. I think this scheme would have none of the disadvantages which have induced the Government to reject contributory schemes which have previously been suggested.
It is interesting to note that a gallup poll conducted in April of this year showed that 71 per cent, of the people of Australia are in favour of a scheme of this kind, irrespective of their political affiliations and of the State in which they live. I believe that any scheme which would free such a vast amount of money for the development of the potential resources of this country must be accepted as a step in the right direction.
I was very pleased to hear the Treasurer refer, in his Budget speech, to a proposal to increase pensions payable under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act, to those retired before 1954, up to the rate applicable in that year. However, I still feel that further provision should have been made for those who retired between 1948 and 1959, and whose plight I have endeavoured to put before the Treasury from time to time. As the Treasurer knows, submissions in this regard have been made to him, and I fervently hope that he will give a favorable decision, so that some measure of justice can be meted out to those who have suffered financially through a change of policy of the Labour Government in 1948. It is fair to say that since 1959, following the Allison committee’s report, the Government has effected widespread improvements in the range of pensions and the administration of the Defence Forces Retirements Benefits Fund.
Some time before the Budget was prepared the Government provided certain taxation incentives for exporting industries, and for this it is to be highly commended. Unfortunately, however, no parallel incentives have been given to those manufacturing mainly for home markets. In 1955 the Hulme committee made a report to this Parliament. Most of its recommendations have been implemented, but one dealing with depreciation of industrial buildings has not. There is no doubt that most of the countries with which we compete provide allowances for depreciation of these buildings, and this is reflected in lower prices for their manufactured goods. Methods of production change rapidly in this modern world. Machines which were modern ten years ago are now obsolete, and when a manufacturer is installing new machines he often has to provide new buildings for them. It seems inconsistent to allow for depreciation on plant but not on the buildings that must be erected to house that plant. This is a matter that I strongly urge the Government to consider as one appropriate for interim legislation, and not to be left till the end of another financial year.
In the sales tax field I have already referred to the benefits which will follow the reductions of tax on various items mentioned in the Treasurer’s speech. However, I am at a loss to understand why the sales tax on foodstuffs has not been removed or at least reduced. I believe that a reduction in the tax on foodstuff items, many of which are absolutely necessary to families, would have done much to assist the people and keep down costs.
Despite my criticisms, which I hope have been made constructively, although perhaps it is only human to express disappointment when we do not get everything that we have supported and worked for, I must admit that the people responsible for governing this country are best fitted to overlook the whole pattern of the economy and to weigh the pros and cons in planning for the coming year. I have the utmost faith in their judgment, and I think that this Budget has been characterized by the same honesty and sincerity of purpose as those which have preceded it during the present regime, whether or not they have been popular with the people. The electors of
Australia can be assured that the present Government has had only one aim, to build an Australia free and democratic, in which all Australians may share the many bounties and live a full and peaceful life without the oppression of socialist regimentation. I support the motion.
.- Government supporters are well known for the extravagance of their criticisms of proposals by members of the Labour Party, and the remarks of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) are in keeping with those of his colleagues. His contention that if Labour is returned to office it will drastically reduce the defence vote is very wide of the mark. The fact is that Labour would use the defence vote more judiciously in the interests of the Australian people. The honorable member’s statement that naval vessels are being built in America because they can be built there more cheaply than in Australian shipyards will be appropriately answered, I think, by the workers who have been or are likely to be displaced from the shipyards because of these orders when they go to the poll in Maribyrnong on election day.
Two very important features emerge from the 1961-62 Budget debate. The first is the Government’s abject failure to take immediate or positive action to halt the rise in the level of unemployment, which has been steadily increasing over the last twelve months, and which I believe will reach the proportions of an avalanche within the next few months, when the effects of seasonal unemployment in Queensland and other places are fully felt. The other feature of this Budget debate is the timely and welldeserved censure of the Government inherent in the amendment moved by my leader, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). The Leader of the Opposition has certainly shown the country that he is on the march. His speech was the most inspiring I have heard for a long time from any Labour leader. He certainly got down to the fundamentals of Labour policy, which is something about which I am most concerned. If he is to be condemned for advocating a policy that can alleviate unemployment and again bring prosperity, happiness and security to all our people, and not just some of the people, then we of the Labour Party stand condemned with him..
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) occupied 45 minutesof the time of the House last Thursday evening in replying to the attack on the Budget made by the Leader of the Opposition. As usual, he spent a lot of his time in clowning and trying to ridicule the case made out by my leader. He was obviously endeavouring to establish an alibi for his Government’s failure to arrest inflation. In my view, the right honorable gentleman set out to conduct an inquisition into Labour policy. This merely confirmed in the minds of all thinking people that the policy the present Government pursued in introducing the 1960 credit squeeze was stupid and ill-conceived. The Prime Minister’s statement that the Leader of the Opposition had said he would introduce a budget providing for a deficit of £100,000,000 in February, if the Labour Party was returned to power, was deliberately misleading. The statement was untrue as were his later remarks that the cost to the country in 1962 would be £84.000.000, and for a full year would be £250,000.000. The Prime Minister does not enhance his credit by making such statements. What the honorable member for Melbourne did say was that if Labour were returned to office he would introduce a supplementary budget in February, with a deficit of £100,000,000, if necessary. The Prime Minister saw fit to exclude the words “ if necessary “. Those two words were most important to the context of the sentence. The Prime Minister invited our leader to come clean and tell the electorate what his proposal really meant. Apparently the Prime Minister believes that it is wrong for the Labour movement to have a monetary and fiscal policy which differs from that of the Liberal Government. I remind the Prime Minister that it was a Labour Government’s sound monetary and fiscal policy which carried this country successfully through World War TI. after his Government had been rejected and defeated by members of his own party.
The Prime Minister chided the honorable member for Melbourne on his failure to say whether he would re-introduce import controls or what he would do about the balance of payments problem. The Prime Minister made great play on the fact that the honorable member for Melbourne had claimed that the inflationary boom, conditions of 1960 were something of a myth.. To many people, the boom was only a myth. It meant simply nothing to those who were being hurt by the Government’s excessively harsh economic measures or to those who were ruthlessly displaced from industry and thrown on to the employment market. We of the. Labour movement can satisfactorily explain our meaning of the statement of the honorable member for Melbourne to the people at any time. The Opposition has said repeatedly that it would re-introduce selective import controls. We say categorically that the lifting of import controls by the Government between 1958 and 1960 played a major part in requiring the Government to apply its credit squeeze.
The Prime Minister, with a gesture of amazement, told the House of the tremendous expansion and development of fringe banking and hire-purchase institutions that occurred in 1959-60, and of the fancy interest rates that they had been charging for money. The Prime Minister called it “ money dealing “. To hear the Prime Minister, any one would think that the Opposition was responsible for the financial chicanery in which these people had been indulging, instead of this being the complete responsiblity of the Government. The 1945 banking legislation provides all the power and authority that the Commonwealth Government needs to enable it to control, fringe banking, hire purchase and interest rates, or to deal with any other monetary problem with which the Government might be confronted.
The Prime Minister then told of our obligation to export sufficient goods to balance imports or to match incoming capital investment. I believe that the right honorable gentleman was, in fact, trying to explain away the disastrous reduction in our balances at the time the Cabinet took the decision to apply the credit squeeze. As I see it, the Government’s economic policy has been responsible for the creation of a Frankenstein monster, economically speaking, which it has not been able to explain away because its ramifications have covered so many industries, institutions and organizations to which the Government owes allegiance in one way or another.
Then, to make the Government’s case look a bit respectable, the Prime Minister, in a most pleading and persuasive manner, said, “ Do you think that if there was not a boom and everything was perfectly normal the Government would have stupidly taken measures of a politically suicidal nature in an election year, such as it did take? “ 1 suggest that the Prime Minister at that stage really thought that the Australian electors were a gullible crowd, ls it not true to say that, for years, industry had flourished and expanded beyond expectation, with profits continually rising? Banking, fringe banking, hire purchase and every other form of investment had all shown huge dividends. Yet, rather than prune every industry and all financial institutions which were showing healthy returns by imposing an excess profits tax on them, the Government took the narrow, parochial action of attacking sectional industry in a manner which caused general retrenchment.
Immediately retrenchments occurred in a few industries such as the motor industry they became a signal for other retrenchments. The Government need not think that merely by providing additional finance for the States it will cause employment to return to normal very quickly. Recently, I saw mechanized cane-cutting machines at work in Queensland. If I am any judge, it will be no one’s business how many men those machines will displace from the Queensland sugar cane industry in the next year or two. The machines are both good and fast. Man-power on the cane-fields is about to be drastically curtailed. This will possibly add hundreds more persons to the list of unemployed.
This week, some newspapers, especially the “ Daily Telegraph “, have highlighted a “ return to stability with expansion “ announcement. “ The upturn has started “, said the writer of the leading article in the “ Sunday Telegraph “ last Sunday. Mr. Temporary Chairman, I ask what the Government has really done to cement stability. What legislative enactments have been made to ensure that costs will not continue to rise and that production will increase? What assurance have we that once Britain joins the Common Market there will be a sure and continuing market in that country for our primary products? Almost every year while this Government has been in office Treasurers, in their turn, have conveniently used inflation and stability to justify their manipulation of Budget proposals. At the same time, taxes of all kinds have increased out of sight. Expenditure has trebled since 1950. Yet about 150,000 people are out of work. I say to the Government and to the Labour-hating press that Labour in government will certainly do many things that the ultra-capitalist society in this country will not relish.
As I see it, the pattern of world events to-day is shaping towards a third world war. Should that occur, it will not be a question of whose capital remains intact or whose investments continue to be a sound security, because every one will cop it. Sputniks and space ships assure us of that. But in this country the development of that great underdeveloped area north of the Tropic of Capricorn could at least provide a refuge for thousands of Australians surviving the first onslaught of any attack, provided good roads and other means of transport and communications were available. Our job in Australia is to prepare for the future and for what might come if the nations of the world continue to wrangle as they have been wrangling for the past five or six years. Every one of our unemployed could be put to work immediately if the Government wished to do so.
For the past ten years or more, this Government has given its blessing to some of the craziest financial ventures with which any one could wish to be associated. Practically any one at all has been able to set up finance institutions or form companies, irrespective of the security that the company has had. Interest rates have become uncontrollable. Private money-raising houses have left government banking institutions labouring hopelessly behind. Hire-purchase finance has been allowed to get out of hand, with the result that many companies employing high-pressure salesmen have been able to involve thousands of people in commitments from which they are practically unable to free themselves. The companies always cop the ra’ke-off by such means as repossessions.
For three of the last four years .the Government has used deficit finance to suit its own Budget requirements. Yet when the Leader of the Opposition revealed to the House his proposals to restore full employment and provide for increased social service benefits, together with the expansion of rural and secondary industries, he was ridiculed by Ministers and Government supporters alike. It is my view that if it is good enough for a Liberal government to use deficit finance to suit its own requirements, it is equally good enough for a Labour government to use the same methods to implement Labour policy. In the past ten years, more than 2,000,000 people have been added to our number. Hundreds of thousands of them come here from abroad devoid of funds or property of any kind. In one way or another, the country has had to cater for them until they have become assimilated. I have long held the view that people coming to Australia as migrants should have an amount of money placed to their credit on landing here to be used for assimilation purposes. In that way, more wealth of an indirect character could be added to the community in one form or another. I know perfectly well that the economists and many honorable members opposite will disagree and say that that sort of financing is purely inflationary, but I repeat what I have said many times previously - real inflation is only the product of too much money circulating in a community for the amount of goods and services available for consumption. That has not been the position here. Inflation here has always been a profiteer’s inflation. For many years in this country there has been a surplus of goods and services. For a long time now there has also been available all the labour needed to produce more commodities if and when they are required. Therefore, the Leader of the Opposition is on sound grounds when he claims he will introduce a new budget to provide funds for placing the unemployed in work and for social services and national development.
The Menzies Government has for years effectively used its monetary policy to deceive the people. Budgets have been brought down accompanied by volumes of departmental documents. The Estimates are always a maze of figures and it is only rarely that members of the public worry about them after the Budget speech has been delivered. I suggest that honorable mem bers on the Government side and the general public should re-read some of the previous Budget speeches and reflect upon the contradictions they contain. The old horse, Inflation, has certainly been ridden to death by the various Treasurers, and this year’s Budget is no exception.
In his statement, the Treasurer blames everything and everybody for the present unemployment except, of course, the maladministration due to his own Government’s monetary policy. If there is one thing the Menzies Government has done more than any other over the past twelve years, it has been to waste money. The Government has been able to do so by greatly increasing all forms of taxation, both direct and indirect. This year the Government will take from the people, by taxation and other means, more than £128,000,000 in excess of what it required last year, yet unemployment has more than trebled while almost as many people are working short time.
In spite of the Government’s failure to stabilize the economy, it is safe to say that no other government since federation has ever enjoyed such favorable conditions for governing. During its term of office, this Government has generally been blessed with bountiful seasons, plenty of labour, good markets, an expanding population and fabulous profits in industry. The failure of the Government to halt inflation and stabilize the economy can be ascribed only to the dilatoriness of its Ministers.
As always, the Treasurer takes the easy road out and blames inflation or liquidity for the need of the Government to budget for a deficit, or a surplus, as the case may be. Never does he blame the Government’s bad monetary and fiscal policy for the trouble it is in. If the people will study the Budget figures, they will ascertain that increased expenditure is the order of the day in almost every department.
This year, the defence vote is increased by £4,000,000 to £202,000,000, and when that amount is added to previous expenditure on defence it will be found that the Government has spent more than £2,000,000,000 on defence in the last twelve years. What have we to show for such colossal spending? Recently, the Government ordered from America two guided missile destroyers at a cost of £42,000.000 while our own shipbuilding yard’s closed down. Is it any wonder the workers are kicking up a row, especially those who are out of work? I do not blame them one bit for any outburst they may make against the Government in their search for employment.
The Consolidated Revenue Fund appropriates finance for miscellaneous expenditure and for capital works and services. I believe that a great deal of this work should be financed from special loan funds and current revenue released for more appropriate purposes. In 1955-56, the Commonwealth Treasurer had a brainwave and set up the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Fund. I think the setting-up of that fund was an act of highway robber-. Its principal use is for loan redemption and for otherwise balancing government accounts which might well embarrass the Government if such funds were not available for that purpose. It is most noticeable that no longer have a great many people any confidence in government bonds and that when their loans become due they redeem them and invest the money in more profitable investments. And we, the taxpayers, have to pay for that. At the present time, that fund has a surplus of about £330,000,000 all of which has been subscribed from taxation.
Trust funds held by the Government show the huge amounts the Government holds in Commonwealth government inscribed stock. I mention only a few. They are -
Coal Mining Long Service Leave Fund £2,042,313
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund
Insurance Deposit Fund £6,523,763
Loan Consolidation Reserve £328,771,590
Superannuation Fund £80,896,068
National Debt Sinking Fund £148,561,250
And there are many other similar funds held by the Government. I suggest that much of the money invested in Commonwealth stock could well be covered by the central banking system and the money involved - which, incidentally, I repeat has been gained from taxation - could be used for works which would quickly become reproductive. The payment of unemployment relief to the 62,000 unemployed receiving it represents a dead loss to the community. Were the Government to provide funds immediately to councils, shire councils, and to water board undertakings for water and sewerage works which are so badly needed in every large town and city in the Commonwealth, a loss of funds would be arrested, and a reproductive unit of the Commonwealth would be created through payments for those services, and income tax payable to the Commonwealth through the channels of employment thus created would increase.
This being an election year, I would have thought that the Government would make a real effort to place in employment the 113,000 persons who the Government admits are out of work, instead of deliberately causing unemployment, as the Prime Minister has confessed he has done. The Prime Minister himself has said on more than one occasion that if the Government was to burst the boom that threatened the Australian economy some one would need to suffer. Apparently, because the motor vehicle industry had shown the greatest progress over a period of years, it was singled out for attack. Other manufacturing industries were also affected. The logic of the Prime Minister’s statement I have never been able to follow, especially when I appreciate that there is so much work to be done throughout Australia, work which could provide employment for all who seek it.
I am of the opinion that the total number of unemployed in this country by far exceeds the official figures given by the Department of Labour and National Service. In my electorate, and in the electorates adjoining it, many men and women have not registered for employment simply because some of them have thought they were not entitled to register for work while they had savings in the bank. Others have indicated the futility of registering for work. Then there are the unemployable and those who can perform only light or selected duties.
These classes of unemployed almost always receive only scant consideration by employment officers, but they do add considerably to the number of unemployed. Time and time again my attention has been directed to cases in which unemployment sustenance has been refused for varying reasons. For the information of honorable members, I shall mention one of the latest cases referred to me on this subject. I have a letter dated 1st August, 1961, addressed to Mr… Booth; a member of the Legislative Assembly im New- South- Wales. A lady writes -
I am receiving a widow’s pension for myself and son Tony, who will be fifteen years on the 16th- August. He is in second year at Gateshead High. I also have a son Athol who will be 22 on the 18th October. He was working at the glassworks a little over two years, then he was laid off. Since he has tried to get work elsewhere but was- unsuccessful so he applied and. got the social, service £2 7s. 6d. a week. While receiving this benefit he went to the B.H.P., Stewarts and Lloyds, garages, woolsheds, pits, ice cream factories and others and he was unlucky. He was either too old or too young. Then the social employment office, Pacific Street, Newcastle sent him over the street to the nurses’ quarters that was getting built. There were no labourers wanted. This was the only place the employment office ever sent him. Later on, he was told to go every day looking for work and he was to use the social services benefit. It would cost 24s. for fares alone, Monday till Saturday, leaving £1 3s. 6d. for food, or it would be stopped. This was done. Then he got a fortnight’s work at Whitebridge. He was employed from 26/9/60 to 26/10/60. He was put off as he was not heavy enough for the other job open there. Since then he has had no work and not received any social services.
That is typical of many other cases, that have come to my notice. Some have been worse than that one. As I see it, sustenance and unemployment should not be measured in terms of ability to find work or even to seek work. If a person is out of work, he should receive his meagre allowance without any restriction whatever. If the Government insists that an unemployed person, to qualify for sustenance, must seek and obtain employment on his own initiative, then it is equally right te say that the Government should always have available a pool of employment of some kind to which unemployed persons could be directed. Throughout the Commonwealth, State and local government authorities, as well as semi-governmental bodies, always have work on hand, but quite often they have no funds. Unemployed persons could be engaged by those authorities until each person concerned was able to find work for himself or herself. I suggest that it might then be possible to review the need to continue operating some of the expensive departments which the Government now operates.
There is nothing in the world that I know of that is more demoralizing than unemployment. It tests every moral fibre a man possesses. It tempts him to steal, to- cheat, to lie and to do those things tosurvive that he would not ordinarily think of. For many years, the weekly rate of unemployed benefit has been £3 5s. for a single person and £5 12s. 6d. for a married couple. These rates are much too low; yet the evidence shows that some officers of the Department of Labour and National Service demand that unemployed persons shall get out and seek work if they are to continue collecting the unemployment benefit.
I say to the Minister that if he expects the unemployed to seek work, it is up to him to provide free travel or concessional travel rates to every one travelling in search of work. In many areas, it is a physical impossibility for the unemployed to look for work because of the high transport costs. In my electorate, fares cost as much as 5s. a day. The unemployed do not possess the money to pay their fares.
The Government proposes to increase the unemployment and sickness benefits, but the rates will still be totally inadequate. Apparently no provision whatever is to be made for an increase in the benefits to be paid to junior recipients. Apparently they will have to exist on the paltry amount they now receive; that is, £1 15s. a week at sixteen years of age rising to £2 7s. 6d. at eighteen to 21 years. Do honorable members know that invalid pensioners at sixteen years of age will receive £5 5s. a week plus 10s. rent allowance, yet young people who are out of work receive only one-third of that amount? Is it any wonder that we find some people espousing the virtues of communism?
Among the unemployed in Australia there are many thousands of New Australians. Those people have come to us from war-torn and devastated countries. They have vivid memories of the destruction and devastation of war and the tortures of concentration camps. Many of them live with the memories of what happened to their families. They came here on the propaganda of the Government, believing that they were coming to the promised land. They were led to believe that work and homes were plentiful for everybody. I suggest that the recent riots at Bonegilla provided an outlet for their feelings.
It is true that great numbers of them have made good, but those who are still in immigration camps and hostels and those who are in search of work present to employment officers, social workers and the community at large a special problem. I believe they need and are entitled to receive special consideration. They need not just lip service, but a sympathetic Understanding of their problems and a will to get them work. In this period when unemployment is so bad, the Government should prune its immigration programme to the limit. It is not good enough for the Minister to say that some restrictions have been applied to the inflow of immigrants. The action has to be positive. The Australian people demand that the influx of unskilled immigrants should cease for the time being.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) has given us the biggest lot of nonsense on immigration that I have heard for a long time. In the past ten years, we have absorbed more than 1,000,000 immigrants - a tremendous achievement - and in the same period we have maintained the lowest level of unemployment in the world.
– Not now, though.
– For a very short time our unemployment has not been the lowest in the world, but for most of the past ten years it has been, lt has been a tremendous achievement to absorb 1,000,000 immigrants into a population of 10,000,000. It has been done in accordance with a properly carried-out plan. From time to time the brakes have been applied, but they have been eased as requirements made it necessary. I agree entirely with one thing that the honorable gentleman said: that is, that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) is on the march; because undoubtedly he is on the way out. One only has to listen to the talk that goes on among members of his own party in the lobbies to realize that, in the comparatively short time that he has been Leader of the Opposition, his rating has fallen to an extremely low level, and that he has been undermined by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). These are facts.
There are many points that Have been taken by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in the Budget upon which we would like to talk. These matters include the search for oil, social service benefits, repatriation benefits, defence, superannuation, the provision of £2,500,000 more for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, national development and relief. These are all subjects upon which I would like to speak, but unfortunately time does not permit and so I will mention several specific items directly related to other parts of the Budget.
The first is the economic restrictions that were brought in by the Government last November. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that they were more severe in their impact than the Government ever intended. The Government made it quite clear at the time the restrictions were introduced that they were not intended to have a severe effect on housing. Unfortunately, they had a severe impact on housing and the allied industries and trades. That is one of the reasons why the unemployment figures grew.
Although the total number of unemployed is still comparatively small in terms of the total work force, this development is most unfortunate for those individuals who are out of work. The Government has taken some quite strenuous steps to try to improve the employment position, mainly by putting more money back info circulation. We have had a number of figures quoted to us to show how production, building and other things have gone down in the past few months, but little has been said about the amount of money that has been injected into the economy by the Government and which, is at present having a very beneficial effect. While it is possible that some of us are not happy with the results, for reasons which are not completely within the control of the Government as I shall mention, there is not the slightest doubt that the recession we suffered as the result of the economic measures is well on the way to improvement. There was a. particular cause, which I should mention, for unemployment in Queensland, and the unemployment figures per capita there were higher than those in most of the other States. To a large extent this has been the result of the droughts which that State experienced over a number of years, with the consequent shortening of seasonal employment, and, to some extent, an added tightening up of money. That was one of the main reasons why the economic measures of November last had a greater impact on Queensland than on most other States.
