24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. UREN presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Government (1) support the United Nations resolution for a nuclear test ban treaty, (2) ensure that foreign bases are not permitted on Australian soil, and (3) in response to the call of the United Nations, declare Australia’s willingness to enter into an agreement not to manufacture, test, station or acquire nuclear weapons.
A similar petition was presented by Mr. Snedden.
Petitions severally received.
– Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, I present the report of the Public Works Committee relating to the following proposed work: -
Provision of additional mains, service reservoir and pumping stations for the Darwin Water Supply, Northern Territory.
Ordered to be printed.
– Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, I present the report of the Public Works Committee relating to the following proposed work: -
Southern extension of the 16/34 runway at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, Sydney, New South Wales.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 21st August (vide page 398), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “while approving of such benefits as are contained in the Budget, and particularly those for primary producers and social service beneficiaries, the House condemns the Government for its failure to make adequate provision for defence, education, housing, health, social services and northern development. The House is also of the opinion that the Government’s failure to provide for full employment and for increases in the rate of child endowment which has remained stationary in respect of the second and subsequent children since 1948 is wrong and unjust. For all the foregoing reasons the House is of the opinion that the Government no longer possesses its confidence or the confidence of the nation “.
.- Mr. Speaker, I support the amendment to the motion for the second reading of this bill, which was proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in the following terms: -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “while approving of such benefits as are contained in the Budget, and particularly those for primary producers and social service beneficiaries, the House condemns the Government for its failure to make adequate provision for defence, education, housing, health, social services and northern development. The House is also of the opinion that the Government’s failure to provide for full employment and for increases in the rate of child endowment which has remained stationary in respect of (he second and subsequent children since 1948 is wrong and unjust. For all the foregoing reasons the House is of the opinion that the Government no longer possesses its confidence or the confidence of the nation “.
The Australian taxpayer can hardly be blamed for not having gone into raptures of delight when the Budget for 1963-64 was heralded in this Parliament by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) last week. Nor can the working people of Australia be condemned for criticizing this Budget. So far as the great majority of them are concerned, it means nothing at all; there is nothing in it for them. Most of the benefits and concessions contained in it will be quickly cancelled out in one way or another. For example, the increase of 10s. in the pension for a totally and permanently incapacitated married ex-serviceman will be cancelled out immediately by a reduction in the pension of the ex-serviceman’s wife.
The Treasurer and those who assisted him to frame the Budget must have known, long before they commenced to work on it, that in the absence of a liberalization of the means test any increase the Government gave in social service and repatriation pensions would result in a reduction in some other pension. The T.P.I, pension is a special form of pension. It is given to an exserviceman who has been permanently incapacitated through war service. The wives of such ex-servicemen have also been granted special benefits so that they can look after their husbands, and only the wife of a T.P.I, pensioner knows what that entails. Yet this Government has the temerity to offset her pension against the increase that it gives to her husband. The maximum total pension that the T.P.I, pensioner and his wife can receive is, in any case, £17 10s. a week, and when you take £13 10s. from that you leave the handsome sum of £4 a week for the person who has had to suffer all the disabilities associated with being the wife of a T.P.I. ex-serviceman. This is a shocking indictment of the Government and shows clearly its insincerity in matters concerning ex-servicemen. This is only one of the anomalies in connexion with repatriation.
The increase in the A class widow’s pension and the proposed mothers’ allowance are the only real benefits given by the Government in this year’s Budget. If we can take any notice of the Treasurer’s figures, for it was he who said that 516,000 pensioners would benefit from the new social service legislation, the increase in this pension is a further damning indictment of the Government, because it is further evidence of the lack of sympathy that the Government has had for B and C class widow pensioners over a very long period, and for age pensioners whose wives are much younger than they. We on this side of the Parliament over the last ten or twelve years have consistently directed the attention of the Minister to the plight of these people and the need to improve their standards of living. Even now the rate of pension for the B and C class widows will not be as high as that for the age and invalid pensioners.
In this Budget no provision has l-een made for the wife of an age pensioner who is not certified as being permanently incapacitated and who has a wife under the age of 60 years. A pensioner in this category will still have to live on £5 15s. a week and keep his wife.
I take this opportunity to protest at the inordinate delay that will take place before any of the increased social service and repatriation benefits are paid. According to a report in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ of 15th August the Minister stated that widow’s pensions would be paid in the first week of October and other increased payments would be made about eight weeks later. If this is the case, it seems to me that the Government is merely looking for an excuse for not making the increased payments at an earlier date. There is no earthly reason why legislation could not be passed in time for the payments to be made about the middle of September, or the first week in October at the latest. If the Government is really eager to make early payments of increased pensions, why has it arranged for the Parliament to adjourn for a week on 29th August? In my view the House could well have sat through until legislation on pensions had been passed.
If I have read the Budget Papers correctly, the increases that A class widows will receive will not be nearly as good as the Treasurer has made them out to be, and I should like to have the position clarified. In recent years, A class widows received a maximum pension of £5 10s. a week. The Treasurer’s statement shows the existing rate as £5 10s. and the increase as 5s.; yet the Treasurer indicates that there is an overall increase of 10s. a week. The maximum rate was £5 10s. a week and the supplementary allowance of lis. 6d. for the elder or only child gave a total of £6 ls. 6d. a week. I understand that the State Department of Social Welfare at one time paid the lis. 6d. a week for that child. If the new standard pension is to be £5 15s. a week, it is only 5s. a week more than the present standard rate received by the widows. If 10s. is added to the standard rate of £5 10s. and 15s. is paid for the elder or only child, the widows should receive a total of £6 15s. plus a mother’s allowance of £2 a week. In my opinion, the Minister should say whether A class widows have been granted an increase of 5s. of 10s. a week and whether the supplementary allowance for the elder or only child is less than the Budget says it is. To me, this is something like the three card trick; the Government gives it with one hand and takes it away with the other.
The Budget is noticeable for its failure to do anything for unemployed or sick people. The total benefit for a married couple still remains at £7 2s. 6d. a week. I believe that the least the Minister could have done was to recommend an increase in the supplementary income so that unemployed persons would be encouraged to seek casual employment. The position now is that if a person takes a casual job either for a few days or a week, he has to forego his benefit in the ensuing week, which again puts him behind scratch. In these circumstances, no encouragement is given to a person to accept casual employment.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has refused to understand the very grave problem that confronts girl school leavers, who in their search for employment do not receive social services. The Minister must be condemned for his attitude in this matter. For some years now he has refused to pay the unemployment benefit to young people who refuse to leave their homes and go to the country where work is alleged to be available or to take jobs such as barmaids or domestic household workers where award conditions do not apply. The Minister refuses to pay the benefit to school leavers who, while seeking employment, attend college classes so that they may be able to add office work to the list of work they can perform.
Many parents have been staggered by the Minister’s autocratic rejection of their children’s claims. Some parents assert that the refusal of the Minister is tantamount to telling parents to allow their children to roam the streets, where they will be subject <o the attention of bodgies, widgies, sex fiends and crooks. The Minister’s attitude towards children leaving school is deplored, and I ask him to examine closely the statement of one of my constituents who, in a letter to the Minister, lays a charge that some children attending colleges are able to receive unemployment benefit whilst others go hungry. I have here three letters that I have received in recent weeks in which the Minister has refused to provide unem ployment benefit for young girls who are attending a college class to fit themselves for a better position. They have told the department that they will leave the college immediately they can obtain work.
