24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. COCKLE presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Government remove section 127, and the words discriminating against aborigines in section 51, of the Commonwealth Constitution, by the holding of a referendum at an early date.
Mr. BENSON presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Government ease the financial position of age, invalid and widow pensioners by providing (1) a pension rate equivalent to half the basic wage and subject to future basic wage adjustments, and (2) an allocation of additional finance to enable the State Housing Commission to build low-rental houses and units for pensioners and elderly people.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. Is there any valid reason why the Government will not appoint a committee of inquiry to investigate all phases of education - technical, secondary and primary? Now that the right honorable gentleman has been requested to appoint such a committee on several occasions - unanimously so by Premiers’ Conferences and recently by a meeting of 4,000 teachers and other persons vitally interested in education in Melbourne - and, more particularly, as the promise to establish such a committee was laid down in Labour’s policy speech in 1961 and remains one of the few suggestions that his Government has not yet adopted, will he consider appointing the committee at this stage?
– The honorable member invites me to conduct a long argument about matters that have been, dis cussed in this House and at Premiers’ Conferences. I have nothing to add to what has been said already.
– My question is ad dressed to the Postmaster-General. I ask: Is it true that the Minister recently rejected a request for a Freedom from Hunger campaign stamp on the ground that Australian policy is not to issue stamps in connexion with international appeals? Is it a fact that more than 120 countries–
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to the fact that a similar question is already on the notice-paper.
– As a similar question is on the notice-paper, the question being asked by the honorable member for Swan is out of order.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, concerns foot and mouth disease. By way of preface, I should mention that in a recent statement the Director of the Animal Health and Production Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations raised the question of the early recognition of any outbreak of foot and mouth disease. The view was expressed that there were few veterinary officers in Australia with any experience of symptoms of the disease. In Canada, this difficulty is being overcome by the attachment of veterinarians to the Food and Agriculture Organization for periods of six months to help with control programmes. In view of the importance to Australia of early recognition of any outbreak of the disease, will the Minister consult with his colleague, the Minister for Health, who is responsible for animal quarantine, to see whether the Canadian practice could be applied to Australian veterinary officers so that we would have in Australia professional men trained and experienced in the recognition and control of this serious animal desease?
– I appreciate the seriousness of the position that could arise if foot and mouth disease were brought into Australia. Recently, the Government banned the importation of hides from countries where foot and mouth disease exists. I will consult with the Minister for Health to see whether anything further can be done. It should be appreciated that animal production, disease control, quarantine and ante mortem inspection, or inspection before slaughter, are matters that fall within the responsibility of the State departments of agriculture, the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry and the Commonwealth Department of Health. In accordance with the honorable member’s suggestion, about the seconding of veterinarians, I will ask the Standing Committee of the Australian Agricultural Council to look at that matter again at its next meeting. The council has already considered the matter, and veterinarians from Commonwealth and State departments and from Australian universities have attended conferences overseas to gain experience in the diagnosis of foot and mouth disease and other exotic diseases. We will see whether anything further can be done along those lines.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport concerning tankers for the Australian coastal trade. Now that R. W. Miller and Company Proprietary Limited has been granted permission to engage in the carriage of oil round the Australian coast, will the Minister give preference in this matter to purely Australian companies - that is, Australian companies registered in Australia whose shares are on the Australian market - and not to companies owned and controlled overseas whose shares are not on the Australian market? V/ill the Minister allow the Australian National Line to build its own tankers and operate them on the Australian coast, now that the ice has been broken?
– I refer the honorable member to the statement made by the Prime Minister to the effect that this subject will be considered by Cabinet as a matter of policy. Several papers are to be submitted by those connected with it. It is a subject of great complexity. The Australian National Line has never been refused permission to build or operate a tanker. Any such project has always been regarded as a matter for decision by the Australian National Line as a business concern which is expected to make a reasonable return on capital.
– My question to the Minister for Social Services concerns the Budget proposals for assistance to student children of civilian widows. When preparing the relevant legislation to give effect to the proposals, will the Minister ensure that children who are still full-time students and are under eighteen years of age but have previously been declared to be ineligible for an allowance will be reinstated? Furthermore, will provision be made for the allowance to cease on the eighteenth birthday of such a student?
– I can assure the honorable member for Maribyrnong that the two questions he now raises will be adequately covered in the legislation I hope to bring down and that he will have no cause for complaint. Indeed, knowing his personal interest in social services, I am sure the legislation will give him great satisfaction.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that as a result of waterfront peace negotiations the provisions of section 52a of the Stevedoring Industry Act are now suspended? If so, when does the Minister intend to introduce a bill to repeal these provisions? Would this bill be of the same character as the long and complicated amendments to the long service leave provisions? Will the Minister explain how he can agree to suspend the provisions of section 52a on the one hand while on the other hand insisting that the provisions of the Stevedoring Industry Act are mandatory in their application to payment for Anzac Day for Sydney waterside workers?
– The honorable gentleman is horribly confused. I have made it clear in all press statements, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation have made it clear, that what has been proposed - and only proposed - is that the section should be temporarily suspended whilst the agreement is kept. Up to the present, the section has not been suspended. That would have to be done by an act of Parliament. In addition, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority is now considering whether it can operate under section 36 instead of section 52a. The authority is still looking at that and has not made any recommendation to me. I have not suspended the operation of section 52a. I have no power to do so and I have no power to recommend that the stevedoring industry should not operate under that section. The loss of holiday pay for Anzac Day was due to the actions of the Sydney branch of the federation. I have no power to give any direction on this matter to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and I doubt whether the authority can act on its own initiative in respect of the matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry and relates to the consideration he is now giving to the terms of a stabilization plan for submission to the Australian dried vine fruits industry. Will the Minister arrange for the Division of Agricultural Economics to make a survey of the industry with the object of establishing an up-to-date cost of production figure upon which the stabilization of the” dried vine fruits industry can be based with confidence?
– The last survey of the dried fruits industry by the Division of Agricultural Economics covered the year 1954-55, I think. We could say that this is somewhat out of date, and I am prepared to direct the division to give first priority to a survey of the industry so that any consideration given to a stabilization scheme will be based on up-to-date figures.
– My question is supplementary to that which was answered by the Minister for Labour and National Service a few minutes ago. Is the Minister aware that more than 2,000 exservicemen are engaged as members of the Waterside Workers Federation on the Sydney waterfront and that that core is claimed to be the main component of the discontent in Sydney arising out of the non payment of the award public holiday entitlement for Anzac Day this year? Is the Minister aware also that industrial trouble occurred on the Sydney waterfront on 23rd April, that there were no stoppages on the 24th or 26th April, but that because of the stoppage on 23rd April the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, within its powers under section 52a of the act, cancelled the public holiday entitlement of the waterside workers for Anzac Day? Finally, may I again ask the Minister for how much longer the Government proposes to allow legislative enactments to cancel out award entitlements won before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission while we stand by and watch this industrial unrest as a consequence?
– 1 think I should preface my remarks by saying that all parties who were present at the recent industrial conference on the waterfront were striving to ensure that in the future we would have a period of industrial peace. More industrial goodwill was created around the conference table between the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Waterside Workers Federation, the stevedoring employers and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority than was ever created earlier in our history. The union and the Australian Council of Trade Unions did not raise the question of loss of holiday pay for Anzac Day, but the Opposition is now trying to create a ground upon which again the Communists within the Sydney branch of the federation-
– Have a look under your bed for another one to-night.
– You do not know what you are doing. You are acting extremely foolishly. Let me be quite clear about this matter. I have answered questions about it before and have given a complete answer to the House. Because of the terms of clause 13 of the award and the provisions of the Stevedoring Industry Act, it was, or should have been, well known to the Sydney branch officials that if they pulled a strike on the day before or the day after Anzac Day automatically the men would lose their holiday pay. That was known to them. They made a mistake. I have no power to direct the Stevedoring Industry Authority to reinstate the payments.
– You are a powerless pipsqueak.
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes must not interject.
– I conclude on this note: The Opposition does not know what it is doing. 1 have no intention of being provocative here. It is my intention to ensure that there will be industrial peace on the waterfront and that it will continue as long as possible.
– My question, which is addressed to the Postmaster-General, concerns television channels. Can the Minister say whether one of the channels which is reserved for television services in Australia coincides or nearly coincides with a communication channel proposed by the international authority to be used for communication by means of satellites? Can he say whether an investigation has been made into the matter by officers of his department? Finally, will he say whether, if there is a clash of services, the Australian television channel concerned will have to be abandoned and that to give effect to the television development programme another channel at another frequency will have to be found and alterations will have to be made to sets in Australian homes?
– Later this year there is to be a conference of the International Telecommunication Union. Towards the end of last year we had a committee under the chairmanship of Professor Huxley inquiring into various matters which might arise in order to prepare briefs for our own representatives at that conference. It is true that a suggestion has been made, not by Australia, about the use of a channel for space research experiments which have been going on for some time, but the matter has not yet been determined. I have just received a report from the committee which we appointed to go into this matter. That report has not yet been considered by Cabinet but it will be considered shortly and the honorable member can be assured that the matter will be given very careful attention, not only by Cabinet, but also by our representatives when they go to the conference.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the recent agreement between the major powers on the cessation of surface, atmospheric and underwater nuclear tests, to which Australia promptly subscribed, has the Minister taken any steps to discourage the French from proceeding with any such tests in the Pacific as France’s former colonies took to prevent her from continuing them in Africa? In particular, have discussions taken place with New Zealand which, like Australia, is an ally of France, and which, earlier this year, lodged a protest with the French Government over the impending tests?
– I propose to ask the House for leave to make a statement about this treaty this afternoon. If I am given leave, I shall, when making the statement, touch on this question of France and indicate that we have said to France that all nations, including France, should join the treaty. I think, when the honorable member sees the statement, he will feel that his questions are answered.
– I preface a question addressed to the Postmaster-General by stating that, for some years, it was customary for the Postmaster-General to allow scout and other youth organizations to distribute telephone directories, when reissued, to subscribers for a nominal fee. By this effort, these groups were able to build up their funds which enabled them to plan future activities with reasonable certainty. Can the Postmaster-General tell the House why these groups are not now allowed to distribute new issues of the telephone directory and whether he will reconsider his previous decision which reacts against very worthy causes?
– Such matters as the distribution of telephone directories are obviously departmental matters of administration which I do not direct, so I have given no instruction that the previous system should be discontinued. I do know, however, that, as in most of our operations, we do call tenders for both the printing of the directories and, in major areas, their distribution. What change there has been in that practice I do not know, but, in view of the question which has been asked by the honorable member for Balaclava, I will get him some information on the matter.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. It relates to the recently approved shipment of 300 tons of Bismark potatoes from the southern midlands of Tasmania to Singapore, the first of such shipments to be made. I should like to say, here, that we appreciated the Minister’s co-operation in obtaining approval for this shipment of 300 tons of potatoes. I ask the Minister whether, if this consignment proves to be successful, even though the shipment was made late in the season, his department will give every assistance to our obtaining both shipping and refrigeration, if necessary, to establish this important potato trade on a permanent footing as the market is very good in Singapore.
– I sincerely hope that the trial shipment of potatoes will prove a success. My department will certainly co-operate as far as possible in extending the market, subject, of course, to being able to ensure quality deliveries. We need to protect our good name so that we can maintain markets when we get them. We shall do everything possible to assist.
– Is the Minister for Trade optimistic about prospects of negotiating an outlet for Australian meat in Japan on acceptable terms in the course of the next two or three years, and can he say what the situation is at the present time?
– First, there is no explicit provision in respect of beef within the Japanese Trade Agreement, which will be brought into the House to-day; that, I shall explain in due course. The honorable member asks for my opinion. It is my firm opinion that we shall have an opportunity to sell to Japan not less, in beef and in meat generally, than we have been selling, and I am confident that we shall sell additional quantities of beef and other meats to Japan in due course. That is my belief in respect of what will happen in ordinary commercial terms. Opportunity is provided for recurring negotiation with Japan bilaterally on this matter. Also, a meat conference is running at the present time under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in which both Japan and Australia as well as all other members of Gatt are concerned, and in respect of the outcome of that conference I am quite optimistic.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry act immediately to prevent the severe injury now threatening the Australian fish canning industry as a result of the Budget proposals? Is he aware that, while Australian canned fish has been free of sales tax, imported canned fish has been subject to a sales tax of 12i per cent.? Is he aware that the Tariff Board took this tax on imported canned fish into consideration when deciding the rate of protective duty? Will he call for an immediate report on the effect of the removal of this tax, as announced in the Budget, which threatens the employment of 500 men in the fishing and canning industry in South Australia alone, and particularly in the Port Lincoln area? Finally, will he exercise all his influence, in the light of the changed circumstances, to ensure that the Special Advisory Authority gives prompt consideration to the need for a further emergency import duty, pending a new hearing by the Tariff Board?
– Arising out of the commendable decision of the Government to remove sales tax on foodstuffs, an anomaly appears to have been created in the fishing industry. I have received some representations to the effect that imported canned fish will now undersell the local product and be of detriment to the local industry. I received several representations from South Australia yesterday. I have advised those concerned in the industry that they can approach the Minister for Trade and ask him to consider a reference to the Special Advisory Authority. The Fisheries Division of my department will assist them with statistical information and in any other way possible to enable them to make their case complete but the matter is one for the Minister for Trade.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport: Is it a fact that no application has been received from the New South Wales Government for inclusion of the reconstruction of the line from Parkes to Broken Hill in the standardization proposals? If that is so, does the Minister know of any reason why, in view of the fact that this work is an integral part of the standardization proposals, the New South Wales Government is not showing the same zeal as the governments of other States in looking after the interests of its own State?
– I have not had from the New South Wales Government any communication concerning this matter. I should imagine that it would be very costly to reconstruct the line.
– But fully justified, Mr. Minister.
– Such a proposal would be brought to the notice of the technical officers in my department. Of course, it would be a matter of policy and as such would also be brought to the attention of the Government.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether the legislation governing the activities of the Australian National Line would enable the line, with or without ministerial authority, to build or to purchase tankers for use on overseas shipping routes.
– The honorable member’s question involves a matter of law.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation able to forecast the date for the implementation of repatriation pension increases and concessions contained in the current Budget?
– As the honorable member no doubt is aware, a lot of administrative work is involved in the changing of rates of repatriation benefits. In anticipation of parliamentary approval of the proposals contained in the present Budget, some of that work has been put in hand. However, final arrangements have to be made, in consultation, of course, with my colleagues, the Minister for Social Services and the Leader of the House. The only indication I can give at this stage is that payment will be made at the earliest possible date after the legislation has been passed by the Parliament.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Does not the Minister think that he has got himself into an intolerable position in relation to the question of payment for work on Anzac Day on the waterfront? Does he not also think that it is quite intolerable that he should try to mix up the question of communism with the fact that men on the waterfront want payment for a statutory public holiday? What answer has he given to Mr. Yeo, of the Returned Servicemen’s League in Sydney, relative to his strong letter saying that Anzac Day should be paid for in any industry? Is not public sentiment in this matter to this effect: “ To hell with section 52a. See that these men are paid for their holiday, since it is a statutory holiday. Being exservicemen, they had every right to absent themselves.”? Is the Minister aware that for doing what they did the men have lost a full day’s pay and four days’ attendance money? The Minister has told us to-day that he is utterly powerless, and I believe that is so, but the people will expect him to do something about this question of the payment of wharfies for work on Anzac Day.
– Yesterday, a small group of people, not representative of the Waterside Workers Federation or the executive of the federation, or of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, came to Canberra in order to make representations about the loss of holiday pay on Anzac Day this year. I have given a full explanation of the position, so far as I can, to the honourable gentleman and every other person who has come to see me, and I have already explained the position in this House. I can do no more than repeat, Mr. Speaker, that the executive of the Sydney branch of the federation made a blunder and knows that it did so. It knew or should have known that if the officials pulled a strike the day before or the day after a holiday their holiday pay would be automatically forfeited under the provisions of the act and the award. I am having a look at the matter–
– They worked the day before and the day after.
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes has asked his question. He will remain silent.
– You know the position. You are lending yourself to the influence of a small group led by people like Bull and Neville Isaacson.
– Order! The Minister will direct his remarks to the Chair.
– I have explained that the provision exists. I told the honorable member for Reid, who saw me this morning, that I am now looking at the question whether there is a right of appeal either under the award or under the Stevedoring Industry Act. There is a right of appeal under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, about which I have already advised. If I find that there is a right of appeal under the award or the Stevedoring Industry Act, I shall let the honorable gentleman know as soon as I can.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. It is urgently necessary that everything possible be done to promote the sale in Australia of Australian dried vine fruits. As a means of publicizing these fine products and as a benefit to honorable members, will you consider having Australian dried vine fruits provided on the tables in the members’ dining room?
– Consideration will be given to the question.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the new 20-cent piece is to be named a florin? As the right honorable gentleman is aware, the 2s. piece at present in use is a florin, but I think all honorable members will agree that that name is never used now. In fact. I have not heard it used for very many years. Will the Treasurer change the name “ florin “ to something more suitable for use by the Australian people?
– In the course of this session of the Parliament it is intended to introduce legislation which will provide for the style of the coins to be adopted in the decimal currency system. The present intention is not to stamp a particular name on any coin but to show merely the number of cents that that coin represents. We think that this would make for greater simplicity and readier understanding, not only by Australians but also by people who visit this country and use our coins. I do not think that I can take the matter any further than that at this time.
– Does the Minister for Trade recall that the last Tariff Board report on the canned fish industry took into account the 121/2 per cent, protection afforded the industry by the sales tax, which, commendably, has just been removed from all foodstuffs? Did not the report recommend that if the sales tax on foodstuffs were altered the tariff on canned fish should be adjusted accordingly, so that the protection afforded the industry would not be reduced? Does this mean that the protective tariff rates for canned fish, particularly tuna, can be altered very soon without a reference to the Special Advisory Authority?
– I remember that when the Tariff Board reported on this matter it made the explicit point that it had taken into account the121/2 per cent, sales tax. My memory is that the Tariff Board added that should there be an alteration in the sales tax the Government could make an adjustment of the tariff without a further reference. That was an observation by the Tariff Board. I am not sure whether it would be legally possible or in accord with our overseas commitments, which deal up to a point with tariff making, to act without a reference, but I undertake to have this question examined immediately and to act in accordance with the right principles.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Now that the Commonwealth has decided to provide, by loan, half the cost of the Blowering dam, and the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority is to construct the vast project on behalf of the New South Wales Government, will the Minister take steps to ensure, in the interests of efficient operation, that Tumut is made the head-quarters of the administrative, engineering and construction staff? Will he ensure also that account is taken of the facts that Tumut is within seven miles of this project, that all supplies essential for the work will have to come through the Tumut railhead, that Tumut is an established and progressive town providing all facilities, and that because of the steadily increasing growth of the town, all buildings and houses erected for the project in Tumut will be capable of continued use after completion of the dam? Finally, Mr. Speaker, it will be remembered that I have brought to the notice of this House the subject of the Blowering dam on several occasions.
– I shall refer the question to the Minister in another place whom I represent and see that the honorable member gets a full reply. I do not doubt that the honorable member will be able to make very good vise in his own electorate of the propaganda that he will derive from this.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Will he arrange, in co-operation with his colleague the Minister for Immigration, that Australian servicemen stationed in South-East Asia shall be instructed adequately on the bases of our immigration policy so that they may deal with questions directed to them in a way which promotes Australia’s interests? May I say by way of explanation that those of us who visited defence installations during a recent parliamentary delegation to South-East Asia found a very real demand among servicemen themselves for such instruction.
– I compliment the honorable member for Barker on the very sound question he has asked. As I understand it, the army education people do make reference to the subject in various lectures that are given, but I am sure that the scope of the instruction could be expanded. I shall certainly direct the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, to this matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it a fact that Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited applied to the Government for assistance by way of a subsidy, to the extent of 22 per cent., to enable it to tender for an anti-submarine frigate to be built for the New Zealand Government? Is the Minister aware that had the request for the subsidy been granted this company would have secured the order? As the Government permits subsidies up to 33i per cent, to be paid for ships being built for private enterprise, such as Ampol Petroleum Limited and Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, what were the reasons for the refusal of the Government to grant a subsidy in this instance to Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited?
– I should like to be in a position to reply to the question of the honorable member for Dalley, but the building of anti-submarine frigates comes under a different portfolio and I know nothing of the application that was made. Also, the question obviously relates to a matter of Government policy.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. As the growing of cotton in the Murray valley is proving successful and is expanding, and as the cotton now has to be transported approximately 1,300 miles to a ginnery in Queensland, will the Minister cause investigations to be made with the object of establishing a ginnery in an appropriate location in the Murray valley?
– I appreciate the honorable member’s interest in the cotton industry, particularly in the growing of cotton in his own electorate. I have just received a report from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics covering all aspects of the cotton industry, and the Government is now considering future policy in that field. As to the honorable member’s suggestion that the Commonwealth Government should establish a ginnery, I do not think that is a matter for the Commonwealth Government at all.
– I present the following paper: -
Audit Act - Finance - Report of the AuditorGeneral for year 1962-63, accompanied by the Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the interruption at 12.30 p.m. of Motion No. 1, General Business, standing in the name of the honorable the Leader of the Opposition, and the continuation of consideration of the motion beyond 12.45 p.m.
– I move -
That this House expresses its concern at our increasing dependence on overseas investment and the tendency for such investment to buy out established enterprises instead of establishing industries for new products or in new areas.
The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) will second my motion. The duty could have been more appropriately and very ably fulfilled, I am sure, by one who does not sit on this side of the House. I refer, of course, to the Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of the Country Party (Mr. McEwen). If we are to judge from his recent statements, the Deputy Prime Minister is just as much aware of the problem as we are on this side of the House. There has been no more eloquent exponent of the dangers attending our present dependence on overseas capital than the Leader of the Country Party. We all know how forcibly and eloquently he spoke on this subject at Orange as recently as June of this year. His speech, as is always the case with the Deputy Prime Minister, was an eloquent and forceful speech, and so far as the part of it which related to the problems of overseas investment was concerned, I agreed with every word of it. Indeed, I might almost have written it.
It is true that the Deputy Prime Minister and I use different terminology. I may speak of our present system as being comparable to the position of the housewife who uses the mortgage to pay her grocery bill. The Deputy Prime Minister speaks of selling a bit of the farm year by year in order to live. The metaphor varies, but the message remains the same. That is why I would have been very happy had it been possible for him to second my motion. However, I have not the slightest doubt that he is with me in spirit today as I move this resolution.
It is true that the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the Leader of the Country Party, sometimes varies his language according to his audience. For instance, only a week after his magnificent manifesto at the Orange meeting of the Country Party he went to Launceston to address the Tasmanian Farmers’ Federation, and when he was asked about overseas investment on that occasion the right honorable gentleman replied -
I am not addressing you as Leader of the Country Party; I am addressing you as Ac ing Prime Minister, and I will not feel so free. It would be silly of me to try to say to you or the press that I am now speaking as Leader of the Country Party. I am not. I was in an arena there-
He was referring to his speech at Orange - where I was speaking only in my capaciy as Leader of the Country Party. There is a distinction.
If I may add an Australian colloquialism, too right there is! But let this be said to the credit of the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Country Party and Minister for Trade: In his reply to his questioner at Launceston he again made the point - made it consistently and clearly, as he always does - that he shares with the Labour Party a deep anxiety about present trends and is concerned about our increasing dependence on overseas capital, whatever its form, whatever its nature, whatever its origin.
– You surely do not claim that I said at Launceston that I share with the Labour Party a view.
– I thought that was a correct paraphrase of what the honorable gentleman did say. I do not think that he would deny that he shares the view with us, or that his views are almost identical with ours on this subject. But he can state his own case, and I shall be glad to hear him at a later stage. At any rate, I will tell the House what he has said in the past and I will show that there is not much difference between what he has said in the past and what we have said on this question. I do not care in what capacity the Deputy Prime Minister chooses to speak in this debate. Let him speak as a Minister or as leader of his party, but let him speak as an Australian, a distinguished Australian, and one who has the true interest of our country at heart. That is what we are concerned about in a debate on a matter of this kind. As I have said, many of the illuminating statements made by the Deputy Prime Minister were made when he was Acting Prime Minister; that is, in the absence of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) who was at that propitious time achieving his apotheosis in Edinburgh.
As could be expected, the acting Prime Minister’s remarks roused the ire and drew the fire of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). The Crown Prince of Liberalism took time off from his favourite reading - I mean by that my. 1961 policy speech - to reply to his senior colleague in the coalition Government. Of course the Treasurer did not reply directly to the Minister for Trade. Indeed, the grand partnership - that was how the coalition was known in its palmier days - conducts its internal disputes in a manner reminiscent of international communism. The Treasurer proceeded in exactly the same way as the protagonists in the great ideological conflict between Moscow and Peking behave. When Mao used to attack Khrushchev he did so by attacking Tito. When Russia wanted to attack China it did so by castigating the deviations of Albania. This is how the Treasurer proceeded, with all the skill and subtlety natural in one like him, who learned so well his lessons in dialectical materialism at the University of Melbourne. He ostensibly directed his attack against the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), but there could be no doubt as to the true target of his argument. He used in a “ rickshaw “ speech a ricochet argument. The target was clearly and indisputably the Deputy Prime Minister, the Australian equivalent of the Chinese agrarian Mao. This must have been so, because every argument that the Treasurer used against the honorable member for Werriwa applies with equal force - or lack of it - to the views of the Deputy Prime Minister. If the Labour Party is wrong in this matter then we share our error with the Leader of the Australian Country Party.
Before I enter into any detail about what the Labour Party believes should be done with regard to overseas investment, I think it worthwhile to investigate some of the statements made by leaders of the Government, as well as the Leader of the Country Party. I have mentioned the anxieties of the Deputy Prime Minister when he made his position quite clear at the annual conference of the Victorian Branch of the Country Party at Lakes Entrance in April of this year. He said -
We in this room are mostly established farmers. If we earn enough annual income, we can live comfortably. If we don’t, we could still live comfortably, by selling a bit of the farm every year, and that is pretty much the Australian situation - we are not earning enough, and we are selling a bit of our heritage every year. I am not satisfied - and we in the Country Party will not be satisfied - until this is no longer a necessity. I am much in favour of some overseas investment in Australia, but I do not want this country to be dependent on it. In that case, you have lost your real freedom.
Those were the well-considered words of the Deputy Prime Minister. In effect he said, “ That is our position and our position entirely “. But when we come to the luminaries of latter-day liberalism, it is a different story altogether. None of the anxiety - the well-justified anxiety - and none of the concern for our true national interest as displayed in the statement I have just read is evident or even existent.
Take, for example - and let us go straight to the fount - the Prime Minister. This is from a report of his press conference on his return to Australia on 1 5th July -
Question: Sir, are you worried about trends in overseas investment in Australia? Prime Minister: I am not . . .
In May, the Prime Minister went over to Port Pirie to try to prevent the presence here to-day of my colleague, the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Mortimer). On that occasion he said -
Investment in Australia over the past ten years has been phenomenal, with hundreds of millions of pounds being invested by the United States and the United Kingdom. But every time I mention these facts, there will be some bunch of left-wing men who will say: “ You are pawning the country to the overseas bankers “.
Let me welcome the Deputy Prime Minister - and perhaps even the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes) - to the leftwing bunch.
But, in all seriousness, I cannot leave this remark of the Prime Minister without comment. It is typical of his misrepresentation of his opponents’ arguments on this great and vital issue. But let me point this out: When he misrepresents the arguments of the Labour Party on this matter he is also guilty of misrepresenting the arguments of his own Deputy Leader and of the party led by that gentleman. If we are wrong, then the Leader of the Australian Country Party is wrong, and his followers are also wrong.
Let me say something further. This is even more important, more significant, more serious. The Prime Minister has frequently accused the Labour Party of endangering the economy and the nation’s future because we draw attention to the dangers inherent in our present policy. The Prime Minister’s argument runs thus - and I am now quoting him -
Capital, being a shy bird, very easily flies away.
According to the Prime Minister, anybody who breathes the slightest criticism against foreign capital, anybody who suggests that the slightest control should be exercised over it, is endangering the nation. This is a serious charge to make, but the Prime Minister, and the little Sir Echo who aspires to his crown, have made this charge again and again, and continue to make it against the Labour Party. They make it, too, inferentially against their Country Party allies.
But if we who are, after all, the Opposition for the time being in this Parliament - if we who do not make the laws - are guilty, then how much greater is the guilt of the leading partner in the coalition government, the Minister for Trade, the man who speaks at home and abroad with the full authority of the present Government of Australia? Let the Prime Minister ponder that one. The next time the mood takes him to sneer at us and misrepresent us, let him reflect that each sneer is a sneer against the Leader of the Country Party and that each charge of inadequate patriotism is a reflection against his own deputy and the other sixteen of his followers who sit behind the Prime Minister and who help to keep this Government in office.
It has been my duty to state these facts because it is necessary that the nation should know how the three parties which form this Parliament stand on this vital issue of overseas investment.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad that the Prime Minister and I have reached agreement.
– I am looking forward to hearing where the Labour Party stands. Do not run out of time.
– I will not run out of time; I am watching it. The Liberal Party, for reasons that I shall deal with later, denies that any problem exists. That is a fair summation of their position. The Country Party, as evidenced, at least, by the words of its leader, believes that there is indeed a problem and that it gives cause for genuine concern. I think that is a clear and fair statement of their position. The Labour Party believes that there is a problem, that it gives cause for concern, and that action should be taken to deal with the problem now.
I repeat what I have said from a score of platforms and what I have said in this House many times: The Labour Party is not opposed to investment from overseas. We recognize that a young, developing and small nation, such as Australia, requires considerable amounts of capital from abroad if it is to grow and if it is to remain prosperous. But what we do deny, most vehemently, is the view put forward by the Prime Minister, but refuted by the Deputy Prime Minister, that we, as a nation, have no right to regulate the amount, nature and usefulness of that capital. We further deny the proposition put forward by the Prime Minister but, at least by inference, refuted by the Deputy Prime Minister, that any attempt to safeguard the long-term interests of our nation would automatically cause a flight of capital. We say that the only capital that would be discouraged by such action is the capital we do not want, the capital of adventurers, monopolists and racketeers which we can well do without and which we cannot afford to accommodate.
The Labour Party acknowledges, and has always acknowledged, the advantages brought to the nation by many forms of investment from abroad. We welcome it when it brings new industries, new techniques, access to overseas research beyond our own means or knowledge, and we acknowledge the savings on our imports bill resulting from the development of industries which might otherwise have not developed. But we do not, and we cannot, welcome that form of capital which merely takes over some existing Australian industry without bringing any of the benefits I have mentioned.
We, on this side of the House, have raised this matter again and again, and we have been snubbed again and again whenever we have raised it. The honorable members for Scullin (Mr. Peters), Yarra (Mr. Cairns), Reid (Mr. Uren) and Mitchell (Mr. Armitage), to mention only some of a very long list of Labour members who have shown over many years an active concern in this matter, have been not only snubbed but, indeed, insulted by the Treasurer whenever they have presumed to raise this question. But the Prime Minister has a quite different technique. To members of the Opposition who have dared to concern themselves with a matter so vital to the future of the nation the Prime Minister adopts an attitude of lofty indifference. His attitude is: It does not matter; you can trust in the future because nothing at all is going to worry us. The Canadian example is nothing to be concerned about. That will not happen here. For these reasons I need not challenge what honorable members on the other side of the House have said so often on the matter.
Let me, however, quote further from the speech of the Minister for Trade because
I want to have his remarks on the record for future reference and so that the position will be clear beyond all possibility of misunderstanding.
At Lakes Entrance the Deputy Prime Minister said -
There has been an increasing tendency for capital to flow into Australia, not to establish some new and highly complicated technical activity, but to come in to buy out an Australian flour mill, or an Australian bakery, or an Australian dairy factory, sometimes a co-operative.
The Deputy Prime Minister went on to say -
I make it quite clear that I can’t welcome the transference of ownership to overseas people of these simple food processing activities, which have actually been established by Australians and, in many cases, successfully operated by Australians for more than half a century.
With those sentiments we entirely agree. To emphasize his point, the Deputy Prime Minister repeated those views on 26th June this year at Orange, when he said -
The short-term convenience of addition to our resources of overseas currency does not, in my opinion, compensate for the transfer from Australian ownership. The position is even less attractive where an overseas company of great financial strength buys into Australia with a very modest expenditure of the currency of its own country and then proceeds, on the basis of its creditworthiness, to draw upon Australian savings for business expansion.
Compare that statement, which at least is an honest attempt to state the real problem, with the complacency of the Prime Minister who thinks that every dollar, whether it comes from the United States of America or Hong Kong, every franc and every yen, no matter how suspect its origin and no matter what the purpose of the investment, is a real gain to this nation, and therefore, must be welcomed uncritically!
What concerns the Labour Party, and what must concern every thinking Australian, is the increasing loss of our control over our own destinies. We on this side of the House believe that the control and ownership of key Australian industries and resources must not be allowed to fall into non-Australian hands. The present policy - or lack of policy - of the Australian Government will make that inevitable, unless the policy is promptly checked. The Labour Party believes that we must not allow the Canadian situation to be reproduced in Australia. The key sectors of the Canadian economy are beyond the control of the Government of Canada and its people. Of course, the Treasurer will tell us that it cannot happen here. The Treasurer is. indeed, a strange bird. I say this very kindly. When he is not strutting around in the borrowed plumage of the Labour Party’s policy pronouncements of two years ago, he loves to play the role of the ostrich. As recently as last May, he said in this House - i do not believe that we are likely to ex perience problems of the same order as those experienced by Canada.
In other words, he hopes for the best, just as he has been hoping for the best in every Budget that he has ever produced in this House. He always hopes for the best. The reason why the Treasurer needs every penny that he can get from overseas, no matter how he gets it, is to disguise and protect the nation’s balance-of-payments problem. He knows very well that under this Government Australia just is not paying her way. He knows that the huge deficit between exports and imports has been covered largely by capital inflow from abroad. He hopes that when the dividend bill comes in he will not be around to meet it, or at least that something will turn up before then to stave off further the inevitable reckoning day.