There is not the slightest doubt that two or three months ago in Queensland there was a very bitter feeling against the Government, but there is also no doubt whatsoever that much of that bitterness has now gone and there is coming into people’s minds a feeling of regard for some of the measures which the Government took, together with a realization of the worthwhile consequences that will spring from some of them. Bitter as the feeling may have been at the time, the improvement in feeling there has been caused by a number of things, one of them being a partial break in the drought. The second is the fact that people have realized, from the financial difficulties in which Canada and the United Kingdom found themselves, that the steps taken in Australia - and taken in good time - were really in the interests of the country. These things have impressed themseives on people’s minds, unfortunate as they are for the dominion of Canada and the United Kingdom. Another thing which had an effect in Queensland was the result of the Victorian election in which, while it had no direct bearing in Queensland, we had the spectacle of the Labour Party in Victoria, led by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House (Mr. Whitlam.) trying to fight an election on federal issues and coming an awful thud.
There is no doubt that psychologically the result of that election has had a beneficial effect for this Government in Queensland. There are several other points, also, which have helped to improve the position in that State. One of those points is the fact that the 1961 conference of the Australian Labour Party was held there, after which the A.L.P. policies were released, followed up by a further statement by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The further he went in Queensland and the longer he stayed there the more the feeling swung back towards the Government. These are very real things-
– Invite him to come to Queensland again!
– I did so publicly. One of the things which must have been in the mind of the Government when it framed the Budget was the possible outcome of the Common Market negotiations which are going on or are about to start between the United Kingdom and the European Economic Community. These things without doubt could make a profound impression on our Australian economy in the future. But I believe the only attitude we can take at the present time is that which was taken by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in this chamber a short time ago. Had he said any more about what the United Kingdom Government was doing or intended to do he would have bordered on the impertinent. If he had said any less about what the Australian Government should do he would, without doubt, have been accused of not being prepared to look after the interests of the Commonwealth. But as he has shown clearly, he is doing his best for the Commonwealth of Nations and for the Australian Commonwealth in the existing situation.
Some remarks made in the course of the previous debate in this chamber were, I consider, intemperate and showed a complete lack of judgment or of appreciation of the position. And on one occasion there was what I believe was a scurrilous personal attack on the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Except in extreme circumstances, such statements are not expected in this Parliament. I believe we must give due regard to the relationships which exist between Australia and the United Kingdom. The first thing that we have to keep firmly fixed in our minds is that we have a far higher sentimental regard and affection for the United Kingdom than it has for us. That is perfectly normal and logical, because the great majority of the people of the Commonwealth of Nations and Australia have some direct link with the United Kingdom. They have personal or family ties with the United Kingdom, but the great majority of the population of the United Kingdom have no link whatsoever with Australia. They have, by comparison, very little knowledge of Australia. I am not saying that we have a great knowledge of the United Kingdom, because we have not, but by comparison we have a greater knowledge of the people there than they have of us, and consequently, we take a greater interest in what they do than they take in what we do. They are far more important to us in terms of sentiment, and in some cases in reality, than we have, been to them. I believe these things should be borne in mind as facts.
For that reason, I do not think we should judge too hurriedly or too harshly the decisions made by the United Kingdom Government in the. present Common Market consultations. I believe we should pay due attention to the statement made by Prime Minister Macmillan in the House of Commons early in August whilst doing whatever we can, within the very limited knowledge at our disposal of what is likely to happen, to provide safeguards for our own economic development in future.
That brings me to an item in the Budget - sales tax - and, in particular, to another item which did not appear in the Budget - the fact that sales tax was not removed from certain articles. I have in mind particularly foodstuffs. Some time ago, the Australian food manufacturers submitted to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) what was to my mind a very good case for the easing or abolition of sales tax on certain foodstuffs. I had a personal experience in this matter on the day before the Budget was brought down. I started to receive a number of printed documents posted in Sydney, but purporting to come from some of my electors, all being representations based on a document put out by the Australian Food Manufacturers Association.
I mention this because I have written to all the. electors concerned, who in fact signed the documents although they were posted in Sydney. I pointed out to them that to post requests in connexion with the Budget when the Budget is about to be brought down is a complete waste of everybody’s time and of their money. I believe we would be doing our electors a good turn in pointing out to them that the details of the Budget are worked out probably weeks before - and the broad outlines of it months before - it is brought down, and that people who wish to make representa tions about things likely to be dealt with in the Budget should get in good and early if they wish their requests to be considered.
I support the very good submission, which was made on several grounds. I believe it has some basic merit. In the first instance, most of these foodstuffs are subject to sales tax which hits harder at the family man, the age pensioner and the invalid pensioner; and the larger the family or the older the pensioner, the harder it is inclined to hit them. Most of the items contained in this list which I will read in a moment have a high nutritional value. They are either prepared items or are easily prepared and consequently their provision on the table of a family or of a pensioner tends to make life easier for an over-worked housewife or a tired pensioner. There are other reasons also why this submission is important. The ingredients of those foods contain in total some £14,000,000 worth of sugar and £4,600,000 worth of flour, as well as butter, shortening, whole milk, eggs, dried fruits, glucose, fruit pulp, animal waste, wheatmeal and cheese. The total annual value of those items is more than £32,000,000. Individually, each item is free of sales tax, because all of them are primary products. However, each one of them, if used in a preparation or in combination with any other of them, immediately becomes subject to sales tax. I believe that in the interests of families, large families in particular, and in the interests of our primary industries, bearing in mind the possible effect of Britain’s entry into the Common Market, the Government should consider as early as possible easing or removing some of those taxes.
I should like to refer briefly to the fact that the Government has seen fit to reduce or remit sales tax on bus bodies or chassis for buses which carry more than twelve passengers each. The important thing that the Government has forgotten to do in this respect, and which would be a very great help to people who run buses of that size, is to remit the sales tax on spare parts, the cost of which is a major maintenance cost. I direct the Government’s attention to this matter in the hope that something will be done about it.
The Treasurer mentioned in his Budget speech the fact that £1,000,000 had been given to Queensland and Western Australia to assist in financing their roadworks £650,000 to Queensland, £350,000 to Western Australia. When we heard of this decision earlier we were all very pleased, and we are particularly pleased now to know that this £1,000,000 is by no means the limit that the Government has in view. I feel sure that honorable members will recall that in October, 1959, the Prime Minister released a statement dealing with financial assistance to Queensland for the Mount Isa railway reconstruction project. At the same time were released two letters and one appendix. The first letter was from the Prime Minister to the Premier of Queensland, with an appendix, and the second was from the Premier of Queensland to the Prime Minister, and was dated 28th October, 1959. The Prime Minister’s letter was, in fact, a considerably detailed summary of “the terms that the Commonwealth offered to the Queensland Government. The letter of 28th October, 1959, over the hand of the Premier of Queensland, the honorable Frank Nicklin, accepted these terms. The third last paragraph of Mr. Nicklin’s letter stated -
It is particularly significant that this agreement should have been brought to fruition in Queensland’s Centenary Year.
The second last paragraph .read -
My colleagues and I deeply appreciate your Government’s interest, and particularly the part played personally by yourself and your Treasurer in making such a material contribution to the successful conclusion of the lengthy and difficult negotiations that have taken place in connection with the Project. Please accept our sincere thanks.
Bearing that statement in mind 1 was amazed yesterday to hear the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) ask a question which implied that ‘the Premier of Queensland was having some difficulty with the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the financing of the Mount Isa railway project because, from the time when the Prime Minister made his statement on 29th October, 1959, until yesterday 1. and quite a number of other members from Queensland, had not the faintest idea “that the negotiations had not been completed. We did not receive from any official State government source an indication that there was anything wrong with those negotiations, or that Queensland had not, in fact, yet received the money. I merely mention that as a point, because 1 saw in to-day’s Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “ :that the Premier and Deputy Premier of Queensland will be in Canberra to-day to discuss this matter with the Government. I believe that it is a very good thing that they should come here to discuss such a problem, but I should like to point out that for quite some time Queensland federal members have been criticized on the ground that they do not assist their State. I want to say to the Queensland Government that unless it is prepared to keep Queensland federal members informed where possible - and I shall emphasize that in a moment - there is no real way in which we can assist.
I should like the Queensland Government to tell Queensland federal members what schemes have been submitted to the Commonwealth Government by it and which of them have been rejected. 1 say that I would like this, because 1 know that all the members here from Queensland have a genuine desire to assist Queensland whenever they can. However, I repeat, we cannot do that unless we are kept informed. I am well aware that in many instances negotiations, particularly in the early stages, are carried out on a government-to-government level and in those circumstances we naturally cannot be told what is going on. But if the Queensland Government wishes to complain about something that the Commonwealth Government has failed to do the first people to whom it should complain are Queensland’s federal representatives.
– There is plenty to complain about and plenty to complain to.
– I am very glad that the honorable member mentioned that point, because he has reminded me that for some time there has been a general feeling in Queensland that Queensland was neglected I think that over a long period that was very true, and it was the result of the fact that for more than 32 years, with one small break, Labour was in office in Queensland - and Queensland’s Labour governments did nothing whatsoever to make representations to the Commonwealth regarding major works in Queensland.
Let us take a look at a fictitious book which might cover the past and the present of the Labour Party.
– It would be obscene.
– In parts it might be. However, one would find much of the history of the Labour Party missing from that book. Much of the early good history of the Party would have been torn out. But the book would be enclosed in a beautiful paper cover bearing a photograph of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whilam). Having opened the book you would find that the old, good part of the Labour Party’s history - and there has been a very great history of the Labour Party - would have been smirched, or would be missing. You would also find beyond this nice paper cover the rules and procedures of the Labour Party, which would read -
The Federal Conference of the Party shall be the supreme governing authority and policy-making body, and its decisions shall be binding on all State Branches and Affiliates thereto, and upon the Federal and State Parliamentary Labour Parties, and upon the Federal Executive.
– Is this really a speech on the Budget?
– Yes, because you are putting up an alternative budget. The rules would continue -
The Federal Executive is the “chief administrative authority “ between conferences. Federal Executive elaborates details of Policy decisions adopted by Federal Conference.
The Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party has no authority to make Party policy. He and all other members of the Parliamentary Labour Party must be pledged to policies adopted by Federal Conference.
So in this book you would find the old, old socialist policies. When I call them old, I mean that they came into operation about 1921 and since then the Opposition has tried to sugar-coat them and honey them up.
– Like the State cattle stations.
– Yes, quite a number of things like that. You would also get down to the policies which have been enunciated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, with the concurrence of the federal executive of the party and the federal conference, as the Opposition’s programme for the next election campaign. You would find the same old things, such as a capital gains tax and the nationalization of the banks - slightly sugar-coated but still stated unequivocally by the general secretary of the party to be one of its main aims if it attains power. You would find also a proposal to nationalize insurance. You would find the conception of numerous State-owned projects, which we in Queensland, in particular, know just do not work.
– What about the insurance office? It made a big profit.
– Let me tell you a little story about the last of these projects we had in Queensland - the Peak Downs project which was run by the British Food Corporation. There was a combination of the Labour Government in the United Kingdom and the Labour Government in Queensland. Every time the Queensland managers of those farms wanted to plant after rain they had to send a cable to London to see whether they could do so. That is the way in which a socialist enterprise works.
– How much did they lose?
– I cannot remember offhand, but it was a considerable amount. In the book you would find policies enunciated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in his trips around the countryside, and budget proposals which would keep out overseas investment. In other words, the Opposition’s policies would prevent Australia from building up its resources and progressing in the way that it should. You would find in the book wild promises of a highly inflationary nature, in relation to social services and repatriation benefits, which could be implemented only by a vast expenditure of money. The money has to come from somewhere, but an analysis of the speeches that have been made by members of the Opposition will not reveal any satisfactory indication of where it will come from.
In conclusion, let me say that on 2nd August the Leader of the Opposition stated in Western Australia that in the course of spending some £60,000,000 in the north of that State he would dam the northern rivers. I can only say that if the people of Australia ever make him Prime Minister he will damn the whole country.
.- The people of Australia listened with very great disappointment to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) making his Budget speech on 15th August. The Australian economy had been subjected to extremely drastic treatment by the restriction of credit and the economic measures introduced last November, which affected a tremendous number of facets of community life. So, it was not unreasonable that the people were listening attentively on 15th August, with their hopes centred on the Budget. They were hoping that it would put the country back on the rails again. They were wondering whether there was any prospect of a resurrection of the concept of Australia Unlimited which honorable members opposite had talked about in bygone years for miserable election purposes. But, alas, they were doomed to disappointment.
They wondered what kind of stimulants the Budget would provide for the flagging aspects of our economy and our way of life. What would be done to restore employment? That, of course, was the great concern of the 113,000 registered unemployed and the 150,000 Australians who were suffering reduced employment. Would any one expect them to be waiting to hear anything else? Would you expect them to be waiting to listen to some of the tin-pot ideas about which honorable members opposite have spoken, or would you expect them to be hoping to learn from the Treasurer that in the near future there would be some possibility of obtaining a job so that the dignity of man could be lifted, and so that a father could go home to his children with a paternal look of pride in his eyes, knowing that he would be able to maintain them satisfactorily in the future?
That was their concern on the night when the Budget was presented. They were doomed to disappointment. Many people hoped to hear something about the reactivation of the home-building industry. Can any honorable members on the Government side point to any accomplishment in this regard? The people wondered, too, what could be done about reducing imports and increasing exports. The Government bears a tremendous responsibility to solve those problems, because the Australian community is sensible enough to know that it has created them. But, to every one’s disappointment, there was no satisfaction in regard to these things.
– What are our overseas balances at present?
– I intend to deal with the matter of our overseas balances, because the economic restrictions that were imposed on the community arose substantially from our trade problems and from this Government’s inability to balance the Budget. I can well understand that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme), who is now at the table, cannot comprehend the position. It is a reflection on him that he has to ask me about our balance of payments. The balance of payments position has been deteriorating and our overseas reserves have been whittled away since this Government has been in office. Those who sit opposite must bear the responsibility for the present dilemma which has resulted from the decline in our balance of trade.
In February last year, the Governmen decided to yield to the pressure to remove import restrictions. As a consequence, there was within a short time a great flow of imports of unnecessary and luxury goods. The chickens came home to roost within a short time. The Government decided to remove import controls against the best advice that it could obtain, from its Treasury officials and its other advisers, and certainly against the advice that the Opposition was able to give. We warned the Government of the consequences that would follow. We warned it that industry would be crippled, but it stuck to its point o! view.
The obvious way in which to protec overseas reserves is to have import controls. Many countries in the world follow such a policy. As a trading nation, Australia is barely keeping its head above water. This was the case even in February last year when the Government made its momentous decision. In the financial year that has just concluded, imports rose by £167,000,000 and exports by only a miserable £15,000,000. The current year’s deficiency was £369,000,000 or £150,000,000 more than the deficiency on the preceding year’s operations. Of course, the Government hopes to make up this deficiency, as it has done in the past, by bringing loan money and overseas investment into Australia. But this money has to be repaid at high rates of interest. Some of this foreign capital may be desirable, but some of it has been found already to be disastrous from the standpoint of the Australian people who like to think that we shall have some prospect of retaining our birthright and of determining our own affairs. The current account deficit for the last three years amounts to not less ti”.. £773,000,000. We wonder why this is so.
The Government has shown no enterprise in chasing markets. Instead, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has traveller the world insulting people of Asia and Africa. In the United Nations General Assembly his outmoded and mediaeval point of view was able to attract only a miserable handful of votes from the tremendous number of nations represented there. He has adopted all sorts of dubious and doubtful principles and has even condoned the racial segregation that takes place in South Africa. By adopting these attitudes, the Prime Minister has created a state of affairs in which many nations would prefer to buy from any country other than Australia. This is due, not to the quality and calibre of the Australian people, but to the attitudes of our Prime Minister, wh is accepted overseas as a figurehead who represents the Australian people.
The Government applied the credit squeeze in November last. We on this side of the chamber have always contended that there is no need for a credit squeeze and that the Government did the wrong thing last November. It lifted import restrictions early last year, and we now see the consequences. Repeatedly in this debate I have heard Government supporters ask: What would the Opposition do? In the first place, we would not have removed import controls. We would have anticipated the trends of world trade and the effect of the investment in Australia of overseas capital on the scale that this Government has encouraged. We would have been more judicious in attracting overseas investors to our shores. I think that we would certainly have adopted an attitude the exact reverse of that adopted by the Government in these matters.
We would not have dropped a wet blanket over the entire Australian economy. We recognize that, fundamentally, we ought to retard some kinds of economic activity, notably the construction of luxury buildings and the importing of luxury goods. Those activities ought to have been discouraged. But the need to discourage them does not justify retarding every economic activity and denying credit in every field of activity. So, instead of applying a general credit squeeze, we would have made credit available, particularly to the export industries. Would it not have been a good idea to stimulate our export industries and to promote in some other industries greater activity which might enable us to reduce imports? Obviously, the general credit squeeze on every kind of economic activity had to have devastating consequences.
We would not have planned to throw 113,000 Australians out of employment. We would have planned in exactly the reverse way. We consider that the way to guarantee Australia’s future is to make sure that there are jobs for all Australians - for every man, woman, boy or girl who wants to work, including those workers who have been forced to apply for pensions. This kind of approach is the answer to our problems. The Government has been content to put 113,000 Australians out of work and give them half the basic wage for doing nothing. How can anybody justify such an arrangement? In contrast to what has been done by this Government, we would have stimulated the housing industry. There is so much to be done in that respect. Greater activity in the building industry would stimulate the whole of our economic life. So we put it to the Government that it has adopted a completely negative approach in everything that has been done, and that it ought to have done the exact reverse if it wished to administer the country in the best interests of the Australian people.
Let us look through the Budget now and see what proposals were presented to us on 15th August as the Government’s solution to the problems that beset the Australian community at the present time. First. I look at the proposal to allocate additional funds for road works in northern Australia
That is a worthy enough idea. The Government proposes to spend £650,000 out of a total Budget of £1,697,198,000 on the construction of a road from Normanton on the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland to the railway at Julia Creek for the transport of beef cattle - a quite desirable project. Another £350,000 is to be spent on roads for the transport of beef cattle in the Northern Territory. This is the Government’s solution to Australia’s problems - a miserable programme for an expenditure on roads of only £1,000,000 out of a total Budget of £1,697,198,000. This is the first noteworthy deficiency in the Government’s budgetary programme.
As we and the Australian people generally listened to the Treasurer announcing these proposals, we could not help wondering whether we were listening to the Australian Treasurer or to the clerk of some municipal or shire council reading out details of some infinitesimal parochial programme of local road works. That is what the Government’s proposals for road works in northern Australia sound like and all that additional allocation of funds for roads in the north envisages.
We have heard much talk from the Government and its supporters about the coal industry. The Budget envisages the making available to the New South Wales Government of an. undisclosed amount for the improvement of coal-handling facilities at the ports of Newcastle and Port Kembla and at Balmain in the port of Sydney. This is a worthy enough proposal, but the programme envisaged is on far too small a scale. We do not even know how much money will be spent on these works. In the main, most of the expenditure will be financed from public loans and the rest will come from the funds of the Joint Coal Board. That body could well use its funds effectively enough by ensuring that coal-miners who have been thrown out of work are able to maintain themselves and their families decently.
The Government’s programme for the coal industry represents too little too late, because this Australian industry is already crippled. The Government has already denied its responsibility for Australia’s indigenous fuel industry. It has allowed imported fuel oil to pour into this country in great quantities and compete unfairly with coal, thereby robbing that fuel of its market.
As a result, mines all over the Australian countryside are closed. This week, the Excelsior mine, which is situated in my electorate on the southern coal-fields of New South Wales, will close and another 250 miners will be thrown out of work. This sort of thing is happening because the Government has done nothing to develop industries producing by-products from coal - the sort of development that has been fostered in other countries. This Government stands indicted and condemned for discouraging and destroying the coal industry - a great Australian industry. All that is contemplated for the benefit of this industry is the expenditure of an undisclosed sum to be made available to the New South Wales Government for the improvement of coal-handling facilities at Balmain, Newcastle and Port Kembla. This sort of work should have been undertaken years ago. We on this side of the chamber have urged the Government for years to undertake it. I personally have told the Government year after year, during the six years in which I have been a member of this place, that works of this kind were urgently needed if mass unemployment in the coal industry were to be avoided.
The Treasurer, in his Budget speech, made a brief reference to proposals for railway works in Western Australia. The Government intends to give the Western Australian Government financial assistance for the construction of a standard-gauge railway to transport iron ore to Kwinana. The Government proposes to spend only a miserable £150,000 in the current financial year to help meet the cost of surveying the proposed route of the railway envisaged in this worthy and tremendous project.
Another facet of the Government’s inadequate programme for Australia’s development is the proposed provision of an additional £5,000,000 of capital for the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia. The Government belatedly makes this move after many industries have been allowed to decline from financial malnutrition because they have been unable to obtain loans from the Commonwealth Development Bank or any other bank. The Government severed the financial aorta and cut off the financial life-blood of these industries. Having destroyed and dismembered them it hopes to revive them by offering, as it were, an Aspro, for that is all; thai the proposed additional £5,000,000 of capital for the Commonwealth Development Bank represents. This is the Government’s, only answer to the problems of development. What is its programme with respect to oil exploration? It proposes to increase the subsidy paid to companies engaged in the search for oil by £1,800,000 a year.
These proposals which I have outlined seem to me to represent the sum total of the Government’s vision of Australia Unlimited and the vista of the future for this country. We consider that the Government’s programme is not good enough. It will not solve any of our problems. If this lethargic Government, with its wornout, washed up response to Australia’s problems of development, remains in office, the people of Australia will reap a harvest of unemployment, indignity and suffering. 1 turn now to the Government’s social -services programme. It is indicative of an attitude of callous indifference. Only a few miserable pension increases are proposed. The Government and those who support it expect class B widows still to sustain themselves on a miserable £4 12s. 6d. a week. This is an incredible state of affairs. The aged - the pioneers and the old people who have lived through several wars and a depression - are still expected by this Government to sustain themselves on £5 5s. a week. I heard the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) say this afternoon that he was alarmed at the high rate of expenditure on social services. He apparently considered that the unfortunate people who depend on social services could be- relied on to look after themselves. The Government has not seen fit to increase child endowment. The rate paid for the first child, at least, has remained unchanged since very shortly after this Government took office. The maternity allowance has not been increased throughout the term of this Government, although the basic wage has increased by something like 150 per cent, over the same period. Is there any justice in this situation?
Let me mention also the fact that the funeral benefit still stands at £10. No honorable member on the Government side has ventured to stand up and express his views on this important matter. There has been no extension of the national health scheme to cover dental care, even though dental experts from all parts of the world tell us that the teeth of Australian children are among the worst in the Western world. There have been no extensions to give more substantial benefit to those incurring expenses for optical care.
– How would you pay for it all?