I want to turn my attention now to the Government’s monetary policy. In my opinion, it amounts to political skulduggery and dishonesty of the worst kind. In 1961, after the Government had for the third or fourth time placed the Australian economy in a strait jacket and the Leader of the Opposition in replying to the Budget proposals had told the House that, if necessary, he would Budget for a deficit of £100,000,000 ia order to restore national economic stability, the Treasurer, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and others cried that this could not be done because there was no money to do it. Both those Ministers also charged that Labour apparently intended to set the piinting presses in motion and print paper money. Yet for the second consecutive year since then the Treasurer has budgeted for a deficit, and he expects no questions to be asked about where the Government is getting this money from. Apparently, what is wrong for a Labour Government to do is right for a Liberal-Country Party Government to do. This Government has been using the printing press or central bank credit for years and getting away with it. In my view, there need not be one person out of work in Australia. If the Government employed the resources of the nation to the best advantage no person in this country would be unemployed and we all would be much better off.
If we look at the Budget Papers, we will find that the report of the AuditorGeneral for the year ended 30th June, 1963, shows that at the close of that year £57,683,796 was unexpended. In my view, if that money had been properly appropriated much more of it could have been used by the States, local governments and other bodies to get rid of the unemployment that we have around us today. My main interest in this subject is in the fact that the Trust Fund, in which there was £806,709,927 at 30th June, 1963, has five principal funds in which I believe money is being wrongly used. The Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve now has £232,322,219 to its credit. The National Debt Sinking Fund has a balance of £167,461,374. The National Welfare Fund has a balance of £207,112,743. The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund has a balance of £22,481,099. The Superannuation Fund has a balance of £102,689,341.
It hi strange that the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Act was not introduced until 1955. Prior to that time the government functioned without such an act. We remember that on one occasion in earlier years, at the time of the wool boom, Sir Arthur Fadden took about £114,000,000 from the wool-growers and said that he put it in a safe place so that they could not spend it, because there was too much liquidity in the economy. Some years after that Sir Arthur Fadden found out that he could rob the taxpayers and maintain the amount of income tax they paid by setting up this fund. The AuditorGeneral, in his report, says -
The purpose of the Reserve is to repurchase or redeem for cancellation securities which represent portion of the public debt of the Commonwealth.
This is hard taxpayers’ money which is collected in the form of income tax. At 1st July, 1962, the balance in the reserve was £294,637,322. During the year the reserve received £41,501,223, making a total of £336,138,555. I want the House to listen to this: During the year there was expenditure from the reserve on the repurchase of securities from maturing loans and for cancellations. The amount was £103,782,084. There was a loss on realization of investments amounting to £34,252, making a total of £103,816,336. The balance in the fund at 30th June, 1963, was £232,322,219. I want the House to note that of the balance at 30th June, 1963, £196,305,404 was invested in Commonwealth Government inscribed stock. I do not take exception to that. But £35,900,000 was invested in internal treasury-bills - in other words, paper money or central bank credit.
I pass on to the National Welfare Fund. In 1952 the fund had a balance of £185,027,046. That amount had increased at 30th June, 1963, from annual accrual of income from investments to £207,112,743. The sum of £207,100,000 was invested in treasury-bills earning 1 per cent. My objection is that every taxpayer, from those earning £105 a year to those in the highest income bracket, has contributed in one way or another to this fund, but this Government has had the audacity to invest the money in the fund in its own wares at 1 per cent. Last year I asked the Treasurer a question about this matter. I do not know whether he is so naive as to think people will believe him when he told me simply in a part of his one-and-a-half-page answer that -
The accumulated balance standing to the credit of the National Welfare Fund at 30th June, 1962, was £205,053,863 practically the whole of which was invested in Commonwealth Treasury Bills. Before any expenditure could be made from this balance it would be necessary to realize on the securities held by the Fund to the extent of the amount of the proposed expenditure.
J would like to know to what securities the Treasurer was referring. Neither he nor anybody else can tell me. I may be something of a dunce but at least I know that when the Commonwealth is using treasurybills no public security is at stake; not even Government security is at stake, because what is being used are the assets of the Commonwealth banking system. In his answer the Treasurer continued -
If the purpose were to finance expenditure additional to that proposed in the Budget, the cash required to redeem these investments would have to be found either by way of additional taxation or by borrowing.
That is a lot of rot. There was no need to borrow. The money could have been used to finance war-service homes. Each year the money would have been earning 3$ per cent, if it had been used to finance war-service homes. About £8,000,000 a year in interest would have been earned if the money had been used to provide homes for ex-servicemen. All over the country ex-servicemen are paying interest rates of 8 per cent., 10 per cent, and 12 per cent, flat on money borrowed to tide them over until they can obtain a war-service loan.
– Sometimes they have to wait twenty months.
– That is so. I move now to that part of the Auditor-General’s report, dealing with short-term borrowings, about which the Treasurer is so fond of speaking. He said -
During 1962-63 transactions in Treasury bills for Commonwealth purposes were -
The Internal Bill issues at 30th June, 1963, totalled £279,800,000 and were held as follows:-
From 16th July, 1962, a new form of short-term security, Treasury Notes, was available for issue on a daily basis. The notes, issued at a discount, arc redeemable at par on maturity thirteen weeks from the date of issue.
Issues during 1962-63 amounted to £380,889,000.
That is the type of financing which this Government is getting away with, yet it cannot advance money to the States or to individuals for housing and other purposes. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) took the Treasurer to task in relation to the real deficit in the Budget he was fairly correct, because the Treasurer went on to say -
Outstandings reached a peak of £149,603,000 at 15th February, 1963.
In the short time remaining to me I should like to review the way in which the Treasurer finagles a lot of these figures. He shows in the defence vote an amount of £217,389,400, less an amount of £68,283,000 chargeable to Loan Fund. That is all right, but although that £68,283,000 raised on treasury-bills is spent nothing more is said about it other than to reconcile it somewhere in the statement. It docs not bear interest as do other loan raisings. A study of the defence vote indicates that some of this amount of money has been spent by the Department of Defence on salaries and payments in the nature of salaries, on joint intelligence bureau, on the defence signals branch and on plant and equipment. The same applies to the vote for the Department of the Navy. This £68,000,000 raised by treasury-bills is absorbed in this form of spending, yet the Go vernment cannot provide funds to shire councils, water boards and other local government undertakings or to private enterprises so that unemployed persons can find work. There is no excuse for even one man who is able to work being unemployed. I want to plead the case of local government organizations and other semigovernmental bodies which have both machines and labour available but no funds. If the funds were forthcoming they would be able to go ahead with much needed work. Unemployed people in my own electorate would find jobs if only the Commonwealth Government would provide the necessary funds.
