24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Immigration concerning the three Portuguese sailors whose deportation has to-day been confirmed by the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. Three weeks ago the honorable gentleman declined to answer a question by the honorable member for the Northern Territory on this matter before judgment had been given. I ask him whether he will now allow the whole of the circumstances to be debated by the House before the order of deportation is carried out, and whether he will extend the same consideration to these deserters as he and all of us would extend to deserting sailors from any eastern European dictatorship.
– As the honorable gentleman has said, Mr. Speaker, a judgment was given in Darwin this morning which completely vindicated the Government’s exercise of its powers and its choice of wording when framing the Immigration Act. However, I have been informed by the solicitors acting for the three Portuguese deserters that they will appeal from that judgment to the High Court of Australia. As they are contemplating, and, indeed, according to my best information, are determined on this course of action, I think it would be proper for the matter still to be treated as sub judice. I would prefer, therefore, to say nothing further at this juncture.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization a question. Is he aware that the organization has considerably improved the efficiency of strychnine for poisoning rabbits, foxes, dingoes and other vermin by producing it in a tasteless form? Will he consider some special recognition for the officer who actually discovered that the product was tasteless? Is this officer still with the organization?
– The honorable member for Farrer has raised some very interesting points. I am wondering whether the officer in question did some experimenting to discover whether the new product is tasteless to rabbits. I will bear in mind the matters raised by the honorable member.
– I desire to address a question to the Treasurer. It concerns the proposal that was made at one stage to borrow £78,000,000 from the International Monetary Fund. I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that this amount was not used. What standing costs and/ or interest payments were incurred in connexion with the proposed borrowing?
– I do not carry the precise details in my head, but I shall get them for the honorable member.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Repatriation, who represents in this House the Acting Minister for Trade, a question concerning the proposal by some farmers’ organizations to send representatives to ports in western and northern Europe to promote the sale of next season’s fruit crops, with special reference to apples, oranges and pears. I ask: To what extent will the Department of Trade be able to assist this mission?
– The honorable member has always taken a great interest in matters concerning these important fruit-growing industries. The Australian Citrus Growers Federation, on behalf of the Citrus Growers Council of New South Wales and the Australian Apple and Pear Board, has approached the Commonwealth for some financial assistance to support the sending this year of one or two trade missions to the United Kingdom and Europe. The matter is still being considered by the Department of Trade, and I expect to be able to give the honorable member some information in the near future.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. I ask: Is it not a fact that airlines aircraft travelling from east to west often have to land at Kalgoorlie owing to headwinds causing a shortage of fuel? Does the Minister not agree that Electra aircraft, which have adequate range, are the most suitable aeroplanes for the east-west run? In view of this, will he arrange for this kind of plane to be used on the east-west route?
– I shall pass the honorable member’s question to the Minister representing in this House the Minister for Civil Aviation. No doubt, the Minister in this House will pass the question on to his colleague in another place and see that the honorable member receives an answer.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Repatriation, who represents in this place the Acting Minister for Trade. Referring to the Minister’s statement regarding tariff adjustments on engine bearings and bushings, I ask: Does this adjustment affect bearings and bushings for tractors?
– The statement which I made yesterday does not apply to bearings and bushings for tractors. It applies to bearings and bushings under Tariff Item No. 359d, which refers to bearings and bushings for motor vehicles only, and only to new components being imported.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I ask: Why has the Government taken no action to have the tariff of 28 cents per lb. on Australian wool entering the United States of America removed? In view of the imposition by the United States of this tariff on our wool, why does the Australian Government grant a reduction of tariff on Australian imports of United States nylon and rayon, which are competitive with wool? Why does the right honorable gentleman allow nylon yarn from the United States by-law entry into Australia at a duty of 7i per cent., when the act provides for a duty of 50 per cent.? .
– The honorable member knows quite well that he is putting a series of questions about policy. I find it hard to think that he believes that . the Australian Government has taken no action with the United States Government on wool. If he is under the impression that that is true, I can tell him that it is completely untrue. No matter has been more frequently and closely under discussion between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America than has the wool duty.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. By way of a very short preface, I remind him that two or three years ago I asked a question concerning the sale of gold by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to Communist countries through Hong Kong, and I was told that my inference as to the destination of the gold was wrong. I now ask: Did the Department of Civil Aviation at that time receive any reports that planes - and only those planes carrying these consignments of gold to Hong Kong - were given a radio fix by the Russian submarine station on Hainan Island, South China, and asked whether any further assistance was required on their flight to Hong Kong?
– I do not know the reply to the honorable member’s question, but I shall obtain it from my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, and let the honorable member have it.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware of the great harm done to the immigration programme by the Government’s disastrous economic policies? Was he aware of the probable consequences of these policies when they were decided upon by Cabinet? Did he warn his colleagues or protest in Cabinet against the measures?
– My honorable friend from Kingston has been a member of this Parliament for over ten years and I am very sorry to learn this afternoon that in that long period he has not understood a fundamental principle of Cabinet government - that Cabinet Ministers cannot divulge matters which are discussed in Cabinet. At least in 1962 my friend should start learning about these things. However, let me now give him this word of comfort, because I believe that in his heart he is really interested in the immigration programme: When the numbers go up at 30th June, on our present progress I believe that we shall not be far short of our target of 125,000 migrants for this year.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Interior. The Australian people generally are very conscious of their responsibilities and naturally are keen to learn as much as they can about their country. Has the Minister had an opportunity to peruse the booklet entitled “ Facts about Britain’s Economy “ dealing with such things as employment, production, exports and defence? If he has done so, will he inform the House whether his department has a similar booklet that is available to the general public? If so, where can it be obtained? If a similar booklet is not available, will he take steps to have one printed?
– I do not think that I have seen the booklet about the United Kingdom to which the honorable member has referred, but from the subjects which he stated are mentioned in it I think that it corresponds to a booklet published by the News and Information Bureau entitled “Australia in Brief”. This small booklet contains a surprising amount of information about Australia which, generally, has been culled from the “Year Book” but is presented in a rather more attractive and abbreviated form. The booklet is distributed widely overseas, the number running into some millions of copies. They are obtainable at all our diplomatic posts and trade missions. I am not quite certain how distribution is effected in Australia, but I do know that a number of copies is readily available. If the honorable member is interested in obtaining some I shall be delighted to see that he gets them.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the term of the Australian High Commissioner in London been extended recently to October of this year? Has the High Commissioner expressed a desire to return to Australia? Did he accept the extended term because the Government is not prepared at present to make another appointment? Has the Government not made another appointment for the reason that it is keeping the position open for the leading member of the Cabinet?
– I am rather intrigued by the concluding phrase of the question. If the leading member of the Cabinet is still myself, I can assure my friend that he need not worry. I am not an applicant for the post. It is true that the normal term of the High Commissioner was extended until approximately October of this year, and I am very happy to say that Sir Eric Harrison, who has served with great distinction in London, agreed to continue in the post until that time.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that a person who buys a home, business or farm which has a telephone service in operation has to undertake, in his application to retain this service, to accept and be answerable for the discharge of all liabilities incurred by the existing subscriber, including liability for all amounts owing in respect of the service at the time of the transfer? Does the Minister believe that a member of the public who wishes to be a customer of the telephone branch should first have to become an honorary debt collector for the largest business undertaking in Australia? Does he know that if the new subscriber is unwilling to pay the sum involved, which can be quite large, the telephone is removed and replaced only when the debt is collected, thereby involving the department in unnecessary expenditure, wasting the time of technicians and causing loss of revenue from the new subscriber in the meanwhile? Will he please try to have this clause removed from the form of application for the retention of a telephone?
– The provisions governing the transfer of a telephone upon a property being sold are, largely, as outlined by the honorable member for Flinders. They have been in operation for very many years but, I am glad to be able to tell the honorable member, a review is being carried out to see whether some other provisions which will guard1 the department’s interests and at the same time place no penalty on the incoming tenant, can be instituted.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. The right honorable gentleman will recall that on 7th March - three weeks ago - he undertook, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Wills, to prepare a statement setting out what is being done by the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government in regard to oil search. In view of the statement by the Minister for National Development that he could not guarantee the Australian oil industry against overseas control; and in view, also, of the considerable public concern in the problem of the 80 per cent. American ownership and control of vital oil leases in Australia, will he expand the proposed statement to indicate the Government’s attitude to this important problem and indicate the steps, if any, that his Government proposes to take to safeguard the Australian oil industry from getting into the position of the Canadian oil industry and the Australian motor car industry?
– The honorable gentleman’s question contains a number of assertions. I should like him to put it on the notice-paper.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization by pointing out that the cattle industry and the tourist industry are of prime importance to our economy. Is the Minister aware that there is a vicious little insect known as the sandfly which tends to reduce the value of one of the greatest assets we have in our tourist industry - the beaches along our coast - by reason of its activities? Secondly, is he aware that the sandfly is a carrier of a dread disease amongst stock, which is known as blue tongue which we have successfully,
I believe, kept out of Australia? I am informed, Mr. Speaker, that this insect has now-
– Order! I think that the honorable gentleman is making a lot of comment. He should ask his question.
– Will the Minister ascertain whether this insect is now proceeding inland, and has been found in inland areas? Is it not a fact that if there were an outbreak of this disease, the insect would be one of the main factors in spreading the disease? Will he have inquiries made with a view to instituting a vigorous programme for the control, if not the destruction, of this insect?
– This is a technical question. I will refer it to my colleague the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and see that the honorable member gets an answer.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that a large-scale stop work meeting was in progress at the Lucas Heights atomic reactor project when he visited the establishment last Friday? Did he take the trouble to establish the cause of the unrest? Was he able to ascertain that personnel engaged on the project are incensed that the Minister for National Development has refused to receive a deputation seeking to put the men’s case? Appreciating the national importance of the Lucas Heights project, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will encourage his Minister to take a more conciliatory attitude so that this dispute may be resolved and others avoided.
– I did pay a visit to Lucas Heights and opened two new buildings. I was told that there was a stoppage of work that day. It does not happen to fall within my jurisdiction to investigate stoppages of work, as I am sure the honorable member well understands. Nor, I am happy to say, am I in the habit of substituting myself when I have a perfectly competent Minister to deal with these matters.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Yesterday, in the course of an answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Richmond, the Treasurer stated that his discussions with the banks had disclosed that what was in effect long-term lending to the rural industries was more prevalent than was sometimes imagined. Could he give the House more details of this class of lending, including some indication of its magnitude?
– I do not know that I can go into a lengthy explanation of the matter at question time, but I can tell the honorable member this much: Subsequent to my comment here yesterday I pursued this matter further with the chairman of the associated banks and made known to him the fact that as recently as yesterday afternoon the subject had again been ventilated in the House. We bad a useful discussion on the subject. While he was not able to give me a precise indication he did say that approximately 25 per cent, of bank lending was in the rural area, and of that rural lending something more than one-half would be in practice, if not in form, on a long-term basis. In other words, the advance would have been made for the purpose of conducting or developing rural property and while, theoretically, the overdraft would be recallable at will, in practice this was not done. That is about as far as I can go, in answer to a question, in describing the dimensions of this lending.
-I address a question to the Treasurer. Will he inform the House what was the rate of interest paid by Australia for the drawing of £78,000,000 on the International Monetary Fund in April, 1961? Where was the money invested and at what rate of interest? What profit did the Treasury make out of the transaction? What is the purpose for which the International Monetary Fund was established?
– A question on the same matter, if not in quite the same detail, and requiring the same sort of answer, was asked earlier to-day by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and I said I would let him have the information he sought. I shall see whether 1 can prepare a statement which will satisfy the curiosity of both honorable members and other members of the House at the same time.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Will he give sympathetic consideration, in the pre-budget deliberations, first, to granting to municipalities some relief from the payment of pay-roll tax and, secondly, to a further extension of the existing principle of ex gratia payments in lieu of municipal rates in respect of Commonwealth-owned property, which now applies only where the Commonwealth sublets portion of its premises to outside organizations?
– As the honorable member will be aware, in the course of each year, the Government usually receives some hundreds of requests for taxation relief which are usually directed to entirely commendable objectives. We examine these and they are given further consideration at budget time. The matters raised by the honorable member fall into that general category of items. He will be interested to know that, in response to a request by the Prime Minister, I have arranged to see lord mayors representing the capital cities early in April. No doubt they will address me in relation to the second portion of the honorable gentleman’s question.
– My questionis addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In a recent publication issued by the Minister’s department and entitled “ Training for Skilled Occupations “ reference is made on page13 to a reluctance on the part of European governments, particularly the Dutch Government, to permit skilled workers to continue to emigrate to Australia. Can the Minister inform the House of the measures which it is alleged Holland is taking to prevent the emigration of skilled persons to Australia?
– It is well known and, I think, understandable that many countries are reluctant to permit their skilled workers to emigrate to other countries. I shall examine the details of the reference on page 13 of the department’s booklet and find out exactly what restriction the Dutch Government places on migration to this country. I shall let the honorable gentleman have this information verbally or by letter as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs had an opportunity to study the results of the Soviet elections? Is so, can the honorable gentleman say whether Mr. Khrushchev’s return in the romantically named electorate of Kalinin was in any way aided by Liberal Party or Labour Party preferences?
– I have not had time yet to study the results of those elections. After all, there is not much interest in studying a race which is no race at all, but I will get around to it by and by. Also, I remind the honorable member that there is not any point in talking about preferences in a Russian election in which there is no opportunity to express a preference. As to whether the Labour Party assisted in Mr, Khrushchev’s return for Kalinin, as far as I know the doctrine of co-existence has not extended quite so far as that.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that two Army landing barges, built in Devonport and handed over to the Army last November, have lain idle for some months in that port. If so, what is the reason for the delay in their departure to build up the Army transportation fleet in Sydney? Is it a fact that more barges of this type are required by the Army to widen the effective role of its amphibious forces? Will the Minister give consideration to having orders for more barges of this type placed in Devonport and so relieve unemployment among the skilled workers there?
– These two excellent vessels which, I am glad to say, were built in Tasmania and1 so provided a consider able amount of work there, are part of the fleet. Certain alterations are being made at Chowder Bay to receive them and it will not be long before they will be there. The matter of further building is one to which I will have to give consideration.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for Immigration, I refer to the problem faced by those Dutch migrants in Australia who cannot afford to ask for Australian citizenship because of the automatic forfeiture of Dutch public service superannuation or repatriation benefits. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that he has taken up this matter with the Dutch authorities. Is he in a position to advise the House whether any change of attitude by the Netherlands Government has been indicated?
– As the honorable member has implied, this is not exactly a new problem. My department had discussions with representatives of the Dutch Government as far back as June, 1960, when we put to them certain considerations in an attempt to alleviate the hardship to which my honorable friend refers. As a result of the discussions we had, we then rather hoped that remedying legislation would be introduced into the Dutch Parliament in 1961. This has not eventuated, but I am still hopeful that perhaps some time during this year the necessary steps will be taken in the Netherlands.
My understanding of the position is that the Netherlands authorities do give sympathetic consideration to individual cases of real hardship, but obviously the matter is one which requires legislative action by the Netherlands Parliament in order to rectify the grievance which has been felt by members of the Dutch community here, and to which the honorable member has shown himself very much alive.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Interior. When does the Minister intend to announce the names of the commissioners who are to make the re-distribution of electoral boundaries? Does he recall his speech during the debate on the 195S re-distribution in which he stated that (he re-distribution in Western Australia bad been drawn up by the Chief Electoral Officer before the commission had been appointed? Did he suggest that an independent commission should be appointed, with the Chief Electoral Officer as an advisory officer only, in order to ensure that there should be a sense of fairness, whether fairness has in fact been exercised or not? Is the delay in announcing the names of the commissioners due to the fact that the Minister intends to amend the Electoral Act to incorporate his suggestion?
– Dealing first with the last part of the honorable member’s question, let me say that it is not proposed to amend the Electoral Act. Since I made those observations as a private member, I have had the benefit of listening to the opinions of the honorable member’s own leader, whose view is that the Commonwealth arrangements for re-distribution are about the fairest that can reasonably be made.
It is hoped that the announcement of the commissioners will be made without much delay, but at present we are waiting for State Premiers to approve the making available of certain State officers, as provided for in the act. We cannot very well make an announcement until the State Premiers agree to make those officers available.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade whether the recently announced proposed increase of 5 per cent, in overseas shipping freights will cause a corresponding increase in the cost structure of our already hard-pressed primary and secondary exporting industries. If so, will this strike a severe blow to their competitive position in world trade? Was the Commonwealth Government consulted before the decision to increase freight rates was made? Can the Government take any action to prevent the proposed increase?
– I can appreciate the honorable member’s interest in this matter, which is very important from the point of view of the primary exporting industries. It is a fact, however, that the negotiations in connexion with this matter are in the hands of representatives of the shipowners and the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee, which consists of repre sentatives of the major exporting and producing groups in Australia. Negotiations took place and it was recently announced that the increase in freight rates would be in the vicinity of 5 per cent. That figure of 5 per cent, is not actually fixed because the shipowners have agreed on a formula which will be better, from a freight standpoint, in relation to exports from Australia. The negotiators will take cognizance of the assessment of the situation and the freight figures for last year. Based on those factors, the figure for the consolidated period of two years could be less than 5 per cent.
Obviously, it is regrettable that any increase is necessary. The Government has not intervened in this matter because it is purely one between the representatives of the exporters’ and producers’ organizations and the representatives of the shipping companies. Unless there is a deadlock in such negotiations, the Government does not intervene, and it did not do so on this occasion. I feel, however, that under the new formula, the freight rates may not be increased by 5 per cent, which has been indicated as the maximum, lt is satisfying in one respect also to note that the freight rates have been fixed for two years and will be maintained until 1964.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. In view of the Government’s plan to create employment in the building industry in New South Wales, and as tenders for the new mail exchange building at Redfern closed on 13th March last, I ask the Minister to inform the House: (1) When will actual site work be started and will it create much scope for the absorption of local unskilled labour? (2) What date has been set for the completion of the project? (3) Will the contract be awarded to the lowest tenderer so that money can be saved and used elsewhere to create more employment for workers in the building industry, and also so that more services can be provided for the general public by the Postmaster-General’s Department?
– A great deal of the information which the honorable member seeks will have to be obtained from the Department of Works and I shall advise him when it is available. However, the honorable member asked whether the contract would be awarded to the lowest tenderer. This is rather interesting because on many occasions I have heard honorable members opposite criticize the system of tendering on the ground that, when the lowest tenderer has got the contract, he has put in an absurdly low price and has been unable to carry out the contract without doing skimpy work. I state the view of the department as follows: - The lowest tenderer, having regard to all the other circumstances including his capacity adequately to complete the contract, will get the contract. All factors in relation to the tenderer and his capacity will be taken into account.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister.
Will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to arranging for a visit by at least one, if not two, members of the Cabinet to Australia’s front-line - Bangkok, Vientiane and Saigon - early in the next parliamentary recess so that they can see for themselves and make their own personal appreciation of the situation which exists and the dangers therein to Australia?
– I shall be very happy to give consideration to that idea.
– I wish to direct a question to the Treasurer. Yesterday, in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Reid, the Treasurer said that the Government welcomed large-scale overseas investment in Australia. Does this encouragement extend to foreign oil companies participating in oil search in Australia? What advantage would accrue to Australia through foreign ownership of Australian oil deposits?
– Yes, we do welcome overseas investments in the search for oil in Australia. I strongly suspect that if we happily reach a point in the not too distant future where oil-fields in Australia are in active commercial pro duction, we will do so largely because of the capital investment that has come from overseas. As I understand the arithmetic of this matter, out of the investment in the post-war period of £64,000,000 in the search for oil, all but £16,000,000 has been provided by overseas oil interests. Naturally, as the development of an Australian oil industry proceeds, we will certainly wish to see substantial Australian participation. But we do not mind overseas interests taking the risk and bringing their technical capacity and skill to this very great task in Australia. We shall greatly benefit as a nation if we are able to supplement our own limited resources by substantial investments from overseas.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Maribyrnong. Is it true that pay-roll tax collected from local government authorities is returned to the States under the taxation reimbursement formula? Would the exemption of local government authorities from the payment of pay-roll tax mean an alteration of the formula, or do the people who seek abolition of payroll tax for these authorities want a double contribution to the States in lieu of the money collected from local government authorities?
– The argument has occasionally been put that if we were to abolish pay-roll tax, the States would be willing to accept a correspondingly smaller grant from the Commonwealth under the taxation reimbursement formula. As a rather sceptical Treasurer, I am not so sure that that result could be achieved. In any event, a matter of policy does arise at this point. I do not know that I could profitably explore the various possibilities that might arise in the event of a policy decision being taken on the matter raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the Western Australian agents of the Columbia Broadcasting Systems claim that they can successfully and economically relay television by way of Adler translators to a large number of farming and gold-field areas in Western Australia? Is it a fact that a request by the agents for permission to establish, without any cost to the Government, an experimental or trial unit at Mount Bakewell has been refused? If this is so, will the Postmaster-General give the reasons for refusing the request?
– It is quite true that various methods of transmission, including that mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, are available. These methods could be employed by any instrumentality that wished to establish a service. However, I point out to the honorable member that the Government has outlined a plan for the development of television throughout Australia, and has been successfully pursuing it for a number of years. I recently announced that at the end of the fourth phase, which is now proceeding, attention will be given to the development of television in areas such as those mentioned by the honorable member.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I am aware that the schedule to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act provides that the Blowering dam shall be constructed by the Government of New South Wales. I find that during the recent State election campaign the Premier of New South Wales announced that his Government would proceed with the construction of the dam on the Murrumbidgee River. Since the agreement provides for the Blowering dam to be constructed on the Tumut River, will the Minister take appropriate action to ensure that the Premier of New South Wales will not be permitted to build the Blowering dam on the wrong river?
– Living, as I do, in New South Wales, I am well aware of numerous misleading statements that were made during the course of the recent State election campaign by various members of the Labour Party. However, this is a matter that comes within the jurisdiction of my colleague in another place. I shall refer it to. him, and no doubt he will take appropriate action.
Debate resumed from 27th March (vide page 997), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- In resuming this debate, I wish to give the lie to certain honorable members opposite who have suggested that waterside workers are getting a raw deal and that their working conditions are shocking. These allegations, of course, are quite without foundation. When honorable members consider the benefits that have been bestowed on waterside workers since 1947 by legislative enactment of the Commonwealth Government, quite apart from benefits derived from awards of the court and from decisions of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, they will realize that conditions for waterside workers are not by any means as bad as honorable members opposite have suggested. For instance, since 1947 waterside workers have been paid attendance money. This has meant that on days when there has been no work for them they have been paid an amount by way of compensation. This payment is now at the rate of 28s. 3d. a day. Further, they are entitled, as casual workers, to annual leave, now amounting to eleven days a year. They now work three shifts, the longest of which is of eight hours’ duration. That is the shift from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The second shift, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., is of only six hours, and the midnight shift is of seven hours’ duration. It cannot be said, therefore, that they are asked to work long hours.
Over the years the waterside workers have had the benefit of a first-class, modern first-aid scheme. As was mentioned by the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) yesterday, they have the benefit of a press and radio pick-up scheme. Under this scheme they do not have to attend pick-up centres and waif for jobs. Instead they are notified by press and radio whether they are required to report for a job. This means that, like other workers, they can go direct from their homes to their jobs.
They now get a six-hour minimum payment. This means that they are getting closer to decasualization of employment than they ever were before. In addition, on occasions they merely report to a job but still get six hours’ pay. They also receive sick pay. Bear in mind that these are casual employees who have to work only 30 hours in a week in order to receive the remuneration that other workers get for working a full week. They also are paid for statutory holidays.
I have at times listened to broadcasts from this chamber and heard honorable members saying that amenities on the Australian waterfront are deplorable. I fuggest that honorable members opposite should take a walk round the waterfront in some of our cities, particularly in Sydney. They would see amenities which measure up to the standard of those provided anywhere in the world, let alone in Australia. In this connexion I might mention the canteens that are provided. These are of a very high standard, supplying exceedingly good meals.
Waterside workers are provided with industrial clothing. This is not by any means cheap clothing. It has to measure up to the best standards. In addition to all these benefits there is the latest one that has been bestowed upon them by this Government. I refer to long-service leave.
Let me tell honorable members that employees in many other industries consider that waterside workers are getting a very fair deal. Whenever the quota of waterside workers at a particular port is increased there is a mad scramble of recruits seeking registration. This in itself shows that the conditions of waterside workers are good.
Despite these benefits that they enjoy, waterside workers still see fit to indulge in disastrous strikes. These strikes are disastrous to the community as a whole, but particularly to primary producers, manufacturing industries and, of course, the shipping industry itself. We learn from press reports to-day that the Melbourne waterside workers have decided to hold a 24-hour wharf stoppage. This is a deliberate act of blackmail designed to force this Government, according to the newspaper reports, to alter legislation with regard to long service leave.
Some ot these unauthorized stoppages are political in character. Many, of them show a complete absence of industrial responsibility. Some disputes could be settled by the arbitration tribunals if the alleged grievances were genuine. But we find, of course, that the Waterside Workers Federation, or its leaders - I am not blaming the men themselves - dictate the action to be taken, and instead of having grievances properly adjudicated upon and equitable determinations made, they indulge in strike tactics.
The Waterside Workers Federation has had a deplorable record over the years. In 1955, for argument’s sake, when more than 40,000,000 man-hours were paid for - and not necessarily worked - 2,675,893 manhours were lost through stoppages. This represented 6.6 per cent, of the total manhours worked. Further - and perhaps this is more alarming - it represents 35.4 per cent, of all man-hours lost throughout all industry in Australia. That was the situation in 1955, and it was by no means unusual.
The waterfront industry, Mr. Speaker, is a turbulent one. However, let me make this statement. I make it quite deliberately because I believe it is true. These disputes in the main do not result from the shortcomings of the employers, of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority or of this Government. Let me make the further statement that the waterside workers, these men whom honorable members opposite are so concerned about, and whom I am concerned about, as are all honorable members on this side, are being used as a means of achieving the Communist Party objective of crippling the Australian economy.
– Ah! .«
– I heard an honorable member on the opposite side of the House say, “ Ah “! Apparently, he is not very interested in the situation on the waterfront as it affects the Australian economy. It is not mere chance that the waterfront unions have been battened on by Communists. Communists dominate the leadership of two powerful waterfront unions - the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and the Seamen’s Union of Australia. Obviously, the presence of Communists in the leadership of those unions is by deliberate design.