No responsible person in Australia would attempt to deny that we have a recurring balance-of-payments problem. But would any responsible person say that the best way to meet that problem is to mortgage off our future by selling our basic assets? That is what the Minister for Trade has called “ selling a bit of the farm each year in order to live”. What is the Treasurer’s answer? He will give it to us presently. He may have changed his mind; he may not have. We shall listen when he speaks.
The Prime Minister saw fit, in answer to a question that I asked him recently, to make a sneering reference to the Premier of New South Wales who set out, in his recent overseas tour, to attract worthwhile investment to his State. From all reports, the Premier achieved that purpose. He wanted worthwhile investment and he obtained it. The Premier did not seek just any capital that happened to be available. Had he done so, he could have got all of the £500,000,000 of hot money that is readily available in Hong Kong at any time for investment in Australia or elsewhere. But he was not looking for some cheap applause. He was seeking - and he did obtain - capital useful for the future development of New South Wales. The Prime Minister tried to suggest that there was some difference between my views and those of the Labour Premier of New South Wales. I can only suggest that he would like to be as close and firm with the Minister for Trade as I am with the Premier cf New South Wales on all questions concerning the well-being of Australia and all ils citizens.
If we on this side of the House were merely an opposition party, it would be sufficient to state the problem, as I have done, and leave it at that. But we are mote than the Opposition; we are the Labour Party. And the Labour Party never leaves any subject without stating its policy. Our policy is always clear. When we state our policy and popularize it, it inevitably happens that the anti-Labour forces steal our policy, claim it as their own, and if they happen to be in power, implement it. If imitation is the sincerest form of flatter)’, we stand highly flattered in this Parliament at the present time in the light of what has happened since 1961.
Our policy in regard to overseas investment is this: We welcome overseas investment when it genuinely contributes to the growth and prosperity of this nation. We do not applaud investment that merely takes over control of existing, wellestablished Australian industries. We believe that because our real need for overseas capital springs from our need for national development, foreign investment should be encouraged for the purpose of undertaking genuine development. We believe that provision should be made to ensure Australian equity in all Australian industry, whatever the origin of the capital controlling that industry may be. We believe that the control of basic Australian industries should remain in Australian hands. We believe that the present restrictions on exports imposed on Australian subsidiaries by British, American and other foreign companies must be abolished if Australia is to increase her exports and make her way as a great trading nation. When we come to power we will legislate towards those ends. We believe that the
Constitution already gives the Commonwealth power that will enable us to do those things.
In moving this motion, Sir, I have advanced arguments in support of our position and finally I have stated where we stand so that the Government will not be able to misrepresent our position if there is a shred of honesty left in its desire to meet our case with counter arguments. In moving this motion I have merely restated longestablished Labour policy. It will be stated in greater detail by my colleagues who will follow me. But there is one man in this House who has it in his power to make this a truly memorable debate. That man is the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. If he will only say in this House what he has said so often and so eloquently outside it, if he will rise above the sophistries of the Prime Minister and the platitudes of the Treasurer, and if he will speak as the honest Australian that we believe him to be, then I shall not have moved this resolution in vain.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
had 30 minutes in which to put the views of his party before this House. He did not avail himself of his full time. As I gauged it by the clock, all but three minutes of the time available to him was taken up with a bit of good, clean, honest fun, as he saw it, and with a quite deliberate distortion and misrepresentation of the statements and views of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), my colleague the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), and indeed, of myself. He compressed into a hasty three minutes an outline of what the Labour Party would do, as he put it to us, if it were in office. As to the feasibility of that action, he did not in any way elaborate the ways and means by which this would be done. He missed a very valuable opportunity of putting clearly before the Australian public just how the Labour Party would deal with a situation as we have it here in Australia.
Consider this situation for a moment. We have a rapidly growing population, and vast resources to develop and a need to absorb, in addition to the very considerable savings we make ouselves, the overseas investment which will help us to give employment, develop our industries and add to our technical capacities. At no stage did he explain how the Labour Party, with the methods he outlined, would consistently be able to secure that result.
In the more limited time available to me, I will try to put more fairly and clearly on the record just where this Government stands. But before I go on to do that, Sir, may I take a moment or two to contrast the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition with that of some other Labour spokesmen on these matters. The Leader of the Opposition announced, that the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) was to second the motion, although that honour was assumed in the result by his Deputy Leader. I understand that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) is to follow the honorable member for Scullin. If the views put by those two gentlemen on earlier occasions express the attitude of members of the Labour Party generally, then we know very clearly that they are completely hostile to overseas investment. The honorable member for Scullin has been opposed not merely to overseas investment but to overseas borrowings by this Government and his words of criticism have been echoed by the honorable member for Reid.
What is the true voice of the Labour Party on this matter? I say that on this great question, as on practically every great question in Australia today, you will hear the Labour Party talking with two voices according to the audience it wishes to please. The most extreme point of view is put repeatedly in this place by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) who, I understand, is now to replace the honorable member for Reid in this debate. But there is very little between them on this particular issue. The honorable members for Scullin, Reid and Yarra have all made emphatically clear their opposition to any substantial degree of overseas investment in Australia.
Let us turn now to some leading spokesmen of the Labour Party. The Leader of the Opposition twitted my colleague, the Minister for Trade, who will be able to speak for himself in this debate. He said that my colleague would have been disposed to second the motion that he has proposed. I am quite certain that neither the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Heffron, nor the Treasurer of that State, Mr. Renshaw, would wish to second this motion. The Leader of the Opposition has tried to persuade the House that the attitude of Mr. Heffron is very much in line with his own. I can quote the publicly expressed attitude of Mr. Heffron from a source which will not be challenged by the Leader of the Opposition. This source happens to be virtually the official voice these days of the Australian Labour Party.
I quote from a report in the “ Sydney Morning Herald” of 11th June of this year of an interview given by Mr. Heffron in the United States of America. I will do so without in any way seeking to distort by abbreviation the views he was putting, because the whole quotation is available here to any honorable gentleman who wishes to read it. I quote Mr. Heffron’s attitude as reported and honorable members will be able to form their own judgments as to whether he adopts the narrow and restrictive outlook so typical of some members of the Opposition and now given official blessing by the Leader of the Opposition.
I say, Sir, that the attitude of Mr. Heffron and his government, and the attitude expressed by Mr. Renshaw when he went abroad to seek investment in New South Wales, are in very sharp contrast with that which the Leader of the Opposition has expressed here to-day. In the course of his interview Mr. Heffron made these comments -
Attending plant openings of American companies is getting to be a full-time job for me . . . It is Mr. Heffron’s contention that Australia now offers wide opportunity for small and mediumsize U.S. companies that “want to get their feet wet in international trade” . . . There are many gaps in Australia’s industrial plant waiting to be filled by American capital and technology. The rapid growth of Australian secondary industry “could only be described as an industrial revolution”. The variety of arguments used by Mr. Heffron in his “ soft-sell “ talks with U.S. businessmen included: Australia’s vast natural resources, the unexploited markets and the huge populations in countries north of Australia, freedom to repatriate capital, freight rebates to encourage decentralization. Mr. Heffron also told the interviewer that Australia was the “ safest of safe deposit boxes “ for capital investment. “ You won’t find any Arab armies taking over your oil wells overnight here”, he said.
But he might have warned the American businessmen of the policies which would be followed by a Labour government if it came into office. I continue the quotation -
Mr. Heffron predicted that U.S. investment would continue to grow. The rate of capital reinvestment showed the satisfaction of American companies already in Australia, he said.
Turning to the policy of this Government which has been consistently pursued throughout our fourteen years of office, I claim that we have recognized that Australia has needed the added resources and the technical skills which come to us with the importation of capital. The economics of overseas investment are for us quite straightforward. We say that Australia is rich in natural resources but short of population and capital.
All political parties here are in favour of increasing the labour force through immigration, but labour and resources cannot be utilized without capital. The supply of capital to any one country is in the first instance limited to the savings of that country. It cannot be generated simply by creating additional money supply either through the banking system or through government deficit financing. If Australia - or for that matter any other developing country - is to grow faster than the supply of internally generated savings will permit, it must attract capital from abroad - that is, it must draw on the savings of others - and a high rate of growth, as we have found in Australia, is consistent with a high standard of living for our people.
The Leader of the Opposition refers to our increasing dependence on overseas investment. That is contained in the motion he has put before the House. The fact of the matter is that there is not demonstrably in factual terms an increasing dependence on overseas investment in this country. In 1961-62, the proportion of overseas investment in companies in Australia to total private invesment was 18 per cent., and this is a lower percentage than in the last year in which the Labour
Party was in office. In 1949-50 the proportion of capital inflow to total capital investment in Australia was 20 per cent. So the first leg of his argument collapses. There is not an increasing dependence by this country on overseas investment. There is an increasing flow of overseas investment, but investment is proportionately less than it was, in view of our expanding industrial base. It can be misleading also to refer to dependence on overseas investment so far as our balance of payments is concerned. I will not attempt to elaborate that argument now, but will merely make that statement of fact.
The rate of overseas investment in Australia should not be regarded as abnormal. If honorable gentlemen will take the trouble to study the history of developing countries, they will find this is an entirely normal phase of growth. Throughout its period of national development a developing country has a gap in its balance of payments which is covered by overseas investment and overseas borrowing. If the overseas investment and the overseas borrowings are put to practical use, resulting in an expansion of the industrial base, the country concerned is much more easily able to finance the servicing of its debt, and eventually, as was proved by the United States of America, to eliminate the debt to a large extent, and to become, in its turn, an exporter of capital.
I often hear honorable gentlemen opposite refer to the plight of Canada. I do not know how many of them have had an opportunity to go to Canada and to see for themselves the conditions that prevail there. Canada has a very strong economy, with a very high standard of living, despite the difficulties it may have encountered because of its common frontier with the powerful United States of America and because of the enormous flow of capital across that frontier. However, the position of Canada is in no way comparable with the position of Australia. Our overseas investment has come from a great variety of sources, but, for the most part, during this Government’s period of office, from the United Kingdom. A fairer comparison would be with the United States of America as it was in the past. Australia is a country of almost the same dimensions as the United States of America, with but a fraction of America’s present population and with its resources barely tapped at present. Throughout its history of population growth, the United States of America never restricted the flow of investment from any country in the world to its shores. Through its greatest period of growth two influences went together - the movement of people and the movement of capital to make possible the absorption into employment of those people.
I have stressed the importance which this Government attaches to overseas investment in Australia, but that does not mean that we are blind to the fact that there are problems associated with the process or that there are risks associated with the process. Why should honorable gentlemen opposite imagine that they have made some new discovery when they direct public attention to the fact that problems do exist? Let me tell the House that not only in the Treasury - where a constant study of these matters is going on - but also in the Government itself we give attention to the State of our overseas funds and the level of overseas investment. In January of this year I presented a lengthy paper to Cabinet, analysing the whole situation in this respect, and we had a valuable discussion. As has already been publicly stated by the Prime Minister, the economic inquiry committee has been asked to include in its terms of reference a study of overseas investment in Australia.
In the attitude of the Opposition there lies a very great danger for this country. It is vitally important for us to have a continuation of the flow of overseas investment, and therefore there is danger in any expression of policy which might have the effect of frightening investment away from this country. The Prime Minister, very rightly, says that capital in an overseas country available for investment elsewhere is a shy bird. I have put the matter in another way by saying that capital goes where it is welcome and stays where it is well treated. To hear honorable gentlemen opposite talk, one would imagine that all around the world to-day there are great resources of capital itching to get into some overseas investment and that in some way Australia is doing a great favour to the people concerned by allowing them to invest here. If those honorable gentlemen could take some part in the discussions at international gatherings of representatives of governments in the economic and financial fields they would know that in the developing countries to-day there is a great shortage of capital for development and a great hunger for capital for development. Countries less favorably placed than Australia are offering all manner of inducements - tax-free holidays running over periods of ten years or more, free manufacturing plant or equipment and free factory space. By one device or another they are seeking to attract capital to their shores because they believe that capital to be necessary for their development.
We can count ourselves lucky that we do not have to offer such strange and varied inducements. Australia, because of its political stability, because it is a great country with great resources waiting to be developed and because of the climate and environment that this Government has been able to create, has itself proved sufficient attraction for people overseas to take the enormous risks involved in investing here. There are always enormous risks associated with overseas investment, and not only on the part of the receiving country. The risks we run are very much less than the risks that the individual investor runs when he puts his capital in hostage in some other part of the world. We maintain control over overseas capital through taxing policies and in other ways, and we get our return from the investment. Look at what General-Motors Holden’s Proprietary Limited has meant to Australia, although there is no direct participation by our people in that investment. Some 22,000 people are directly employed by that great organization, some 20,000 are indirectly employed in the sale and servicing of its products and some 30,000 to 40,000 people are employed in the 4,200 factories supplying components to it. It is now able to help our export position, with 52 export points established in various parts of the world. The organization buys £80,000,000 worth of Australian goods and services each year and is paying rich dividends to us in the taxation we derive from it and from the incomes earned by people associated directly or indirectly with it. That is an illustration of the sort of national dividend wc have been receiving.
The Leader of the Opposition, who, if he has to make a choice between party politics and the national interest, will never hesitate to plump for party politics if he can see some immediate cheap political advantage, does not hesitate to place under threat the great process which has meant so much to the development of Australia in the post-war years. We, for our part, recognize the problems and will deal with them as best we can, but we also recognize that the risks associated with failure to develop our country and with failure to build up its population and industries, are much greater than any of the risks of a relatively minor order which we face through the overseas investment that comes here.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) and I are opposed to all kinds of capital coming into this country. In reality, we have made it particularly clear that we do not oppose the raising of overseas loans when they are used to develop this country and when they produce more than the interest payable on them overseas. We have made it clear, too, that there is no limit to the inflow of capital that we would welcome in this country if that capital were used to promote development and to raise the standard of living of our people. The Treasurer dare not quote from the speeches made by the honorable member for Reid and myself in the way in which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) quoted from the speeches of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who is Deputy Prime Minister. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that the Deputy Prime Minister, addressing a conference of the Victorian Country Party in April of this year, said -
If we can earn enough annual income we can live comfortably. If we don’t we can still live comfortably by selling a bit of our heritage every year. This is pretty much the Australian situation. We are not earning enough and we are selling a bit of our heritage every year.
Addressing a meeting of manufacturers in London on 9th May last the right honorable gentleman said -
The only things that have enabled us to survive are the constantly increasing productivity of the Australian farmer and the growth of capital inflow into Australia.
The Treasurer says that there is not a growth of the inflow of capital in Australia in proportion to population growth and that such a thing is illusionary. The Deputy Prime Minister has said that we are not earning enough and that we must sell a bit of Australia’s heritage every year in order to live comfortably. Australians are entitled to ask the Deputy Prime Minister: To what extent are the people of Australia not earning enough? How much of Australia must we sell annually to meet current living expenses? What happens when overseas interests no longer want to buy enough of Australia to enable us to meet current expenses or when there is not left sufficient of Australia to sell for this purpose? These are three questions that I ask the Deputy Prime Minister to answer when he addresses the House on this issue, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The earnings of a nation are the value of its primary and secondary production, plus any outside assistance that it receives, and less the cost of such assistance. That, of course, is obvious. The prosperity of a nation, however, depends on the standard of each member of the population. Therefore, it is the value of production per head of population that must be considered when assessing the effectiveness of national earnings. I have here summaries of Australian statistics which reveal that the value of all production per head of population in Australia was £176 in 1950 and £322 in 1962. The basic wage was £6 9s. a week in 1950 and £14 8s. a week in 1962. The value of the £1 was reduced by more than one-half between 1950 and 1962. It must therefore be obvious that the earnings per head of population were reduced by more than £30 or, for a family of four, by more than £120 in terms of 1962 currency.
As I have pointed out, the Deputy Prime Minister said -
The only things that have enabled us to survive are the constantly increasing productivity of the Australian farmer and the growth of capital inflow. . . .
Why did he ignore the growth of secondary production? He ignored it because in Australia the growth of secondary production depends on the increase in rural production, which either directly provides the materials for secondary production or provides export earnings out of which to purchase abroad the raw materials for secondary production. This, too, is very clear. The value of rural production per head of population was £82 in 1950 and £96 in 1962. When we take into consideration the depreciation in the value of the £1 we find that the value of rural production per head of population is at least £68 less to-day than it was in 1950, or £272 less for a family of four, in terms of 1962 currency. So the statement by the Deputy Prime Minister that the only things that have enabled us to survive are the constantly increasing productivity of the Australian farmer and the growth of capital inflow is not correct. Australia has been reduced by this Government to a condition in which its survival depends solely on the growth of capital inflow. Unfortunately, no government authority in this country knows the extent of that inflow and the use to which it is put.
Official documents show that at 30th June, 1949, private investment in Australia totalled £323,000,000. There are records of the investment of more than £1,000,000,000 of additional private capital since that date. I asked the Treasurer the other day, in a question on notice, what was the value of Australian real estate owned by overseas interests. He replied that there are no official records of this. In 1949 undistributed company income payable overseas was £6,000,000. To-day it is more than £60,000,000, or more than ten times as much. In 1949 company dividends payable overseas were about £8,000,000. To-day they total about £40,000,000, or five times as much. Much of these dividends is payable on account of existing companies that have been taken over, as the Deputy Prime Minister himself has pointed out, and not on account of new companies that contribute to Australia’s development. While the companies taken over were owned by Australians there was no restriction on their trading operations. The overseas interests that have taken over these companies now prevent them from operating in export markets. The point that I make is that the overseas interests that have taken over a large number of Australian companies add nothing to the wealth of this country, as has been pointed out by the Deputy Prime Minister. They merely restrict the trading opportunities that were enjoyed by the companies under Australian ownership before they were taken over by these overseas exploiters.
As has been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, on 27th June last, at Orange, the Deputy Prime Minister said -
Australians must not be content - as to-day we apparently are - to be merely given jobs in the exploitation of our own national resources working as employees of overseas owners.
The right honorable gentleman pointed out that when overseas capital takes over a well-established firm nothing new is added to the economy.
The Deputy Prime Minister also said, as was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition -
The position was even less attractive when an overseas company of great financial strength bought into Australia with a small outlay of overseas currency and then proceeded on the basis of its credit worthiness to draw upon Australian savings for business expansion.
I agree with that, but those are not the sentiments of the Treasurer or of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the overseas capital invested in Australia over the past ten years has increased in value because of the variation in the value of the £1 and for a variety of other reasons with the result that the recorded inflow of about £1,300,000,000 would to-day be of immensely higher value than it was.
The Government at last has shown definitely that it is not satisfied with the effects upon the Australian economy of overseas investment. It has shown that by referring the specific question of overseas investment to the Committee of Economic Enquiry. The flow of capital into Australia is increasing rapidly. Earlier, I said that the Deputy Prime Minister should tell us what will happen when this inflow is reduced or ceases. A document issued by the Department of Trade and Qantas Empire Airways Limited entitled “Export by Air” - and I believe this document was issued with the cognizance of the Minister for Trade - stated -
The flow of overseas capital can dry up very quickly and with little warning.
If that inflow is reduced without an early substantial increase in productivity, inevitably unemployment must increase. Inevitably, there must be economic dislocation and disaster, first among the secondary industries. Then, because of the strictures of unemployment and the curtailment of secondary industries, there must follow a fall in prices and in the sale of primary products. That is the position this Government has brought about by its economic policy. Action must be taken at once. An interim report must be obtained from the Committee of Economic Enquiry.
The absolute proof of the unsatisfactory nature of investment of a big proportion of the capital that has come to Australia is that it has not promoted the growth of our production which has resulted from development. If the vast sums that have come from overseas - and they exceed £1,000,000,000- added to development, increase the growth of the country’s economy as was stated by the Treasurer, then the production of Australia increases. There should be an increase in the value per head of population of both primary and secondary production. But that has not been the result of the inflow of capital. I have given figures relating to the increase in the value of rural and secondary production.
The Treasurer said that the Leader of the Opposition had made a sketchy statement of the Labour Party’s proposals on foreign investments. The Treasurer said that the statement by the Leader of the Opposition was not complete. Of course, it could not be complete. We could not give all the details of the Opposition’s policy in a speech lasting half an hour. We could not in half an hour tell the full story of the rise of the Australian economy under Labour and its decline under the Liberal-Country Party Government. Gibbon, the historian of the Roman Empire, took years to tell the story of the rise and fall of Rome. It would take a long time to tell the full story of the rise of the Australian economy under Labour and its decline under the Liberal and Country parties.
But these are the facts. Primary production increased tremendously between 1945 and 1949, even if we take into consideration the variation in the value of the £1. Under a Labour government, secondary production also increased immensely in those years, and loans from overseas diminished while overseas funds increased by hundreds of millions of pounds. These are irrefutable facts even when we take into account the variation in the value of money. During that period there was an inflow of capital which shows that Labour welcomes and permits an inflow of capital. There was an inflow of about £300,000,000 during that period but when the Labour Government left office in 1949, Australia did not owe anything to overseas nations. Australia was not being exploited then by overseas financiers. It was utilizing loan moneys from overseas and capital that flowed into Australia to increase local production tremendously. There was a great increase, per head of population, in the value of primary production and secondary production. The Labour Government had shown its capacity to do the job.
It is not necessary for a member of the Australian Labour Party, even though he be its leader, to dot every “ i “ and cross every ‘ t “ in a detailed explanation of what Labour would do for Australia. Let Labour’s record speak for itself. I challenge the speaker who will follow me from the opposite side to answer the questions I have put: To what extent has the production of Australia been unable to meet the requirements of the people and to what extent does the survival of Australia depend upon the inflow of overseas capital?
– The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) made a strange explanation on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). He said that, on the issue raised by the Leader of the Opposition and described by him as a matter of national importance, it was not necessary for him to state the policy of the Australian Labour Party.
– In detail, I said.
– I can describe that as strange, but it is not strange. This is a Parliament with an Opposition and it is the function of the Opposition to oppose the Government. If it gets a chance to twist the Government’s tail and te score a point, it is the legitimate function of the Opposition to do so. I recognize that this is so and we do not squeal about it, but let us face this debate for what it is. It is a political debate introduced by the Opposition in an attempt to score a point off the Government. It is not a debate intended to produce a constructive national policy. The honorable member for Scullin made that point.
The motive of this debate is clear enough and the facts that I and others refer to are real. They are published, and conclusions can be drawn from figures and facts. Conclusions can genuinely vary and, of course, in political life conclusions can be grossly coloured. I feel no embarrassment in this situation. I have an official office as Minister for Trade and I have responsibilities. My primary responsibility is to advise the Government and to administer the Government’s policies in relation to exports and the protection of Australian industry; to advise and to administer these for the growth of the country; and to advise and administer in respect of those export industries where profits will be made and where employment will be provided. Quite separate from this need to attend to the profits and employment of people is the function of the Minister particularly responsible for export industries to concern himself with the earning of enough foreign currency to service the national programme of development. It was for this purpose that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Government created the Department of Trade for the first time. This is a primary responsibility and as Minister for Trade, occupying that office as an individual, I am very much concerned to encourage exports and to develop a consciousness in the whole community - particularly in the business community - of the need for this country to earn more in export income.
My attitude on the matters particularly under discussion has never been ambiguous. It is completely clear. Passages from speeches I have made have been read, and correctly read, but all that I have said has not been read. This would require too much time. I have said that there is an analogy between a country in which growth is dynamic, and in which the Government is determined to see dynamic growth, and a developing business. In either, the fast growth will be contained and slowed down if it is restricted to the level of savings. I have said, therefore, that it is clearly quite proper and desirable to have recourse to the money of others. I have said this many times in speeches.
I support the inflow of capital whether borrowed by the Government or, in circumstances from which I will not run away, brought in by private enterprise. It is quite clear that I am for this. A functional responsibility of mine is, within limits, to encourage it. I have done so and so has my department. But that does not mean that I necessarily believe in the unlimited or indiscriminate inflow of capital. Of course, government borrowing is right and I have said so in my speeches.
We are able to accelerate the pace at which we are developing the Snowy Mountains scheme because we have borrowed money overseas to enable us to do so. Of course, this is good. I know what Mr. Heffron, Mr. Bolte and others have done to encourage new industries to come to Australia. I do not know how many interviews I have had in my office and overseas to encourage new industry to come to this Australia of ours. I do not know on how many projects I have felt that I have been a deciding influence. Is it not good that £23,000,000 has been invested in this country to establish a synthetic rubber industry? Could we have done this ourselves? Did we have the money, the knowhow and the access to technical and secret processes? This is an example and there are many other examples of the kind of inflow of investment capital that has been entirely good for us. The field covers chemicals, textiles, appliances, light engineering and other activities that 3 could mention by the hundred. This is good and through this investment we have access to new markets.
But there are other kinds of capital inflow. I have in mind the hot money that comes in for purely speculative purposes. As it comes in to-day, no one knows whether it will go out to-morrow. No one will say that this is good or there is real security in this. No one will say that big balances arising from it will not mislead the whole community into a false sense of security. There is no dispute about this, I am sure. Then there is the kind of capital that comes in to buy out an established Australian enterprise. I have not said that the argument in favour of such capital is untenable. But I do not say that such capital is desirable and I certainly say it is not desirable to an unlimited extent. I am not saying anything new here to-day and I retract nothing that I have ever said in this regard. I believe that I am not in dispute with any one in the House when 1 say this. I will not read a quotation that
I have here because the Leader of the Opposition read it for me. In it, I refer to the money to buy out a co-operative dairy company, a bakery, a food preserving company or a company of that kind.
Let me return to my basic ideas on this point. What I have said is against the background of the present and progressive inadequacies of our export earnings to pay for our import requirements and for our big invisible liabilities such as freight, insurance and interest and the liability for quite fast-growing commitments for dividends overseas. As I was preparing some notes for this speech, I recalled that the very first time I stood on a political platform seeking election to this Parliament - as a candidate, not as a member - in 1934, I spoke along these lines. I have always held these views and I suspect that I always will hold them.
The facts that have been published show that over the past eight years there has been a disclosed capital inflow of £1,500,000,000. This includes £145,000,000 net of government borrowing. There has been some government borrowing that has been repaid. Our balances have grown during this period by some £200,000,000. The published figures disclose that over the eight years we have depended on overseas sources to meet invisibles because we have had a favorable balance of trade in that period of £475,000,000. The published figures disclose that over the eight years we have been dependent on other people’s funds to the extent of £1,775,000,000 to meet what we have regarded as our essential requirements. There is no secret about this. The Government publishes the figures. So there is a need for us to earn more overseas funds, and no one would be more conscious of this than the unfortunate wretch who for a number of years has administered import licensing which was necessary because of the inadequacy of our earnings. Just let us visualize the horrible, wretched business of having to give a permit for every £1 worth of imports totalling £800,000,000 a vear because we had not earned sufficient money or because insufficient capital was flowing into the country.
I do not believe any Australian will differ from me when I say that none of us wants to accept a situation in which our programme of growth and the maintenance of our activity - import licensing was maintaining our activity, with some restriction of it - depend upon the decision of somebody outside Australia to send his money into this country. That is why I and the Government are devoted to trying to minimize our dependence upon outside capital by encouraging the maximum earning of income overseas from the export of primary products such as wheat, meat and butter, and by the export of our secondary goods in relation to which we sell a greater part of our labour as well.
I pay a tribute to industry for its achievement under the administration of this Government in escaping from the need to spend funds on imports. Just let us think of the enormous expansion of the automobile industry during the life of this Government. Where would we get the funds to import 350,000 motor cars a year? Under the administration of this Government, cars are being made here. The same can be said of chemicals, plastics, engineering equipment, appliances, synthetic rubber and textiles. Pursuant to the protective policies of this Government and because of the economic climate and the general confidence in business that have been established during this Government’s term of office, an enormous contribution has been made to enabling us to escape from dependence upon or the help of other people in obtaining our essential requirements. As my colleague, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said, this issue was in the mind of the Government when it was included as one of the terms of reference of the Committee of Economic Enquiry which is now considering the economy.
It is in this overall set-up that one must view the policies and actions of the Government. All its policies are directed to the need to earn more export income and to save us from the necessity to import goods. I am untroubled when I direct attention to the necessity for Australia not to become too dependent upon the inflow of nonconstructive capital. What I am talking about touches the very heart of the Australian economy and the well-being of the people of Australia. What the Leader of the Opposition spoke about touched the very heart and the well-being of the Australian Labour Party. The well-being of the people of Australia and that of the Labour Party are two different things. I have heard words uttered by Labour in this regard, but what are its actions? Labour has had its share of office. What was its record in this regard? Instead of promoting exports of our great natural products, Labour’s policies were a deterrent to production. What happened to the wheat-grower? The price adopted for his product was calculated on the basis of the basic wage plus 10s. a week. What an encouragement to produce for export! The price adopted for the dairy farmer was designed to give him the basic wage plus 10s. or 25s. a week. Let us further examine Labour’s record when in office. Pursuant to Labour’s policy Australia produced 1,800 tons of tobacco a year, but under the administration of this Government 12,000 tons a year are produced. On Labour’s side we hear words; on this side of the House we see action. We have delivered the goods.
The policy of the Labour Party is designed to take the heart out of industry’s desire for expansion, to minimize profits, and to harm the instinct to produce in order to prevent the need for importing goods. What has been the greatest single development which has borne upon our overseas earnings within the last few years? It has been the Japanese Trade Agreement. Where did the Labour Party in both Houses of this Parliament stand when that opportunity to help us to minimize our dependence upon overseas earnings was presented? Every Labour member voted against the proposal. I repeat that we hear words from the Labour Party, but we need to examine its actions. To-day Labour is portraying a crisis in this regard. No crisis exists. For political reasons Labour is making a gross exaggeration.
Let me quote my own words. I said that I was troubled about certain aspects of the matter. I am troubled about the prospect of certain things happening. That is why I am working, as everybody knows, ‘o encourage the export of our goods, to promote an export consciousness, and to encourage Australian industries to help us to avoid the need for spending our money upon imports. All of us in this Parliament are here because as individuals we desire lo give some leadership to the country. What is the function of leadership? Is it to wait until a crisis arises and then to produce a policy to solve it? Or is the function cf leadership that of arousing public consciousness that trouble is in prospect, of ensuring public understanding that there is a problem which ought not to be allowed to develop to crisis proportions and, having aroused that consciousness, to produce a policy to abate the problem? That is what I am trying to do. That is what the Government is trying to do. What I have been doing I shall continue to do.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
.- Before the suspension of the sitting, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) endeavoured to disguise and conceal as best he could the very significant differences that exist between him and members of the Government on this most important matter of overseas investment; but what emerged from his speech, in fact, was very substantial agreement between him and members of the Labour Party on this question.
Although the Minister for Trade sought in his very effective fashion to reply to the arguments adduced against the Government’s attitude towards investment of foreign capital, he did, in fact, in the first two-thirds of his speech, put the position precisely as the Labour Party has been doing for some time now. Then, in order to give the impression that he was not on our side, he devoted the latter part of his speech to a discussion of three things that had nothing whatever to do with the subject. He dealt with the tobacco industry, the Japanese trade treaty and the establishment of the automobile industry in Australia. None of those subjects has anything to do with this question at all. In dealing with them he obscured the real position and failed to deal adequately with it. As I have said, what emerges from his participation in the discussion is the fact that for two-thirds of his speech he was completely in agreement with what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell).
Of course, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and other Liberal Party members of the Government are in a completely different position from the Minister for Trade. Until a month or two ago all that Govern ment leaders were able to say in answer to the case put forward by the Labour Party was that criticism of foreign investment was coming from a bunch of left-wing men who were doing nothing but scaring foreign investment away from this country. But there has been a significant change in their attitude over the last six weeks or two months. The Minister for Trade, who occupies the key position in the Government in connexion with this particular matter has at last recognized the validity of the cases submitted by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) and others on this side of the House over the last five years or so. Nothing that the Treasurer has said has refuted this basic proposition. There is indeed a significant difference of opinion between the Minister for Trade, who agrees with the Labour Party, and the Treasurer.
The Treasurer will not criticize and analyse the subject of foreign investment and he is therefore quite incapable of devising any policy. This is not a political debate. We have been concerned with an analysis of foreign investment. Any one who cares to refer to the speeches made over the last few years by the honorable members I have mentioned will see that they have made -a careful analysis of the effect of foreign investment on our economy, that they have distinguished between the good effects and the bad effects and have recommended steps for the development of a policy consistent with encouraging the good effects and discouraging the bad ones. The aggregate effect of the approach the Government takes to this question - that all forms of foreign investment are good - and its unwillingness to criticize or analyse the position, put the Government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Treasurer, in a position in which it is quite incapable of developing a sound policy to deal with this problem.
We welcome this important Minister, the Minister for Trade, to our ranks as a constructive critic of foreign investment, and, so that the position will not be obscured, I want to summarize briefly what he has said and to challenge other Government speakers to deal with this question. Tha
Minister has said that there has been an increasing tendency for capital to flow into Australia, not to establish some new and highly complicated activity, but to buy out an Australian flour mill, an Australian bakery or an Australian dairy factory, sometimes a co-operative. He went on to say -
I make it quite clear that I cannot welcome the transference of ownership to overseas people of these simple food processing activities.
We do not know precisely what volume of overseas investment has been directed to that purpose, but the Minister for Trade is welcomed to our ranks as one who is now pointing in the direction in which all our eyes should be directed and to which our analyses should be applied. The Minister went on to say -
We in this room- he was talking to farmers - are mostly established farmers. If we earn enough annually we can live comfortably. If we do not, we can still live comfortably by selling a bit of the farm every year. That is pretty much the Australian situation. We are not earning enough and we are selling a bit of our heritage every year.
The Minister for Trade has directed attention to this situation, but for many long years the Government of which he has been a member has failed to take the necessary action. Whilst we welcome the Minister as an analyst of foreign investment, we regret that it has taken him so long to see the position as we see it.