This Budget, like the others which the Treasurer and his predecessor, Sir Arthur Fadden, have brought down, is designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. It deliberately keeps 80,000 people out of work although work of all kinds is available. Additional thousands of persons would make themselves available for work if work was offering. The Treasurer has provided taxation concessions for the rich grazing interests and large companies, which will be able to make bigger and better profits, but about 1,250,000 workers who receive an income below the basic wage will get precisely nothing. This Budget exceeds the amount of that of last year by £197,300,000, yet the Government could give the people concessions amounting to a paltry £50,000,000 or so this year, the rest of the Budget being appropriated for defence, capital works and services, departmental appropriations and the like. I believe that the small concessions granted to the taxpayer by the removal of sales tax from foodstuffs will be of no great value because, with the exception of ice cream the high cost of many other foodstuffs has long since compelled the low wage earner to forget them and buy other items which come within his spending power.
According to the statistics provided by the Treasurer in the Budget Papers there are something like 1,250,000 wage earners in Australia who receive the basic wage or less, while another 1 ,000,000 receive a gross wage up to £20 a week. In my reckoning it is impossible for them to buy any luxuries, yet when the Treasurer told the House that the Government’s proposals would increase from £105 to £209 the minimum income before taxation is payable one would have thought he was giving the world away.
It is a laughable proposition because in the 1960-61 taxation year - the latest for which figures are available - the Government received from the £105 to £199 group of taxpayers only £197,000. That came from 159,541 workers, which meant an average of about £1. 4s. 8d. for the year. That would not buy a week’s supply of cigarettes for the ordinary smoker, and in that regard the concession means virtually nothing.
This Government should always remember that under the Chifley Labour Government the basic wage worker with a wife and one child paid no tax at all, whereas under this Government he pays something like £1 a week on a taxable income of £600 a year. I feel that the Government’s attitude generally to the low wage earner is one of playing it pretty low.
I tell the Treasurer that there is always plenty of money of a kind that can be borrowed for housing, but under this Budget the people who require housing - the low wage earners - have no possible hope of obtaining it. I believe that it will eventually be left to a Labour Government to use in the correct manner the monetary and physical resources of this country in order to bring the lot of the ordinary wageearner up to the standard where he and his family will be able to enjoy security. I support the amendment moved b’y my leader.
.- Before I commence my remarks relating to this Budget I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating my old friend the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) on his elevation to the executive of the Parliamentary Labour Party and his consequent transfer to the front Opposition bench. In recent years the honorable member has developed an inferiority complex in relation to the problems of Australia and I just hope that now that he has been promoted to the front bench he will be able to take a more realistic view of the situation.
– Now sit down. That is a good speech.
– I have been here for only a few years, so I cannot comment on what the honorable member for Grayndler said earlier in his political career, but after reading the reports of some of his speeches I sometimes wonder whether he was any different then. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), during his contribution to the debate made some comments on the Department of Social Services. One would think that it had no place in this year’s Budget. I direct his attention to the Budget speech appearing at page 26 of “ Hansard “, which gives the actual figures, because I always believe that figures demonstrate the true result of what is taking place. In the year 1962-63, the actual expenditure on social services was £379,000,000. The estimated expenditure this year is £411,000,000, or an increase of £32,000,000 on last year. Surely that is sufficient answer to the criticism of the honorable member for Shortland of the Department of Social Services.
I believe this Budget is very sound. It is not a spectacular document, but it is a sound one because it is designed to help the people who really need assistance and because it proposes to put money into projects that the Government knows will help, either directly or indirectly, our export industries and our general development. Because of this the Budget poposals will eventually have a big bearing on the improvement of the unemployment situation throughout Australia.
I suppose the most important industry in Australia to-day is the wool industry. I do not think that can be disputed. Because I believe that this industry is going through a very trying period at this time, I intend to devote some of my time to a discussion of some of its problems. One could speak at great length about many departments and many problems, but as I feel that the problems of the wool industry are of great importance at the present time, I should like to direct the Government’s attention to a few points relating to it. First we should consider the importance of the wool industry. In the broad, the wool industry is responsible for 40 per cent, of our national income, wheat is responsible for 15 per cent, and our metals are responsible for 7 per cent. These are only approximate figures because there is some variation of percentages from year to year. The returns from both wool and wheat vary according to whether we experience drought or good conditions, and the valuations have an important effect on the percentages of national income earned by those industries. In the broad, income from the export of wool - excluding that used for local consumption - has dropped from between £500,000,000 and £600,000,000 in the early 1950’s to as little as £302,000,000 in 1958-59. In other words, the actual income to Australia has dropped by approximately half in a period of ten or twelve year.
There is little need for me to stress the importance of export income. That has been mentioned in this place and elsewhere on numerous occasions. Suffice it so say that the key to Australia’s future and our general standard of living lies entirely in our balance-of-payments position. No country can expect to retain world respect if it cannot maintain its balance-of-payments position; nor can it expect to survive for any great length of time when it depends to a large degree on overseas capital. The use of overseas capital is quite all right if it is restricted to developmental projects designed to save expenditure overseas, as the development of the oil industry in Queensland would. But we must be very careful at all times not to make excessive use of overseas capital. As I said a moment ago, the use of overseas capital is quite all right provided it is not unlimited.
There are many areas throughout Australia that depend entirely on the wool industry. There are others that depend for their existence entirely on both wheat and wool. If these two industries were to fail many thousands of people would be thrown to the wolves, as it were. Wool-growers, wheat-growers and businessmen would be in the same position. We would have scattered throughout Australia virtual ghost towns, like the old mining towns. However, I am not so pessimistic as to believe that this Government will allow that to occur. I feel sure that this Government and any future governments will make certain that the wool industry is kept in a reasonably sound position.
Let us have a look at the problems of the industry. I am a little perturbed because, although we are in the third day of our discussion of the Budget, on only two occasions have I heard the problems of the wool industry mentioned. They were mentioned by the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), two of my Country Party colleagues. I am sure that some of my Victorian colleagues, such as the honorable members for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) and Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), will join in a discussion of the industry. I believe that the condition of the industry is a matter of some importance, and it is disturbing that in three days there has been so little mention of it.
How many widely used commodities have dropped in value by about 50 per cent., as wool has done over the last ten years or so? The drop in the value of wool may be even greater than 50 per cent, if you take as a base the high prices of 1950. We all know that the production cost of most things has gone up. The wool-grower is in no unique position in this regard, but his costs possibly are increasing to a greater extent than those in many other industries. When you realize that his income over a period of ten or twelve years has dropped by 50 per cent, or 60 per cent, you can appreciate the difficulties he is encountering. This position must be rectified. I feel that there are only two solutions to the problem. We can reduce the wool-growers’ costs or we can increase his returns. There are no other alternatives. It might be suggested that we should increase wool production, but that might have undesirable repercussions. Increased production could help to reduce costs, but it could also give rise to a surplus of wool, which, if not disposed of at a reasonable price, would create hardships for the industry.
The solution seems to be to increase returns, and there are several ways to achieve this. First, I suggest that we improve the quality of the product by research. We are endeavouring to do this now, but the pace of research is far too slow. The work must be speeded up if we are to succeed in obtaining increased returns and successfully competing with man-made fibres. For the benefit of those honorable members who do not know what is happening in this field, let me explain that the Commonwealth Government contributes towards research on the basis of 4s. a bale for every 2s. contributed by the growers. Unfortunately, we have built up a huge reserve fund. I say that is unfortunate because I believe that the money - about £7,000,000- should have been spent. When we are considering research for the wool industry, we must consider also what is happening in the synthetic fibre industry. It is no use waiting until excellent manmade fibres are produced and then deciding that we must compete with them. The normal practice in business to-day is to try to beat the other fellow. It is of no use to be one jump behind. We must be first.