The Waterside Workers Federation is a very highly organized body from the standpoint of having men who are in a position to provoke trouble at any time of the day or night. Trouble can be provoked by job committees, job delegates, vigilance officers, and a militant executive either in a branch or at the federal level of the organization.
A highly organized body such as this can easily impose economic intimidation on employers. Very frequently, particularly on the last day before a ship is to sail, an exorbitant demand on the employer is made. Unless he concedes it, the threat is that the ship will not sail. This may mean serious inconvenience to passengers. Even if it does not mean that, it will at least throw the whole schedule out and, in consequence, the shipping interests concerned, suffer.
– Give us an illustration of that.
– I can give the honorable member plenty of illustrations. 1 am explaining what happens. This continual disruption and industrial anarchy - I use that term quite deliberately - cause costs to go up. Obviously, the cost structure of our national economy is affected, and the consequence may be to price our exports out of overseas markets. There is no doubt about that. This is the situation which the Communist Party of Australia would like to bring about. It wants our exports to be denied overseas markets. If that happens, we shall reach a stage at which this country will be beset by vast unemployment. This is the economic climate that the Communist Party wants. It wants vast unemployment in this country, and it seeks to bring it about by disrupting the shipping industry and thereby crippling our economy. Once the Communists have established this situation of vast unemployment and created the economic climate that I have described, Australia will be ripe for a Communist takeover.
The prospects for Australia’s prosperity would be poor if the Government of this country adopted the attitude taken by honorable members opposite in their support of the militancy of the Waterside Workers Federation which indulges in unauthorized stoppages to force its demands rather than adopt the constitutional channels of lawful processes - processes in which we on this side of the House fervently believe.
I support the bill.
– Mr. Speaker, the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) were rather interesting. He very successfully put forward the employers’ viewpoint - the viewpoint of the shipowners. We on this side of the House, and I in particular, want to state the waterside workers’ viewpoint. Before I do that, I want to take the honorable member to task. He has just made a statement about the leadership of the waterside workers and their tactics, the purpose of which, he said, was to forward the communistic idea of destroying our economy. That is the honorable member’s idea of what is being done. He made a similar statement last evening. Referring to a speech made earlier yesterday by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), the honorable member for Warringah said -
Honorable members opposite have used this debate as a medium to disperse throughout Australia the type of propaganda that the Communist leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation wish to be dispersed. The Opposition claims that it has no association whatever with the Communist Party, but honorable members opposite have been spreading Communist propaganda.
The honorable member for Warringah has played a leading part in the activities of Australian and overseas shipping interests in this country, and he ought to have a better idea of the purposes of debate in this chamber than to try to debase this House by stating that we on this side are spreading Communist propaganda.
At every election, I have been opposed by a Communist candidate. Even when the Government has declined to put up a candidate against me, I have been opposed by a Communist. Every time there is an election, I find myself fighting a Communist candidate. I should like to tell the honorable member for Warringah that the best workers for me against the Communists at election times have been members of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. They are the men who stand against communism.
The honorable member spoke of unauthorized stop-work meetings. He said that some of them might be considered legitimate if there was legitimate cause to stop work, but that on other occasions there was no cause. The honorable member talked about increasing costs in the shipping industry. I suggest that he consider the cases in which an official of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority or the shipping interests penalized some employee and caused his fellow workers to say: “ We will not stand for that. We shall stop work.” This sort of thing happens not only in the shipping industry. It has happened in the transport industry in South Australia in the last few weeks. In instances such as these, ultimately the matter may go to the industrial tribunal and it may order that the men go back to work, and back they go. The economic cost of the two or three days’ working time lost is due, not to the attitude of the workers, but to the attitude of the employers, who say: “ We are not satisfied with something you have done. Off you go.”
We have had complaints in the shipping industry about gear on a ship not being safe. The waterside workers say, “ We want something done to make it safe “. If the shipowners refuse to improve the gear, the waterside workers say, “ We shall refuse to work “ That is an unauthorized stoppage. Perhaps it is one that the honorable member for Warringah would say had some justification. When the men refuse to work in those circumstances, the ship is held up. Perhaps another gang from another ship is ordered to do the work, but refuses, and the men in it are stood down. Within a day or two, perhaps the whole of the port is held up. This happens because of action taken in the first place by a representative of the shipowners. Does not that sort of thing add to costs in the shipping industry? Whose fault is it? Honorable members opposite, however, gloss over that and say nothing about it. They pick on something justifiably done by the waterside workers, and blame the workers for increasing costs.
I shall stick up for the waterside workers at every opportunity I get, Mr. Speaker, even though it may appear on occasions that a stoppage is trivial, for I know what sort of life they lead. The honorable member for Warringah said that the employees have received benefits since 1947. But what was the situation before that year? What about all the occasions on which men were penalized in years gone by? The honorable member, apparently, thinks it is sufficient that benefits have been received since 1947. Some benefits were given in that year. Later, we obtained attendance money, annual leave entitlements and then long service leave entitlements. The honorable member seems to think that that is something to be proud of. He talked about waterside workers enjoying wonderful conditions. It is all right to refer to the benefits which the waterside workers received in 1947, 1959 or 1960 but men in other industries enjoyed similar benefits long before then.
There was an interjection during the speech of the honorable member for Warringah about a waterside worker’s job not being safe. The honorable member replied that a man could transfer from one location to another. I do not know just what the honorable member wants the workers to do. I have men in my electorate who have worked continuously on the waterfront since they have been eighteen or twenty years of age. They have purchased or are purchasing their homes in the port at which they work. Yet the honorable member states that if things become a bit slack a worker can transfer
Within the last few days I have heard something said about this matter of transferring. The fruit season at present is in full swing in Hobart and 200 or 300 additional men are required at the port. The Waterside Workers Federation has been told to transfer a couple of hundred men so that the apples can be shipped The waterside workers themselves want the apples to be shipped because they know that their own prosperity depends upon the country’s prosperity. But the employers have had the audacity to expect the Waterside Workers Federation to transfer 200 men from their home port to another port to meet a seasonal condition. What will happen to the men when the seasonal work finishes? Apparently the honorable member for Warringah would then have them transferred somewhere else.
There are provisions in the legislation to get over some of these difficulties, particularly where ports are adjacent, as are Port Pirie and Port Augusta. There is not enough work at Port Augusta, which is within the electorate of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell), to keep a large number of men employed throughout the year, so, on occasions, men are transferred there from Port Pirie or some nearer port to hasten the turn-round of ships. But on those occasions the waterside worker does not transfer at his own expense and there is no likelihood that he will be required to transfer to yet another port when his work at Port Augusta cuts out. His transfer expenses are paid - rightly so - because he is being moved to meet the convenience of his employer. But the waterside worker has enjoyed this benefit only in recent years.
The honorable member for Warringah referred to unauthorized stoppages and stated that the waterside workers ceased work whenever they felt like it. But the benefits that they now enjoy have been gained only because they have more or less taken matters into their own hands. Before they obtained those benefits as a right they were at the mercy of the shipowners and stevedoring companies. As an example, let me refer to attendance money. Why were the waterside workers granted attendance money? The shipowners and various employer organizations such as the one of which the honorable member for Warringah was the secretary wanted to make sure that they would have suitable men available when required and would not be obliged to fall back on just any one who came along and who perhaps was not able to do the work satisfactorily. In the old days when sufficient waterside workers were not available practically any one was given a job. Then the shipowners decided to register the waterside workers. The honorable member stated that when the books were opened there was a rush of men to register for employment on the waterfront. Does he claim that any Tom, Dick or Harry was registered when the books were opened? That is not so. Unless an applicant measures up to the physical requirements he is not registered, and unless he is registered he cannot work on the water front. The composition of the waterside workers organization has been altered gradually. Now, only the fittest men are employed, so that the work can be done quicker than was previously the case.
The quicker turn-round of ships has been mentioned. What did this Parliament have in mind when the Stevedoring Industry Act was amended last year? What was behind the long service leave provisions? Everyone regards long service leave as some recognition of the many years of work that a man has done in his industry. But what has been the result of the Government’s legislation? Men in my district who are 70 years of age but still able to work came to me and said that they had been dismissed because their employers wanted younger men on the job. The Government talks about giving benefits to the waterside workers but these benefits are penalizing the older men. What can be done for the man who says, “ I am 70 and the employers are not prepared to allow me to continue working, so I have to take my long service leave “? Before the long service leave provisions were included in the act a man of 70, if he could not cope with the job on a full-time basis, was given work on a couple of days a week. He would earn perhaps £7 a week and would be able to collect full pensions for himself and his wife, giving him a total income of about £17 a week. Some men of 70 have wives who are under 60 years of age and so are not entitled to a pension. These waterside workers can no longer obtain part-time work because employment on the waterfront is practically limited to permanent staff. The husband receives £5 5s. a week but if his wife is, say, 58 years of age she receives nothing, not even the wife’s allowance. And the Government talks about its magnaminous action and how the waterside workers should look up to it with respect! In theory the Government’s proposal is satisfactory, but when you go into the question you find that the theoretical proposition does not carry the men very far.
– Have all the men of 70 got wives of 58?
– Not all of them. Some have wives a year or two older than themselves. In those cases they receive the glorious income of £10 10s. a week with which to keep themselves. What a wonderful income - £10 10s. a week for a man of 70 and his wife of similar age! What is the position in private industry? I know hundreds of men working in big firms who are well over 70 years of age. They do not have to retire because they are 70. They do not have to go on the scrap heap, as it were.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) probably thought that his interjection about men of 70 having wives of 58 was pretty clever, but all it did was to give me the opportunity to point out that instead of a man of 70 who has a wife of, perhaps, 72 being able to get a couple of days work hooking-on, rolling a few drums, or doing other jobs on the waterfront, he has to go on the scrap heap. I know many men in that position who could earn a little extra pay, probably £7, by doing a few hours work on the little boats that come in, but they are debarred from doing so. Honorable members opposite should not glory in what the Government has done for the waterside workers.
Now let us turn to long service leave. Two or three weeks ago a man asked me whether I could do anything for him in respect of long service leave. I said to him: “What about your organization? One of your officials rang me up to say that you wanted to see me. “ He replied, “Yes, they are satisfied that nothing can be done and that I cannot get long service leave “. I asked him his history and he told me that he had been a waterside worker before the war, and had enlisted in 1940 and had gone overseas. When he came back he was not as good a man physically as he had been when he joined up, and could not take up waterside work at that time. He had to get himself lighter work to carry him over for several years until he regained his strength and rejoined the Waterside Workers Federation in 1947. He said to me: “ Now I am told that my qualifying time for long service leave starts only from 1947. What about the time I served in the forces? “ I told him that, of course, he could not expect to have counted in his qualifying period the three or four years he was working away from the waterfront.
The fact is that this man’s qualifying period counted only from 1947 because he was not a registered waterside worker before that date. And why was he not registered? People talk about patriotism. The reason he was not registered was that in 1942, when registration of waterside workers was introduced, he was serving abroad with the forces. He was not working as a waterside worker then, simply because he was away fighting for his country. Had he been working on the waterfront instead of serving overseas in the forces he could have been registered.. A private firm would have treated him more generously on his return from the war than he has been treated. Had he been working with a private firm he would have gone back to his old job and would have had the period of his war service recognized as a period of service with the firm.
We are told that the waterside workers are Communists who are spreading Communist propaganda on the waterfront with the help of their Communist trade union officials. At the present time there is a new general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation. That man came to Port Adelaide when the ballot for that position was on, and addressed the waterside workers there. I know that the great bulk of Labour Party members in that organization voted for him. I have never heard any of you people opposite say that the president of the organization was a Communist. Even the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) never said that. I knew the president when he was a lad. I knew him when he was an active member of the Trades and Labour Council, before he ever worked on the waterfront or was elected to the presidency of the federation. I know his family and I know that all its members are opposed to communism. Yet we are told to-day that such people are spreading Communist propaganda on the waterfront.
I may appear to be getting a bit warm on this subject, but I think that I am entitled to do so when I regard the position of the older men in the industry. I am no youngster myself, and I can appreciate their position. These older men in the waterfront industry include men with whom I went to school, men whom I have known politically during all my parliamentary life and men whom I have known in the industrial movement - and I know how much against communism they are. Yet I hear this kind of attack coming from the honorable member for Warringah. I hope that I am giving him a dressing down, and that next time he speaks he will forget all this talk about the spreading of Communist propaganda and will deal with the matter that is actually before the House - what is being done for these men and what they deserve to have done for them. The position of the man of whom I have just spoken is the fault not of the honorable member but of the Government that drew up this legislation, which gives no recognition to such men for their services.
The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. O’Brien), I should say, knows almost as much about this matter from the inside as the honorable member for Warringah does. He knows very well that what I have been saying is correct. When we say anything on behalf of the waterside workers now we are accused of helping to spread Communist propaganda. I remember in the old days the talk was all about the members of the I.W.W.- the “I Won’t Work” as they were called. People were not called Communists then, they were called Bolsheviks, and any one who dared to speak on behalf of workers was immediately called a fellow traveller, if not a Bolshevik. I say that if some honorable members opposite are not capitalists in their outlook they are at least always trying to advance the interests of the big man and the big company, so they themselves are fellow travellers of those people.
Now let me return more closely to the bill. I do not think that I have gone beyond replying to statements that have been made by honorable members opposite, so that my remarks have been fairly in order. An honorable member opposite spoke about the amenities on the wharfs - canteens and all the rest of it. I asked him to come around with me to the I.C.I, plants, to the plant of the Electricity Trust of South Australia and to some of the superphosphate works, and see what the workers in those places have. I recently visited a fruit-packing plant at Renmark, in South Australia, where the workers were engaged in making cans and cases, and was invited to have a cup of tea there at lunch time. The canteen there is similar to the kind of refreshment room that one sees on a railway station, with a young lady serving. This was something in an ordinary private factory, and no honorable member opposite will find anything better in the way of amenities on the wharfs. Does not the honorable member think that a waterside worker is as entitled to a good canteen as anybody else is? Is he not entitled to a good place in which to eat his meal and to good surroundings and good amenities? Should he not have a good place where he can wash when he knocks off work?
Away back in 1943, when I was a member of the Commonwealth Housing Commission I visited the zinc plant at Broken Hill and saw the facilities available for the workers there. There are hot showers for them, lockers in which to hang their clothes and supplies of working clothes for them. The honorable member seems to think that because industrial clothing is supplied to waterside workers they are getting some special consideration. Why, nineteen years ago I saw all that kind of thing being done in Broken Hill!
We hear about all the agitation among watersiders and all the stoppages on the waterfront. I remind honorable members that it is only by fighting for the things that they should have that people like waterside workers ever get those things. The amenities that miners and workers in other industries have gained have been gained only because they fought for them.
Now I return to long service Lave. The Minister, as well as the honorable member for Warringah, spoke about what the Government has done in regard to longservice leave on the waterfront. The Minister knows that last year we fought tooth and nail at the committee stage of the legislation then before the Parliament in regard to the penalities attached to qualification for long-service leave. If a man stopped work for a day he could lose four days from his entitlement period for longservice leave.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that penalties are outside the legislation before the chair.
– I will not deal with penalties, but I will reply to the honorable member in regard to unauthorized stoppages, what he said they were doing to the industry, and the legislation which passed this Parliament, designed to cut down stoppages according to the Government. Any blame for legislative provisions belongs to the Government and not to the honorable member individually. In the past, if the 2,000 men employed on the Adelaide waterfront stopped work and the employers took a successful court action against them and their organization could have a fine of £1,000 inflicted upon it. It would not be so much for just one port, but under this decision to increase attendance money from 24s. to 28s. 3d. a day, with 2,000 men involved the penalty, instead of being £1,000, would be £5,000. If there was an unauthorized general stoppage for one day the men would lose four days’ appearance money, amounting to £100,000. So do not make sweeping claims about the great benefits they receive, but rather remember what the men are suffering under this legislation. A stop-work meeting is simply a protest against the conditions I am speaking about. Would you not say the men were entitled to have a protest meeting over them? If they take this sort of thing lying down they will get nowhere with their suggestions for remedial measures.
I am not altogether in agreement with some of my colleagues on the question of the cost. A person who works for General Motors-Holden’s Proprietary Limited or some other big firm gets annual leave, sick leave and long service leave, and the firm meets all those charges. I contend that the shipping industry similarly should meet such charges. In the old days a man might work for one stevedoring firm to-day and another stevedoring firm to-morrow, and consequently the position with respect to payment for annual leave was difficult. Now the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority takes the responsibility for these payments. The bill increases the rate of the stevedoring industry charge from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 4d. a man-hour in order to meet these costs. I want to emphasize - as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) pointed out in bis secondreading speech - that prior to the introduction of the legislation about two years ago the firms themselves paid for annual leave, sick leave and statutory holidays. Then the
Stevedoring Industry Authority became responsible for the payments. I am not so much concerned about the effect of such payments on a firm. If a member of my family was working for the Myer Emporium in Adelaide and that firm had to meet these charges, it would add the cost to the price of the goods it sold. The position has been the same with the shipping industry. I would not pass any definite opinion on the proposition that the Government should create an instrumentality to employ waterside workers. I approve of this bill because I believe that the men engaged in the waterfront industry are just as much entitled to these conditions of employment as are men in other industries.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– in reply - I rise only to correct some misapprehensions that might be in the minds of some speakers in this debate. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said that prior to the introduction of the long service leave bill in 1961 I failed to consult the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation. The fact of the matter is that I did consult both those organizations.
– After you had the bill drawn.
– That is a quibble. If you like to put it that way, I had a bill drawn, as is usual-
– You also made a press announcement.
– I made a press announcement and I had consultations with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation. In deference to the presentation of the case by the Australian Council of Trade Unions I made certain amendments to the draft bill before I brought it into the House.
– You made an announcement on the bill as printed.
– Take your medicinel Members of the Opposition never learn to take it.
– I am only stating the facts.
– If you care to look at what I did, Mr. Speaker, you will note that I referred to the facts in my second-reading speech, when the bill was introduced into the Parliament. So there is no good reason for misunderstanding, even though the honorable member, as he claims, might have been on an industrial committee which looked into the matter. The second point raised by the honorable gentleman was that some anomaly exists in regard to whether service in the armed forces should be taken into consideration when computing the amount of long-service leave to which a waterside worker is entitled. When introducing the measure I did state that service in the armed forces would be taken into consideration when computing long service leave. But that implied that the person concerned had been registered on the waterfront before he served in the armed forces, that he went to the war and that, on his return, he continued service on the waterfront. Some anomalies have been referred to; for example, when a person served in the armed forces but did not work on the waterfront until subsequent to the war years. As I said to the House - and as you, Mr. Speaker, will remember - there are still some anomalies which have been brought to my attention, and this is one of them. I am looking at them. As soon as it is possible for me to state what decisions can be made by the Government I will announce them.
I come now to what was said by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. O’Brien). I welcome him here, as I welcome my colleague, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle), because I can see that like the honorable member for Warringah he has a first-class knowledge of the problems of the waterfront. Whenever a debate on these problems is raised in this House you can be certain that the honorable member for Warringah will bring a wealth of common sense and knowledge to the deliberations of this chamber. [Quorum formed.] I had in mind to suggest, Sir, that you might be prepared to give the honorable member who called for a quorum an all-day sucker or a skipping rope, but I will refrain from mak ing that suggestion to you. I welcome the contribution made to the debate by the honorable member for Petrie because he does understand conditions on the waterfront and the work of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. I hope he will be able to help us in our work in this chamber whenever waterfront matters are being debated. He made a suggestion that neither I nor any other member on this side of the House could accept. He suggested that the Government should create an instrumentality which would employ waterside workers. In other words, he wanted to socialize the waterfront industry and the work of stevedoring. That would ultimately mean compulsion of labour. I do not believe in compulsion of labour. I do not believe in socialization and I would not be prepared to accept the idea that these people should be employed by a government instrumentality.
The honorable member will probably recall that the changes made on the waterfront were largely the result of the findings of the Tate committee in 1956. That committee set down certain principles on which it thought the organization of the waterfront should proceed. The Government accepted those recommendations. We think that since then the operation of the act has been successful and we do not think that any fundamental changes to the present system are necessary. While I believe that there has been some success, I hope that we can move forward from that success and do better in future. By way of illustration, let us first consider industrial disputes. The number of man-hours lost on the waterfront has dropped to onetenth of the number lost a few years ago. The number of man-hours lost in February was about 706 as compared with an average of 60,000 in the months immediately before the long service leave legislation was introduced.
As to costs, we must make the most strenuous efforts to reduce transport costs. I think it is worthy of comment that over the last two years there has been no general increase in international shipping freights and we are assured that, for the next two years, the maximum increase will be 5 per cent. That is guaranteed. Freights might not even increase by 5 per cent, because voyage costs are to be examined and if it is found that they did not increase by 5 per cent, last year then the maximum increase of 5 per cent, for the next two years will be correspondingly reduced. I do not say that this is something which we should crow about. I do not say that it is a superlative effort, and in view of what has happened overseas, it is worthy of recording and worthy of some commendation.
The only other matter mentioned by the honorable member for Petrie with which I shall deal is his statement that employment on the waterfront should be permanent. I am sure he knows that the reason why we have not been able to achieve permanency on the waterfront, although we would like to achieve it, is, in the words of the Tate report, that the employment is casual and the demand for labour changes so quickly from time to time both in terms of timing and in terms of quantity that it is well-nigh impossible to provide permanent employment. I should like to achieve it if I could. If I could think of some administrative or other mechanism which would bring permanency without loss of efficiency and increased costs I would be only too happy to introduce an appropriate bill.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) raised the question whether this particular stevedoring levy should be absorbed by the Government. I think, as the honorable gentleman has said, that this is a cost in the ordinary sense of the word. All other industries have to pay their own costs and the consumer or, perhaps, the shareholder, has to pay the price. I can see no reason why the waterfront industry should be different from any other kind of industry in this respect. I point out that 9d. of the increase of lOd. mentioned in the bill had already been absorbed by the shipping companies because they originally paid the cost of annual leave themselves. By decision of the presidential member of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission responsible for the stevedoring industry, that responsibility was given to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. So what we find here is a change in the person responsible for paying for the annual and long service leave to the waterside workers and a change, consequently, in the person who should receive the levy from the owners. In this case, instead of the ship-owners receiving the money from the consumer, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority will receive it and will pay it out.
I think those are the points that have been made. I again pay tribute to the honorable member for Petrie and the honorable member for Warringah because I think that they have made worthwhile contributions to the debate. I hope that they will continue to play their part in the future when stevedoring matters are under discussion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Mr. Chairman, there are one or two observations that I want to make in relation to the spending of the money proposed to be raised by the bill. It is proposed to increase the amount of the levy from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 4d. per man-hour worked. It is strange that the more hours that are worked the greater the amount of money that will come into the fund and the smaller the amount of money that will come out in payment of attendance money. I suppose that this is a peculiarity of this industry. We shall keep in mind that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said that the Government hopes that this measure will stabilize this situation for some time.
I have in mind some of the comments that have been made about the Stevedoring Industry Authority and the amount that has been spent on amenities and waterfront services. I hope that payment from the fund for long service leave will not result in any deterioration of the amenities provided for waterside workers. It was strange to hear an honorable member complimented after he had painted a bright picture of the amenities that are available to waterside workers. Surely nobody can be very pleased about the amount that was spent in the financial year 1960-61 on amenities. For instance, the net operating cost of the waterfront food service was about £1 per man per year. I wonder what kind of food service you would get for £1 per man per year in any industry. Expenditure on the whole range of amenities and services including transport, medical services, press and radio advertising, food service, transfers and depreciation, was only a little over £8 per man per year. When an honorable member says that he is happy about the extent of these amenities and is complimented by the Minister on his remarks it leaves me a bit cold. I warn honorable members opposite who criticize what I say about a measure that if they continue to charge me with adopting the Communist form of presentation of an argument the chickens will surely come home to roost somewhere along the line. I have not been accustomed to that kind of accusation in this House and those who choose to brand me in that way must be prepared to take whatever comes back because I shall surely hit back at them.
I come now to administrative expenses, which amounted to £603,000 last year. I am hopeful, after hearing what the Minister has said, that this figure will become stable, but it can become stable only if we have continuity of employment on the waterfront. Everybody would be happier if that were so, because the nearer we get to permanent employment on the waterfront, the lower operating costs will be. If the Minister is thinking of a change in Government policy; if in future the Government’s policy is something different from what we have had over the last eighteen months; if the new policy will give some kind of stability of waterfront charges to exporters and importers, as well as make for a more uniform level of employment on the waterfront so that the term “ permanent “ will become more literally true than it has been in the past, everybody will be very much happier.
I do not want to traverse matters that I discussed in my second-reading speech, except to say that I am pleased to hear that talks are taking place between the Minister and the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions in regard to future expenditure on long service leave. The Minister has taken the very wise precaution, even at this late hour, of discussing certain disabilities of the industry with the leaders of the trade union movement. Earlier, in another debate, I complained about the lack of such consultation, and the Minister knows that on the last occasion when we considered this matter-
– Order! The honorable member is getting a little away from the matters covered by the clauses before the committee. While honorable members may make passing reference to certain matters associated with the industry which are beyond the scope of the clauses before the committee, they should not launch into almost a secondreading speech when discussing the clauses of the bill. We are now considering all the clauses together and I ask the honorable member for Blaxland to relate his remarks to the matters covered by those clauses.
– I have a full appreciation of the scope within which I must work, Mr. Chairman, and 1 am endeavouring to keep within it. What we are considering now is the new figure for administrative expenses which the Minister regards as a stable figure. We are now discussing the proposed new charge of 3s. 4d. and what flows from it. I suggest we are entitled to look at the arrangements that are being made. All I am saying is that I am hopeful that the new levy will be the means of making available sufficient funds to meet the additional cost that will be involved in connexion with not only long service leave but also other amenities that will be necessary. If it is not sufficient, then the charge will have to be reconsidered at some future date. I am hoping that if this figure is stable it will not be taken as a factor in determining whether something more than £8 per man per year should be spent on amenities for workers on the waterfront, especially when we remember that this £8 covers telephone and radio costs. To my mind, £8 a year is by no means enough to spend on amenities. Certainly it in no way parallels the expenditure by private enterprise on the provision of amenities for employees. I make that point most emphatically because I have seen some of the amenities being provided by private enterprise. These amenities are being provided because those engaged in private industry realize that they make for more contentment amongst the employees, and that is of the utmost importance. Go into any new factory or any new organization and .see what is being done for the employees. I was at one establishment the other day where the owners have a great area of land. I asked, “ What do you propose to do with this land?” They said: “We do not propose to do anything with it other than use it for our new amenities area. It gets pretty hot around this place and we propose to put in a swimming pool so that our employees may have a swim in the meal hour. That will make for better production in the mornings and in the afternoons.” In considering the proposed new levy of 3s. 4d., I am thinking of the provision of far better amenities than we have at present on the waterfront. Now is the opportune time to talk about these matters rather than during the second-reading debate because at this stage we can pinpoint just where the money is going and the way in which it is likely to be divided. That is tremendously important having regard to the authority’s last report as to the way in which this money was spent.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. O’BRIEN (Petrie) 14.221. - I wish to discuss again the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act and its effect on the economy of Australia. It has been accepted that the stevedoring industry charge does have some influence on freight charges.