What does our political Treasurer say in answer to this? At the beginning of his speech, he came in with a very strongly worded assertion, and, for some few moments, Mr. Speaker, I thought you were going to say that he was unparliamentary. He said that the Leader of the Opposition had deliberately misrepresented Mr. McEwen. I was struck by the tone of the Minister for Trade when he commenced to speak. He went to the trouble of saying that the Leader of the Opposition had quoted him exactly and correctly in everything he said. Was the Minister for Trade endeavouring again to show his disagreement with the Treasurer? Was he endeavouring to shake the Treasurer out of his complacency and out of his selfrighteous satisfaction? Was he endeavouring to show that in fact what the Leader of the Opposition had said was precisely correct?
The Treasurer did not touch upon the subject at all. He gave a clever political answer, as did the Prime Minister yesterday. He pointed to some differences that he alleges exist between the Leader of the Opposition and the Premier of New South Wales. This was nothing more than a clever political gimmick which reminded me of the fact that very many people in England who have had to face cleverness from their Ministers and Prime Minister have become a little sick of these clever political dodges and have been asking for honest, straightforward men for a change. I think we in this House have had enough of clever politicians who refuse to face the facts. I suggest that the Treasurer would have been in a much better position if, instead of trying to engage in clever political dodges, as the Prime Minister did yesterday, he had faced up to the effects foreign investment is having on our economy and tried to analyse those effects as the Minister for Trade has done.
If the Treasurer had done so, he would have discovered that his own Government, by excessive reliance on foreign investment, has contributed to the very problem that it is endeavouring to solve. He would also have seen that over the last twelve years his Government has allowed this economy to run amuck. He would have seen that the Government increased its market expenditure by 25 per cent, or 30 per cent, in some years, an increase which could not possibly be accommodated by internal production, or by imports. He would have seen that he himself is largely responsible for the problem that he now endeavours to solve by this excessive reliance on foreign investment.
When the Treasurer did refer now and again to a positive economic proposition, he was quite wrong. He challenged the suggestion in our motion that there is an increasing dependence upon foreign investment in this country. All he needed to do to see that we were right and he was wrong was to refer to one or two basic economic facts. But it is not the way of the Treasurer to deal with economic facts in this Parliament. He needed only to refer to the fact that in 1948-49 the total value of our exports was about £500,000.000 whereas today it is about £1,000,000,000. Our exports alone have increased by 100 per cent, in money value. Again, if he had examined the figures he would have discovered that our capital imports in 1948-49 amounted to about £40,000,000 whereas to-day they have increased by almost six times to something over £230,000,000. Had he examined the figures, he would have realized that we are relying increasingly on capital imports to balance our payments and he would have admitted that the proposition submitted by the Opposition is quite correct. His failure and refusal to deal with economic facts left him putting forward some very significant inaccuracies to this Parliament.
The Treasurer’s next proposition when he did deal with our economic problems was that we needed foreign investment because we have not enough savings. Why, only last Tuesday night I heard him say during the course of his Budget speech that, in an economic sense, Australia has never been more liquid than in recent years, that the banking system was completely liquid, that we had adequate savings for many of the projects which the Government suggested would justify our borrowing overseas. By the arguments used by him in his own Budget speech last Tuesday night, he refuted one of the propositions he put forward to-day.
Then the Treasurer turned to policies. He is a much better politician than an economist. That is rather strange in a treasurer. Governments usually select treasurers because of their economic ability, not because of their political manoeuvrability. In this case, the Treasurer seems to have been selected for the wrong reason. He tried to point to some difference that he said existed in this matter between the Leader of the Opposition and Mr. Heffron. If we look very carefully at the position of Mr. Heffron and that of the Leader of the Opposition in this matter, we find that they are exactly the same. The Treasurer read an extract from a statement that Mr. Heffron had made. The key proposition in that statement is that foreign investment in this country is justified when it brings capital and technology here. That was precisely the key proposition of the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition to-day. By the statement to which the Treasurer turns to try to prove that there is a difference between these two gentlemen he proves a similarity. His ability as a reasoner is not nearly as good as his ability as a politician.
Another proposition was common to the statements of the Leader of the Opposition and Mr. Heffron. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 14th August reported an interview with the Premier of New South Wales on his return to Australia, in which it was stated -
Mr. Heffron said he had commissions from several well-known overseas companies to locate suitable partner companies for them in N.S.W.
He is concerned to bring about a situation in which Australian capital will have a share. Here, he is on all fours with the proposition put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. So the propositions that are put forward by the Treasurer to try to demonstrate that a cleavage exists between the two members of the Labour Party that he mentioned, in fact show that they are in identical situations.
Let me refer briefly in passing to the position of the State Premiers. The Government has tried to make political capital by showing that the State Premiers are seeking foreign investment. But the State Premiers have been put by this Government in a position that impels them to take a course similar to that, and in some cases - in the cases of Liberal Governments - without discrimination. The Commonwealth-State financial arrangements and the kind of formulas that apply compel them to turn wherever they can for revenue. The unemployment that this Government, by its policy, has deliberately brought about compels the State Premiers to turn wherever they can to get capital to provide employment in their own economies. The prime responsibility for that lies upon this Government. The State Premiers are forced, by competition with one another, to go into the market and to offer all sorts of benefits in order to overcome the unemployment and revenue problems that have been imposed upon them mainly by the policy cf this Government.
The case that has been made by the Opposition is that foreign capital is not wholly good or wholly bad, and that we have to examine the position very carefully, to discover those places where foreign capital investment can be of benefit to Australia. This type of investment we can encourage, but it is unsound and wrong to take the attitude - which is the attitude of the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party - that all forms of foreign capital are good and that we must encourage every form. This rare and tender bird about which the Prime Minister is so concerned must, according to him, be treated, irrespective of its quality, with tender care and attention, no matter what its effect upon the Australian economy.
A number of significant defects have been present in this situation for many years. Away back in 1930 a gentleman whose name was shown on the cover as R. Wilson wrote a book called “ Capital and the Terms of Trade “, in which he made a pressing plea for better information upon the subject of foreign investment. That gentleman is now Sir Roland Wilson, the Secretary of the Treasury.
Economists who have examined the statistics that are. available on this subject now have said that the statistical position is as bad to-day as it was when R. Wilson made a plea in 1930 for better statistics. One wonders how much he has contributed to the obtaining of better statistics, now that he is Sir Roland Wilson.
About four or five years ago the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Trade said that something had to be done about the restrictive franchises that are imposed by parent foreign companies upon Australian companies over which they have taken control. They take control and then give orders that the Australian factory is not to export to certain markets of the world. These are called franchises. It is now four or five years since the man who was then Assistant Secretary to the Department of Trade made this statement -
The battle to remove restrictive export franchises is one which Australian firms must win before we can increase our export trade in finished manufactured products significantly.
In the meantime, nothing whatever has been done by the Government in this field. It is pretty clear that the extent of the control by foreign capital of Australian manufacturing industry - to-day it is somewhere between 40 per cent, and 50 per cent. - is so great that Australia will not be able significantly to export manufactured products unless some action is taken to break down the franchises that exist.
There are. many aspects of this problem that must be analysed very carefully. The
Treasurer, at no stage of his contributions to debates in this Parliament, has ever analysed them. He may have issued privately to the Cabinet some memorandum giving carefully guarded criticism of some aspects of foreign capital, but never in public has he shown any willingness to analyse the situation or to devise an appropriate policy. The Minister for Trade has pointed to the characteristic features of portfolio investment and has shown quite clearly that he is against this kind of thing. But in a letter writen lo the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) only in April of last year, the Treasurer stated in relation to portfolio investment, which is so unpopular with the Minister for Trade -
It is true that portfolio investment does not directly bring any new industries to Australia; nor docs it normally involve the introduction of technical knowhow. At the same time, however, portfolio investment does add to our holdings of foreign exchange and to the resources available for the financing of new investment.
So the greatest offender in this family of types of overseas investment in fact is still approved generously by the Treasurer. He does not say anything about his awareness of how the Australian economy has come to depend increasingly upon this type of investment. Portfolio investment twelve years ago represented one or two per cent, of total overseas capital inflow. To-day it has risen to 36 per cent, and the trend is to an average of at least one-third. It has risen consistently throughout. In other words, of this foreign investment, upon which the Australian economy so considerably depends now, one-third, which can be withdrawn at a minute’s notice, is portfolio investment. The Treasurer shows no awareness of these things. It is quite a simple matter to work out percentages and to show the pattern of development, but in his many speeches on this subject has the Treasurer ever indicated that he is aware of this trend, or that he even considers it possible to pay attention to it? Has he ever shown that he is aware of the relationship that exists between inflow of capital, upon which the economy under his management depends so much, and the outflow of remitted profits? Has he shown awareness of the significant trend developing in this regard?
In the period 1948-1950, at the beginning of this Government’s term of office, outflow of funds was 45 per cent, of inflow. In the last years for which we have figures capable of analysis, up to 1960, the percentage had risen to 60 per cent. Our actual remitted profits had risen from 45 per cent, of the inflow at the beginning of the period to 60 per cent, at the end. That trend is continuing. It will not be very many more years - probably four or five - before outflow exceeds inflow, and then the basis for the dependence of this Government upon foreign capital investment to overcome its balance of payments problem will disappear. If we take into account the undistributed profits held in Australia which could be withdrawn it is apparent that we have already passed the point where the capacity of overseas interests to withdraw profits exceeds the new capital we are receiving in Australia.
The basic fundamental upon which the Government depends in the Budget it introduced recently - this Budget which is conservative and colourless because the Government is uncertain and fearful of the overseas trade position - rests firmly upon trends of which the Treasurer is quite unaware. In the many speeches that he has made in this House he has never shown that he knows they even exist. Rather than trying to show his political acumen in attempting to exploit some kind of difference that he imagines to exist between Mr. Heffron and Mr. Calwell he would do far better to engage in a little economic thought and study and, at some stage, give this House an indication that he is even aware of the basic economic facts.
.- As I understand it, we are discussing an attempt by the Opposition to censure the Government on three scores, two of which are mentioned in the proposal that has been put forward. First, there is an attempt to censure the Government on the ground that we are depending increasingly on overseas investment. The second ground of censure relates to take-overs of Australian companies by overseas interests. The third, which is not mentioned in the motion, but is certainly inherent in the spirit of the discussion and the speeches of honorable members opposite, relates to the fact that the Government is encouraging overseas investment per se. Honorable members opposite who have participated in the debate have not devoted very much time to the strict terms of the matter put forward for discussion. They have not proved that we are depending increasingly on overseas investment. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has pointed out that, in the year in which Labour went out of office, 20 per cent, of the gross national investment came from overseas, compared with 18 per cent, at present. That point has not been replied to by the Opposition.
Since no statistics regarding take-overs have been produced may I, for the record, cite some figures relating to take-overs by overseas companies. It has been estimated that in 1961 take-overs amounting to £80,000,000 occurred in Australia, of which £7,000,000 represented overseas money. That does not necessarily come within the category of take-overs to which the Opposition has referred in the last part of its proposal. Reference is made to takeovers of certain types of business, not all of which are included in the amount of £7,000,000. Another interesting figure is that, of the total overseas investment in companies in Australia of some £200,000,000 per annum, something like £10,000,000 only is devoted to the taking over of existing companies. For my part, not all of this is bad or undesirable.
I come now to what I believe to be the essence of this criticism by the Opposition regarding overseas investment per se. The Opposition has brought before this House for discussion a fundamental question, and it has every right to do so. It has taken that action in an attempt to embarrass us, and we do not deny it the right to do that. But this matter is not like domestic issues, such as the poultry industry, unemployment and pensions. Domestic issues such as those are discussed in the Australian community and are not of much interest overseas; but the debate that has taken place to-day and the statements of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and other speakers will be reported in overseas financial journals. I am sure that they will be reported in the “ Financial Review “, this new champion against the attraction of capital investment.
That journal will ensure that its campaign against investment from overseas is continued in the financial centres of the world. On this point alone I should have thought that the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, which owns the “ Financial Review “, would have been content to rest on the damage that it is doing to our international relations and prestige by its commentaries on international affairs instead of intruding into this particular field and attempting to do further damage internationally in the economic sphere.
The debate on this fundamental matter affecting national policy was commenced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) as it should have been. We saw him clown for 25 minutes of the 30 minutes available to him. I shall not be as generous as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who said that the Leader of the Opposition summed up the policy of the Labour Party in three minutes. I timed him at only two minutes. That is a facetious way to treat a most important problem. But even more significant than that is the team that the Leader of the Opposition has mustered behind him. I do not think I was unreasonable in expecting the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), the Labour Party pretender to the Treasury portfolio, to take part in this debate. The Opposition are the pretenders to the treasury bench. Surely the man who is the shadow Treasurer in the Opposition ranks has something to say about this matter which, after all, concerns one of the most basic economic problems facing our economy and our nation. It cannot be said that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is a lazy man. We know that he is one of the hardest workers in the House. Nevertheless, he has been silent. We have had trotted out to us the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) who is, if I might suggest it without giving offence, almost traumatic on this question of overseas borrowing and overseas debt. Then we had the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), a confessed member - indeed, the leader - of the left-wing of the party opposite. We have not heard from the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, on a matter which is of vital importance to this country.
Why did the Leader of the Opposition push this matter forward? Who prompted him to do so? That is a good question. What motivated him in bringing it before the Parliament? Having listened to his 25 minutes of comedy and two minutes of serious devotion to the subject it would appear that he saw an opportunity to create party-political mischief. I think also he was motivated by envy. He sees in the ranks of the parties which sit on this side of the House a unity that has existed during more than thirteen years of government and continues to exist. I know that the word “ unity “ upsets members of the Opposition for more reasons than one, and I apologize for using it.
What is the reason for the present balance of payments situation? In 1962-63 we had a trading surplus of £33,000,000 resulting from two record years of exports. I think that that fact should be recorded and that the Government, and particularly the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), should be congratulated on it. For two years running there have been record exports. Invisibles, such as freight services, dividends and overseas travel took away £247,000,000, leaving a deficit on balance of current account of £214,000,000. There was a net capital inflow of £291,000,000. The surplus at the end of the year’s transactions was approximately £77.000,000. We are asked by the honorable member for Yarra, who was the only member of the Opposition to devote himself to the subject before us, to condemn that position. He believes that this country should not finance its growth by overseas borrowing and overseas investment. I say unashamedly that it is perfectly legitimate for a growing country to finance its growth in this way.
I ask the honorable member for Yarra to point to any country in the world that has not financed its growth from overseas sources. I ask any of his colleagues who have experience in business to point to a business in the community which could finance its growth out of its own financial resources. What does the Opposition want? What is the alternative? I ask: How else can it be done while at the same time we preserve a state of equilibrium in the balance of payments position? We could, of course, increase our exports, which in fact we are doing, not only in volume but also in value. In this respect, we have an unbeatable record. The terrifying estimate has been made by the department that by 1917 we must increase our exports by £300,000,000 a year. To my mind we shall do this only by stabilizing the price structure and by promoting our goods abroad.
It is interesting to look at the variations in the cost of living indexes of our overseas competitors, whether they be in the field of primary or secondary production. In the last three years the cost of living in Australia has increased by 1 per cent., in the United Kingdom by 6 per cent., in Japan by 13 per cent., in France by 9 per cent., in West Germany by 5 per cent, and in Italy by 9 per cent. This year we have the chance of a lifetime to consolidate our export position for the future against those competitors. But what does the Labour Party want to do about this? It wants us now to Indulge in carefree, irresponsible spending and to start again the spiral in the price and cost structures. Therefore we cannot expect the Opposition to regard an increase in exports as a solution to the problem.
In congratulating the Government on the Budget which was presented this week let me deal with the significant phase in the employment situation of skilled adult males and compare the position to-day with the position in June, 1959, just prior to the 1960 boom. Strangely, the number of skilled adult males registered for employment is about the same. In June, 1959, when about 3,500 skilled adult males were unemployed, there were 4,700 vacancies In June, 1963, when about the same number of skilled adult males were unemployed there were 5,900 vacancies. In other words, there were 25 per cent, more vacancies in this category in June this year than there were in June, 1959. This is significant. Yet the Labour Party asks us to increase the flow of money which will have the effect of increasing inflation.
Another method of correcting a balance of payments position is to control imports. We know the Opposition’s views on imports. We know that as soon as it is returned to office, if that unhappy day ever arrives, one of its first acts will be to re-introduce import licensing and the con trol of capital issues. We will not have a bar of that. Devaluation is the third method of regulating a balance of payments but I think that members of the Opposition themselves would shy away from that.
The fourth method is the displacement of imports, which is the policy being pursued by this Government. Let me give two examples of this. The first, a classic example admittedly, is General MotorsHolden’s Proprietary Limited. In March, 1945, General Motors made the fundamental decision to construct a vehicle in Australia for the Australian people. It is well to remember now that a year or two later Lord Nuffield, who is by no means an ignoramus in the field of motor manufacture, came out and told General Motors that it would lose its socks on this venture because the roads in Australia were too rough, the home demand was not sufficient and the vehicles could never be exported. The Leader of the Opposition wants to put a tag on overseas investment. He wants to say to overseas investors, “You are welcome to come here, invest your money and take the risks but you must give Australia 40 per cent, participation “. He did not mention the figure of 40 per cent, to-day, perhaps because he has had another think about his proposal. In the 1945 scheme of General Motors, which in Lord Nuffield’s own words was a wildcat scheme doomed to failure, how could you possibly have got 40 per cent, participation in the equity? Of course you could not have got it. If you put that kind of tag on overseas investment it will dry up virtually overnight. This company alone - I have not included the Ford, B.M.C. and other organizations - has made to date a contribution to import replacement of £500,000,000. I should like the honorable member for Yarra to trot out his total of repatriations of capital or repatriations of dividends against that figure of import replacement. Of course, he will not do so.
Oil is another example. The motor car is behind us. Oil, pray God, is ahead of us as an Australian industry. On petroleum products we spend about £140,000,000 a year of our precious overseas reserves. To be self-sufficient in oil within ten years we would need something like 4,000 oilproducing wells. This would involve a capital expenditure merely for drilling and the construction of pipelines - not including research- of £2,000,000,000 or, in other words, an annual expenditure of £200,000,000. This is a fantastic figure. Does the honorable member for Yarra, or any honorable member opposite, seriously suggest that Australia can finance that kind of expenditure from its own resources? Of course, it cannot. Total private gross investment in Australia averages about £825,000,000 a year, and the honorable member for Yarra has suggested that it would be all right to pluck out one-quarter of that amount for one industry - oil - and let everything else go hang. I do not know - he has never told us - where the additional funds will come from. We need overseas investment. Without it we must accept a lower standard of living. We could not sustain our immigration programme and we could not develop our resources from national and military points of view without it. The vital question is whether we could continue to receive our present rate of overseas investment if we put tags on it and if we raised obstacles against it. I believe we could not.
In 1959, I was privileged to be in New York for five months for the specific purpose of assisting to attract capital to Australia. I can tell the Opposition that once a week into New York came a highly organized mission from some country wooing the American investment dollar. Members of the Opposition smugly pay us a strange compliment by saying that Australia is the most wonderful country in the world and asking why we should let people outside bleed it white. Do they think that overseas investors are falling over themselves to lend us money or to invest money in Australia? This is the most fiercely competitive field of all, and we are in the market. If we put tags on overseas investment we shall drive ourselves to the back of the queue. Some countries offer inducements to overseas investors in the form of tax-free profits for five years. I have in my hand an extract from an advertisement in “ Fortune “ which states, “ Nobody skims the cream off your profits in Ireland”. Taxes on overseas investment there are almost non-existent. Other countries offer land grants free of charge, free power electricity and fuel, government participation in the equity and permission to indulge in monopolistic practices. Australia offers none of those inducements. We tell overseas investors that if they come to our country they must take their chances alongside Australian industries and commercial organizations. If we put tags on overseas investment as many under-developed countries have done - in this context Australia is an under-developed country, and never let us forget this fact - we shall find, as other under-developed countries have found, that the inflow of capital will dry up overnight.
What is overseas capital? It is the pound note in London, the dollar note in New York, the yen note in Tokyo, the franc note in France and the deutschmark in Germany. It belongs to some one who entrusts its care to an institution or an organization which must account and be responsible for it to the owner. The institution or organization, therefore, looks very carefully at the avenue for investment and will shy away from the country which imposes the most embargoes and tags on it. When I was in New York assisting to obtain overseas investment, the statements on Labour’s investment policy made by the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, and some of his colleagues did incalculable damage to our efforts. The investment pound and dollar notes are not ordinary bank notes. Inbuilt into them are billions of pounds worth of technological and scientific research which comes to us with every pound and dollar note which is brought to our country. We receive the value of that research free of charge.
Finally, we must think of the definition of the quality of living of which the standard of living is a part. To improve and sustain our standard of living we must increase our gross national product. This we will do only by working harder, being more efficient and improving our technology through capital investment. Capital is the most delicate and shy of all commodities. For the sake of our future, our people and our nation, let us keep the doctrinaire theorist away from this delicate situation because human lives and happiness are involved in it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the borrowing of £49,850,000 for advances to the States in accordance with the provisions of the housing agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. At its June meeting, the Australian Loan Council decided that £49,850,000 should be allocated for housing under the housing agreement, out of a total borrowing programme for States’ works and housing for 1963-64 of £272,000,000. The Loan Council apportioned the amount of £49,859,000 among the States in the following way: -
The amount of £49,850,000 is £1,239,000 greater than the total sum of £48,611,000 approved by the Loan Council for housing agreement advances in 1962-63. As honorable members know full well, it is the practice of the Loan Council to accept whatever amount each Premier stipulates as the portion of the total loan moneys made available to his State which is to be used for housing under the housing agreement. That fact should be borne in mind because honorable members will find that the Premiers, out of a substantial increase in their loan funds this year, have allocated to housing this relatively small increase on last year’s total. That is the Premiers’ own decision. When honorable members see the apportionment to each State they must bear in mind that that is the amount which the Premier of the particular State decided should be allocated from the State’s total loan moneys.
During the eighteen years 1st July, 1945 to 30th June, 1963, the Commonwealth advanced £513,970,000 to the States for housing under the housing agreements. Of that amount, £273,411,000, or 53.2 per cent., was provided under the 1956 and 1961 housing agreements in the period of seven years ended 30th June, 1963 - a very remarkable concentration, it will be seen, in that period of years.
The additional £49,850,000 to be advanced this financial year will mean that, at 30th June, 1964, the Commonwealth will have provided £563,820,000 to the States for their housing requirements. The distribution of this total amount of £563,820,000 amongst the States is as follows: -
An important provision of the current housing agreement is that not less than 30 per cent, of the advances made to a State shall be allocated for private home building, principally through building societies. In 1963-64 it is estimated that £16,935,000- that is, £1,980,000 more than the minimum - will be transferred to the home builders’ account within the housing agreement. This will bring to £96,146,000 the total allocation for this purpose, since this form of assistance to private home building was introduced under the 1956 housing agreement. As honorable members are aware, advances to the States for home builders’ accounts are subject to the same terms and conditions as apply to the advances to the States for their own housing programmes, including the interest concession and a repayment period of 53 years. But, as loans made from the accounts are repayable over a maximum term of 31 years, moneys accrue in the accounts and are available for relending. Moreover, these moneys are supplemented by sizeable deposits contributed by building society members themselves. The home builders’ account is, therefore, a most effective home financing operation. It has unquestionably stimulated the development of building societies as well as encouraged private home building.
The housing agreement provides for interest on advances to the States at the long-term bond rate, less one per cent. The interest rate on long-term securities of the cash loan floated in July was 4i per cent, per annum. Accordingly, as from 23rd July, advances to the States carry an interest charge of 3i per cent., that is, i per cent, less than the former charge. This reduction will no doubt be warmly welcomed by the States, as well as by those who will directly benefit from it.
I have already mentioned that over the past seven years more than £273,000.000 has been advanced to the States for housing under the housing agreement. Whilst this in itself is a substantial sum, it is by no means the total amount that the Commonwealth has provided for housing. Over the same period the Commonwealth has expended £244,000,000 on war service homes and a further £65,000,000 on homes for the aged, housing for serving members of the defence forces and housing in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Thus, the Commonwealth has provided a grand total of £582,000,000 for housing in the seven years ended 30th June, 1963.
In 1963-64, the Commonwealth will again provide large amounts for various housing purposes in addition to the total of £49,850,000 provided for in this bill, namely £35,000,000 for war service homes, £3,700,000 for homes for the aged, £6,232,000 for housing in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, £2,034,000 for housing for the defence forces, £200,000 for housing Commonwealth employees in the States, and £150,000 for the proposed new scheme for housing for disabled persons. Altogether, expenditure by the Commonwealth on housing in the current financial year is estimated at £97,000,000.
This total represents the provision for housing from Government funds. It does not include finance provided for housing by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. The Commonwealth Savings Bank is at present lending for housing at a rate of more than £4,000,000 per month and the Commonwealth Trading Bank at a rate of over £1,600,000 per month. Altogether, the Commonwealth Banking Corporation lent £63,000,000 for housing purposes in 1962-63, compared with £41,000,000 in 1961-62 - an increase of more than 50 per cent.
Along with this increased lending for housing by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, there has been a considerable increase in the housing finance provided by the private savings banks and other lending institutions generally. In the recent June quarter, banks and life offices approved 9,800 loans to individuals for new dwellings, to a total value of more than £30,000,000. As cmpared with the June quarter of 1962, the number of loans approved rose by more than 50 per cent, and their total value by 70 per cent.
These are all pretty impressive indications of the contribution that the Government is making, directly and indirectly, to meet the housing needs of the Australian people. In a few moments I will give the House some details showing the heights that housing standards in this country have now reached.
As I have already announced in the Budget speech, the Government has decided to amend the Banking (Savings Banks) Regulations to remove the possibility of these regulations causing any savings bank to slow down, rather than steadily increase, its lending for housing.
As would be expected, the increase in the flow of finance for home-building purposes is being reflected in a high rate of dwelling construction. According to the latest figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician, 88,096 houses and flats were commenced in 1962-63, compared with 82,470 in 1961-62. In the recent
June quarter, commencements were at the rate of about 90,000 annually, and the current level of approvals by local authorities and of loan approvals by the major institutions suggest that still higher rates are in prospect.
Earlier this year I drew the attention of the House to the great activity in nonresidential construction that was proceeding simultaneously with the significant progress in the construction of homes. The remarkable advance in this sector of the building industry is continuing. The value of private expenditure on non-residential building rose from £229,000,000 in 1961- 62 to £261,000,000 in 1962-63, an increase of 14 per cent. The figure in 1958-59 was £168,000,000, so that the increase in this section of private building over the four years to 1962-63 was no less than 55 per cent. There has also been a substantial increase in government expenditure on non-residential construction in this period.
In closing I would emphasize several points. The first is that the expenditure df £49,850,000 on housing provided for in this bill is the amount that the States, who are constitutionally responsible for housing, have themselves decided to apply to housing in 1963-64.
The second is that the current rate of 90,000 home commencements annually, which the policies of the Government, both under the housing agreement and in other ways, have helped to promote, exceeds by a large margin the estimated present annual increase in the number of households, which is less than 60,000. Insofar as housing standards can be measured by the number of homes available by comparison with the number of households, those standards are continuing to improve at a fast rate.
The third point is that thi? represents an improvement on standards that were already high according to international comparison. I can say confidently, Mr. Speaker, that a study of international statistics on this subject shows that no country in the world has average housing standards higher than those existing in Australia at the present time. It is well that this point should be made clear. We hear a lot of criticism in Australia of housing policy and of our rates of housing construction. None of us wants to become complacent about our achievements, but at least if we are to preserve seme sense of perspective in these matters it is well for us to present occasionally the other side of the picture also. The facts show quite clearly that Australia now has a higher housing standard than any other country, and I do not exclude the United States of America. This is quite clear from available international statistics.
United Nations statistics of numbers of persons per room show Australia sharing first position on the list with several other countries which also have high living standards. But when you turn to the figures showing the proportion of Australian homes having five rooms or more, you find that the proportion rose from 68 per cent., according to the 1954 census, to 72 per cent, in 1961 - the highest figure in the world. I repeat that: Seventy-two per cent, of homes in Australia have five rooms or more, and according to United Nations statistics, no country has yet reached Australia’s 1954 figure of 68 per cent., let alone the higher figure for 1961.
Perhaps the House would be interested to hear a quick recital of the principal countries and the proportions of dwellings in those countries having five rooms or more. The figures are as follows: -
These figures confirm the point I have attempted to make. In quoting these figures I do not, of course, imply that wo have solved all our housing problems. We certainly have not. But without doubt we are making good progress and this Government can fairly claim that it has played and continues to play a major part in what has been accomplished.
I commend this bill to the House. It gives practical effect to the decisions of the States and of the Australian Loan Council.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
– I present the following papers: -
Agreement on commerce between Australia and Japan -
Text of Protocal amending 1957 Agreement, together with Agreed Minutes and Letters, dated 5th August, 1963, exchanged between the Minister for Trade and the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs ad interim.
Text of Agreement incorporating amendments provisionally agreed to on the 5th August, 1963.
Severally ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) proposed -
That the House take note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
– I present the following paper: -
Text of Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and under Water- and ask for leave to make a statement in connexion therewith.
– On 5th
August in Moscow the Foreign Ministers of Great Britain, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics signed a treaty for the banning of a wide range of nuclear tests. In the eighteen years since the first nuclear explosion revolutionized modern warfare, the world has been seeking an agreement on measures which would make it possible to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons, and to dismantle existing stocks under safeguards and controls, all as part of an overall disarmament plan would would include “ conventional “ armaments. For over five years representatives of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Western powers have engaged in protracted negotiations aimed at securing an agreement for the cessation of nuclear weapons tests to put a brake on new developments and to prevent further contamination of the atmosphere. The Moscow treaty represents the first fruits of the painstaking negotiations extending over all these years. It is a step, but only a step, in the general direction of the muchdiscussed goal of general and complete disarmament with adequate inspection and control. This Government has consistently supported all steps towards that goal.
As honorable members will be aware. Australia was one of the first countries, apart from the three principals, to announce its intention to adhere to the treaty, and Australia signed the treaty in Washington, London and Moscow on 8th August, the day on which the treaty was first open to signature by other governments. I have laid on the table the text of this treaty. The Government proposes to ratify this treaty when appropriate steps have been taken by the three principal signatories.
I will not attempt to speculate on the influences which led to the Soviet decision to engage in serious negotiations on this partial test ban treaty at this time. The Western powers had proposed a treaty along these lines on a number of occasions going back to 1959, as an alternative to a comprehensive test ban. In August last year in the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee in Geneva they tabled a draft which closely follows the wording of the present treaty. What is significant is that on this occasion the Soviet Union has realistically faced up to the dangers inherent in the continuation of competitive testing of more advanced and refined weapons by the highly industrialized powers of the communist and non-communist world.
The signing of the treaty by the three great nuclear powers is thus an occasion upon which we can pause to consider what has been achieved, and what has yet to be achieved. It is important that we should consider what the treaty will do, just as it is vital that we should not delude ourselves as to what the treaty cannot do.
The treaty provides for only a ban on testing in part of man’s environment, covering explosions in the atmosphere, under water and in space. It does not apply to underground tests. This Government, in common with most other countries, would have preferred a total ban on all nuclear weapons testing, including underground testing. However, it is essential that any agreement on a subject of such crucial importance to the defence postures of the major world powers must be capable of effective- verification, so that each side will have grounds for confidence that the terms of the agreement are being fully respected. Whilst most nuclear test explosions can now be identified effectively by means of detection situated outside the country where the explosions occur, underground tests cannot always be identified with certainty in this way. It is for this reason that the West has consistently maintained that any agreement covering underground testing must include provision for a limited but adequate number of on-site inspections. Although the Soviet Union has been prepared at times to agree to a small and inadequate number of on-site inspections, at the outset of the Moscow talks the Soviet Union made it clear that it was not prepared even to discuss this question. Thus, the Western powers accepted the partial test ban treaty and, though its signature is an important achievement, the Government continues to hope that it will eventually be possible to conclude an agreement covering all nuclear testing. Only then will we be able to say that we have completely eliminated the consequences of secret testing of weapons underground. Explosions underground for peaceful engineering purposes, conducted publicly with proper safeguards to health, would still, of course, be possible, and knight some day be of importance in the development of Australia.
The test ban treaty is of unlimited duration; however, it contains an important reservation which may well determine whether the treaty is to endure. This is the provision that any party in exercising its national sovereignty shall have the right to withdraw from the treaty on three months notice, if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of the treaty, have jeopardised its supreme interests. The three major nuclear powers, while pointing the way for the abandonment of nuclear testing by all countries, could not commit themselves to perpetual inactivity in the event that testing by other countries, not parties to the treaty, should threaten their security. Also, it has already been made clear by the Western powers that breach by the Soviet of the terms of the treaty could lead to their withdrawal from it.
It is essential, if the treaty is to be completely effective, that all governments and regimes associate themselves with it. It should become a universal treaty. Australia’s decision to sign immediately was a recognition of this fact. A large number of countries have now signed the treaty and altogether over a hundred countries have expressed favorable reactions to it. Australia hopes that the obligations of the treaty will be universally accepted, particularly by those countries which now aspire to develop their own nuclear capacity. I repeat that only if this is done can the treaty become fully effective and only in this way can its future be assured.
Unfortunately not all countries have agreed to be bound by the treaty. The French Head of State, while welcoming the conclusion of the treaty, has indicated that France will not be bound by it in regard to her own test plans, and will not give up its goal of an independent nuclear deterrent unless there is an agreement on general disarmament. However, the experience of many years of disarmament negotiations has shown that we must proceed one step at a time. We have now taken the first step forward. If all the nuclear powers and potential nuclear powers take this step together it may be possible to generate an atmosphere of confidence that would make further steps possible. It is a matter for profound regret that France, by declining to become a party, has made the treaty less than fully effective and has provided a pretext for other countries which might similarly refuse to bind themselves not to test. Continuance of French testing could even serve as an excuse to one or more countries to exercise their right to withdraw from the treaty. It has also imposed an obstacle to the goal of putting an end to the possibility of danger of contamination of the atmosphere from radio-active fall-out.