I want to discuss promotion for a few minutes now. This is the big question in the wool industry at present. I do not think that there is any need for me to remind the House that Sir William Gunn, the chairman of the International Wool Secretariat, is now travelling about Australia trying to inform the growers about the details of what the secretariat proposes in wool promotion. The proposal for an increase in the levy to enable promotion efforts to be increased is not being received very favorably by the wool-growers. The International Wool Secretariat - briefly, the I.W.S. - has decided to increase promotion efforts generally and I believe that, in the main, the growers support the principle of promotion. However, I, like many other growers, believe that the proposed increase of the levy from 12s. to £2 16s. a bale is too steep.
The International Wool Secretariat is composed of representatives from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and it is of interest to note that Australia will contribute about 64 per cent, of the total funds required for promotion. New Zealand and South Africa have decided to support the principle of increased promotion. However, Australia, as the leading exporter of wool, naturally must contribute a higher percentage of the funds than will be contributed by the other countries. New Zealand will contribute about £3,500,000, South Africa about £2,500,000 and Australia some £10,400,000. The question is: Can the Australian industry afford this or can it afford not to provide this money? I think that is the big issue that faces us at the present time.
As I have said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the growers are not altogether happy about the situation. Some are rather inclined to support wool promotion if they can get an orderly marketing scheme. That approach has some justification. But the question is: Where do we go from here? We have reached a certain stage and I believe that the growers have some justification for complaining about the proposed terrific increase of the levy from 12s. to £2 1 6s. a bale. Only a few years ago, Sir William Gunn did much the same thing as he is doing to-day. He went about the country addressing meetings of growers’ organizations right, left and centre and outlining a scheme then suggested under which the growers were to be persuaded to raise the levy from 4s. to 10s. a bale and then to increase it gradually until it reached the level of £1 a bale. The growers reluctantly accepted that proposal. Although they considered that an increase from 4s. to 10s. a bale was rather steep, in the main they accepted the proposition. We now find that the present levy of 12s. a bale, 2s. of which is for the purpose of research, is to be raised to £2 16s. a bale under the scheme proposed, and I am sure that honorable members will understand why the growers are not altogether happy about the idea.
I firmly believe, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we have to find a solution to this problem pretty quickly, because woolgrowers, like all other primary producers, have to work to a plan. They cannot decide to switch from wool-growing to wheat-growing and then to fat lamb raising and subsequently to something else in the way in which a worker can change his job from one week to the next. The man in the wool industry can change his activities only gradually over a very long time.
This House will shortly, I hope, consider legislation to renew the wheat stabilization scheme. There, again, we have a few problems, and I shall discuss them later. The big problem in the wheat industry, it has been suggested, is over-production. If the wheat farmers find that their economic position deteriorates and they are not permitted to increase production, what will happen? How will they manage? I believe that we could find ourselves in real trouble.
Returning to the wool industry, I should like to tell the House about a statement made recently by Mr. Lund, a leading world authority on wool promotion, who said that wool production had increased by some 40 per cent, between 1950 and 1960, whereas the total consumption of apparel fibres had decreased by about 40 per cent. If we examine the Wool Economic Research Report of June, 1960, we are reminded that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics set itself the objective of increasing its annual production of wool from 765,000,000 lb. to more than 1,200,000,000 lb. over a seven-year period. This is a mighty big increase and it cannot be completely ignored. All these factors should be considered when a decision on wool promotion is being made.
My time is running out, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I want to place this problem of the wool industry squarely before the Government. It has been said that in some circles in the industry a wool subsidy has been suggested. It is really tragic that a wool subsidy is even being considered. As you, Sir, know, a subsidy of Id. per lb. would cost something like £7,000,000 a year. What would a subsidy of Id. per lb. mean to a wool-grower? A worthwhile subsidy would have to be at least 6d. per lb.; so we would be up for an expenditure of more than £40,000,000 for a subsidy on wool.
I mention these matters only to point out that certain sections of the industry believe that they are in a lot of trouble. There is no need for me to point out that wool prices reached great heights in the early 1950’s. To-day, prices are relatively low and the growers have been able to maintain reasonable standards only because the proceeds of the high prices of the 1950’s were put back into the properties, a,t least by the good farmers. They have been enabled by this foresight to carry on, but this cannot go on forever.
I should like to discuss a lot of other issues, but time is too short. As I said earlier, I believe this is a pretty sound Budget. It will assist industries that are of great importance. I suppose the provision in the Budget that pleased me most was that with respect to the superphosphate bounty. My colleague, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) has been fighting for this for a long time, and I have given him all the support I could. The Government has now 6ecn fit to introduce this provision, and I believe it will help quite a number of industries. It will assist the wheat industry. It will also help the wool industry to a certain extent, but we must remember that it will not help all sections of the wool industry. In the drier areas, such as certain parts of Queensland, represented by the honorable member for Maranoa and others, the woolgrowers do not use superphosphate, so they will not get any direct benefit from this provision.
Let me turn to the position of the wheat industry. There is little need for me to remind the Minister of my great interest in this subject. I have spoken to him about it on so many occasions that one might have thought I was becoming an annoyance to him. However, as a representative of a large wheat-growing area, I realize the importance of a successful stabilization plan, and I have been determined to make sure that the Minister and the Government were made aware of all the details necessary in a renewed stabilization plan. My friend, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), asks me whether the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) did anything to contribute towards the renewal of the stabilization plan. I am happy to say that all Country Party members in this House who represent wheat-growing areas have done everything possible to ensure the renewal of the wheat stabilization plan on a satisfactory basis.
I do not know when the Government will be introducing the legislation with respect to the stabilization plan, but I know that it will be doing so in the near future. The legislation must be introduced at an early date, because complementary legislation has to be passed by the States before the plan can be put into effect. Goodness knows what would happen to the wheat industry if the stabilization plan was not renewed.
Some of the most outspoken objectors to the wheat stabilization plan have been certain economists in some capital cities. I do not know how much support those economists have in this House, but it perturbs me to hear people criticizing our efforts to encourage further wheat production. This argument as to the necessity for a stabilization plan could be said to be a hardy annual, or perhaps a hardy five-yearly affair. Whenever a wheat stabilization plan is approaching the end of its agreed term we hear criticism of it. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to say that they would renew the stabilization plan and increase the amount of export wheat covered by guarantee to 150,000,000 bushels. They realize only too well that they are not in office and that they have no responsibility in the matter. They can claim that they would increase the amount under guarantee to any old figure. However, they know that this stabilization plan must be renewed during this sessional period, and this is very important. 1 know that some of my friends from metropolitan electorates, with all due respect to them, do not believe in increasing the amount of wheat under guarantee beyond 100,000,000 bushels. Let me tell the House that as far back as November, 1962, the Wheat Board published figures of wheat production throughout the world. It is a pity that I have not time to cite all these figures, but at least I can tell the House that annual production throughout the world was then about 7,830,000,000 bushels. Australia’s production was 300,000,000 bushels. We could double our production of wheat, and it would still represent a very small proportion of total world production.