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that when a bill is being considered in committee either the clauses are discussed separately or the bill is taken as a whole. When clauses are being discussed separately, an honorable member must confine his remarks to the matters covered by the particular clause under discussion. He is not permitted to launch into broader aspects of the legislation that have been dealt with during the second-reading debate. When a bill is being discussed as a whole an honorable member must confine his remarks to the matters covered by the clauses of the bill. In proceeding to discuss the relationship of a particular charge to the economic structure of the country the honorable member is seeking to cover matters which may be dealt with only in the wider debate on the motion for the second reading of the bill.
– I am arguing that the proposed new levy of 3s. 4d. to cover the administration of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, which must carry out the provisions of the principal act of 1956, is insufficient. As has been stated of the proposed increase of 10d., the employers have already been contributing 9d. and Id. has gone towards the payment of attendance money. Last year this Parliament passed an act relating to long service leave and it is assumed that in arriving at the present levy of 2s. 6d. allowance was made for the setting up of a reserved fund by the employer for the payment of long service leave. No doubt the increase from 24s. to 28s. 3d. a day included the additional Id. for attendance money. One point that must be considered now is whether the Government believes that the proposed increase will provide sufficient money to cover the cost of implementing the long service leave legislation. According to the authority’s report for 1960-61, a total of £1,082,223 was paid out in attendance money during that year. If there is an increase of 4s. 3d. in attendance money and if all other factors, including the flow of cargo in and out, the man-hours worked and the surplus labour, remain at about the same level, an additional sum of £155,000 will have to be raised. Yet a simple calculation based on manhours worked in 1960-61 shows that an increase of Id. in this charge will yield £126,000. Since long service leave payments began five months ago, they have totalled £325,000.
Where is the money to pay for these commitments to come from? An increase of Id. in the charge is not sufficient to pay attendance money, and no provision has been made for the payment of long service leave. One must assume, therefore, that the Stevedoring Industry Authority has accumulated funds. We know from the last annual report that the authority has some accumulated funds; but are they sufficient to meet all commitments? What will long service leave cost in a full year on the basis of £325,000 for the first five months of the operation of these provisions? There are probably 20,000 waterside workers in Australia, and a survey of age groups shows that in Queensland the average age is 56 years. Therefore, one can assume that in 1964, at least 50 per cent, of the registered waterside workers will be eligible for long service leave. Obviously, all of them will not be permitted to go on leave at once, but we must provide sufficient funds to enable 2,000 waterside workers to go on long service leave each year. At the ruling average cost of £230, this leave will absorb about £500,000 a year.
Ever since the long service leave legislation was introduced, there has been concern about the restrictions on the qualifications of some waterside workers for long service leave. The demand for more money under the measure before the committee will not be so great because of those restrictions. Negotiations in that connexion are in train with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and, incidentally, it may be true to say that the waterside workers have refrained from taking direct action because of those negotiations. That may be the reason why there have been no stoppages recently although, according to press reports yesterday, there are indications of impatience on the waterfront. It may be that the A.C.T.U. will be successful in ironing out many anomalies; if so, many waterside workers will qualify for long service leave earlier.
The Government has introduced this bill in the full knowledge that long service leave payments have to be met. It knows that these payments have amounted to £325,000 in the past five months and that there will be many applications for leave in 1964. Is not provision to be made for these payments; or is a measure similar to this one to be introduced very soon? Is it fair to be paying for long service leave now from the money that is to bc raised under the terms of this bill?
The Stevedoring Industry Authority is also supposed to provide amenities. I say quite deliberately that the authority has been retarded by this Government in carrying out its proper duties. How are members of the staff of the authority to learn how to assist in the expeditious handling of cargo on the waterfront and advise the employers unless they travel overseas and throughout Australia to broaden their knowledge? Is the Stevedoring Industry Authority to be hamstrung for ever by lack of funds? Obviously, the increase of one penny in the stevedoring industry charge for attendance money is insufficient. Money is also required for long service leave. We hope that bills of this nature are not to be introduced every five minutes. We have to assume that the Government believes that the funds to be provided under this measure will be sufficient for a long time.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This debate has given the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. O’Brien) a good opportunity to regale the committee with his wide knowledge of the waterfront. Surely, with his expert knowledge, the honorable member realizes that the Government has looked very carefully at the stevedoring industry charge over the past few years. Honorable members would be wise if they considered how the funds have been accumulating since the charge was raised to 2s. 6d. The honorable member for Petrie answered many of his own questions when he said there bad been an accumulation of money in the fund. Obviously, the Government has taken steps to meet the position.
The Parliament has passed a number of measures dealing with the stevedoring industry over the past months. The Government is well aware of the likely charges that may have to be met for some years ahead and it has made the necessary arrangements to meet them. Does the honorable member for Petrie believe that the Government would introduce this measure suddenly without making the necessary calculations? It would be very strange if we on this side of the chamber did not know better than that. We are just as well aware of these matters as are members of the Opposition, and surely the honorable member for Petrie would not expect the Government to be ignorant of these things in the circumstances. Funds have accumulated and, in addition, an extra charge is to be made to meet commitments. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has said quite clearly that the charge of 3s. 4d. will cover all the charges that have to be met.
I am glad that the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) raised the question of amenities. He knows that I am just as keen on seeing amenities provided as he is. Both of us have spent some time around ports to ascertain how amenities could be improved. Not only the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority provides amenities, although it has given a lot of attention to these matters. Some money is also provided by the stevedoring companies and the funds for amenities do not come only from the stevedoring industry charge. We would like to see the amenities on the wharfs improved, but it is true that what has already been done has brought more contentment on the waterfront. It is also true that other measures have made the waterside workers more content in the past few months.
One such measure dealt with the problem of the aged workers on the waterfront. Because the older men were not leaving the industry, there were not sufficient openings for younger men. The fact that we are getting a better spread of age groups and are not concentrating work on a comparatively few men because so many were too old to do the jobs will make for more contentment in the industry. That has obviously been well in the forefront of the mind of the Government and is shown in the measures enacted in the past few months.
The most important point of all - this was raised by the honorable member for Blaxland - is continuity of work. I point out to the honorable member that over the last few months we have had peace on the waterfront and so have been able to convert an industry that was dying on its feet into a flourishing industry. People were leaving the industry. Over the last five years, the number of waterside workers has decreased by 1,000 a year and the number of seamen on the coast has decreased by 300 a year. This situation has now changed. New ships are being built and new services opened. To-day, it is cheaper and quicker to send goods from Sydney to Fremantle by sea than by road or rail. The action of the Government has encouraged the rebirth of an industry and the people in it now have greater continuity of work and greater contentment. The measures introduced by the Government will ensure that continuity of work is maintained and that money is available for the provision of amenities.
I want to refer to only one other matter, and that is the suggestion of the honorable member for Petrie that such benefits as long service leave, sick leave and annual leave should not be paid out of the fund. Apparently he believes that all the taxpayers throughout the whole of Australia should pay for them. This idea that the leave of waterside workers should be a burden placed on the whole of the community does seem to be rather odd. Such a suggestion has never been made about any other industry. The cost of amenities and benefits provided in private enterprise is met by the employer or is a charge levied on the sale of goods. Similarly, the cost of leave and other benefits for waterside workers should be a charge on those who use the waterfront service. I really cannot understand the view of the honorable member for Petrie; it did seem a curious view to express in this chamber.
I hope that the few thoughts I have expressed will help, particularly, the honorable member for Blaxland to adopt a more progressive view as to what is actually taking place on the waterfront at present.
.- Obviously the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) did not understand my suggestion. I suggested that the stevedoring industry charge should be broken up into parts and that the Government should pay out of Consolidated Revenue the cost of administration of the authority, just as it pays for the administration of other government departments. The stevedoring industry charge could then be used to pay for those benefits which the arbitration court directs shall be given to the men.
I have been advised that the Government has gone deeply into the arithmetic of this matter. I am very pleased to be assured that it has calculated that the levy will pay for long service leave. We can assume, therefore, that the levy will not be increased for many years, because the industry now has the fringe benefits, as they have been called, of annual leave, sick leave, long service leave and so on. However, the honorable member for Fawkner said that the Government has solved the problem of the stevedoring industry, and I think I should reply to him on that point. I say in all sincerity that there is peace on the waterfront for two prime reasons. The first is that the Australian Council of Trade
Unions is representing the waterfront employees in negotiations on long service leave and will not cause embarrassment during the negotiations by taking direct action. The second is that there is a shortage of shipping. History shows that when there is a shortage of shipping, the ship-owner stamps his feet; when there is a shortage of labour, the employee stamps his feet.
In many ports, the men are working for one and a half days a week. In Queensland, average earnings are £9, £10 or £11 a week and men are working for only fifteen or sixteen hours a week.
– Orderl I think the honorable member now is getting a little away from the provisions of the bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
.- I move- [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 14).]
[Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 15).]
[Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 16).]
[Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 17).]
The proposals to amend the Customs Tariff 1933-1961 which I have just introduced deal with three new commodities - glass fibres, continuous or chopped, electric shavers and man-made fibre yarns.
Temporary duties on the glass products operated from 23rd March, 1962, this action having been taken by “ Gazette “ notice. Copies of the notice were circulated to honorable members at that time. Temporary duties are imposed on assembled complete or substantially complete electric shavers. However, the additional protection will not apply to unassembled parts which will continue to be subject to normal tariff provision, largely non-protective. These duties follow a report by a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board and the need for protection will subsequently be reported on by the Tariff Board.
On continuous man-man fibre yarns, the Tariff Board report has been received and accepted by the Government. The existing duties on viscose rayon tire yarns are being extended to all types of continuous manmade fibre, high-tenacity industrial yarns. In this regard there has been quite a swing to nylon yarn for the manufacture of tire cord and tire cord fabric for vehicle tires and this nylon yarn is now made in Australia. In addition reduced duties will apply to monofil of a weight greater than 60 denier - that is to say, weighing 6.6. milligramms per metre or more.
The remaining alteration to palm oil modifies the proposal recently introduced on 7th March, 1962, following report by a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board. This modification more faithfully implements the deputy chairman’s recommendations and intentions.
I commend the proposals to honorable members and hope that an opportunity to debate all proposals tabled this session will arise before the Easter recess.
– I lay on the table of the House a report by the Tariff Board on continuous man-made fibre yarns.
I also lay on the table of the House reports by deputy chairmen of the Tariff Board on the question whether temporary duties should be imposed on -
Electric shavers; and
Fibre glass textile materials.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 7th March (vide page 519), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition supports this bill, the purpose of which is to make a non-repayable grant of £10,000,000 to the States for the purpose of relieving unemployment throughout Australia. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in a very short second-reading speech on 7th March, 1962, informed the House that the measure is one of a series which the Government is introducing in an attempt to put the economy back on an even keel. He said - the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) . . . intimated that the Government was concerned both at the level of unemployment which was then evident, and at the weakness of confidence which existed. He went on to outline a series of measures which the Government intended to take to deal with this situation.
It is true, Mr. Speaker, that there is a very high level of unemployment. It is also true that confidence has been at a pretty low ebb. This Government has caused the decline of confidence by the action it took on 15th November, 1960, in introducing what has come to be known as the credit squeeze. As a result of that squeeze the number of cases of bankruptcy increased throughout the country and the level of unemployment rose considerably. During 1960, when the Government removed import restrictions, Australia was flooded with imports, and we saw the employment position deteriorating. The Opposition directed the attention of the Government to the position, and in 1961, after the increasing unemployment figures were accelerated as a result of the credit squeeze, the Prime Minister took no action. At a press conference on 29th August, 1961, he said: -
At the moment we are fractionally short of full employment.
At that time 113,000 persons were unemployed, and all the Prime Minister had to say was that we were fractionally short of full employment. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) appeared on a television programme in Brisbane on 30th July, 1961. At that time there were about 1 13,000 persons unemployed, and the Minister said: -
We did not anticipate that unemployment would reach these proportions.
Well, Mr. Speaker, it is a pretty poor lookout for this country if a Minister of the Government can say, “We did not anticipate that unemployment would reach these proportions “, after the Government had taken the action that it did on 15th November, 1960, and subsequently.
The Treasurer talks about restoring confidence. How can the 112,250 persons registered to-day as unemployed have confidence in the Government’s policy? How can their wives spend normally? The results of a recent Gallup poll and of the recent elections in New South Wales and South Australia showed quite clearly that this Government is as unpopular as it was on 9th December, 1961. Confidence has not been restored. Had there been any restoration of confidence the results of those State election, would have been quite different.
The Treasurer said in his second-reading speech that special consideration has been given to Queensland and Tasmania because the level of unemployment is highest in those States. Queensland has been getting a lot of attention since 9th December last. We had an unprecedented visit by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) at a time when no election was in the offing. When they came to Queensland there was a great fanfare of trumpets. It was said that everything in the garden would be lovely. They came to Queensland about the end of January.
– What was wrong with that?
– Our friend asks, “ What was wrong with that? “ I would like to refer to an article that appeared in the Brisbane “Telegraph” on 12th February of this year. It is headed, “Early Spooner Visit is State Pursuit “, and the article reads -
Arrangements are expected to be made in Canberra this week for an early visit to Queensland by the National Development Minister, Senator Spooner. The State Government wants Senator Spooner and his department’s officers to make a detailed investigation of its development proposals as soon as possible.
This was approximately twelve days after the visit of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister who, according to the newspaper, came to Queensland ostensibly to investigate the causes of the unprecedented unemployment in that State, and to investigate the economic position of the State generally. Twelve days later we see a report about the State Government asking for the Minister for National Development also to come to Queensland. Incidentally, he was up there the other day. He had a talk about oil and cleared out. Nobody saw him except the Queensland Minister for Mines. The article goes on -
Schemes to hasten .Queensland’s development were put to the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. McEwen, in Brisbane on January 26-27.
On 12th February the request was made for a visit by Senator Spooner, and as yet we have heard nothing concerning the schemes thai were put before the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. Certainly we have heard of what took place on 12th February when the Premiers met the Prime Minister and discussed certain schemes that the Government proposed for the purpose of trying to rehabilitate the economy or to make some kind of an improvement, but we have heard nothing in Queensland as to the special schemes to be prepared for the purpose of grappling with the unemployment problem in that State. In August, I960, the meatworks in Queensland, particularly at Gladstone, were closing, and they faced an unprecedentedly long slack period. At that time, I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) what he intended to do to assist in overcoming the unemployment that was occurring, especially at Gladstone and the other main ports in Queensland, such as Rockhampton and Townsville. I got a brush-off from the Minister. All he said was, “ It is seasonal “. Of course employment in the meatworks is seasonal. So is employment in the sugar industry, for that matter. Nothing was done by this Government to help overcome the unemployment that occurred. Is it any wonder, then, that the general election on 9th December last resulted in the return of an increased number of members on this side of the Parliament?
I now want to discuss the reduction of the numbers of the unemployed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A return issued by the Department of Labour and National Service recently showed that there was a slight reduction in the unemployment figures for February compared with those for January. The number unemployed increased in January compared with the figure for December. In Queensland, there was a drop of only 0.6 per cent, in the number of the unemployed as indicated by the February figures, despite the assurances of 7th February, as a result of which action should already have been taken by the State Government and semi-governmental bodies in an effort to relieve unemployment. We have the existing uprecedentedly high level of unemployment at a time when the economy of this country should be at its peak. This is a time when there should be no unemployment.
As I said at the outset, the responsibility for the present situation can be laid at the door of this Government. Its policy with regard to imports and its introduction of the credit squeeze are the cause of the present situation. The Prime Minister said that unemployment of 113,000 people represented only fractional unemployment. That was a recent description of the situation by him. That level of unemployment is approximately the same as the number of people unemployed to-day. During the debate on the Budget in August and September of last year, the Opposition directed attention to the fact that Australia’s economic difficulties, including the rising level of unemployment, were due to the flood of imports and the drastic credit restrictions of November, 1960. The doasyouwere Budget which was presented last year only added to the country’s existing difficulties. In the debate on the last Budget, and during the subsequent general election campaign, the Opposition declared that a bold expansionist policy was needed to rectify the position. This is a young country with a growing economy, and expansion should never be hindered.
Surely we learned the hard way, particularly from 1929 to 1932, that the continuation of a policy of restriction during a period of deflation only adds to economic difficulties, particularly with regard to employment. The policy of deflation which was imposed by means of the credit restrictions of 1960 has caused the difficulties in which this Government now finds itself. After the depression which began in 1929 had ended, economists everywhere told us that if a reverse policy - an expansionist policy - had been adopted during that great economic depression, government expenditure being increased in order to take up the slack, we would not have felt the depression so much as we did. I read somewhere that the Prime Minister had said that he knew as much as the leading economists knew. Apparently, after a delay of fifteen or eighteen months, during which we have passed through a period of depression, he is now adopting a policy of expansion by making £10,000,000 available for expenditure by 30th June next.
The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) said at one stage that the Government had not expected the number of unemployed to rise as high as it did. Apparently, the Government never inquired into the likely results of its economic policy in terms of employment. It is now running about in circles and trying to rectify the situation that it has caused. The results of the State general elections earlier this month in New South Wales and South Australia, of course, have only increased the Government’s anxiety and hastened its efforts to rehabilitate its standing in the eyes of the community. A recent gallup poll showed that the community is still against the Government. The “ Brisbane Telegraph”, in a leading article in its issue of 12th February, stated -
Expert economists are placing more and more emphasis on the importance of keeping money in circulation; they say the black days are past and that the time has come to unbutton and to spend normally.
The road back to full employment will be shorter if every Australian applies that principle with confidence.
Confidence can come only with a change of government in this place. As was indicated by a gallup poll a fortnight ago, the people still wish to see a change of government in Canberra. That is necessary if their confidence is to be restored.
Do we ever hear anything now from members on the other side of the Parliament about full employment? The fullemployment policy was inaugurated by the Chifley Government so that the Australian economy could be continually expanded, and particularly so that we could absorb in employment all the people whom we were bringing from displaced persons camps on the other side of the world. This policy was designed to promote and speed up the development of the country. It is a tragedy that, as a result of the economic restrictions imposed by the present Government, 112,000 people are registered for employment and cannot get it. Those people could be contributing to the development of this country if the Government only had the wit and the will to see that they were fully employed, because jobs are crying out to be done. Before I conclude, I intend to make one or two suggestions about ways in which those who are at present unemployed could be profitably employed with great advantage to Australia’s development
I pass on now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to some statements made during the general election campaign by the Prime Minister.
As I said earlier, during the debate on the last Budget, the Australian Labour Party put forward what was, in effect, a policy of expansion - a policy which subsequently formed the basis of Labour’s policy speech in the election campaign. On 6th’ December, three days before polling day, the Prime Minister, commenting on Labour’s election policy, said -
Labour’s programme will add hundreds of millions to the already rising Commonwealth expenditure . . . What is Mr. Calwell going to use for money unless He forces upon the Reserve Bank the creation of vast sums of money unmatched by new production?
Is this Government, then, going to the Reserve Bank for the creation of vast sums of new money unmatched by new production? For instance, £10,000,000 has been granted to semi-government authorities to provide work. The Prime Minister went on to deal with Labour’s policy and he made this statement -
Inflation would then gallop and costs would rise rapidly . . . These things will inevitably lead to loss of confidence, collapse and unemployment.
– Hear, hear!
– Good Lord! Our friend says, “ Hear, hear! “ What has this Government done? It now has reversed the policy that it enunciated during the election campaign. In the preceding August it introduced a stay-as-you-are budget; it had a yo-yo policy before the election; then a policy of “let her rip, promise nothing”. But on 7th February, 1962, two months after the election, the Prime Minister announced his famous proposals. These were followed on 12th February by a meeting with the Premiers. According to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of about 12th February the Government’s plan, including the additional grants to the States, will cost in the vicinity of £200,000,000. When the Labour Party advocated a similar policy the Government claimed that it would result in a loss of confidence, collapse and unemployment. Now that the Government has stolen Labour’s policy, which was enunciated in August and reaffirmed in November, it regards the proposals as sound finance. No wonder the Government lost seats! No wonder it is only hanging on to office by the skin of its teeth! No wonder the people have lost confidence in the Government! No wonder the recent gallup poll has shown that the people have not altered their opinion of the Government!
The Prime Minister now states what the Labour Party stated two years ago - that we must grapple wim the economic problem. In 1960 and all through 1961 we directed the Government’s attention to the calamity which was befalling us. On 31st August, the Prime Minister said -
I have not the slightest sympathy for an Opposition which, to win an election, will try to create a panic about unemployment.
Will anybody tell me that there was any question of creating a panic when 113,000 people were unemployed on the date on which the Prime Minister made his statement? It is all very well for a man whose pockets are well lined or for a man who has a good job with a good income to talk in that way, but what about the poor fellow who with wife and kids has to depend on social service payments? Yet in August tl. e Prime Minister talked about the Opposition trying to create a panic about unemployment! At least the Prime Minister’s statement indicates the Government’s thinking on this matter.
I come now to the 15th November, 1961 - a very important date because it was the anniversary of the introduction of the credit squeeze. On that date the Prime Minister of Australia delivered1 his policy speech. I do not know whether this was a mere coincidence or a humourous gesture, but it did not go unnoticed by the people in the country town where I was at that time. The Prime Minister stated -
The unemployment position has for some months been steadily improving and should continue to do so.
How can the Prime Minister reconcile his three statements about Labour wanting to spend huge sums of money, about Labour’s policy causing a collapse, and about Labour creating a panic over umemployment? Can you imagine him making such a statement as this -
The unemployment position has for some months been steadily improving and should continue to do so.
Thi. number of unemployed rose in December and again in January, but there was a slight fall in February. The Brisbane “ Courier Mail “ of 20th March, 1962, just one week ago, carried this headline on its front page, “Near Record Drop in Our Unemployed, But 1 12,250 still’ are without work “. The article was in these terms -
Factors contributing to the reduction of 19,246 (16,734 males and 2,512 females) were the entry of school leavers into employment and the absorption of seasonal workers into fruit picking and cannery work, increased employment in manufacturing industry, and an expansion of employment opportunities on works being done by Government, semi-government, and local authorities.
This followed the Prime Minister’s announcement of 7th February. As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the canneries in our State commence to can pineapples during February. It is all very well to make a grant of £10,000,000 to give 19,000 unemployed men work on the road’s or in semi-government undertakings, but I want to know what plans the Government has for youths and school leavers. The Brisbane “ Courier Mail “ of 14th March, 1962, carried an article in these terms -
It would be difficult to provide work particularly in Queensland for the many young job-seekers due at the end of this year, a Federal employment expert warned last night. The expert, regional director in Queensland of the Commonwealth Labour and National Service Department (Mr. A. Gibson) told business executives that Australia was starting a population “ bulge “ mainly in the under-30 group, that would have great repercussions.
He was lecturing a meeting of the Brisbane division of the Australian Institute of Management on the need for them to prepare for the population ‘bulge”.
Mr. Gibson said that in 1970 there would be twice as many teenagers in Australia as in 1950.
In 1970 Australia’s population would be an estimated 12,800,000. But the 15-19 age group would increase in that time by 43 per cent., the 20-24 group by 61 per cent and the 25-29 group by 39 per cent., compared with an all-over average increase of 25 per cent.
What I want to know, and what the mothers and fathers of the youth of to-day want to know, is what plans the Government has to cope with this population bulge, if you like to call it that, or this population explosion which will take place seven or eight years hence. The figures which I have cited are not my figures; they are not the Labour Party’s figures; they are figures contained in a statement made by a responsible officer of the Department of Labour and National Service. This is a serious matter. In Queensland 880 children who left school at the end of 1960 were still unemployed when the schools broke up at the end of 1961.
The people, particularly in Queensland, want to know what the Government intends to do about it. In view of those figures what are the prospects for the youth of this country in a matter of seven or eight years - a mere hop, step and jump in time?
As I said before, the Prime Minister announced what the Treasurer calls this “package offer” to the States on 12th February last. The Prime Minister was very critical, during the election campaign, of Labour’s announced policy on the ground that it would cost about £150,000,000 or £160,000,000 to implement. According to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, the cost of the Government’s present proposals will be about £200,000,000. Remember also, that When this package offer was made the deficit on this year’s operations, which was budgeted for at £16,500,000, was running at the rate of about £85,000,000. That was another thing that moved the Prime Minister to take some action to deal with the country’s present problems.
During the course of his statement the Treasurer said that the Commonwealth offer to the States included additional amounts for housing and increased support for borrowing by local government authorities and semi-governmental bodies. I took the opportunity last week to discuss with a shire clerk the possibility of his shire getting a loan. He said, “ Even if we could get a loan we could not enter into any arrangement with a bank or any other financial institution for a loan if the rate of interest exceeded 5i per cent., and most of the money lenders want 5i per cent.”. In other words, this statement about supporting increased borrowing by local government authorities and semi-governmental bodies is just a lot of words. When it comes to putting the thing into practice there is nothing to put into practice.
I have here a letter from the Town Clerk of the City of Charters Towers, dated 22nd March, one of the statements in which reads - . . referring to the “ Grant “ to ease unemployment, it is pointed out that this Council, as applies to practically every other Queensland Local Authority, is unable to participate in the funds provided. The only apparent way in which the City, and its unemployed, could benefit, is to first commit itself to raising substantial loan funds, on which a percentage subsidy, ex-Commonwealth
Grant, will be provided, e.g. - If Council decided to carry out an employment project to the extent of say £20,000, it must first raise, and accept repayment liability on a Loan of £16,000, on which a Subsidy of £4,000 will be made available. In effect, Council would have to commit the Ratepayers to an annual Interest and Redemption payment, for fifteen years, of approximately £1,600, in order to participate in “ Grant “ funds to the extent of £4,000.
In effect, the Government apparently wants ratepayers to carry part of the burden of solving the unemployment problem.