– We will outline to the committee how we would pay for it. Let me mention also the increase in the unemployment benefit. To-day, you expect an unemployed adult, who has been thrown out of work because of a deliberate programme initiated by this Government, to live on only £3 15s. a week. A family, regardless of its size, has to live on £7 a week, even though there may be a large number of children in the family. This demonstrates the Government’s attitude to such problems.
There is the Budget outlined in general for you. It is a budget which has been condemned by churchmen and social workers and by the community at large. Deputations from various sections of the community have approached the Government about different aspects of the Budget, but so far they have been ignored. This is a budget that has also been condemned by leaders in the commercial life of the community and in rural life. It has been condemned by the trade unions. It is seen as a dead hand on the dead heart of Australia. It is a dead hand on every facet of life that dares pulsate even feebly in defiance of the Government.
It would be a bad budget at the very best of times, but in times of serious problems and of mass unemployment it certainly gives nothing like an adequate answer. Let us consider some figures - that substantiate my contention. Company income has fallen by £16,000,000, from £746,000,000 to £730,000,000, in the year under review, compared with an increase of 7 per cent, in the previous year. These are official figures taken from the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure. Let us then look at the category described as “ Other Business Income “. There we see a fall from £563,000,000 to £555,000,000.
– Ask the small shopkeeper about it!
– The ordinary small shopkeeper has nothing to thank this Government for. The Government has not even attempted to assist its friends. Those who have been hit by the credit squeeze are suspended in an atmosphere of business uncertainty. They do not know which way to go. Generally speaking, it is fair to say that business is in the doldrums.
Let us hear from those who sit on the Country Party benches. Farm income has been affected in the same way as other incomes. It has dropped from £472,000,000 to £467,000,000, although farm output has increased and the farmer has worked harder. Farm income is lower in the year under review than it has been in four of the last six years. But the Budget provides no answer to the problems of farmers. Can any honorable member point to any worth-while provision in the Budget which will help to overcome the difficulties of Australian farmers? We would like to hear the voices of Country Party members, because they claim to represent farmers and we never hear them putting the farmer’s point of view.
Dairy industry income has fallen by £4,000,000. The value of wool production has dropped by £49,000,000. The value of “ other pastoral products “, which is the term used in the White Paper, has fallen from £248,000,000 to £230,000,000.
We contend that there has been no satisfactory stimulation of primary industries with export potentialities. All that is proposed is a few miserable taxation concessions for the farmers in respect of the cost of providing underground pipes for use in primary production. The amount set aside for this is £300,000 in a full year. There is also to be a repayment of the value of stock destroyed in order to control disease, and this is to cost £125,000. Substantially, those two items represent the overtures that are being made to the farming community, despite the serious drop in farm income. If the Labour Party is returned to power at the election, it will not ignore the backbone of the Australian economy in the way that this Government has been guilty of doing.
I invite the House to consider briefly the position of the building industry, which has also suffered as a result of the pernicious credit squeeze. The “ Treasury Information Bulletin “ for July shows that there has been a fall in the number of homes under construction of approximately 6,000. Of course, we should be expanding our building industry, not taking measures to curtail its activities. The number of houses and flats commenced in the June quarter of 1961 was 23.7 per cent, less than the number in the corresponding period of the previous year. The building work force is being destroyed. The number of workers engaged in the industry shows a reduction of 5,000.
The desperate housing shortage has been left without attention. Sixteen years after the war there are about 20,000 Australian ex-servicemen on the waiting list of the War Service Home Division. Many of them have been waiting for eighteen months for finance with which to buy a home.
– Yet there are builders out of work.
– That is right. The work force in the industry has been reduced and less money has been made available for housing. The Government housing authorities of the six States have no fewer than 100,000 outstanding applications at the present time. The building societies, the starr bowketts and similar organizations are short of money but the Government has failed to take action under the banking legislation to require the banks to make the people’s money available for housing, which is one field in which extra finance is essential. For this you stand indicted and condemned.
– I am sorry, Mr. Chairman. I meant that the Government stands indicted and condemned.
What of the living standards of the Australian people? I was interested to see some information contained in the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure in respect of food. Expenditure on food increased by 7 per cent, over the year, but food prices increased by 7 per cent. The net effect is, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) points out, that with an increasing population, both natural and imported, there is less food per capita. We have a greater population consuming the same amount of food.
Expenditure on rent and interest also increased in 1960-61 by 11 per cent. Expenditure on gas, electricity, fares and local government charges increased, while clothing prices rose by 2 per cent. What has happened with regard to taxation? This Government has invoked the sneaky tax, the surreptitious tax. The total income from indirect taxes rose by £38,000,000. Some £611,000,000 is now taken from the Australian people in ways that are not readily appreciated. When we buy our food and drink, our icecream, cakes and buns, our furniture, our baby powder, our Brylcreem and our beer, we pay our taxes at the same rates irrespective of our incomes. Government supporters sit idly by while these injustices continue.
There has, indeed, been a very heavy increase in sales tax and customs and excise taxes. All these indirect taxes make it easier, in the long run, for the person with a large income and harder for those receiving small incomes, and also for pensioners and persons receiving fixed incomes. The total amount of taxation has shown a tremendous increase, of course. The overall increase has amounted to £181,000,000.
This is the state of the nation under a Liberal government. Here we see a government without a guiding star, without a scale of values and without a system of priorities. We on this side of the House have frequently hoped that the Government might at some time think in terms of Australia Unlimited and of the great future that this country could have. We ask honorable members opposite: Have you ever conceived the idea of designing a national blueprint for national development? This would enable us to have an integrated programme and plan for the expansion of the basic services in the north. That, in turn, would attract young people to an area in which we have untapped resources - mineral, pastoral and agricultural.
We have not succeeded even in completing effective surveys. We hope for the day when Australia will have a government which will deploy its man-power resources and which will see that our tremendous natural resources are used in such a way that we will derive the greatest benefit from them, so that the people’s living standards will be lifted and we will contribute to the health and happiness of people all around the world. This is the hope and the aspiration of Australians. It is not reflected in this Budget, because the Budget is evidence of decay and lack of interest on the part of a tired, lazy, inept Government, the annihilation of which is essential if the Australian people are to hold their heads high in the new and modem world and if we are to go on to greater things. I hope sincerely that, in the near future, the Labour Party will have the opportunity to express in a very practical way, by presenting its own Budget, its great hopes and aspirations for the development of Australia.
.- 1 listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), whose discussion of the Budget was confined to the expenditure side. I look forward to hearing at some time in the future his views on the income side.
Most honorable members will remember their first experience of a Commonwealth Budget - of listening with interest to the Treasurer’s speech and of being presented with a great mass of information which should not be measured in terms of numbers of books or pages but is more fit to be measured in terms of pounds avoirdupois. After studying this mass of information, possibly the views of a comparatively new member may be of value.
The first thing that strikes me is the terrific complexity which has developed in our methods of collecting revenue. There was a time when a farmer or a businessman - and a farmer is a businessman - with an elementary knowledge of double-entry bookkeeping was able to keep his own books, which told him how he was progressing financially, and was able to prepare his return of income without undue loss of sleep or sweat. Largely as a result of continuous amending legislation enacted by the Parliament over a number of years, we have passed from that position, going through another stage in which the public accountant - God bless him! I hope nobody takes him from us - became more and more a necessity to almost all members of the community, to reach our present position.
We are now in an era in which the public accountant finds it difficult to cope with the work that is thrust upon him. He has to have recourse more and more to applications for extensions of ‘time for the submission df returns. He will himself admit that there are certain sections of the Income Tax Assessment Act with which he feels he is not competent to deal. Under our present system, a “very necessary service group has ^sprung up. I refer to the taxation expert, consultant or adviser.
What a pity it is that, in this time of need for .growing production and development, we have to cause, through our legislation, the rise of such a necessary but nonproductive group of people. That their efforts are of value to the taxpayer can be readily seen from the fact that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold .Holt) has found it necessary to forecast the .introduction of legislation to block up .£14,000,000 worth of holes in the taxation acts. We see the necessity for the public accountant to invest, every few years, in an ever-growing volume setting out the latest amendments -to income tax law and practice. -I think that -the last volume issued would probably have -between 1,800 and 2000 pages. He also needs to subscribe to a service which provides monthly amendments to the original volume. These are all provided at a cost, which, of course, must ^ultimately be loaded on to the taxpayer himself. 7 feel that if we could assess the total cost of collecting our national revenue and show it as a percentage of gross receipts, we would find a very remarkable figure. I feel that our whole system of taxation, with particular emphasis on the act dealing with the assessment of income, needs early renovation and remodelling.
While I am speaking of changes in the taxation laws, let me refer to the pay-roll tax. At the outset, let me make it very clear that I believe that this present LiberalCountry Party Government - looking round the chamber, perhaps I should say Country Party-Liberal Government - has done a great deal in the past to alleviate the strain of this tax on the people. This has been done mainly by raising the limit upon which the tax has been payable. I was prepared to go along with the Leader of the Opposition the other night when he mentioned pay-
Toll tax until the Prime Minister (Mr.
Menzies) pointed out that the Leader of the Opposition had said only that he would have a look at this problem. It needs somebody to do something more definite than look at it.
My dislike of this tax is not a new-found thing. It goes back to the time when, as a man on the land, employing one permanent hand, one domestic and the normal seasonal labour .at shearing and harvest time, I found it neces_ary to make out monthly returns in triplicate and send them to the department. Thank goodness, this Government has since adjusted this position and most men on the land do not now have to do this. For those who get their shearing done by contract - and this is an ever-growing and recommended practice - the tax is still loaded on to the cost of production. For many businesses and for local government authorities the tax still applies.
I spoke against this tax in the Calare byelection. I recently wrote to the Treasurer on the subject. In reply, I was assured that the matter would receive consideration when the Budget was being discussed. It was also pointed out - and I thought it rather trite in a way - that if this tax, which brings £61,000,000 into the revenue, were abolished it would have to be re-imposed in some other form which might impose just as heavy a load on the taxpayer. It is perfectly obvious that if that £61,000,000 is taken away the Government has either to spend less money or raise that amount in some other way. I suggest that the way to raise it is to get back to income tax and concentrate on that. It is a just and fair tax which, in principle at least, places the load squarely on the shoulders of the whole community.
I will give reasons for my dislike of ‘the pay-roll tax. There is no justification for a tax on wages paid because it is just another factor loaded on to the cost structure. It falls outside what should be the basic rule, namely, that a profit must be made or income received before a tax is imposed. I think every honorable member will know of cases in which a business has made a loss on the year’s activities but has still paid pay-roll tax and not received a refund. Finally, in a time such as the present, when we are all concerned with the unemployment problem, the more men and women an employer puts into work the more tax he pays. For the manufacturer, the wholesaler and the retailer this tax could be considered as a costly inconvenience. In general, it is loaded onto the final retail price. I am very concerned about the man on the end of the line who always pays. I am particularly concerned about the primary producer who has to pay the cost and has no one on to whom he can pass it.
I am concerned also about the plight of local government authorities which are never able to receive from State sources sufficient funds to do the work which their members - nearly all of whom work in a voluntary and public-spirited capacity - feel is necessary. It is estimated that in the year ended June, 1960, local governments in the Commonwealth paid about £3,000,000 in pay-roll tax. That amounts to about £60,000 a week. I am sorry that I ru:ve not last year’s figure. I am sure that it would show an increase on the figure for the previous year. The amount paid in 1959-60 would have been sufficient to build several hundreds of miles of bitumen roads. Nearly 3 per cent, of the rates collected by local governments are paid to the Commonwealth immediately. And what for? I believe that the pay-roll tax should be progressively reduced and finally abolished. As a final observation on taxation changes, would it not be possible, by imaginative thought when working out scales of assessments, refunds and deductions, to use this avenue to give practical and material aid to the. decentralization of industry and population?
I turn now to a subject which is of vital importance to my electorate. That is the problem of water conservation. I will probably raise a storm when I say that the Lachlan valley is perhaps the richest inland valley in Australia.
– I still hold to that view. The Lachlan valley runs right through the geographical centre of New South Wales. It lies right across the direct route from Sydney to Adelaide and Perth. It is the centre of one of the world’s greatest wool-producing areas. I have carried out some research into this matter. The Calare electorate alone, which is only a small portion of the valley, produced 11,250,000 bushels of wheat last season, which was about 4.2 per cent, of the total Australian wheat production.
The Lachlan valley boasts only one dam, the Wyangala dam. It used to be capable of storing just about half the flow of the Lachlan River. This dam failed within about 20 or 30 years of its construction. One of the reasons for its failure was faulty cement. Tests showed that the safety factor had decreased to such an extent that the authorities considered it necessary to blast ten feet off the full length of the spillway. This means, of course, that the storage level has been reduced by ten feet. The Cranky Rock dam on the Belabula River, which is a tributary of the Lachlan, for many years has been listed by the appropriate department as a work of major importance. Soundings on a proposed site have been taken, but as yet, after all those years, there is still doubt as to- where the final site will be.
For purposes of comparison and to. illustrate my point, I point out that all the worthwhile rivers in Victoria have been dammed and that in some cases those dams have been inter-connected. Compare that record with the record of New South Wales. I have given the House the position on the Lachlan River. The Menindie Lakes scheme has been completed. The Ashford dam, up to the north of the State, would bring tremendous development downstream from the dam at an estimated cost of £1,000,000; but as yet there is no indication of a start being made on it.
The Keepit dam, which incidentally was started in the time of a Country Party Minister in New South Wales in 1939, was finished last year after 21 years. One of the worst features of that project is that there has been no co-ordination of work. The dam is filling or full, but there is no method of using the water because nobody planned far enough ahead for the irrigation channels and the various works downstream from the dam. The same position applies in respect of the Glenbawn dam which is on a coastal river. It was completed a couple of years ago, but there was no cooperation and so there are no channels and it is playing only part of its role; that is flood mitigation.
The Burrendong dam has been the subject of a stop-and-go policy over a number of years. We have heard much about a similar charge being levelled against this Government. There are now 750 men working on that dam; but there again there is no coordination of the work downstream. The people in the Dubbo and Narromine areas, along the river front, are very concerned at the moment as to just what the future holds for them. The Fish River dam, which is on a tributary of the Macquarie River, has been built and now diverts water to the dry inland from the coastal rivers. A bill authorizing the expenditure of £11,000,000 on the construction of the Blowering dam on the Tumut River was passed in 1951, but up to date not a sod has been turned. All this has happened despite the fact that in 1940 a complete blueprint for the development of the water resources of New South Wales was prepared and presented to the New South Wales Parliament. The average amount set aside for water conservation in New South Wales over the past few years has been approximately £5,000,000. Previously, in this House, I have commended the work of all governments concerned with the development of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. This year’s Budget provides for an expenditure of approximately £16,560,000 on that project. In my mind, I add two important figures together. They are this £16,560,000 and the £5,000,000 which this Government is making available as additional capital for the Commonwealth Development Bank. Both sums are very valuable contributions, but I point out that together they come to not much more than the £19,000,000 which is the amount by which our national bill for beer, cigarettes and tobacco jumped during the year to reach the remarkable total of £470,000,000. And I like my glass of beer. I leave those figures with honorable members, but I ask Cabinet: Please, is not there some way by which the Commonwealth and the States can combine to produce a better answer than this?
The 50 or 60 speakers who have preceded me in this debate have referred to unemployment. With a view to assisting honorable members to fill in the complete picture, I should like to make some comment on that subject as it relates to the electorate of Calare. The figures which I am about to quote are official figures, obtained from the Commonwealth Employment Service. They cover the three main offices at Orange,
Cowra and Parkes, and relate to the payment of unemployment benefits. As the areas serviced by some of these offices cover certain parts of the Lawson and Hulme electorates, I consulted with the officers- of the department to arrive at an estimate of the total number of unemployed in the Calare electorate. The figures I have been given show that in that electorate in July, 1961, there were 579 persons registered for unemployment benefit, as against 357 in July of last year. In one year, there has been an increase of 222 in the total number of unemployment benefit recipients in that electorate. But it is interesting to note that in the Parkes area there was a drop of 33 in the number of such recipients. Between the months of June and July of this year, the figures for Orange became stationary and then started to drop. Although there are only twelve men involved in that area, the important point is that the position is improving.
I assure honorable members that there is not one man available for employment in the small towns of the electorate. I know from inquiries I have made throughout the area that such tradesmen as carpenters, builders, painters, sign-writers and others are at a premium and that any one wanting work done must now wait until a tradesman is available. I know, too, from inquiries I have made, that there are no domestics available in the area. I have tried, without success, to get them from Sydney, Parkes, Forbes, Grenfell and Cowra. Following the recent riot at Bonegilla, I thought domestics might be available, but, upon ringing Bonegilla, 1 was told that nobody there was looking for domestic work and that if there had been they would not be interested in working in the country anyway. I have kept a close watch on this position, and have made representations to the Prime Minister with respect to it. I can state from personal knowledge that the situation in the bigger works of the electorate, the three abattoirs, is stationary. At the Macquarie Worsted Mills there have been no retrenchments during the last six months. The management of that establishment told me that orders from Sydney have been increasing over the last few weeks. Although the increase was slight, it was definite and such as now enables the factory to work at full pressure with the people now employed. The management also told me that if there is only a slight improvement in orders the Macquarie Worsted Mills will be taking on more employees.
I should like to refer now to the biggest industrial undertaking in the area, the Emmco factories which have over 800 persons on the pay-roll. Last week, after a long period of downturn, that organization took on another twelve men. Although the number is small, it is a start, and the management told me that within the next couple of weeks it is expected that another 24 employees will be engaged, making a total of 36. Although these increases seem small, they have some significance in relation to the overall number of 222 additional unemployment benefit recipients during the last twelve months. The most significant factor is that the management told me that these men were being Te-engaged not on the basis of sales but on the basis of the organization’s confidence in the future; those are the words of the management. In that action we have a practical example of what the Prime Minister has been seeking to establish - confidence in the future of this country, confidence which will snowball to the extent that within not very many months we shall see the total elimination of unemployment in that area. The management of this firm is to be congratulated upon setting this example and upon displaying this confidence so shortly after the contents of the Treasurer’s Budget have been known to the public.
.- It was refreshing to hear the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England), a member of the Government parties, supporting the Opposition’s advocacy of the abolition of pay-roll tax, particularly as it applies to municipalities. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will take heed of his plea and give, some relief to municipalities in particular.
I do not think we all see the glowing picture to which the honorable member has referred, nor do we all feel the confidence which he mentioned. On the contrary, during this debate there has been a tendency on the part of honorable members on the Government side in particular to gloss over the unfortunate position in which a tre mendous number of Australian people find themselves to-day. At the outset let me emphasize that the present state of affairs in Australia does not leave any room for complacency when one remembers our greatly reduced production and our tremendous increase in unemployment. Further, we have the. threat of adverse effects upon our economy of Britain’s entry into the European Common Market. When we consider all these things, it must be admitted that this is hardly the time to tell the. people that everything is all right and that everything in the garden is lovely.
The Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), and other members of the Government have stressed to all and sundry the threat to Australia which could result from the United Kingdom’s entry into the European Common Market. If there is not some relief from the economic chaos that is reigning in this country to-day. I shudder to think what the position will be when the impact of the United Kingdom’s entry into the Common Market hits this country. It is true to say that even Government supporters have lost count of the number of measures that have been brought down since I have been here to try to defeat inflation. I think I would be correct in saying that the policy of the Government has been one of order, counter-order and disorder. In spite of all the measures that have been taken, the promises that have been made, and most important of all the bountiful seasons with which we have been blessed during this Government’s regime, all we have to-day are economic uncertainty, unemployment and chaos. None can deny that.
The Prime Minister has gone forth to try to bolster confidence in this country by telling the people that in the next ten years they can look forward to a great era of prosperity. But in the next breath he says, in effect, “ I could not hazard a guess as to when the people who have been thrown out of work due to the policies that I have brought down will be returned to work, or when full employment will return to this country “. Let us remember that he did say he was responsible for originating those policies. Yet in the face of those statements Government supporters talk of confidence. How could any one have any confidence in the Government when such conflicting statements are made? How could any one have confidence in the Government’s ability to restore this country to economic sanity? One thing I say with absolute assurance is that until the purchasing power of the man in the street is restored to normal, we shall never get out of the mess that we are in to-day. It is safe to say that when the purchasing power of the man in the street is reduced, he purchases less from the man behind the counter; the man behind the counter purchases less from the manufacturer and the primary producer; and it just becomes a vicious circle, without any ultimate good to any one.
I want to make further reference to some of the conflicting statements that have been made in the past. We heard the Treasurer say, during his Budget speech -
We have always stood for full employment.
Yet only a few weeks ago in this chamber we heard the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) say -
We in this country have never learned to live with full employment.
We have heard other members of the Government say -
Full employment and the economic stability of this country cannot go hand in hand.
In other words, according to members of the Government, the only way in which they can control the economic stability of this country is to create a pool of unemployed, a pool of misery. What a tragic policy to apply to achieve economic stability! Could anything be more inhuman?
In Perth, on 21st June, the Treasurer said that the announcement that 102,000 people were unemployed was disturbing, but it should be remembered that each week in Australia 7,000 new jobs were being advertised. Assuming that the figures that the Treasurer gave were correct, it should take only about another nine weeks to absorb all the unemployed in Australia. How silly can you get? That statement was made not only on that occasion but also in this chamber during question time in the last few days. In other words, if the Government backed those figures, within nine weeks not one person should be unemployed in Australia. I wonder whether any Government supporters could guarantee that. Certainly, they could not.
In February of this year, the Prime Minister said -
Much that is going on in industry and trade is undoubtedly sound and beneficial. We do not want to check or impede this.
Can the right honorable gentleman or any Government supporter measure up to that statement to-day? Certainly not! Industry has been checked and impeded even more than this Government will allow the people to know.
The speech given by His Excellency The Administrator to the Parliament earlier this year contained this passage -
In the economic sphere it remains -the firm aim of the Government to maintain soundly based national expansion, immigration and full employment.
There again is the expression “ full employment “ that is being so loosely thrown around. In relation to national expansion, it is true to say that during this Government’s regime national works have been almost confined to the Snowy Mountains scheme. That scheme, of course, was started by a Labour government, and it is interesting to note that when it was opened it was boycotted by the Liberal Party members of this Parliament. Other national schemes are spoken about to-day, but so far we have seen only headlines in the press. Surveys have to be made, specifications drawn up, and plans put in hand. All this work must be done before a pick is put into the ground to start the projects that have been mentioned in the Budget and by Government supporters, which are intended to restore this country to economic stability. That thought does not bring any great solace to the unemployed. Those schemes will not bring them immediate relief from the position in which they are to-day. It mav be months, or even as long as two or three years before those schemes are put into operation.