I could give the House the history of this industry as far back as the early 1930’s. Over the years we have always had arguments about wheat production. One year we are told on all sides, “ Grow more wheat “. The next year we are told to reduce our production of wheat. The price goes up and the price goes down. This year we have had some illustrations of typical problems that have to be faced in wheatgrowing. In Victoria the season has been so wet that thousands of acres have remained unsown. I know that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England), for instance, has not completed the sowing of wheat on his property because the season has been too wet. In other areas there have been droughts. The honorable member for Maranoa, for instance, is worried about the lack of rain in his electorate. While trying to overcome all these problems, we still hear people telling us that there is overproduction in the wheat industry. I believe it is most important that we should produce as much wheat as we possibly can. I challenge anybody in this House or outside it to prove to me that any wheat has at any time been dumped at ridiculously low prices or has been dumped in the sea. I do not think anybody can give me proof that this has happened. If anybody can do so I am prepared to withdraw my remarks. There is no such thing as over-production of wheat.
I had the privilege recently of travelling with the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) on a trip to South-East Asia. Honorable members who have not as yet done so should go to the countries in that area and see the potential wheat markets in those countries. If they did, they would not talk about over-production. There are two main reasons why the people in those countries are not purchasing our wheat and flour. The first is that they are not used to our products, and the second is that they have not the money to pay for them. Well, it is a matter of educating the people of the South-East Asian countries and getting them used to Australian wheat and flour, and I believe that over a period we can find ways and means of overcoming the difficulties of increasing our markets in those countries.
My final question is this: Where do we go from here with regard to this stabilization plan? In recent years the plan has been based on the cost of production. I have given figures previously in regard to this matter, but I think it is worth giving them again. Unfortunately I will not have time to give all the details. The old plan, which is approaching its conclusion, has been based on a 15.5 bushels per acre yield divisor. We know that in recent years, because of the increased efficiency of farmers and for other reasons, the average yield has been increasing at a very rapid rate. When we start altering the yield divisor in the formula, we should remember that every bushel per acre increase would mean a total loss to wheat-growers of some £5,000,000.
The other question is: How much wheat will we guarantee? Over recent years production of wheat has increased from 160,000,000 bushels to 250,000,000 bushels, and last year it was 300,000,000 bushels. I do not know what it will be next year. The federation has said that it wants the guarantee for 150,000,000 bushels. I believe that we should support the industry and increase the guaranteed amount from 100,000,000 to 150,000,000 bushels. The growers have not asked for total production to be guaranteed, but if they did I ask: Would this be unreasonable?
– Listening to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) I am led to the conclusion that he has some knowledge of the wool industry. He brought forward many points of which I was not aware. It appears to me that he is somewhat in sympathy with the policy of the Australian Labour Party with regard to wool promotion. I take it that he has been a wool-grower and that he knows his subject.
Let me tell the House that this is not the first time the people of Australia have been at variance with Sir William Gunn. I have some interest in the ship-building industry, and I remind the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), who is now at the table, that Sir William Gunn was associated with a company interested in the transport of cattle from the Gulf country to the meatworks at Cairns, and he preferred to use imported vessels rather than to have an Australian-built ship transporting cattle to the Queerah meatworks. I understand that this year he is asking again for a further extension so that he will not have to place an order, as he has been required to do, with an Australian shipbuilding yard for a cattle ship. He wishes to use once again one of the Clausen line ships. It is not an English-built ship; if reports are correct, it was built in the Communist country of Yugoslavia.
The Australian Labour Party, in the amendment it has moved, is voicing the sentiments of the people of Australia, not only those who in the past have supported Labour but also those who have been traditional supporters of the Liberal Party. The Government, rightly, is treating our amendment as a motion of censure and has suspended all other business. I believe that this is only the second time that this has been done. The Government now treats the Australian Labour Party with the respect it deserves because, holding its position on the Treasury bench by a slender majority, it realizes that Labour will become the government whenever the next election is held, whether it be this year or next year.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) anu his colleagues have sought to inspire confidence in the supporters of the Government. The Treasurer showed this in his Budge speech when he said -
I am happy to be able to bring down a budget under conditions so propitious as those which rule in the Australian economy to-day. On the one hand, we can look back on a year of strong, continuous, widespread growth; on the other, we can look forward to possibilities at least as favorable - and in all probability more so - in the current year and perhaps beyond.
The honorable member for Wimmera seemed to suggest that this optimism is not shared by people in the wool industry. L was surprised to hear that some people are suggesting that the wool industry, which has been Australia’s main industry for so long, should be subsidized.
The Treasurer and his colleagues have sought to inspire confidence in the supporters of the Government by once again adopting portion of Labour’s policy of 1961, but they have failed. Once again, it has been too little too late. The Government does not understand that, whilst Labour’s policy would have been effective in 1961-62, the position has changed. The Government should seek a sounder understanding of what is needed to restore our economy fully. It is a regettable fact that this tired Government, torn by a conflict between the policies of the Liberal Party and the fight for existence of the Australian Country Party, has lost contact with the people. It governs with a slender majority and retains this majority by refusing representation to the electors of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. It is so engrossed with its own differences that it has failed to understand the true needs of the people. The differences between the Government parties are publicized by notices such as the one 1 now show to the House. This is a billboard of the “ Courier Mail “ of Tuesday, 20th August, and it is in this form: - McEwen Attacks Liberals. I ask for leave to incorporate it in “ Hansard “.
Government Supporters. - No!
– Leave is not granted.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and this morning the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) told the House what Labour would do when it became the Government. The Government has introduced certain tax concessions to assist the primary producers, lt has restored the bounty of £3 a ton on superphosphate. This was introduced by the Chifley Government and withdrawn by the Menzies Government, apparently despite protests from the Australian Country Party. The Budget also provides for an investment allowance of 20 per cent. The total cost of these concessions has been estimated at £8,000,000, being £7,000,000 for the bounty on superphosphate and £1.000,000 for the investment allowance.
The Treasurer referred to special developmental projects. However, no evidence of a planned scheme of development, particularly associated with settlement, can be found in these projects. The honorable member for Wimmera mentioned the drift of population from country areas to the cities. Time marches on, but we still have no plan for the development of the northern half of Australia, which includes the Territory solely under the administration of the Commonwealth. There is an urgent need for a northern development commission, which would not only interest itself in the development of our mineral and agricultural wealth through water conservation, roads and even rail links to improve transport, but would also encourage greater settlement in the north. Too many of our migrants are staying within the capital cities. Too many of the parents in provincial towns and cities are moving to the capital cities, and particularly the southern capitals, to obtain better employment opportunities for their children and more suitable employment for themselves. Too many sons of farmers, experienced men, are moving to the cities because opportunities and finance are not available for them to obtain farms of their own. Schemes such as the Queensland brigalow lands development scheme, in which the applicant needs to have assets or a guarantee of at least £12,000, exclude many promising sons of the soil. This applies also to the Ord River irrigation project, where it is estimated that an applicant would need assets of about £30,000. These schemes are out of the reach of the sons of ordinary farmers.