Now I turn to the problem of seasonal workers, to which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has referred on many occasions. Every time we have raised the subject of unemployment in Queensland the reply from the Minister has been that it is seasonal unemployment. There are seasonal workers in Queensland, and they make a very valuable contribution to the economy of this country, particularly through the meat industry and the sugar industry, to mention only two seasonal industries. The Government is following a policy of pure political expediency in relation to seasonal unemployment, because the whole of the money to be advanced to the States under this measure must be spent by 30th June next. What is to happen at the end of this year after the sugar season ends and the meat works have closed? We will be facing the same old problems again. What is the Government’s plan for dealing with seasonal unemployment? After all, this kind of unemployment is not just something that started last year or the year before. For years, ever since the policy of full employment fell by the wayside, we have been at the Government to do something for seasonal workers not only in Queensland but elsewhere, for instance, in Victoria. The seasonal unemployment problem falls more severely on the north of Queensland, because there is no other employment to which seasonal workers there can turn in the slack periods.
If private employers in the north of Queensland cannot find the money necessary to provide employment for seasonal workers, and the retention of such workers in the various areas concerned is vital from the point of view of settlement and for our development and defence, as well as industrially, the Government should collaborate with the Queensland Government to provide more money for public works to absorb these men in the slack times. lt is all very well for the Prime Minister to say what he said in reply to a letter I wrote him about a project that I brought under his notice. He talked about what the Government had done in relation to the Mount Isa railway project. But that is something that the Queensland people have to pay fori He talked about what the Government is doing in relation to beef roads. That involves the expenditure of a sum of £1,000,000 for five years! All that is only playing with the problem.
In the course of a speech here a couple of weeks ago, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Harding) asked the Government to consider the construction of the Burdekin dam. This is a matter that had been raised from time to time. In 1951, there was an investigation of this project and a report, limited in scope, was made to the Queensland Government. The report dealt with irrigation and hydro-electric power. And that was the end of iti I point out that this dam would not only provide irrigation and hydro-electric power, but would also provide a domestic water supply for many places in the area. It would provide water and power for the growing industrial city of north Queensland - Townsvile - and water and power for Charters Towers and other places. It could be the basis of a grid system for the supply of power to many places. I had a letter from the Town Clerk of Charters Towers, to whom I had written forwarding a letter that I had received from the Prime Minister in which that right honorable gentleman had wiped this project, which would not only help employment in northern Queensland, but, importantly, would provide employment for seasonal workers in the meat and sugar industries. We hear talk about the Chowilla dam. Let us have that and as many dams as we need, but let us certainly have consideration for the requirements of the people of northern Australia. In his letter the Town Clerk of the City of Charters Towers said -
What is envisaged in the present proposal is a complete and detailed investigation of the Burdekin River for its entire length and catchment area, including its feeder tributaries. The investigation should not be limited to general water conservation and hydro-electric possibilities.
It would include an analysis of the soils and climate, to establish, with dams and irrigation, the pastoral and agricultural potential. The establishing of the potential for fodder growing and conservation, as a boost to the Cattle industry, is only one of the possibilities.
From this it will be seen that the area involved is greater than that of the State of Victoria. It is obvious that such an investigation would be beyond the economic and technical resources of the State Government, and it is suggested that the Commonwealth could, as in the case of the Snowy River Scheme, accept the investigation as a national project in furtherance of its stated intention to assist and develop North Australia. Rather than disperse the experts, technicians and equipment involved on the Snowy River Project, the time would now appear opportune to divert such personnel, etc., to a project such as that proposed.
Council feels sure that if the proposal could be resubmitted, with emphasis on the present tragic daily waste of billions of gallons of water - the employment which would be created - the opening up and settlement of land crying out for development with resultant increased population in the north - the ultimate benefit to the major revenue producing cattle industry - more sympathetic consideration may be forthcoming.
With regard to the time, 1 leave it there. A conference is to be held in the next couple of weeks in regard to this matter. New South Wales and Victoria have the Snowy River scheme and we want a major project in north Queensland for the development of the far north of Australia.
The bill will be, as it were, a shot in the arm. It will give a measure of employment and Government supporters will endeavour to foster the illusion of some recovery, but there will be no permanence in the conditions in Queensland and we will have to face a similar position again, a few months after June. But if the Government contemplates getting to the electors in the near future, a lot more shots in the arm will be necessary to put the country on the road to recovery. We know the Government is having difficulty already in drafting its Budget for the next financial year. But the Treasurer can bring down a budget acceptable to the people, rush to the country, and introduce a supplementary horror budget if the Government flukes its way back to the treasury bench. By the reversal of policy this horror budget could take away all the concessions given in the budget of a few months earlier.
We know that this Government is capable of doing such a thing, when we contemplate what it is doing at this moment. After its steal from the Labour Party of ideas contained in the economic measures, and in view of what it said before the election, this Government would come at anything. The gallup poll published on 10th March shows that the people have awakened to what is going on and all the propaganda poured out about the assistance given to the unemployed will not convince them to continue this Government in office. The electorate realizes that this Government lacks capacity to deal with the problems of the moment and only by a change of government can the people expect any permanent recovery of the economy. Only a change of government can restore confidence.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, the purpose of the bill before the House is to confirm payments to the States during the present financial year totalling £10,000,000, in the form of a grant without interest or repayment involvement. The object is to stimulate commercial and industrial activity and to assist governmental, semi-governmental and also municipal enterprises which, by making additional opportunities available, will create employment and offer job opportunities. During his remarks the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) made rather a party political speech. He seemed to launch an attack on the Government in certain directions. I feel his forebodings about the future are not warranted. I am much more hopeful about the prospects.
The honorable member has blamed the Government for the financial restrictions which obviously have some close association with the conditions which apply to-day. 1 would remind him that these restrictions were designed in favour of our great export industries, to try to restrain costs and also to prevent the rather wild form of speculation and boom which was going on in certain sections of our economy. I remind the honorable member also that when a government introduces a measure to deal with the problem of rising costs, and with the object of achieving stability at a time when the country is in a period of rapid expansion, as it has been for the last twelve or fifteen years, with all these inflationary pressures it is obvious that some sort of difficulty will be created in the economy and par ticularly in regard to employment opportunities.
The problems of Queensland to which the honorable member has referred are only partly explained by the credit restrictions. As he knows, being a representative of a western seat, a large part of Queensland’s problem of the falling off in commercial and industrial activity directly results from the period of extremely bad seasons experienced in that State. I say that from personal knowledge. 1 believe *he honorable member’s remarks illustrated a very important point which we must keep clearly in mind. Whatever the Commonwealth Government can do throughout Australia, it is obvious from the honorable member’s remarks - with which I propose to dear at greater length later - that the responsibility for the health of the individual States must and will remain largely the responsibility of the State governments. The Federal Government can do much. It can assist in miny ways, as we see from the legislation before the House. But to put on the Commonwealth the whole responsibility for economic conditions within a State and to disregard the responsibility of the State government is to ignore the truth. Indeed, a statement along those lines is very far from the truth.
The honorable member for Kennedy talked about the rate of unemployment in Australia to-day. We all deplore it and hope it is on the way down. Recent figures have shown that it is. But I remind him that when he was a member of the Chifley Government in 1949 there were far more unemployed in Australia in one period of the year than there are to-day. In fact, the number of unemployed then registered was in the vicinity of 150,000, although admittedly not for long. When a government takes certain steps to deal with a certain situation, it is obvious that it must create an opportunity for the type of thing we have experienced in the last year. I do not blame the Chifley Government for creating that situation. I believe it acted strongly and wisely in the interests of the public of Australia. But let us be fair in regard to unemployment. The honorable member referred to the cost of the Government’s measures - of which this is one - for restoring the industrial and commercial activity of Australia. He quoted a passage from the “Sydney Morning Herald”. I do not like arguing with Granny, but we have heard the estimate given by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) that the deficit this year will be in the vicinity of £60,000,000.
The schedules to the bill give the distribution of the total grant. In considering the distribution and the way the division is made it is as well for us to study the conditions in each State, with their separate demands, particularly in relation to their unemployment problems. In that sense the amount allotted to each State must be taken in context with the other Government measures to increase commercial and industrail activity. I propose to make what I believe is an appropriate comparison between the problems of Queensland and Victoria with their widely differing natures and the differing activities existing within their boundaries. It is interesting to record that the latest published employment figures show a marked improvement, which is very encouraging to the Government. Under this measure, which is based largely on current unemployment in the States, Victoria will receive £1,800,000, as against £2,200,000 for New South Wales and £3,300,000 for Queensland.
I want to refer to the remarks of the Premier of Victoria, the Honorable Henry Bolte, who, like a good Victorian, believed that he should get as much from the Commonwealth as the other States received. Consequently, he was slightly critical of the Commonwealth Government in a speech in the State House which was taken up and expanded by the press as an apparent criticism of the way in which this bill divides the grants between the States. The measures taken by the Commonwealth Government in other directions have been designed to assist the private sector of the economy. This bill is designed to assist the public sector. The reduction of income tax by 5 per cent, and the cut in sales tax on motor vehicles are already having a marked effect in restoring activity in Victoria. lt might be as well to remind the honorable member of the employment figures for Victoria and Queensland On 2nd December, 1960, 8,126 persons were registered as unemployed in Victoria. This represented .7 per cent, of the work force. About 19,800 vacancies were registered. In Queensland, 11,673 persons were registered as unemployed. This represented 2 per cent, of the work force. There were 3,360 registered vacancies. A year later, on 1st December, 1961, there were 25,591 people registered as unemployed in Victoria or 2.1 per cent, of the work force. Queensland then had 19,973 persons registered as unemployed or 3.5 per cent, of the work force. On 2nd February, 1962, there were 30,864 registered unemployed in Victoria or 2.5 per cent, of the work force. In Queensland there were 30,426 unemployed or 5 per cent, of the work force. By 2nd March the number of registered unemployed in Victoria had been reduced to 26,030 or 2.1 per cent, of the work force. The number of registered unemployed in Queensland had been reduced to 26,312 or 4.4 per cent, of the work force. I think that those figures have a very important bearing on the general idea behind the making of these grants. The fact that the unemployed in Victoria represent 2.1 per cent, of the work force whilst in Queensland they represent 4.4 per cent, of the work force makes it obvious where the greatest need is. When we consider this and the other facts concerned I believe that we can see the justification for the way in which the grants have been distributed. I think that we must give credit for the development that has taken place in Victoria which is largely due to that State having attracted finance from outside.
I have the greatest regard for the people of Queensland. I have worked in Queensland and I know it pretty well, including the back country. But for many years I had the deepest sympathy for the people of Queensland because of the type of government that they had to endure. It is quite unreasonable to expect the Nicklin Government to undo in three years the stupidities of previous governments in that State. At one time a Queensland Labour government instituted a vast socialist scheme which included State stations, State butcheries and other business undertakings. This cost the taxpayers of Queensland vast sums of money and had a retarding effect on commercial activity. The same government persisted with an antiquated system of land tenure which is regarded by people who should know as not in the interests of the pastoral or agricultural industries. 1 refer to the leasehold system under which short-term leases were granted. The sooner Queensland gets away from that type of land tenure the sooner it will make some advance in general economic development.
I mentioned at the time of the announcement of the proposed distribution of these funds to the States that the Premier of Victoria who, after all, has been largely responsible for the development of that State, was not particularly cheerful about the division, lt has always been believed in Victoria that the uniform tax system, which was introduced in 1942, has operated to the direct disadvantage of that State. In 1942, Victoria was the lowest taxed State in the Commonwealth and the formula for distribution that has operated since then has been influenced by that factor. The formula was adjusted in 1959 but, even so, public figures in Victoria still consider that that State is inequitably treated. This is an attitude of mind rather than a criticism, but I have no doubt that while uniform taxation continues there will always be a suspicion in the minds of Victorians that they are suffering under this system simply because at the time of the introduction of uniform taxation Victoria had a thrifty government which did not require vast expenditure to be met by the taxpayer.
The money to be provided under this measure is to be a straight-out grant, with no strings attached. The equity with which the grant is being apportioned may be judged in the light of the purpose for which it is being made. That purpose is to alleviate unemployment. I am sure that employment figures already indicate that there is an awakening throughout the community. On one side, our measures are directed towards alleviating difficulties in the private .sector of the. economy.,,. Now we have .this, more important -measure to assist governmental, semi-governmental, and municipal bodies.
Whatever the arguments of the Opposition may be, I feel that this bill will be a benefit. I cannot quite follow the line of reasoning of the honorable member for Kennedy who referred to the difficulties of the municipality of Charters Towers in financing some scheme. Possibly the trouble has been due to .a breakdown in liaison between the State Government and the , municipality in the. allocation of the funds. However, I. am without knowledge of that matter so I cannot speak on it, but you cannot generalize from one case about the effect of this measure in stirring up activity throughout Australia. I commend the bill to the House and I support it strongly.
.- The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) made a speech which could be well described as a masterpiece of understatement. He commenced by saying that the restrictions introduced by the Government in the last session of the last Parliament and in the session preceding it were intended to achieve stability. He said that such restrictions must create some difficulties in job opportunities. Some difficulties in job opportunities! We bad 131,000 unemployed! Then the honorable member referred, as a good Victorian, to the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte. He said that it was natural that Mr. Bolte should be slightly critical. He men went on to say that Mr. Bolte was not particularly cheerful about Victoria’s allocation under this bill. Anybody who read the speech of the Victorian Premier will know that so far from being mildly critical, it was a direct denunciation of the Commonwealth Government. Anybody who understands English would have interpreted the remarks of the Premier of Victoria not as being not particularly cheerful, not as being slightly critical, but as saying to the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Menzies), and to the members of the Government, that the amount allocated to Victoria would not help one iota. In fact, the Premier of Victoria said, “ It win not permit us to continue even the works we have already started”. And..this has been interpreted by the honorable gentleman - the honorable member for Corangamite is a gentleman; he is such a gentleman that he is gentle even in the way he describes criticism by the Premier of Victoria - as being slightly critical. Then, parochially, as is proper, I suppose, for him, he compared Victoria with the State of Queensland. Victoria has an area probably only one-eighth, one-ninth or perhaps one-tenth that of Queensland, which has completely different responsibilities in government and a completely different area of territory to be looked after. How can one possibly compare the responsibilities of the Premier and the Government of a small State like Victoria with the responsibilities of the Premier and the Government of Queensland in the area they control? The areas. are entirely different and the problems of sparsely populated areas such as Queensland has are vastly different from those of Victoria.
I support the bill not because I believe it in any way satisfactorily meets the needs of the moment, but because, and only because, I believe that a little is better than nothing at all. This bill will provide £10,000,000 to the six States of Australia for expenditure in this financial year, which will end on 30th June, 1962. It provides that of that amount New South Wales shall get £2,240,000, Victoria £1,800,000, Queensland £3,340;000, South Australia £970,000, Western Australia £660,000 and Tasmania £990,000. The bill is symptomatic of the panic legislation which the Government is now introducing because of the tremendous rebuffs it received at the hands of the electors of the Commonwealth. On 9th December last, the people of Australia told the Government in no uncertain manner that they were completely dissatisfied with its programme and with the results of its deliberate actions which created trade recession and caused deep distress to the people. Yes, Mr. Speaker, the guilty men of the Commonwealth are the members of the parties which formed the Government in the last Parliament who were responsible for the deliberate introduction of policies which created panic among the people of Australia, which destroyed the confidence inherent in the fighting tradition of the people of Australia and which indeed attacked the Australian way of life to which we are all accustomed.
So it is that, since the Government’s return to office, its outward attitude has changed. Its outward attitude to full employment and to all those things which Labour has raised has changed. It is now trying to give lip service to parts of the Australian Labour Party’s policy.
– It has not changed its views about socialism.
– No, it has not changed its views about anything, really. The Government is only giving lip service to the policies it espouses. The honorable member for Corangamite has said, “ There is no doubt that our credit policies created unemployment”. What the Government is now saying is: “ We created unemployment. If we can bring back a little employment to the country we can expect the people of the country to forget all the things we did and to rally to our side.” And there is a tremendous difference between what the Government believes to be full employment and what we on this side of the House believe to be full employment. We believe full employment to mean that every man or woman in the Commonwealth, without restriction because of age or health, who wants a job will have a job provided for him or her. That is only fundamental government policy, or it ought to be if we had an intelligent and understanding government in power. Every man who requires a position should be able to find a vacancy for himself. I do not say that the Government should employ every person in the Commonwealth, but I do say that the Government should embark upon a policy which will create confidence in the people and which will ensure that private industry shall share with the Government in providing employment for the people. But this Government has destroyed the confidence not only of the workers but also of business enterprise. The result is that, instead of embarking upon vast programmes of expansion, as is proper in a country growing in an exciting and vibrant fashion as this country should grow, the business houses are taking no action. In January and February, trading bank advances were lower than ever, not because the banks did not have the money to lend, but because business enterprises did not want to borrow it because there is nothing in the Government’s policy which says to the business enterprises of the Commonwealth, “You should borrow money in order to advance and progress because everything prosperous will happen in the country and you should have confidence in the future “.
You, Mr. Speaker, wise and experienced as you are, knowing full well the great future that Australia has, must be readily aware that there are great business enterprises in this Commonwealth which are either at a standstill or going backwards. You have only to read the financial columns of even the “Daily Telegraph” or any newspaper in the land to learn that day after day business’ houses are suffering great losses in their trading operations because the people have lost confidence and because those organizations cannot continue the work they set out to do.
During the second-reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) reference was made to the statement by the Prime Minister that he had reviewed the present state of the economy and that he had considered policy and appropriate action. In his statement, the Prime Minister referred to the valuable consultations he had had with a wide range of industries and interests. This, Sir, is a complete turn-about from other considered statements made by the right honorable gentleman from time to time. You will recall that, at a Liberal Party rally in the Sydney Town Hall on 7th August, 1961, he said that he was more experienced at dealing with the economy of Australia than was any theorist. He went on to say -
Whenever 1 have expressed a view on the economy, it is one that has stemmed from my own experience and judgment, a view which I am prepared to stand up for.
What do we find now? The Prime Minister is now saying, in effect, “ My experience is not so valuable. The views which I have expressed previously have no great foundation.” In effect, he is saying: “ I am not an expert. I do not know very much about the economy of Australia.” He is admitting that because he has found it necessary - and he probably was very wise in so doing - to discuss the position with industry and the trade union movement and to ask their advice as to what could be done in the almost hopeless position in which all of the members of the Government have found themselves as a direct result of their policies. The Prime Minister said that the Government was concerned both at the level of unemployment and the weakness of confidence which existed. This apparent concern will not mislead any one. A government which can, in a comparatively short space of time, be responsible for lifting the number of registered unemployed to 131,000 in January, cannot be concerned about very much except its own prospects of re-election. The number of registered unemployed is now 112,200, but everybody knows that that figure does not include all the unemployed persons in this land. That is the basic reason why the Government, panic-stricken as it is after the State elections in New South Wales and South Australia - it will be more panicstricken still after the election in Western Australia next Saturday - has set out in a most limited fashion, to stem unemployment with purely stop-gap, temporary measures. It is hoping that if it can announce some decrease in the unemployment figure the people of Australia will rally to its side. We have all heard of the man who was knocking his head against a wall when he had a bad headache and who was told by the doctor, “ Don’t knock your bead against the wall and your headache will get better “. The position of that man is completely analogous to that of this Government which, having created a tremendous amount or unemployment, alter having reduced the figure slightly, proudly shouts, “ We have reduced the unemployment figure “, and then expects the people of the Commonwealth to thank it very much for the medicine it has prescribed.
The principal difference between the Government and the Australian Labour Party in their thinking on unemployment is this: The Government looks upon the unemployed simply as a number of statistical units; we look upon them as families of dejected people who are without proper means of livelihood. To us, each one of the 110,000 unemployed is a person or, in the great majority of cases, members of a family suffering because they have not the means to provide even the barest necessaries for themselves and are in a state of distress and despair. The Government proposes in this measure to provide £10,000,000 and to offer one or two other temporary palliatives, and expects the whole unemployment to disappear overnight. These are only stop-gap tactics.
The bill provides that the money will be used in this financial year. What the people of Australia want to know and what the Opposition wants to know is this: What plans has the Government for the period after 30th June? How will the people be treated under the long-range policy of the Government - if it has one? What are the State governments to do when this money is spent? That is what they are worrying about.
The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, did not make any declaration about the future. He did not say what would happen to the people when this measly £10,000,000 had been spent. At the Premiers’ Conference, when the Premiers were told of the Government’s intentions, they properly replied that they would be grateful to get even this amount. They knew it would not nearly settle the distress that was common to all State governments.
– What figure has the honorable member in mind?
– I will tell the honorable member in a minute and I do not mind instructing him. A total of £10,000,000 is to be provided of which £2,240,000 will go to New South Wales. The Premier of New South Wales told the Prime Minister that the minimum amount that should be provided in this short period to help relieve the position in his State was £6,000,000.
– You would not expect him to say it was too much?
– No, I would not; but I think the State Premiers of Australia are responsible citizens of the Commonwealth and are dedicated to provide in a responsible manner for the welfare of their citizens. In view of the great trials and tribulations created in the recession by this Government’s policies, the Premiers met the Prime Minister in conference with the full intention of saying honestly and sincerely, “We need X million pounds”. The Premier of New South Wales said he needed £6,000,000. The Premier of Victoria needed about £4,500,000 and appropriate amounts were required by the other States to relieve distress. This is human distress. We are talking, not about mere statistics, but the fact that men and women are starving because of the deliberate policies of this Government. How best can we satisfy their needs and fill the gap created by unemployment? How best can we provide employment for those who are out of work? These are the big questions. So when the Prime Minister said he would provide £10,000,000 the Premiers said, “We need more”.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I referred to the fact that this bill makes a grant of £10,000,000. I said rather mildly that this was not sufficient and was purely one of the Government’s stop-gap tactics. I said that it would not have any lasting effect upon the economy and would not result in many people being returned to employment. I referred to the fact that under the bill New South Wales would receive £2,240,000 and that the Premier of New South Wales at the Premiers’ conference had said that £6,000,000 was the minimum that he required if any impact were to be made on the unemployment problem in his State in the next four months. I referred to the fact that Victoria was to receive £1,800,000 and that the Liberal Premier, Mr. Bolte, had said that this would barely sustain the present works programme and would be of little help in reducing unemployment.
The Government has at least recognized the tremendous depression in Queensland and Tasmania. Queensland is to receive £3,340,000 and Tasmania is to receive £990,000. But these amounts are not sufficient to meet the objective of restoring confidence and providing a stimulus to the economy in those States. My colleagues from Queensland - I am happy that so many of them are here in this Parliament to give voice to the special needs of that State - believe that this grant is merely a shortterm palliative for the desperate situation of the people they represent. Queensland needs new industries and a more enterprising opening up of the areas in the north. Does the Government suggest that £3,340,000 is sufficient to do all that is necessary there? Why should we have these piecemeal efforts and the prescribing of medicine that will not remedy the condition of the patient but will merely ease some of the pain and distress, and then for only a very short period.
The Treasurer in his second-reading speech said that the money would be provided mainly on the basis of the need to relieve unemployment. One must keep in mind the great mass of public works that are waiting to be completed in the various States. In my own electorate, we have a project that has been considered by governments for many years. It is the very important project of the building of the eastern suburbs railway. This project would give employment to thousands of men for a long period and the grant of sufficient money to New South Wales would permit the Government of that State to embark upon it. That is the sort of thinking that the Prime Minister and the members of his Government should do. They should look for the worthwhile projects that would provide employment and would also meet the needs of the States. All States have pressing needs but have been unable to satisfy them because they have had insufficient money. When a recession such as this hits our country, we need big thinking and longrange thinking by the Government. Instead of wondering how the situation could be helped for three or four months, the Government should direct its thoughts to providing a long-range stimulus. It should not consider how it can reduce unemployment by 10,000 or 12,000 for one month, but how it can reduce unemployment over a long period.
We need only consider the situation of education in this regard. Every State is crying out for money with which to build new schools. Every school that is built provides employment. Although large sums of money are spent by the States on education, there is still a tremendous lag in school building, in the provision of technical colleges and in the building of teachers colleges in which to train more teachers. The construction of all these schools and colleges would provide employment and would help to meet the needs of education throughout the Commonwealth. Recently, Professor Jackson of Canada was reported in the press as having said that our education system and the general needs associated with it are reaching a bursting point. The Government has it in its power to inject money into the economy so that the lag in education can be properly met. All the States need to do this is proper assistance in a long-range scheme.
Many boys and girls who left school at the end of last year are seeking apprenticeships in various trades. This miserly amount of money now being made available will do little to alleviate their situation. Thousands of boys and girls who left school at the end of last year are to-day roaming the streets trying to find apprenticeships. Many parents approach me and seek my help. They ask: “What will we do with our children? We cannot find trades in which there are vacancies for apprentices.”
The Australian Council of Education asked the Prime Minister to convene a committee of inquiry to ascertain the needs of education. The Prime Minister replied that he could not set up such a committee of inquiry because it would make recommendations involving massive provision by the Commonwealth to the States. Is that the sort of answer that should be given on a matter that should have the highest priority in the Commonwealth - the education of our children? If we can meet the needs of education and provide employment at the same time, is that not the sort of action the Commonwealth should take? This grant of £10,000,000 will certainly not solve the problems of education.
The amount granted under the bill will not, even in the period to 30th June, properly and adequately provide for the needs of the States. The Government has confessed that its credit squeeze and the removal of import controls created unemployment. But why does not the Government, which confesses mat it is responsible for this debacle and for this serious trade and economic recession, honestly and sincerely attempt to correct the grave wrong that it has perpetrated? The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) announced with a great deal of satisfaction that m the month of February the number of registered unemployed fell by 19,246. But he has not announced any long-range policy for the future. This temporary piecemeal bill, together with the other temporary piecemeal bills that have already been introduced, does not provide any long-range policy. The Government apparently believes that if it injects some small amount of money into the economy and, with the assistance of seasonal employment, manages to reduce unemployment for a little while, the people of the Commonwealth should be satisfied. But there is still distress throughout Australia and there is still a great deal of dissatisfaction among the people. The Government, guilty as it is and shamefaced as it should be, should have come forward with some really positive plans for a recharging of the economy with energy and an injection of confidence. Instead it has adopted stop-gap measures which will do little to restore confidence among the people.
I support the bill - not with any satisfaction, not with any confidence that it will really do something worth while for the people, but purely because a little is probably better than nothing at all.