We know that immigration has been cut. In the words of the Prime Minister, full employment is something that may be restored only in the dim, distant future. How insincere can one be? One day a statement is made to the effect that the Government believes in full employment. The next day, drastic measures that break businesses and throw thousands out of work are brought down. Perhaps the most astounding action of the Government was its appeal, prior to the lifting of import restrictions in February, 1960, to manufacturers and industrialists to step up their production and to improve their production methods. Manufacturers and industrialists alike yielded to the Government’s appeal. When they were at the height of their production, the Government lifted the import restrictions. The result was that all the warehouses of Australia were crammed to the limit with imported goods. While industry was staggering and tottering from the impact of the removal of import restrictions, the Government applied the credit squeeze.
I agree with the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, the Sawmillers Association of Australia, and others, which are not supporters of the Australian Labour Party, but which have said that the lifting of import restrictions and the imposition of the credit squeeze in Australia were the most colossal blunders that have ever been committed by any government in Australia since Federation. We were told that .he Government’s measures were designed to promote stability and progress in industry, to arrest inflation and defeat the boom. There are no visible indications that they have achieved those objectives, but they have caused the unemployment of thousands of people and bankruptcies throughout Australia on an unprecedented scale. It was the custom of this Government to give statistics on bankruptcy to honorable members each quarter, but lately the figures have been concealed. I had to ask the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) a question on this subject recently to get the information, and he asked me to put the question on the notice-paper. I shall be interested to see the figures that he supplies.
It is safe to say that despite protests by supporters of the Government, there are 150,000 (unemployed in Australia. -Industry is stagnating. Home construction and the timber industry have been ruined. The textile .industry has been brought to a standstill .and there is a lack of confidence throughout the land. The electorate of Gellibrand which 1 represent takes in all of Footscray, part of Sunshine and part of Williamstown. It has been described as the Birmingham of Australia. There you will see heavy industries, light industries, chemical industries - industry of every kind. You will see also in my electorate a classical example of what the measures adopted by this Government have meant to industry and the people alike. In particular, you will see the effects of the lifting of import restrictions and the credit squeeze.
The previous speaker, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England) referred to the textile industry. I have in my electorate probably the biggest textile industries in Australia including the Bradford Cotton group of companies, Davies Coop and Company Limited and others. They are known to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson). This is probably the greatest textile centre in the land. I have made a survey of the electorate. Before the Government’s measures were introduced, I was in one of the textile factories which was working a 24-hour shift. To-day it is lucky if it can keep its people in work three days a week.
– One shift.
– Yes. These companies were encouraged by the Government to increase production. One company built a new wing on its factory. It removed some out-of-date machines and installed electronic machines. After all that effort in response to the Government’s appeal, that industry is closing down its Bendigo factory and is hard put to employ the men and women at the Footscray plant three days a week.
Before these salvoes were fired by the Government, efforts were made to inspire confidence in the community, and we heard slogans such as “ Prosperity Unlimited ‘* and “ Australia Unlimited “. Then the blow fell. It hit .employer and employee alike. No one can deny that the economic and industrial stagnation that is rampant throughout Australia to-day is due to the policies of this Government. The Government has told us plainly that full employment causes inflation and that the only way the economic ills of the country can be cured is by unemployment. The Government visualizes, of course, that as unemployment increases, wage demands will decrease. In other words, because of a fear complex, the workers will be cowed into taking reduced wages and worse conditions.
Let us consider the lack of confidence that is evident in Australia. This is not propaganda from the Labour Party. I am referring to a sheet that has been produced by the Sawmillers Association. This is the position as revealed by the association -
N.S.W.- The decline in N.S.W. local timber production commenced in November, 1960, with a serious drop in December, 1960, and a continuing fall since the beginning of 1961. Production has decreased by 33-1/3 per cent, in December, 1960, and the decrease has risen to SO per cent, or more since January, 1961.
So much for New South Wales. What about the other States? The report contains the following statement by Mr. J. W. Youl manager of the association in Victoria: -
The position is the worst I have known for 30 years and has been deteriorating daily. It is generally felt that the situation will get worse before it can start to improve. There is a very serious lack of confidence.
Yet some honorable members opposite talk about confidence! The report continues -
Tasmania - As the above figures indicate, the industry in Tasmania is suffering an acute depression with every sign of the position worsening. Since 1951 we have experienced four years of buoyant trading and six years of depressed activity either in, or slowly emerging from, slumps.
South Australia - Date of commencement of decline in early December, 1960, and the rate of decline has increased. The percentage decline of overall production is 11.2 per cent.
Western Australia - The present local situation is one of reduced production and restricted sales, a situation which is expected to become steadily worse. In the South Australian market the position of the timber merchants who are being compelled to dispose of large stocks of imported timbers at depressed prices must inevitably have the effect of further reducing sales of Western Australian hardwoods in that State.
Queensland - Sawmillers, merchants, joiners and builders are all fearful of the immediate future, sawmillers and merchants are quoting stocks at uneconomical prices to satisfy banks. Stocks have accumulated to an unsound level above the maximum of three months sawn stock regarded as the highest requirement necessary for the efficient operation of the industry in this State.
So everywhere you look, you see evidence of lack of confidence among the people. They are uncertain of the future, and this Budget does not give them any reason to be any more certain of the future than they were previously.
I wish to refer to the following statement made by the Treasurer in his Budget speech: -
There has been a valuable shift of labour and resources to essential branches of production.
I should like to know where those essential branches of production are to be found. Will the Treasurer deny that the building industry, the timber industry and the textile industry are most important industries in our community? Yet many branches of those industries have had to close. There has been great unemployment in them because of the policy of the Government. I ask the Treasurer whether it is wise to transfer textile machinists, joiners and the like to industries that are foreign to their callings. Certainly it is wise to bolster the building industry and try to restore it to its former position. If the building industry and the textile industry are restored to the position that they occupied formerly we shall see an improvement in the economic conditions of this country in a very short space of time.
The supporters of the Government contend that confidence has been strengthened by the economic measures taken by the Government, but let us consider the statement made in this respect on 9th August last by the Chamber of Manufactures. It was as follows: -
Surveys conducted by the chamber over the past five months indicate that due to the Government’s reluctance to introduce a system of selective imports and to substantially ease the credit controls imposed last November, activity in the manufacturing industries has been reduced considerably. In fact, to the 30th June 1961, employment in industry had fallen by 14.6 per cent since November I960, indicating much lower productive activity generally. Other factors outlined below strongly suggest a serious depletion in liquidity, forward orders and sales, as well as increasing stocks.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Chairman, prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was quoting from a journal published by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures and entitled “Economic Service”. The journal points out that from November, 1960, to 30th June, 1961, employment in industry fell by 14.6 per cent. The survey covered 74 industries. The article in question concludes in this way -
All in all, we find that although the Federal Government may have set out to control or curb a few sections of the economy, its actions have resulted in deterioration of a much wider range of industries than it intended, and for a much longer period.
Short of imposition of selective import controls and a considerable easing of the credit restrictions imposed last November, any other measures merely prolong the period of recovery from the deep decline in a widespread area of manufacturing industry.
To have initiated action whereby employment in manufacturing industry - the vital cog in the wheel of Australia’s immigration and capital inflow requirements - has been permitted to decline by 14.6 per cent., and not to have taken major corrective action is an indictment on the Government and its advisers.
Although Government supporters try to tell us that everything is in order and that a rapid recovery is being made from the economic adversity into which this Government has plunged the country, there are other people who believe the reverse to be the position.
There is an axiom which says that there are none so blind as those who will not see. That saying could aptly be applied to this Government. Its supporters are blind to increasing unemployment in this country; they are blind to the misery and unhappiness, and to the broken homes and destitution, that unemployment brings; they are blind to the wave of bankruptcies that is sweeping our nation; and they are blind to the plight of the textile industry, the home-building industry, the timber-milling industry, and other vital industries which are clamouring for much-needed assistance to save them from collapse.
In the face of these indisputable facts, the people want to know what action the Government intends to take to remove present-day conditions. Crystal-gazing is not the remedy for these complaints. It is small solace to the unemployed and to struggling industries to be told that they may look forward to prosperity in the dim, distant future. Their need is immediate. Humanity and common decency demand the satisfaction of that need. The demand is becoming stronger every day. But the Budget has not revealed any proposal that will satisfy this urgent national demand.
.- In the electorate of the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor), who has just resumed his seat, is the town of Sunshine. We might have expected him to put a little more sunshine into his speech.
Australia has a tremendous future ahead of it; it is the most attractive country in the world. The people who are trying to invest their money here would sooner have sunshine than some of the words that were uttered by the honorable member. If what he said about the economy was quite true, it might have improved his political prospects; but all we can say to him is that really things are not as bad as he suggests.
– I could show you a few things in my electorate.
– The honorable member wants to interject. Let me remind him that he has just made the same speech that he made prior to the Victorian election, but that his comrades did not believe him on that occasion.
– You were not game to make a speech during the Victorian election campaign.
– There was no need for me to do so. The honorable member who has just interjected comes from Victoria. Any one who comes to this House from that State must have noticed a tremendous change in the number of votes cast for the Labour Party at the Victorian elections.
It has suddenly become a very serious matter to be charged with having anything to do with communism. In this place last night we saw an honorable member rise and say the most dreadful things because some one in another place had suggested that he had had something to do with the Communist Party. In other words, if at the next election the Labour Party wants to retain all the seats it now holds it has to put on a front and say that it does not like communism. While members of the Labour Party react so fiercely, while they get into these temper tantrums, throw themselves on the carpet and drum their heels on the floor, what is happening in the Australian Council of Trade Unions? We heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) say here to-day that the Labour Party is based on the great trade union movement. If that is so, where has it gone? We heard the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) say that some people, because they were unemployed, were voting for unity tickets and that they could not be prevented from doing so. But what made them vote for unity tickets when there was no unemployment? What the honorable member said might well be a valid argument to-day, but what about this time last year? Unity tickets were more numerous then than they are now.
– They anticipated unemployment.
– The honorable member for Hunter says that they anticipated it. The Labour Party has done all it could to destroy confidence. One has only to listen to a speech like that just delivered by the honorable member for Sunshine to realize that that is so. The Labour Party is going to great trouble to destroy confidence and is getting into tremendous tantrums. Because some Communists were at a meeting of the unemployment council in Wollongong, the Labour Party withdrew the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) from the council and banned it. But it had done a good job and had got rid of unemployment at that place. While I am speaking about Wollongong, a small part of which the honorable member for Hughes represents in this place, let me quote a few figures to show there has been an increase of activity in the building, industry, which has been given some prominence in the Budget and in the speeches of honorable members opposite. The building industry is recovering.
In Greater Wollongong, in May last, there were 81 applications for building permits, the value of the buildings involved being £400,000. In June, there were 83 applications, the value of the buildings being £500,000. In July, there were 169 applications, the value of buildings being £1,500,000. If that sort of activity does not put men back to work, 1 do not know what will. So, the building industry has recovered in New South Wales, particularly in part of the electorate represented by the honorable member for Hughes. If he were good enough to assist to restore confidence in Australia, the industry would recover in the rest of his electorate. But the honorable member and the rest of his party depend upon misery, calamity and injury to the country to destroy this Government. Honorable members opposite are wrong in what they say. Not only are we recover ing, but. we are recovering to such a degree that conditions are ripe for another boom to start immediately. Al that meeting in Wollongong the honorable member for Hughes said this was the worst unemployment since the war. Of course he forgot - but the coal-miners listening to him did not forget - that 500,000 men were out of work in June, July and August, 1949. He forgot all about the blackouts at that time. It was then that the Chifley Government intervened and put the miners’ leaders in gaol and put troops into the coal-fields. The- honorable member for Hunter is silent because he will not forget that, Half a million men were out of work. And the honorable gentleman who is trying to interject says this i> ;he worst unemployment since before the war. Of course, he is wrong, and he is onlybringing trouble on himself, by interjecting in that way. In Wollongong to-day. through private enterprise and through the efforts of some public bodies, 200 men per man;h are going back to work in the Australian Iron and Steel Company’s plant.
The honorable gentleman’s Opposition colleagues ought to ask him not. to interject and look for trouble. Here we have 200 men per month going back to work for the one firm alone in Wollongong. 1 1 is quite likely that one firm will be putting every man looking for a job back into work in a very few months. The honorabb member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is interjecting. He does not know anything about Wollongong, and should keep out ot this The mayor of Wollongong acted, and confidence has been restored in Wollongong, but not with the help of the Labour Party. Men are being put back to work there The iron workers are back at work. The leaders of the iron workers said, “ The. honorable member for Macarthur is right. We move that we do exactly what he said “. That was done, and the iron workers are back at work to-day. The building industry has been saved and the steel industry is getting its orders and putting men on. Of 12,400 men the iron workers are putting 200 men a month back into work with the one firm. The ironworkers union was the only union that gave its figures. The building workers did not give their figures, nor did the miners, but
I believe that these men are also all back at work.
Of course we are not suffering from complacency. We are anxious to see that every man and woman and young person who wants a job is given a job, and 1 believe that they will all be in work within two months. I believe also that there will be employment vacancies again, and we will be looking for people for jobs. Then it will have been proved that it was a mistake to cut the immigration intake into this country, because that curtailment will mean a loss of people that we will need in October, November and December this year and throughout 1962, which will be one of the greatest years we have ever seen in this country.
I referred to the peculiar atmosphere in this place which had to be seen to be believed, after the Victorian election. Part of the Labour Party seems to be going all totalitarian. When the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) was speaking in this place a few days ago and was giving an account of some very tragic circumstances in East Germany and along the iron curtain, and on the Hungarian border, one would have expected that the Labour Party - the genuine Labour Party of Australia as we knew it - would have sat there in silent compassion listening to his story, because it was a tragic, desperate and dreadful story of deprivation of liberty, of cruelty, of violence and even of murder inflicted on human beings. No matter whether these people were breaking the law or not, one could not condone the things happening to them. But what did we hear in this place? We heard certain members of the party opposite cat-calling and jeering during the speech of the honorable member for Mackellar.
– That is untrue.
– It is shown in “ Hansard “, and if it is wanted I will name some of the members concerned. Everybody of any integrity in this place knows that it is true.
– Name them.
– He is telling lies.
– Labour in the past has exhibited compassion - but not the men I am speaking of who, for the moment, are blinding, or trying to blind, the people and cover up their drive and lust for power. These men are exhibiting the authoritarian tendencies which have been shown in the dreadful barbarism of Europe whether under fascism, nazism or Leninism. I charge that part of the Labour Party with going completely against the best and most decent and humane of the Labour Party’s principles and policies. They have succeeded in enacting here in front of us in this place the reason for the fundamental split in the Labour Party. Some honorable members opposite were prevented from getting up in this place and answering the honorable member for Mackellar. Whom did the Opposition put up to answer him? The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who over and over again has been saying here that the drive is from East Germany to the West. Four million people have left East Germany for the West. The drive is also from North Korea to South Korea and from China down into Hong Kong and free China. Millions of people are leaving these Communist satellite countries. However, these nine or ten Labour Party members I am speaking about, who could not contain themselves during the speech of the honorable member for Mackellar, were suppressed. They were told to keep quiet until the elections were over.
– They walked out.
– They walked out, but they stayed here long enough to show what they were made of. We heard a question from another honorable member who used to be a champion of civil liberties but now has become authoritarian and totalitarian. He asked the Government whether the reporting of the Budget by the Australian Broadcasting Commission had been partisan, and in favour of the Menzies Government and the Budget, and whether the A.B.C. had quoted statements by people who were favorable to the Budget. I took the trouble to obtain verbatim copies of the A.B.C. reports on two things - the Budget and the meeting of the A.L.P. federal executive. There are something like 40 or 50 pages here, and not once is the Liberal Party or the Country Party mentioned in these reports.
– They are not worth mentioning.
– I am grateful to the honorable member for Lalor, because he is helping me to make the point. In those reports the Labour Party is mentioned sometimes no fewer than seven times in one paragraph. My suspicions were aroused about this. I am not protesting about the mentioning of the Labour Party because a parliamentary Opposition receives a good deal of publicity. The Australian Labour Party federal executive was exhorting trade union members - and it had to do that, mind you - to vote for those candidates in trade union elections who espoused Labour Party principles and policy. The Labour Party is mentioned hundreds of times in these reports, I am not complaining about that, but the Labour Party has said that these reports were biased in favour of the Government, when in fact they read almost like paid Labour propaganda. But that kind of thing is a sign. When an honorable member here says that a report if biased, when in fact it is completely fail and objective, that is the time to have a good look because that is tantamount to attempting to stifle the critical faculty.
– The man who asked the question is a damned sight better than you.
– Well, brother Jim, you know. The man who asked the question is not here, Mr. Chairman, and of course he does not come here very often, does he? For a year he did not come here at ail and was being marked present.
– You cur.
– So that is what you get.
– You cur.
– He was not doing his job.
– You cur.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I ask for a withdrawal of the word “ cur “. It is unparliamentary, and I direct attention to its use.
– Order! I ask the member for the Australian Capital Territory to withdraw the word referred to.
– Mr. Chairman, I withdraw the word, and I withdraw myself before I sick up on the carpet.
– The policy of the Government is to promote stability and development. The Budget which we are examining exhibits all the signs of stability and development. As has been said here many times, continuity of leadership alone is enough to give confidence to investors abroad and to people who want to come to this country.
The Speech of His Excellency the Administrator earlier this year set out all that the Government proposed to do in the development of Australia. As we examine the Budget we look throughout the country with pride at the things that are happening. The Government which was in office prior to the present Government directed attention to the need for the standardization of railway gauges in Australia. The problem has been almost solved. I congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), who is at present at the table, on the job he is doing. The surveys are almost completed and the job is in hand. We will soon have a standard gauge throughout Australia. Of course, the cost will be enormous, testing our resources to the utmost. Tremendous investment is taking place in our agricultural resources in northern Australia, an area to which honorable members on both sides of the Parliament pay lip service.
Australia undoubtedly has immense resources. The State of Queensland, with a population of 1,500,000 people, has many times the resources of Texas, which has a population of 10,000,000 people. I feel sure that in time Queensland will have a greater population and greater wealth than Texas.
– What rubbish! What is the position with oil in Queensland?
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) says that we want a drop of oil! If he were to visit the teams engaged in oil search he would be aware of the atmosphere of confidence at the wells that are producing oil of a high enough quality to be used in tractors. The prospect is exciting. Everywhere we look we see the beginnings of development in Australia.
We have had circulated amongst us the report of the committee that was appointed by the Minister for Territories to consider prospects of agriculture in the Northern Territory. All of us are grateful to our distinguished colleague, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) for the work he did on that committee. We are grateful to him for his cautious spirit, which is a part of his very nature. It will be necessary to exercise caution, in view of the fact that recently when nine blocks were offered for ballot nearly 500 applications were received - the highest number of all time. The drive to the north is on! It is our responsibility in this Parliament to accept the responsibility and the challenge to develop the northern areas of Australia. The report to which I have referred contains some notes of caution and some warnings.
Those of us who have the welfare of the north at heart may ask, “Where do we go from here? We have commenced our task, but what is the best way to develop northern Australia?” I had the temerity to get into touch with that distinguished servant of this country, Professor Sir John Crawford. He told me certain things and I have his permission to quote them. He said -
We are not yet ready for a northern development authority.
I agree with that. I agree that we have to look at these problems from the standpoint of the needs and resources of Australia. In order to do the job as quickly as possible, we must use the machinery that we have available. We have the Northern Territory Administration, the sovereign State of Queensland - which of course, embraces the richest part of the north - and we have the sovereign State of Western Australia, which is doing a great job in that part of the north under its administration. I agree that we are not yet ready for a northern development authority. Sir John Crawford also said -
If I were advising the Government now I would say -
Get maximum efficiency from the Northern Territory Administration, and
Promote the best possible financial relations with the State of Queensland and the Northern Territory.
That advice is simple and clear enough and it will satisfy me, as a matter of policy, for the next few years. There will be some difficulties in the task of streamlining the Northern Territory Administration. The Australian Constitution does not permit us to give such tremendous power to the Administrator of the Northern Territory, Mr. Roger Nott, as we give to the Administrator in New Guinea. We have to face that difficulty.
The Commonwealth Public Service Board can assist in the task if it cares to do so. The board naturally concerns itself with the comfort of its servants in Canberra and other cities. It has the machinery to do so.
– What do you want to grow up there - bullocks or bureaucrats?
– It is no use for the honorable member for Parkes to interject in those terms. If he lets me continue I might make some suggestions that will be helpful. The Commonwealth Public Service Board could improve the living conditions of its servants in the Northern Territory. According to the report I have mentioned, the staff of some of the branches of the Northern Territory Administration is only at half strength. Good jobs are advertised in Canberra and people apply for them, but not many apply for positions in the north. There are exceptions in the case of those who went to the north during the war and developed a liking for it. The conditions of the employees of the Northern Territory Administration ought to be improved to the maximum, but also we must not forget those who are not in the Public Service. They, too, ought to receive the maximum help, as the Government of Western Australia has given to the residents of the delightful township of Kununurra, which could be regarded as a model for future expansion in tropical areas.
The Government, through the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), has brought about a tremendous improvement in the housing of the people in the Northern Territory, which has increased about five-fold since this Government came to office. The Agriculture Branch has been set up, the whole of whose staff is located in the Territory. The department in Canberra acts as an agent for the Administration in the Territory; it submits cases to the Treasury, which, of course, has the final say. Perhaps we should pay some attention to Treasury practice in this connexion. The members of this Parliament, particularly members of the Government, can assist in this matter.
The job of developing the Northern Territory is bigger than any development job that has been undertaken in the world, so big that it almost baffles one’s imagination. The job is of a tremendous size, whether we consider the technical details or the work of administration. In Mr. Roger Nott, the Government has chosen a very good man as Administrator, and this Parliament ought to back him to the utmost.
– He was a Labour man.
– He was a Labour man who got fed-up with the left wing - the people that you mix with at times - and he was very glad to get out.
One of the problems of the Northern Territory is that expenditure in the Territory is strictly limited to appropriations by this Parliament. As well as that, the Audit Office and the Treasury exercise strict control, and finally, the Public Accounts Committee is like a watchdog in the background. I understand that one officer up there could not get approval to obtain something he wanted so he bought it and paid for it out of his own pocket. As the honorable member for Wakefield has pointed out, if an important spare part for a bulldozer is required, a year might elapse while it is being procured.
I have mentioned the Public Service, which I believe should be improved, and I believe that the many suggestions contained in the report ought to be implemented as far as possible. In all these matters the Minister should be given assistance by the Parliament and Cabinet. It is clear that the proposed expenditure of £630,000 this year on roads is the maximum with which the men, materials and machinery can cope. Although this view is contrary to that expressed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) yesterday, I believe that sufficient money has been allocated for road work. In fact, sufficient money has been allocated for a number of projects, but the imperative thing is that the Administration should be given every assistance to do the jobs that it wants to do.
We have been told that we cannot pay for some of these projects. But we have been told also that this year we will be expending £28,000,000 on the Snowy Mountains scheme. That proves that we can find the money. I have been told that we must not develop the north at the expense of projects in the southern districts. Well, with due acknowledgment to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who has just returned from one of his hardworking forays into the other parts of the world and who has provided me with a good deal of material, I want to say that if a federal government such as the Government of the United States of America can invest money in irrigation, which is a subject in which the right honorable gentleman is keenly interested - he has promoted many dam and irrigation schemes in Australia - there is no reason why we cannot do the same in Australia.