If the present French attitude is maintained they will resumably push ahead with their plans to carry out nuclear testing in the Pacific area. During my visit to Paris for the Seato meeting last April I took the opportunity to express to the French Foreign Minister my “ deep regret “ at the decision which his Government was then about to take. The Australian Government, in advising France of its intention to sign the test ban treaty, has also urged all countries - including, of course, France - to adhere to it. Clearly our representations, and those of other countries, have not so far affected the French Government’s attitude.
The French Government has, however, undertaken to inform Australia and other countries at the appropriate time of the safeguards which will be taken against any fall-out hazards from its proposed tests, and if necessary to discuss these precautions. A considerable time, possibly as much as two years, might elapse before any French tests can be conducted at the Pacific site. Naturally, if the tests take place, the Government will take all possible steps to assure itself that the precautions taken by the French authorities will be such as to safeguard the Australian population against any possible fall-out hazards. The Government will also give consideration to whether any further useful steps could or should be taken in this matter. Meanwhile, I would express our sincere hope that the French Government may see its way clear to put aside its plans to go on with the testing and developing of its own nuclear weapons, in response to the deepest wishes of mankind.
The Chinese Communists have categorically rejected the test ban treaty. An official statement issued in Peking on 31st July said that the treaty was “ a big fraud to fool the people of the world “ and that it ran “ diametrically counter to the wishes of the peace-loving people of the world “. In essence, however, the Chinese Communist argument seemed to be that the treaty prevented “ all peace-loving countries - including China - from increasing their defence capability “; meaning, from having nuclear weapons. A few days earlier the president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences had hinted that Communist China’s first explosion of a nuclear device could be imminent.
The Communist Chinese statement also set out a number of counter-proposals. In brief these were that -
To this end they should adopt the following four measures: -
Government should be convened to discuss this question.
Honorable members will note that these proposals are directed only to doing away with nuclear weapons, leaving, one must assume, conventional forces - of which Communist China maintains a vast array - unaffected. This in itself precludes serious consideration of the Chinese idea, since it would be quite unacceptable for the countries of the West to surrender the nuclear weapons which constitute the major part of their deterrent capability without adequate arrangements for conventional disarmament. Further, the proposals offer no suggestion of effective inspection and control.
The Chinese Communists would aim to bring about the establishment of some imprecisely defined and vast Asian-Pacific region in which all foreign military bases would be dismantled and into which nuclear weapons could not be brought. The implications of such a proposal for the security of Australia, whether or not we were taken as included in this area, are completely unacceptable. It would mean that our major ally in Anzus, the United States, on whose strength so much of our defensive arrangements are hinged, would be required not only to withdraw from its fixed positions in the Western Pacific but also to limit itself as to the weapons it might deploy as a deterrent in an area which could be, and I believe will be, of vital importance to the defence of Australia.
Australia and other countries in the Asian and Pacific area which genuinely seek peace would remain confronted by Communist China which is now able to mobilize a formidable force of about 2,500,000 men. Let us remind ourselves that the Communist Chinese were able to pour into Korea only some ten years ago over 200,000 men against the forces of the United Nations legitimately there in the defence of the Republic of Korea.
The timing and content of these Chinese proposals force one to the conclusion that they are little more than a propaganda device to obscure the unwillingness of the Chinese to agree to the test ban treaty, so that they may preserve the right to go ahead with their own efforts to carry out a nuclear explosion. Such an explosion would not, of course, indicate that China is able to engage in nuclear warfare. Years of time and effort - and denial to the people of the good things of life - would be necessary before a newly industrial State like China could mount a nuclear force similar to that of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. A Chinese nuclear test would be a gesture of defiance to the peaceful hopes of humanity.
We can only hope that the force of world opinion will eventually cause the Chinese Communist leaders to reconsider their position. They owe it to their own people as well as to the people of every other country. All peoples have an urgent and sincere desire to see an end to the dangers which nuclear tests produce. The present treaty offers new hope that these possible threats to mankind will be averted. Chinese leaders, by reconsidering their current rejection of the treaty, can contribute to this, and in so doing show that their expressed concern for the welfare of all people is sincere.
At this stage, I should make it clear that the Australian Government’s position with regard to those régimes which it does not recognize is in no way affected by their accepting, in common with ourselves, the obligations expressed in the test ban treaty. We do not recognize the regime in East Germany, which has announced its intention of acceding to the treaty, and neither the fact that this regime has signed the same treaty as ourselves in Moscow nor the language of the treaty conveys any implication of such recognition.
The important principle involved here is that of universality in matters relating to international peace and security. Means must be found, such as have been found in the case of this treaty, of bringing all governments and regimes within the scope of any further arrangements of a similar nature. The fact that all governments and regimes, whether mutually recognized or not, can associate themselves with, and accept the obligations of, this treaty demonstrates that non-recognition need not impede the attainment of universal international arrangements in this field.
I indicated earlier that it is important to recognize what has been achieved in this treaty - and it is equally important that we should clearly bear in mind what the treaty cannot do. I want for a few moments to consider these matters.
First, let us remind ourselves cautiously of what the treaty does not purport to do. A nuclear test ban treaty is not a treaty for disarmament. It is not even a partial measure of disarmament. As President Kennedy has pointed out, the treaty “will not reduce nuclear stockpiles; it will not halt the production of nuclear weapons; it will not restrict their use in time of war “. He went on to warn that the treaty “ will not resolve all conflicts, or cause the Communists to forgo their ambitions, or eliminate the dangers of war. It will not reduce our need for allies or arms.” This is an impressive, and succinct, statement of the negatives.
The Government is fully aware of the limitations of the treaty, lt does not believe that its conclusion in any way affects the need for vigilance in the face of the threats which face us or that it should lead to any diminution in our resolve to resist such threats. The treaty can in no way affect the major importance which Australia attaches to its defensive alliances. Nor can it affect the Government’s attitude to proposals that possession of nuclear weapons should be forever foresworn, or that a nuclear-free zone should be created in the southern hemisphere. The impracticality and dangerous aspects of such a proposal have already been made plain. As Mr. Harriman made plain when he visited Australia last June at the time of the Anzus conference, it would be impossible for the United States to defend Australia if a nuclear-free zone existed here. The Prime Minister has pointed out that to imagine otherwise would be suicidal folly. No amount of wishful thinking or euphoria emanating from Moscow can alter the hard realities, including the American nuclear deterrent, on which our future security depends.
The treaty does not resolve any of the deep political issues which divide East and West, or of itself eliminate the tensions generated by these divisions. The solution of these problems, and the genuine reduction of tension, still lie in the future. This is not to say that the treaty is without considerable practical value. On the contrary, it has a number of most important effects. First, the observance of the treaty will reduce contamination of the atmosphere by radio-active fall-out resulting from atmospheric tests. Thus the possible radiation hazards to the health of mankind will be significantly curtailed. Should it eventually be possible to include within the scope of the treaty all countries which are likely to test nuclear devices, it would be possible to eliminate entirely all potential hazards from this source. Secondly, the treaty will have certain effects in restraining the armaments race insofar as it may limit the development of new ranges of weapons. The treaty may introduce a certain measure of stability into the armaments spiral, and a measure of sanity into the present unrestrained competition in the development of new and more terrifying weapons of mass destruction. This is an encouraging development. Its conclusion undoubtedly owes much to the reluctance of the two major powers to incur the possibly astronomic costs of the next breed of weapons, and perhaps also to the Soviet realization that further efforts to break the nuclear stalemate and attempt to establish a superiority over the West were unlikely to succeed and would involve the ruin of the Soviet plans for economic progress and development. Thirdly, it is our hope that the achievement of a partial test ban, modest though this step in itself may be, could lead the way to fruitful negotiations on other issues and open up broader areas of agreement. This first step away from an unbridled arms race will be a source of encouragement to those who have worked with patience and determination for many years to achieve a real measure of disarmament. However, we must realize that there is an extremely wide gap between ending atmospheric testing and genuine disarmament. The world must not expect overnight miracles, but all countries must work patiently, step by step, towards the goal of controlled and verified disarmament.
Certain concrete proposals have in fact been mentioned by Mr. Khrushchev in the more recent negotiations in Moscow. These have included matters which have previously been suggested in connexion with measures against surprise attack - the establishment of control posts at ports and railway centres and aerodromes; the limitation of military targets, and limitation on the level of forces. Mr. Khrushchev has also proposed a nonaggression treaty between the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact. These matters are under discussion between the Western countries directly involved, and I shall say nothing about them here except that the Australian
Government will follow the course of their discussion with close interest and concern, and with the hope that it may prove possible to find some agreement of benefit to both sides
At the same time, I should like merely to mention one problem which cannot be forgotten in these negotiations - that is, the problem of divided Germany. The existence of a divided Germany, half Communist, half free, is the central fact of the whole problem of East-West relations in Europe; it will govern to an important extent the course of these future negotiations, and will, I am sure, be very present in the minds of the negotiations.
In conclusion, may I say that the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty could represent a first step forward in a new period of East- West negotiations. The talks in Moscow were conducted in an atmosphere which made agreement possible and which we hope can be preserved for the pursuit of further discussions. The willingness of the Soviet Government to reach agreement on this issue followed a dramatic point of departure in Soviet and Chinese Communist policies. We have in this sense profited from the Moscow-Peking disagreement. But because of that it would be wrong to regard that disagreement as any general source of satisfaction to ourselves. The policies professed by the Peking regime have come to appear so dangerous that even their Communist allies in Moscow cannot support them for fear of the consequences tor themselves, as well as for the rest of the world.
The treaty itself is a limited measure, but it is a beginning and is to be warmly welcomed. It represents at least the reversal of a trend which could lead, in the end, to nothing but mutual destruction. I repeat that the Government hopes that the obligations of the treaty will eventually be accepted universally, particularly by those countries which aspire to develop their own nuclear capacity. It is a matter for concern that all have not already agreed to do this.
It is important to realize that the treaty in no way diminishes our need to safeguard our own security, which is so vitally dependent on the alliances we have entered into and the support we can expect from our allies in the face of any threat. Any move which would weaken or remove this shield would be the sheerest folly. There can be no slackening in our resolve to resist the threats which face Australia, now or in the future.
I present the following paper: -
Nuclear Test Ban Treatry - Ministerial Statement, 15th August, 1963 - and move -
That the paper be printed.
– I wish to move the adjournment of the debate, but is it necessary, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there be a motion for the printing of the paper, since the statement will appear in “ Hansard “ in any event? Such a motion is only necessary in respect of the treaty in order that it may become a parliamentary paper.
– The Minister might move that the House take note of the paper and the debate on that motion could then be adjourned.
– With [he leave of the House I withdraw my previous motion, and I move -
That the treaty be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) proposed -
That the House take note of the treaty.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
.- I move- [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 85).]
[Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 86).]
Mr. Chairman, Customs Tariff Proposals No. 85 which I have just tabled, are consequent on recommendations by a special advisory authority, whose report I shall table later this day. Temporary duties on a sliding scale but not exceeding1s. 3d. per square yard are imposed on certain woven fabrics wholly of or containing not less than 20 per cent, by weight of man-made fibres. The temporary duties, which will operate in addition to the normal duties, are not payable on fabrics having a free- on-board price of 48d. or less per square yard, or 120d. or more per square yard, nor do they apply to fabrics in direct transit to Australia on 8th July, 1963, which are entered for home consumption on arrival. The normal protective needs of this industry have been referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report, and the temporary duties will operate only until such time as the Government takes action upon receipt of the final report of the board.
The other proposals No. 86 increase the rate of duty on canned tuna by 7d. per lb. following the removal of sales tax on imports of this product in the recent Budget. The need for action of this nature was foreshadowed by the Tariff Board in its report dated 11th September, 1961, dealing with canned fish. This action is in accordance with the understanding given by the Minister for Trade in his reply to a question this morning. I commend the proposals.
– Mr. Speaker, I present a report by a special advisory authority on the following subject: -
Man-made fibre piecegoods.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 13th August (vide page 64), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. -This measure provides for a sum of £20,000,000, which is described by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) as being a non-repayable interest-free grant. It contrasts with a sum of £17,500,000 made available in the previous financial year and £10,000,000 made available in the year before that. This will be the third year in which a grant of this kind has been made. The Treasurer indicated, in his secondreading speech, that the purposes of this grant and of those made in the two previous years were to enable the States to provide jobs, first, in areas where employment opportunities were not as readily available as elsewhere and, secondly, where more general measures to sustain and improve employment conditions might not be fully effective. He stated, on the previous occasions, that this was not to be regarded as a device to which the States could resort in order to improve their own budgetary positions. He said, in effect, that the grants were for the particular purpose of helping to lift employment in areas falling within the two categories already mentioned. The first category - where jobs are hard to find - would seem to imply that a distinction ought to be drawn between what might be called the industrialized and the unindustrialized States, because in the case of the industrialized States it might be inferred that employment opportunities are greater, let us say, than in Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia, for example. You sometimes find - for example - that because a vast developmental project has been completed in one State there is difficulty in finding immediate employment for those laid off from that kind of activity. You might have completed the construction of an irrigation dam in the Northern Territory or the far north of Western Australia and have surplus man-power which cannot again be employed there with the result that until a new project is created some difficulty may be occasioned.
The Treasurer implied on the two previous occasions - and I repeat this - that these sums were not to be regarded as a handy device for getting State budgets out of difficulty. He said they were specialpurpose grants, essentially temporary in their nature. At least that was the original implication. It must be remembered that this is the third year in which this sort of measure has been indulged in. with an increase in the amount each year. It was £10,000,000 in 1961-62, and £17,500,000 in 1962-63, and is to be £20,000,000 in 1963-64. On this occasion there is a note stating that the money should be spent as quickly as possible. On this occasion the Treasurer has added a rider to his previous restrictions. In it he states that on this occasion - after consultation with the Premiers - he has no objection to their paying the money into their Consolidated Revenue Funds in the ordinary way. He said that the Commonwealth had made it clear that, providing the over-riding purpose of the grants was kept in mind, it had no objection to the States passing portion of the money through their Consolidated Revenue Funds.
The other difference this year, compared with previous years, is the basis upon which the £20,000,000 is to be allocated among the States according to their proposed programmes for works and housing in 1962-63.
The amounts are not to be allocated according to the relative degrees of unemployment in the various States, as they were in the two previous years, but are to be allocated according to how much the States borrowed for works and housing in the previous year. In consequence the lion’s share of this particular grant will go to New South Wales, which will receive £6,400,000, and to Victoria, which will receive £5,140,000 with decreasing amounts for the other States according to their population.
I think it is appropriate here to ask one or two questions. On the previous occasions when these grants were made the Treasurer stated that the Premiers, representing their respective States, had agreed to consult with the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service as to the particular directions in which the money granted under this special allocation should be expended. I would have thought it appropriate - since this is the third occasion upon which these grants have been made - that the Treasurer might have given some indication as to how the grants made in the previous years had in fact been expended.
– That information was given in the first statement.
– It is certainly not included in the information now given to the House. This is the third year in which that co-operation could have been expected and I think that there was a financial responsibility on the Government to make some attempt to show how this £10,000,000 in 1961-62 and £17,500,000 in 1962-63 had, in fact, been expended from works that promoted employment. That sort of information has not been forthcoming. There are suggestions, in one or two States in particular, that the money has not been used for the purposes for which it was originally intended. I think the fact that the concession has been made this year of allowing the money to go straight into the consolidated revenue funds of the States indicates that the problem now is probably different from that which was originally suggested. It points, again, to the difficulties that face the States financially in providing for all the responsibilities that come within their province to-day. It highlights the very real situation that although more and more of the States look increasingly, year by year, to the Commonwealth to raise revenue, the satisfactory expending of that revenue has to rest in the hands of the States.
When we come to examine the matter we find that, apart from the Commonwealth’s own administrative staff, the very large and significant enough field of defence and such isolated examples as the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, the direct avenues open to the Commonwealth to stimulate employment are fairly remote. Employment has to be stimulated through the agency of the States engaging in activities such as the building of schools and hospitals. There is one other field of activity in the hands of the Commonwealth - the Post Office. But the main fields of government activity are health, education, power, transport and irrigation, each of which, in its own way, is a great provider of employment, and the impetus for the direct employment of people must come from State instrumentalities. The Commonwealth, however, must provide the money.
I should like to direct the attention of the House to some very interesting figures that are brought together for the first time in this way in a new publication prepared by the Bureau of Census and Statistics which, I think, is to be congratulated on having produced this document. It is entitled “ Australian National Accounts - National Income and Expenditure - 1948-49 to 1961-62 “. That period embraces the whole life of the present Federal Government, which came into office after the election held at the end of 1949 and has continued in office ever since. So the whole of the financial history of Australia recorded in this publication relates to the administration of the present Government.
The two tables that are particularly relevant to this discussion are table 57, which is headed “ Current Account, Commonwealth Authorities”, and table 58 - “Current Account, State and Local Government Authorities “. Those two tables give the total expenditure on the part of the Comwealth and the various heads to which that expenditure was devoted and, similarly, the transactions of the States and local authorities for the thirteen-year period from 1948- 49 to 1960-61 inclusive. In 1948-49, the financial year before this Government cams
Into office, the total receipts of the Commonwealth Government, in round figures, were £483,000,000. They increased more than threefold to £1,504,000,000 in 1960- 61. In 1948-49, the revenues of the States and local authorities totalled £156,400,000, including Commonwealth grants of one kind or another. In 1960-61, the total had increased to £711,000,000 - about four and two-thirds times as much as in 1948-49. In this period, Commonwealth revenue increased three times and total State revenues increased nearly five times.
– Are these only revenue figures?
– These are only revenue figures, and they include Commonwealth grants. I want to look at the more significant side - expenditure - because I think it highlights the very real difficulties in which the States are placed.
– The percentage increase in Commonwealth grants would be greater.
– I give the honorable member that. In 1948-49, £68,600,000 of the total State revenues of £156,400,000, or somewhat less than half, came from Commonwealth sources.
– Is the honorable member arguing that we should have provided more for the States?
– I think that this Government should have been a little more sympathetic towards the real problems of the States. I am arguing that because of this Government’s lack of sympathy some of these real problems are being overlooked. I hope that the right honorable gentleman will listen carefully to what I say in a moment or two when I highlight two of these problems in particular.
By 1960-61, the revenues of the States had increased to £711,000,000, of which £300,000,000 had come from Commonwealth sources. If the right honorable gentleman works out the sum, he will find that £300,000,000 out of £711,000,000 is no more significant than £68,600,000 out of £156,400,000. Although the amount received from Commonwealth sources was greater in aggregate in 1960-61, it was no move significant proportionately than it had been in 1948-49.
I am concerned, at the moment, with the expenditure of the States rather than with the expenditure of the Commonwealth. The biggest single item in State expenditure is described as “ net current expenditure on goods and services”. That is expenditure on the various facilities that the States have to provide such as education, health, and law and order. Of the total State revenue of £156,400,000 in 1948-49, £86,000,000 was spent in this way. In 1960-61, thirteen years later, expenditure of this kind had risen to £387,000,000 - an increase of about £300,000,000. As I hope to make clear later, this shows the great responsibilties that fall on the States. Let us contrast the position of the Commonwealth under the same heading - “ net current expenditure on goods and services “. In 1948-49, Commonwealth expenditure under this heading was £92,000,000, or £6,000,000 greater than that of the States. But whereas, under this heading, State expenditure increased from £86,000,000 in 1948-49 to £387,000,000 in 1960-61, Commonwealth expenditure rose from £92,000,000 to only £330,000,000. In other words, whereas in 1948-49 under that heading the Commonwealth Government spent £6,000,000 more than tha States, in 1960-61 the Commonwealth was, in fact, spending £57,000,000 less than the States. At least that points to one thing to begin with.
– Good management!
– The honorable member for Moore speaks of good management. He might be able to argue a case of bad management so far as the Western Australian Government is concerned. Certainly he would be more competent to argue about bad management in Western Australia than to speculate about management in New South Wales or some other State. He should stick to the things he knows. But I am not suggesting that this was bad management. What I am suggesting is that inevitably government responsibilities have risen to a greater degree in the States than they have in the Commonwealth. I think at least that factor ought to be noted.
The other factor I consider to be of significance because it points to the degree of debt management is the item, “ Interest payments”. In 1948-49 interest payments directly attributable to the Commonwealth totalled £47,500,000. In 1960-61- twelve years later - they had fallen to £22,700,000. The Commonwealth had been able to reduce its debt and was able to finance its public works directly from revenue instead of from loans. Therefore its interest liability had fallen from £47,000,000 to £22,700,000. But let us look at the relevant figure for the States. In 1948-49 it was £42,900,000, or £5,000,000 less than the Commonwealth figure, but by 1960-61 it had increased to £162,000,000. That was an increase of £120,000,000 in the interest liability of the States, compared with a decline of £25,000,000 in the Commonwealth’s liability. That also is a very real difficulty for the States.
There are two items for which the States have had to find greater revenues than previously- £57,000,000 more than the Commonwealth on net current services and £140,000,000 more than the Commonwealth for interest payments. After all, it is the Commonwealth Government that is responsible for the level of interest rates prevailing in Australia despite what is conveniently said about rates being fixed by the Australian Loan Council. The responsibility is directly one for monetary control and debt management and it can be exercised in only one place - in the hands of the Commonwealth Treasury in association with the Reserve Bank of Australia.
The other item of special interest showing also why the needs of the States have been much greater than they were is a father curious item in the statistics described as “Surplus on current account”. This surplus on current account is the difference between the total revenues raised by a government and the total amount spent by a government. Most people were under the impression that the only Government that enjoyed the luxury of a surplus on current account was the Commonwealth Government - directly, through its Budget and, indirectly, because it is now using such institutions as the Postal Department as a taxing machine, and is collecting more by way of revenue each year than the expenditure of that organization justifies. In addition, a large amount of the capital expenditure of the undertak ing after depreciation is also being met by a direct charge.
In 1948-49 the surplus on current account in the hands of the Commonwealth was £118,600,000. In 1960-61 this figure reached the very large sum of £386,000,000. That is the surplus of current revenues over current expenditure. Of course, the biggest single item is derived from the fact that the Commonwealth - very wisely in my view - has paid for its own public works out of revenue rather than resorting to the loan market. So far as the States are concerned, the surplus on current account rose from £24,000,000 in 1948-49 to £150,000,000 in 1960-61. As I have said, most people, if told that the States as a whole had a surplus of revenues, would be very perplexed about the situation because mostly all they hear about are deficits in the hands of the States. It goes back to this book-keeping transaction and what is income and what is capital.
The States, too, in order to keep up their equipment for hospitals, schools and roadmaking, have been required to undertake a fair amount of what might be called capital expenditure out of revenue. This means that the users of the various State facilities are also being taxed to provide roads, extensions to electricity undertakings and the like. Whether this is a sound theory or not, at least it is one that some Government supporters might consider seriously. It all points to the situation that has arisen with these grants. What started off to be a measure whereby the Commonwealth thought it could help in the field of employment, has now become merged in the generally unsatisfactory nature of State finances as a whole. To give £20,000,000 to the States as this measure does, and to expect them somehow or other to regard a particular £1 as very much different from any other £1 that comes within their finances, is to show how split economic thinking can become on occasions.
Once you allow your economic thinking to become split, as this Government has done too often, and once you start to think in isolated compartments instead of trying to comprehend the whole of the problem which is the responsibility of governments, you reach the situation that an apparently simple proposition becomes complex. We called the simple proposition “ doles for holes” but so far as some States are concerned, the doles have been paid and the holes have not been dug. This money has not stimulated new activity but has merely allowed the States to carry on at the normal level. If the Commonwealth had not given this money to the States, they would be in deficit to a greater extent. I think that was recognized by the Treasurer on this occasion because he did not make it mandatory for the States to pay the money into a separate fund but let it go into their consolidated revenue funds. Once a £1 goes into a consolidated revenue fund the only interest is the utility made of it. If a contractor is paid a cheque for £100 on government account, he does not care very much whether the money came from ‘and tax, lottery profits, loan funds, credit expansion or a budget deficit. He does not worry about that at all. What he is concerned about is that he gets paid for the work that is done.
This measure, which began three years ago as a temporary measure, points to two deficiencies on the part of the Government. It points to the failure of the Government properly to grapple with unemployment, because the dole paid in 1960-61 had to be increased in 1961-62 and has to be increased even further in 1963-64, the year on which we are now embarking. The measure points also to the fact that the frictions still occuring in Commonwealth and State relationships have been overlooked. Many things are required in an expanding economy. I am not suggesting that the Australian economy is not an expanding economy. All I am suggesting is that it has not expanded as much as it might have and that in some respects the expansion has not been equitable in all directions. Nevertheless, allowing that it is an expanding economy, it is inevitable that in the field of government, responsibilities may be better discharged by the States than by the Commonwealth, but inevitably also the power of the purse, as it were, must continue to lie in the hands of the central government or the Commonwealth Government.
It is easy enough in any system for somebody to collect the money and for somebody else, who spends it and does not have the responsibility of raising it, to suggest that he is not getting all that he is entitled to get. That is an understandable difficulty, but nevertheless it is a very real difficulty in the Australian economy. I suggest that it is time for the whole question of Commonwealth and State financial relationships to be considered on a much more sympathetic and certainly on a much more comprehensive basis than is done at present in the annual wrangle that is called the meeting of the Australian Loan Council.
– What are your views? Would you abolish the State Governments or would you retain the taxing power?
– I believe in the continuance of uniform taxation.
– Would you abolish State Governments?
– Abolishing State Governments is not a practical proposition either. We must live with the State Governments just as the State Governments must live with us. But we cannot dispose of the problem in that way. We are dealing with a people in totality, no matter how we may look at the problem, and all I am suggesting is that there should be a more sympathetic and systematic approach.
There is no doubt that at the moment -n the minds of most people the most urgent claim is for additional money for education. One can get into all sorts of arguments about education, but there is not one State that would say that it could not spend another few million pounds on education. The same sort of difficulty arises with cultural activities that still largely are ;he responsibility of State governments. There is hardly a public library system throughout Australia that is not short of money at the moment - not short of millions of pounds but short of only hundreds of thousands of pounds. Something is wrong with a financial system in which governments in total raise almost £2,000,000,000 a year but some States are short of hundreds of thousands of pounds for particular facets of their responsibilities. That is the sort of problem that faces Victoria each year with its additional programming for public libraries. It is the sort of problem that faces every State in the adult education field. It is the sort of problem that faces every State in the promotion of theatre, drama and the arts in general. Highfaluting grants that sound very impressive may be handed out here, but the main work still must be done in the individual States.
I do not begrudge one single pound going to any State, because I do not think that at the moment any State is getting all that it requires to meet its constitutional responsibilities. But what we must adjudicate upon here is something that began for one purpose and has now become almost a permanent feature. Its original purpose has been diverted, as it were. It is no longer a straight-out unemployment grant; it goes in totality into the Consolidated Revenue Funds of the various States. It is a recognition, I suggest, of the fact that the States have not been getting all that they require. It is £20,000,000 for this year. It was £17,500,000 for the previous year and £10,000,000 for the year before. That is a total of £47,500,000. These are not insignificant sums even to-day when we talk about hundreds of thousands of millions, but they are more significant in the hands of the States than in the hands of the Commonwealth.
There is a very real danger in the constitutional government of Australia that those very gentlemen who want to retain the States are systematically strangling the cultural activities that breathe life, colour and variety into the States. 1 would hope that they would be a little more sympathetic sometimes to what may be called the marginal problems of the States. It is at the margins that the starvation is occurring. It is probably more evident in the basic field of education than in some other fields, but in these other cultural, recreational and social margins, the problem is not being recognized at all. The States are expected to provide all these facilities out of a total sum that is inadequate.
I hope that in the months ahead the Treasurer will look a little more sympathetically at this problem and will not regard representatives of the States as rapacious people coming here annually with greedy hands. These are responsible people seeking to obtain money to satisfy needs that they think are important to their people. Whether they are from Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania or any other State, they are still Australians, and unless the problem is solved in a comprehending way there will be all sorts of marginal and border difficulties in the future. In the future we may not be talking about an unemployment grant, and I hope we will not be, but this certainly will not be the last additional grant or new kind of payment that will have to be made to the States.
.- The bill before the House provides £20,000,000 in what are described as non-repayable interest-free grants to the States. Put in simplified language, it is a gift of £20,000,000 to the States. The purpose of the bill is to enable the States to provide full employment in accordance with the Menzies Government’s policy of growth, development, full employment and a high standard of living. The growth of a nation connotes more people and more capital. In accordance with its policy of growth, the Government has increased the immigration target for 1963-64 by 10,000 persons. In addition to more than 100,000 new people coming to our country each year, we have a reasonably high birth rate. All these additional people require more schools, hospitals and homes, the provision of all of which comes within the jurisdiction of the State governments. The Commonwealth has recognized the problems which confront the States. So in addition to the grants that are payable by the Commonwealth to the States under the various financial and housing agreements, this year the Commonwealth is providing this additional sum of £20,000,000 as a gift. Actually, from all sources a total of £34,000,000 more will be paid to the States this year than was paid last year.
I have been amazed to read in the press within the last few days some of the statements of our so-called commercial and industrial leaders. Some have expressed disappointment because they cannot see any more money coming directly into their hands as a result of this year’s Budget. That is a rather selfish outlook. The most amazing aspect of that criticism is its shortsightedness and superficial approach. Do these so-called business leaders imagine that the additional money which is now being paid by the Commonwealth to the States and which will be used by them for the provision of education, hospitals and roads or for other purposes will simply lie in the old oak chest? Of course it will not
Every penny of this money will be spent. The States need it, and it must be spent. As soon as the States spend the money it will be paid out in wages or for the purchase of materials. If it is paid out for the purchase of materials, it will provide additional purchasing power for the industries that manufacture those materials. Wage and salary earners have needs; they do not put their wages in the old oak chest. They will spend this extra money on food, clothing, wireless sets or motor cars, or in some other manner which will satisfy their needs. No matter for what purpose the money is used1, some people in industry in Australia will get additional purchasing power and will have to provide additional goods. That in turn will provide additional employment.
To suggest that this year’s Budget, which provides for the expenditure of £197,000,000 more than was spent last year, is not a stimulating one seems to me to indicate the most shallow, foolish thinking that anybody could possibly imagine. To hear this sort of talk coming from some of our leading manufacturers and commercial men is deplorable. This gift of £20,000,000 which is to be made by the Commonwealth to the States is part of the additional sum of £197,000,000 that will be spent this year. That will be a tremendous infusion of purchasing power into the community. Anybody with any sense realizes that this year will be an exceedingly prosperous one and that industry and commerce will be very busy, because they will have to satisfy the demands that will result from this tremendous increase of purchasing power.
Let us consider, in addition to this sum of £20,000,000 that is to be made available under the bill, the additional sum of £17,000,000 that will be spent on social services. Does anybody think for a moment that the widows will not spend the extra money that will be paid to them? They will spend it on food, clothing and other necessities. That in tura will assist the manufacturers, merchants and business houses. Let us consider the effect of taxation concessions that will amount to £27,000,000. Let us think of the concessions that will be made to the primary producers, including the money they will save in the purchase of superphosphate. The investment allowance is another concession. Will not the primary producers spend that money on additional farm machinery and things of that kind? Will not that expenditure provide employment and good sound business for the manufacturers? Let us consider the assistance that is to be given to the family man in the form of additional education allowances and the like. The money that will be saved by the family man in one direction will be spent in another.
The bill is designed, as 1 said earlier, to give more money to the States to enable them to provide increased employment. The proposals contained in the Budget are designed for the same purpose - to inject new purchasing power into the community to provide additional demand for industry and commerce which in turn will provide additional employment for those who are now seeking it, for people who are coming from overseas and for young people who are reaching the working age. I have heard people ask why it is necessary to stimulate employment at this time. The answer is that it is the Government’s policy to ensure the highest possible level of employment. At the present time we have a level of employment of which we can be justly proud. Ninety-eight out of every 100 persons who have sought employment have jobs. When we look at Australia’s past history or at the position in other countries we must realize that we have an extraordinarily high level of employment. I have before me “ Labour Report- 1960 “, issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, which sets out the unemployment position as at various census periods. It discloses that, according to the census taken in June, 1933, 22.7 per cent., or almost one in every four of the Australian work force, were unemployed. Up to the outbreak of World War II., as Mr. Monk, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, has stated, it was common in Australia to have 10 per cent, of our work force unemployed. Speaking at the Australian Citizenship Convention held at Canberra in January, 1961, Mr. Monk said -
We have been very fortunate. When I tell people overseas that our unemployment figure is about 1.8 per cent., or less than 2 per cent, they say, “ That is not a problem at all “. They are used to having economic problems with a ratio of unemployment to the work force of about 4 or 5 per cent.
He went on to say -
In 1939, when the war broke out, we had about 10 per cent, unemployment in this country, and we were used to dealing with it on a 10 per cent, basis. [Quorum formed.]
Mr. Monk continued
But the ordinary person in Australia now gets awfully frightened if we get up to 2 per cent, unemployment, whereas in actual fact, because of our seasonal occupations in Australia, it is necessary to have about 1.5 per cent. Boating work force to deal with seasonal and major construction works.
– Who said that?
- Mr. Albert Monk, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and a very good Labour supporter. Earlier, I quoted from “Labour Report- 1960” which stated that in 1933 we had 22.7 per cent, of the Australian work force unemployed. That report also discloses that in 1947, under a Labour government, when members of the Labour Party were running around the country talking about Labour’s policy of full employment, 3.2 per cent, of the Australian work force were unemployed. Figures published by the Department of Labour and National Service in “News Release” of 15th July, 1963, disclose that as at 28th June, 1963, 1.9 per cent, of the estimated Australian work force was unemployed. I do not know how many people we must have in Australia to do the casual and seasonal work; but we must have some, or we would never get our shearing, canning and other seasonal work done. I do not know of any person more qualified to speak on that subject than the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr. Monk, who says that we must have 1.5 per cent, not continually employed at any one time so that canning and other seasonal work, such as meat works operations, can be carried out at the right time. I am not competent to say whether Mr. Monk’s figure is correct or incorrect, but if it is correct then, at the present time, we have no more than .4 of 1 per cent, more people unemployed than we should have. Notwithstanding this fractional excess - and it is purely fractional if we take Mr. Monk’s figure as a basis - the Government very properly says, “ While there is a man able and willing to work who is unable to find a job, we must do everything we can to see that he gets a job”. It is with that objective in view that this Government is providing an additional ?20,000,000 as a gift to the States to be used by them in providing additional employment.