.- When the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Einfeld) commenced his speech before the suspension of the sitting, I was rather reminded by his opening of the terrific blasts that are associated with the firing of large rockets. He started with a terrific blast and with some great effort. Probably there was a little bit of meat here and there in his speech, if one could take the time to look for it. But I am afraid that the normally good dinner that is served here dampened his ardour a little, and he felt a little more comfortable when looking at our situation. A characteristic feature of the speech delivered by the honorable member before -the suspension of the sitting was the suggestion customarily made by him and his colleagues that the only people who have any regard for human beings are those who sit on the opposite side of this House.
– We are the only ones here who are human beings.
– There you have it, Mr. Speaker - they say that they are the only ones who are human beings. Let me tell you the essential difference between honorable members opposite and those on this side of the House. No doubt you will agree with me, Mr. Speaker. There is a human angle in the attitude of both groups. The difference is that while we have sympathy for the feelings of humans, honorable members of the Labour Party like to profit politically from anxiety, misfortune and misery. We on this side are determined to ensure that anxiety, misfortune, and misery are wiped out. It is astonishing to find honorable members opposite continually trying to make political profit out of the occasional sufferings brought to light in the community, instead of really trying to do something about the situation.
There was another aspect of the speech of the honorable member for Phillip that struck me forcibly. He was apparently making out a case for New South Wales as almost a mendicant State. I thought he would finish his speech by saying that the case for New South Wales should be considered by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. He referred to the eastern suburbs railway project in Sydney, to work needed on roads and bridges, and to educational requirements of the State of New South Wales. Does not the honorable member know that these are all State matters? Does he not know that they are matters which are jealously guarded by the States, including New South Wales, as their sovereign responsibilities, and that the States will not allow the Commonwealth to interfere in any way in such matters? Does he not also realize that it is in States like New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, which have experienced long periods of government by Labour administrations, that the miserable conditions that he spoke of in connexion with public works and progress have prevailed?
The honorable member spoke about a long-range stimulus. In his concluding remarks he said that Queensland needs new industries, and that the Commonwealth should provide a stimulus to attract such new industries. He would probably suggest that New South Wales has a similar need. Yet these are the States that have laboured under Labour governments for so long. It is because they have had Labour governments for long periods that they are in their present condition. Let those States look at their own internal politics. If they do so, they will find the cause of their difficulties and troubles.
– But Queensland has a tory government.
– Let me say to the honorable member for Capricornia that the present government in Queensland would need to have supernatural powers to wipe out, in three years, the effects of the terrific havoc wrought b”y the previous Labour government.
But let us forget the honorable member for Phillip. I have been simply trying to put him, as a new member, on the right track. I have been trying to guide him into thinking along the right lines. Let me get back to the bill. The purpose of it is to provide an amount of f 10,000,000 for the States in order to relieve unemployment. I know the honorable member for Phillip will not mind if I return to his speech for a moment. He spoke about the eastern suburbs railway. New South Wales is to get £2,000,000 odd out of the total amount of £10,000,000, and it is entirely a matter for the Government of New South Wales to decide how that money will be spent. The State Government can make that decision, the only requirement being that the money must be spent for the purpose for which it is granted. If the eastern suburbs railway is so important, then I suggest that it is the kind of project that could provide a considerable amount of employment. This being so, why the dickens do not the honorable member and his colleagues in the State Parliament get on the back of the State Government and say, “ Here is a worthwhile project “, so that the State Government may be persuaded to spend this money on the eastern suburbs railway? It is entirely a matter for the New South Wales Government, and for the governments of the other States, to decide how they shall spend the amounts of money that they will receive.
For the sake of the record, let us have the exact amounts that the various States will get. New South Wales will receive £2,240,000, Victoria £1,800,000, Queensland £3,340,000, South Australia £970,000, Western Australia £660,000 and Tasmania £990,000. There is one unique feature about the allocation qf this money. Grants of this kind are usually allocated according to a formula such as that used for income tax reimbursements, or according to the system prevailing in the allocation of loan moneys. In this case, however, the Government took cognizance of the special circumstances of certain States and departed from the normal practice.
– Say that again.
– The honorable member would not understand if I put it in kindergarten language. The formula, as I say, has been departed from, but only to a certain extent. In the first place consideration was given by the Government, or, I suppose, by the Treasury, to the level of unemployment in certain States. The level was highest in Queensland and Tasmania, and so these two States were allocated specific amounts out of the £10,000,000, according to their needs. The remainder of the money was distributed amongst the other four States in accordance wi-th the formula used by the Australian Loan Council in distributing loan funds. This departure from normal procedure is of particular interest to Western Australia.
– Where is that?
– If the honorable member does not know where Western Australia is, all I can say is that the electors of Watson have made a tragic mistake in returning him to this House.
As I have said, Sir, the division of the funds is of interest to Western Australia. Rather unfortunately, in this instance Western Australia has been penalized because of its prosperity. Let me point out that that prosperity has been achieved under a Liberal-Country Party government. I repeat that Western Australia, unfortunately, has been penalized because, under good government, it has done the very thing that Queensland and New South Wales did not do while under Labour governments. It has attracted industries. The attraction of industries gave a stimulus to the economy of Western Australia, with the result that at the time when the division of the funds was decided on that State had the lowest percentage of unemployment. We in Western Australia are quite happy about the fact that the economy of the State was really in a buoyant condition, but, unfortunately, that State is to receive the smallest proportion of the funds. May I say that it is not unusual for Western Australia to be left holding the wrong end of the stick. That State, per capita, contributes more to the economy of this country than does any other State.
– What about Queensland?
– The honorable member was lucky at election time.
Western Australia makes a huge contribution to the economy of Australia. That State contributes so much to the export earnings of this nation and contributes to the secondary industries of the eastern States so much of the raw material that they use. Yet it receives so little in return. Nevertheless, it is a prosperous State, and, in consequence, it has suffered. The smallness of Western Australia’s population, the tremendous area of the State and the fact that it was talked into this federation, mean that at times Western Australia needs special consideration and special financial assistance from this Government. There are various ways and means by which this can be provided. One, of course, is the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Another is by making application for special grants for particular purposes. Western Australia made a special application for a Commonwealth grant for a particular purpose on one occasion.
– Did it get the grant?
– That application was made last year.
– How much did Western Australia get?
– If honorable members opposite will preserve their souls in patience, they will learn all about it.
Some years ago, the Commonwealth recognized that the capacity of Western Australia to increase the export income of this nation by producing commodities for export could be very greatly enhanced if certain developmental works were carried out in country districts, particularly the provision of water supplies. Therefore, the Commonwealth Government assisted the State Government by making a grant to meet part of the cost of what is known as a comprehensive water supply scheme - a modified water scheme. After Commonwealth authorities had very carefully investigated the economics of the proposed scheme and realized that it would be a very good thing for the Commonwealth, the Federal Government said that it would subsidize the scheme £1 for £1 if a proportion of the scheme were to be used to provide water supplies in agricultural districts. Western Australia appreciates that assistance. The provision of water supplies in the agricultural areas concerned has proved so successful, and the demand for similar water supply schemes in other country areas is so great, that the State authorities approached the Commonwealth for continued assistance by a renewal of the grant which had originally been made. This was done in order to enable the State to complete the balance of the comprehensive water supply scheme within a reasonable period. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth said, “No dice!”
Opposition Members. - Obi
– I appreciate the moans of Opposition members. However, they all are shedding crocodile tears. They would have done even worse had Labour been in office in the Commonwealth sphere. Heaven forbid that we be required to make the request to a Labour government. Had that happened, we would have been really stumped.
I consider that the refusal, up to this stage, of Western Australia’s request for a few million pounds by way of a grant was due to a certain lack of appreciation of the case that was presented. I say that because of the published reports which I have seen of the answer that was given to the State’s case. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), if he likes to give us the facts, can correct me if I am wrong. I said last week, and 1 say again, that the reasons given by the Treasurer for the Commonwealth’s refusal to give Western Australia further assistance for the comprehensive water supply scheme are quite unacceptable to me. The Commonwealth’s reply appeared to be based on an assumption that the State was asking for an additional loan allocation. I can only assume that from the fact that the Treasurer, in his reply, said that if the Commonwealth came to the party and gave the State the additional grant for which it was asking, the arrangements agreed on at the recent Premiers* Conference or the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council, as the case may be, would be upset. The fact is that the State’s request for a Commonwealth subsidy by way of a grant clearly had nothing to do with any decision reached at the Premiers’ Conference or by the Loan Council. It was entirely a matter for the Commonwealth itself to say what it would do with money under its control.
As the Commonwealth, in the terms of the measure which we now have before us, has shown its appreciation and understanding of the fact that different States have different requirements, I suggest that the Treasurer look again at the request by Western Australia for further assistance for the comprehensive water supply scheme, at the same time keeping in mind my explanation that assistance given in response to that request would not upset agreements made at the Premiers’ Conference or at a meeting of the Loan Council. It is purely a matter for the Commonwealth to decide for itself what it will do with its own loan moneys or with moneys which it obtains from any other source. I point out that the Commonwealth will reap the benefit of any assistance which it gives to Western Australia for this water supply scheme. I realize that the Commonwealth can tell the State Government that there is nothing to prevent it from including the work in its own loan programme and proceeding with it. I agree that there is nothing to prevent that from being done. But, if the State were to do that, the work of completing this comprehensive water supply scheme would be spread over a very long period - over so long a period, in fact, that the real benefit would be very much less. On the other hand, if the Commonwealth came into the picture at this stage, it would enable the work to be completed much earlier. Early completion of this scheme is vital. The problem of water supplies in the agricultural areas of Western Australia is acute.
Let me remind my friends on the other side of the House, who are always talking of employment, that employment is found not only in the building of houses and in factories. There is plenty of employment on farms. Indeed, my friends in the Australian Labour Party would do well to remember that work on the farms, in the first instance, provides the basis for all employment in this country. Let them bear that in mind. If it were not for farm activities, there would be no employment elsewhere. There is work on farms for employees as well as for the farmers themselves. But in the areas of Western Australia about which we talk in relation to this water supply scheme, agricultural production is becoming intensified. We hear much talk about greater efficiency, the carrying of more stock to the acre, the growing of a greater weight of fleece to the sheep, and the production of more bushels of grain to the acre, and goodness knows what else. We are doing these things. But we need help to do them. We undertake to do these things by investing our own private capital, although we get practically no return due to the state of our overseas markets.
I agree that high interest rates, too, have something to do with the difficulty in get ting a return. Put high costs are imposed on the farmers by the policies of our friends of the Labour Party, who are concerned not with productive effort but merely with payment for work. If they could, they would work only a 20-hour week. Already we have reached a position at which the farmers, in anticipation of the Commonwealth assisting the State, have undertaken an expansion of their agricultural activities. Because of the splendid build-up of the soil the country which I have in mind now can grow much better pastures than previously and can carry a much greater number of stock. That area already is over-stocked, not from the point of view of pasture availability but because of the lack of an adequate water supply - a difficulty which can be overcome by man’s own efforts. If a farmer takes a chance and over-stocks and then has a bad season, that can be regarded as either bad luck or bad management; but the lack of an adequate water supply is an entirely different matter. That is something which is in the hands of this Government to remedy.
This Government has been of great assistance to the people of Western Australia. It has helped them in many ways and, for the benefit of my friends opposite who are interjecting, may I say that I believe the Government will continue to help my State. That is why I am anxious that it should remain in office. As soon as the Treasurer understands the nature of the request which was submitted by the Government of Western Australia, I am sure that the Commonwealth Government will help that State. It is obvious that the nature of the appeal has escaped the Treasurer’s notice because he has spoken about interfering with Premiers’ Conferences and Australian Loan Council meetings.
I deeply regret that every one of the measures - not only the one now before us relating to a grant of £10,000,000- which have been introduced into this House during the present sessional period with the object of providing better conditions for the people of this country, have been used to grind some political axe. One has only to read >he speeches on unemployment made by honorable members opposite during the A’ddressinReply debate and in the debates on every bill which has been introduced since, to realize that somehow their mentality is limited to this little narrow picture of political opportunity. They are seeking political gain from the anxieties, troubles and difficulties of others.
I think it was the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) who said the other night that unemployment is not be counted in percentages or even in numbers. Unemployment is a very vital matter to the man who is unemployed. If only one person in Australia is unemployed, that person is suffering grievously. We on this side of the chamber appreciate that. We believe that not one individual should be caused suffering of any kind when it is possible for the Government to save him from it. We aim to do that.
– You will have to convince the Treasurer first.
– I do not have to convince the Treasurer. He knows the facts. It always has been his desire to overcome the difficulties which have confronted this country. If my friends of the Opposition really want to do some good for this country; if they really want to do some good for the people whom they profess to serve, and if they really want to bring some happiness into people’s lives, they will desist from continually talking misery. They will utter a word of encouragement to the people to make them a little happier than they are. There is so much that can be done.
– What about the money?
– Bless my heart and soul, that is all you people seem to worry about! There is a lot more in life than money. Does my friend ever go to the people in his electorate, whether they voted for him or not, and utter a word of encouragement to them? That does not need money. A word of encouragement costs nothing but it can make people a little happier. If I lived in an electorate which was represented by a Labour member of Parliament, and if I felt that it was my duty as an elector to read carefully and study his speeches in this place, irrespective of what kind of job or business I had or what my circumstances were, I would drop my bundle and leave this country. That is the atmosphere which honorable members opposite are creating. Thank God I am not in a Labour electorate and compelled to read the .speeches of the Labour representative!
Honorable members opposite are not doing any -good for this country or for the people whom they profess to represent. They could play their part by looking at this matter, not from the point of view of purely party political gain-
– Hear, hear!
– I am very glad to hear the honorable member for Grayndler say that. It is the first time he has ever agreed with me. If honorable members opposite will only desist from this continual attempt to make party political capital out of the present economic circumstances we would have a much happier country in which to live. When they say that they support this bill, as the honorable member for Phillip said, I am sure that they really mean to support it, but like Oliver Twist they naturally hold out their plate for more. I am sure they appreciate that this Government has done and is doing the right thing to overcome the problems which exist to-day. Like them, I support the bill. I hope that what I have said in relation to Western Australia’s needs will receive consideration.
.- I was surprised at the tone of the speech of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) because I know that just as the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) is in this place by the grace of Communist Party votes, so the honorable member for Moore is in this place by the grace of Australian Labour Party votes. During the election campaign in the Moore electorate the honorable member was a bitter opponent of the Menzies Liberal Party. He could not have won the seat by his own efforts, so he was very grateful for the preference votes which came to him from the Australian Labour Party candidate. Apparently it is normal to be ungrateful. The honorable member for Moore has given a grand exhibition of ingratitude because he used the time allotted to him in the debate to attack the Australian Labour Party as a whole and, in particular, some of the intelligent members on this side of the House who were trying to help him by their interjections. I have no doubt that the Australian Labour Party in Western Australia in three years, or perhaps much sooner, will realize the error of its ways and will ensure that the honorable member for Moore then has a similar experience to that which he had in 1958 when he left this chamber as a result of the votes of the Australian Labour Party.
We are living in very strange times. I would say that this bill, which I support, stems from the result of the general election. The Prime Minister is changing his policy with great ease and, I suppose, as he is taking the policy of the Australian Labour Party to some degree, we must be very grateful for that. Nevertheless, the ease with which he has changed his policy amazes me.
The principal theme of the Prime Minister’s policy speech at the last election could be expressed in the words, “ I rely on my record “. He asked the electors to reelect him and all his supporters on that record which, in his opinion, was so proud. Many of those supporters are not with us now. The record of which he was so proud is the record which produced the credit squeeze, the record which produced large numbers of unemployed, the record which produced so much misery and so much lack of confidence among the people. This was the record of the Menzies Government. Let me quote the words of the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) some time ago. He said: “Notwithstanding all this, the Government was re-elected. Even though it won by only a short half-head, it was re-elected. It was re-elected on the policy announced by the Prime Minister.” Certainly it did not receive the votes of the majority of the Australian people, but because of the way in which the electorates are distributed the Government has a majority of the voting members of this House.
Since the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are the demons of the whole piece I can be pardoned if I refer to some of the statements made by these two right honorable gentlemen prior to the general election. The Prime Minister said in his policy speech -
The most discussed by-product of our policies has been some temporary unemployment. The employment position has for some months been steadily improving and should continue to do so.
He made that statement on 1 5th November, 1961. We know that from that date until a week or two ago the numbers of unemployed continued to rise. He said further -
Our opponents magnify the employment problem for election purposes. It will be for you to decide whether you believe that business prosperity, employment opportunities, capital investment, national growth and international trade will be greater under a socialist administration.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the people of Australia in their numbers thought that the future of this country would be better handled by a Labour Party administration, because we received 304,000 more votes than the combined total of the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party. The Prime Minister said further -
We believe that the national economy is healthy. There is no reason for pessimism, and the greatest enemies of future progress are those who prophesy disaster and try to persuade you that a depression is just around the corner.
I remind the House that these quotations are from the Prime Minister’s policy speech. Since he won the election, one would have thought that he believed those statements himself; but let me quote a few more of the gems that fell from the lips of this great orator. He said -
Unemployment is nominal in broad terms.
Unemployment is nominal! At that time the number of people registered for unemployment benefit was 113,000. He also said -
I can look you in the face and tell you the level of employment in Australia has been the highest in the free world.
If that be the case, God help the free world. He went on with statements similar to those, which comprised the policy of the Liberal Party. However, having been re-elected, he immediately changed his policy. Apparently all those statements were false. Did he believe them to be false, or was he merely forced by the vote of the people to change his policy? I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the election results have caused the Prime Minister to change his policy, and the State which principally caused the change of policy is Queensland.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has always spoken in the most glowing terms of the State of Queensland during his very infrequent visits there.
Figuratively speaking he almost embraced the State and he used to say, “ This is the State which gives me my majority “. Prior to the last election, out of eighteen Queensland members in this House only three were not supporters of the parties which sit behind the Prime Minister. So the Government regarded the position in Queensland as being absolutely secure for it. The majority of members from that State also regarded the situation as safe for liberalism there. They became complacent, they became disinterested in the welfare of the State; so much so that they were attacked by State Ministers of their own political faith for displaying disinterestedness in Queensland. I know that the Queensland Minister for Mines, Mr. Evans, a prominent Country Party member, most savagely attacked the former member for Petrie, and former Minister for Supply, Mr. Hulme, and the former Government Whip, Mr. Pearce, who was the honorable member for Capricornia before the election. He absolutely rejected the claims they had made of being interested in obtaining markets abroad for Queensland coal. He was most vicious in those attacks on those two Liberal members, who were supporters of the Government before the last election removed them from among us. The people of Queensland, after many years have risen in resentment and thrown off the burden of Liberalism which has retarded the development of the State, and they have returned overwhelmingly a group of Labour Party supporters. Whereas the representation for that State prior to the election was three Labour Party members to fifteen Liberal-Australian Country Party members, to-day there are eleven Labour members and seven Liberal-Australian Country Party members, and one of those seven is here only by the grace of the Communist Party.
The Prime Minister has seen fit to change his policy because of the opinions expressed by Queenslanders who changed their representation m this place. The people of Queensland are deserving of the gratitude of the whole of Australia for what they did on 9th December last, because it has caused a change of front on the part of the Prime Minister. Prior to the election he was prepared to see unemployment as purely nominal and to say. “It is unfortunate that we have some temporary unemployment “. But since.. the election : smoke has cleared, and he has seen his majority in this House shrink from 30 to two, he has decided that unemployment is something real. He decided it was something that was causing great concern to the people and that something had to be done about it. He then announced the new economic policy of the Liberal Party. Although, only one month before, he had said that the ‘policy of the Australian Labour Party to provide increased grants to the States, to increase the unemployment benefit and to do a host of other things was absolutely impracticable and inflationary, he embraced that policy and announced immediately the grant of money to the States, not by way of loan, but as an absolute gift. He did so with a prayer on his lips, saying: “ Please spend this money immediately to solve the unemployment problem. Spend it before the end of June.” That is the change of front on the part of the Prime Minister, and’ the few who have come back from the election battle with him gladly support that policy. That is the effect of the bill which we are supporting this evening.
According to the Prime Minister, the principal purposes of the measure is to solve the unemployment problem. What is the reason for the existing unemployment? Honorable members will recollect that only a few months ago, prior to the election, we were told we were living in an era of great prosperity. Suddenly the dream vanished and we were faced with the realities of depression and unemployment. This situation was made by the Government. This Government has fathered unemployment and all this misery has been created by the Liberal-Country Party Government. This has been done principally by its policy of removing import controls and allowing this country to be flooded with goods which could be manufactured here but which have been manufactured in other countries.” It is a sorry state of affairs that in some of the larger shops in Brisbane it is almost impossible to buy goods of Australian manufacture. But the assistants are ever ready and willing to hand out goods marked with brands showing that they are made in almost any country other than Australia. This is the principal reason for the creation of the huge army of unemployed which we now have in our country and which has frightened the Prime Minister into changing his policy.
As we know from the speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) the Government has decided to distribute this £10,000,000 on a most unusual basis. The usual formula has not been adopted and Queensland is to receive the greatest allocation from this grant. Of the £10,000,000 involved the Queensland Government receives £3,340,000, because both the percentage and the number of unemployed in Queensland are greater than in other States. I remind the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), who spoke about the marvellous government that we have in Queensland, that that Liberal-Country Party Government must take some of the blame for the near depression that we are experiencing in that State. Some three years ago Mr. Morris, the Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, when seeking the votes of the people said that if the LiberalCountry Party was returned to government in Queensland industry and investors would flock to the State to such an extent that there would be more jobs available than men to fill them. Unfortunately, the reverse has been the case. Industry has not flocked to Queensland and there are more men than there are jobs available for them to fill. No assistance had been given by the Menzies Government to the solution of the unemployment problem, except the allocations to the State governments by way of loans.
Now we have a change of front. I will be charitable and fair and say that the Prime Minister has changed his views. He has changed his coat and has changed his policy. He has, to some extent, embraced the Australian Labour Party’s policy and in that respect I have no regrets at all.
I am pleased to see this bill before the House and to know that the money will be available for the States to enable them immediately to carry out what we may, in truth, cai] relief work. We are going back to the days of providing money merely to make relief work available to absorb the unemployed. Unfortunately, no guarantee of any continuity of employment accompanies this grant. As the Treasurer has said - I think the Prime Minister said it also - the money must be spent during this financial year, that is, before the end of June. Whereas the States have made attempts to spend the money rather quickly, no provision has been made for them to obtain any further grant to maintain this rate of employment after 30th June. It is true that some little time ago we, in this House, debated and passed a bill to provide increased funds for the construction of homes. History in Queensland shows clearly that the best way to meet a period of unemployment is to provide money for the building industry. Building is truly the barometer of conditions in the industrial field and when that industry is prosperous so is every other industry. There is any amount of opportunity for the development of the building industry.
People are crying out for homes and, particularly in Queensland, the rate of home building is not as high as it should be. Members of Parliament from that State know of the tragic cases that are so frequently put up to them by young people seeking assistance to obtain homes. These are young people compelled to live in substandard conditions because they are unable to obtain homes under the housing commission scheme in that State and are unable to obtain assistance from the building societies to enable them to build homes. Only a little time ago a meeting of a building society was held in Brisbane. The directors, arriving half an hour before the meeting was to commence, found considerable difficulty in getting into the room because the crowd was so great. People had flocked in their hundreds to the meeting of this small building society in the hope of having their names placed early on the list and obtaining assistance to build their homes. The leaders of the building societies in Brisbane, who as a rule are bv no means supporters of the Australian Labour Party - one of them is a Liberal alderman of the Brisbane City Council - have been most severe in their criticism of this Government’s home building programme and the amount of money it has made available for people who desire to build hemes.
The money now made available has to be spent by the end of June, but unfortunately there is no provision for the grant to be extended to local authorities. It is true that the Government has approved of local authorities having an increased loan allocation. But they are compelled to find this money from various sources. Some of the local authorities in Queensland are not prepared to go on the loan market and obtain new loan money. They want grants from the Commonwealth Government, just as the States have had. The Brisbane City Council has taken advantage of the approval of this Government and has obtained an increase of over £400,000 in its loan allocation and has put men into employment merely to give them jobs. It is playing a major role, as far as it possibly can, in its limited way, in solving the unemployment problem in Brisbane. But unfortunately the £400,000 that it has received from the loan market will be expended at the end of June and the future of the men who have been engaged on this relief work is very doubtful.
It would appear from this state of affairs that it will not be possible for the city council to retain them in employment. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) and the Treasurer, on their visits to Queensland recently, sounded a call to the people to spend more and to have confidence, but, unfortunately, the people of Australia do not seem to be prepared to express confidence in this Government. They did not express confidence in the Government on election day. Indeed, they expressed a clear lack of confidence in the Government at that time. But, Mr. Deputy Speaker, they did cause the Government to change its face. They caused the Government to change its policy in an endeavour to inspire confidence on the part of the Australian people. Unfortunately, the Government has failed. Whereas for ten years the Prime Minister was regarded as a saint in the eyes of the Australian people, now he plays exactly the opposite role. He plays an almost satanic role. The people refuse to believe him. The “ Courier-Mail “ of Brisbane published a report on 20th March which showed the real siguificance of the failure of the Government’s policy. The report read as follows: -
Figures released last night by the Commonwealth Statistician (Mr. Archer) show that trading bank advances fell during February by £11,520,000 to £965,211,000- the lowest point since April, 1960.
On the other hand, deposits soared by £29,833,000. The business people have the money, but they refuse to invest it because they have no confidence in this Govern ment. The statistician’s figures show that non-interest bearing bank balances rose by £11,752,000 during that period. Business people would rather let their money lie idle than risk investing in Australia to-day, knowing that this Government is still in power and that it has no stable policy. Over the years its policy has changed from month to month. Until there is a change of government, confidence will not be restored. In 1944 the Prime Minister said -
The nation must rouse itself and work.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I believe that the Australian nation wants to rouse itself and work. The only instrumentality that is stopping the Australian nation from rousing itself and working is the Menzies Government at Canberra.
.- I am very glad indeed that members of the Opposition are not opposing this measure. I regret, though, that they have taken the opportunity for a little crocodile tear shedding and a bit of party political propaganda. It is quite incorrect for honorable members opposite to say that we have taken - I think that somebody said “ stolen “ - Labour’s election policy. The supplementary measures announced early in February by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) were formulated as a result of careful and detailed discussions by an economic subcommittee of federal Cabinet after consultation with representatives of a variety of sections of the economy, including bankers, manufacturers and chambers of commerce. Out of these discussions came a series of financial proposals of which this measure is one.