The right honorable gentleman mentioned to me the North Platte project in Wyoming and Nebraska. Before irrigation the income from the area was 44,000,000 dollars. After irrigation it was 91,000,000 dollars. The United States Government invested 20.000,000 dollars in the project, and within ten years was receiving 16,000,000 dollars in taxes alone. In other words, in one year it received a dividend of 80 per cent, on its investment. In addition, I understand that it did not charge one penny for building the dam. Can we not engage in that kind of enterprising and forward-looking expenditure in Australia? We have the resources of men, materials and machinery and we have the excellent people who come here from abroad, so surely we can find the money to start these irrigation and farming schemes. While on the subject of farming, I pay a further tribute to this report.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I think most honorable members were appalled at the statement which was made by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) to the effect that my colleague, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), is very seldom in the House. He went on to say that at one stage the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was absent from the House for twelve months. No one knows better than does the honorable member for Macarthur that my colleague was taken suddenly ill in this House and was seriously ill for many months. As a result, he was under strict doctor’s orders. If I wanted to point the bone regarding absences from this place, I could pick a few Liberal members and one or two Country Party members.
– You could not.
– Yes, I could. How often is the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in the House?
– He is always in the House. He is here now.
– It is all right about you fellows. You can give it, but you cannot take it. Other honorable members opposite have been absent from the House on account of illness, but the honorable member for Macarthur saw fit to criticize one of my colleagues who was suddenly taken dangerously ill in this place.
The honorable member for Macarthur was supposed to be participating in a debate on the Budget but, as usual, he devoted practically one-half of his speech to matters not concerned with the Budget. He spoke about the old bogy of communism. It is interesting to recall that last Sunday night in Sydney the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) appeared on a television programme to debate the Budget. The Leader of the Opposiion challenged the Treasurer to fight this election on the Budget. The Treasurer accepted the challenge, but apparently quite a number of Government supporters do not intend to tight the election on politics or on merit hut instead intend to use the old bogy of communism.
Let us have a look at these few people who try to brand others as Communists. For many years the Liberal Party in New South Wales has branded the State Labour Go- vernment as being pro-Communist. Yet this Commonwealth Government selected one of those “ pro-Communists “ to be Administrator of the Northern Territory. How silly can those few people be! I have heard people brand the late Premier of New South Wales as pro-Communist. I even heard people brand as a Communist one of the most beloved people ever to have been in Australia. I refer to the late Archbishop Mowll. Because he stated his views on China after returning from a visit to that country he was branded as being proCommunist. Did you ever hear anything like it? When these people want votes they blackguard others. They get into the gutter, but they forget that when they throw mud they should be prepared lest a little may splash back on them. A Liberal supporter who now occupies a place in the Senate was elected in 1955 because he received 73 per cent, of Healy’s preferences. Another honorable member who sits beside the honorable member for Macarthur owes his seat in this Parliament to Communist .preferences. I refer to the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean). Yet some people have the audacity to blackguard us as being proCommunist!
I should like to devote the remainder of my time to the Budget, as I am supposed to do. Excluding a couple of little horror budgets, this is the twelfth Budget to have been introduced by this Government since assuming office in 1949. This Budget has met with widespread disapproval and has been received with dismay by an overwhelming cross-section of the Australian community, including leaders in industry and commerce, sections of the primary industries, the recipients of social service benefits and wage and salary earners. The people of Australia were looking to this Budget as a means of revitalizing our rundown economy. They were looking to this Budget to restore confidence - confidence which had been shattered by the implementation of this Government’s infamous credit squeeze and the abolition of import controls. The Budget proves beyond doubt that the Government shows a very cold indifference to the real needs of age and invalid pensioners. The recipients of repatriation benefits have been treated shabbily. The increase in benefit that they received falls far short of the very reasonable and fully justified nine-point plan that they submitted to the Government for consideration. The mothers of families have been treated shabbily for many years. Once again the Government has blatantly and constantly refused to restore value to child endowment.
This Budget has been introduced at a time when very many persons are unemployed and when there is uncertainty in the community. The Government deliberately planned the measures that led to the situation that now exists in Australia, but it will not accept responsibility for alleviating the position. Instead, it tells the Australian people, “ We got you into this mess but we will leave it to you to get yourselves out of it “.
Let us see what some newspapers had to say about the Budget. The Sydney “Daily Mirror” referred to the Budget as a “ Coward’s Budget “. It said, “ We have a little Budget by a little man - the product of a conspiracy of caution “. It said that the tired old men and the niggling bureaucrats behind them had set the signals ‘ slow ahead’. It asked, “Advance Australia where? Where indeed under this bunch of political cowards “.
The Sydney “ Sun “ described the Budget as a “pussyfoot Budget”, saying that the most significant aspect was its dismal failure to reflect the optimism expressed by the Prime Minister ten days previously. It referred to the Budget as a timid approach to worsening problems by a “pussyfoot Government “ whose courage was restricted to fighting words.
The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ said that the Budget failed to deal with recession, that it was a disappointing Budget and was ill-attuned to the needs of the economy. The Melbourne “ Herald “ referred to “ an uninspired Budget “. The Melbourne “ Sun “ called it “ a standstill Budget “. The Brisbane “ Courier Mail “ called it “ a stand-pat Budget “. The Adelaide “ Advertiser “ referred to “ a Budget’s missed opportunities “. The Hobart “Advocate” said that the Budget provided little for a few.
Those comments give a clear picture of this Budget. Only two major newspapers in Australia did not adversely criticize it. Those newspapers were the Melbourne “ Age “ and the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “.
I can understand the “Daily Telegraph” failing to criticize the Budget because its proprietor, Sir Frank Packer, is still paying for his knighthood on the instalment plan.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said in his speech on the Budget that in 1958-59 Sir Arthur Fadden budgeted for a deficit of £110,000,000. At that time we had a standing army of unemployed numbering 66,000. Sir Arthur Fadden explained that he budgeted for a deficit in order to channel money into the economy with a view to putting confidence back into industry and commerce as a means of reducing the number of unemployed. Let us contrast that Budget with this one. At present we have more than 113,000 persons registered for employment. That figure does not reflect the true unemployment position because thousands of people who are out of work do not bother to register for employment, particularly if they are not entitled to unemployment benefit. Many men who are out of work but whose wives are working part time do not register for employment. Other people feel that there is very little chance of the employment offices finding work for them; they would rather search for work themselves. The unemployment figure does not include migrants who are unemployed and living in migrant centres such as Bonegilla. Those are good reasons why it is estimated that the number of unemployed in Australia to-day is at least 150,000. Of that number. 62,000 are in receipt of the dole.
Let us examine the proposal submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. He suggested that this Budget should provide for a deficit of more than £100,000,000 in order to revitalize the economy and restore confidence in the community. His statement has been accepted widely throughout Australia by industrial leaders and by newspapers. I emphasize that those newspapers are not pro-Labour in character. But the pessimistic knockers on the other side, of the chamber, as is usual when any suggestion is made for dealing with the unemployment situation by putting more money into circulation, claim that such a thing would ruin the economy. When the Commonwealth Bank was established those same anti-Labour pessimists said that it was doomed to ruin and was a waste of public money. But that great institution has returned to the people of Australia profits in excess of £220,000,000 since it was established in 1912. It has played a major role in the development of primary and secondary industries in this country. It has provided scores of thousands of homes for people - particularly young married couples.
When Labour introduced a system ot free education in Australia we heard the same old moans and groans. Again in the mid-1920’s, when a New South Wales Labour government introduced child endowment, widows’ pensions, workers’ compensation and the 44-hour week, we heard the same moans from supporters of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party or their counterparts of the day. They said, “We cannot afford it. It will doom Australia.” In 1947 the McGirr Government in New South Wales introduced the 40-hour week and later longservice leave, compulsory annual leave and amendments to the workers’ compensation laws. Again we heard the same old moans and groans.
Let us see what Labour has done in the field of national development. Labour established the great trans-continental railway in order to open up Western Australia and further its development. Labour established the Snowy Mountains scheme. When that was done the. Opposition of the day, which is now the Government, protested so violently that its supporters boycotted the opening ceremony. Only one member of the parties that now form the Government went to that ceremony. That great project will provide much needed power and irrigation water to New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
– Who was the member who went to the opening ceremony?
– It was not you. I think it was Mr. Corser.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member be allowed to continue his speech without interruption.
– When this Government had a golden opportunity to help to develop Queensland by financing the Mount Isa to Townsville railway, which is of the utmost importance to Queensland’s economy, it did not provide the money free of charge to Queensland. Instead, it lent the money to Queensland and charged interest on the loan. Every penny of that loan will have to be repaid by Queensland. Apparently this Goverment looks upon Queensland as the black sheep of the family.
– The loan was made to Queensland on the same basis as the loan that was made to Western Australia, and you know that it was.
– The Minister who is interjecting has more complaints than a disappointed old maid. Let me refer now to the serious problem of unemployment. The number of persons registered for employment is about 113,000. Many of those persons are ex-servicemen. Many of them served in the war under a promise given by world leaders that we would have a new world in which to live - that we would have a new order. What has become of that golden promise given by world leaders? Was the promise a gimmick designed to get a maximum war effort, or was it made in all sincerity? If the present order is a new order, it is not much different from the old order of unemployment, despair and poverty. Many of the unemployed persons are migrants who came to Australia because they were painted a rosy picture of Australia as a land of opportunity. Many migrants sold all their worldly possessions and cut their ties with relatives and friends in order to come here. To decide to leave your native land and come to a new country is not an easy decision to make. Those people were led up the garden path. The Bonegilla riots are evidence of that. Those people arrived in Australia and could not find jobs. Many unemployed persons are bread-winners who are paying off homes and paying hirepurchase debts on furniture, refrigerators, carpets and other household goods. They are getting hopelessly into debt. As every one knows, an average wage or salary earner who has been out of work for only a month or so needs a year or two to get out of debt when he eventually finds a job again.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) expresses great sympathy with the unemployed. I, also, extend them my sympathy.
But my sympathy, unlike that of the Prime Minister, springs from personal experience. I was one of those who were out of work in the 1930’s. While I was on the dole, I received the princely sum of 14s. 2d. a week on which to keep myself and my wife and baby. I paid 6s. a week in coupons for a room, and I was left with 8s. 2d. a week for the support of myself and my wife and child. So, my sympathy for the unemployed springs from personal experience, Mr. Chairman, unlike that of the Prime Minister, who does not know what it is to be out of work and broke and who probably will never know.
I have vivid memories of the onset of the depression in Sydney. At that time, the Bavin anti-Labour Government was in office in New South Wales. A lot of people lost their employment before Labour was elected to office in that State in 1930, and the anti-Labour Government refused to provide dole for single men and women. As a consequence, if they had no relatives or friends to fall back on, they were forced into crime and immorality, which were the only alternatives to starvation and sleeping in the parks. That demonstrates the attitude of anti-Labour governments, despite what their supporters say about sympathizing with the unemployed. 1 am reminded of so many speeches of Government supporters in which they express themselves in favour of things that they never want to implement. Although they frequently express themselves in favour of a proposal, implementing it is a different story.
Let us now consider what the Prime Minister said about unemployment a few months ago. Appearing on the television programme, “ Meet the Press “, in Sydney, he said that the Government would have to be concerned if the number of workers unemployed rose above 80,000. Such a statement indicates to any person of reasonable intelligence that the Prime Minister is satisfied to have a permanent army of unemployed up to 80,000 strong. In a later television talk to the nation, the right honorable gentleman appealed to the public to spend their money. That demonstrates his complete ignorance and lack of understanding of the natural reaction of wage and salary earners in times of uncertainty and recession. A man who is working in a plant in which retrenchments are con stantly taking place and who thinks that his turn for dismissal may come next week, reacts, first, by buttoning up his purse and reducing his spending in order to tide himself over if he loses his job and cannot find another for a time. That sort of reaction takes money out of circulation, and so unemployment snowballs.
Only a few weeks ago, the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is a senior member of the Cabinet, appeared on television in Brisbane and similarly appealed to the people to spend their money. However, he tried to pass the buck. He tried to blame the newspapers and everybody but the Government for causing the uncertainty that exists in the minds of the people. In answer to a question directed to him on that television programme, he said that the present level of unemployment is higher than the Government wished for. Has any one here ever heard, in his experience in this Parliament, a more startling statement by a senior Cabinet Minister? No doubt, the people of Australia would like, as I would like, to hear the answer to the question: What level of unemployment was planned for by the Government when it initiated this recession? The statements that we hear from the Government and its supporters, as I said earlier, exhibit a complete lack of understanding of the reactions of the people in times of recession.
The Opposition has been accused, time and again, by the Prime Minister and other members of the Government of deliberately exploiting the unemployment situation for propaganda purposes. Furthermore, the Prime Minister, in his speech in this debate last Thursday evening, said that the Opposition would like to see another 100,000 people unemployed before the election. Nothing is further from the truth, Mr. Chairman. The Australian Labour Party believes in a policy of full employment. We on this side of the chamber should like to see every one who wants a job at work to-morrow. Despite the accusations made against us, we shall go out on the highways and the by-ways throughout Australia and criticize this Government, as we would criticize any government that conceived and deliberately planned for a recession that put 113,000 people out of work. Perhaps the Prime Minister imagined that the Opposition ought to congratulate him on having brought about the situation that now exists. Probably, he would like us to congratulate him, but he knows full well that the Opposition does not want unemployment and that so long as anybody in this country is unemployed we will criticize the Government every day in the week. We on this side of the chamber believe in full employment and the right of every man, woman, boy and girl who is willing to work to have a job. There should be jobs for all.
In his speech last Thursday evening, the Prime Minster said -
I am a great believer in Australian industry. I am a life-long protectionist.
Does he seriously think that our leaders in secondary industry are so gullible as to swallow that story? No doubt the right honorable gentleman made that statement in an attempt to get back on side with the leaders of secondary industry before the election takes place. Can any credence be placed in that statement made by the leader of a government which is kept in office by a coalition between the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party - a party which is dedicated to a policy of free trade and the abolition of all tariffs? Could anybody seriously believe that the Prime Minister is really a life-long protectionist when his Government is kept in office by a party of free-traders who believe in the abolition of al! tariffs? Can any one understand why this so-called protectionist, who asserts that he believes in protecting Australian industries, recently placed in the United States of America an order for £40,000,000 worth of naval vessels although our own shipbuilding yards are looking for orders? Only eighteen months ago, the Government removed import controls and allowed a flood of imported goods into Australia, the result being serious damage to Australian secondary industries and unemployment for many thousands of Australians. Yet the Prime Minister claims to be a protectionist. This assertion is in keeping with many of his other eloquent but irresponsible statements that we hear from time to time, Mr. Chairman.
The Australian Labour Party has always been a protectionist party. We are proud of our policy of protection, and we make no apology for it, because we believe that if Australia is to continue to grow as a great nation we must provide work for our expanding population. The primary industries cannot provide it. Indeed, there are fewer people working on the land to-day than there were prior to World War II. So we must look to the secondary industries to provide work for our expanding population, and particularly for the everincreasing number of young people leaving school each year. We must look to the secondary industries to provide work for the migrants who are coming to this country. For these reasons, the Labour Party believes in a policy of protection. We are anxious to make Australia greater, even if the present Government does not wish to do so.
I turn now to age and invalid pensions. The paltry increase of 5s. a week, or about 8i6. a day, will certainly not be of much help to the unfortunate people who depend on age and invalid pensions. Year after year, in Budget debates, Government supporters trot out the same old catch-cry: Compare the pensions paid by the present Government with those paid by the previous government! The comparison is irrelevant and immaterial.
There are two fundamental questions that should be answered. First, is £5 5s. a week enough to keep a person in reasonable comfort in accordance with our Australian standard of living? I believe the answer to that question to be “Definitely not”. The second question is: Can the economy afford a payment of more than £5 5s. a week? I believe the answer to that question is “ Yes “. I say this having in mind the proposition of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that we should budget for a deficit of £100,000,000, portion of which could be used for increased pensions. The extra money in pension payments would come back immediately into circulation, because these people spend every penny they get. It would, therefore, help in reducing unemployment.
I represent an electorate in which many age pensioners live. I am in a position to see and to understand their problems and I know a little bit about this matter. If it was not for the fact that the Labourcontrolled Sydney City Council assists with meals and amenities, many of these people would not be able to exist. I can say also that the New South Wales Government has helped these unfortunate people in many ways.
If industrial and commercial leaders want to see confidence restored to the community, and if the unemployed want to get back to work, they will have to look to Labour to achieve these things. This Government is not prepared to do the job. Well, we will do the job after the election. Labour will always fulfil its obligations, and it will stand by any promise it makes at election time. Let me say, in answer to the pessimistic knockers that we have here, and whom we have heard from time to time over the last half century, that Labour will do the job it sets out to do, without fear or favour.
.- I shall not spend the 30 minutes allowed me in attempting to unravel the speech made by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), or to answer many of the misstatements that he has made. I shall make only two points. First, the honorable member spoke about pensions. I remind him and other honorable members, and the Australian public, that the only government in the history of this Commonwealth Parliament that ever reduced pensions was a Labour government. Secondly, the honorable member asked what level of unemployment the Government wished to achieve. I further remind him that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) who has been a leading spokesman for the Labour Party for many years, stated publicly that he considered the situation would be satisfactory if as many as 5 per cent, of the work-force were unemployed. On those figures, the honorable member for Parkes would be satisfied even to-day if there were 250,000 unemployed.
The 1961-62 Budget presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has been attacked in many irresponsible speeches made by honorable members opposite, particularly those of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I have, therefore, decided to change my approach to this debate. I believe that to ignore the Opposition attacks on the Budget would be tantamount to agreeing with many of the ill-considered, calamity-howling statements that Opposition supporters have made. It is my intention, therefore, to defer the remarks I had intended to make, on such subjects as health, social services and education, until the estimates for the appropriate departments are debated. 1 will have time, in the 30 minutes at my disposal, to give a few facts about the Opposition and its members which will be of interest to all thoughtful Australians.
– Move that volume of “ Hansard “ from the desk in front of you, so that we can see you.
– I will be citing some remark of yours from “ Hansard “ later, if you care to wait. I wish, first, to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation, as a Western Australian member of the Parliament, of the Government’s prompt decision on the matter of the rail gauge standardization project in Western Australia. This historic development, which involves the expenditure of £41,000,000, will result in the establishment of a £44,000,000 iron and steel industry, which will be of tremendous benefit to Western Australia. We are gratified also at the decision to spend £1,000,000 on beef roads in the north, and also to provide diesel rolling stock to the value of nearly £1,500,000 for the South Australian railways. I believe that these projects alone, which will involve the expenditure in total of more than £86,000,000, show that this Government is right on the job in tackling the problem of national development.
This is the twelfth Budget in succession brought down by this Government, and in reading some of the speeches made in Budget debates in past years I was reminded of forecasts made by Opposition spokesmen - forecasts that they fervently hoped would prove accurate - that depression was just around the corner. The speeches made in Budget debates by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for East Sydney have followed this theme in every year since 1949. These irresponsible speeches have done a great deal of damage to the country, and the making of them has been inexcusable. A leading economist, John Eddy, referring to the falling off in demand for goods, which in turn reduces the demand for labour, said: -
This is not because of the shortage of funds-
The amount of bank deposits shows this to be so - but because the working man and his wife are being careful about taking on new commitments with all the talk about unemployment.
The Leader of the Opposition has said in this Parliament many times over recent months that our troubles are man-made. I could not agree more, and I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition and his followers have been the worst offenders. The process of calamity-howling has a rolling effect, gathering trouble as it proceeds. The Australian Labour Party stands condemned on this issue alone, which shows that it is obviously not fit to be given charge of the government of this country. I say, Sir, to the Australian people, that if the Labour Party policy, if it can be called such, which was detailed in the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy, is ever implemented, all the good work done in Australia in recent years will be undone.
Opposition speakers have suggested that the lifting of import controls was the cause of our unemployment. Only last Tuesday night the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) said -
We would re-impose licensing. . . . We have paid too high a price for the lifting of import licensing.
The honorable member for East Sydney followed the same line, stating that the lifting of import restrictions was the cause of unemployment. Opposition policies in this field have changed almost from day to day, because the honorable member for East Sydney, a leading spokesman for the Labour Party, had a few comments to make on this subject just before import restrictions were lifted by the present Government. The honorable member’s remarks are recorded in “ Hansard “. He said -
The Government is creating unemployment by restricting imports.
Compare that with his party’s views to-day. Its policies chop and change, not in the interests of the nation but in the interests of political expediency.
Again, Sir, the Leader of the Opposition, flat out with will-o’-the wisp promises in his pre-election campaign, did not, in his speech on the Budget, discuss the effects on Australia of the situation in Berlin or the .prob lems connected with the European Common Market. The fact is, of course, that both these matters had to be very carefully considered by the Government in preparing this year’s Budget. We must remember that the depression of the 1930’s was caused mainly by trade problems. Those days many of us, whether young or old, knew from personal experience as the breadanddripping days, and they were the result of a boom-and-bust cycle. The Budgets brought down by the Treasurer in the last year or two have represented an attempt to prevent a recurrence of that boomandbust cycle. Economists and statesmen all over the world are determined that we will never see the like of those days again The very establishment of the European Common Market represents an attempt to prevent a recurrence of those conditions. Yet, Sir, we have had not one paragraph from the Leader of the Opposition on this very important problem.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke in the Budget debate on a night when the fifth cricket test was being played. It was the second test of the Leader of the Opposition, the second time he had, as leader, opposed a budget brought down by this Government. At the end of a dreary 47 minutes batting against a pretty good score put up by the Government, the score book read simply, “ Leader of the Opposition, stumped by the Treasurer, no score “.
The remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy in their speeches in this debate have been played up by some newspapers. The honorable member for Watson went to great trouble to read from certain newspapers editorials expressing approval of the views on the Budget voiced by his colleagues. I believe that it would be a useful exercise to quote from one or two reviews of the Budget which are more balanced than many of the speeches and statements that have come from the Opposition benches. The Associated Chambers of Commerce had this to say -
On few occasions has a Federal Budget been brought down with the balance of payments in such a strong position, as it is to-day.
Nor in the post-war period has Australian competitive strength been greater. The problems we faced a year ago are now largely behind us, and the green light has been given for expansion along sound lines.
The statement continued -
The level of unemployment is somewhat higher than has been customary during most of the postwar period. Certain sectors of industry and certain localities have been more seriously affected. To deal wilh these particular areas of concern, more specific measures are required, and these are in fact being applied in various directions. To suggest that a general stimulus be given to the economy to overcome localized unemployment would be to invite a further outbreak of inflationary pressures.
Mr. Temporary Chairman, that statement from a responsible source knocks flat about half of the speeches made by members of the Opposition in this debate. Most of the other speeches made by members of the Opposition will reel under the body-blows delivered by one or two newspaper editorials lo which I should like to refer. First, the London “ Financial Times “, one of the world’s most responsible newspapers, said this in an editorial -
The Australian Budget proposals should give a fairly strong stimulus to the economy in the current year.