The Government has not done as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has suggested it should do. It does not propose to act as a kind of police force to watch the States; but it has obtained from the States an undertaking that this money will be used for the purpose of providing employment, and the Premiers have agreed to consult with the Department of Labour and National Service with a view to seeing that the money is provided at places where it is necessary to afford additional employment. So I say that this is an excellent bill. It is designed to meet a problem which, although not a great one in Australia, is a most serious arte for the persons concerned. By it, the Government is making available ?20,000,000 by way of gifts to the States for the relief of unemployment. Altogether, it is proposing to spend ?197,000,000 - almost ?200,000,000 additional this year to be circulated through private enterprise and so in turn provide extra purchasing power and increased demand for all kinds of products manufactured by Australian industries. I suggest that as a result of the introduction of the Government’s excellent Budget we can look forward to 1963-64 with the utmost confidence, happy in the belief that it will be one of the best years Australia has ever experienced.
.- It is an indictment of this coalition Government that we should have a measure such as this before the Parliament to-day. It is an indictment that we should have had a similar measure last year and the previous year. It is unheard of since the depression days that a government should have to inject more money into the community to relieve unemployment. It is all very well for the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) to wax eloquent about the generosity and Father Christmas attitude of the Government, but he did not tell us why this legislation to inject ?20,000,000 of Commonwealth revenue into the funds of the six
States to help them to relieve unemployment was necessary.
I want to take a quick look at the coalition team on the other side of the chamber which has produced the policy that has made this legislation necessary. This shotgun-marriage Government is a tired and nervous one; it is confused and hesitant, timid and tense. This marriage is definitely going on the rocks. It cannot last because the partners are splitting up. One partner is back-stabbing the other, especially in the electorates, as we in Tasmania know. If I were to tell honorable members of the Liberal Party what the Country Party is doing to get supporters in Tasmania, they would expel their partner from the partnership, lock, stock and barrel. One partner has grown more disgustingly arrogant over recent months. One partner is growing more demanding and refusing to sign electoral pacts with its bigger partner against poaching. This is the Government that has produced the legislation that is before us now. This tension is leading to distrust and suspicion in the leadership of the two parties forming the coalition. It is not good for this country that we should have such a coalition, divided in respect of many basic policies, trying to fool the Australian people that all is well in its ranks and that all is well with the economy. We need a government in its own right without being forced into a coalition with any other group, so that we may have a combined, united approach to our problems and not have to go into a back room to make pacts with a partner. It is intolerable that this ricketty coalition should continue to delude the Australian people into believing that all is well with them and with the economy as a whole.
This bill to provide an extra £20,000,000 to the States as a special stimulus to employment should have been unnecessary. If this Government’s economic and financial policies over the past four years had been sound, there would have been no unemployment to-day. Instead, there would have been full employment. The best evidence of the failure of this Government’s economic policies is the fact that it has to bring down an unemployment relief bill at this stage of our history because nearly 90,000 are still workless in Australia. That such a measure has to come before us to-day is, to my mind, sufficient proof that this Government’s policies have definitely failed. That is the pattern of the Government’s approach all along the line - plugging up holes and repairing burst banks. The Government’s policy is to spend a few pounds here ar,d a few pounds there to plug the burst banks of our economy. There is nothing permanent and nothing stable about its policies. Some of its friends are criticizing its stop-go attitude of which this bill is a good example. We are grateful for this money but it is a tragedy that it should be necessary to provide unemployment relief in this country.
I am sure that the Government has settled for an unemployment pool of about 80,000. The Budget speech definitely confirms this assessment of the Government’s attitude. To say that the unemployed represent only 2 per cent, or 2.5 per cent, of the work force is to bring cold comfort to the family man who has been reduced to a depression diet, anxiety, frustration, and hopelessness as a result of unemployment. We meet these people in our offices every day. I am sure that Government supporters, too, meet them. We see the human tragedy of worklessness. Statistics may be a consolation to a government that is having trouble with its conscience, but statistics are cold, callous and impersonal things. They do not reveal the human side of the unemployment story. Statistics are a bloodless facade, hiding misery, despair, mental anguish, bitterness and, in many instances, broken homes. Unemployed numbering 85,000 involve about 350,000 people, when the wives and children of those unemployed are taken into account. In this tragic story, they are the ones who suffer the most.
There is no greater callousness than that of a government which regards 350,000 victims of unemployment as a fair price to pay for stability - the god that this Government has worshipped for the past six years. How many sins are committed by this Government in the name of stability? Who are the persons who suffer to create the so-called stability that the Government worships as a god? This is the apex of inhumanity. These folk are the victims of this Government’s indecision, confusion and timidity, especially its timidity, as the latest Budget shows again.
These are the little people who are the victims of this Government’s obsession with stability. For all of these years, the Government has been saying, in effect, “ Let us be careful lest we create inflation. Full employment is dangerous and impractical. Let us keep a brake on spending.” That is a dangerous philosophy in a growing country. Let us stimulate our economy; we should not stagnate, or cause the economy to stumble, as this Government has done. Sir Douglas Copland summed up the position well last year when he said -
Australia needed stimulus for the economy more than it needed stability.
No fair-minded person with any knowledge of economics would doubt the wisdom of that statement at this stage of our development. Sir Douglas asked -
Who ever made progress by worshipping stability?
He went on to pinpoint the urgency of housing and the desperate need to inject more and more money into home building. We welcome the plan, which was announced in the Budget, to allocate more loans from savings banks for this purpose. The provision of just over 80,000 houses each year is well below our national demand. By getting men back to work in the home-building industry, which has twenty ancillary industries dependent on it, we could boost our home construction rate by 25 per cent. This would add 20,000 homes a year to the present rate of construction. Unlike the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and other Ministers who have long since got away from the grass roots and now live in ivory towers, lined with royals, we of the Labour Party are in touch with the people. Problems such as this are close to us. We know that many people want to build homes and would do so if ony they could obtain a loan. Sir Douglas Copland’s estimate that we could increase our home-building rate by 25 per cent., or 20,000 more houses a year, bringing the number constructed to 100,000 a year, is a fair one.
Finance for homebuilding is the greatest investment which can be made in Australia to-day by governments and private individuals, but the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has other ideas. Eighteen months ago, in answer to a question that I asked him in this House, after he had evaded it for several months, he said that anything over 85,000 to 90,000 houses a year was inflationary. He gave this House and the country to understand that this Government was deliberately planning to keep the rate of home-building at about 80,000 a year, or about 20,000 a year fewer than we urgently need. That is a criminal attitude. I have not attempted to quote the exact words used by the Treasurer, but they are reported in “ Hansard “. However, I have stated exactly what he had in mind. He wanted to put a deliberate brake on homebuilding. When the rate of homebuilding had reached 100,000 a year he said that that was inflationary and he saw to it that that high rate was soon lowered by his credit squeeze. One of the reasons for the credit squeeze was that the homebuilding industry had become inflated. What a terrible attitude in a country hungry for homes!
Under the measure now before the House, the States are to receive £20,000,000 to help them to provide work for the unemployed. Tasmania is to receive the lowest grant because it is the smallest State. It will receive £1,408.000, which is more than it received last year. No one could be ungrateful for these grants. We in Tasmania will spend the money as the other States spend it. Special grants will be made to the municipalities in which there is unemployment, and we shall leave it to the municipal authorities to decide how the money is to be spent to relieve unemployment in their areas. This is useful money and in many instances it will be put to good purpose, but measures of this kind will not solve our unemployment problem. For two years we have been injecting grants of this kind into our economy, and we have 85,000 people out of work. My tip is that in twelve months’ time there will be about 80,000 people still out of work, despite what this Government is doing by means of this measure. That is why I say that action such as this is not the answer to the problem. The answer is to be found in the basic economic policy of this Government. The fact that it is necessary to pass measures of this kind is an indictment of that policy.
I wish to refer to some of the federal grants that have been made from this
Parliament in recent years to the various States, and to indicate that my State of Tasmania has been completely left out of the special grants provision. We have received the kind of grants that have been mentioned during the debate to-day. We have received help through the Commonwealth Grants Commission but we have always had that assistance over the years.
Let us sum up the tragic story in a few sentences: In the last thirteen years, £483,334,000 has been given from this Parliament to five States of the Commonwealth for special projects and works. I have included expenditure on the Snowy Mountains project in this figure. Not one penny of such money has gone to Tasmania in all that time except the money that was put into the Bell Bay aluminium works by the Commonwealth away back in 1949-50. As honorable members know, this Government sold the Bell Bay undertaking to the Comalco organization, a private enterprise, and the money has gone back into the Treasury. Except for that money, in nearly fourteen years of administration by this Government, Tasmania has not received by way of non-repayable grants a single penny from the Commonwealth for special projects. Yet, the Commonwealth has poured out more than £483,000,000 for special projects in other States. I include in that sum the total cost of the Snowy Mountains scheme, which is not yet completed. That is an incredible story of neglect by this Government.
We in Tasmania are now in the process of trying to obtain assistance for the construction of a thermal power station in the Fingal Valley, in my electorate, where coalmines are to be found. Because the biggest industries in the State are changing over from coal to oil, the coal industry is rapidly going down hill. We have great unemployment. Forty per cent, of the work force in Tasmania has left the coal industry in the last few years because of the change-over from coal to oil. We are trying to save the coal supplies in the Fingal Valley and, at the same time, to save the homes of the mine workers who have been put off and the townships which have been established. We shall approach the Prime Minister with a combined deputation within the next week if he will see us, to ask for a £10,000,000 grant for the purpose of setting up a thermal power station in the valley as a supple mentary power source for the State. As honorable members know, hydro-electric power predominates in Tasmania. Ninetyeight per cent, of the area of the State is served by hydro-electricity. Large new schemes are now under way - including one in my own electorate to cost £60,000,000 - with the idea of building three or four dams and five or six more power stations on the Mersey, Forth and Wilmot Rivers. The largest hydro-electric scheme in Australia, other than the Snowy Mountains scheme, has now been commenced in my electorate in Tasmania. We think that we should have a subsidiary source of power from a thermal station. We have the coal - there are millions of tons of it - and we have the men who are still able to work in the industry. In a few years they may all have left the industry and their know-how will have been lost. We believe that this is one way in which the Commonwealth Government could help Tasmania. A straight-out capital grant would help to set up in our State a brand new industry in which 120 men would be employed permanently. Many thousands of additional kilowatts of power would be injected into the power grid in Tasmania. It would be economic if the capital cost were met by the Commonwealth.
If water were in short supply because of a continuous drought or dry winters, we would always have the subsidiary thermal power station to help us out. Japan, Switzerland and other nations have made similar provision. They have thermal power stations alongside their hydro-electric power stations, so that no disaster of nature can bring about a lack of power. I have mentioned this matter in order to show what shocking treatment Tasmania has received from this Government in relation to capital projects. It has been estimated that, between 1951 and 1964, £48,160,000 will have been provided by this Parliament for railway projects in States other than Tasmania. That money will have been expended on rail standardization schemes in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. The sum of £6,000,000 will have been provided by this Parliament between 1958 and 1964 for the development of the northern part of Western Australia. The provision of such money is a very good thing for the States concerned. Western Australia has received water supply grants from this Parliament. They began when Labour was in office in 1948, and £5,000,000 has now been spent or promised for water supply and irrigation in that vast western area of Australia.
The Government has provided £1,387,000 to be spent between 1961 and 1964 on the provision of coal-loading facilities. It has provided £800,000 for replacement of the Derby jetty. It has made available to New South Wales, on a £1 for £1 basis, the sum of £2,650,000 for the construction of coal-loading facilities at the ports of Newcastle, Port Kembla and Balmain. It has provided £200,000 for the construction of coalloading facilities at Gladstone, in Queensland, from which coal from the Kianga and Moura fields is exported. It has provided £5,000,000 to Queensland and £1,950,000 to Western Australia to be expended over the five years from 1961 to 1966 on the construction of beef cattle roads. It has provided £7,250,000 to be expended in the five years from 1962 to 1967 in the development of 4,271,000 acres of brigalow land in the Fitzroy River basin, in Queensland, for the production of beef cattle and certain primary products.
The Commonwealth has provided £3,500,000 as its share of the total estimated cost of £14,000,000 for the construction of the mighty Chowilla reservoir on the Murray River. New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are also parties to the agreement and will bear equal portions of the total cost The Commonwealth will provide £50,000 to New South Wales in the first year to meet the cost of the Blowering dam, and like sums will probably be provided in succeeding years of construction. The Commonwealth also has in hand the Snowy Mountains scheme, which it is estimated will cost a total of £400,000,000. The grand total of capital expenditure by the Commonwealth Government in five States is £483,334,000. The works involved are all excellent developmental projects, but am I not justified in claiming that Tasmania has been terribly neglected? That State has not received one penny of that total although there are many undertakings which merit Commonwealth assistance and for which such assistance has been sought.
As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) stated, it is pathetic that at this stage of our development we have to take these steps to help the States to cope with the problem of unemployment, which, after all, is a Commonwealth responsibility. The Commonwealth Government has the greatest say in Australia’s economic policies. The policies which are formulated and the legislation which is passed here have more effect than any State policies and legislation. The Commonwealth Government holds the purse strings, so more than ever before in our history the responsibility for unemployment in every sector of the community rests on its shoulders. It is an indictment of the Commonwealth Government that we have to speak on this subject and that we have to pass a bill to release £20,000,000 to plug up the holes in our erratic economy which have been caused by the retrograde and unpredictable policies which the Commonwealth Government has adopted.
We thank the Government for this gift, but, in this modern day and age, it is terrible that we have to return to depression measures and hand out £20,000,000 to relieve unemployment in Australia.
.- The bill which the House is discussing seeks authorization for payment to the States of a non-repayable grant of £20,000,000 to be expended on employment-giving activities. Of this amount, £1,882,000 has been allotted to Western Australia. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has emphasized what he regards as the unemployment relief nature of this grant. Let me direct his attention to the following statement in the Treasurer’s second-reading speech when introducing the legislation -
In offering again a grant of this type to the States, the Commonwealth Government had in mind that it would enable the States to provide jobs in areas where employment opportunities were not as readily available as elsewhere.
There stated is the purpose of the grant. It is to enable the States to provide employment opportunities in areas where employment is not readily available. It is part and parcel of this Government’s policy of decentralization. The grant serves a very useful purpose.
The honorable member for Wilmot laid special emphasis on unemployment and just before resuming his seat he stated that it was shocking to find unemployment to-day of the kind we had during the depression.
– It is too!
– Let me tell the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith that the fact that we have unemployment in a time of prosperity indicates the tremendous and rapid growth which is going on in Australia. We are rapidly expanding our population and there must be a period in which opportunities for employment have to be created. The Government has taken a temporary step to overcome a temporary period of unemployment. While our country expands as rapidly as it has been doing, we are bound to have continuing unemployment, but make no mistake, not the same people are unemployed all the time. The period of unemployment for each person is very brief. The Labour Party wants our economy to stagnate because this would moan no unemployment. It claims that we should not expand and should not take the chance of having a slight lag in employment due to the rapid increase in our population. The Stagnation which the honorable member for Wilmot has suggested is the only way in which we can have no unemployment; there would be no increase in population and no expansion.
While we have an expanding population we have an expanding economy creating a demand, so there must be a period when we have to catch up with the rapidly growing work force. This Government has the job of ensuring that there is rapidly growing development to absorb that work force. In providing this £20,000,000 we have said that in the short period which will elapse until this particular group is absorbed we shall engage it in some other way. This is proof of the value of the Government’s policies.
I want to deal with some remarks made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) who used some statistics indicating the increase in expenditure which the States had incurred during this Government’s term of office to prove his argument that the responsibilities of the States were increasing rapidly whereas the responsibilities of the Commonwealth were not. He used his statistics on a comparative basis to suggest that because Commonwealth expenditure on one avenue had not increased to the same extent as had that of the States, Commonwealth responsibilities had decreased. I have not the document from which the honorable member quoted his statistics, but I suggest that if he examines them carefully he will find that Commonwealth and State figures are not comparable. It is ridiculous to suggest that during the last fourteen years in which this Government has been in office only the States have had to bear increased responsibilities. I remind the honorable member that the Commonwealth’s responsibilities have increased tremendously. This Government introduced the hospital, medical and pharmaceutical benefits schemes which, although costing a tremendous amount of money, have teen of inestimable value to the people.
It introduced direct grants to universities and the Commonwealth scholarships scheme. Those are additional responsibilities that this Government has accepted. I could mention a lot more. Let not the honorable member for Melbourne Ports consider only some of the matters. He should examine everything that is included.
The honorable member said also that this additional grant could be applied by the States to the reduction of their deficits. That may be possible in other States - I do not know - but I am speaking of what happens in my own State of Western Australia. It is no good speaking in generalities in such matters unless you have a general knowledge of the position. A condition of the original grant made by the Commonwealth under this heading was that the States should use the money to create additional employment. If that is the case, the States cannot apply the money to decrease their deficits. Were they to do so they would be definitely dishonouring the conditions under which the grant was made.
In Western Australia the grant could not affect the year’s budget for the simple reason that work scheduled for a subsequent year was brought forward; that is to say, additional work was put in hand immediately. Consequently, expenditure and revenue were increased, and the budget figures on those particular items balanced. So the final result for thi financial yeal was not affected.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports made reference also to uniform taxation. I wonder whether he, like so many other people, is a bit confused between the system of uniform taxation that we have now and the system of a single tax collection agency. Many people say, in effect, “Yes, we must keep uniform taxation”, whereas what they mean ;s that we must keep a single tax collecting agency as we have it now. I do not believe in uniform taxation but I do believe in a single tax collecting agency. I consider that were the States prepared to accept the responsibility of imposing the additional income tax which they believe is needed according to their own assessment of their requirements that arrangement would provide for sound expenditure on their part. It is uniform taxation which places the financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States in such an unsatisfactory position as it is to-day for the simple reason that one government and one parliament has the responsibility of collecting money, and has not the say-so as to how the money is to be spent or where it is to be spent. That decision rests entirely with the States.
I should like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to tell mc whether, when he refers to uniform taxation, he means a single taxing authority for Australia or a single tax collecting agency together with the system which applied before the war when the States levied their own taxation. I remind the honorable member, in case he has forgotten, that Victoria attracted industries by means of a low level of income tax compared with that of other States. Victoria developed because it was able to offer that attraction. That is the sort of responsibility a State should carry.
Leading straight on from that thought I say that an advantage of making grants of this kind to the States - I am in conflict with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports regarding the assertion that the funds get lost in Consolidated Revenue - is that the Commonwealth is able to guide State expenditure in a desirable direction without dictating to the Government concerned as to how the money is to be spent. That is a most desirable feature. It does not apply to the tax reimbursement moneys or loan allocations to the States. The
Commonwealth is powerless to direct the States to help it in its national development plan. Any State, if it cares to go its own way regardless of national necessity, could seriously interfere with the development of this country because it has this power in its own hands. I am not a unificationist but I believe that the States have a responsibility in this matter. I believe that the Commonwealth, if it has the money, should make special grants to the States, but should also have the power to specify the purpose for which the money should be spent without actually saying that it is to be spent in this direction or in that particular avenue. It is a most desirable method of conducting the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States.
I now wish to refer to some of the remarks of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his second-reading speech. He said -
The Commonwealth made it clear that, providing the over-riding purpose of the grant was kept in mind -
This is where he is wise - it would have no objection if a State passed portion of the moneys allocated through its Consolidated Revenue Fund.
I do not see anything wrong with that. I think it is desirable that that should be permitted. Conditions attached to previous loans were not as wide as that. I welcome the expansion of that provision so long as the purpose is kept in mind. I think there are two purposes. One is that the money should assist in providing employment where employment opportunities are not readily available. That means that this is a grant for unemployment purposes as well as a grant to assist decentralization.
I have the idea that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said that in his State this money was passed over to municipal councils to be spent by them. I do not know whether that is permissible, but I hope that it is. Indeed, I hope that no restriction or prohibition is imposed upon a State government to prevent it allocating the money to local government authorities. A State government can lay down the purpose for which the money is to be spent. I have in mind the present circumstances of Western Australia. It may not be generally known to honorable members that roads in Western Australia have suffered severe damage through excessive flooding. There have been record rains, record floods and record damage. We have not come howling to the Commonwealth about it, although we may yet do so.
As yet, we cannot assess the damage but we know that it is of a record nature. The State undoubtedly will require assistance to enable it effectively to repair some roads and replace others. I hope that the State Government will be permitted to use the grant for that purpose. The State Government has not sufficient reserves to do this repair and replacement work in a reasonable time, and therefore, I hope that it will have power to allocate this money to various local authorities to spend where it is required to be spent because they, living as they do right on the job, can be the best assessors of what is needed and how quickly the work can be done. If the grant can be allocated in that way it will serve an additional purpose. It will provide employment opportunities in areas where few employment opportunities exist to-day. I will agree that there is, possibly, very little unemployment in some of these areas. This is because they stand still. This grant will ‘ provide employment opportunities, admittedly of a temporary kind, but sufficient to keep people employed until they get the jobs that are waiting for them in Western Australia, and which have been delayed only by the fact that we have not enough tradesmen to carry out the skilled parts of some jobs. One skill waits on another.
I do hope that provision will be made for some of this money to be spent through local authorities. If this is permitted, then it may be that Western Australia will not be obliged to come to the Commonwealth for flood damage assistance. It could mean that there would be no necessity for the State, with its limited resources, to match a Commonwealth grant £1 for £1 for the mending of road damage. It may be that a full assessment of the damage has not been made and will not be made for some time. It could be that when such an assessment is made, the State would still require Commonwealth assistance for the relief of flood damage, particularly to roads, even after it had used all of this £2,000,000. I hope that if this happens the Common wealth Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will waive the condition requiring the State to match the Commonwealth grant £1 for £1. Because of the rapid expansion that is going on in Western Australia, the State Government has no funds to divert for the relief of an emergency situation, and it would have to withhold funds from some urgent developmental projects, upon which subsequent development would depend. If such funds were withheld costly delay could ensue in the long run.
I support the bill. I commend the Government for bringing down the measure, and I commend it particularly for broadening the conditions attached to the grant, and for providing the money not merely for the relief of unemployment but in order to provide employment in places where employment opportunities are not readily available.
.- I enter this debate On a note of sadness, as I did when we debated similar measures in 1961-62 and 1962-63. The bill provides for assistance to the States for the relief of unemployment. The Government admits its culpability in this matter. It admits its failure to administer wisely and successfully the affairs of the Commonwealth, to provide for the adequate development of the nation, and to instil the confidence that will inspire industry to provide employment for the people.
We have, I am sorry to say - and I quote the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures - still about 80,000 people out of work. This is about the number who were out of work in the election year of 1961. Obviously the position has not improved. In that year the Government denied that unemployment was a serious problem. The people of Australia, or the vast majority of them, accepted the policy of the Australian Labour Party at the election in that year, but they were unable to unseat the Government. It was only at the insistence of the Australian electors that the Government, led by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), admitted the soundness of the Australian Labour Party’s policy and provided additional grants to relieve unemployment.
The purpose of the bill is the same as it was on the two previous occasions when similar measures were introduced. In his second-reading speech the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said-
In offering again a grant of this type to the States, the Commonwealth Government had in mind that it would enable the States to provide jobs in areas where employment opportunities were not as readily available as elsewhere or where more general measures to sustain and improve employment conditions might not be fully effective.
So the position is the same this year as it has been over the last two years. While I regret very much the need for this bill, I do commend the Government for admitting that the Labour Party was right. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said, this is just an example of another steal of Labour’s policy. It proves that we were right, and at least the Government is admitting that fact. The sorry feature of the situation is that there are still 80,000 people out of work, and it would appear from legislation before the Parliament that the Government has not much hope of reducing the number.
There is one unfortunate aspect of the bill to which I should direct attention. The Treasurer said -
The Commonwealth made it clear that, providing the over-riding purpose of the grant was kept in mind, it would have no objection if a State passed portion of the moneys allocated through its Consolidated Revenue Fund.
This is something that at least my own State of Queensland has taken advantage of. I know, from information that has been tabled, that the Queensland Government has not made full use of the money that has been granted by the Commonwealth for the relief of unemployment. All the money provided by way of special grants has not been used for unemployment relief. Instead, some of it has been channelled into the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purpose of meeting legitimate charges that are normally covered by the Consolidated Revenue Fund of Queensland. While the Treasurer has said that this is permissible, I am sure it was never intended that a large amount of the special grants made available for unemployment relief should be used for the normal expenditure of a State.
Of the total amount of £20,000,000 being made available, Queensland will get £2,400,000. This will go some way towards relieving unemployment, provided it is wisely spent by the Queensland Government. This, of course, applies also in the cases of the other States. But the sad feature is that the vote is greater this year than it was last year. The total amount has been increased by £2,500,000. That does not suggest that the Government has confidence in its ability to engender the enthusiasm in the economy that will inspire industry to engage in further development. Nor does it suggest that it has any confidence in the ability of the State Governments to relieve their various unemployment problems. The fact that the Government has felt it necessary to increase the vote under this heading alone by £2,500,000, as well as to increase the amounts available to the States by way of tax reimbursement and loan allocations, suggests that the State Governments, as well as the Commonwealth Government, are failing to meet the situation. In addition to this amount, which is for unemployment relief, there will be a large increase in the amount made available for road construction. This matter will be dealt with under another bill, so I refer to it only to say that that is an additional £4,000,000 that will be given to the States.
Had the Queensland Government shown statesmanship and initiative with the moneys made available for the relief of unemployment there would be no unemployment in that State. Various sums of money had been made available, by way of loan, by the Commonwealth Government - not by way of grants. I should like to refer first to the amount made available for the construction of the Mount Isa railway line. Other States have received preferential treatment when compared with the treatment of Queensland in this matter. An amount of £30,000,000 has been made available for the reconstruction of that line, but it was made available to the State <is a loan. The whole amount advanced by the Commonwealth for the reconstruction of that line must be repaid. That is very different from the conditions that apply to the railways from Broken Hill to Port Pirie and from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, where only 30 per cent, of the total cost will be charged to the States concerned. In addition, this Government has made available a large sum for the construction of beef roads and the development of brigalow lands in Queensland, but in these cases, again, the money is advanced as a loan and will impose an added charge on the revenues of that State.
The point I want to make is that so much money has been available to Queensland that there should be no unemployment in the various areas of that State where it is so pronounced at the present time. 1 will admit that there are difficulties in Queensland, but they could be resolved by statesmanlike action by the State Government if it set out to meet the situation. Large pockets of unemployment exist, particularly in northern Queensland, where to a great degree the employment is seasonal. The large sums of money that the Queensland Government has at its disposal should be used to meet the unemployment situation that suddenly arises when seasonal employment comes to a halt. The large seasonal industries which employ great numbers of men for certain times of the year are the meat slaughtering industry and the sugar industry. However, seasonal employment is not something that has just arisen; it has been with us always. The State Government should be able to meet this situation and should be able to plan to provide for the absorption in other forms of employment of men discharged from seasonal jobs.
The sad state of affairs is that the population of northern Queensland is now declining. I am indebted to my friend, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray), who told me only to-day that the electoral roll for his division reveals a drop of 800 on the enrolment for 1961. That is typical of the northern electorates and shows that the population is declining. It shows also that there is a responsibility for both the Commonwealth Government and the State Government to launch a policy which will arrest that situation and provide for a growth of population by ensuring increased opportunities for employment in those areas. Unfortunately, Queensland is missing out on immigration and on industry. Large new industries are not going to Queensland, and immigrants are not going there in the proportion thai they are going to other States. On a population basis Queensland has the worst record in the Commonwealth for the absorption of migrants. As we all know, Queensland is in the forefront of Australia’s defence proposals, and the best way to provide for adequate defence is, first, to provide for population in that area. The best way to attract population there is to attract industries that will provide jobs.
The Government of Queensland, in a desperate effort to do something to meet this situation, has appointed a committee of eight wise men. That committee was set up with much enthusiasm by the previous Minister for Labour and Industry in that State, but we have heard no more about the eight wise men. The Queensland Government is now bringing the Queensland Agent-General back from London to set up a new department in an effort to encourage industry. But the Government, while endeavouring to encourage industry, is apparently prepared to allow the development of our great natural resources to fall into the hands of overseas investors. This is a matter that has been touched upon at various times by other speakers, and particularly by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in the course of some remarks that he made in Victoria. Unfortunately, industries now being developed are not being developed entirely in the interests of this nation. I refer first to the development of the oil industry.
Oil has been discovered in Queensland and it will be piped to the coast where it will be refined and sold within the Commonwealth. The whole of the investment in Queensland’s oil-field, which is a commercial proposition, is in the hands of foreign investors. The pipeline used to carry the oil from Moonie to the coast does not incorporate 1 lb. of Australian steel - the whole of the steel in that pipeline has been imported from Japan. Not one penny has been spent in Australian industry in that regard.
I refer next to the development of the great coal resources of Queensland. Almost the whole of the north-eastern seaboard of Queensland has been built on coal which is being obtained by various methods. It is being mined by open cut and deep mining for export purposes - not for local consumption. It will be exported to Japan, principally. But a very sorry development is that whereas Queensland is exporting its coal, and Western Australia its iron ore, to Japan, that country has supplanted Australia as New Zealand’s principal supplier of steel. That has been brought about because we are using our natural resources for export purposes only and not for the creation of industries. By so doing we are tending to destroy some of our manufacturing industries. The loss of £15,000,000 from the export of steel products to New Zealand is a bad blow for the Australian industry.
I should like to see the development of large industries in Queensland encouraged by this Government. Some little time ago I was handed a copy of a speech delivered in Townsville in 1918 by a former Premier of Queensland, Mr. T. J. Ryan. I found in that speech very statesmanlike propositions for the development of northern Queensland which would have, had they been given effect, provided for a rapid development of that part of the State. One of the propositions was for the establishment of steelworks in north Queensland, in the vicinity of Bowen. I have vivid recollections of reading, as a boy, in the press of the enthusiasm of the National Party Opposition in Queensland and its organization of a delegation which was sent to London to thwart the efforts of the Premier of that day to obtain money for the establishment of that steelworks at Bowen.
We have gone from those days until now, and north Queensland is still crying out for development. That area has the natural resources to support rapid development. A great example of such development is the Mount Isa mineral field. That field was developed with the aid of a Labour government in Queensland many years ago. I understand that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), when he is in north Queensland, never loses an opportunity to visit Mount Isa and to praise the development of that great mineral area. Similar development could occur in other parts of Queensland if only the State and Federal Governments would make an effort, in cooperation, to plan and develop those areas. A glorious example of co-operation between the governments concerned can be seen in New South Wales and Victoria. I refer to the Snowy Mountains scheme. It is administered by the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority which was created under an agreement between the Commonwealth,
New South Wales and Victorian Governments. That scheme is a great example of the benefits of co-operation between governments. If the Queensland Government is really serious in its proclaimed desires to develop the northern part of that State, it should push the Prime Minister, in co-operation with the Western Australian Government, to establish a new authority for the northern part of Australia, under which the development of the rich natural resources in that area could be speeded up.
It is a sorry state of affairs when bauxite from one of the richest fields in the world - that on Cape York Peninsula - is being exported for processing. Our coal is going overseas, too. Iron ore, which is produced in abundant quantities in Australia, is also going overseas. There is a need for cooperation between governments, in conjunction with private enterprise, to ensure that Australia’s natural resources are developed. I hope the day is not far distant when we will see the establishment of an authority similar to the Snowy Mountains Authority, which will be charged with the responsibility of developing these potentially rich areas.
I hope, Mr. Speaker, that we have seen the last of bills of this kind, under which £20,000,000 is being voted for the relief of unemployment. I had hoped that we had seen the end of unemployment relief in Australia; but, apparently, it is a permanent feature of the policy of this Government. Full employment is the professed policy of this Government, but it appears from the actions of the Government that that policy has been abandoned. The only hope the Australian people have of seeing a policy of full employment implemented is for this Government to be thrown out at the earliest opportunity and for a government to be installed with the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) as Prime Minister.
.- The bill before the House provides for the payment of an interest-free non-repayable grant of £20,000,000 which will be divided among the States in proportion to their borrowing programmes for works and housing in 1962-63. Naturally, we on this side of the House welcome the grants; but in the light of our experience of the results of other grants we are far from confident that the problem which, according to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), they are supposed to solve will be solved, or that the unemployment position at this time next year will be any different from the present position. Experience has proved that this method of providing finance to the States for the purpose of relieving unemployment has failed very miserably. The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, said -
In offering again a grant of this type to the States, the Commonwealth Government had in mind that it would enable the States to provide jobs in areas where employment opportunities were not as readily available as elsewhere or more general measures to sustain and improve employment conditions might not be fully effective.
I have just said that experience has shown that these additional grants, which have no continuous application, will not correct the unemployment position. Naturally, if used intelligently, they must have some effect for a very limited time - only until the finance is exhausted. They certainly do not have the lasting effect which is desired and which must be achieved if we are to correct the serious unemployment position in Australia. Last year, when introducing a similar bill, the Treasurer spoke in almost the same terms as he has spoken on this occasion. He said -
The purpose’ of this bill is to authorize payment to the States of grants totalling £12,500,000 in this financial year. At the Premiers’ Conference held in conjunction with the recent Loan Council meeting the Commonwealth indicated that in addition to supporting the borrowing programme for State works and housing of £250,000,000 adopted by the Loan Council for 1962-63, it would be willing to make available a special nonrepayable interest-free grant of £12,500,000 to the States for expenditure on employment-giving activities.
Later in that speech he said -
It will be recalled that the Commonwealth paid to the States in 1961-62 a non-repayable grant of £10,000,000 which was intended to provide finance for employment-giving activities, mainly in the works field. In making the present offer of further assistance in 1962-63 the Commonwealth was influenced by the fact that there still exists a need to promote job opportunities. We expect this grant to have a beneficial impact on the employment position.