The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) twitted the Government for having been re-elected on its record. I believe that we have every right to be proud of that record if we look back at the situation that existed at the end of 1949 when this Government took over from the Chifley Labour Government. The standard of living in this country was then much lower than it is to-day and Australia had very few friends in the world. The main thought paramount in the mind of the Labour Government of that time appeared to be organized scarcity. It was not concerned with the production of wealth, the increase of capital investment and the development of the country. It was much more concerned with following a policy of socialization. If it could only have got away with it, it would have nationalized the banking system in 1947 or in 1948. Fortunately, its aims were frustrated by decisions of the High Court of Australia and of the Privy Council.
There is no doubt in my mind, nor in the minds of many other people in this country, about the true aims and policies of the Australian Labour Party. At election time, the members of that party never say a word about nationalization, except that on the last occasion they said that for three years they would not do anything about it. Time after time, on the occasion of general elections, the leader of the Labour Party has enunciated a most attractive policy and issued a string of glowing, glittering promises. These are dangled as electoral bait before the noses of the Australian electors. The Australian Labour Party always most assiduously sidesteps its real platform at the critical time - election time. If members of the Australian Labour Party are ashamed of their real platform, which is socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, let them scrap it and write into their platform those principles which they advocate at election time.
We are proud of the record of this Government during its twelve years of office. They have not been easy years. There have been ups and downs in Australia as in other parts of the world. But we are proud, not only of our record, but of the fact that we still form the Government and that we did not get here by buying or offering to buy the votes of the Australian public as the Australian Labour Party tried to do on 9th December.
If I were an honorable member on the other side of the House, I would be very quiet about the result in the electorate of Moreton. Opposition members like to speak about the result in Moreton, but the Australian Labour Party candidate polled well over 80 per cent, of the Communist candidate’s preferences there. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who sits beside me on this side of the House, received a percentage well below 20 - about 16 per cent, or 17 per cent, of the Communist preferences. Even the honorable members opposite who are interjecting will know that this was because the letter “ K “ followed the letter “ J “ in the alphabet and that any one in juxtaposition to a Communist on a ballot-paper is bound to get a few leakages of preference from that candidate.
– Order! Will the honorable member please relate his remarks to the bill?
– As 1 was saying, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we are proud of our policy. We are opposed to a policy of organized scarcity. There is much talk of unemployment, but the economic state of the nation to-day is vastly superior to that which existed in 1949 when we took over. During 1949, unemployment reached an all-time high. Many Australians who have travelled abroad say that we do not know how lucky we are to have such a high standard of living. So, when honorable members opposite decry the efforts of the Government on the economic front it only shows that their vision is narrow and that their political growth is stunted. If they were more mature they would be prepared to accept the views of those who are better informed and who have seen other countries of the world. I remind honorable members that last year this Government was awarded an Oscar by the London “ Financial Times “ for the way in which it handled its economic problems.
This bill is one of a series of measures designed to restore confidence in the country and to improve economic conditions in all States between now and the end of the current financial year - 30th June next. It is important in a young and rapidly developing country that we should eliminate any feeling of insecurity that there may be in any section of the community, and this Government is anxious to do that. It is anxious to encourage a normal rate of spending and a normal rate of investment in expanded enterprise and production. It is important also that we should make full use of all available man-power and materials and that every one who is able and willing to work should be found a job of work to do at the earliest possible moment.
We are proud of our economic record over the past twelve years, but I think the House should be reminded, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, that, although, unfortunately, we have a measure of unemployment, which we all regret, nevertheless, by comparison with other countries, our percentage of employment is high. At 2nd March last the employment figure for Australia was 97.4 per cent., which, judged by any standard in the world, is high. But that does not mean to say for a moment that we must not strain every nerve and sinew to reduce the 2.6 per cent, unemployment which still remains. The Government has given an earnest of its intention in this regard in the current series of measures, of which this bill is one. Although honorable members opposite have made some rather sneering remarks about the amount of £10,000,000 which is being allocated under this bill, I believe the Australian people look upon the measure as one of some importance and of some worth. After all, £10,000,000 allotted on the basis of need so far as unemployment in the various States is concerned is not to be sniffed at, especially when the amount allocated is not repayable and is granted interest free to the States. I should like to congratulate the Government on this practical and urgent step which it has taken as part of its effort to solve the unemployment problem. Naturally, as a Queenslander, I am very pleased indeed that Queensland is to receive the largest allocation of all the States. Queensland is to be allocated £3,340,000, or a little over one-third of the total grant of £10,000,000 for all the States.
– Tell us why.
– It is perfectly true, as my colleague, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) pointed out this afternoon, that until recent weeks Queensland had suffered severely from adverse seasonal conditions over the last five or six years. Unfortunately, it suffered also under a series of Labour governments for 38 out of the last 47 years, and I take this opportunity of congratulating the Liberal-Country Party Government of Queensland on the magnificent work it has done since attaining office in 1957. When it took office, that Government had to start well behind scratch because a great deal of leeway had to be made up. Stagnation had set in, a vast amount of development awaited to be done and confidence had to be restored before a real start could be made on building up and developing the State. That work was started, but unfortunately development had not reached any really advanced stage when the State was hit again, as we all know, in 1960-61. The economic measures taken by the Commonwealth Government to correct the inflationary boom at that time unfortunately had a more adverse effect in Queensland than elsewhere for the reasons I have just mentioned.
Following the decision of the Premiers’ Conference about the middle of February, and, anticipating the measure we are now discussing, the Queensland Government got to work and prepared a programme of urgent works to provide immediate employment for some thousands of people. Already contracts involving the expenditure of some hundreds of thousands of pounds have been announced. The House will be interested to know that the money now being allocated will be spent in Queensland mainly on houses, schools and public buildings in various parts of the State, main roads, tourist roads, rural roads, sewerage and road construction works in Housing Commission estates, reafforestation, reclamation work, irrigation and a variety of other projects. The Queensland Government is to be complimented upon getting to work so quickly. I believe that it has got to work in advance of the other States in preparing this urgent works programme so that no time or money will be lost in relation to the allocation we are now considering. I believe that the prompt letting of these major contracts will play a most important part not only in restoring that confidence which is so much needed but also in providing employment for a large number of those who are at present out of work. But governments alone cannot solve these problems. It is perfectly true that on all governments, both Commonwealth and State, there rests a responsibility to govern wisely, to intrude as little as possible into the lives and businesses of the people and to engender and encourage the right climate for the development of the nation and for the promotion of the happiness of the people as a whole. I believe that it now rests very largely with trade and industry, and with individual Australians, to show confidence in the future of our country by proceeding along the lines I have indicated.
I should like to say that 1 welcome very warmly, as I am sure other honorable members on both sides of the House do, the public-spirited statements that have appeared in several leading newspapers under the caption “ Let’s get back to prosperity”, encouraging people to return to a normal rate of spending and a normal rate of investment. All that is very good. I should also like to place oh record my appreciation of the public-spirited statements made by various business leaders who are approaching the matter in the same way. I do not think I can do better in this respect than to quote the words of Mr. A. H. Tolley, chairman of Myer Emporium Limited, when announcing the new Myer projects in New South Wales and Queensland not so long ago. On that occasion he said - lt is indeed heartening that the Federal Government has decided on a variety of measures designed to produce a position of stability in which Australians may work steadily towards th. great future which the resources of this country make possible. My own company has never faltered in its belief in that future and has always taken the long-term view that the Australian economy was not only fundamentally sound but also that development in the next decade would dwarf anything that has gone before.
Those are fine words which express fine sentiments and I think that, as loyal Australians, we would all agree with them. I think, too, that the knockers in the community are to be deplored. I was pleased to note that in thi last issue of their publication, the Queensland retailers published a very stringent article on the knocking attempts of various sections of the community in relation to confidence in the economy. In that publication they said -
Every time someone “ knocked “ efforts being made to improve existing conditions, they did an outstanding disservice to the unfortunate people who were unemployed.
I suggest that if people are genuinely interested in restoring full employment, if they are genuinely interested in the welfare and happiness of the Australian people as a whole, they will support and encourage people to return to normal spending, normal investment and a normal approach to economic matters generally.
Finally, I should like to refer to another authority - the March issue of the “Monthly Summary of Australian Conditions” published by the National Bank of Australasia Limited. I will not ask the House to listen to a lengthy extract, but for the benefit of those honorable members who have not had an opportunity to read it, I direct attention to the editorial and particularly to the second page under the heading, “Way Cleared for Action”. Reference is made in the editorial to an increase in the production of goods and services in the community, and to the very strong reserves overseas totalling more than £600,000.000, and it states-
The Government’s February measures have set the stage for a recovery of magnitude.
I shall conclude on that point, and hope that we will all bear in mind the need for encouraging confidence and for discouraging depression, gloom and despair in this vibrant young nation of ours which has such a bright future.
.- I wish to take this opportunity to correct some deliberate misstatements that were made by the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury). He started by saying that the unemployment position was worse when this Government took over than it is now. The facts are that in December. 1949, .8 per cent, of the work force was unemployed and only 908 persons were receiving the unemployment benefit. At present there are 49,740 receiving the unemployment benefit and 2.6 per cent, of the work force is unemployed. So I suggest to the honorable member that when he makes statements in the House, he should be careful. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) began his secondreading speech by saving -
The purpose of this hill is to authorize payment to the States of amounts totalling £10,000,000 in this financial year. These amounts are being made available in the form of non-repayable grants, and are additional to the financial assistance grants paid to the States under the States Grants Act 1959
In his statement of 7th February, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced that Cabinet had, after valuable consultations with a wide range of industries and interests, reviewed the present state of the economy and closely considered policy and appropriate action. He intimated that the Government was concerned both at the level of unemployment which was then evident, and at the weakness of confidence which existed.
So the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was concerned at the level of unemployment and the weakness of confidence which existed. That was the first time we heard that the Prime Minister had said he was concerned about the level of unemployment. In actual fact, it was the policy of the Government led by this Prime Minister that was responsible for the unemployment, and this Government was responsible for the weakness of confidence that was evident. There is no doubt that this unemployment was deliberately created.
– That is a wicked lie.
– That was the purpose of the credit squeeze. It was deliberately created. There is no question of it.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I heard the Minister for the Interior say, “That is a wicked lie”. That is an unparliamentary expression and it is offensive and I ask that the Minister withdraw it.
– Did the Minister use those words?
– Yes, I did say that the honorable member’s statement was a wicked lie. The remarks of the honorable member for Stirling were equally offensive to me. As I have made an unparliamentary remark, I withdraw it; but I suggest that the honorable member should confine his remarks to reality.
– Order! I suggest to the Minister that he withdraw his remark.
– I have withdrawn it.
– The Minister must withdraw it unqualifiedly.
– I did not qualify my withdrawal. I take a point of order, and suggest that the honorable member’s statement that this Government deliberately caused unemployment is equally offensive to members of the Government.
– Will the Minister please withdraw his remark unqualifiedly.
– I have withdrawn it unqualifiedly but I still maintain my own views about it.
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister, when finally called upon to withdraw, said, “ I have withdrawn it unqualifiedly but I still maintain my own views about it “. That is complete defiance of the Chair.
– Order! I do not think it was defiance of the Chair. The Minister said he withdrew unqualifiedly. The Chair accepts the Minister’s apology.
-I repeat what I said a few minutes ago.
– Then you are a fibber.
– I said that unemployment was deliberately created by this Government, and that that was the purpose of the credit squeeze. Nobody can deny it. This is the form of economic savagery that has been used repeatedly by this Government when it got into economic difficulties and felt there was no other way out. The Prime Minister himself has said publicly in Fremantle that there should be a pool of unemployed to discipline the workers.
– When did he say that?
– The Prime Minister said that deliberately, my friend, and it was reported in the “ Western Australian Wheat Grower “ of 26th April, 1946. That is not a Labour newspaper.
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair. “ My friend “ is not the Chair.
– The policy of this Government and those who support it shows a callous disregard for the misery and suffering of those who have been put out of work and their dependants. In a previous debate, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) referred to the unemployed as malingerers.
– That is not true.
– It appears in “Hansard” and has been referred to in this House previously. It is true that following the last general election, the Prime Minister got the wind up. The Government was stirred to action finally when it realized that it could not always rely upon the preference votes of the Australian Democratic Labour
Party and of the Communist Party to keep it in office and decided that something had to be done. So the Government introduced various measures, some of which were taken from Australian Labour Party policy, to try to win back the favour of the electors. That is how this proposal to make a grant of £10,000,000 to the States was conceived.
Without going into details, I direct the attention of honorable members to that portion of the Treasurer’s second-reading speech in which he announced the grants to the States. Queensland is to receive £3,340,000 and Western Australia is to get £660,000. It is true that Western Australia has not the same degree of unemployment as have some of the other States, but the level of unemployment there is higher than it should be and certainly is higher now than it was in 1957 when this Government granted Western Australia £2,000,000- not £660,000- for the relief of unemployment. The State received £2,000,000 when unemployment was about 5,000 or 1.7 per cent, of the work force. If the present government of Western Australia had had enough gumption to use the arguments that were used in 1957 to get £2.000,000 from the Commonwealth Government it would have got more than the present allocation of £660,000.
The number of registered unemployed in Western Australia has increased from 5,800 in December to 6,777 at present - about 2.3 per cent, of the work force. The grant that has been made in an attempt to relieve this unemployment is a miserable £660,000. Unemployment, as a percentage of the work force, is now higher in Western Australia than it is in South Australia and Victoria. It is true that Western Australia was not hit as hard as some other States were by the credit squeeze; but the answer to this proposition is fairly simple. We did not have big industries to be affected, as most of the other States did. We did not have the motor industries that were so badly hit in other States. The Government should remember that unemployment has been more consistent in Western Australia over the years than it has been in other States. The average for, say, the past six years would be higher than the average in any other part of Australia.
– That is absolute nonsense.
– You should check the figures instead of being critical of what I am saying.
– Give us to-day’s figures?
– I am giving you to-day’s figures, as you would realize if you took your nose out of that book.
– Unemployment is now 2.3 per cent, of the work force.
– What was it in 1958?
– It was less than it is now. This allocation of funds favours Queensland. Of course, that is the State where the Government had the biggest drubbing at the last general election. This looks very much like a bribe to that State. The Government hopes, of course, that when the time comes for another election, it will receive more votes there than it did at the last election, but I do not think it will. I am certain that at long last the Queensland electors realize that the Government has been pulling the wool over their eyes.
As the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) said, Western Australia has several public works that are very important, and something should be done about them. I agree with his comments on the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme. I raised this matter by way of question to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) only a few days ago. I shall not read the whole of his answer - it appears at page 603 of “Hansard” for 7th March, 1962. In the last two paragraphs of his answer, he said -
In 1960 the present Government of Western Australia proposed further that the Commonwealth meet half the cost of extension of the water reticulation scheme estimated to cost £17,500,000. This was, in effect, a proposal to re-institute the balance of the 12,000,000-acre scheme which had been put forward in 1946.
The Commonwealth gave careful consideration to the request but reached the conclusion that there were insufficient grounds to justify special Commonwealth financial assistance for the proposed extension.
The honorable member for Moore adequately described how the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme would be of benefit to the country. It would open up more of Western Australia, it would increase production and it would not only provide employment for those engaged in the construction of the scheme but would provide further employment when the scheme was completed. I support his request that the Treasurer further consider the proposal of the Western Australian Government.
More funds should have been made available on this occasion to get the unemployed back to work. Hundreds of young people under the age of sixteen years, who have just left school, are not actually listed among the number of unemployed. School leavers under sixteen years of age are not registered as unemployed, but they are looking for work nonetheless, and they are entitled to work.
One of the most disastrous effects of unemployment - this is not restricted to Western Australia but is general throughout the Commonwealth - is the attitude of employers who refuse to employ men who are over the age of 45 years. If a man reaches 45 years and for some unfortunate reason loses his job, he finds it very difficult indeed to obtain employment. A ban has been placed on those who are 45 or over and 1 appeal to the Government to look into the situation. The Commonwealth Employment Service should do what it can to find work for these men and perhaps employers could be asked to change their attitude. Their being thrown on the scrapheap is bad enough; but this also has a detrimental effect on members of their families. Because the father is unemployed, the sons and daughters are required to leave school much earlier than they had intended and to look for work. They cannot complete their training for the work they had intended to undertake and must take whatever work is offering. Some of them take dead-end jobs. This has an effect not only on the immediate employment but also on the future employment of these young people.
We are in fact now experiencing some of the bad features of the depression years. Young people leaving school are finding themselves in dead-end jobs. It is not easy for them to find work that will give them a reasonable future. They cannot get apprenticeships at present. In the depression years, young people in this situation were known as the legion of the lost. We do not want the experience of those years to be repeated now.
Many young people who left school in the depression days did not have a fulltime job until the war started. During the war, they were promised full employment when they left the armed services. They were given full employment at the end of the war because Labour was then in office. The Curtin Labour Government and the Chifley Labour Government were responsible for full employment and it was only when the Menzies Government came into office that unemployment grew. It has grown from a small number until it has reached the present dimensions. Security of employment is not the right of parents only; it is also the right of the young people. Social security does not mean bigger and better doles. It means real economic security and full-time employment in happy jobs at decent rates of pay.
Our economy has been damaged by the follies and muddles of this Government. Because we criticize the Government and because honorable members opposite cannot take our criticism, we are told that we are starting misery and discontent in the community. That is not so. If we do not talk about these problems they will never be solved. The policy of this Government created the Menzies-made depression. The following passage appeared on the financial page of the “ Sunday Times “, a Western Australia newspaper, on Sunday, 23rd March, 1962:-
Confidence is a tender plant in the heart of the toughest businessman.
Up to, and including most of, 1960 he had scarcely stopped expanding, and seldom paused to doubt the rosy nature of our long-term prospects.
The 1961 experience has changed this thinking dramatically; the unkindest cut being the way in which emergency measures with the appearance of permanence quietly melted away . . .
It is not surprising that many observers feel that this sort of interference with a particular industry borders on the irresponsible.
The writer was referring to the motor industry.
– Read the headline.
– The headline is-
Long term plans are needed bow.
We have not been told of any long-term plans. All the Government is doing is introducing temporary plans which will last only to the end of June next. The economist, John Eddy - no one could call him a Labour man - on 21st March said in the “West Australian” -
Last year’s mistake of deliberate recession gave people a fright . . Suddenly, doubts and hesitation were introduced and more than 100,000 people were out of work.
Once bitten, twice shy - and it takes time to recover from such a shock.
Those are statements made not by a representative of the Labour Party, birt by an outside economist. They are statements that cannot be refuted. Recessions are products not of words but of the actions of men, and firm and forthright action is necessary to solve the problems with which we are faced at this time. We need the kind of leadership that will give us permanent solutions, long-term solutions of our problems, and not simply temporary expedients that carry us over from month to month or, at the most, until the end of next June. We want leadership that is backed by the courage and foresight necessary to take the action that must be taken if we are to overcome our present troubles and maintain a dynamic and expanding economy in the future.
The States are being given a miserly £10,000,000 for expenditure on public works in order to get them out of their present difficulties. I do not think h will achieve this end. Something more must be done. At present we have 112,500 persons registered as unemployed. This number represents 2.6 of our work force. But this is not the full story, because we know that not all those who are unemployed register as being out of work. I have already mentioned the young people leaving school. They are not counted as unemployed until they reach the age of sixteen years. Migrants in holding centres are not included in the numbers of unemployed. If these groups are taken into account, and consideration is also given to the number who are on part-time work only, we will find that the correct level of unemployment at the moment is about 160,000.
It is true that there was an improvement in the position in January, and mis has been welcomed by every body. But the improvement was not nearly good enough. One should surely not be happy about a situation in which 2.6 of our workers are unemployed. This is indefensible in a young, developing country like Australia where there is so much to be done. There is no excuse for unemployment even in countries that might be considered fully developed, but unemployment should not be countenanced in a country like ours, when we should be expanding our economy and getting on with all the major developmental works that are so necessary. Every one who is willing and able to work should have a job. It is the policy of the Labour Party to see that jobs are available for all such persons.
This Government has been completely responsible for the unemployment that exists to-day, and in bringing about this situation it has deliberately ignored the principles set out in legislation that is on our statute books. The Commonwealth Bank Act, for instance, sets out the principle of full employment. This principle is also contained in the Charter of the United Nations. Article 23 of that Charter says -
Article 25 of the Charter contains a similar provision.
– How did you vote at the Internationa] Labour Organization?
– The Government seems to be happy about the present position.
– How did you vote at the International Labour Organization?
– My remarks seem to be upsetting the honorable member for Franklin. Although there has been some recovery according to the figures released for January, it cannot be said that our economy is in a happy position. On 20th March, 1962, a report appeared in the “ West Australian “ of comments made by the director of the Australian Associated Chambers of Manufactures. The report said, in part -
He said there was still a wide area of slackness to be taken up in the economy.
The majority of firms, 70 per cent, in fact said that they were still working below economic levels of capacity This was only marginally better than at the previous survey last November.
Shortages of orders remained the overwhelming factor working against manufacturers’ ability to increase production.
There was still far too much of the local market being supplied by imports instead of Australian factories . . .
But it served as a clear warning that the economy was not .yet back to normal levels of production. Further measures might yet be necessary to achieve this.
We are calling on the Government to take these further measures and to introduce permanent stability into the economy. We ask the Government to depart from the stop-go policy that it has followed during the twelve years it has been in office.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) made a very short speech when introducing this bill, but he did say that the Premiers had accepted the proposal, both as to the total amount and to the proposed distribution. This of course was not correct. Mr. Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, attacked the Commonwealth Government on the subject of the grant. He was very critical of the way in which the money was to be distributed. His remarks were reported in the “West Australian” of 7th March, 1962, under the heading, “Bolte Attacks Government on Grant”. If the Treasurer believes that the Premiers were happy about the amount and the distribution of the grant, I can tell him that at least one Premier, of the same political colour as himself, has been most critical.
This extra money is quite inadequate. It will not be nearly sufficient to do all the things that are necessary to bring the economy back to an even keel. Small as the amount of the grant is, however, it represents a victory for democracy. The people showed, by their votes on 9th December last, that they expected the Government to do something. It was only because the people rose up in their wrath and very nearly threw the Government out that we have found the Government prepared to go as far as it has done in introducing this measure.
Together with other honorable members on this side of the House, I reluctantly support the bill. However, we criticize it for the inadequacy of the grant, and we sincerely hope that something more will be done to put Australia’s economy back on an even keel. We do not want a measure that provides assistance for a temporary period only; we want something that will ensure a steady economy, so that Australia may advance and develop.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the early part of his remarks, the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) said that I had made a deliberate misstatement during my speech in that I had claimed that unemployment was higher when we took over in December, 1949, than it is to-day. What I had referred to was the peak period of unemployment during 1949.. I had in mind the three months period of the coal strike. I do not think I referred specifically to it, but it had been referred to earlier in the debate.
– The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) obviously has a low estimation of the Government. That is simply a mark of his political belief. What is far more serious for this House is that apparently he has a very low estimation of the intelligence of members of the House, and that is a mark of his own deficiencies. In the early part of his speech he made two statements within a short space of time. One was that the Government had set out deliberately to create unemployment. Then, having made a few more remarks, he said that the Government was trying to curry favour with the electors.
Surely the honorable member credits his fellow members of this House with a little more sense than to expect them to accept two contradictory propositions of that kind. But assuming that the second of his propositions is true and that the fault of this Government is that it tries to curry favour with the electors, would it do that by setting out deliberately to create unemployment? Let him charge us with whatever defects he likes to. find in our judgment. Let him charge us with whatever lack of wisdom he finds in our economic policies. But let him not try the intelligence of the members of this House by suggesting either to them or to the people of Australia that any government would deliberately set out to create unemployment and, by so doing, work its own destruction.
Moreover, let the honorable member have the grace to recognize that on both sides of the House there are people who are genuinely trying to do their best for the economy of this country and who are equally concerned about the welfare of its people. I think it is an ungenerous and false charge that the Government deliberately set out to create unemployment. It is a charge which I would resist much more strongly if it had not, in its own terms, revealed the stupidity of the one who made it.
– Mr. Speaker, the Minister made a remark to which I take exception.
– Sit down!
– The only one who will sit me down here is Mr. Speaker.
– The Minister referred to what he described as my stupidity. I ask that he withdraw that statement.
– Order! The language used was parliamentary.
- Mr. Speaker, the only other passage in the honorable member’s speech which I want to mention is a passing reference to unemployment in his own State of Western Australia. He made an assertion to the effect that at the time when the previous Labour Government in Western Australia - the Hawke Government - was in office, unemployment was at a level lower than that at which it is to-day under the Brand Liberal Government. When challenged by interjection to quote his authority or to produce some figures, the honorable member failed to do so. He merely repeated his assertion. So, for his benefit and for the benefit of the House, I shall produce the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician for the month of February, 1959, and the month of February, 1962. In February of 1959, the total unemployment in Western Australia was 7,328. That was 2.6 per cent, of the work force. In February, 1962, the total unemployment in that State was 6,777, or 2.3 per cent. of the work force. The contrast between the two periods in question is between the percentages of 2.6 and 2.3, on the honorable member’s argument. But a much more significant fact is this: In February, 1959, when unemployment was 2.6 per cent, under a State Labour government, the figure for the whole of Australia was 1.9 per cent. So Western Australia, in February, 1959, under the Hawke Government, had a higher percentage of unemployment than Australia as a whole had. To-day, however, when the figure, under a State Liberal government, is 2.3 per cent., the figure for Australia as a whole is 2.6 per cent. Western Australia has now a lower percentage of unemployment than has Australia as a whole. This is a most impressive contrast, which shows that under a Liberal government the position of Western Australia in respect of unemployment is far better than is the position of Australia as a whole, whereas, under a State Labour government, the position of Western Australia was far worse than was that of Australia as a whole.
I now turn to the bill before the House, Sir. I want to bring the attention of honorable members back to its single very simple provision. This bill, as several speakers have already said, is closely related to the Government’s measures to stimulate the economy. The amount is not in itself a sum of significance in the general total of Federal-State financial aid. It is part of what the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in his second-reading speech, described as a package offer to the State Premiers. The items in that package, as honorable members will recall, were an additional advance to the States for housing of £7,500,000, an increase in the borrowing programmes for semi-governmental and local authorities of £10,000,000, and the non-repayable grant of £10,000,000, provision for which is made in the bill now before the House. So, in total, we had a package offer of £27,500,000. The purpose of providing that money for expenditure by the States was to stimulate employment in the short term by providing for the expenditure immediately of the sizeable sum of £27,500,000 over a comparatively few months.