A federal authority co-operating with the States could look for ways of settling men on the land without requiring such a large amount of capital. In this way, men of experience who were willing to establish themselves on the land would not be lost in a dusty, over-crowded metropolis. The trend in Queensland has been for people to move to the cities. Mechanization and the need for larger holdings to justify capital expenditure on machinery have been some of the causes of this movement. However, there are many acres, even in the electorate of Wide Bay, which to-day are being used solely for grazing purposes and which under irrigation could become agricultural land. State resources for largescale irrigation and water conservation schemes are limited. I believe that there is a strong case for the Commonwealth to share with the States in this development.
I have mentioned transport. Under the proposed schemes, eventually all the capital cities from Brisbane to Perth will be linked by a standard gauge railway. This is very important. The work up to the present has reduced freight charges and has enabled the railways, both Commonwealth and State, to compete successfully with road transport operators, who enjoy the privileges of section 92 of the Constitution and do not have to make any payment to the Commonwealth, the States or local authorities for the roads on which they run. I believe that the standard gauge railway should extend even further than it does. During the last war, the railways of Queensland did a magnificent job on their narrow gauge. The rolling stock was practically run into the ground. The staff, especially the running staff, suffered great hardship. There were many cases of overstrain, and heart conditions appearing today are the result of the work and overtime done by these men during those years. I believe that for the defence of Australia the standard gauge railway should be extended. It should extend for 1,200 miles past Brisbane right up to Cairns. I know that the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party and Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) disagrees with me. He has stated in the House that improved roads and improved railways in the north would only help an enemy to come down into the southern part of Australia.
Certain taxation concessions have been granted. It is pleasing to see that at last the Government has yielded to representations for the removal of the sales tax on foodstuffs, particularly pastries, pies and items of that nature. One basic commodity is still subject to sales tax. I am referring, not to tobacco or alcoholic beverages, but to a commodity that is used in every home and perhaps is used more by large families, people on small incomes and people who do manual work than by the white-collar workers and people on higher incomes. That commodity is common soap. I believe that sales tax no longer should be imposed on ordinary soap.
Another aspect of sales tax which I believe unjustly affects people living in country areas is its application to freight. Sales tax generally is applied to the last wholesale price. That has pushed out of business many wholesalers in country towns who gave employment to people in those towns. In the city of Maryborough two wholesalers have closed down in the last five years because they could not compete with the distributors in the capital city who can sell at a lower price. The retailers, who pass the cost on to the consumers, have to pay sales tax at rates up to 12i per cent, on freight charges. I believe that that is most unjust.
That criticism applies also to motor vehicles. A motor vehicle is an essential for people living in country areas to-day. I do not see why a person who lives 200, 300 or even 1,000 miles away from the capital city should have to pay more sales tax than a person who lives in the capital city has to pay. The sales tax on freight is unjust. It discriminates against people who live in country areas. I believe that the Government should consider taking action - the Country Party should support this, but I do not know whether it will - to have sales tax fixed at the factory in which the article is manufactured. That would mean that the sales tax on an item would be uniform throughout Australia and there would be no discrimination.
– We have always advocated that.
– That is good. I am very pleased to hear that. We can look forward to your support. It is a matter for regret that members of the Country Party have not been able to convince their Liberal Party associates that this tax is unjust and discriminatory, and that it reacts against decentralization and efforts to attract people to settle in the country areas of Australia.
It is also a matter for regret that since 1948, when the rate of child endowment was fixed by a Labour government at 10s. a week for the second child and subsequent children, there has been no increase in that rate. It is true that this Government granted child endowment for the first child as from 20th June, 1950; but since that date no increase at all has been made in child endowment rates, despite the fact that the value of money has decreased. Let us compare the attitudes of the Australian Labour Party and the Government on this subject. Since 1950 the Government has not made any alteration to child endowment. The Australian Labour Party introduced child endowment for the second child and subsequent children, at the rate of 5s. a week; on 26th June, 1945, it increased the rate to 7s. 6d. a week; and on 9th November, 1948, it increased the rate by another 2s. 6d. to 10s. a week. Between 1942 and 1948 - a period of six years - child endowment was doubled under a Labour administration. Under the present Government no alteration has been made over a period of fourteen years, except for the granting of 5s. a week for the first child in 1950, when the Government probably felt that it had some responsibility to the people after being elected to office at the general election in 1949. This pegging of child endowment rates is a gross injustice to the families and mothers of Australia.
In the main, the largest families are those of people on lower wages. This discrimination against the lower wage earners is quite common under this Government. The 5 per cent, income tax rebate discriminates against them. Speakers for the Australian Labour Party have pointed out that the rebate means only 9d. or ls. 6d. a week to the average wage earner, whereas people on higher incomes - the supporters of the Menzies Government - enjoy far greater concessions. The removal of the limit on medical expenses as a taxation deduction is not of assistance to the small man. This
Budget has been described as a small man’s budget. It is anything but a small man’s budget. It is true that some concessions have been given to single pensioners and that widows have received further assistance. Those concessions were long overdue. Whilst we applaud them, we sa’y that they should have been introduced long ago. In fact, if the Australian Labour Party had been elected to office at the 1961 general election, people would have been enjoying those concessions for more than twelve months now. The increase in the maximum allowance for education expenses is not of any great benefit to the ordinary wage earner either. It could be of some benefit to the people on higher incomes who traditionally support the Menzies Government.
A friend of mine asked me what was in the Budget for him. Incidentally, he is a supporter of the Menzies Government. I do not think he would even vote for me. Nevertheless, I regard him as a friend.
– He is not much of a friend.
– He is a sort of a friend. When he asked me that question, I mentioned to him that the exemption limits for the purposes of estate duty were raised under the Budget. He said to me, “ It is a hell of a budget if you have to die in order to get any benefit from it.” That was his impression of the Budget.
The Budget provides for an all-time record deficit. It is the work of a Treasurer and government whose leaders, during the 1961 election campaign, poohpoohed Labour’s proposal for the introduction of a supplementary budget providing for a deficit of £100,000,000. They said that that could not be done and asked, “ Where will the money come from? “. We are still hearing this cry from the Government benches: “ Where will the money come from to finance Labour’s proposals? “. Yet in this Budget we have an instance of deficit budgeting to the extent of more than £300,000,000 by the Treasurer. Those are the people who believe that the country is in a far better state than it has ever known.
Perhaps one of the oddest speeches in this debate was that delivered by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). He made forecasts about the unemployment situation, but as «i forecaster he is even less reliable than are some of our weather forecasters. There may have been an increase in the number of job vacancies, but in many cases those vacancies exist in the major cities. The unemployed in our provincial towns would have to leave home with their families if they wanted to apply for those jobs. To do this would cost them £200 or £300. Movements of the people of this kind are happening to-day in Australia. People are moving from one part of the country to another where job opportunities are greater, but such moves create hardship for them.
One of the most distressing features of the unemployment situation is the number of juveniles who are registered for employment. Many of these young people register for employment when they leave school, and if they have not obtained a job by the time school re-commences they return to school. Their names are then removed from the list of persons registered for employment. Their parents support them without any assistance from the Government. In this way the number of persons registered for employment is reduced. The figures are made to look better. Another distressing aspect of the unemployment situation is the large number of skilled females registered for employment. This indicates a need to establish industries, particularly in country towns, which will absorb female labour. There are also many unskilled females registered for employment. The days when a girl could go into domestic service -ire over. That avenue of employment does not offer sufficiently attractive wages and opportunities for advancement. Throughout the world there is a growing tendency for women to stand up for their rights and to demand such things as equal pay for equal work - a policy that is not subscribed to by the present Government. In recent advertisements seeking librarians the Commonwealth has offered £200 to £300 less for females than it has offered for male librarians.