So there can be no doubt about the purpose behind this grant. What has happened in regard to the unemployment position in the years following those grants? The numbers of people unemployed from month to month have risen and fallen but they have never been reduced to any worthwhile extent. The number of people unemployed at the end of June this year was still 81,407. In Western Australia the number rose to 6,053, which was 2.1 per cent, of the registered work force. Only one State, Tasmania, was worse off than Western Australia. It had 2.6 per cent, of its work force unemployed. In July there was an increase of 1,764 in the number of people receiving unemployment relief. An analysis of the figures for each month over the past three years shows quite clearly that this Government is no nearer solving the problem of unemployment to-day than it was two years ago. While the additional grants are very welcome and should allow some extra and necessary developmental work to be carried out, there is no doubt that experience has shown that we will need to go much further and have a continuing and definite plan if we are to correct, completely and properly, the unemployment position.
I am pleased to see that this particular grant, because of the additional over-all amount and also because of the different method of calculation used this year as against last year, results in Western Australia receiving quite a substantial amount more than it did last year. However, I am far from satisfied with the haphazard way in which the Government is tackling the problem and I. am far from satisfied with the way that the Treasurer introduced the bill. The information he has given to us is scanty and incomplete as to bow the money will be spent on this occasion and as to how the grants of previous years were used in the various States. The only reference to how the grant will be used is in these few words of the Treasurer in the second-reading speech -
The Commonwealth made it clear that, providing the over-riding purpose of the grant was kept in mind, it would have no objection if a State passed portion of the moneys allocated through their Consolidated Revenue Funds. It was not intended that the way in which a particular State used its grant should affect, adversely or favourably, its position in other respects. The State Premiers accepted the Commonwealth’s offer and agreed to consult with the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service as to particular directions in which this money should be expended.
The over-riding purpose of the grant, as in the previous two years, is to try to improve employment avenues. All we know, however, is that the States agreed to confer with the Department of Labour and National Service as to how the money would be expended. We have not been told and we do not know whether discussion has taken place, whether it is still to take place or. if it has taken place, what was the result. Surely, as representatives of the various parts of the Commonwealth, we are entitled to be told - and the general public is also entitled to know - on what projects the money granted this year is to be spent. We are also entitled to be told, not only how the grants were spent in previous years, but what was the actual effect of the spending of that money in relation to the creation of employment and the continuation of such employment. As the Treasurer has said, that is the over-riding purpose of this particular grant.
For instance, surely we are entitled to know how much of the Western Australian grant of last year was spent in the north and north-west of that State. It could easily be that the whole amount was spent in that area and, if so, we should know on what projects it was spent and how much was spent on each project. We should also be given some idea of the extent of the work and the number of men employed on projects as a result of the use of the grant moneys. After all, if the whole of this additional grant was spent in the north, it is quite obvious that a much greater amount should have been directed into the north by other channels, because the amount of money provided for the development of the north is still completely insufficient.
Further, it could be that we would find, if we were given some particulars of what has happened to this money, that contracting or sub-contracting companies received a greater share than they were reasonably entitled to. On the other hand, it could be that the amount those companies received to cover purchases of machinery and plant was no more than they were reasonably entitled to and that the actual amount directed towards employment was not as much as it should have been. Whatever the result, whatever the money was spent on, I still say that this Parliament is entitled to know from the Treasurer, when introducing a bill of this nature and asking Parliament to approve of the grants of money, what purpose the previous grants have served. This is particularly so when we remember that this is the third year in which a grant of this nature - to relieve unemployment - has been made.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension, Mr. Speaker, I was pointing out that we, on this side of the House, welcome this grant to the States. We would welcome it under any circumstances because we are well aware that in other fields the Commonwealth is generally starving the States of finance. Therefore, anything they can get through avenues additional to the normal ones will be very acceptable to them. This applies particularly to Western Australia. Before the suspension I took the opportunity to express my feelings in regard to the Treasurer’s action in not giving the House any information on how this money would be spent to meet the purpose for which it is being granted - the relief of unemployment - and also his failure to give the House any particulars of how previous grants for the same purpose were spent and of their effect and impact, if any, on the unemployment position. I take rather strong exception to being asked to cast a vote on a proposal without being given some explanation of what its value will be. That is particularly so in this instance, when we remember that this is the third year in which such a grant has been made to try to relieve unemployment. We also know from experience of the previous two grants that not only has the purpose not been attained in the past but that in fact they made no material difference to the unemployment position.
It is becoming obvious that members of this Government are neither acquainted with nor concerned at the real problem of unemployment. They do not know what is required to correct the position. It could also be that the position is aggravated, or the purpose of the grant to some extent undermined by the State governments not using the money wisely or to the best advantage. It must be quite obvious to every one that the amount of this grant and the amounts of the previous two would do very little to relieve unemployment in the various States, no matter how carefully or wisely the money was used. It is quite certain that if this Government is going to depend on methods such as this to overcome unemployment, it will be necessary for it to give the States much more substantial amounts of money by way of grants than it has given in the past. After allowing for payments for machinery, fuel, repairs and other expenses and for profit to contractors and sub-contractors, the present grant will provide employment for each of the present registered unemployed for, at the very most, five or six weeks.
I am being generous in that estimate. I am certain that the period would be something less than that, because as every one knows, in these days of mechanization of the total amount of money spent on a job - particularly construction work - only a minor percentage is actually absorbed in employees’ wages. With the mechanized equipment which is used and which must be used if we want to carry out developmental work to the best advantage one man working for eight hours does as much work as several men would have done some years ago in a month or more. Therefore, while £20,000,000 may seem a great deal of money to be expended for a purpose such as this, it certainly will not provide work for a lot of men for a long time. In fact in some types of work, it will provide employment for only a very few men and for a very limited time.
Western Australia’s share of this grant is £1,882,000. Of course I am pleased to see this additional amount going to my State. I wish it were a lot more and it certainly should be a lot more. We, in this Parliament, are entitled to explore and examine the conditions and the purpose of the bill and the adequacy or inadequacy of the amount of money being provided. The Treasurer said that the main purpose of the bill was to overcome the serious unemployment position in the several States. I am sure that if he were to give the House, as he should do, a full explanation of how the previous grants were utilized, their impact on unemployment, and how it is proposed the present grant should be used, we would see clearly that this grant is completely inadequate to carry out the purposes of the bill. It becomes obvious that the Government is not very concerned at the fact that this grant will not have much effect on unemployment. If it were really concerned it would ensure. first, that more money was made available and, secondly, that it was used in the proper and most effective manner. If that were done we could expect the Government to be happy to come forward and give all the details of how the previous grants were spent and what their effect was on the purpose for which they were used.
It may be suggested by some one that I am competent to procure any information I require in regard to the expenditure of these grants by posing questions to the appropriate Ministers. I have tried that method on a couple of occasions in relation to beef roads, the Ord River project and other northern projects in Western Australia. The answers I received were to the effect that the Commonwealth granted the money and the States decided how it should be used and that if I wanted information of that kind I should ask the State departments. I take strong exception to that kind of answer when a member is seeking information on matters in which he is vitally interested. If this grant were stated to be for some specific job, for continuing some particular developmental work in the north, for expenditure on education services or some such purpose, a fuller explanation of the bill would not be so necessary. But when we are told that the money is -for a purpose similar to that of the grants paid last year and the year before, and when we know that that purpose was not achieved previously and is not likely to be achieved now, I repeat that we have the right to know how it is expected that the purpose will be met this year. The truth of the matter is that the Government knows that this grant will not have much effect on unemployment. It knows also that the States are not receiving sufficient money through other available channels at the rate or to the amount they require to carry out essential and developmental works. So the Government, as usual, acts in a smothering way and would have us believe that it wants to overcome unemployment. Some people - fortunately not too many - may fall for the trap. The Government grants in this way an amount of money which should have been granted through other avenues to meet the requirements of the States. The Government says this grant is to create employment, knowing full well all the time that the grant will be completely inadequate when measured against the needs of some 100,000 unemployed.
If the Government is concerned about unemployment, why does it not grant sufficient money for the States to start and continue essential works and development? Why use this method of “ Now we go; now we hesitate; now we stop “? Why does the Government not set out on a plan under which it can grant the necessary money so that work can be continued without stop-and-go methods? Keeping in mind the purposes of this bill, it is worth while to refer to a document entitled, “ Commonwealth Payments to or for the States “, which was presented by the Treasurer. I refer particularly to that part of it which deals with payments for specific purposes of a capital nature. My reference is to those parts which affect the electorate which I have the privilege of representing and which includes the north and northwest of Western Australia. Much is being said about progress in the north. I am the first to admit that there is progress in the north and let me add, for the benefit of those who may not know the position, that the development of the north and its present progress are due to the efforts of Labour men and Labour governments. The man who held the seat of Kalgoorlie and who at the same time was Minister for the Interior was a prime mover in the project now called Camballin, which will, in the very near future produce many thousands of pounds worth of export and home consumption goods.
– To whom is the honorable member referring?
– That was Vic Johnson.
In 1944, Mr. Curtin, who was then Prime Minister, pressed the Premiers of the States to take an urgent interest in the north, and he emphasized the need for development of the north. Later, the Wise Labour Government of Western Australia - wise by its actions and in all ways, not just by name - made many major moves in the development of the north of Western Australia. It was the Wise Government that established the Kimberley Research Station and commenced research into the growing of crops such as fodder, sugar and cotton. Still later, the Hawke Labour Government of Western Australia made the approaches to the Federal Government that led to the first worth-while moneys being made available for the development of the north. The greatest tragedy that has occurred with respect to the development of the north of Western Australia was the defeat of the Hawke Labour Government in March of 1959, just at the time when the Ord River scheme was being put into operation. Honorable members who care to make inquiries and undertake a little research will find that all water conservation and water supply schemes in Western Australia have been completed or started by a Labour government. I challenge any one to contradict that statement.
After all the talk of progress for the north, we find that this financial year the funds allocated for the development of the northern part of Western Australia, the replacement of the Derby jetty and the development of cattle roads in Western Australia are £332,000 less than the amounts allocated for these purposes in 1962-63. No provision is made for funds for the Ord River main dam or for dams on either the Fitzroy River or the Margaret River. There is no mention of moneys for the Gascoyne area, nor is there any mention of funds for a water supply for Geraldton. The whole trouble is that there is no organized planning of development projects in the north and of the financing of such projects. Until the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of Western Australia and Queensland get together and form a northern development authority for the purpose of planning works for several years ahead, the progress of the north and its development will be very limited and will continue in the present haphazard manner.
The haphazard, stop-and-go methods being used, in the north of Western Australia at any rate, are proving very expensive and very wasteful. First, the States must have sufficient money to be able either to continue with a certain project or to avoid long and unnecessary breaks between projects. When there is not continuity of jobs or of work on a particular project, the cost of transporting equipment and establishing necessary conditions takes a large slice out of the moneys available for projects. Contractors and sub-contractors, quite naturally, make provision, when estimating their tender prices, for the cost of transporting their machines and other equipment from the south to the north. If a job will last only a short time and there will be no continuity of work, they must allow for the cost of transporting the equipment back to the south. When this happens all the time, transport costs absorb a tremendous proportion of funds that should rightfully be employed directly on development projects. If this occurs, as it has done for several years now, large sums will be wasted instead of being spent on development work. I understand that this is happening on the Ord River scheme at present. A lot of equipment for which there is no use now that the diversion dam is completed is being taken away simply because there is no indication whether the main dam will be commenced and how long the job will be if it is started.
I say in conclusion, Sir, that all the grant to Western Australia provided for in this measure, and much more, are required for the development of the north of Western Australia alone, and a great deal more is required for the purpose of providing water supplies, roads, education facilities and many other things needed throughout Western Australia. If these grants represent the best that the Government can do to overcome the unemployment position, it must admit that, just as it has failed miserably in the past, it will continue to fail in the future. If this Government is genuine in its claim that it is making provision to help the unemployed, it should provide finance to give a general stimulus to Australia. A much better and surer method, however, would be for it to go out of office and let Labour take over the reins of government.
– Mr. Speaker, one never likes to take issue too much with an honorable member who speaks of his own electorate, but perhaps the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) has been a little partisan. I have just had an opportunity to visit the northwestern part of his electorate, and it seems to me that the capital works being undertaken there are being financed either by the present Liberal Government of Western Australia or out of funds provided by the present Commonwealth Government. This is true of port works on the Wyndham and Derby jetties and at Broome, of road works, including the big reconstruction of the road from Wyndham through Hall’s Creek and Fitzroy Crossing and the road to Mr Howe, of the diversion weirs on the Ord River and the Fitzroy River and of the great Ord River scheme that has been implemented. Those projects, between them, represent 95 per cent, of the progress that has been made in the north-west of Western Australia - progress that I for one hope will be continued.
I support the bill now before us, but I am a little puzzled by one or two things and I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will be able to give me some information about them. In the first place, I am a little puzzled about the introduction of a separate bill for this purpose instead of the grants being included in the Budget provision in the .normal course. These are unconditional grants to the States and, as the Treasurer said in his second-reading speech, the States can pay these funds into their consolidated revenue funds if they wish to do so. lt seems to me that in this situation, in which no special conditions are involved, this special bill is superfluous. The Minister, with his technical knowledge of the position, may be able to put me straight on that matter.
These grants come out of discussions at a recent Premiers’ Conference. I think that the House should take note of the secrecy of those discussions. Technically, of course, the major part of any Premiers’ Conference is open and not secret. But the practice is that the meetings, which take place in this chamber, alternate between the Australian Loan Council and the Premiers’ Conference quite capriciously. It is impossible for anybody to know what is happening and, because the Loan Council meets in secret, it is not possible to know when the meeting has switched to the Premiers’ Conference and the proceedings are open for inspection.
– The honorable member ought to know. He was thrown out.
– That is perfectly, true. I attended to see for myself. As it happens, I used to be an officer of the Loan Council and I know something of the procedure. In general, it seems to me remarkable that we do not know how agreement on the allocation of the amounts set forth in the schedule to the bill was reached. Unfortunately, New South Wales, the State to which I belong, is governed by an administration that is completely incompetent to look after the interests of that State. At meetings of the Australian Loan’ Council, and at Premiers’ Conferences, New South Wales has been consistently and unjustly worsted by the astuter representatives of other States, particularly Victoria. I make no complaint that States such as Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland, which have large areas and sparse populations, should be receiving more per capita than my own State of New South Wales, but I do complain of the fact that, consistently and for many years, Victoria, which, as a small and concentrated State, should expect a lower payment per capita, has, in point of fact, been getting a lot more than New South Wales.
I put this down to the incompetence of the New South Wales Labour Government. It has been worsted by Victoria and has been entirely incompetent to look after the interests of its own citizens. This injustice appears again in this bill. It appears in a very moderate form, but it still appears. As I have said, it is not possible to know anything of the negotiations which led up to the figures in the schedule. I understand from the Treasurer’s speech that they had the unanimous support of the States, and therefore the support of the New South Wales Labour Government.
On previous occasions, the allocation of this special money as between the States had reference to need. When money was given for the relief of unemployment - as this money is being given - some regard was taken of the unemployment situation in the States. To-day, the number of registered unemployed in New South Wales is nearly twice the number in Victoria. The last figures available showed that there were 34,258 registered unemployed in New South Wales and 19,135 in Victoria. The same ratio roughly holds good for the recipients of the unemployment benefit, of whom, on the last figures available, there were 16,887 in New South Wales and 8,548 in Victoria. One would have thought that a grant which was made for the purpose of relieving unemployment would have been allocated in the ratio of twice as much to New South Wales as to Victoria. This would seem to be inherently reasonable. But if honorable members look at the schedule to the bill, they will find that this is not so. New South Wales is to receive £6,400,000 and Victoria £5,140,000. The allocations are not even in proportion to population. It is perfectly true, as I am reminded, that they are in proportion to borrowings, but I say that New South Wales has been consistently outsmarted by Victoria in connexion with borrowings. I claim that the New South Wales Labour Government is incompetent to protect the interests of the people of New South Wales. The great incompetence has occurred, not with allocations by the Loan Council under the Financial Agreement but with Loan Council allocations under the gentleman’s agreement. I hope to refer to this matter at some later stage.
But, even under the Financial Agreement, last year Victoria was allocated £22.6 per head of population and New South Wales only £21.1. I do not know why the New South Wales Government concurred in this. The decision was unanimous, so the New South Wales Government must have concurred. I would have liked to be present at the meeting of the Loan Council to see what happened and to endeavour to protect the interests of the New South Wales citizens to some extent, but this was not to be. Unfortunately, the interests of the New South Wales citizens had to be left in the hands of an incompetent Labour Government and they were, therefore, not fully protected.
I think it is a pity that when this amount of £20,000,000 was allocated, it was not allocated, as in the past, on the basis of need and unemployment or on a per capita basis, as perhaps it should have been, or on the basis of area and population, as perhaps it should have been. The fact is that the small and concentrated State of Victoria received more per capita than the bigger and less closely settled State of New South Wales, in spite of the fact that unemployment in New South Wales was much higher than in Victoria. I can understand that the Treasurer would do this only with the concurrence of the New South Wales Government, and I do not blame the Treasurer. But we can blame the New South Wales Government which has allowed this plunder of New South Wales to £0 on for the past ten years or more. This is not an isolated case. I shall return to this matter in more detail when another bill comes before the House.
Perhaps this is not the time to go into the whole matter of allocations by the Loan Council, but it is time to go into the allocation of the amount that we are now to vote. If New South Wales had received even the same per capita amount as Victoria it would have obtained another £500,000. I was sorely tempted to move an amendment to that effect. I am not going to do so because I am assured that - I take this as true - to carry such an amendment would involve the resignation of this Government. I do not want to precipitate such a state of affairs.
I appeal to the Premier and Treasurer of New South Wales to show a little more competence in protecting the interests of their citizens when financial allocations come before the Loan Council and the Premiers’ Conference.
The true enormity of the present situation may be seen from the fact that if New South Wales had received the same per capita allocations as Victoria over the past fourteen years - and it was entitled to more per capita than Victoria - it would have received another £450,000,000. That is a calculated figure. I have here a schedule showing how it was calculated. With the concurrence of honorable members, I incorporate the document in “ Hansard “.
That is a somewhat complicated schedule and I hope that honorable members will study it to-morrow. I stand on the proposition that if New South Wales had had the same per capita allocation as Victoria it would have received another £450,000,000. That is a lot of money. The New South Wales Government has been a party to every one of these decisions, because every one of them was unanimous. In the final analysis nobody but the Government of New South Wales is to blame for permitting the plunder of our State which has gone on for so long and which should now stop.
– I thought you were a national man, not a parish pump man.
– An Opposition member comments that this is a parish pump matter. I am not adopting a parish pump attitude. I am protesting against the handling of the parish pump by other people, and I think that this must stop.
The people of New South Wales have themselves to thank, in a way, for having allowed their incompetent Labour Government to remain in office for so long and to betray their interests. But I say also - I shall say it again, I hope in more detail, later - that it is wrong that all the discussions at the Australian Loan Council should be conducted in secret. This monstrous state of affairs in regard to allocations has been possible only because the facts have been covered up, and it does seem to me that, though secrecy is essential for some aspects of the Australian Loan Council meetings, secrecy has been completely overdone. As I say, I shall not pursue this matter at present. I hope to revert to it when speaking to another bill which will be before us later in the session. I simply say that although the present disparity in the bill is small - it is a matter of only half a million pounds or so - New South Wales has not received the same treatment as Victoria has. Although it is a minor discrepancy it is one that I believe should be brought to the attention of the Treasurer and the country and particularly to the attention of the people of New South Wales so that they can call their State Government to account for what it has allowed to be done to them.
I support the bill. I am a little puzzled at why we should have a separate bill when there are no reasons why the grant could not be made in the Budget in the normal way. I make my protest at the secret way in which the allocation was made and I again register my complete bewilderment at the way in which the New South Wales Labour Government has allowed its people to be pillaged over the past fourteen years.
.- Before I address myself to the provisions of the bill I want to say one or two words in reply to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who spent a considerable time in criticizing the New South Wales Labour Government under the guise of supporting further allocations of funds to that State. ‘ I agree with him that the New South Wales Government should get more funds. This Liberal-Country Party Government, with its political bias, denies to New South Wales the consideration that it gives to other States because of political patronage. The honorable member accused the New South Wales Government of incompetence. The New South Wales Government has been in office for 22 years and at the last election, after twenty years in office, was elected with an overwhelming majority. I remind the honorable member that when the last State election was being held the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said in this Parliament that he would not underwrite the promises that the State Liberal Party said it would fulfil if elected.
The Liberal and Australian Country Parties of New South Wales are the greatest collection of no-hopers ever gathered together in any parliament in this Commonwealth. They change their leader like we change our shirts, because every Liberal in New South Wales knows he will never be Premier. The people of New South Wales again and again have endorsed this so-called incompetent Labour Government because it has given them prosperity within the limitations imposed by the failing economic policies of the Commonwealth Government which have created unparalleled unemployment when we should be prosperous. The New South Wales Government has given to men and women in industry three weeks annual leave and a 40-hour week. It has also given them long service leave and the working conditions that have been denied to the people by Liberal governments wherever they have been in office throughout the Commonwealth. The New South Wales Government has granted equal pay for men and women. Yet this is the government that the honorable member for Mackellar says is incompetent. It is led by most reputable men who have brought great distinction to the New South Wales Parliament and have given to all sections of the community a measure of prosperity that was not known until Labour took office.
The honorable member for Mackellar can say what he likes about what is done in this Parliament. To-night he said he would not vote a certain way because if he did he would defeat the Government. At the same time he said that the Government was robbing the people of New South Wales. In other words, the honorable member for Mackellar, to save his seat and his political hide, is prepared to support a Government which he says is guilty of downright robbery of the people of New South Wales. I am sick and tired of the honorable member talking one way in the Parliament and voting another. Let him show that independence of spirit that honorable members opposite say belongs entirely to the Liberal Party. They say they can vote as they like and do as they like in the Parliament and that they are not tied to the party line. The honorable member for Mackellar now has his chance; but when the opportunity presents itself his independence fades because he knows that he will be out of political life if he votes the way his conscience dictates on such issues as this. His humbug and hypocrisy about supporting the people of New South Wales does not impress me.
The handout we are discussing now has become a permanent part of Liberal Party economic policy. It has become necessary because of the Government’s failure to implement the policy of full employment on which it was elected. For the third successive financial year a grant is being made to the States to provide exclusively for unemployment. The details of the grant were outlined by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) when he spoke to-day. This year the sum of £20,000.000 is being allocated. Last year the amount was £17,500,000 and the year before it was £10,000,000. These grants have been necessary because the Government has failed to provide full employment. As this has become a permanent feature of the Government’s policy I think I should analyse the Government’s attitude to employment. I have here a booklet which contains the unforgettable policy speech of the present Government parties in 1949. In it the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) gave an undertaking that full employment would be maintained. In 1961 the Prime Minister said -
We confidently expect to restore full employment in twelve months without any of Mr. Calwell’s inflationary policies.
Yet almost all of those policies have since been adopted by the Government.
What is the Government’s policy? Is it a policy of full employment or of maximum employment? Is it a policy that provides that the highest measure of employment means that 100,000 people will always be out of work? Does the Government believe that men and women should be allowed to work? The Menzies Government believes in maximum employment and not in full employment. In the most vicious way it seeks to have men and women waiting outside the factory gates so that it can obtain greater efficiency for these employers who support the Liberal Party.
The Government’s economic policies have completely collapsed. From March to June of this year the number of persons registered for employment remained almost stationary. The Government’s earlier efforts to restore employment have petered out and to-day we still have 80,000 people unemployed. The reduction in the number of unemployed has been so small that the Government’s policies, predictions and remedies have been proved to be completely false. The Budget figures show that £30,000,000 was allocated for unemployment relief last year and that that figure has already been exceeded by more than 10 per cent. The Government said that it would produce full employment within twelve months. However, the average number of unemployed has been, not the 80,000 that the Government anticipated in the last Budget, but 88,000 each month.
To-day the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), in the usual happy manner do not like to be uncharitable, but I believe that that state of affairs has been deliberately designed by the Government as its method of bringing efficiency to industry. It believes in having available more men than jobs and in that way to get the greatest return from their labour. The honorable member for Macarthur, who is again interjecting, is forever in the forefront in this Parliament in defending the exploitation of the workers and other persons in the country. Although he represents a blue ribbon Liberal seat, he went close to defeat at the last election. Who knows but that he may be looking across the chamber for the last time. in which he addresses the Parliament, let the cat out of the bag. But on this issue he was unduly serious. These are his words -
It is the Government’s policy to ensure the highest possible level of employment.
In other words, he denied that he or the Government believed in full employment. He devoted the greater part of his speech to saying that the Government believed in the highest level of employment as against full employment. As you, Mr. Speaker, know, the two things are totally different.
When we analyse these annual measures which are designed to give employment to the people of Australia through the States, let us remember that this Government believes, in good seasons and bad, that at least 100,000 men and women should be unable to find employment. That is the policy of the Australian Country Party. It has always been a long-hours-low-wage party - and a party that believes in unemployment, when it suits it. To-day that party is combining with its partner in the coalition to keep 80,000 persons out of work.
Let us take a look at the record of this Government, which does not believe in full employment, as opposed to that of Labour. In December, 1949, when the Labour Government was defeated, a total of 9.800 persons in Australia were registered as unemployed. That figure continually rose after this Government assumed office until in December, 1961, it was 115,000 and even at present is 81,000. In December, 1949. more than 96,000 vacancies were registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service and only approximately 9,000 persons were seeking work. At the present time there are only 21,000 vacancies but there are 81,000 persons out of work.
– Wouldn’t you like that to be true?
– Let the honorable member rise later and defend the existence of 81,000 unemployed persons. In December, 1949, only 700 persons were in receipt of unemployment benefit, but in June of this year the number had risen to 38,000. Those figures speak for themselves. They show a trend away from full employment since this Government assumed office. I
In December, 1961, just prior to the general election, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) promised to restore full employment within twelve months. That promise was forced out of him at the point of a political bayonet. He said that the Labour leader had made such a promise and he had to equal it. At that time 115,000 persons were unemployed as a result of this Government’s policies. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), according to what he said in his own fancy way at that time, and all the other members of the Cabinet believed that the economy was working perfectly. To-day approximately 81,000 persons are unemployed. That means that in eighteen months the number of unemployed has dropped from 115,000 to 81,000- a drop of 2,000 for each month since this Government promised to restore full employment. If that rate of reduction continues, it will be years before this Government places in work the people who are at present registered for employment. The youngest and best-looking member of the Opposition may not be here to see the last name taken off that list that the Liberal-Australian Country Party Government has had compiled at the various unemployment offices under the policy it has pursued following its pledge to maintain full employment.
Let people everywhere remember that this Government is intent upon keeping the number of unemployed between 80,000 and 100,000. The Budget provides for that and the Government’s figures show that to be its policy. I think that even those figures are rigged, because I believe there are still a lot more people who are not registered as unemployed. I point out again to the people of Australia wherever they may be, particularly if they are unemployed, that the economic policy of this Government is designed to keep a number of between 80,000 and 100,000 persons unemployed in the interests of efficiency and those things which bring profit to industry. No matter how we look at the matter, Mr. Speaker - I am sorry to have to include you in this category - the party to which you belong does not believe in full employment. When the Government speaks of employment and these grants, it realizes that the grants are only sops to cover up its incompetence.
Is it not scandalous that many people under 21 years of age in Australia cannot get work under the administration of a Liberal Government? I asked a question on this subject some time ago and I received an answer, with the usual Liberal Party speed, some months later. The figures supplied are the only ones that are available to me; I have only just received the information. On 26th April, 1963, a total of 51,600 males and 33,025 females were registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service throughout Australia. Of that number approximately 27,000 were under 21 years of age and more than 57,000 were over 21 years of age. In other words, approximately 30 per cent, of the unemployed in Australia in April of this year were under 21 years of age. It is scandalous in the extreme that these young people should have to leave school and go on the dole in spite of the policy that was announced by the Government at the last election. The Government said that life had never been better than it had been under the Liberals. What a policy to espouse. To-night we are again considering the Government’s annual expenditure on unemployment, but Ministers do not come forward to defend the Government’s policy. Backbenchers remain silent about the matter but talk about other things.
– You are just not fair dinkum.
– They do interject, but they do not rise and defend the Government’s policy on unemployment. I mention these matters to show what has happened in relation to unemployment under this Government’s administration. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) is on record as having said that this Government should no longer pursue its immoral course of fighting inflation when there is a standing army of unemployed. How true that statement is. To-day when 80,000 persons are unemployed, the Government says that it must adopt certain measures to restrain inflation because there is too much prosperity. What is needed from this Government is not a hand-out for employment purposes. When this money goes to the States it will be spent and there will be no further relief until the next grant is made. What is needed is a budget that will stimulate the development of the far north of Western Australia and other areas, as mentioned by my colleague, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard).
Expansionary measures that have been outlined by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in various speeches, particularly during recent sessions of the Parliament, indicate what could be done by a government that had the vision to implement them. Increased spending power in the community is necessary instead of sops like the one we are now debating. The best way in which to provide that spending power is to increase substantially the wide range of social service benefits. People who are in receipt of these benefits badly need such increases, and if they were granted the money would go into circulation immediately.
The Liberal Party is glossing over unemployment in Australia. Let me refer to an organ which supported Liberal members and which was responsible for putting most of them into the Parliament in 1949. An extract from the “ Review “, published by the Institute of Public Affairs, for the period April to June of this year, has this to say about unemployment -
Not much more than two decades ago, people seemed to be almost resigned to unemployment of 8 to 10 per cent, as if it were part of a natural economic order. It was only when unemployment rose to calamitous proportions that governments confronted the prospect of political defeat. But now politicians must face the hard fact that the voters expect full employment and resolutely refuse to accept anything less. No excuses - even legitimate ones - will be accepted.
Good luck to the voters! Every man is entitled to a job; every man is entitled to work. If it is good enough to employ people in times of war it is good enough in times of peace for Liberal governments not to make money available in grants and hand-outs like this, but to introduce policies and economic proposals that will stimulate the employment of people from one end of the country to the other. I believe what the writer of this article says. Unemployment will not be accepted by the Australian people because it means not only great loss to the persons immediately concerned but also great loss in production as well as humiliation to the people immediately concerned, loss to the nation generally and a reduction in the standard of living of all citizens. I believe that what is necessary is a change of government. I hope that, as a result of the introduction of the present Budget, we shall be given an opportunity to give effect to those policies which we know can bring to this country a state of full employment, which the Labour Party is pledged to promote and which a Labour government did introduce in this country.
Let us look at the other side of the position. What is the reason why the Government’s policies have failed? It is that the Government lacks any proper plan. The members of the Government have fallen for their own propaganda that all is well. The Government has failed because, as I said earlier, it has no desire to maintain employment. Who will ever forget the remarkable speech by the Prime Minister in 1961 when he said, “ Our policy has worked - it has achieved the most significant results “? Why, at that particular moment there were 115,000 people unable to obtain work! That fact alone indicates this Government’s inability to propound a sound policy to deal with this issue of unemployment.
I wonder whether the Government will be prepared to test its employment policy at the East Sydney by-election which will be held a few weeks from now. At the by-election I should like to see the Government espouse its policy under which from 80,000 to 100,000 people are unable to obtain work. Let the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) go to the Paddington Town Hall and tell the people there that they are not entitled to a job under this Government’s policy. Let the
Country Party members go to the East Sydney electorate and tell the people they believe in this policy of relying on paltry hand-outs to the States because the nation cannot afford to give the people work. I hope that they do not hide from the people the fact that they support such a policy. I hope that they will stand up and defend their policy and let the people pass judgment on this Government which denies men and women the right to work and earn the wherewithal with which to enjoy a decent standard of living. But, of course, Government supporters will skulk away; they will not stand up to their responsibility. They will hide behind this proposed grant of a miserable £20,000,000 when, in fact, such a measure ought not to be necessary. What the Government should be doing is introducing policies that will bring to the people those things which they should have.
I believe that the bills under consideration to-night have become necessary because of the general discord, discontent and disunity that we see in the parties opposite. Every honorable member who has seen the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in action in this Parliament even to-day knows that their differences on economic policy are so wide that we can never hope to have stable government from them. We can never hope to have full employment or even a high level of employment while they are in office. The Country Party differs with its coalition partner on everything from the gerrymandering of electorates, import controls, deficit budgeting, the credit squeeze and interest rates to economic policies. Neither party in this coalition has any confidence in its own policies, nor can either party give effect to one that will bring results that will give employment throughout the country. The stop-and-go policies of Liberal and Country Party Treasurers and financial advisers have brought this country to its knees economically. The best this coalition government can do is make money available by way of grants to give only temporary employment to a number of people.
I mention these things because it would appear that the Government has departed a long way from the great things it espoused at elections gone by. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) remains silent in his place to-night, quietly accepting the fact that under this Government men are not entitled to work. Who will ever forget his orations in respect of minor matters when he sat in opposition to a Labour government? Yet, to-day he is content to sit and see men and women suffer while he gives no expression to the views he used to express on those occasions. To-day he will not stand up and express his views on these issues. I will never forget the Liberal Party propaganda in past days on this issue of unemployment which we are discussing to-night. We can all recall the year 1949 when most honorable members opposite won the election on the false pledges that were given to the Australian people, especially the false pledges that were given in relation to full employment and social security. We can read through all the policy speeches of the present Government parties right up until the last election. The same face appears on the front of each pamphlet. In each is the same old slogan - “ We have never had it better “ - but the fact is that we have 115,000 unemployed.
Let me read some of the pious sentiments expressed by the Liberal Party in its publication, “ This is what we have done “. On page 31 of that publication, authorized by Mr. J. R. Willoughby, we have this statement by the Prime Minister -
We believe that national financial and economic power and policy are not to be designed to control men’s lives, but to create a climate in which men may be enabled to work out their own salvation in their own way.
In this belief the Liberal Party affirms its implacable opposition to the Labour Party’s financial and economic policies which always have and always will aim at asserting the doctrine of the allpowerful State.