Wilh the Federal elections only months away, Mr. Holt has certainly shown courage in refusing to present a programme of vote-winning concessions.
In limiting the scale of concessions, Mr. Holt indicated that the Government was concerned with the implications of the Common Market, the reconciliation of growth with stability, the maintenance of a balance with external accounts and the problems of high-cost structure.
Sir, from that overseas newspaper 1 turn to the Melbourne ‘” Age “, which is regarded as one of Australia’s leading newspapers. I know that we in Western Australia regard it as such. Its editorial was in these terms - lt is an expansionary Budget which leaves the initiative and control of spending substantially in the hands of the Government. Private industry and employment are not likely to benefit immediately or dramatically. But they are given a better opportunity to work their way back to higher levels of expansion before the year is out. This is the sensible course to take, unless we are to risk another spending spree.
If 1 may quote from one more editorial, I will quote from the Sydney newspaper, the “ Sunday Telegraph “. Under the headline “ Expansion with Stability “, this was stated -
The upturn has started. This will be bad news for critics of the Budget and of the Federal Governments economic measures during the past twelve months. lt will be particularly bad news for Mr. Calwell because the upturn has started without any of the inflation which would have been generated by the promises he made in his Budgetreply speech last Wednesday. But it is good news for all Australians who, as Mr. Menzies said, want stability as well as expansion.
The editorial then went on to illustrate the evidence of the upturn as follows: -
The Ford Motor Company has taken on more men to increase production as a result of a pick-up in sales. General Motors-Holden have resumed full production with 1,390 men resuming work after a ten day lay-off. Car registrations last week reached the highest figure since November, 1960. Pope Products reported increased sales of washing machines and household appliances. There has been a resurgence of demand for home units.
That editorial also referred to the fact that accumulated stocks, particularly in the retail sector, had fallen by nearly £13,000,000 worth.
Sir, the pattern of all the speeches that have been made by members of the Opposition is the same. It is calamity, depression, misery and despair. Members of the Opposition offer this country nothing but pieinthesky promises, and these promises to the people indicate that the Opposition is hoping against hope that this will be the one election year when some of the Australian people will heed the Opposition’s promises and decide to try the Australian Labour Party as an alternative government. I say, “ the Australian Labour Party as an alternative government “, rather than “ the Opposition as an alternative government “, because we must remember that the Parliamentary Labour Party is controlled from outside this Parliament. That fact, of course, is not without significance.
The Socialists and the Communists all over Australia are now all-out on a whispering campaign spearheaded by phrases that have been so badly worn over the past ten years or so, such as, “ It is time W2 had a change “ and “ There are Liberal governments in almost every State, why nol have a Labour Government in Canberra? “ Sir, my intention is to show why not in just a few moments. Part of this campaign takes the form of letters to the daily newspapers writen under various nom de plumes. One such letter to a Sydney newspaper contained this passage -
I was most interested to read of Mr. Calwells supplementary Budget if returned at the next Federal Elections. I feel that many Liberal voters might take the same risk and do as I will do.
To add the final touch. Sir, that letter was simply signed “ Ex-Liberal “. That person called himself an “Ex-Liberal”, but he might be anybody. He could even be the honorable member for East Sydney himself.
There is a person in my electorate, a Mr. Hills, who writes letters to the newspapers almost every day. In those letters he expounds the Australian Labour Party’s policies of the day; but he always forgets to have published after his name the fact that he is the secretary of a local Australian Labour Party branch. He seems to be pretty shy about announcing that to the readers of the newspapers, and when he hears what I shall have to say about the Australian Labour Party and its members in a few minutes’ time, I am sure that he will be even more reluctant to tag “ A.L.P.” to his name.
The members of the Opposition are trying to indicate that they are worthy to hold the reins of government; yet they have no established policies on anything, except the nationalization or the socialization of everything. They want to socialize the banks and credit, shipping, radio and television, newspapers and insurance. Above all, they know that by nationalizing industry of all kinds they could attain the goal of every socialist dictator, which is the control of the work force. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) wants an Australian newspaper commission. The Australian Labour Party’s policy in this respect was decided at the 24th annual conference of the Labour Party. The press of this country has not always been kind to the Government, but I feel sure that every Australian, including myself, would prefer his newspaper to be what it is to-day rather than, when he arrives at the breakfast table each morning, to find on his plate not breakfast but a copy of, perhaps, the “ Daily Whitlam”, “The Tribune” or “Pravda”. Sir, the nationalization of the newspapers, radio and television would, in itself, set this country back 100 years. I can think of nothing more dangerous to the Australian community than a hobbled’ press run by the Socialists of the Labour Party.
Anybody who has kept track of the pieinthesky election promises made by the Opposition this year will have totalled up the proposed additional spending of nearly £300,000,000 a year of the taxpayers’ money - that is, over and above what is budgeted for in the 1961-62 Budget that we are now discussing. Always the Opposition’s answer is, “ We will get it by taxation. We will replace this tax with some other tax.” Mr. Temporary Chairman, I hope that the Australian people realize that the implementation of these airy-fairy promises of the Opposition would mean that the average Australian taxpayer would pay at least another £100 a year in income tax. That is nearly £2 a week out of his pay envelope. I ask all Australians to consider the promises made by the Opposition. Of course, that is the last thing that the Opposition wants. It does not want the man in the street to calculate exactly what all these promises made by the Australian Labour Party would cost him.
– You tell him.
– I will have to explain to the honorable member for East Sydney how it is calculated. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), when speaking in this Parliament last year, indicated that the extra cost of doubling child endowment - that is, an extra £74,000,000 a year - could be met by direct taxation. On television, the Leader of the Opposition said, “We will spend £60,000,000 a year in the north”. He also said that the Labour Party would be prepared to examine the inflationary effect which pay-roll tax is said to have. He was not certain about whether pay-roll tax did have an inflationary effect or not; but he said that the Labour Party would be prepared to examine that matter with a view to collecting the £61,000,000 involved in some other way. For those three items of extra expenditure alone, nearly £200,000,000 extra will have to be found by the taxpayers of this country if they return a Socialist Labour government to office at the end of this year.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), when speaking last year on the subject of taxing the people, said -
The most powerful weapon that can be used against inflation is taxation, because if you take the money out of circulation by means of taxation, you naturally reduce the capacity of the people, from whom you take it, to spend money.
Sir, I believe that the Australian people would do well this year to adopt the policy, “ Beware the Socialists “. Socialist policies follow the same pattern all over the world. Let us look at what happened in the New
Zealand elections in 1958. The leader of the Labour Party in that country, prior to the elections, promised the electors - as promises are being made by the Opposition to-day - that if his party were elected there would be no more increases in taxation rates.
– Liven it up a bit.
– I remind the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that he and some of the other left wing members of the Labour Party have been very silent on nationalization and socialization this year, but I shall bring to the attention of the Australian people the full policy of the Australian Labour Party in this regard.
My next remarks come under the heading, “ from promises to performance “. This is the real test of political honesty or political dishonesty. In New Zealand, on 26th June, of the same year, shortly after the election - and about the same time as the Leader of the Opposition here would take to introduce his much-publicized supplementary budget if he were by some miracle elected - came a day of reckoning for the people of New Zealand; not only the people who voted against the Labour Party promises in that country but also the people who voted in the new Labour government by one seat. Firstly, despite pre-election promises of no increases in taxation, the incoming Labour government immediately increased income tax by 33-) per cent. I ask the Australian people to calculate just how much 33£ per cent, of their pay envelope tax would mean each week. Then it moved to increase petrol tax. We have heard the Leader of the Opposition speak in this House about petrol tax. In New Zealand, immediately the new government attained office, it placed an extra duty of ls. a gallon on petrol. It also increased heavily gift and estate duties. It increased the duties on beer and spirits by 50 per cent. Further, the new Labour government, again attacking the workers whom it was supposed to be protecting, doubled the duty on cigarettes and tobacco, making the retail price of cigarettes in New Zealand 4s. 6d. Australian for a packet of 20 and the retail price of a 2-oz. packet of tobacco 6s. 9d. Australian.
– That would not affect you much.
– lt shows I have the interests of the Australian people at heart.
The promises which the New Zealand Labour Party made to secure election as a government, and the scandalous actions of that government after its election - actions detrimental to every worker in that country - make an interesting parallel for consideration when placed alongside the extravagant promises and policies of the Opposition here. At election after election, the people of Australia have rejected the Australian Labour Party as an alternative government, yet, despite those clear-cut decisions at the poll, the Labour Party is going on yet another promise spree in a last desperate ding to secure the reins of government. The left-wing members of the Australian Labour Party are the prime movers in this pie-in-the-sky election policy because they are hoping for the day when they will see some extreme left-winger, like the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) perhaps, become the Prime Minister. I hope, of course, that day never comes. The honorable member for Yarra is a socialist - if you want to be tolerant - but, call him what you may, it would be difficult to deny the evidence of the singleness of mind which seems to have always operated between his theories and the Communist line. I ask all honorable members to try to find on record where the honorable member has ever said a word in this House against communism. In May, 1961, when addressing a television audience, the honorable member described Fidel Castro of Cuba as a Democratic Socialist, a title to which all members of the Opposition lay claim. That was his comment after Castro had announced that there would be no more free elections in Cuba. I remind the committee of this fact because the honorable member for Yarra could be leading the Labour Party sooner than most people think and certainly sooner than the present Leader of the Opposition has in mind. To-day the world is living under the threat of the Communist-Socialist challenge. I join them because I believe there is no dividing line.
Mr. Khrushchev has said that he is convinced that in his lifetime he will see the Communist flag flying over every country in the world. He has also said -
The triumph of communism will come legally in other countries when socialist Labour groups win majorities. Force is no longer necessary to achieve this end!
The Secretary of the Western Australian Communist Party was reported in a statement in the press as saying -
Far from being under cover, Communists have participated in the leadership of many trade union struggles. A united effort with the Labour movement will defeat the Menzies Government. This is the main object of the Communist Party in 1961.
The pattern is there, the purpose of the Opposition promises is quite clear. Another Western Australian, Mr. Wheeldon, a member of the executive of the Western Australian branch of the Australian Labour Party, when speaking on federal election policy, made this observation with reference to the number of countries living under the Communist system -
This shows the appeal and success of the socialist system even when it is linked with such considerable disadvantages as the absence of many civil liberties.
I ask all Australians: “ What civil liberties are you prepared to exchange for the pieinthesky proposition offered by the Australian Labour Party? “
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) in agreeing with the statement by the honorable member for Yarra about Castro had this to say -
That is. the Labour Party - come into office we shall abide by the socialist way of life.
I remind honorable members that most newspapers recently carried details of a new Russian twenty-year plan in which everything will be free except freedom itself. With the nationalization policies of the Opposition in this Parliament still fresh in our minds, we must look particularly at one aspect of this Soviet plan. It is -
Following the socialist stage, twenty years is allowed for a substantial achievement of the goal of a classless society with full public ownership.
The Opposition’s policies follow this line. The Leader of the Opposition himself has said, “ We want to change society “. He has also said that he hoped that he might live to see a one-party State in Australia. Amongst other things, he said -
Under the State of democratic socialism that we will inaugurate one of these days, things will be better.
He further stated -
The Government can make all the agreements it likes but we shall rip up every one of them when we assume office.
I remind Australians that full public ownership in the Soviet Union means public ownership of all land, of all property, and a party member who thinks about owning his own home is frowned upon by big brother Khrushchev. We can recall the Labour Party Minister in this Parliament who referred to Australian home-owners as little capitalists. So, if we are to judge from statistics relating to home purchase and home ownership in this country, I should say that nearly 80 per cent, of the Australian people will have a special worry if a Labour socialist government ever gets into office. The honorable member for East Sydney has advocated on television the nationalization of land. The honorable member for Yarra believes that if, on transfer of your property, big or small, you receive a better price than you paid for it, you should not retain for yourself the increase in value but should be forced to give it to the community. When referring to the federal land tax, which the Menzies Government abolished, the Leader of the Opposition said -
That is, the Labour Party - have always believed in the land tax, and when happy days come again- referring, no doubt, to his views of a Labour Government in this country, and certainly not the views of the Australian people - we shall restore the measure imposing land tax to the Statute books of this country.
The honorable member for East Sydney who has always been outspoken on the subject of bank nationalization, as has also been the Federal Secretary of the Australian Labour Party, Mr. Chamberlain, had this to say -
Bank nationalization still remains the policy ot the Labour Party and I think you will find that when the Labour Party is returned we will set about correcting the lack of powers to allow us to implement the policy.
The same honorable member, when speaking on another occasion, said -
Once Labour has spoken and said the banks will be nationalized, the issue is beyond doubt. Without nationalization of the banks, Labour cannot exercise full political power in this country.
He also said -
Government by Labour in the next three years would enable us to institute enough of our proposals to stay in power.
We all recall the words of the Leader or the Opposition, who said -
If we can get nine years of Labour government in the Federal Parliament we can change the face pi Australia,
The honorable member for East Sydney proposes to do it in three years and the Leader of the Opposition contemplates doing it in nine years. I repeat that the Leader of the Opposition has already stated, “ We want to change society “, and that he hoped that he might live to see a one.party state in Australia. With our record of remarkable achievement, I f.-e! sure Australia has no need for any excursions into the field of socialism and 1 aust that the Australian people will not give the socialists of the Australian Labour Party any opportunity to turn back the hands of time as far as Australia is concerned.
I say to the people of this land, “ You hold this year, in your hands, the hopes of Australia, the future of our children and the fate of the coming years “. I also say to the Australian people, “ Don’t give the socialists the opportunity to dim the light of high resolve that shines in our eyes, nor let them force you to trail in the dust the great hopes of the freedom-loving men and women of this great island continent “.
.- The speech that has just been delivered by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Cash) is typical of many speeches that have emanated from Government supporters. They made no effort whatsoever to defend the Budget, because the Budget in itself is indefensible. They conjured up a number of herrings of various colours and drew them across the trail in order to confuse the electors. I can assure the honorable member for Stirling and other Government supporters who have spoken in similar strain that the electors cannot be fooled all the time. They realize that the Budget that this committee is ostensibly discussing to-night must surely rank as one of the most disappointing Budgets in the history of federation.
Because it is a Budget of an unpardonable nature, Government supporters have been increasingly resentful of any criticism of it. They have thrown their arms about in spurious indignation and have accused Opposition members of all the crimes in the calendar for having the effrontery to point out the many discrepancies, faults and anomalies of the Budget. The Government had a unique opportunity on the occasion of preparing this Budget to do something to raise itself in the esteem of the electors. The nation has been very gravely concerned with the unnecessary economic ills brought on by the Government, and the people were naturally waiting for the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to give a lead towards recovery. Quite naturally, the electors argued - wrongly, as it turned out - that the time had arrived for an inspired lead by the Government in order to give the people some hope for the future. And what did we get? Instead of a courageous Budget that would have been productive at the present time, we were given an insipid and uninspiring speech by the Treasurer. All that it contained were meaningless platitudes. National problems crying out for action were completely ignored.
Surely the Government must be aware that Australia is on the crest of an expansionist wave, but the puny efforts of the Budget to encourage expansion are of no consequence whatever. It is patent that the Government is bogged down in a morass of its own making. One looks in vain in the Budget for a detailed appreciation of the Government’s plans for clearing up the economic mess. The public mind has grown bemused as a result of the periodical, often conflicting statements emanating from Government spokesmen. This state of mental confusion has been intensified by frequent changes in Government policy. A policy is introduced with a great fanfare of trumpets. We are told that it is a “ must “ for the Government and for the people. But, hey presto, before we know where we are, that self-same policy is modified or, in many cases, abandoned completely.
I wish to be constructive. I think that most honorable members will agree that I attempt to put forward constructive arguments in speeches on any subject in the chamber. I say that the Budget should have told us of the Government’s positive proposals for the months that lie ahead. lt should have told us what the Government proposes to do to get us out of the economic position in which we find ourselves. But what have we got? Instead of presenting tangible proposals or stating the Government’s intentions clearly, the Budget has accentuated public uncertainty as to the future by its lack of proposals for the stimulation of the economy. All that we got from the Treasurer were airy assurances of better times. These were oddly at variance with the tight-rein caution of the Budget proposals themselves.
The Treasurer said that the main impetus for economic recovery must come from the buying public on the one hand and from business firms on the other. But, unfortunately, apart from relatively small measures of encouragement, many key sections of the community are left to battle their own way. 1 should like to contrast the attitude of this Government and its Budget with those of the sister Dominion of Canada, which is facing problems similar to our own. It is a nation with a larger population than ours, an area approximately the same, and an economy practically on all fours with the Australian economy. Did the Government of Canada - which, of course, could not be regarded as a Labour government by any stretch of the imagination - say that the impetus for economic recovery should come from the buying public on the one hand and from business firms on the other? Of course it did not. It recognized that the lead for economic recovery had to come from the Government itself.
The Treasurer of the Canadian Government, when introducing his budget recently, made some remarks which are oddly at variance with the very poor statement made by our Treasurer. He said -
Our objectives will be, first and foremost, to provide full opportunities for the useful and profitable employment of all Canadians willing and able to work. We shall strive to attain a more rapid rate of balanced growth for all sectors of our economy and all regions of our country. We shall seek to improve the technological efficiency of our industry, to heighten skills and capacities of our workers, and to stimulate the talents and initiative of our entrepreneurs. We shall endeavour to raise the levels of savings and investment by Canadians and reduce the balance of payments deficit. These are the purposes of this Budget.
In more than usual measure it is an economic Budget. We shall endeavour, through an appropriate mixture of fiscal, financial and commercial policies to create more jobs, to stimulate production, and to improve the general state of our economy.
What a wonderful appreciation of the Canadian Government’s affairs! But that Government did more than that. It realized that in order to bring about a stimulus it had to budget for a deficit. When our Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), a week or so ago, suggested that we should budget for a deficit of £100,000,000, he was certainly in good company, because the conservative Government of Canada is budgeting for a large deficit in the current year. It anticipates a peace-time record budgetary deficit of 650,000,000 dollars. The Bank of Montreal “ Business Review “ stated-
In addition, net non-budgetary disbursements, including advances to the Canadian National Railways but excluding requirements of the Exchange Fund, are forecast at about 330,000,000 dollars. “Thus,” in the Minister’s words, “our overall cash requirements will be of the order of 1,000,000,000 dollars”. The Minister regarded such a substantial deficit as an integral part of his mixture of policies.
The Minister stated -
In the cricumstances confronting Canada to-day, it is appropriate, indeed desirable, that the Federal Government should, by incurring a sizable deficit, help to stimulate the economy.
So, after all, the Leader of the Opposition was not in such bad company when he advocated a sizable deficit to stimulate our economy, because the self-same policy is being carried out by the conservative Government of Canada.
The most -tragic phase of our economy to-day, of course, is continued unemployment. It was indeed ludicrous to-night when the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), who realized that he had a very unpalatable case to present, attempted to placate the electors. He thought that he would be a super-optimist. He said that he expected all the unemployed people to be back at work in two months. In that estimate he is certainly out of step with the Treasurer and his own Prime Minster, who have said quite pessimistically trial the period will be of much longer duration than two months. The honorable member for Macarthur, realizing that he had a bad case to put before the people of Australia, came forth with this calculated statement in order to confuse the minds of the electors. I cannot believe that anybody in Australia thinks that the unemployment position will be cured in two months.
The Treasurer said in his Budget speech that unemployment was the most urgent feature of our present position. His view was that an upturn would occur soon. He certainly did not think that it would occur in two months as the honorable member for Macarthur has suggested; but unfortunately for the unemployed, the optimism of these gentlemen is not shared by the chambers of manufactures. The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures has given the unemployment position most detailed study because its members and the employees of its members have been drastically affected by the Government’s economic policy. The general manager of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, Mr. Curphey, has had this to say -
There is no sign of an improvement in the employment situation in Victoria. A statistical survey of 74 industries made bv the chamber has shown that on June 30 the number of people employed in industry was 14.6 per cent, lower than on November 30 last year . . .
This chamber has given long and serious consideration to the advisability of releasing these figures for public information. It has not been unmindful of the fact that gloomy information often accentuates a tightening of business activity. On the other hand, optimistic statements without any evidence to support them, can be much more misleading and in the long term, more damaging.
In other words, Mr. Curphey agrees with the Australian Labour Party. The A.L.P., by directing attention to the actual state of the economy, is giving the Australian people far more accurate knowledge of the economic circumstances than have supporters of the Government who claim that nobody has any right to say that the outlook is gloomy, or that there is no possibility of the unemployment problem being cured in a month or two. A close perusal of the Government’s objectives fails to reveal any positive measures to halt or decrease unemployment. The Government has literally given it away. Its supporters only hope that the main impetus for recovery will come from the buying public on the one hand and the business firms on the other, despite the fact that the Government’s economic measures were responsible for the increase in unemployment.
The Government cannot deny that, as a result of certain economic measures that it initiated last year, there was immediately wholesale unemployment in certain industries. Having caused these difficulties, members of the Government, like Pontius Pilate, wiped their hands of the whole affair and left it to the buying public and the business firms to get themselves out of the mess that had been created deliberately by the Government.
There are plenty of things that the Government could do, and if it wants constructive ideas from me, I am prepared to give them. First, the Government could ease the credit squeeze more than it has done. Recently it eased credit by releasing £20,000,000. That was £20,000,000 in addition to the seasonal releases that are made at certain times of the year to meet trie needs of primary producers. But £20,000,000 did not go far with the Australian banks. It amounts only to £2 a head of our total population and will not add much to the spending power of the Australian people. Number one priority should be a further credit release to create an upsurge of demand by the buying public.
Secondly, what is wrong with a reduction of interest rates? These rates were raised last November because of a certain sei of circumstances. I suggest to the committee that it is axiomatic that dearer and scarcer credit is a traditional banking method for causing business restraint and deflation. But when the time comes for expansion, credit should be made cheaper as well as easier. Surely the time has arrived now when we should try to expand our activity and stimulate productivity.
What was required in this Budget was a firm Government declaration that unemployment would be countered by financial steps to revive industry speedily. But wha have we got? At present we have 113,000 registered unemployed and probably 150,000 to 200,000 working a short week of two, three or four days. The lates; stunt - I cannot think of a more apt description - is the fortnightly lay-off. Whole factories are closed down for a fornight <u-. 2,000 or 3,000 employees have a fortnight’s holiday without pay. In other words, they are unemployed for a fort night. It would be interesting to know whether the Government has included those workers in the unemployment figures that are released from time to time. But we find this idea spreading. If work is slow, lay everybody off! It is a new idea and it will spread rapidly. It will further reduce the demand by Australian workers for Australian products.
Not only are the unemployed and partially unemployed suffering great privations as a result of this Government’s premeditated and deliberately calculated economic measures, but there are also other factors which are certainly most detrimental to the economy. We are always being told in this chamber that productivity must be increased. According to the Government, the answer to rising wages and inflation generally is increased production. You have to work harder, more intelligently and more speedily so that the productivity of the nation will be greater.