Associated with this proposal were some other measures with a similar purpose. These included the expenditure of an additional £1,000,000 on Commonwealth works and the increase in unemployment benefit so that we would put into the hands of the unemployed section of the community an extra £1,500,000 of spending money immediately. By “ immediately “ I mean within the remaining few months of the current financial year. There was the provision of an additional £5,000,000 of capital for the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia. There was a reduction of sales tax, the cost of which to revenue is expected to be £4,500,000 in the remainder of the financial year. There were income tax rebates, the cost of which to revenue in the remaining months of the financial year is expected to be £25,000,000, and the effect of which is intended to be the raising of the purchasing power of the Australian public by £25,000,000 in the rest of this financial year. So, in total, we get something more than £50,000,000 which is to be put into the community by various means with the sole and direct intention of helping to stimulate employment.
I was rather interested this afternoon to hear one of the newly-elected members of the House talking, in terms of eloquent contempt, of these “ measly millions “. I think it is a great tribute to the transforming effect of the rare atmosphere here that some one can come immediately out of an Australian suburb and, in a matter of weeks, regard £50,000,000 as “measly millions “. This is a wonderful transformation. There must be something about this federal atmosphere and about the way in which we handle other people’s money if, in a matter of weeks, a person, who, like the rest of us, I imagine, thought that £10,000 or £100,000 was a sizeable sum, suddenly comes to regard £50,000,000 as being just a measly sum. These measures, we are confident, will have their effect by stimulating employment in the current months. Indeed, the effect of them is already being seen.
I turn now, Sir, to the £10,000,000 nonrepayable grant that is being provided under the terms of this bill. As honorable members know, this provision of £10;000,000 contains some novel principles in respect of its allocation. This sum is being allocated where it is needed in economic terms. The usual criteria for distributing money between States were not applied in this instance. First of all, a special allocation of £2,500,000 to Queensland and £500,000 to Tasmania was made because those were the States where the unemployment situation was most serious. The remainder of the £10,000,000 was distributed among the States by the same method as is used for the works and- housing programmes. That method was accepted by the State Premiers as being satisfactory.
Having said that the purpose of these measures is to stimulate employment, and stressing that this is a non-repayable grant made on a single occasion to meet abnormal conditions, I want to spend a few minutes in directing attention to the significance of this bill in the general development of Federal-State financial relations. As honorable members know, the present system of financial assistance to the States had its origin in the introduction in wartime of a system of uniform taxation. Under that war-time change the Commonwealth began to collect the major part of public revenues derived from the Australian taxpayers. Consequently it was necessary to find a fair and equitable method by which a due proportion of the taxes collected could be reimbursed1 to the State governments.
In the years since the war we have seen a number of discussions between the Commonwealth and the States regarding the way in which that proportion should be returned to the States. Those discussions were designed to find a formula on which the amount of the reimbursement could be calculated. Originally it was done strictly according to a formula of tax reimbursement. Then we saw the introduction of supplementary grants over and above the entitlement arrived at by applying the formula. Then finally, within recent years, by agreement between the Commonwealth and the States we saw the replacement of the formula system by a new system of annual financial assistance grants. It is under that system recently adopted that in the current year the Commonwealth will pay to the States more than £292,000,000. The money repaid to the States under these financial assistance grants represents to-day more than one-third of the total of State consolidated revenues. When one examines the total of all State consolidated revenues and realizes that about one-third of their consolidated revenue comes from their own business undertakings, that about one-third comes from these financial assistance grants voted by this Parliament and that the remaining one-third comes from fees and taxes which the State Parliaments themselves decide to impose, one sees to what a large extent the States have become dependent upon the Commonwealth Parliament for their financial operations and for the financing of their annual budgets. No State to-day can plan its own financial situation or can estimate its own expenditures without first taking into account what this Parliament cares to vote for it year by year.
In addition to these special financial assistance grants this Parliament from time to time has voted additional sums to the States for various designated purposes. A typical example of this is the vote of £5,000,000 to the Government of Western Australia to stimulate development in the northern part of that State. Then, too, as honorable members know, there are the special grants made to Western Australia and to Tasmania on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Although those special grants originally were clearly designed as compensation for disabilities suffered under federation, it would appear to-day the strong element in fixing the amount of an annual grant is not so much a proof of disability suffered under federation as a demonstration of a need which those claimant States have which cannot be met from any other source.
As we know, from time to time this Parliament has provided money for other purposes which, if one takes a narrow constitutional view, are strictly within the functions of State governments, but which would not be served unless there was some Commonwealth prompting. Examples of this include the grant which was given to stimulate action to improve mental hospitals, the funds which have been made available in successive years for stimulating greater expenditure on tertiary education, and the funds which have been made available not merely to stimulate but very largely to finance great projects such as the standardization of rail gauges.
Over recent years all honorable members have become familiar with this change in the method of providing money to finance State budgets. Now in this present bill we see yet another new element which I believe to be of some significance. By this bill we are making an outright and non-repayable grant to the States to serve our own economic purposes because, in this instance, we believe that expenditure through State instrumentalities will be likely to give most quickly and most directly the economic effect which we are trying to produce. This measure is not an act of reimbursement to the States. It is not an act of making money available for a special State need. This is financial aid to the States to assist State expenditure solely for the purpose, in turn, of assisting the national economy. We are making now a national economic decision and we are obtaining the cooperation of the States in national economic matters by the simple and effective method of providing the money. It is undoubted that this grant of £10,000,000 will help the States to undertake activities that they want to. undertake, but in essence this measure will use the States as a pipeline to produce a flow of work for national economic purposes.
The significance of this bill - I believe it has considerable historic significance in federal and State financial relations - should not be overlooked. Perhaps it is time that all Australians should frankly realize that as a result of many recent post-war changes the Australian Parliament to-day is voting money to the States in ways which only a few years ago were never contemplated. We are no longer simply reimbursing the States the taxes which we have collected on their behalf. In practice we are fixing the amount paid to the States, not by what they claim is due to them as their share of taxation but really in answer to their claim of what their budgets need. Then from time to time we are also voting money in this Parliament for the performance of functions over which the States claim responsibility. Now for the first time in this bill we are voting money to produce national economic effects which this Parliament, as the National Parliament, considers to be desirable. All this means that to an increasing extent the Australian Parliament is supporting State budgets and providing for the special needs of the States but without any formal change having taken place in the distribution of powers or the definition of political responsibility.
This process has produced certain clear results. I do not want to moralize on them because I think the moral of the story will be obvious immediately to most honorable members. However, I should like to permit myself two observations. One consequence of the tendencies which I have attempted to describe is an increasing disposition in all parts of Australia for any group of people which wants something to demand federal money for it and to blame the Commonwealth Government if money is not forthcoming. We have not yet noticed any corresponding tendency by State Governments of any political complexion to admit that any task for which the Commonwealth Government has paid has been achieved by any process other than the superior merit of the State Government concerned. The situation is something like that in relation to the statue of Burns, which I believe adorns one of our capital cities, and which bears on its base an inscription which says, in effect, “ This statue was erected as a result of public subscriptions raised by the citizens of this city and was erected by the Caledonian Society”. That is the kind of “ You may have paid for it but we did it” attitude which the State governments adopt. My second general observation is that, for fiscal reasons - by which I mean reasons relating to the collection of revenue - and for economic reasons and also because, I believe, the political forces in Australia to-day are centripetal, we are moving towards financial unification. Like it, or like it not, that is what is happening in Australia to-day. Financial unification which, in some respects, is much stronger than constitutional unification, is in fact happening in Australia to-day. This Parliament, and the Government answerable to this Parliament, decide to a far greater extent than they used to do what happens in the progress and prosperity of the whole of Australia. Yet, while that, I think, is an indisputable fact. I would suggest that we ourselves in the Federal Parliament, and the people in the constituencies, have not yet adjusted ourselves to that fact. The failure to make that adjustment, and the necessary attempts that will have to be made in the coming years to find that adjustment, will, I am sure, present us in the next decade with some of our most difficult domestic problems and some of our most trying internal tensions. The States are dying hard and surrendering stubbornly their financial powers. Of course, this change carries with it a graver responsibility on this Parliament, and on any government responsible to this Parliament that is exercising these far greater powers - powers which are much more farreaching into the life of the whole nation than they used to be. That responsibility is that we should exercise as best we can sound judgment and clear vision and, I would trust, at all times show a constant concern about the effect of what we do on all the people.
That brings me back to a point that I made at the outset about the remarks of the honorable member for Stirling. I think it is deplorable for anybody to suggest that a government of any political complexion deliberately set out to bring about personal injury. I do not think that the majority of honorable members would support such a suggestion. Let us admit that we are not always as wise as we might be. Let us admit that we might not always be as well informed as we ought to be. But surely this suggestion that either one government or another government deliberately sets out to create human unhappiness is a false and unworthy charge.
We are considering a bill under which the Parliament will vote £10,000,000 to be allocated to the States to stimulate employment in all parts of the continent. It is encouraging to know that, however grudgingly, the Opposition supports the bill. We all hope that the result of the expenditure of this £10,000,000, in association with those other considerable measures that have been taken on the economic side, will have a strong and immediate effect in getting people back into work and in restoring in a large measure economic activity in the private sector as well as in the governmental sector. Whatever honorable members opposite may think, on this side of the House we firmly believe that there is a limit to the effects that can be created solely by governmental activity, and that the prosperity and continued activity of the country can only be secured when, in the private sector too, you get a renewal of activity and initiative, in which all the factors of individual skill and individual planning are applied to the problem of developing this country’s resources. When some honorable members opposite chide us and state that this £10,000,000 is inadequate my answer is, firstly, that this is only a part of a large package which is intended to produce immediate effects; and secondly, we do not think that purely governmental expenditures will in themselves have salutary long-term effects. Our main aim must still be to stimulate the economy and see that the whole energies of the people of Australia, not merely the energies of governments, are applied to the development of our country.
.- This measure seeks to obtain ratification for a policy which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has already presented to the people of the nation. It seeks ratification of an action which was already negotiated with the States before this House met. In fact, the subject matter of this debate was the subject of considerable discussion in the daily press of this country before the Parliament met.
It is a remarkable fact that the Prime Minister saw fit to put into action the proposals contained in the legislation well before the House met. Incidentally, I think it is worthy of note that in obtaining ratification of actions which he has already carried out he will be obtaining ratification of the policy announced by the Labour Party prior to the last election. During the general election campaign, part of Labour’s policy was that greater aid would be provided to the States. At present the Government is rather panicky about a premature general election and is seeking to establish itself in the good graces of the electors. Notwithstanding the great confidence which the Government and its supporters exude in discussing this measure, and notwithstanding the great confidence which the Prime Minister and members of his Government exuded prior to the election on 9th December, it was rather vitalizing to hear the Minister, when introducing this bill, express concern about unemployment and the lack of confidence in the community to-day - a lack of confidence and unemployment created by his Government’s policy.
The statements now made by honorable gentlemen opposite are in direct contradiction to the statements made by the Prime Minister in the general election campaign. Those election statements were exposed by the honorable member for Griffiths (Mr. Coutts). He exposed the change of heart that has affected the Government in a relatively short time. Of course, one important factor emerges every election time - and it is significant, since this money is to aid the States. I refer to the regularity with which at election times the Prime Minister trips to Queensland and makes great discoveries of the untold wealth and the great potential ready to be tapped in that State if his Government is returned to office. He has done this three or four times. The amazing thing is that he discovered Mount Isa after it had been going for 70 years, and he has discovered the Weipa field two or three times. He makes these discoveries of Queensland’s great potentialities before every election, but after the election is over and he has been safely returned to office he forgets his discoveries and tucks his plans for Queensland away in a corner, to be brought out for the next election. Last time he was not comfortably returned to power after his trip to Queensland.
The significance of this measure is that Queensland is to get the greatest share of the money to be provided under it. Queensland is to get £3,340,000 and the next highest allocation- £2,240,000- is to go to New South Wales. Victoria is to get £1,800,000 and the other States are to receive much smaller amounts. That is very significant to members on this side of the House, because the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), who is now absent overseas, visited Queensland before the election, when the people of Queensland were objecting so strongly to the paucity of support their State was receiving. He was a very forceful and very angry man when he scolded the people of Queensland for having the temerity to question his Government’s ability and sincerity. He told the people of Queensland that they were receiving a better deal than the people of any other State, and that Queensland was in fact better off than most of the other States. Why this sudden reverse of policy at such short notice? I heard the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in August, 1961, on the radio. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) interjected and informed him that in the opinion of the Labour Party the Government’s proposals for expenditure, and particularly for granting assistance to the States, were insufficient. He was rebuked in a scathing and cutting manner by the Treasurer, who informed him that he was well aware that the Labour Party had its policy, but that the Government had stretched to the elastic limit, as it were, the possibility of providing money for any purpose. So why this sudden change? How has it come about? This Government is suddenly capable of conjuring up fi 0,000,000 for the people of the Commonwealth. On 28th November the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in a television broadcast said, “ It is clear that the more a Labour government tries to put Mr. Calwell’s policy into operation the greater the increase in inflation will be “. Yet we now find that another segment of the Labour Party’s policy is being introduced by this Government. During the whole course of this session we have seen segments of the Labour Party’s policy introduced into this House by the Government in a vain endeavour to support its tottering stocks. From where is the Government going to provide this money? In the past we have seen all too often how this Government resorts to national income to meet its own expenditures and forces on to the States loan money on which interest is payable.
On this occasion we are dealing with a non-repayable grant and the States are happy to be receiving it, even if it is only £10,000,000. But much more is needed. Let us look back at the record of this Government and the manner in which it has apportioned the money to suit itself and to the disadvantage of the States. For the comparison I take the amounts described as “securities outstanding”. In 1949 the Federal Government had £1,732,000,000 outstanding, but during its term of office the present Government has reduced that figure to £1,326,000,000 by resorting to national income to finance its requirements. In the same period it compelled the States to utilize loan money so that they were forced more deeply into debt. In 1949 the States had securities outstanding totalling £666,872,000 and by 1961 this figure had increased to £2,389,863,000.
This trend is also seen in the interest liability of the States. In 1930 the Federal Government had an amount of £48,525,000 outstanding and by 1960 the figure was reduced to £43,276,000. The liabilities of the States, on the other hand, were increased because loan money was forced on them, on which interest was payable. In 1950 their interest liability was £23,771,000 and that had increased to £104,072,000 in 1961. Throughout the years this pattern is seen. The Government actually reduced the amount of its indebtedness by using the national income for its purposes, whilst forcing the States much more deeply into debt. More equity as between Commonwealth and States is needed in this particular field.
I believe that Queensland has fared worse than any other State in this respect. Let us consider the burden of debt repayments falling on the population of the State. In 1948-49 the amount was £6,443,000 or £5 13s. 7d. a head of population. But in 1959-60 it had increased to £15,681,000 or £10 16s. 7d. a head of population. The trend is to be seen in the intervening years. In 1955-56 the amount was £11,053,000. In 1956-57 it was £11,958,000; in 1957-58, £13,435,000; in 1958-59, £14,013,000; and in 1959-60, the latest figure I could find in the “ Year Book” in the Parliamentary Library, the figure was £15,681,000. The State has been plunged more deeply in debt and as a result the local authorities are placed in such a precarious financial position to-day that the land-holder is practically rated out of the city areas.
The Government has provided the States with this money as a non-repayable grant. The Queensland Government, which is of the same political colour as the Menzies Government, has passed a small amount of the money on to the local authorities as a loan that they are required to repay with interest. It is important to take particular note of the fact that the Queensland Government will soon be facing an election and with the pattern that has been established in the Commonwealth of the rejection of the Liberal-Country Party teams in elections, the Queensland Government is quivering with fear at the prospect of ejection from office. So it is pouring most of the money it has obtained into a particular electorate which, it hopes, will give it a handsome return at the forthcoming election.
– Is that a fact?
– Yes, it is a disgraceful fact. Let us consider the treatment that Ipswich, a large industrial city in the Oxley electorate, has received. The paltriness of the treatment which this Labour area has been given is quite significant. The Ipswich City Council was advised that it could negotiate a loan of £32,000 and would receive the usual government subsidy of £8,000. This would hardly be enough to keep the place going for more than a couple of months. The aldermen estimate that it would be hardly sufficient to keep half a dozen men in work for two or three months even if they could raise the money. There is still an amount of £43,000 to be raised in respect of last year’s loan of £450,000. The councillors are finding it difficult to raise the money and the overtures they make to the traditional sources such as the trading banks, the State Government Insurance Office and the State Government Superannuation Fund are not meeting with the enthusiasm which they would expect to find. This is because confidence on all fronts has been knocked severely by the Government’s policy What is the good of telling the Ipswich City Council that it has approval to raise money and that if it is successful in doing so it will receive a subsidy from the Government when it, in common with other councils throughout the State, finds it impossible to raise money at the present time? This proposal will only aggravate the city debt and place a harsher burden upon the ratepayers and upon the local authorities. The Government is endeavouring to place the responsibility for rectifying this serious depression on the local authorities. What has the federal Government become? It has become nothing more than a national pawnbroker, lending money at heavy interest rates. Admittedly, in this legislation the Government is making an outstanding gesture.
This bill is designed to give employment an impetus. Throughout the nation, we have seen some overall improvement in recent times, but this is no more than super ficial. It is nothing more than scratching the surface. I shall cite figures to show that Queensland’s rate of recovery is nowhere near that of other States. The average rate of recovery in Australia has been twice that of Queensland. In February the recorded fall in the number of registered unemployed in Australia was 19,246. The expected seasonal fall was 5,930. The recorded Queensland fall was 4,114, compared with an expected seasonal fall of 2,100. From these figures it is obvious that the Australian average rate of recovery is twice that of Queensland.
A precise analysis shows that the number of unemployment benefit recipients has increased. These are the hard core of the unemployed - the people who are out of work for a continuous period in excess of seventeen days. Let us consider the four’ principal towns in Queensland - Brisbane, Rockhampton, Townsville and Toowoomba. In these areas the number of unemployment benefit recipients has fallen by only 60 per cent, compared with the fall that might be seasonally expected in the month of February. The recorded fall in the number of unemployment benefit recipients was 792. The expected seasonal fall was 1,317. That, in fact, represents an increase of 525 in the ranks of breadwinners who are permanently unemployed as a result of this Government’s policies. So, when we look at the real problem of unemployment - the people who have been out of work for a continuous lengthy period - we find that, instead of making a gain, the Government is actually slipping back. In Brisbane the expected seasonal fall was 963, but the actual fall was only 513. In Rockhampton the expected fall was 515, but the actual fall was only 132. So it is with a number of other large industrial areas.
It is all very well for Government supporters to say that in Bandywallop, Queensland, there was a 100 per cent, gain in employment last week. In such places only one or two people are out of work and such a variation is of no significance. It is the large industrial centres which contain the core of the unemployment problem that have to be considered. The Queensland unemployment figures reflect this problem very correctly.
It is significant to consider the ratio of unemployment benefit recipients to registered unemployed. A higher proportion ot unemployed people were receiving benefits in February than in January. During January, the ratio of unemployment benefit recipients to registered unemployed was 1 to 2.317. In February it jumped to 1 to 2.2S7. So the hard core of unemployment is worsening, lt is all very well for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) tacitly to imply that the problem of unemployment is now largely due to the number of school-children who have completed their schooling and gone on to the employment market. It would be much more reasonable and correct to say that a large fall in unemployment for the month of February would be. due to schoolchildren obtaining employment. January is the month in which the school-children would have registered. We must reasonably expect that there would be some normal, traditional sources of employment opening up to these children. It is to the discredit of the Government and the Minister for National Service that there was not a greater fall in unemployment because of the huge number of children who had to be absorbed into employment.
While the Labour Party will support this bill, it feels that £10,000,000 is not enough to lift the States out of the doldrums into which they have fallen as a result of this Government’s policy. The policies of the Government over the last two years and more particularly over the last six months have been nothing but a succession of patches - a patchwork quilt covering up the weaknesses in the fabric which the Government has not effectively woven. The whole blame for the serious problem that plagues the country to-day falls squarely on the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. The only way in which this economic recession can be rectified is by implementing the Australian Labour Party’s policy in full, not in part, and not piecemeal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Speaking to clause 3 of the bill may I say that, while I agree with the principle of the bill, I find reason to question the sincerity of the Government and the reasons behind this grant. I believe, on looking at the figures, that one of the reasons why Queensland is receiving a major portion of this grant is that the Government is making an effort to appease the voters of Queensland. This is merely a stop-gap measure with no real plan behind it for the purpose of eliminating unemployment. I believe that the grants to the States have been made as an act of appeasement to the voters following the general election on 9th December which was disastrous for the Government. I would like to know what the policy of the Government will be after 30th June. I believe that the national growth has been stunted by the stop-and-go policy of the Government which required these grants to be made. Money should be made available for national development. Greater co-operation should be achieved between the State and Commonwealth Governments in the field of development and for the decentralization of industry.
The main purpose of the grants to the States is the relief of unemployment. In seeking to relieve unemployment we must look for the causes of unemployment. We find that the Government itself is one of the greatest offenders in this respect because of its credit squeeze and because of its “ stopandgo” policies which have broken down the confidence of industrialists and those who depend on industry for their living. I refer to such actions as the placing of orders overseas for Ton class minesweepers which are due to be delivered at the end of the year. These could have been built in the shipyards of my home town of Maryborough. Four of the minesweepers ordered overseas are second-hand. Perhaps they were bought a little more cheaply for that reason but this is not following the “ buy Australian “ policy which I believe has the blessing of the present Government. Looking further into the causes of unemployment, we find that many people are quite happy to brush aside the unemployment problem in Queensland by saying it is only seasonal unemployment. But the fact is that there is unemployment both in and out of season. The demand for labour by those industries that have been giving employment has been falling off even during the seasons because automation has crept in. For instance, automation has crept into the meatworks with the result that in the next killing season those works will require less labour than they employed this season. In the sugar industry, too, automation has had some effect. Here I emphasize that in referring to automation I do not speak only of the bulk handling of sugar at the wharfs; I refer to the fact that automation is making its mark in the fields in that very few cane-cutting gangs are engaged in loading to-day.
The introduction of mechanical loaders has meant a reduction in the number of men required for the harvesting of sugar cane. In the mill itself, because of bulk handling methods, where once from sixteen to eighteen men were engaged each shift on the sugar floor bagging sugar, only two men are employed to-day loading the crystallized sugar into bulk containers for transportation to the wharf. These are all causes of unemployment and I hope that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) is taking an interest in what I am saying. I hope, too, that when the grants we are now discussing are spent by the States they will be spent in creating industries in centres away from the large cities so that the labour which is not required by the industries in which it was previously engaged may be absorbed in the new industries.
The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) referred to the fact that the Commonwealth Government had appealed to local authorities to extend their borrowing in order to absorb additional labour. I point out that most local authorities are in the invidious position of having to raise £4 out of every £5 they wish to spend. I am happy to say that I am given to understand that these conditions do not apply in all States, but I do know that the only assistance local authorities receive from grants in Queensland is the normal government subsidy on such works as drainage and sewerage.
Honorable members may be interested to know that the present Treasurer of Queensland told the local governing bodies of that State last August that within nine years subsidies to local authorities would disappear entirely. If local authorities are to be required to absorb labour, then I would suggest that, when making the allocations to the States, the Commonwealth Government should state specifically that money should be made available to the local authorities free of interest.
Honorable members might be interested to know also that in the city of Bundaberg, where there were 1,150 persons registered as unemployed in January, that number had been reduced by only 50 to 1,100 by 2nd March last and at a public meeting held on 17th March, which was attended by the mayor, aldermen, trade unionists and citizens, many of whom were not supporters of the Labour Party, the following resolution was carried -
That this meeting of the citizens of Bundaberg demands that the Federal and State Governments make sufficient finance immediately available to provide useful work for the unemployed of this city and district
We urge the respective Governments to take immediate steps toward sound constructive planning for State development and decentralization on a purely democratic scale for the future welfare of the whole of Australia’s people, and not any one section. For the whole of Australia and not any one State.
We request the State Government of Queensland to give all possible encouragement toward the establishment of secondary industries in Bundaberg, and a stimulating incentive to existing industries.
And furthermore, in view of the fact that the number of unemployed in Bundaberg is the highest, per ratio of population, in Australia’s provincial cities, that Bundaberg receive a proportionate amount of non repayable Grant monies.
Finally, it is the opinion of this meeting that the amount of Grant Monies made available by the Commonwealth Government to the respective States is insufficient tq meet the needs of the unemployed in the Commonwealth.
In conclusion let me say that, whilst we are very pleased to see the Government making these grants available to the States we do look to the Government for a progressive step towards the elimination of unemployment and the development of Australia’s assets by Australians.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Hasluck) read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Retirement of New South Wales Police Commissioner - Housing - Postal Department - Defence Expenditure - Press Reports of Political Party Meetings - The Parliament - Trade with Communist China - Lord Howe Island.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I rise to bring before the notice of the House one or two matters which have caused great concern to many people in different stations in life in my electorate. First I wish to place on record in this Parliament the resentment of many people at the fact that the former Commissioner of Police in New South Wales received something between £3,000 and £5,000 from big business interests upon his retirement from the New South Wales Police Force. When one com. pares that sort of thing with the position of the unfortunate mine workers in my electorate who have been retrenched from the mines and are required to travel 70 miles a day to employment in the steel works at Newcastle and who, after paying bus fares, have left only between £1 1 and £12 a week to support their wives and children, one is not surprised at the concern felt by the community.
– Don’t you like him?
– It is not a matter of whether I like him or not. This is a matter of public interest. The fact is that the Commissioner of Police was given an opportunity to work off his long-service leave, and he collected £5,000 in salary for doing so. He retires on a pension of approximately £3,500 to £4,000 a year for life. When one tries to reconcile this treatment with what is happening to unfortunate people in my electorate, one finds that many people are perturbed about this state of affairs.
I recall that as recently as 1956, the Commissioner of Police sacked a man named Edward Scorrer for refusing to disclose the identity of a woman who got him a motor car. It was subsequently proved that she was a friend of this man and his wife, and the transaction was done outside his hours of duty. The man was of impeccable character and had 24 years’ service in the police force. He lost his superannuation rights and everything else.
I have here a bag, and with your consent, Mr. Speaker, I will send it to the Commissioner of Police so that he can put his presents in it. I have risen to-night to express the feelings of the people of my electorate. The events I have described have undermined the morale of members of an honorable organization.
– What is the bag you have in your hand?