I wonder what they think about the Budget? What about the policies to which they have given effect in the last few months, every one of which they have taken from Labour’s programme? The only Labour policy that they have not given effect to or endeavoured to put into operation in recent months is our policy of full employment. Possibly they have not done that, not because they cannot do it, but because they do not believe in it. The publication to which I have referred goes on to say -
By contrast, the Menzies Government has steadily and consistently pursued great national policies intended always to preserve the kind of economic climate in which energetic and ambitious men and women may build for themselves while building for the nation. Policy and performance have marched together to give Australia general prosperity in the ‘fifties and exciting opportunities in the ‘sixties.
Exciting opportunities! There are about 80,000 unemployed! Forty years to get off the dole! Every year under this Government industries have been crippled, there has been no development in the far north of Australia, countless millions of pounds have been spent on defence and men and women are still unemployed. This is the land of opportunity in which the Liberal and Country Parties say they believe. Surely if anything should show to the people the falseness of the promises made by those honorable members opposite who occupy the treasury-bench - they are indelibly written into their propaganda - it is their past performances. To-night I join with other honorable members of the Opposition in expressing thanks, of course, to the Government for giving anything at all to relieve the unemployment situation but I place on record, with the other members on this side of the Parliament, my condemnation of policies that keep men and women unemployed. The late Ben Chifley said in this Parliament, “ While ever I am Prime Minister of this country, come what may, I will never see men and women unemployed while we have such great resources in this country and so much to be done”. The Labour Government carried out that policy. In 1949 we had only 9,000 people temporarily out of work as against 80,000 unemployed to-day. What a tragic change it was for the people of this country when a Tory administration came to office! If anything demostrates that the parties opposite represent all that is bad in monopoly control in this country it is their denial to the people of the right to work and the need to vote the money which we are voting to-night. I join with members of the Opposition in condemning the policies that have made this legislation necessary to-night and I trust that this Government will go out on the hustings at the by-election I have mentioned and let the public pass judgment on its policies which are opposed to all the decent principles for which all men in this country stand.
.- The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is a man of unique talent. He has the unique talent of being able to use more words to say less than any other honorable member in this House. He describes the Government as a government of no-hopers. He is a fine example of a no-hoper hoping. Next week, there is to be an election within his party. Then, all those of his colleagues who wish to punish their senior colleagues who now sit on the front bench of the Opposition and who wish to subject us to eternal ear bashings at great length will no doubt vote for the honorable member for Grayndler.
– They are not as silly as that.
– I do not know. They might be. At least that delightful executive sitting on the front bench might be enlightened by a story or two. In some respects, most of us would say, they would pay extremely dearly. The honorable member talked at great length about unemployment. What are the facts, shortly and sharply? Under the Menzies Government, not only has the proportion of unemployment been lower than ever before in Australian history but also it is, even to-day, proportionately the lowest in the advanced countries of the world. In relation to the 80,000 persons unemployed, the last thing that the honorable member for Grayndler, who is about to take off, will do is to analyse the position closely. There are large numbers in transit from one job to another and there are large numbers of untrained, unskilled people. Of course, nobody has other than extreme sympathy for those persons who are unemployed, but surely no member of the House would say that we should not continuously improve our methods of training and our methods of efficiently placing people in the right kind of job. Anyone who said that employment should be full, in the sense of every Australian being employed every working day of the year, would be suggesting something that was physically impossible.
The honorable member for Grayndler began by accusing the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and this Government of being biased against the
Labour Government of New South Wales. What are the facts in relation to grants to New South Wales, for which this Government has some responsibility - in fact the major responsibility. These grants are in two sections, the first being payments made by the Commonwealth to the States and the other - quite distinct and separate - being what the States, amongst themselves, decide to allocate out of loan moneys to each other. The truth is that payments a head of population in New South Wales - that is what is important, because the populations of the States differ widely - as shown in the document entitled “ Commonwealth Payments to or for the States 1963- 64”, at page 43, will amount this year to £35 16s. 8d., which is £1 6s. 4d. a head more than the amount that Victoria will receive, namely, £34 10s. 4d. New South Wales has in fact for every year of the past thirteen years, except three, received more a head of population than Victoria has received from the Commonwealth Government. This year the amount will be £1 6s. 4d. In most years the margin is quite considerable, for various well known and well appreciated reasons.
In relation to the other matters on which, after all, the States themselves make decisions, there are two headings. The first relates to borrowing programmes for State works and housing purposes. For 1963-64, the estimated amounts a head of population, which is the only standard that one can take, are £21 2s. 9d. for New South Wales and £22 10s. 7d. for Victoria. It is a fact that in this particular sector of the borrowing programmes to which the States agree amongst themselves in the Loan Council, Victoria borrowed slightly more than New South Wales borrowed. The other sector concerns borrowings approved by the Loan Council for semi-governmental and local authorities. This, too, is a sphere controlled not by the Commonwealth but by the State governments acting in concert. On page 60 of the document to which I have referred we see the figures for the last year for which figures are available, namely 1962- 63. New South Wales received £10 lis. 7d. a head of population and Victoria £15 13s. id.
Searching amongst these figures, one sees quite definitely that where the Commonwealth is responsible - this is not particularly to favour one State against another, because the reasons are well known - payments a head of population to New South Wales are consistently higher than those to Victoria. It is in the sphere of semigovernmental and local authority borrowings, particularly, that the per capita figures are so much higher for Victoria than for New South Wales. To carry the comparison further, the champion borrower in this sector relating to spontaneous borrowings by local authorities approved by the States and ultimately by the Loan Council, is Queensland; it touches the market for more than anybody else.
It is quite untrue to make out, as the honorable member for Grayndler made out. that the Commonwealth Government has discriminated against the Labour-governed State of New South Wales. That allegation is completely without foundation. The honorable member for Grayndler complains that this Government is not stable. His real complaint is that the Government is too stable.
.- I am very pleased to have an opportunity to associate myself with this measure for the provision of additional financial assistance to the States to relieve unemployment. The money is welcome, as are all moneys which help to put people back to work, but speakers on this side of the House claim that the amount is entirely inadequate. During the Budget session last year, the Government brought down a measure similar to this, to provide £12,500,000 for the relief of unemployment. In the debate on that measure, the Opposition criticized the paucity of the amount provided. As a result, it will be remembered, an additional measure was brought down later to provide a further sum of £5,000,000. We said then that the total amount, £17,500,000, was still inadequate. That has proved to be so, because now further amounts are required to get people back to work.
The measure proposes the provision of £20.000,000, to be divided amongst the States as follows -
We claim that these amounts are inadequate. Does the Treasurer consider a mere £20,000,000 to be sufficient to get our unemployed back to work?
What is needed is a planned public works programme to help to stimulate the economy and take up the slack of unemployment. There are still 81,407 unemployed persons in Australia, despite the statement made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) more than eighteen months ago that the unemployment problem would be solved within eighteen months. Does he consider a figure of more than 81,000 as being the recognized minimum? Does he agree with the statement made by Mr. W. G. Gerard, the president of the Australian Metal Industries Association, as reported on 11th February, 1963, to the effect that Australians would have to get used to the idea that there always would be 70,000 to 80,000 people out of work? Mr. Gerard is also reported to have said that if applications for employment stayed at 2 per cent, of the work force, about 86,000, Australia would be doing well by world standards.
Does the Prime Minister consider that to have more than 80,000 persons unemployed is full employment? The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury), in discussing this important matter, expressed the view that all the work force could not be fully employed. He did not say how many unemployed persons there should be, but apparently he follows the line of thinking that there has to be a pool of unemployed. I wonder whether he, too, considers that a figure of 80,000 unemployed is so near to full employment that it does not matter.
We need some economic stimulus at the present time. This measure, and the proposals contained in the Budget, are not all that is required to get our people back to work. We have had warnings recently on the state of our economy. In the “ Daily News” of 18th June, 1963, under the heading “ Warning on Economy “, the following report appeared: -
The rate of Australia’s economic recovery was slowing down, warned the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. In its official newsletter Canberra Comments, it said evidence of the slow-down could be seen in: The level of unemployment; a lower rate of increase in total domestic expenditure; a slower recovery rate in private investment.
A.C.C.A. called for further measures to stimulate private industry and business.
The measures that are provided for in the Budget and in the bill now before the House are not adequate to get our people back to work or to employ them to the extent that they should be employed.
A further note on the economy appeared in an editorial in the “ West Australian “ newspaper of 5th July last. The newspaper stated -
Despite the strongest political and economic motives for doing so, the Government has failed to overcome slackness in private industry and to come fully to grips with unemployment.
In this light it was bad budgeting to aim for an expansionary deficit and then allow it to become a surplus without acting during the year to stimulate spending. Mr. Holt will have no excuse if he fails to correct this in his next budget. His main task must be to induce people to spend freely again.
People cannot spend freely if they are unemployed. I emphasize again that the £20,000,000 to be provided under the measure we are discussing is entirely inadequate. There is a serious challenge to this Government to get the people back to work, but the Government is not taking adequate steps to do so. Of the 81,407 unemployed, 24,708 are under the age of 21 years. As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said, it is shocking to think that so many young people, in a developing country such as Australia, should have to draw the dole when they leave school.
It has been suggested that by the end of this year the number of unemployed will have increased to 1 10,000. That suggestion appeared in the “ West Australian “ of 9th August last, under the heading “110,000 May be Jobless, Says Expert “. The report stated-
Australians must be prepared to see unemployment figures rise as high as 110,000 between October and January, the director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, Mr. R. W. C. Anderson, said to-day.
Is that another example of what is considered to be full employment by this Government, its spokesmen, and people who speak as Mr. Anderson does? I might add that the present figure of more than 81,000 unemployed is not the true figure. The honorable member for Grayndler said, in effect, that the figures are cooked, and they are cooked to the extent that many people do not register when they become unemployed. They think they will get a job in a few days’ time, and they look for a job of their own accord. Consequently, they do not register immediately for unemployment benefit. In addition, many people are on part-time work. They are not included in the unemployment figures, even though they are placed in part-time employment by their employers. Also, the figures do not include the many people who are in migrant centres awaiting jobs. When people come out here from overseas they go to migrant centres, and they are not included in the unemployment figures. It is my view, and I have raised the matter in this House before, that migrants who are in centres waiting for jobs should be included in the monthly reports. At least we would then get more accurate figures.
The method of assessing the percentage of the so-called work force that is unemployed is hardly correct when one considers that it includes employers and selfemployed persons. Australia is the only country which analyses its unemployment figures in such a way. In other countries, the unemployment figures refer to the workers who are unemployed and not to employers and self-employed people. Such people are not included in order to make the percentage look better for whatever government is in power.
This niggardly amount for which provision is being made under the measure we are discussing will not result in all the unemployed being returned to work. I emphasize that the need to provide money in this way indicates that the Government is prepared to accept the view that a figure of about 80,000 unemployed represents full employment. The Government follows the lead of the Australian Metal Industries Association expressed at a meeting of that body. In the “West Australian”, of 31st May, 1962, the following statement appeared: -
National leaders in the metal industries to-day questioned the wisdom of a policy of full employment. . . .
This Government follows the lead of these people and does not want a system of full employment. It believes in having a percentage of unemployment - and a pretty substantial percentage - so that it may have a few workers waiting outside the factory gates ready to take the jobs of those who are within the gates. The reports to which I have referred give some idea of the thinking of the people opposite and of those who support them.
I doubt whether the people of Australia will accept the view that a pool of unemployment should be a permanent part of the economic set-up in Australia. This Government gained a new lease of life during the last general election, when it managed to scrape into office by a few votes and with a majority of one in this House. It received a shock on that occasion. At that time the unemployment figures were pretty high. The Government parties will receive a bigger shock when they go to the people on the next occasion, particularly if they leave the level of unemployment as it is at the present time. The level is far higher than was considered reasonable prior to the disastrous credit squeeze of 1961. I invite the attention of the House to certain figures in order to emphasize the point I want to make. Prior to 1961, the average number of people in receipt of unemployment benefit was as follows: -
During the credit squeeze of 1961-62, the figure jumped to 52,267. To-day, it is 38,188, which is higher than it was in any year prior to the credit squeeze. This indicates again that the Government is prepared to accept a much higher level of unemployment than it was previously. The fact is that the repercussions of the credit squeeze are still with us. You cannot regulate the economy as you can a tap, although this Government thinks that it can. It is easy to apply a credit squeeze and then to say that it is all over, but it takes a long time to restore confidence. This is borne out by the statement made by Mr. Staniforth Ricketson, chairman of directors of National Reliance Investment Company Limited, in his address to the thirty-third annual meeting of the company on 17th June, 1963. He said - lt is indicative of the feeling of uncertainty and caution which persists, that industry has shown little more inclination to seek new capital. Few companies have come on the market to borrow money and there has been a slight increase in the raising of share capital, but the volume of finance raised by commerce and industry in the current financial year has again been considerably below the annual intake of funds in the 1950’s.
That statement indicates that we are still feeling the repercussions of the credit squeeze. The Budget and the measure which we are now discussing will not alleviate the position. The loss in production as a result of the credit squeeze was estimated at about £250,000,000 annually. It takes a lot to make up that leeway. Business interests have lost confidence and are tardy about investing or expanding. Let me repeat a suggestion which has been made already by honorable members on this side of the House. Let us advance more funds to the States, get public works programmes going, pump more finance into the economy and give the economy a shot in the arm.
This bill provides for the allocation of £20,000,000 to the States. -First, the amount is too small, and secondly, the manner in which it is allocated discriminates against Western Australia. Western Australia, with 2.1 per cent, of its work force unemployed, receives only £1,882,000, whereas Victoria, which has 1.5 per cent, of its work force unemployed, receives £5,140,000. Queensland, which has 2 per cent, of its work force unemployed, receives £2,400,000, and South Australia, which has 1.6 per cent, of its work force unemployed, receives £2,762,000. Those figures support the argument advanced by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) that the allocation should not have been based on the 1962-63 State borrowing programmes for works and housing. The funds should have been allocated according to the percentages of unemployment in the respective States. Unemployment is a serious problem in Western Australia at present. According to the latest figures issued by the Department of Labour and National Service, there are 6,055 registered unemployed in that State compared with 5,320 in the corresponding period last year. At present 2.1 per cent, of the State’s work force is unemployed compared with 1.8 per cent, in the corresponding period last year. Despite this situation, the relative allocation to Western Australia is lower than it has been on previous occasions.
The Government’s policies have resulted in increased unemployment in Western Australia. If the position continues to worsen, additional funds will be required urgently. This week in the State Parliament a motion of no confidence in the State Liberal Government on the question of unemployment was defeated by only one vote. I emphasize the position which exists in Western Australia, because, like my colleague the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), I feel that more should be done for that State, which has a higher percentage of its work force unemployed than have the other States.
The Commonwealth Government is shirking its responsibilities to our unemployed youth. The latest figures show that of 81,407 unemployed, 24,708 are under the age of 21 years. The newspapers in Western Australia direct attention to that fact. The “ West Australian “, of 5th June, 1963, carried the following article under the heading, “ Unemployed Girls: No Easy Solution Seen”: -
There appeared to be no quick solution to the problem of finding jobs for girls leaving school, the regional director of the Department of Labour and National Service, Mr. M. D. Robertson, said yesterday.
Mr. Robertson is an officer of the Commonwealth Government. Under the heading “ Many Young People Seek Jobs in W.A.”, the “West Australian”, of 4th June, 1963, has this to say -
More school leavers were seeking work in Western Australia at the end of April than in Victoria, South Australia, or Tasmania.
This is a scandalous state of affairs. It reminds one of the pre-war years when the unemployed youth of this country were known as the lost legion. Many of them were unemployed for years. In fact, the first full-time job many of them had was when the war started. Others finished up in dead-end occupations. All of them were promised a better way of life when the war was over. While the policy of full employment was being followed they did have a better way of life than did their fathers and mothers - incidentally, that was while the Curtin and Chifley Governments were in office - but now we are drifting back to the old idea that there must be a pool of unemployed. Our youth makes up a substantial proportion of that pool. The Commonwealth Government stands condemned for that aspect alone of the unemployment problem.
Like the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, I should like to see more done to provide finance for Western Australia. He dealt with the position in the north so there is no need for me to refer to that in detail. Let me direct attention to one important aspect. Last year the Commonwealth Government refused to extend the comprehensive water scheme in the southern and central areas of Western Australia. Prior to that it had supported the scheme on a £1 for £1 basis. This Budget would have been a good opportunity for the Government to have provided funds for a second comprehensive water scheme, which is needed in that State. The first scheme was of tremendous value. It was responsible for increasing the number of stock carried in the area served by it and it gave an incentive for more intensive rural development. The scheme even fostered the growth of country towns. A second scheme would extend those benefits to additional areas and would create an upsurge in rural production. The importance of this scheme to the nation should be emphasized. If the Government were to assist, primary production would benefit materially and our export income would be increased. As honorable members know, Western Australia exports more overseas than it imports and the extension of the comprehensive water scheme would increase exports even further. It would assist the farmers, relieve unemployment by using unemployed persons to construct the necessary works, and boost the Australian economy by increasing our exports.
I ask the Government to consider further the question of speeding up this work and so provide additional employment opportunities. I repeat my charge that this Government stands condemned for allowing a pool of unemployed to develop. This is contrary to the United Nations Charter and the Commonwealth Bank Act, which provide for full employment. Full employment did exist in Australia under the Curtin and Chifley Governments and it was this Government that destroyed that situation. It looks as though it will be left to a Labour government to restore full employment.
.- I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) paint such a dismal picture of Western Australia. Many people have a different picture of that State. In a very short time the population of Western Australia has increased by 40 per cent. Under a Liberal State Government and a Liberal-Country Party Commonwealth Government Kwinana has been built and the railway from Koolyanobbing to that port is being constructed. There has been an enormous development of iron ore deposits at Pilbara, provision of beef roads in the north and a start on the Ord and Fitzroy River schemes. Everywhere you look the State is moving ahead.
– The aluminium industry is being developed.
– The Minister at the table mentions the development of the aluminium industry. All this is happening in Western Australia under a Liberal Party State Government and a Commonwealth Liberal-Country Party Government. It is pretty poor stuff that the dismal member for Stirling who is now leaving the chamber has been trying to tell Western Australians. I understand that when he was defeated in a general election some time ago he himself registered for employment very smartly.
The Labour Party has made a lot of what it calls unemployment. I wonder what it is honorable members opposite are really talking about. I represent a large industrial electorate. There is no unemployment in the electorate of Macarthur Many of the large firms say that they do not mind the Labour Party lying about unemployment because their staff superintendents do not want to have a rush of people. They have told me that they will put anybody on whom I might send to them. During the last three years only one man has come to me about a job. He lost his job in a retail store in Broken Hill. I sent him to a firm in Wollongong and he obtained a job the next morning. He is a man with a wife and children.
Every honorable member knows that business people are calling for employees. They advertise for them but they are not receiving applications. I heard either the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) or some other member opposite say in a speech that you may see two young people going off happily to work. They are smiling and they look as if they are happy, but, you know, they do not like their jobs. Their jobs are not congenial and they want to work somewhere else. It is quite possible that people who do not like their jobs have registered for new jobs. I do not know whether any law exists to stop them from doing that. I do not know whether a man working in a coal mine can register for a job in a steelworks because he does not like the job he has. I do not know whether such a thing can be stopped but I believe that it must be going on.
The Labour Party says that the figure of 80,000 unemployed is wrong. I, too, think it is wrong. I think that the number is a long way less than that, because it is very difficult in the really busy parts of New South Wales to obtain any employees at all. Employers just cannot get people. Putting it another way, there are no employable people out of work to-day. Nobody who really wants a job is out of work. There may be a few people registered for employment in a number of towns. I think in Wollongong there were 1,100 registered Representatives of the steelworks attended a meeting held at the Wollongong Town Hall and said that they would undertake to put on 200 men a month. If there really were 1,100 genuine people who wanted jobs they could all have been employed within five and a half months. The figures must vary from time to time because our population is increasing at an enormous rate. Even in the decadent State of New South Wales the increase is seven per cent. In other States it is more than 30 per cent, and in some it is more than 40 per cent.
The Labour Party is trying to make an issue out of unemployment. I think it was the honorable member for Stirling who said that the people of Australia will not accept a pool of unemployed. We agree with that. At successive elections the people have returned this Government to office because no pool of unemployed exists in this country. The Labour Party would dearly love to see a pool of unemployed. Labour Party members flog this matter of unemployment. They say there are unemployed in Australia when in fact the people to whom they refer are not unemployed. The present Government has been returned to office again and again. What happened before the last election was simply that overtime was cut down to some extent and there was a lessening of the take-home money of some people. That caused them to turn against the Government. They wanted to get back to inflation, expansion and growth. Now. of course, they are getting back to growth and expansion.
It is untrue to say that there is real unemployment of any kind in Australia. There is nothing like the rate of unemployment that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr Haylen) referred to in the statement which has been quoted and requoted in this Parliament. He said that a rate of unemployment of five per cent, was a fair thing provided the rate did not exceed that percentage.
– That was twenty years ago.
– The honorable member for Phillip says that it was 20 years ago that the honorable member for Parkes made that statement. I do not care whether it was 2,000 years ago- a member of the
Labour Party did say that if unemployment can be kept down to five per cent, that is fair enough. The rate of unemployment now is under two per cent. I repeat that no employable man who wants a job is out of a job, and that is a completely true statement.
– It is rather interesting to hear the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) say that there is no unemployment when the very bill we are considering grants an additional £20,000,000 to the States to provide employment. What do the States want the extra £20,000,000 for, and why is the Government bringing this bill down, if there is no unemployment?
I am a little concerned about the way that this money is being made available. People think that this is an extra £20,000,000 to provide employment for those who are out of work, whereas when we refer to the speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) we find that he said -
At the Premiers’ Conference and the Australian Loan Council meeting held in June last, the Commonwealth announced that in addition to supporting a borrowing programme of which £272,000,000 is for State works and housing in 1963-64, it would make available to the States a nonrepayable additional assistance grant of £20,000,000 for expenditure on employment-giving activities.
The Premier of South Australia has just brought down his Budget in which he has provided a slight surplus for the year ahead. I think that he is taking into account the
State’s share of this £20,000,000. Out of this grant South Australia is to receive £2,752,000. A little later in his speech the Treasurer said -
In offering again a grant of this type to the States, the Commonwealth Government had in mind that it would enable the States to provide jobs in areas where employment opportunities were not as readily available as elsewhere or where more general measures to sustain and improve employment conditions might not be fully effective.
Let me read another small portion from the Treasurer’s speech. He said -
The Commonwealth made it clear that, providing the over-riding purpose of the grant was kept in mind, it would have no objection if a State passed portion of the moneys allocated through its Consolidated Revenue Fund.
This means that South Australia can put portion of the £2,000,000 odd into its Consolidated Revenue Fund in order to meet the requirements of the Budget that the Government of that State is now preparing. When the Australian Loan Council made its decision with regard to loan moneys for the States, the various States decided to add the amounts due to them from the special grant of £20,000,000 to the other moneys that they were to receive and to prepare their budgets with this total amount in mind. In order to be fair to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) I will read the next few words of his second-reading speech -
It was not intended that the way in which a particular State used its grant should affect, adversely or favorably, its position in other respects. The State Premiers accepted the Commonwealth’s offer and agreed to consult with the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service as to particular directions in which this money should be expended.
When I consider the Treasurer’s remarks I am led to the conclusion that this £20,000,000 does not represent something extra for the States, over and above what they would have got otherwise; the Commonwealth has merely made a grant of £20,000,000 instead of guaranteeing State loan raisings by a further £20,000.000. The Loan Council has agreed to a certain loan programme, and if an insufficient amount is raised by loans during the coming year the Commonwealth, as underwriter would have to make up the deficiency from its own funds. The Commonwealth has simply decided to reduce the total amount that it will underwrite or guarantee by £20,000,000, and it has said to the States, “We will give you a grant of £20,000,000”. But I am afraid that the States have it in mind to use their share of the £20,000,000 to cover their budget commitments.
– But the grant does not add to their debts. They do not have to pay interest and sinking fund charges on these amounts.
– I have said that they do not pay interest on the £20,000,000. The Commonwealth has made a grant of that amount. The States do not have to pay interest and sinking fund charges on their shares of the grant. But what the Government has given to the States is not £20,000,000; what they have given to them is the equivalent of the interest payments and other such charges over the years. They do not receive a grant in the ordinary sense, so far as extra money available for expenditure is concerned.
However, what I am concerned about is what the States are going to do with this money. In South Australia we certainly need extra money, and I suppose the position is similar in other States. In recent months we have been approached by people who have really had no right to make the representations to us that they have made. People have come to us and said, “ We have had a very wet winter. We are in new suburbs. The roads have all gone to pieces. You cannot move along the roads for water. People can row boats down the roads.” These people have gone to their local councils and have been told that no money is available for repairing this damage, and they have then come to us and said, “Can’t you do something to ensure that the council will give us relief? “ I am wondering whether the States will take such circumstances into consideration and provide employment.
The honorable member for Macarthur made some reference to the employment position, and another honorable member said something about the number of vacancies for skilled men being greater than the number of skilled men registered for employment. I can understand their thinking if those honorable members’ minds work along such lines. But the point is that “.he unemployed people in real difficulty are not the skilled men, the ones who can work as tradesmen, but the others, the ones who want labouring jobs. When it comes to making employment available, one of the best ways of giving employment to these men is by engaging in the kind of work I have mentioned, road-making, particularly in the new districts in which large areas are being opened up for housing purposes, and roads and other essential services are required. I believe that the money made available under this bill could be well spent in giving assistance to the men who really need help. I have had experience with such men. Many of them are excellent as individuals, but unfortunately they have no particular skill. They may get a job, but if within a few weeks their employer requires fewer men, who are the ones that are put off? They are not the skilled men, but those on the bottom, those receiving the lowest wages or those who have no skills. They are the ones who go off, and they have great difficulty in getting other jobs. I think this grant could be of great help in the case of such men.
I was rather surprised to hear the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) take up practically all their time comparing the amounts received by New South Wales and Victoria. They said nothing about this grant of £20,000,000 or the purpose of it or what should be done with it. I do not know which of those honorable members was correct, but it seemed to me that the honorable member for Mackellar was suggesting that Victoria was getting more than it should get in comparison with the amount received by New South Wales, whilst the honorable member for Wentworth said that New South Wales was getting a greater amount than it should in comparison with that being given to Victoria. I hope those two honorable members will settle that question for themselves. I suppose they will tell me that, as financiers or as legal men, they are working on a basis different from mine and looking at the matter from a different angle. However, I think I have correctly stated what they were talking about.
Before the Parliament met last week people were talking about the different interests to be considered by the Government in the preparation of the Budget. I suggested then what form the Budget would take. I said that we were getting letters from the Associated Chambers of Manufactures requesting certain reductions, that we were getting letters from various companies asking for a reduction in company tax. I said that there were other interests seeking a reduction in the pay-roll tax. I said that there were many people speaking for the interests that they represented, and I said that I was going to speak for the people I want to represent, the men on the bottom, the men who are struggling. They are the ones I am concerned about. When we come to talk about this grant of £20,000,000 I am not going to waste my time in arguing whether Victoria gets too much or New South Wales gets too much. I am concerned with what this £20,000,000 will do, whether it will help the people it should help, whether it will create employment, and whether it will provide employment in areas where it is difficult to obtain employment. I take it that in making a remark df that kind the Treasurer was thinking of decentralization. Honorable members know that in the various States there are many small country towns in which, if a man gets out of work, he has very little opportunity to find another job. I think the Treasurer had that sort of thing in mind.
But, of course, it is left to the States - and I do not complain about that - to use this money as they think fit. They do not have to obtain the approval of the Commonwealth in spending the money in any particular way. I hope that the money will be used in the interests of the people who most need help, particularly in the areas in which there are no big factories or industries in which they might be able to obtain employment if they happen to lose their jobs. We find that city people operating factories in little country towns decide that they cannot continue to operate them there and they shut them down. But when they do that, what is to happen to those whom they employed?
I shall not go into details of unemployment figures to-night, but if the figures were dissected we would find that the biggest percentage of unemployed would be among the young women between 16 and 21 years of age. They are the ones who are finding it difficult to get employment. In the smaller country towns it is particularly difficult for them to know just where to go to find a job. Honorable members might sug gest that jobs are advertised and ask why they do not take those jobs. It is not as easy as that. If a person lives in a country town and there is no employment available for his daughter, in many cases he is not prepared to permit his daughter to live in the city, 100 or 150 miles from home. A girl of sixteen or seventeen years of age who has completed her schooling and has perhaps passed her leaving certificate examination is qualified to take a clerical position, but, unfortunately, there may be no clerical job available to her in the country. There are no government departments in the country requiring girls as typists. What are the parents to do?
– They all go to the city then, the parents and the daughter.
– The honorable member suggests that the parents go with the daughter to the city, but I am speaking of those instances where the parents do not move to the city. Many people live in the country and do not want to move to the city. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) smiles and seems to think that it is a good idea for them to move.
– I was not thinking that.
– Then do not smile and take it to be a good thing. We need more decentralization. We do not want to take the people from the country and force them to go to the city to find work because there are no jobs available for their children in the country. Most people want to have their children with them.
– That is my advocacy all the time; you know that.
– The honorable member speaks about dried fruits and things that he knows about. I am not speaking about the fruit-grower who produces dried fruits. He has my sympathy and I would do all I could for him but my concern is for the person who works for the grower, lives in the small country town and receives his wages every week. He is a good Australian with perhaps three, four, or half a dozen children, but there is no work for the children. If he cannot find work for his children and they have to go to the city, then he may also move to the city, as the honorable member said. That does happen, but I want to see to it that it does not happen.
I recall meeting a lady in Canberra a few years ago at the Hotel Kurrajong. This lady was on holidays. She told me that she had worked for one of the big clothing firms in Sydney- a firm such as David Jones Limited. That firm bad opened a factory in the mountains in order to make dresses which it sent to Sydney. The firm found that it could not compete with those who were making dresses in Sydney and it had to close the factory down. Such a factory would provide employment for the daughters of the local workers but it could not compete with factories in the city because of the heavy rail freights and cost of road carriage. That was an attempt at decentralization which failed. The factory was transferred to the city.
All these things are connected with the unemployment question. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to say that there are no unemployed, or to suggest, as was suggested by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), that every man who wants a job is able to get it. A man came to me last week with a problem about his pension. He told me that he had retired from the federal public service and that his wife was working. He said that he had had a decent job with the public service - not a highly paid one - but that had now finished. This man was physically fit so I suggested that he should take another job as he was only 65 years of age. He replied, “I cannot find a job. I have been all round and I cannot get a clerical job of the type I have been accustomed to all my life.” He could not get a job, yet the honorable member opposite says that any man who wants a job can find one. That man had tried to find employment but could not. All I could suggest was that he should keep trying to see if he could get a job somewhere. I know several men who have found the same difficulty.
The Treasurer should ensure that the money allotted to the States is used to provide employment where it is so much needed. The money would then do some good. But if the States which receive the money dispose of it by means of their usual appropriations and use it in the way that they have used other money from loans and taxation it will not achieve its purpose. Even if a State has a deficit, it should use this money for no other purpose than to provide employment.
I know that Government members wish to get on to other business so I shall not delay them. I could speak for the remainder of my half hour and tell members about many things, but I shall not do so. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) interjected. I know that honorable members opposite speak about matters that interest them, and within the last two days the honorable member for Wakefield has shown very clearly what his interest is during the debates on tariffs. 1 can appreciate his interest, but I hope that he will appreciate my interest in the chap at the bottom, the fellow who is struggling. We all want to help those people - even honorable members opposite would like to do that - and we all want to help those in private enterprise, so far as we can. But, quite candidly, my biggest interest is in the man at the bottom, his wife and family. I hope that the grant that we are debating to-night will be of help to those people.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Apparently the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) thought there was some conflict between the statements of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) and myself, but there was not; we were talking about different things. The honorable member for Wentworth spoke about matters being within the power of the Commonwealth and whether New South Wales received a little more per capita. I was speaking about matters which were in negotiation at the Loan Council meeting between the States. In that case New South Wales received much less per capita than Victoria. There was no conflict between our statements.
– I have a right to speak now, and I intend to do so, but what I have to say could almost be taken as a personal explanation, had I spoken earlier. I cannot make a personal explanation because I did not speak earlier in the debate, but I can speak to this subject. I have been goaded by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and others who have said that I have sat here silently. When I was in the Opposition I used to make what were called orations on all sorts of subjects. Although I have kept very quiet to-day, I have spoken on many subjects in this House. I have been quiet to-day because I am very happy that this £20,000.000 additional interest-free grant has been made to the States. I believe the honorable member for Grayndler referred to it as a miserable £20,000,000. I cannot agree with that description. An amount of £20,000,000 in any currency is not a miserable amount, and if that sum is used correctly by the States it will do a tremendous amount to overcome the unemployment problem that is with us at present.
It has been said that the Federal Government should supply a detailed list of how the previous grants given to the States to overcome unemployment have been spent, but that would be almost an impossibility. Surely we have faith in the State governments. No matter what political party is in power, it wishes to do the best it can, according to its policy, just as every member in this chamber wishes to do his best. I do not propose to criticize the way in which previous grants have been spent; I believe that the sums have been spent in the way that the States thought best. Perhaps I would not agree with all they have done, and perhaps honorable members opposite would not agree, but we have to take a wide view of whether the States are giving a fair deal in their expenditure of this money. I hope that they will spend this £20,000,000 in a way which will create further employment by providing work of a nature that will not only overcome unemployment but will be of benefit to production and the general services of the community.
I did not intend to speak in this debate, and I will be very brief. The main thing that brought me into the debate was that 1 interjected when the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) was speaking. He was saying that sometimes a girl could not get employment in a country area but she could get a job in Melbourne. He said that her parents could not do much about that because they did not want her to go to the city and be away from home. I interjected that often the whole family goes to Melbourne, and that is so. That is one of the things that I have been fighting against all the time I have been in this Parliament.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide is a personal friend of mine. I have a great respect for him. He said, “ The honorable member for Mallee smiles about these things “. He was referring to people drifting to the cities. If honorable members know anything about me, it is that over the years that I have been in this House I have been an ardent advocate of overcoming the drift to the cities. Everybody knows that. I have sought to counter the drift to the cities at every available opportunity, in accordance with the Standing Orders of this House, and I shall continue to do so.