The Budget leaves much to be desired. It does not meet the real needs of the people of Australia. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion of censure moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– In supporting this Budget I propose to pay some attention to the motion of censure moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). Under the new form of debate the censure motion is a formal motion whereas the traditional method of moving a motion of censure on the Budget debate was to move that the first item of the Estimates be reduced by £1. In the course of his remarks the Leader of the Opposition referred to a number of spheres of governmental activity and suggested that his party could do better than the Government has done. I do not have time and do not intend to go through the whole encyclopaedia of the honorable gentleman’s claim but I would like to direct the attention of the House to one particular claim made which, if analysed carefully, will illustrate the inadequacy of most of the other remarks and claims that he made. The most impudent claim made by the honorable gentleman, to my mind, was inherent in his nebulous proposal to revitalize, as he put it, Australia’s defence efforts. I have taken the trouble to read again his remarks and I propose to refer to the policy of defence which he said provided a method of revitalizing our whole defence effort. Boiled down Labour’s policy is expressed in this sentence -
We will tell the people openly and frankly what defence burden they must bear.
What is the thinking behind that statement? Has the Labour Party some extraordinary and infallible capacity to tell the people of Australia exactly what is required? I am sure the people of Australia will be alert to this piece of window dressing. I believe also that very few people in the community will be fooled by the Opposition’s claim. The only ones likely to be taken in by it are those who have no memory of the activities of Labour and its attitude towards national defence prior to World War II. May I remind the House that in the critical period of national preparation prior to 1939 leading members of the Opposition, who were also then in opposition, took every step available to retard, restrict and reduce Australia’s defence efforts. After war broke out so selfish was their attitude, so obstructive their influence to the production of a full and effective military, industrial and commercial war effort, and so blatant was their opportunism that they made it, if not impossible, at least extremely difficult for their political opponents to pursue the war effort.
When Labour came to office in 1941 the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. Curtin, paid a tribute to the effective groundwork laid by the Liberal Party-Country Party Government that had just gone out of office. At the Sydney Town Hall on 12th October, 1941, shortly after he had assumed office, Mr. Curtin made a speech. I remind some honorable members opposite, who apparently have been reared on Labour speakers’ notes, which ignore the truth and take the purely biased view of this period, that the late John Curtin, as Prime Minister, said - 1 have to pay tribute to the Government which preceded my own for the constructive work it has done in defence and the foundations it has laid.
Later, on 18th October, he said -
Hie Navy was at the highest pitch of efficiency, as demonstrated by the notable exploits of its ships overseas. The Home Defence Army was well trained and its equipment had been greatly improved. The strength of the Air Force had been greatly increased, both in respect of Home Defence squadrons and the training resources of the Empire Air Scheme. The equipment of the Air Force also had been much improved. Finally munitions production and the development of production capacity over a wide range of classes, including aircraft, was growing weekly.
The whole range of war equipment production had been set in train, mainly in 1938. The production of heavier types of equipment never before attempted in Australia was already under way - in the face of Labour opposition. On 25th November, 1938 - less than a year before the outbreak of war - the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said in this place -
On the subject of defence I hold views different from those of many honorable members. In my opinion, the proposed expenditure on armaments and defence equipment is utterly futile in a country with 12,000 miles of coastline and vast resources. The comparative isolation of Australia makes its invasion by an enemy difficult, especially as an enemy would have to keep open its lines of communication.
That was a statement by a man to whom I have always paid regard in matters of defence, but the statement illustrates clearly the Opposition’s attitude at a time when Australia was preparing to face up to one of the worst threats we have ever faced. In view of their past record of obstruction it is humorous now for honorable members opposite who have a say in the direction of the affairs of their party to claim that they are prepared to assist Australia’s defence effort.
On 2nd November, 1938, in this place the future Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, said -
My colleagues and I believe that the very substantial expenditure of £644,000-
I repeat, £644,000-^ on armament annexes is a dangerous departure:.
In other words, he and his colleagues did not believe in the practice, which developed subsequently and became one of the strong points of our munitions effort, of constructing armament annexes. To indicate further the Opposition’s attitude to defence preparedness at the time when the clouds of war were gathering over Australia, let me cite an extract from a speech which was made by the then honorable member for East Sydney, Mr. Ward, on 12th November, 1938. It is reported on page 1149 of Volume 157 of “ Hansard “. He said-v
It is amusing to hear people say that we shall not give up New Guinea. To these people I would say that if it should become necessary to defend our Mandated Territory, they should defend it themselves.
On 6th September, 1939, a few days after war broke out, the same honorable member is reported on page 75 of Volume 161 of “ Hansard “ in this way -
I believe that I am expressing the opinion of the majority of the people when 1 say that they are prepared to make the maximum effort to defend this country, but are opposed to any man being called upon to take up arms and leave this country for foreign battlefields. [n other words, he was propounding the theory that the fight should be fought here. [ have mentioned these things because it is necessary that the people of Australia should be reminded at this time of the examples, the efforts and the achievements of the possible next government of Australia, especially in view of the motion of censure now being discussed in which the Opposition has stated its attitude to defence.
Let me turn now to the wool industry, to which the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) referred. I agree that he has some justification for raising this matter but I do not entirely agree with him on the method of discussing it. I agree with him essentially on the point that the wool industry, which makes such a major contribution to Australia’s export income, is of vital importance to our country. The industry has always been independent in its outlook and has always succeeded in running its own affairs without governmental interference. Now that new machinery has been set up, with, I believe, the approval of all persons in the industry, it would be to the industry’s distinct disadvantage if the subject were discussed at great length in the Parliament. I take the view that the industry’s future decisions should be arrived at by members of the industry and those whom they have appointed to do the job. It would be much better for the industry if party politics were kept out of it.
To come to a more detailed study of the subject - this affects my constituents and other people in the wool industry so they are entitled to know how we in this place think - I believe in wool promotion. The rewards of the promotion which we have undertaken already may be seen to some extent in the prices that we received for last season’s clip. This statement is hard to support by the figures, but I believe that it is true. I believe also that the value to the industry of research is undeniable. There is no possibility of argument on that. Any one who has had the opportunity to examine the work done by the Textile Research Institute at Belmont, which is in my electorate, must realise the valuable contribution which the institute is making to the advancement of the consumer end of the wool industry. Because wool is such a diverse type of product it requires naturally a vast amount of research so that its best qualities can be exploited to the limit..
Unfortunately, divided opinions within the industry itself in relation to marketing, which is a subject that concerns many of us, are being seized upon by some persons as a fruitful ground for party political meddling. At this stage I do not propose to make any comment about that aspect. The Australian Wool Board has set up a marketing committee to examine the possibilities and to make recommendations, and now that the diverging views of the growers’ organizations are being brought into line in an attempt to arrive at a beneficial and acceptable decision on the future of marketing, it would be harmful if we or any one else with party political aspirations commenced meddling and interfering, having in mind the risk of creating a pre-judged opinion in the minds of the growers. I have no doubt that the honorable member for
Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) will have something to say on this issue.