– With Mr. Speaker’s permission, I might still send it to the Commissioner of Police. I now turn to something more important to which I have referred previously in this House. I am glad that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) is in the House because this matter concerns him as well as many people in the Toronto and Newcastle areas. I refer to the houses at the Rathmines air base. On 27th September, 1961, I directed the following question to the Minister for the Interior without notice: -
Is he aware that approximately 22 self-contained cottages are vacant at Rathmines air base and have been so for approximately six months or more? Will he recommend that these homes be put into immediate use to relieve the acute housing shortage in the Newcastle area, pending a decision by his department on the ultimate use of the former air base?
The Minister replied -
I was not aware of the situation which the honorable member described. I thank him for the information and will see what can be done.
I raised the matter again on 26th October when, referring to my previous question, I asked the Minister for the Interior -
As a matter of urgency, will the Minister give a decision instead of awaiting a decision by his department in connexion with the immediate use of the twenty-odd home units at Rathmines air base, in the electorate of Robertson, so that the acute housing shortage in the area may be relieved?
The Minister replied -
At this stage I have no further information to add to that which I have already given the honorable member but I will examine the request he has made.
The Minister has done nothing about those unoccupied houses at Rathmines. Seven stainless steel sinks have been stolen from them. I was informed last Monday that twelve persons are being ejected from their homes because they have not been able to keep up payments to hire-purchase companies since they have been unemployed. At the same time, the homes at Rathmines are vacant and are being torn asunder by vandals. Apparently, the Minister has no concern for those unfortunate people. He is laughing now and treating this as a big joke. I can assure the Minister that if a general election were being held about now, the disquiet of the people in that area is such that they would reject the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), who is not in the House, for not doing something to put these home units into use.
I am reliably informed that a recommendation is to be made to the Minister, who has now taken the smile off his face and does not regard this matter as a joke. I believe these homes are to be cut in halves and are to be moved by road to Williamtown air base at an approximate cost of £35,000. I am informed that the expense will exceed by far the original cost of construction of the home units.
I shall continue to raise this matter until something is done. I have approached the Minister courteously, and I ask him in all decency to use these homes now for emergency housing accommodation to shelter these unfortunate people who are being ejected from their homes. They have defaulted in payments to hire-purchase companies because they are unemployed and the processes of the courts have been used to put them into the street. At pre. sent, the State Housing Commission in Newcastle has no emergency housing. I hope the Minister will set the appropriate machinery in motion so that these homes may be used for these unfortunate people who have been cast out of work through the policies of the Government and have fallen behind in their payments.
I wish to comment now on a statement that was made to the House by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) on allegations by the Victorian Police Department concerning racketeering and alleged graft among members of the Postal Department in Victoria in connexion with the starting price betting racket. The following report appeared this evening in a Melbourne paper -
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) appeared to be trying to “ whitewash “ the Postal Department by his premature reply to Victorian police inquiries into al* betting, the Victorian Chief Secretary (Mr. Rylah) said yesterday. “ I am surprised that Mr. Davidson should make a statement at this stage without waiting for further information “, Mr. Rylah added. “I can interpret this only as a desire to whitewash the department, and I feel little confidence in any prospect of a proper inquiry being held within the Postal Department”
That statement is reported to have been made by Mr. Rylah, the Chief Secretary in the Victorian Liberal Government. It virtually indicates that he has no confidence in the statements that were made by the Postmaster-General in this House yesterday about the alleged racket among employees of the Postal Department in Victoria. The Postmaster-General did not impress me and I believe he did not impress anybody else on this side of the House as to his sincerity.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. I wish to bring before the House a matter of major importance. It arises out of a reply that was given to me in this House yesterday by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) when I asked him whether the Royal Australian Navy proposed to acquire submarines. The Minister told me that this was a question of priorities. Subsequently, in a press statement, the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) said it was a question of whether or not we could afford these submarines.
I make no comment upon the question of whether submarines are high or low priority in our defence scheme. That is not my purpose at the moment. My purpose is a rather more serious one. Even though they may be of lesser priority than some of the things that are being done, it does not follow that in order to get them we will have to omit some of the things we are doing in the defence field at this moment. It should be possible to add to our net defence expenditure.
I have had taken out a number of figures in regard to this. As the House knows, ever since 1951-52 our defence expenditure has been more or less stable at a figure of about £200,000,000 a year. But in point of fact during this time two things have happened to erode away the real significance of our defence effort. First, there has been a rise in prices so that expenditure nominally the same as in 1951-52 will now buy less. Secondly, during this time there has been a big increase in the Australian population so that, per capita, the effort has fallen even further behind. The figures show, for example, that in 1950-51 the per capita defence expenditure, at 1961 prices, was about £30.9 per head. It has fallen consistently since that time and is now about £19.1 per head. That is an immense and a significant fall.
Or shall we look at it as a percentage of national income? I will read these figures and I will ask for the leave of the House to have them incorporated in “Hansard”, since they are not easy to follow.
– Does .the honorable member ask for leave now?
– Yes, Mr. Speaker.
– What figures are they?
– Figures in relation to the per capita-
– Read them and they will be incorporated.
– In 1951-52, we were spending-
– Order! The honorable member is seeking leave to have certain figures incorporated in “ Hansard “. Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– In 1951-52, we were spending 6.2 per cent, of our national income on defence. In subsequent years, the figures were -
These figures show that at present we are spending something like 3i per cent, of our national income on defence. The corresponding figure for Canada would be 6 per cent.; for the United Kingdom, 8 per cent.; and for the United States of America, 12 per cent. Figures are not available for countries on the far side of the iron curtain, such as Soviet Russia, but we understand that the figure is at least as high and probably higher than that for the United States. A figure of 15 per cent, is usually quoted, but the statistics are not available to enable it to be accurately established. The figures do not suggest that our defence expenditure is high by world standards. In terms of real effort, we have been declining year by year since 1951-52.
If it be necessary to have submarines, they can be obtained without encroaching on other items of defence expenditure, simply by returning not to the figure of Canada or the United Kingdom or the United States but to the figure of the 1951-52 period in Australia. This is a most serious matter. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and other honorable members have directed the attention of the House to the mounting pressures coming against Australia from the north and to the mounting dangers in which we live. It is not enough to have our defence expenditure eroded away and diminishing. This is not enough to secure safety to the Australian people, and this is the first duty of any government and, I would hope, of all parties in this House. I hope that no one would attempt to make party capital of this, one way or another. We are Australians and we are charged with the responsibility of defending the lives and security of our Australian citizens. It cannot be done adequately on the cheap. We are trying to do it on the cheap and in so doing we are imperilling our existence.
As I have shown, we are not doing as much proportionately as our allies are doing - our allies on whom we would rely to help us keep Australia secure. We are not doing the things that we should be doing. I am not trying to say at this moment that one of the things we should be doing is to get submarines. This is another and a more technical argument in which I do not intend to trespass at this moment. I simply put the figures before the House. I am sorry indeed that they will not be included in “ Hansard “ in a coherent table so that honorable members could see them as I would hope they might have. But I have put the figures before the House, without emotion and without comment. I leave them to speak for themselves in the light of the international dangers which we face and the effort needed to meet those dangers.
No one would be a greater proponent of disarmament than I would, if disarmament were mutual and effective and subject to international inspection and control. I do not for one moment go back on anything I have said in my advocacy for disarmament. But in this world where our enemies are armed and armoured, we cannot ourselves afford progressively to lessen the effort we are making. Before I sit down, I again ask for leave to incorporate this table in “ Hansard “.
– Thank you.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) recalled to a number of honorable members on this side of the House that historic and ill-famed occasion when he and the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) raided the Garden Island naval base and ended up in clink. It appears that on that occasion he appealed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to release him and I understand the Prime Minister made one of his really wise statements and said, “ Let him stay there for a while “.
I wish to deal with a number of matters to-night and I do not wish to waste much of the limited time available to me on the submarine commander who has just spoken. But I did want to mention one matter in particular. My colleague, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), raised a matter to which I make only a passing reference but about which I am at slight variance with him. He referred to the presentation to the former Commissioner of Police, Mr. Delaney. There may be doubts as to whether such presentations should be made. However, opinions may differ about them. I have quite an open mind on the matter. But it is not unusual for presentations to be made to prominent personalities in all walks of life, sometimes at the conclusion of a long period of service.
In this instance, a presentation was made to the Commissioner of Police. It had the support of business people, of the Labour Premier of New South Wales, of the Labour Lord Mayor, of the Governor, of various church representatives and of people from all walks of life. I just make the point in passing that I do not think those people would lend their support to anything that was not in every way in keeping with correct procedures. I have contributed to similar presentations. I have contributed to presentations for trade union leaders, and I was quite proud to do so, because I think it is nice for such people to be recognized in this way and for a tribute to be paid to them. Mr. Delaney is not the first policeman to receive a presentation to which I have contributed. All down the line, there have been cases of a similar nature.
I make these observations not in an endeavour to criticize the honorable member for Hunter in any way. He is entitled to his opinion, and I am entitled to mine. In this case, I speak honestly from my own experience. Mr. Delaney is not, in the personal sense, a friend of mine, but I know him well. I assure the honorable member that in the view of the Labour Premier of New South Wales and others Mr. Delaney is a man of complete integrity. We are lucky to have had him in the service of the New South Wales Police Force since 1913. The fact that he has been honoured by prominent members of the Labour movement and other members of the community is a matter for pride. What has happened is nothing unusual, and is rather in keeping with what has been done on many other occasions. I did not rise particularly to speak on that matter, but merely to make my position clear in respect of it. If I am asked whether I am against the practice, I say that I do not object to the presentation. The Liberals are not prepared to say that they do not object. They tried to destroy Mr. Delaney in New South Wales. Like other people who were at the function, including prominent church dignitaries and Mr. Askin, the leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party in New South Wales, I make public my belief in the complete integrity of Mr. Delaney, the former Commissioner of Police. If the Liberals are not prepared to own up to a similar belief, that is not my worry. I make that observation, because I believe that I ought to do so in all fairness.
I want to raise another matter that will no doubt please members of the Liberal Party a little more than those observations. On 15th March in this Parliament the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) made a statement, by leave, relating to an article in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ about an Opposition party meeting. That statement was an excellent one. It gave the lie to many comments appearing in the article and in a similar article in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ relating to happenings at the same meeting. It is regrettable, therefore, that the statement made so ably by the Leader of the Opposition was not printed in full in the “ Sydney Morning Herald”. I should have thought that that newspaper would give full publicity to the statement. In view of what was stated in the newspaper and of its failure to publish in full the reply of the Leader of the Opposition, under date 16th March, 1962, I wrote the following letter to the editor of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “: -
It is indeed surprising that you did not publish in full Hon. A. A. Calwell’s reply to press reports on the meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party at Canberra on 14th March, 1962.
In view of the inaccurate, misleading and blatant misrepresentation of the happenings, actions and motives of certain members at the meeting, particularly myself and Mr. F. Stewart, M.H.R., which appeared in your columns, I thought you would at least give equal prominence and in full detail the -denial and comments of the Federal Leader, Hon. A. A. Calwell, M.P.
As one who has been the target for some years of your campaign of misrepresentation and biassed reporting on my motives and actions, I have long ago given up hope of a “fair go”, and it is, therefore, not surprising to find that you conveniently omitted, amongst others, the following passage from Mr. Calwell’s speech in your edition of the 16th March, 1962: “ They (Mr. Daly and Mr. Stewart) like all other speakers at yesterday’s meeting, made constructive helpful speeches.”
If it is your intention to continue your malicious campaign against certain Federal Members, you might give consideration to fully and reliably reporting the corrections and denials of your distorted articles, particularly when they are given by the Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.
I submit that letter now to the reporters of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ in the press gallery. I hope that they will be more attentive to their duties than was the editor of that distinguished journal and that they will give full publicity to the statement by the Leader of the Opposition and to the letter that I have taken the trouble to write, despite the fact that I do not like having correspondence with that newspaper. I did not receive any acknowledgment from the newspaper, so it looks as if the editor of that journal is particularly busy. I ask them to have a look at their mail to see whether the letter has arrived. If it has not, I suggest that they contact the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson). Although he is unreliable in some things, at least this letter should make the grade.
There is another matter to which I wish to direct the attention of the Government. It is the arrogance and complete discourtesy with which members of the Opposition have been treated. Since this Parliament assembled in February, the Government has been as arrogant as ever it was before. It has treated the Opposition with contempt, despite the fact that the Government is here only because of receiving Communist preferences. The Government has completely ignored the rights of people on this side of the Parliament, who represent 300,000 more voters in the community than does the Government. On thirteen occasions since the new Parliament assembled, the Government has applied the closure to debates. It wants to run into recess in the not far distant future and escape the criticism of members on this side. The tired old men who make up this Ministry, and who are here only by accident, because the Government received Communist preferences, are too frightened or too sick to stay up after half -past eleven or a quarter to twelve to take part in debates on motions for the adjournment of the House. Those members opposite who are just hanging to their seats, as it were by a thread, want to get home early at night in order to rest so that they will be able to answer the division bells. That is the reason why the Government is running away from its responsibilities. It has been humiliated but it is not humbled. Those persons who are interjecting might well enjoy the privilege now, because they may not be around very long. They should make the most of it while they are here. We hear hollow laughs from them when I say that, but they are laughing to try to keep up their courage.
I say to honorable members opposite that the members of this Parliament have a right to speak. Private members are entitled to express their views. We are entitled to have full debates on motions for the adjournment and at other times. If the Government will not give those rights to members on this side of the Parliament, I for one believe that we should refuse leave to Ministers to make statements and otherwise retaliate to the full against every member on the opposite side of the Parliament who votes to gag us on the adjournment. If Ministers ask for leave to make statements and if members seek to incorporate matter in “ Hansard “ and to obtain other privileges and courtesies from the Opposition, so far as I am concerned they will not continue to have them if they continue to gag members on this side. It is all very well for Government supporters to say that they can do these things and get away with them. They have a narrow majority of two, but that narrow majority has been retained only because the Government is curtailing debate, sending members home early, and putting them into mothballs. It is probably using the few free drugs that are available in order to keep alive Government supporters and the tired old men of the Ministry. They are tired enough in the day-time, let alone at night. Those people are the ones who are curtailing the right of members on this side of the Parliament to criticize.
– I want to discuss something that is a little more serious than the matters raised by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), namely, the announcement to-day that a top-level delegation is to visit Peking in order to market wool in red China. If honorable members opposite who interject Want to “back the Corns, let them go ahead. This decision is most distressing, and dangerous to Australians. Apparently the Australian Wool Bureau is not aware of the purchasing methods of Peking. All purchasing is done through one government agency, and the Communists will buy as much wool as they want to buy, or as much as they feel they can afford to buy, irrespective of whether the salesman is the maker of heavenly trousers and fine woollen textiles, or the office boy. The Australian Wheat Board could have told the Australian Wool Bureau that. I feel that a delegation of more than one is an unnecessary expense so far as the woolgrowers are concerned, but that is their business.
The Communists at present buy all the wool that they want for cash on the auction floor, in the same way as does anybody else. If it is now proposed that we sell wool on credit, as we sell wheat, it merely means that we are proposing to extend Australia’s hire-purchase facilities to the Communists to enable them to finance overseas agents for subversion and other activities in South America, through the head-quarters in Havana, Cuba, and in Africa and Asia. If there has been no diplomatic consultation with the United States of America 1 feel that we have made a diplomatic blunder. We do not have to follow blindly American policy. I do not suggest that for one moment. But I do trust that diplomatic courtesy has not been ignored on a matter of policy, when Australian policy might be considered flatly contradictory to American policy. I know that the Australian Wool Board is independent of the Government, but the trade weapon is a very important one in the cold war, and no government to-day can divest itself of responsibility in connexion with the use of this weapon.
Furthermore, I wonder whether Sir William Gunn has considered what effect his peregrinations in Peking will have on our best wool customer to-day, Japan. Three or four years ago - in 1958, if I remember rightly - Communist China wanted overseas exchange. She dumped textiles and other goods on the South-East Asian market. When a buyer inquired as to price, the reply came, “ What are you paying for similar goods from Japan? “ When the buyer gave the information, he was told, “We will quote you a figure 10 per cent, or 20 per cent, lower “. So I ask: What will it profit Australia or the Australian wool-grower if we promote textile mills in red China which will adversely affect our best buyer of wool, namely, Japan? When Sir William kowtows in his kimono in Peking I do not doubt that Mao Tse-tung will be confirmed in his already firm and rather frightening dictum, “ Everything comes out of the mouth of a gun “ - whether it is spelled with one “ n “ or two. I cannot think that this proposed Peking journey will achieve anything except annoyance to America and a threat to Japan’s economy and her ability to_buy our wool.
– I wish to speak to-night about Lord Howe Island, although I do not suppose that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), who is in charge of the House, will listen very attentively at this hour. During the last two or three days I have tried to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley) a question which concerns the people living on Lord Howe Island. I must congratulate the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ for an article published by it this morning giving information that I had given to this House on previous occasions, and which I have given to various Ministers for Civil Aviation over the last ten years without ever getting a reply to my representations. The question I had intended to ask was in this form -
Will the Minister say whether anything has been done with regard to the building of the Lord Howe Island air strip? An answer given by the Minister on 19th January, 1961, was to the effect that it cost £188,000 to maintain the existing flying boat services during the previous two financial years. Is the Minister aware that the cost of an airstrip at present is estimated at £600,000? If the Government is prepared to spend £94,000 annually on maintenance of existing services, is it not obvious that within a few years it will have spent more than the cost of an airstrip? Finally, is the Minister aware that the residents of Rose Bay are complaining bitterly of excessive noise between the hours of 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock in the morning caused by flying boats taking off for Lord Howe Island?
The article in this morning’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ recounts many of the difficulties confronting people living on Lord Howe Island. Ships call at the island every ten weeks. It costs £20 a ton to bring goods by ship from the Australian mainland, although the same ship can carry goods to Port Moresby for £8 10s. a ton. The air fare to the island, which is now £32 10s. return, would be halved if an airstrip were built.
It is only since 1954 that any of the people of the island have bad any rights to their properties. One hundred years ago the Thompsons were wrecked on the island, and one of their descendants is on the island at the present time. As far as I can see, the person who has the most barbed wire has the most ground, because until 1954 there was no title to land and no title deeds. I am raising this question because many people on the island who run boarding establishments have no chance of improving their facilities or increasing the size of their establishments. Some of these people have told me that although they cater for 60 or 70 guests they cannot go to the bank and raise £1 on their holdings because they have no deeds to their properties. In other words, they must have the money in their hands or in a bank if they wish to undertake repairs or improvements to their properties.
The Commonwealth Government has an interest in this matter. It has a weather station on the island. It has a radar station there. It has about nineteen men working on the island. Yet this is the way the Commonwealth Government treats the people of Lord Howe Island. It collects pay-roll tax, income tax and many other taxes from them. Yet it deprives them of the chance of improving their living conditions. Petrol costs 7s. 8d. a gallon. It costs £36 a ton to land cement on the island. The flying boat that is used to convey passengers to and from the island is of great age. There is not another of its kind in the world. People are still being shipped out of Rose Bay on this flying boat in the early hours of the morning. They are being landed 200 yards from the shore of the island, and have to be transhipped into small boats and taken to the shore.
I appeal to the Minister for Civil Aviation to do something for these people. I thank the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ again for directing attention to the plight of the people of Lord Howe Island.
There is one matter I should like to mention before I conclude. I do not blame my colleague, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), for saying what he has said, but I dissociate myself completely from any charges that have been made against the former Commissioner of Police. I have known Commissioners of Police for many years. I know the work that this particular man has done, in the schools, in the boys’ clubs and in every other direction. I know that he was criticized at the time he was investigating the murder of the boy from Bondi, and yet he brought the matter to a successful conclusion. You might say that it is his officers and his men who do the work, but after all we look to the leader of a government for the good or the bad that it produces. In the same way we commend the Commissioner of Police in respect of the fine work that was done by his officers and men on the Bondi kidnapping case. Therefore, I would be unworthy of the great city I represent if, knowing these things, 1 did not say what I have said here to-night. If that presentation was given to Mr. Delaney after his retirement from the police service, that is all right. I have attended presentations to men in all walks of life. Some of them were Labour men, but very few Labour men attended the particular functions.
.- Before I deal with the main topic which I wish to raise, I observe that from the remarks of the last three speakers on the Labour side it appears that another split is threatening to occur in the Opposition party. My sympathy goes out to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who, I think, is a man of high moral courage. I commend him for having the courage to say the things in which he believes.
My main purpose in rising at this juncture is to deplore the action of the Opposition in refusing leave to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) to incorporate in “ Hansard “ figures which have a very important bearing on the defence of Australia. Such action was not a surprise to members on this side of the House, because we recall the farcical attitude which the Opposition adopted in the debate which the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) rightly initiated on defence last Thursday week. Members of the Opposition did not seem to know who of their number was to speak in that debate. The consensus of opinion was that they did not want to speak on the subject. They adopt a similar attitude in respect of debates on foreign policy because they cannot agree on a common policy.
I feel it is only right that the Parliament and the people of Australia should be apprised of the information which the honorable member for Mackellar sought to present to the House. I support very strongly everything that the honorable member has said. There is no doubt that although the actual amount of money allocated under the Budget for defence each year has remained constant its purchasing power has seriously declined. It does not buy the same amount of equipment to-day as it did previously. Also, as anybody who has studied the defence estimates and reports on the various armed services knows, the expenditure in respect of salaries and wages has risen sharply and now represent a very much larger percentage of the total defence vote. There can be no doubt about that fact. When we compare our defence vote with what is being spent on defence in other parts of the world, we realize that proportionately we are not doing very much in this sphere. Honorable members on the other side of the House could well pause to ask themselves this question: What is the use of all their promises if we are not able to defend this country?
On this all-important subject the people of Australia expect a little more attention and decision from the Opposition, which flatters itself that it is the alternative government and might come to office. The people want to know where the Opposition actually stands in respect of defence.
As honorable members opposite refused leave to the honorable member for Mackellar to incorporate in “ Hansard “ vital figures which show the decline in the purchasing power of the defence vote from 1948 to 1961, I take this opportunity to read the figures to the House. They are as follows: -
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: May 1 direct your attention to Standing Order No. 61, which I believe the honorable member is contravening.
– Order! It does not apply.
– It is obvious that the Opposition does not wish these very vital figures to get into “Hansard”. Defence expenditure, adjusted to 1961 prices, increased from £15.9 per capita in 1948-49 to £19.1 per capita in 1960-61. The Opposition has become confused.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.46 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
What is the estimated number of migrants who were resident in migrant camps on the last day of February?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Throughout Australia migrants until they make arrangements for private accommodation are accommodated in either migrant accommodation centres which are administered by my department, or in migrant hostels which are controlled by Commonwealth Hostels Limited, whose operations fall within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service. As at the end of February, 1962, the number of migrants resident in centres and hostels (excluding staff members and their dependants) was as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Among these departures are Australians, settlers, businessmen, officials (Australian and foreign) and students.
n asked the Minister for Repat riation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Will he take appropriate action to correct the anomaly which excludes Boer War ex-servicemen from receiving the same medical and hospital benefits as apply to service pensioners?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Under the Repatriation Act a Boer War veteran can be granted a service pension under the same conditions as apply to other Australian exservicemen who served in either of the two world wars or in the Korea or Malaya operations. This would also entitle him to the full range of medical benefits including hospital treatment which this Government has provided for service pensioners since 1960.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 1 I am advised that section 18 (1) of the Queensland State award for timber felling and timber getting provides - “ Where for the performance of his work it is necessary for an employee to live in a camp provided by the employer either because there are no reasonable transport facilities to enable such employee to travel to and from his home each day or because such employee is directed by the employer to live in such camp, then such employee shall be paid a camping allowance of 8s. for each day (including Saturday and Sunday) be lives in camp “. 3 to 5. The Commissioner of Taxation informs me that the camping out allowance of 8s. a day is assessable income of the employee, but a deduction at the rate of £2 10s. per week is authorized by section 51a of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act. Tax instalment deductions are not required to be made from the amount of £2 10s. per week. In the event that an employee’s group certificate or tax stamps sheet does not show that a camping allowance was paid by the employer, the practice followed by the Commissioner of Taxation is not to grant the deduction at that stage, and to so advise the employee when issuing the assessment. If the employee claims that a camping allowance was not shown separately from wages on his group certificate or tax stamps sheet, action is taken to ascertain from the employer the amount of the allowance and an appropriate deduction is then allowed to the employee. Should there be cases in which the deduction has not been allowed because available information is incomplete, the matter will be appropriately adjusted if the name and address of the employee is supplied to the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in Brisbane. The employer will also be informed of the correct procedure to be followed in the preparation of group certificates or tax stamps so that the necessary information in relation to future years may be supplied on the group certificate or tax stamps sheet.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information required by the honorable member is set out in the annexed table.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
What viewpoint has been expressed by Australia regarding the resumption of nuclear tests, and what action has been taken to bring these views officially to the notice of those nations engaging in the practice which threatens the existence of people wherever they may live?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The Government has consistently sought an end to all nuclear tests under effective international inspection and control It therefore condemned the Soviet Union’s decision in August, 1961, to break the moratorium on nuclear weapon testing which had been observed by the major nuclear powers. But following the Soviet decision to resume testing, it made it clear that it could not regard the United States or Britain as bound by any moratorium on testing and that it would support those last-mentioned countries if they decided to resume testing in order to maintain the security of the free world. The Government’s view has been expressed in the Prime Minister’s statement on nuclear tests of 13th September, 1961, and I made a statement on 3rd March on the United States decision to resume nuclear tests in the atmosphere immediately after the United States announcement was made. The Australian viewpoint on these matters was also expressed by the Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations during the Sixteenth Session of the United Nations General Assembly. All of the statements to which I have referred have received wide circulation and it is not proposed to make special representation to any country in regard to nuclear tests.
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following information: -
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
Will he supply a statement of instances in the last twelve months where Government members, including Ministers, have been passengers on Royal Australian Air Force aircraft, giving, in each instance, details of the number of trips, their distance and their purpose?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
I presume the honorable member refers to No. 34 Transport Squadron of the R.A.A.F. which provides transport for His Excellency the Governor-General, the right honorable the Prime Minister, members of the Ministry, visting dignitaries, senior officers of the armed forces and other specifically authorized persons. Members of Parliament other than those referred to above are only carried on R.A.A.F. transport aircraft when invited to travel by those authorized to use the aircraft. The carriage of the Governor-General and Ministers has been one of the R.A.A.F.’s accepted tasks since the Second World War and the squadron which performs this task is part of the RA.A.F. transport element and as such has other service responsibilities including the training of transport pilots.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 March 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19620328_reps_24_hor34/>.