I have often said, because there are more people in the cities than in the country there are more representatives from the cities than from the country in the State and Federal Parliaments, and therefore tha cities receive more amenities than the country. Then, because there are more amenities in the cities still more people drift to them. Perhaps they go to the cities because of the bright lights, or to get jobs for their children, as the honorable member for Port Adelaide said, or to get employment for themselves. When city populations increase there is an electoral redistribution, and so parliamentary representation of tho cities increases. Then when there are more members of Parliament from the cities, the cities receive more amenities. And so the thing snowballs.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad that the honorable member for Port Adelaide agrees with me. That is why, every time the Estimates of the Department of the Interior have come before this Parliament, I have said that if we are to have decentralization we must have decentralization of political representation. On one occasion when 1 spoke on this subject the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said, “ Does tha honorable member for Mallee think for ona moment that if there were more members of Parliament from the country people would start factories and businesses in the country? The fact of the matter is that rail freights would discourage people from starting factories and businesses in the country “. The answer to that is that if there were more members from the country they would soon reduce the rail freights, and by doing that they would encourage the establishment of many industries in the country. That would achieve decentralization.
AH these meetings of committees concerned with spread of population and decentralization conferences are not worth the paper on which the names of the people who go to them are written. Nothing can b; done unless political representation is decentralized. I say this because I know that the honorable member for Port Adelaide agrees with me, but unfortunately he made it appear that I was interjecting in derision of what he was saying about people going to the cities. I was doing nothing of the kind. I am wholeheartedly behind what he really meant to say and what I am now saying.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Opperman) read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 14th August (vide page 155).
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1963- Third Schedule.
.- Mr. Chairman, I wish to discuss two small matters under this schedule. One of them refers to the alteration of the rate of duty on furnishing fabrics, with which we dealt in October last year. On that occasion I complained to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise in this chamber about the treatment that we were receiving. I understand that the present proposal is designed to redress the wrong that was done at that time. Consequently, I should like to congratulate the Minister on having done that.
However, I should like to have two small matters of principle cleared up either by the Minister in this chamber or by the Minister in another place. I should like to know why, when this proposal was circulated - at that time it was notice of Proposals No. 64 - one could not obtain a copy of it although one could obtain copies of other notices issued on the same day. I understand that the Department of Customs and Excise has a perfectly valid answer to this question. I think the answer should be made public because there is much uneasiness in many people’s minds.
The other matter that disturbs me is more serious. Why was this alteration made? Perhaps it was because of the difficulty of implementing the proposal in the altered form. The Minister will remember that interested parties brought to him a bridal dress made of material which his department had classified as furnishing fabric and which therefore was dutiable at the rate of 7s. 6d. a square yard instead of at the rate that would have applied before the first alteration was made, namely 2s. 8id. a square yard. The Minister probably is unaware that that dress was sold as a bridal dress in Canberra that afternoon. He may remember that a black cocktail frock was in question at the same time. Was it as a result of that interview that the Department of Customs and Excise found that it had taken up an untenable position? That may well be so; I do not know.
There is another aspect of this matter, which, to my mind, is serious. When the interested parties saw the departmental officials in April on this question, they were told that similar material that was white, near-white, or black would not be classified as furnishing fabric. Well and good. However, they were told that no announcement to that effect would be circulated for the information of interested parties generally. This raises a very important question of principle. By what right are judgments such as that given and not made known to all? Is it proper that the people who interviewed the officials should have been given that decision, and no one else? If those people had not chosen to make that decision public, they could have taken advantage, of the decision that they alone had received. I acknowledge that the people in question were members of an association and would be expected to notify the other members of the association. But there were many other interested parties who were not members of that association and therefore could not expect to receive the inside knowledge that these people had received. Would not those people in the know have an unfair advantage over their competitors? Is this, in the Minister’s opinion, a proper administrative procedure? I have dealt with this in the second-reading speech. I want to congratulate the Minister on the action he has taken to redress the wrong he unwittingly did the House last year. I now want to ask him two specific questions: Why was the notice of Proposals No. 64 not available when other notices of proposals issued the same day were available? And does he not think that decisions made in this way should be made public?
In the same schedule there is the item that deals with processed terylene and nylon yarn. I should be able to cover this item in the time remaining to me. This is another example of the shuttle service in operation. A full Tariff Board report, in February, 1962, recommended a certain rate of duty. A few months later, the Special Advisory Authority was called in and he increased the rate of duty. The matter has been sent back to the Tariff Board again, so the old shuttle system starts off again.
There are several matters in the Special Advisory Authority’s report which I cannot understand. He gives the percentage alteration for imports and for exports, but nowhere does he bring the two together and say how much of the Australian demand is being supplied by imports. The Tariff Board found a little while before that local industry was supplying almost all the market and it has been impossible to find out whether or not this is still so. Percentages can be misleading, as we know. During the Boer War a message was received that 50 per cent, of the teetotallers in the British Army had enteric fever. A little later, word was received that 100 per cent, of the teetotallers had contracted enteric fever. The teetotal organizations in Britain were panic-stricken until they found that there were only two teetotallers in the British Army. So it is clear that percentages do not mean very much unless you have a base to work from. I have written to the board on this matter, but I cannot find out what is the percentage of imports.
There are other items of interest in the report. It is interesting to me, as a primary producer, to note that the Tariff Board, in its report, makes the point that shortly before the time of the report the throwsters were doing pretty well. Under import licensing, they were making profits ranging from 15 per cent, to 50 per cent. It seems to me that some of us have to be content with a lot less. Evidently things started to get a little tough and the Special Advisory Authority was called in to put things right. He did. I quote from his report -
Some of the prices being charged by the Australian processors barely cover the cost of production and, if increased duties are granted, some prices will be increased.
That is a very convenient system. The companies were obviously making a welter of things under import licensing. They were making exorbitant profits of up to 50 per cent. Now, when the wind of competition gets a bit keen, they come squealing to the rest of us for help. It seems a bit queer to me, as a wool-grower, that a system should guarantee profitable returns for the competitors of the wool industry, while that industry receives, as the figures of the Division of Agricultural Economics show, an average profit of about 3 per cent. We are jacking up the guaranteed profit rate of competitors of wool when in past years they have been receiving up to 50 per cent, profit.
Let us have a look at the effect of these emergency duties on the user industries. I think that is something we ought to do continually. There are. for instance, 400 people employed by Anderson Hosiery Mills Proprietary Limited, a company which operates 550 machines in the manufacture of seamless stockings. This company is having a fairly tough time. About 3,600,000 pairs of seamless stockings are presently being imported. This figure represents about one-tenth of the local demand. These imports will further increase the difficulty of the local producer. It may be said that the situation can be cured by putting up the duty on stockings. Do that, and go home and tell your wife you are going to do that! I will not. This kind of duty makes the competitive position of the secondary user more difficult and I think we ought to take these things into consideration. Two of the competitors of Anderson Hosiery Mills in the hosiery business are the two biggest makers of the fibre which that company has to buy to make stockings. It is clear that Anderson Hosiery Mills has to depend on its competitors for supplies of raw material. If there were any hold-ups - as happened last year - I doubt very much whether Anderson Hosiery Mills would get any yarn at all.
I know that this matter seems more important to me than to a great many people, but I want to protest again against a duty imposed at the base of a production process. This duty makes the employment position in the user industry more difficult. I want to protest again about a duty that follows a full Tariff Board report published only last year. It means that the industry will now have to face immediately another Tariff Board inquiry. If the Tariff Board sticks to its guns - and I hope it will - I suppose there will be another emergency inquiry, as happened with manmade fibre piece goods. This is our new scientific protective system, I suppose, and evidently the House is satisfied with it. I hope that some of my colleagues will be able to go out and justify to the woolgrowers of Australia a system that guarantees profitable production to their competitors even after those competitors have been making a profit of 50 per cent, in recent years.
Schedule agreed to.
.- I want to devote my attention now to the last schedule - plastic coated fibre glass yarn. This is another case of the shuttle service in operation. On 15th March, 1962, there was a report by the Special Advisory Authority which granted emergency protection. This was followed by a full Tariff Board report in September, 1962, which confirmed the emergency protection. Nine months later there was another emergency hearing, giving total protection of about 46 per cent. Now the matter goes back again to the Tariff Board for another hearing.
There is only one fibre glass yarn maker in Australia and that is Australian Fibre Glass Proprietary Limited, a subsidiary of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited. The latter company is one of the Australian giants. In its last balance-sheet it showed a profit rate of 14.4 per cent. One would have thought that it could have held the hand of its offspring while it was learning to walk during its early stages. Australian Fibre Glass Proprietary Limited has constructed excess capacity and expects the country to pay for the unused capacity. The Tariff Board, in its report published a little while ago, sets out the reason why it recommended the rate of duty that it did. I imagine that most of us would agree that this is the considered and sensible opinion of the Tariff Board, but it is set aside.
I cannot understand it. If I clear another paddock of my property I do not expect it to be profitable immediately. I do not come whining to the rest of the community to set things right immediately. I clear the paddock because I expect that it will be profitable later. I expected that Australian Fibre Glass Limited, with a strong parent company behind it, would do the same thing. That has not been so. Here again we ought to have a look at the impact of this duty on the user industry. I have continually reminded the House of the importance of this aspect. The product has only one use - to make insect screening.
The impact of this duty is likely to affect the Cyclone Company of Australia Limited in particular. As most people recognize, that is a particularly efficient company. But people do not have to buy this kind of screening. They can buy Zincoid or similar metal screening. The effect of imposing this kind of duty on this yarn, and so increasing the price, will be to switch the demand to other screening materials. This is another example of the adverse effect of duties on industries further down the line. The Tariff Board has said that the Australian Fibre Glass organization should carry the developmental costs, but that is set aside. The impact of the high duty on the user industries also is set aside. Confidence in the industry disappears as reference and re-reference shuttle between the Tariff Board and the Special Advisory Authority. However, every one in the chamber except me seems to be satisfied.
Schedule agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 3) 1963 - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Mr. Fairhall) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I want to take this opportunity to inform the House briefly of a visit which I and some of my colleagues made to the Sunraysia district only last week in connexion with the problems that the dried fruits industry is encountering. I visited the district with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and a State member, Mr. John Wilton. I find myself advocating a cause that is very dear to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). Although we have adjoining electorates, this is indeed unusual, because, as the honorable member for Mallee said only a week ago, when he very kindly attended a civic reception that was tendered to us, we are poles apart politically. That is understandable, because the honorable member for Mallee is perched very precariously on the slippery pole of conservatism, whilst I and my colleagues are more permanently perched on, as it will be eventually, the winning post of progressive and democratic socialism. However, we agree to some extent on this subject. My colleagues and I went to this district for the specific purpose of looking into the problems of the dried fruits industry. It was with regret that we found they were serious problems indeed. The industry is facing difficult times, and many growers, particularly the smaller ones, find that their means of livelihood and their interests in their farms are threatened. We met members of the executives and members of the branches of the Australian Dried Fruits Association and the Vine Fruit Growers Association, as well as representatives of local government authorities and of packing sheds. We also met numerous growers. They all put forward their points of view, and some of them differed widely. We got a wide range of opinion about what is going on in the industry, but the general story was of hardship, uncertainty and deep concern for the future of the industry.
Honorable members will be aware that the dried fruits industry in this district was established principally through soldier settlement schemes initiated subsequent to the two World Wars. I think that, on this basis alone, the industry deserves special consideration of the problems confronting it. I believe that the unfortunate situation of the industry is caused by three main factors. First, the intense competition which the industry is encountering in overseas markets - competition from Greece and Turkey - has, in recent years, created great marketing difficulties. One of the principal reasons why those countries have been able to undersell the Australian growers is that their industries have been heavily subsidized by their governments. They have been underselling us particularly in the market which supplies the needs of manufacturers in Great Britain and other countries. Happily, an agreement has been reached between those countries and Australia in recent times. I want to pay a tribute to Mr. Eugene Gorman, who performed a magnificent feat in bringing traditional enemies together to sign that agreement.
The second factor causing difficulty is that the 1963 Australian crop was one of the smallest on record. The third factor is that the consumption of dried fruits in Australia has fallen remarkably since the pre-war days. I think that consumption was something like 5i lb. per head per annum in the pre-war days, and it has come down to about 4 lb. per head in recent years. This warrants close investigation by the industry with a view to increasing consumption in the domestic market.
Added to those three basic troubles which confront the industry is the fact that the growers have to wait a long time for payment for the crops they produce. The lapse of time between a grower delivering his crop at the door of the packing shed and receiving final payment is often from eighteen months to two years. He gets a down payment - a door payment, as it is called - and from then on receives monthly payments from the packing house. This process might last for eighteen months.
The growers have two or three difficulties in this regard. First of all, they are faced with the necessity to obtain money to finance the forthcoming crop by borrowing from packing houses, banks and such institutions. They are not like wheat-farmers and others, who can change their acreages from year to year. They have to do their pruning and use manures and sprays all the time, every year. They cannot alter their crops. They have the problem of financing their crops and of maintaining themselves and their families.
We found that desperate problems are being encountered by many small growers. Families are existing on living allowances as low as £5 a week from packing sheds and banks. Those are intolerable circumstances in these modern days of high costs of living. Another problem is that some of the farms were established by soldier settlers in the 1920’s, in the first days of the Sunraysia settlement, and the growers now find a need for replanting. Their vines are 40 years old and the yield is falling away. Replanting requires money, but the growers were not able to build up reserves in the years gone by.
The industry put to us six main points, indicating the type of assistance, it needs. Time does not permit me to deal with them fully, but the growers asked for an investigation of the whole of the ramifications of the industry - marketing, production, retail sales, export sales and so on. They said, secondly, that many of the blocks are uneconomic - are too small to maintain a grower and his family. They said, thirdly, that they badly needed an international agreement. They got this only recently, and we hope it will be extended in the years to come.
Fourthly, the growers believe that there is great need for the Government to interest itself in finding a system that will enable them to obtain and keep additional and alternative markets overseas. Fifthly, and most important of all, the growers are in extremely urgent need of help right now, not help in three months or six months. They need it now. They urgently need financial assistance, and I know that two State governments have approached the
Federal Government on their behalf. The Victorian Government has recently raised the matter and the New South Wales Government raised it some weeks ago. Those two State governments have asked the Federal Government for financial assistance by means of long-term loans at low interest rates, but so far they have received no indication that such assistance will be forthcoming. The needs of the growers are urgent. They want help now, not later. We ask that the silence be broken and that something be said about their great need for help. They want action.
The last of the six points was that the industry clearly wants stabilization. I know that in 1957 the growers, at a referendum, refused a stabilization plan. At that time, they were not happy about the cost of production announced by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, because they did not believe that the figure was sufficiently high to maintain the plan. They did not believe that the proposed stabilization plan was a fair one. However, the growers realize now that stabilization is the only long-term answer. I am sure that if a reasonable plan were put to them now they would accept it. To my knowledge, the Australian Dried Fruits Association and the Vine Fruit Growers Progress Association have put several stabilization plans to the Government. I ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to examine these plans. Perhaps he has already done so. If necessary, the Minister can combine the best parts of the two plans. I appeal to him to take the initiative and put a stabilization plan to the growers now. I believe that the great majority of them will now accept a reasonable stabilization plan that will commend itself also to the Government and the Parliament. The growers need stabilization to solve their long-term problems.
The growers have many long-term problems. There are in the Mildura district vine fruit blocks perhaps of only thirteen or fourteen acres. These are not large enough to maintain a grower and his family and enable him to build up over the years a reserve out of which to meet the costs of re-planting and all the other requirements that these primary producers must have if they are to continue in production and improve their blocks. As I have said, many of the blocks are uneconomic. The growers ask in particular for the financial assistance that they so urgently need. They want that assistance now, and they have asked this Government for it. We ask for action. Secondly, we ask for long-term assistance by way of a stabilization plan. I appeal to the Minister for Primary Industry to act immediately.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, I would have expected the representative in this place of the district in which are to be found the producers on whose behalf the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) has put a case for relief to rise immediately the honorable member concluded his remarks, to support his case most forcibly and to request this Government to give relief to these growers who need it. I do not doubt for a moment that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), like my colleague, the honorable member for Bendigo, favours the giving of some assistance to these people.
There is no need for me to present again the case that was so ably put by the honorable member for Bendigo. He, a Labour member of the Victorian Parliament and I went to Mildura, where we were received courteously and given a very hearty welcome by representatives of all sections of the community there concerned with the vine fruits industry. Party politics were kept out of the discussions and we heard a well-presented case for immediate relief. Briefly, Mr. Speaker, in that area and, I am sure, across the Murray River in New South Wales and also in South Australia 20 per cent, of the producers are in circumstances of dire distress. They have been in touch with their respective State Premiers, who, in turn, have asked the Commonwealth authorities - I have checked on that - to give these people relief.
The growers have to live and keep their wives and families, and they need financial assistance to tide them over until the sale of next year’s crop. The banks have financed the packing houses to the limit by way of advances, and the growers will have to be helped over the period when expenses bear most heavily on them until they can harvest and sell their next crop. The honorable member for Bendigo and I sent a telegram to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) from Mildura and suggested that immediate action was necessary, but there has been not a squeak, not a word, from the right honorable gentleman. To date, we have received no acknowledgment, although our telegram was sent more than a week ago.
It appears to me, Mr. Speaker, that we are to have a repetition of a situation that occurred in the tobacco industry a year or two ago when the tobacco growers at Myrtleford, in the Ovens valley, and elsewhere in Victoria appealed to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), Senator Hendrickson and me to do what we could to rally support by governments and to help them in a period of dire distress. That dire distress had been occasioned by a boycott of sales by tobacco manufacturers in this country as a result of which prices fell below decent levels. The tobacco manufacturers have formed a tightly-knit ring which controls tobacco prices.
After a lot of agitation and a number of meetings of growers held at Wangaratta, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) at last listened to the tale of distress and some relief was given. But a mighty long time elapsed before that happened. For this reason, we suggest that the Government act now to help the vine fruit-growers. This is not a party political matter. I suggest to the Minister and the Government that as a result of the intervention of members of the Australian Labour Party and their efforts to help solve the problems of the tobacco-growers in the Wangaratta district last year relief was obtained and the tobacco manufacturers and tobacco buyers came to fear that if they were not more generous this year the growers might be provoked into revolt and might withhold supplies. Because of this fear, the tobacco manufacturers and tobacco buyers have been a little more generous this year than they were last year.
There is no need for the existence of conditions like those that now exist in the dried fruits areas at Mildura, across the Murray River in New South Wales and in South
Australia. The Minister for Primary Industry is in possession of all the facts - or should be - and something ought to be done now in response to the request made by the two State Governments that have approached this Government. I appeal to the Minister to act.
At Red Cliffs, near Mildura, there are pioneer soldier settlers of World War I., who unfortunately, were placed on blocks ranging from fourteen to eighteen acres in area. In recent surveys, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has disclosed that an economic area that will enable a man to maintain a decent standard of living for himself and his family and obtain a reasonable margin of income for development of his property cannot be less than about 22± acres. Derogatory statements are made in this House from time to time about the New South Wales Government, but it is noteworthy that that Government has placed vine fruit-growers on blocks of 22i acres in size so that a decent living may be obtained.
We do not want to take a party political attitude on this matter, but we appeal to the Government to give immediate relief to these producers. The Government cannot indict the industry for not being organized. The Australian Dried Fruits Association embraces almost 100 per cent, of the growers in its membership. This is a highly organized industry. We have the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board and also State boards associated with the industry. State and Federal legislation relating to the industry has been co-ordinated. Because a major part of the crop is sold on overseas markets, where prices have collapsed, and because the last season has been bad, the growers are in distress. I have faith in the industry. It has never run amuck and has never unduly expanded the acreage under vines. We have felt that some sort of relief is amply justified and could be readily secured.
Somebody has said that there is a better prospect for the forthcoming season because a notable Australian has done a lot of work in the international sphere to help this industry. I was in Greece in August last year and met representatives of the dried fruits industry there. I asked there what their attitude was to the European Common Market and they said they were delighted with it because Greece was an associate member. They said th«y would be able to get entry into Europe for their fruit and would be able to gain entry to Great Britain if it joined. This would be done in open competition with California and other countries.
They told me, however, that there was one difficulty. The Turks, who are their traditional enemies, were expanding production. They said they had one hope and that was “ Mr. Eugene from Australia “. At first. I did not understand what they meant and then I remembered that Mr Eugene Gorman Q.C. was chairman of the Dried Fruits Board. They said he was the only man who could bring the Turks and Greeks into accord, and with Spain, California and the rest something could be done towards stabilization of international dried fruits markets so that they could get a payable price for the industry.
How serious the position is can be seen from the fact that the price this year is around £100 a ton compared with £150 a few years ago. The average output of a block is 30 tons a year. If a grower gets £50 a ton less for an output of 30 tons, his income falls by £1,500 a year. How is a man to pay working expenses, keep hi3 wife and family and produce the next crop in those circumstances? I appeal to the Minister for Primary Industry to provide immediate assistance from the Commonwealth Government through the State governments, or any other medium he selects, to these people who, in the great majority of cases, are returned servicemen from World War I. Why is it that we always have to make appeals when the industries are appealing through their organizations themselves? A stabilization scheme is needed but the immediate need is relief. It is true that there rival organizations in the industry. One side declares that the other organization is doing the wrong thing, and there are counter-allegations from the other side. Whether the packing house advance system is fully approved I do not know, but I do know that the packing houses are owned by co-operatives and that their accounts are audited. The directors are appointed by the growers. If there is anything wrong in the handling of the fruit from the packing shed to the market the grower directors know what is wrong and rectify it. I know that the packing house accounting system is a check on the proprietary house accounting system. I hope that the Minister will not allow this matter to drag on as happened with the tobaccogrowers but that something will be done now.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I was rather surprised when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said he had expected I would rise after the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton). Of course, he expected I would have risen last night and spoken on some other subject. Then the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Lalor would have had a free run and would have spoken about the industry, although I represent 80 per cent, of it. We have seen something of parliamentary tactics to-night, because the honorable member for Lalor decided he would put up the honorable member for Bendigo and when he had put his case, I would rise. But I sat tight and the honorable member for Lalor was forced to rise. I thought those honorable members might introduce into this debate some party political issues that would not be appreciated by me. However, I appreciate the way they put their case to-night.
The honorable members I have referred to went to Mildura. I do not think my electorate joins that of the honorable member for Bendigo as he said, and if it does, I do not know where they join. Their resume of what has taken place is substantially correct. They went to Mildura with Mr. Wilton, a member of the State Parliament of Victoria. Their visit to the electorate was rather different from my visit with the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). I invited the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) by telegram to join in the discussions. He was not well and he could not attend but he sent me the following telegram: -
Thanks for telegram. Regret unable be present discussions. Will be pleased to co-operate implementation of decision. Please apologise for my absence.
We did not go into his area but his constituents came to our meetings. I did apologize for the absence of Mr. Clark and I appreciated his courtesy. But the honorable members for Bendigo and Lalor did not extend to me the courtesy of saying they were coming into my electorate. I said at the reception that if they had done so, I would have taken them to supper or extended some hospitality to them. They just came in and did not show the courtesy which the honorable member for Darling showed. I appreciated the reply of the honorable member for Darling to my telegram; but I do not appreciate honorable members coming into my electorate on a job like that and not showing any courtesy to another honorable member.
Three things have been harassing the dried fruits industry. One is the sales tax on foodstuffs containing dried vine fruits. Every body knows that for eight years I have been making speeches on this matter. In the current Budget, that sales tax has been removed. So that difficulty has been overcome. The honorable members for Lalor and Bendigo have referred to the lack of sales of dried fruits in Australia. The removal of the sales tax should stimulate those sales, and the Australian Dried Fruits Association is very pleased.
The second matter worrying the industry is the lack of stabilization. A stabilization scheme was offered some years ago and was known as the “Under and over scheme”. It was proposed to stabilize production on the basis of £10 under and £10 over the cost of production. No industry is stabilized to the full amount of both price and production. The growers rejected it because a vote that was not recorded was regarded as a negative vote. Of the votes recorded, more than 2,000 were for the scheme and 900-odd against it. When I knew there was some unrest in the industry, I went to the area, as I always do, and made a report to the electors. I am the only man in Australia who holds these public meetings for the electors and advertises them. I found out what was happening and I asked the Minister for Primary Industry if he could visit Mildura. He went there with me and made inspections. The Australian dried fruits industry has often been cited as an industry that was the symbol of good marketing. According to the honorable member for Lalor, possibly that is not so now. He said that men in the industry had the capacity to do the marketing if they could get on the right lines, or something to that effect.
I received a letter from the Australian Dried Fruits Association, dated 2nd August, 1963, after the Minister’s visit to Mildura. The letter, signed by Mr. R. B. Curtis, general secretary of the association, stated -
My Board of Management has requested that I express to you its thanks for arranging the visit of the Hon. C. F. Adermann, Minister for Primary Industry, to various dried fruits producing districts in Victoria, and to express its appreciation for the excellent manner in which this was arranged so that growers and leaders of the industry had every opportunity of conferring, both informally and formally, with Mr. Adermann.
It was a great pleasure to have received the benefit of a visit by Mr. Adermann.
The Minister for Primary Industry has had two stabilization schemes presented to him. He has been studying them and his departmental officers have been looking at them. I asked the Minister in the House to-day whether he would have the Division of Agricultural Economics conduct a survey to bring the cost of production figures up to date, so that a stabilization scheme could be based on them with confidence. Honorable members heard the Minister say he would do this. Therefore, we believe that stabilization is well on the way. The sales tax on dried fruits has been removed.
No man in the history of the Federal Parliament has spoken on dried fruits onetenth as often as I have. In an advertisement for Robur tea over broadcasting station 3DB in Melbourne, a person would smell the aroma of the tea and say, “ Ah, Robur! “ This is not a commercial. I have spoken about dried fruits so often that when I have risen to speak, members have said, “ Ah, dried fruits again “. I have fought for this industry. The outstanding matter at the moment is financial aid. The “Sunraysia Daily” of 7th August, 1963, contains the following passage: -
Mr. Beaton said it was pitiful that no action had been taken to help dried fruits growers at a Federal level.
This is a State matter, just as flood mitigation is. Victoria asked the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) for assistance so that loans could be granted to dried fruit growers. But what happened in New South
Wales? Only seven days before the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) went to Sunraysia, New South Wales made a move. In the issue of the “ Sunraysia Daily “ to which I have already referred, the chairman of the district council of the Australian Dried Fruits Association is reported as having said -
N.S.W. Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Enticknap), has recommended assistance for Sunraysia dried fruits growers . . . but the Cabinet reaction is not known yet.
I have not time to read the whole of the article, but towards the end of it the following statement appears: -
The A.D.F.A. council’s request for Mr. Renshaw to meet a deputation was not granted.
Mr. Renshaw, the Acting Premier of New South Wales, would not meet the deputation but two members of the Opposition of this Parliament and a State member have deplored that assistance has no.t been forthcoming. When grants are made on a £1 for £1 basis, or in other proportions from the Commonwealth to State Governments, whether for flood relief, drought relief or to meet the present emergency, they have to remain on federal lines. Whether or not such a grant is made now, it must be admitted by all honorable members that the Federal Government had to wait until a request was made by the State of New South Wales.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) is a federal member, but he does not come into this any more than I do. The dried fruits industry in his electorate is the next largest after the industry in my electorate. A survey was made by the New South Wales Government just before the federal members to whom I have referred went to Sunraysia. They were deploring that assistance was not given immediately. The State Government of New South Wales asked for assistance at the very earliest, about 1st August. The fault in not reaching a decision - I am not referring to action, because there may not be any action now - lies in the fact that the New South Wales representative lagged behind. The federal members in the Australian Labour Party should have been fighting New South Wales and saying: “New South Wales, get busy. Victoria has made an application long ago. Why do you not make an application? “
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is to be commended for his interest in the dried fruits industry. In season and out of season, he has been fighting for the rights of the growers and he has been doing all that a representative could possibly do. He invited me to visit the area during the recess. I went there about the middle of June, so I was a little ahead of the two honorable members opposite who visited the district. I did not need any prompting from them.
– When are the growers going to get something?
– The honorable member can wait and listen to what I have to say. The industry asked me for a stabilization scheme and for the removal of sales tax on dried fruits. One request has been met and the other is being put in train. I have had several conferences with the Australian Dried Fruits Association subsequent to my visit. Only last week I asked Mr. Simes to meet me again, and I think we know where we are going now.
A survey has been mentioned. I should think that every one would agree that the cost basis established in 1954-55 would be a wrong basis upon which to found a stabilization scheme. I suggested to representatives of the industry that it would be advisable to have the Division of Agricultural Economics make a further survey. During my visit, the representatives of the industry at first suggested that the scheme should apply to the 1963 crop - that is, the one harvested last - but they have since withdrawn that request because of the satisfactory agreement made overseas by the chairman of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board with Turkey and Greece. Fortunately, this agreement between Australia and these two countries will mean better prices, but unfortunately the agreement so far is only for twelve months. However, it may not be impossible to renew the agreement. I think Mr. Eugene Gorman deserves credit for bringing these two nations together. It had not been thought possible to bring them together around a conference table. He did a really good job and he is to be commended.
The problem confronting me is whether a survey can be completed in time to permit a stabilization scheme to apply to the 1964 crop. I am sure that it can. The Division of Agricultural Economics is already on the job making the necessary survey. It is hoped that the division will report to me about December. This would be in ample time for any decision to apply to the forthcoming crop. However, representatives of the industry have insisted that the growers vote on any scheme before it is accepted. It is for the industry itself to decide whether a vote should be taken and I have no quarrel with the request for a vote. This was the basis on which previous schemes were advanced.
We have previously offered two schemes to the industry. One was rejected by a vote and the second was not put to the growers. The apathy of the growers when they were asked to vote on the previous scheme was really the cause of its defeat. When I met the representatives of the growers, I told them that I would expect more enthusiasm to be shown for a stabilization scheme, if they really wanted such a scheme. On the previous occasion on which a vote was taken, only 61 per cent, voted, of whom most voted for the scheme but even their votes represented only about 47 per cent, of growers entitled to vote.
– When was that vote taken?
– I think it was 1957, but do not tie me to the year. I was asked - I will be quite frank about this - whether a favorable vote of two-thirds of those voting would be acceptable to the Government. I pointed out that two-thirds of 47 per cent, meant that only 30 per cent, of the growers would be supporting the scheme and, if no greater enthusiasm for a scheme were shown, I would not expect it to be a success. I asked the representatives of the growers to study the possibilities, discuss the matter with me and work out a scheme that would be to the best advantage of the industry.
I note the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) about the tobacco industry. I do not accept his comments about delay by this Government. The
Government has given Australia a real tobacco industry. So far this year, sales of tobacco have brought no less than £12,’750,000 to the growers and all the crop has not yet been offered. Only 4i per cent, has not been accepted by the buyers. That is a pretty good effort. It flows from the conditions that this Government has laid down. I- should like the honorable member to look at some of the speeches that I made when he was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, when we were trying to get a real tobacco industry established and when the growers were getting as little as 27d. per lb. I asked the honorable member and the government of the day to give a guarantee of 30d. per lb. To-day the growers are getting an average of 137d. per lb. There is a vast difference between the two figures.
– It now costs them four times as much to produce their leaf.
– The honorable member would not take any action when the growers were complaining about getting 27d. per lb. If the honorable member looks at those speeches he will see the remarks that were made about the huge subsidy of £650,000 a year which was paid to the tobacco companies. I remember it all quite well. I repeat that the growers could not get any more than 27d. per lb. That is why we did not have a real tobacco industry during the Labour Government s administration. To-day we have a tobacco industry of substance.
– The growers were half starved last year under this Government’s administration.
– They were nothing of the sort. This Government had acted long before the honorable member spoke about the business.
– -It took three months for the growers to get a penny out of the Government.
Mr. SPEAKER__ Order!
– The honorable member does not like to have his own record brought back to his mind. I can recall all these things happening. In the year before last the sales were not very satisfactory in certain instances. Does the honorable member expect the Government to force the manufacturer to buy leaf of a quality that is not usable?
– This Government has been in office for nearly fifteen years, but it has not placed one stabilization scheme on the statute-book.
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor has already spoken. Honorable members remained silent when he was speaking, and I ask for the same courtesy to be extended to the Minister.
– I do not want to listen to a lot of lies.
– It is not lies. The honorable member knows that two years ago the quality of some tobacco was not at all satisfactory.
– It was worth three times as much as the tobacco manufacturers paid for it.
– Order! If the honorable member for Lalor continues to disregard the Chair he will be dealt with. I ask the Minister to direct his remarks to the Chair.
– Mr. Speaker, I am replying to the remarks that were made by the honorable member for Lalor. We stipulated a revised period for maturation which was in line with the views of the Australian Tobacco Growers Council so that what had happened in the past would not happen again. A committee of review which we appointed, and which included departmental and brokers’ representatives, determined that no more than 50 per cent, of the unsold leaf was usable. Do honorable members believe that the grower of any commodity is entitled to expect his product to be accepted even in respect of some part which is not in usable condition? That was the issue. What happened then was a lesson to the industry.
– That was not the issue. That was a side issue.
– Because we made a success of the industry the honorable member says it was a side issue. I challenge him to compare to-day’s tobacco industry, which is one of substance, with that which existed when he failed to act on behalf of the government of which he was a Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.4 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Broadcasting. (Question No. 5.)
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What was the estimated cost to the Commonwealth of the inquiry into television licences held in Melbourne recently?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The total cost of the public inquiries held by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board into applications received for licences for the third commercial television stations in Sydney and in Melbourne, exclusive of the salaries of the board and its staff who were associated with the inquiries, was £21,585.
s asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Statistician has advised as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 August 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1963/19630815_reps_24_hor39/>.