That is very good advice, but why does not the Government put it into practice? What do we find? The annual survey by the Department of Trade showed that in June output in a wide sample of industries was 8 per cent, lower than it had been a year earlier. Where is the increased productivity? Where is the stimulus? It is not there. Instead, all we have got from this Government is a decrease in productivity. It is laughable to urge the workers to work harder and longer when the Government is deliberately preventing productivity from increasing. This decreased output has started a trend that is most detrimental to the economy of the country because it has caused an increase in unit costs, whereas larger output would have helped to reduce costs. We are told that the purpose of the economic measures was to stabilize the economy and reduce costs, but they have had the reverse effect. Costs have been increased because productivity has been decreased. Therefore, the cost per unit has risen.
What is the position of industry to-day as a result of this reduced productivity? The credit squeeze and imports have reduced the market. That statement is incontrovertible. Production, therefore, has decreased. In highly mechanized factories, standing and indirect charges and overhead are greater than labour or direct costs. When production decreases, labour and direct costs come down. Indirect expenses remain stationary. In other words, the overhead goes on just the same, and when overhead has to be spread over fewer articles, the cost of each article is raised.
Industries in which costs have risen because of decreased production include those producing motor parts, concrete products, ladies’ frocks, plastics, fibrous plaster and food. Surely, the Government never intended this when it applied the brakes to check inflation as well as high importations. To use the words of Government supporters, these measures were applied because they thought the credit squeeze would check inflation by restraining excess demand for goods and services. But has that been the case? It certainly has not, because the Government has taken away the purchasing power of the people. It has increased the prices of goods that are now being manufactured and we find that the effect the Government hoped to achieve has certainly not been achieved.
High taxes have been maintained for a similar purpose; but the Treasurer has failed to explain how these propositions have reduced costs or increased production. It is the duty of this Government to put the unemployed people back to work as quickly as possible. The Government, however, has failed lamentably to institute schemes to absorb the unemployed workers. It hopes that the purchasing power of the public will be increased, so that there will be a greater demand for goods, and that factories will have to increase their staffs to manufacture a greater volume of goods.
The 1960-61 Budget will go down in history as a callous and brutal example of this Government’s attitude to those who are unfortunate enough to be without work. Whatever else is said about the Government in the years to come, it will always stand condemned for its complete indifference at this time to the plight of the unemployed. I think that this Budget should be characterized as a mark-time budget. The Government just does not know what to do, so it has decided to mark time for the present. The release of credit would have done much to restore business confidence. The increase in unemployment and the decrease in purchasing power, leading to reduced personal consumption, are the most disquieting features of the current situation.
The Treasurer has admitted that a general increase in manufactures at this stage depends on a rise in spending on goods by the public. If he expects that to happen, all I can say is that he is reaching for the moon. Obviously, the people cannot increase their demand for goods when many of them are unemployed, while many are only semi-employed, and when many others have hire-purchase commitments which were made possible by overtime payments that have now been eliminated. It is impossible, in the present circumstances, to have an increase in spending on goods by the public.
It. is indisputable, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the calculations of the Government in recent months have been badly astray, lt did not expect imports to reach the level which they attained, nor did it contemplate that unemployment would reach the high level that it unfortunately has reached. The honorable member for Macarthur has said that all the unemployed persons would be back to work in a couple of months, but all the indications at the present time point to a high level of unemployment for some time to come. Regrettably, the Budget makes no contribution towards the easing of that state of affairs.
The Government has shown a singular lack of appreciation of the part played by the motor industry in the Australian economy. That industry, of course, is one of the victims of the Government’s economic policy. It has played a most important part in Australia’s industrial growth. When it was going full-steam ahead, the Government took all the credit for the prosperous state of the industry. To-day, we find that it is in a very sick condition indeed. In the first seven months of 1961, sales of motor vehicles were 24 per cent, less than they were in the same period in 1960. The July, 1961, sales were 33 per cent, less than those of July, 1960. Employment in vehicle factories at the end of July had fallen by more than 20 per cent, since November, I960. The position relating to motor vehicle stocks is just as bad. To-day, there are 42.000 vehicles unsold and held by manufacturers and dealers, or almost suffi cient for three months’ supply at current registration rates. The number of vehicles now held by manufacturers and dealers is nearly three times the number usually held.
Has not the Government a plan to restore confidence in the motor industry? Apparently it is not interested in stimulating that industry at all, but if it wished to do so there is one positive step that it could take. It could reduce the sales tax on motor vehicles. As honorable members know, some years ago the rate of sales tax on motor vehicles was l6i per cent. 1 suggest that sales tax should have been reduced to that level in the current Budget. The indifference of the Government towards the plight of this industry astonishes me and many other Australians. The Government is content to allow the position to continue. It must think that the industry is prepared to accept whatever it cares to hand out to it. The Government hopes, of course, that in the course of time the workers and managements will forget this great blow that has been dealt them by the Government’s economic measures of last year.
In the last few minutes of my time, 1 wish to refer to the analytical and constructive speech that was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on the Budget last week. His diagnosis of the ills of the economy was masterly. The Government’s sins of omission and commission were exposed in a most explicit manner. The policy of the Government, which has led to self-inflicted unemployment, straitened circumstances, financial stringency and loss of production, was trenchantly analysed. After the honorable gentleman had done that, he proceeded to put forward a positive and constructive policy which would give the nation the impetus denied to it under the present Government. However, Mr. Temporary Chairman, the supporters of the Government have scorned and derided his proposals. When we on this side of the chamber criticize the Government, we are asked, “ What would you do if you were in government? “ As soon as we put forward proposals, honorable members opposite say they are ridiculous and nonsensical.
The objective of the Leader of the Opposition was the stimulation of the economy. We were told that the propositions advanced by him would cost so many millions of pounds. I suggest, however, that stimulation of the economy would mean a big increase in the taxation receipts of the Government. After all, if the 113,000 unemployed workers were able to return to work, the Government would not have to pay them £3, £4, or even £6 a week in unemployment benefit. That money would be saved and could be utilized in the positive proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. If factories increased their productivity there would also be an increase in pay-roll tax. If companies made higher profits the Government would receive much more by way of company tax. The individuals who were employed would be obliged to pay income tax, and so one thing would balance the other.
What is wrong with the proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition? They included measures which for many years have appealed to wide sections of the Australian population and have had their approbation. Let me refer to one aspect of the proposals. I suggest that the Government should give the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax to the States. I am not alone in asking the Government to give more money from petrol tax collections to the States. Mr. Petty, the Liberal Minister for Public Works in Victoria, has expressed the same idea. According to a newspaper report, he stated recently that shortcomings in the Australian road system were costing the nation an estimated £200,000,000 a year in increased transport costs. Obviously, if we could have a better roads system we would save much of that £200,000,000. But, of course, the Government does not think of that. It is left to one of its own supporters, a member of a State government, to tell it what it should do. According to the newspaper report, Mr. Petty went on to say that it was essential that the scale of Federal assistance be revised as quickly as possible. Otherwise the rate of increase in traffic would outstrip the inadequate rate of road improvement. This would result in rising losses to the community in transport costs and road accidents.
As soon as the Australian Labour Party suggests that all the proceeds of the petrol tax should be returned to the States we are asked, “What did you do when you were in office? “ The Labour Party is a progressive party. It recognizes that times change. Surely nobody will say that the traffic requirements of the 1940’s were the same as those of the 1950’s and the 1960’s. There has been a tremendous increase since 1949 in the number of motor cars in every country of the world. The Labour Party recognizes that it is necessary to change policies to meet changing conditions. Because of the great increase of traffic on Australian roads and the complete inadequacy of our roads system, it is necessary that the State governments should receive from the Federal Government much more money from petrol tax receipts, in order that they might endeavour to bring the roads to a standard that will meet the needs of the traffic. Surely no supporter of the Government will say, to-night or at any other time, that he has never changed his mind when conditions have changed. Even the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who is listening to me most attentively, would not claim that he had never changed his mind in his life. The Labour Party recognizes that we have to change our minds now because the need is so great for the States to have more money from petrol tax receipts. We make no secret of the fact that what we did in 1949 we would not do in 1961. In other words, we are changing our views in accordance with changing conditions in the community.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, it has been my privilege to follow the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) during quite a number of debates in this place. I find it quite interesting to follow him because, although I do not agree with some of his conclusions, he is one of the few members who sincerely and conscientiously try to analyse a budget after it has been introduced. In his opening remarks to-night he said that the electors cannot be fooled all the time. No truer words have ever been spoken. If honorable members look at the kinds of government that Australia has enjoyed since federation, they will find that for a total period of about 15 years we have had Labour governments and for the remaining 45 years we have had antiLabour governments. It is therefore quite evident, then, that the people have been sensible in the matter of the election of governments.
The honorable member for Batman referred also to the Canadian Budget and to the difficulties Canada is experiencing at the present moment. Conditions in Canada are quite different from those in Australia. Canada has suffered from a long depression and has had a very high level of unemployment - a level of about 7i per cent.
– It has been as high as 11 per cent.
– As my friend reminds me, it was as high as 11 per cent, at one stage. But we in this country have been experiencing a boom. So there are two entirely different sets of conditions which require two entirely different methods of rectification.
This is the twelfth Budget that this Government has presented since it assumed office in 1949. I have listened to ten budget debates since my election to the Parliament. In all those debates, the Opposition has charged the Government time and time again with mismanagement of the country’s affairs. The Opposition has made extravagant statements about the harm it has suggested this Government has done to the Australian economy, and it has accompanied those charges with dire predictions for the future.
Of course, that is no new line for the Opposition to take. I have heard the same moaning and groaning throughout the past ten years. An attack on the Government by the Labour Party is not just a passing parliamentary incident. Fundamentally, what emerges from this debate is that the Government offers to the people a different way of life from that offered by the socialists. We believe in free enterprise. We will not have a bar of the Labour Party’s policy of nationalization and socialization. In 1960, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) addressed the annual confrence of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour Party, which was held in Sydney. What he said on that occasion bears out my statement that members of the Labour Party believe in nationalization and socialization. This is what the honorable gentleman is reported as having said at that conference -
Those who tell us that we should drop our objective are our enemies. I hope the Labour Party will never interfere with the objective. It has stood for 40 years. I have never had any conscientious objection or difficulty in accepting it.
He went on to say that those who had advised the A.L.P. to abandon the socialization plan included a university professor, a doctor of philosophy and several other people who had been through universities. He said quite a bit more, too. It must have been very interesting for his former leader, Dr. Evatt, who is now Chief Justice of the New South Wales Supreme Court, to read Mr. Calwell’ s diatribe against intellectuals. How his deputy leader, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) - who also has had a university education - felt is not known, but he must have been very uncomfortable.
Such statements are in accord with Labour’s platform and objective. What is the objective of the Australian Labour Party? It is the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Labour proposes the socialization of industry by the constitutional utilization of Federal and State Parliaments, and municipal or other government-created authorities; the national planning of economic, social and cultural development of the Commonwealth; and complete control of banking and the nation’s credit. We have a different philosophy from that of the socialist party. We can understand Labour’s attitude to the Budget which has been introduced. Let me ask the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) whether he. still believes in the policy I have outlined. He said this at Ballarat in 1948 -
The Labour Party has a master plan for total socialization. We will go on and on until eventually in Australia you will have a great cooperative Commonwealth. Its wealth will be owned by the people and will be operated in a socialistic manner for our people as a whole.
I wonder whether he still believes that? I wonder how many honorable members opposite believe it, and whether it is still their policy.
We do not hear much about Labour’s platform at election time. Why is that? Honorable members opposite will not answer that question. They are afraid to do so, because the people have had enough of the socialistic policies Labour has adopted in the past. Let me enumerate a few of those policies. Opposition members have advocated, as part of their policy, the establishment of a socialist shipping line. Let me remind them that £10,000,000 was lost by the Chifley socialist shipping line, which operated for a few years. The Labour Government operated coal mines, and in two years the loss on those mines was £56,000.
Let me remind honorable members opposite of what happened in my own State of Queensland. This afternoon a Government supporter referred to the great socialist enterprise at Peak Downs in Queensland. That was an enterprise that was operated jointly by the then socialist Government of Britain and the then socialist Government of Queensland. Those governments were going to show everybody how to grow grain sorghum. It was estimated that in the first year they would grow 1,000,000 tons, but they grew only 320,000 tons. At the same time they proposed to operate a socialist pig farm. But that venture soon went by the board, because the pigs refused to be socialized! The loss on the Peak Downs venture was about £500,000.
Back in the 1920’s there were all sorts of socialist enterprises in Queensland, which lost approximately £5,000,000. Let me enumerate some of those undertakings. First, there was the State butcher shop. Then there were twenty State cattle stations - one could tell a pretty good story about the cattle stations - the then Queensland Labour Government bought. It took over one not far from where I lived. Those responsible went out to muster the cattle, in order to make a valuation. They ran around all day, saw the same mob of cattle about twenty times and each time placed a valuation on those cattle as though they belonged to a different mob. About twelve months later when they had a bang-tail muster there were 1,200 bullocks short! Labour also established in Queensland a State fish supply and a State produce agency. The Hamilton Cold Stores - a glaring example -were taken over by a co-operative which made a profit out of them. We had a State cannery. I could give honorable members a list of all the socialized enterprises in Queensland. There were the State arsenic mine, the Chillagoe State smelters, the Irvinebank treatment works and metalliferous mines, and State coal mines. We heard the last recently of one of the socialized coal mines in Queensland. It was offered to the Australian Labour Party, to the union itself, for a peppercorn figure - a couple of bob - and they were invited to show us how to run it. But they refused to take it over. We had State steamers and lost money on them, and we even had State pubs. The Queensland Labour Government spent £30,000 on a hotel, and was forced to sell it. As a matter of fact, a cousin of mine bought it for a quarter of its value and made a profit out of it in the first year he took over. The socialists could not even run a pub at a profit.
We have heard quite a bit about unemployment during this debate. I, like other members on this side, regret that there h unemployment. We believe that every person who wants a job and is willing to work should get a job if possible. That is our policy. I want to deal with the position in Queensland to a certain extent. Queensland has the highest percentage of unemployment of any State. This is due to two factors. One is the seasonal nature of employment there, but the main reason is the long droughts we have had over recent years.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition Mr. Whitlam) recently travelled far and wide in Queensland. We invite him to come up there again, because I believe that by visiting Queensland he will seal the doom of the only two Labour Party members from that State in this chamber, and then we will hold all the Queensland seats. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s first trip was to Maryborough. He stopped there, and he said, according to a press report, that if we only had some secondary industries in Queensland we would be able to cushion the effects of seasonal unemployment. He said that unemployment would always exiM if we relied on seasonal industries, and asked why the Government did not do something to remedy the position. Mr. Chairman, we had 35 years of socialist governments in Queensland, and they did nothing about it!
They did not encourage secondary industries to come to Queensland. Prior to the introduction of uniform taxation Queensland had the highest company taxes in the whole of the Commonwealth. To provide a comparison between what can happen in a State that encourages secondary industry that can absorb workers, and conditions in a State that relies on seasonal industries, you have only to look at South Australia. The South Australians encouraged secondary industry to become established in their State, and look at the industries they have there now. Secondary industry was never encouraged to become established in Queensland by the socialist governments that held office for an almost unbroken period of 35 years. Those governments relied purely and simply on a rural economy. In a country like Australia a rural economy is dependent on the seasons.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition wandered around Queensland dropping points everywhere he went, and when he finished up in my home town of Dalby he had dropped as many points as a porcupine has. On his way to Dalby he got bogged for six hours - yes, the drought had broken, and there had been a few inches of rain. He threw his arms about and said. “ When we get info power, all the petrol tax collections will be spent on roads “. He forgot that we in Queensland receive more from Commonwealth aid road grants than is collected in customs and excise on petrol used by motor vehicles in Queensland. He tried to shove that down the necks of some of our Queenslanders who are well aware of the facts. He went to my home town. Dalby. I did not go. I thought he would do me quite a lot of good with his socialistic meanderings around the country. One of my good friends, a shearer, asked me: “ Why do they let that fellow run around Queensland preaching socialistic ideas? Haven’t they got some sense? We have vivid recollections of socialized enterprises in Queensland. He is not going to win votes.” So you see, these immature people who go to another State and talk about things of which they know nothing do themselves no good.
I turn now to the search for trade outlets. 1 want to pay a tribute to-night to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) for the remarkable job he has done in this field. In view of the challenge that we are facing to-day because of the proposed entry of Great Britain into the European Common Market, when we do not know whether the agricultural policy will be decided and whether we will be able to keep our preferences in Britain, we in this country, at this stage anyhow, should do our best to get markets elsewhere. And we are doing it. However, I think we can go further, and I wish to make a suggestion to-night regarding the beef trade.
I believe that we can get a good market for our beef in Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong and such places. I have never been to those places, but beef men who have been to them have told me that the market is there if we can provide continuity of supply. We cannot do so because we have not the storage facilities which would enable us to keep up the continuous supply that the market requires. I suggest, theerfore, that this Government, in conjunction with the governments of the places I have mentioned, build big cold storages so that we can store the beef that we will need to keep these markets continuously supplied. At present the final cost of getting our beef there is too high for the average person in those places to pay. So there is a matter which should be given considerable thought by the Government.
Another matter deserving attention by the Government concerns gift, estate and probate duties. The Government should give serious thought to some alteration of the provisions regarding gift and estate duties. I could cite cases of people having to go into debt and make high interest payments in order to pay probate on estates that they have inherited. There are not many of such cases, fortunately, but there are some. Sometimes such people are forced to sell their properties in order to meet tax liabilities. That kind of thing happens too often in rural areas. Estates which have been in a family for many years are broken up because it is necessary to sell parts of them so that probate dues can be met. So, I repeat, the Government should give serious thought to making some alteration to the provisions regarding probate and gift duties, particularly in rural areas, because the present position adds to the worries of many country people.
Costs of production in this country make an interesting study. The Government’s recent measures have had a steadying influence on costs. For a period of twelve months prior to the introduction of the Government’s economic measures last November the annual increase in costs was at the rate of 7 per cent. The Government’s economic measures have reduced the increase of costs in the last two quarters to something like 2.8 per cent. This is a clear indication that the economic measures are having a beneficial effect, and we hope that improvement will continue. 1 believe it will continue under this Government.
Costs are the greatest problem facing Australia’s agricultural industries to-day. We were chided a little while ago by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) because, as he claimed, productivity had not increased. If he looks at the figures for rural production, he will find that productivity has increased in this sphere, despite the fact that there are fewer people on the land to-day than there were a few years ago. But efficiency in the rural industries has resulted, due to increased costs, only in distress for the farmers. The Australian farmers, far from being rewarded for higher productivity, have been penalized by lower incomes, due to the fact that their costs have been steadily rising.
Nearly half a million people live on farms in Australia and agriculture is still the nation’s largest industry. The 1954 census showed that 13 per cent, of Australia’s work-force was employed in rural industry, but this proportion has since declined. An Australian farmer now produces sufficient food and fibre annually to support 25 people, whereas in 1941 he produced only enough to support fewer than eleven persons. That is evidence of increased efficiency. There is no doubt that the farmers of Australia have increased their production. The position in America is much the same as in Australia, the American farmer producing enough food annually to support about 25 people. The increase in productivity to which I have referred arises from a fabulous increase in man-hour farm productivity, which, in recent years has been about three times higher than in non-agricultural industries.
The fallacy persists that food costs in Australia are high and that farmers are pri marily responsible for that state of affairs. That, of course, is wrong. The farmer himself is fighting hard to obtain a decent living. A r;cent survey conducted by the Department of Agriculture and farmers’ organizations in Queensland disclosed thai many farmers were not earning 2 per cent, on their capital, and very few were earning 5 per cent. With an hour’s pay, the average industrial worker in the United States could buy a normal meal for four people. In Australia, it would take the pay for 1.2 farm-hours to buy the same meal; in England and Germany, the pay for two hours; in France, the pay for 4i hours; and in Italy, the pay for five hour.s. The Australian farmer has, in effect, been subsidizing the consumers. Between 1952 and 1960, the cost of food to consumers in Australia rose by 28 per cent., while the prices paid to farmers for primary products fell by .8 per cent.
Because the farmers have been virtually subsidizing the rest of the Australian community, there has been a steady decline in farm incomes during the past decade. Although farm output was 41 per cent, higher in 1960 than it was in 1952, farm incomes increased by only 7 per cent. At the same time, the income of the rest of the Australian community rose by more than 75 per cent. This, of course, just does not make sense. I am sure that any reasonable person will agree with that statement. Considering the decline in the purchasing power of the £1 from 1952 to 1960 and the rise in the incomes of the non-farming community, farmers fell very short of receiving the economic rewards merited by their productivity and efficiency. This presents a challenge to us all. It is our responsibility to resolve this paradox.
.- Coming into this debate during its closing hours, I am sure that honorable members and any member of the public who may be listening will not want me to enter into the controversies that have been going on here during the last two weeks. There is no doubt that the arguments put forward by the Australian Labour Party have been answered well and thoroughly by honorable members from this side of the chamber.
Listening to the debate with all its complications, reading the newspaper reports and talking to the man in the street, I began to wonder whether many of the Australian people really understand what a Budget was and what it really signified. Some of those who have listened to the broadcasts of this debate and have read newspaper reports of the speeches that have been made - particularly those by members of the Labour Party - and have read the comments of interested pressure groups, must consider the Budget as something in the nature of a Christmas tree. They must regard Budget time as a time for gifts and handouts, and as a time for getting something for nothing.
It seems to me that many speakers have gone to great lengths to complicate the real issues - to complicate what should be a simple exercise. Some speakers have taken masses of figures out of their context in order to make points for the purpose of personal advantage. Let me give an outstanding example of the confusion that has arisen as a result of the use of many figures and quotations. It was said recently, with great alarm, that restrictions imposed by the Government had caused a drop in hirepurchase advances of about £30,000,000 in four months from December, 1960. To the average person, that seemed to be something terrible, but no mention was made of the fact that in the previous few months hire-purchase advances had increased by £40,000,000. That, of course, altered the position considerably.
Let me say a few words for the benefit of the average, responsible Australian who wants to know the simple facts. The Budget simply discloses what the average fellow wants to know. It contains an estimate of the nation’s total productivity - an estimate of what we can expect to produce in goods and services. Then there follows an honest attempt to distribute the production as fairly and as evenly as possible throughout the community. I believe that in the present Budget this has been done with great skill and courage, bearing in mind the many unpredictable factors that have to be faced, such as export prices, variations and tensions in international affairs and seasonal conditions at home. This latter factor is particularly important because we rely so much on our primary industries.
The great problem to be solved is: How much should go to the private sector of the economy and how much to the public sector? That is where complications set in. Whatever decision is made is condemned by interested parties. Following the bringing down of the Budget, the newspapers contain reports of its condemnation by businessmen, importers, exporters and, of course, the Labour Party. In fact, almost every section of the community condemns some section of the Budget. Why is this? It is because many people do not understand the implications. Pressure groups, too, attack the Budget, but it is the role of pressure group leaders never to be satisfied. In fact, it seems to me in this place that it is the prerogative of all human beings never to be satisfied. It is certain that pressure group leaders would not hold their jobs for long if they appeared to be satisfied. So I have come to the conclusion that the true test of good government is for every one to be a little dissatisfied. Governments must beware of the satisfied group. That statement may appear to be a little cynical, but if any group appears to be satisfied it is an indication that it is receiving more than a fair share of benefits and more than favorable treatment.
Pressure groups and specialist organizations can be of great value to governments. 1 have no wish to belittle them. Their specialized knowledge and information can be of very valuable assistance to any government provided that they do not succumb, as they so often do, to the great danger of exaggeration. It is particularly noticeable that once a government accepts a recommendation from any group, that acceptance is followed immediately by hundreds of recommendations from other groups who pile on super-pressure publicity. They do not seem to realize that quite apart from the activites of the particular group whose recommendation was accepted, the time probably has arrived for the suggested action to be taken in any case. We have seen in this House some of the results of the activities of pressure groups. Petitions that have been presented bearing thousands of signatures. From my investigations I am sure that thousands of the people who sign petitions do not know what they are signing, and do not know whether the action sought would be to their advantage or not. There is no doubt that many good petition salesmen encourage people to sign petitions in the hope of obtaining some alleged advantage. In addition, many people sign petitions because they think, “ What have I to lose by not signing? “
To all those pressures must be added the State pressures that the Commonwealth has to face when preparing its budget. All these factors add to the problems of sound government. As has been said previously, it is a very interesting occupation to add the sums that would be involved in meeting the demands that are made by groups all over Australia. They would total hundreds of millions of pounds. In fact, the cost of meeting even the requests that appear in a single daily newspaper would reach an astronomical figure.
We as a Government believe that the system of incentives is of vital importance. Australian pressure groups use the word “ incentive “ for their own advantage. They apply continual pressure to have their demands for incentives met. There is, for example, the incentive of taxation reductions and the incentive of public spending. Of course, many of these incentives are selfcancelling but that does not interest the pressure groups. I believe very firmly that we must keep in mind the important incentives of solvency and of security for our wives and children. Let us try to forget the publicity that is designed to instil in us a Christmas-tree philosophy, a somethingfornothing philosophy.
This is a fine, statesmanlike and courageous Budget which all sensible people will approve and for which they will give the Government full credit, if not immediately, then as time goes on when they realize that the scare tactics of the Australian Labour Party are false and dangerous. We do not believe in rash hand-outs that cannot be sustained. I have in mind the proposals that have been advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and his supporters, including the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) who told us to-night, amongst other things, that he was once unemployed. From the quality of his speech, it is a great wonder that he is not unemployed now. The people of Australia will realize that this Budget is planned for stability and progress. The Government has recognized its great responsibilities. It realizes that the future must be gauged having in mind international difficulties such as the Berlin crisis and the effect on our trade of the European Common Market.
Australia’s real enemy is inflation. 1 know that statement has been made many times and I have no doubt that honorable members are sick of hearing the word. But I believe that it must be repeated. Inflation is our real danger, and measures to correct it must be the basis of all government thinking. Unfortunately, it is not the basis of Opposition thinking. Inflation has become a major factor in the operations of our great primary industries and a very real problem to the fixed income group and those with savings bank deposits. In fact, it affects our whole financial structure.
Unfortunately, many people profit from inflation. They must be fought to the last ditch. I believe that this Budget will assist in that fight, having in mind the realistic plans that it contains for our development. The Government has not yielded to the pressure groups which want to have it both ways, with taxation reductions and public spending. The complete and utter confusion of thought by so-called responsible people is most disturbing. There is a complete lack of knowledge of the realities of the situation and a complete lack of an honest approach to our problems.
We must be careful not to throw this country into another inflationary boom which could ruin our export industries and our standards of living. Perhaps an outstanding example of the confusion which confronts us is contained in the leading article of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 24th August. It is in these terms -
Mr. Calwell’s analysis of our present difficulties was sober and realistic.
I do not believe that any one who heard his promises, which would cost the Australian taxpayers many millions of pounds, can really believe that his speech was sober and realistic. The article continues -
Mr. Calwell appears to have outlined a plan of imagination and boldness.
However it then goes on to say -
The executive has approved the parry’s policy on national development, which contains a number of inordinately ambitious and costly plans to compare with private industry in, for example, aluminium, steel, oil, shipping and insurance. This is traditional Labour policy, and it has been for forty years a traditional failure.
There is a complete contradiction. Another portion of the article states -
As the elections approach, the people may have to decide between the possibility of Mr. Calwell giving us help with too much enthusiasm and the certainty of Mr. Menzies giving us virtually none.
I do not accept that even members of the Labour Party believe that the Budget gives us nothing. It gives us complete security and hope for the future.
Now let me read some extracts from articles which have appeared in the Sydney “ Daily Mirror “. These illustrate the Christmas-tree philosophy. I believe that the public, just glancing at the individual statements, without considering them in their correct context, could be misled very seriously. The heading of an article which appeared in the issue of 16th August was “ Businessmen Dissatisfied “. The article stated -
The President of the Retail Traders’ Association, Mr. F. Munro, said there was general disappointment in the Budget.
Mr. Munro said what was really hoped for was a drop in income tax, to put value back into the pockets of workers.
Of course, so that there would be more retail sales! The article continued -
The Budget itself showed a complete lack of foresight.
The Budget has wonderful plans for the future development of Australia. The Motor Traders Association states that it is most disappointed at the Government’s failure to reduce sales tax on motor vehicles. The Associated Chambers of Commerce state that it is unfortunate that the main reasons for the deficit will be an increase in Government expenditure. There you have a contradiction of viewpoints. The same organizations will seek an increase in Government expenditure for roads and other services. What does the man in the street think of the Budget? He thinks that unemployment benefits should have been increased. All those persons and organizations are concerned with their own individual problems. The “Daily Mirror” thinks that the Budget is no help to the stock market. I fail to see how the people of Australia will benefit from a boom in the stock market. The “Daily Mirror” was cited to-night by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope). He quoted headlines such as “ A Coward’s Budget “. The people of Australia know that in an election year a sound and solid budget is a courageous budget. We have seen newspaper headlines such as “The Nation is Angry “. Where can you find anybody who is angry about the Budget? Other headlines proclaim, “ Australia Has Been Let Down “. The philosophies expressed by headlines such as those engender in the people the belief that a budget must be a Christmas tree budget.
The Labour Party has been quite extravagant in its use of language to describe the Budget. It has referred to the Budget as “ The tragedy of the last ten years “. Does the Labour Party believe that for the last ten years we have been living in a time of tragedy? The Opposition says that the economy is in a state of depression. When they use exaggerated statements like those to which I have referred, honorable members opposite remind me of certain types of witnesses who come before the courts. If a witness makes a number of obviously untrue statements, his entire evidence is discredited. The Opposition is using words in an endeavour to break the spirit of the people for its own political purpose. If there are any dangers facing Australia today they are the dangers of our prosperity and the dangers of our arbitration system, which does not fully take into account the productivity of this country. The particular dangers that we face are those of overaward payments, which are ruining our export costs structure. We have the danger of irresponsible Communistcontrolled unions, whose officials take advantage of their fellow workers.
The Government has taken fully into account Australia’s needs and resources. It has resisted the temptation to adopt the easy printed-money way out of our difficulties which was recommended by the Opposition. Let us not forget that our real resources lie in our primary industries. That is where our original wealth lies. Assistance to primary industries is never wasted.
That brings me to the one serious doubt that I have with regard to our balance of payments problem. The lifting of import restrictions was, among other things, a strong attack on inflation. The removal of import restrictions was of major assistance to our primary industries. But, like the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), I am disturbed at the trend of our tariff system - at the protection that is given to many of our secondary industries. That protection can cancel out many of the advantages derived from the removal of import restrictions.
– What industries are you referring to?
– If the honorable member can read he should have a look at some of the reports of the Tariff Board. Those reports highlight the difficulties that face us in expecting any real results from our secondary industries exports drive. I cannot understand how we can expect to derive any real benefit from the export of our secondary products when our secondary industries receive such a measure of tariff protection to the great detriment of our primary industries. The tariff system has led to a major decrease in local costs and has been the cause of Australia losing many Overseas markets. I am not as naive as the former Leader of the Labour Party who, in his election campaign in 1958, appealed to the workers by telling them that they had nothing to fear because Labour, if elected, would never allow cheap overseas goods to be imported to compete with Australianmade goods. He then appealed to the primary industries. He told them that they had nothing to fear because he believed there were markets for Australian goods in Asian countries - in the cheap labour countries - and that we could sell all our goods there. In other words, he was suggesting that we could buy nothing from those countries but we could sell everything to them. That is an unrealistic approach which nobody believes.
– Lollies for everybody.
– Yes; they would have a sour ta.te. The secondary industries exports drive that is being encouraged by the Government is encouraging the secondary industries to ask for special assistance. There can be no doubt that if we want quick results from our export industries we must rely almost entirely on our primary indu.tries. The money that is being spent on our secondary industries would be much better spent on developing our primary industries. We all know the tremendous job that lies ahead if we are to develop our primary industries. We know that the northern areas of Australia must be developed. We need roads. The fertilizer industry, which is vitally important to our agricultural industry, needs assistance. Many other matters cry out for urgent attention.
This Budget will prove to be of great value to Australia. Our country will continue to progress in the years to come as it has done in the past.
– by leave- I thank the House for affording me this opportunity to raise again the matter that I raised last evening. I regret that I have to bring it up again. This afternoon, the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labour Party in the Senate (Senator Cole) made a personal explanation after Senator Poke of Tasmania had concluded a speech. The Leader of the D.L.P. said that he had proof that I had been a member of the Communist Party of Australia in Victoria before I moved to Tasmania. I quote him now to get the record straight. He said that he had heard from a Dr. Ian Pearson of Tasmania that I had been a Communist in Victoria. Senator Cole said that, during the Morrow dispute in Tasmania, which, I think, from memory, occurred about 1953, Dr. Pearson had approached him and asked him why he did not take action against Mr. Duthie, a former Communist, as well as against ex-Senator Morrow. Senator Cole said that he told Dr. Pearson that he did not know before then that Mr. Duthie was formerly a Communist.
Mr. Speaker, how utterly crazy can this attack become? I never knew this Dr. Pearson, who is a member of the Australian Labour Party, before I met him at an A.L.P. State conference in Tasmania six or seven years after I had left Victoria. At 6.50 p.m. to-day, I rang Dr. Ian Pearson at Burnie and read to him what Senator Cole had said, as I quoted earlier. I told Dr. Pearson that he had been accused in the Senate of saying that I had been a
Communist in Victoria. I had to censor his reply. He said -
This is a complete fantasy. I have had no truck wilh Senator Cole. I want you to tell the Parliament that I emphatically deny ever accusing you of being a Communist, either to Senator Cole or any one else. Since he ratted on the A.L.P., I have not said more than half a dozen words to him - and those he would not want to remember. If I spoke to him before his desertion, it would have been only by accident. His statement to the Senate is outrageous and false.
So much for the proof, Mr. Speaker! But, again, this smear of me has gone out to the press. Again, this man has spread his poison. Again, he hopes that some of the mud will stick.
What real protection have innocent people from this despicable type of accusation made by this utterly irresponsible senator who utters such outrageous falsehoods under parliamentary privilege? This is true McCarthyism of the kind which bedevilled America for years till the public and the nation rebelled against it. These people - calling themselves leaders - smear, accuse and slander innocent persons without a shred of corroborative evidence. These are cowardly attempts to strip me and others of our character, Christian faith, integrity and loyalty to God and to our country. Do not forget, Mr. Speaker, and all lovers of decency, honour and fair play, that in such accusations is the implication of treachery and disloyalty to our country. Notice, therefore, the type of proof that Senator Cole brings up to support his accusations of yesterday: A man said to him, “ Duthie was a Communist “. You know the technique: “ John Jones told me that Charlie Smith said, ‘ Duthie was a Communist’”. That is the sort of thing that has been dished up in the Senate - in this National Parliament - as proof that I was a Communist in Victoria.
Let me emphasize to the House and the nation, Mr. Speaker: If Senator Cole and his fellow-travellers in leadership of his antiLabour party have only this sort of proof to support their reckless charges of communism, I say, quite sincerely, “ God help Australia and all Australians! “ If my case is an example of the type of proof that D.L.P. leaders are using to smear other A.L.P. members in this country, no reliance at all can be placed on any of their accusations.
I have supported the Australian Labour Party since I first voted. That was in 1933. I have been an active member of the A.L.P. since I joined it at Foster in Victoria when I was Methodist minister there in 1942, during the war. 1 have never had any truck with the Communist Party or communism at any time, except only to try to understand what it is. I had to resign from the Methodist ministry in 1946 after my endorsement for Wilmot, because of church law, and 1 have been a local preacher and a trustee in my church ever since. Yet this individual in the Senate accuses me of having been a member of the Communist Party - not only a Communist, but also a member of the Communist Party! What sort of people have we representing Australians in this Parliament if this kind of accusation is made and my faith in the Christian way of life is attacked in this way? I was trained in that faith as a boy in my home. I have believed in it through the years, and I still believe in it and still fight for it. I preach for it in the pulpits of our churches - Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational. Yet this sort of man, in this Parliament, calls me a Communist and a former member of the Communist Party!
Mr. Speaker, in view of Senator Cole’s further accusation to-day, I again challenge him to make the accusation outside the Parliament without the protection of parliamentary privilege. If he does, I will take legal action against him for defamation of character.
The Parliament - Reserve Bank of Australia
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker, to-day, at question time, I tried to ask the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) a question. You ruled it out of order before I could complete it. The Treasurer later made a personal explanation about what he described as my misrepresentation. I do not like to be charged with making a misrepresentation. The Treasurer said that I had sought to convey to the House a form of words attributed to him in relation to a certain matter and stated that that form of words did not give an accurate version of what he had said. The question that I asked him was -
In view of the right honorable gentleman’s recent statement that those who propose to stand as Liberal candidates against him and at least six of his colleagues at the forthcoming elections . . are being well financed by certain sinister shadowy figures-
That was as far as I was allowed to go, Mr. Speaker, before you ruled the question out of order.
The Treasurer said later that the statement attributed to him in that question misrepresented him. His only objection could be to the words “ well financed “, “ sinister “ and “ shadowy figures “. The Treasurer said, in his personal explanation, that there was reason to believe that support for his opponent would come from outside his electorate and from organizations interested in opposing Government candidates. He added - and 1 quote his exact words -
I therefore recommended to members of our own party organization that . . they examine the candidature … to see whether there was something in the affair more sinister than the claim that the support came merely from within the electorate.
The implication, of course, was that there was something more sinister. 1 looked up a dictionary to find out what “ sinister “ means. I found that it means “ corrupt “ or “ evil “.
The Melbourne “ Age “, of 25th August, reported that the Treasurer had called on independent Liberal candidates to declare whom their supporters were, and that he had said that the independent Liberal candidates “ could receive substantial support from ‘ shadowy figures ‘ standing behind them “. He said that at a conference of the Liberal Party. I therefore asked him whether 1 was inaccurate, or whether I misrepresented him when I stated that he had said that the independent Liberals were being well financed by certain sinister, shadowy figures. I used to-day, in the question that I put, exactly the words that the Treasurer himself used. 1 go further and point out that Sir Arthur Warner, a Liberal Minister in Victoria, recently made these statements -
The Minister for Trade has during the past 12 years appointed members of the Tariff Board, many of them doctrinaire free traders, and has had authority to accept, reject or alter Tariff
Board recommendations. He has also had control over import licensing.
Mr. McEwen, as Minister in charge of tariffs, has failed for 12 years to protect Australian industry.
Proof of this has been constantly demonstrated by shortages of London funds, and the need to borrow money overseas to pay for the flood of imports.
Imports are still flooding into Australia at the rate of £100,000,000 a month, while factories lie idle and unemployed walk the street.
Even the credit squeeze was necessary to overcome the shortage of London funds and the flood of imports.
That was a statement made by Sir Arthur Warner, who is probably one of the highest officials in the Liberal Party in Victoria.
– He is the leader of the Upper House.
– Yes, he is the leader of the Upper House, the Legislative Council, in Victoria, and is one of those who determine the strategy and policy of the Victorian Liberal Party. No doubt he was one of those who refused to permit the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) or any other member of the federal Liberal Party, to take a place on a platform of the Liberal Party in Victoria. What I want to know is this: Who are the sinister, shadowy figures standing in the background, who are well financed and able to finance independent Liberal candidates, not merely against the Treasurer but also against his colleagues.
– Why do you want to know?
– I want to know all about it. Much has been said about unity tickets, but I believe it would be a most undesirable thing if people who are guilty of corruption, who are evil forces in the community and who have great wealth at their disposal, are seeking to control the Government of this country.
But of course the Treasurer makes these statements without meaning them at all. He merely makes the pronouncement that there are sinister, shadowy, wealthy figures in the background of the political scene in Victoria, that they are ex-Liberals, or even supported by people who are at present Liberals in Victoria, but he takes no action to tell us who they are. He is willing to wound and yet afraid to strike. If these sinister and shadowy figures, these wealthy people, who are seeking to corrupt the parliamentary institutions of this country, are erstwhile Liberals, let him name them if he dares, or let him remain silent. My strong objection is to the fact that he rises in his seat when I quote his own words and says that I try to misrepresent him.
– On Tuesday last the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) raised a matter, during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, concerning tenders for the construction of a building for the Reserve Bank of Australia in Sydney. He suggested that some action on the part of this Government required investigation on three counts. The first was that there was something irregular about the arrangements made with tenderers and the rejection of certain tenders for the building. The second was that taxpayers’ money was involved. The third contention was that the Government had some responsibility for the action that was taken. I find, after making inquiries, as I undertook on Tuesday night to do, that in all three respects the honorable member for East Sydney was wrong.
In the first place, the Reserve Bank has complete jurisdiction in this matter. If the honorable member will have a look at the Reserve Bank Act he will see that the management of the bank, in affairs such as this, rests entirely with the governor of the bank. The only way in which the Government was brought into it, in an indirect way, resulted from the fact that at the request of the Reserve Bank the Commonwealth Department of Works acted, in co-operation with a private consultant, as architect for the building. The bank has now given me certain information regarding the tenders, which I shall place before the House, as I undertook to do.
The bank informs me that it has not yet entered into a contract for the works, but it confirms that the lowest, second lowest and a number of other tenderers have been told that their tenders are not acceptable. The bank also informs me that at no time has it been a party to any publicity or disclosure of anv information or particulars whatsoever in relation to the tendering or tenderers.
The facts of the matter as related to me by the bank are as follow. By advertise ment in the daily newspapers of all States of the Commonwealth, and of the Australian Capital Territory, on 29th April and 6th May, the bank notified that tender documents would shortly be available for the building. The advertisement gave some particulars of the structure and stated that contractors desiring to tender were required to register with the bank on or before 22nd May, giving full particulars of works previously executed, organizational resources and financial status. Sixteen contractors replied to the advertisement, and of these, fourteen went on to give the particulars desired by the bank and these fourteen were registered.
Before invitations to tender were issued some investigation of the financial position, technical ability and organizing and accounting capacities of each of the registered contractors was made by the bank directly and indirectly through its advisers, bankers of the contractors and other recognized sources. The bank was in a position to go to tender before t these investigations could be completed in all respects and accordingly the bank decided to invite tenders from all the fourteen registered contractors without exception or differentiation. All fourteen registered contractors were individually, by letter dated 24th June, 1961, invited to tender by 2 p.m. on 4th August, 1961. At no stage did the bank inform any registered contractor of the name or identity of any other contractor invited to tender.
By letter dated 11th July, 1961, representations were made on behalf of fourteen contractors - in fact, all the registered contractors invited to tender - seeking discussions on certain aspects of the conditions of contract. Discussions were held, and in the result the bank amended certain conditions of contract, principally in relation to provision for a rise and fall formula, retention sum, priced bill of quantities and extensions of time. At no time during these discussions was it mentioned or implied that the bank should, or would, accept the lowest tender, or that preliminary investigations had any bearing on such a question.
Tenderers were required to tender on certain conditions set out on the bank’s form of tender. One of these conditions provided that “ the bank shall not be bound to accept the lowest or any other tender . . “ Tenders were received from each of the fourteen invited contractors on the form, within the time and in accordance with conditions stipulated and amended as agreed upon.
Apart from tender price viewed in stark isolation, the technical, organizational and accounting capacities and records of each contractor were relevant in the bank’s deliberations, both on the question of ability to achieve tender price and to achieve tender time for completion. The preliminary deliberations of the bank before the registering of contractors could not possibly have resolved all the issues involved in these considerations for a project of the dimensions, quality and cost of the bank’s head office.
After very full consideration of all relevant aspects - assisted in all stages by the advice of its architects and experts, and the Commonwealth Department of Works - the bank made the decisions it has so far made. So, Sir, after careful examination of this whole question, I have no reason whatsoever to doubt the regularity and judgment of the bank in making the decision it made.
Indeed, Sir. this is supported by a report which appeared in the metropolitan edition of the “ Daily Telegraph “ of to-day’s date. That report says -
The Master Builders Association was satisfied now with the way the Reserve Bank had dealt with tenders for its new head-quarters, Mr. H. N. Barton saidlast night.
– They did not have a meeting.
– I am quoting the newspaper report. You can deal with it as you wish. The report continues -
Mr. Barton is President of the Association. The Reserve Banks plans to build its headquarters in Martin Place . . .
Mr. Barton saidlast night:
We were concerned at some of the procedure adopted originally.
But, after conferring with the Bank and considering the situation, we are satisfied now.
Mr. Ward is on the wrong track.
Sir, that is the situation which I undertook last Tuesday to report to the House.
.- Mr.. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.17 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
For which departments and instrumentalities will annual reports be tabled before the House is required to pass their estimates?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
As I indicated in reply to a similar question on 25th August, 1960 (“ Hansard “, page 508) 1 appre ciate the desirability of having reports available to honorable members when the Estimates are being considered. Action has again been taken to ensure that as many papers as possible giving honorable members information on the activities of departments and instrumentalities will be presented to Parliament before the estimates of the particular authority are considered. Where it is not practicable to present final reports this information may be given in the form of interim reports or statements of activities. A number of reports, including interim reports, has already been tabled this session.
Conference on Antibiotics.
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will an Australian representative be sent this year to the annual conference on antibiotics in the United States in accordance with the resolutions of the National Health and Medical Research Council in November, 1958, and May, 1959?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
It has not yet been decided whether a representative will be sent this year to the annual conference on antibiotics in the United States.
m asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honormember’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
For plain-clothes members the classifications of sergeants are £35, and of ranks below sergeant £9, higherthan those of uniformed members (shown above). The classifications set out above are at present under consideration by the Public Service Arbitrator, on a plaint of the Commonwealth Police Officers Association.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
r asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 August 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19610831_reps_23_hor32/>.