I support the Budget. Ever since I have been in this place I have held the conviction that there is far too little awareness of the place that our primary industries occupy in our economy. Although it is said so after that without the exports of primary industries our balance of trade would disappear, the atmosphere in which primary industry has to be conducted is often lost sight of. So it is pleasing that in this Budget the Government has shown in tangible form its recognition of the special problems which confront the man on the land. I believe the Government’s proposals will contribute in no small measure to more successful production in our primary industries. I have stated before - I believe it is worth repeating - that a nation’s standard of living in the long run must be related directly to the productivity of its industries and indirectly to the energy and industry of its people.
It has been pointed out many times that with a rising standard of living and advanced production in secondary industry, the appetite for imports to service secondary industry in heavy equipment or in raw material also increases, despite the implication of the self-sufficiency that a wide development of secondary industry is supposed to create. It is also indisputable that the growing needs of Australia’s overseas trade will remain for many years a substantial responsibility of our great exporting industries, despite the present world tendency towards declining values of raw commodities in relation to the prices of manufactured goods.
Therefore, it is a most refreshing thought, particularly for those of us who have the responsibility of representing in the National Parliament the persons and interests that play such a large part in our exporting primary industries, that the Budget, however much its other features may be open to debate, contains official recognition of the special problems facing our primary producers, particularly those in the high cost area, and that in several ways it makes a direct or indirect contribution to the easing of the internal situation in Australia which has been brought about by the pres sure of rising costs on industries whose incomes are fixed, not by local prices but by the price structure of the world’s markets. Unfortunately, these are impervious or unresponsive to the requests for at least a cost of production return for our exports. The Government’s attitude is reflected in its activities and particularly those of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) who, in his journeys overseas, has consistently directed attention to the economic influences throughout the world and to the inequity that exists in the relationship of the value of raw commodities to the value of manufactured articles. Australia - naturally with selfinterest - has played an important part in bringing that aspect to the attention of the world.
It is gratifying, therefore, that in this Budget the Government has decided to reintroduce the subsidy of £3 a ton on superphosphate. This will be of vast assistance to the areas of Australia within the medium and high rainfall belts which, since World War II., have felt the full impact of rising costs despite the fact that it is generally accepted that they form the backbone of our structure of primary production.
During the course of his remarks the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen) produced another inaccuracy which I believe probably is indoctrinated in all Labour candidates for rural electorates. He said that the Chifley Government had introduced the fertilizers subsidy. If he looks at an old “ Year Book “ I think he will realize that, under a different name, manure subsidies had been in existence for a long time. In fact what happened was that in 1941. when the Curtin Government came into office, it increased the then subsidy from 10s. to 25s. a ton. That coincided with the loss of Nauru and Ocean Island, which produced the chief basis for our superphosphate industry, with the result that rising costs had a detrimental effect on the consumption of superphosphate. So the subsidy was increased. My point is that to take that as the initiation of the superphosphate bounty is completely wrong, because the principle has been in existence from the early 1930’s.
There are a few basic facts of life in connexion with the importance of our high rainfall areas, to which I referred earlier, particularly within the temperate zone, which require repeating occasionally from the national economic viewpoint. This is particularly so in the light of the rather unbalanced and ill-informed statements made from time to time by people whose position in Australia requires that their views should be given some respect. One of the great catch-cries at the moment is the demand for development and population of the north. I agree that from the point of view of national defence requirements, a well-spread population would be highly desirable and would counteract the talk, for which we are almost entirely responsible, about the great empty spaces. I leave with honorable members the thought that we are the biggest promoters of the talk about the empty spaces. In fact, the press of Australia is almost entirely responsible for spreading that doctrine overseas.
Obviously, there are at present certain areas that are almost entirely unoccupied but which have definite prospects of sustaining a reasonable population with the expectation of a reasonable standard of living. However. I must confess that many of the experiments, trials and schemes that have so far been undertaken could not be described as unqualified successes. Unfortunately, Our minds go back to such ventures as Humpty-Doo and in some directions the results have been most distressingly deficient, with substantial losses of capital and a depressing waste of human effort.
Let us regard this matter on a realistic basis and admit that the introduction of a substantial population into the sparsely settled areas of the north should be kept as a defence responsibility. Under present conditions, that policy must always be highly suspect from an economic angle. I must, of course, exclude the possibilities which could follow the substantia] discovery ot minerals or oil in that area. I am particularly conscious, in this connexion, of the wisdom behind the remarks of Sir Samuel Wadham over a year ago, in a radio talk He said -
Recently there seems to have been a recurrence of statements about the emptiness of Australia from an agricultural point of view. Numerous commentators who know extremely little about the subject have seen fit to suggest that this is due to our inefficiency and that if only some of the crowded nations on our northern boundaries had had possession of this country they would have populated it in millions long before this.
He then went on to say that for centuries the opportunity was there, but despite periodic visitations from the north no settlement was contemplated, far less attempted. He said, further -
Some people seem to think there is something to be ashamed of in that such large areas of Australia are given over to sheep husbandry. This view is absolute nonsense. The fact is that this continent has a high proportion of sound sheep country. If the rainfall was better and the soils richer there would be more agriculture.
He also pointed out - and this is coming back to the main trend of my argument - the important part that the intelligent use of fertilizer, including superphosphate, could play in our overall rural production. He implied that the possibilities of stepping up our production on an economic basis were more reliable within the rainfall areas of the continent. This feature of rural production is one which the Government has recognized in this Budget and it is one on which I wish at this stage to enlarge.
I would like to emphasize that the bounty on superphosphate will be of direct benefit to those farmers within the temperate rainfall areas of this continent who produce in the vicinity - I would like honorable members to take note of this - almost half of our national export income. It will therefore have a vast influence on the high cost areas which are making a tremendous contribution to our export drive.
By far the greatest sufferers from the world-wide post-war inflation, which has had its influence on Australia’s cost structure, have been the primary producers and particularly those in rainfall areas where the effect of inflation on land values has been most pronounced. I am obviously not referring to the farmers who want to cash in on inflated values, but to those who, with their special skills and experience, wish to carry on the task of shouldering the major portion of the work of providing our national exports. Obviously, apart from the influence that rising costs have had on the internal price level of machinery, transport, wages and items involving the farmer’s choice, inflation has had a very serious effect on the inescapable costs - those that he cannot choose and which are mainly the responsibility of governments - that are imposed on the farmer. For instance there is the increase in land values and the steeply rising scale of land tax now imposed by the States through the inflation of land values
I would like to mention that when the Commonwealth Government vacated the land tax field in the 1951-52 financial year - the last year on which this argument is based - the total amount of land tax collected was £8,708,000, of which the Commonwealth collected just over £6,000,000. In the last year for which I have figures available - the 1961-62 financial year, a period when the Commonwealth was no longer levying land tax - the total amount of this tax collected by the States was £22,660,000 or almost three times as much as the tax collected in 1951-52. I think that information will impress on honorable members the tremendous effect that land tax has imposed on the cost of production. I have mentioned land tax particularly because I think it illustrates clearly the effect of inflation on land values. There was a similar increase in municipal rates and another burden was placed on land through death duties. All these impositions are directly affected through the inflation of land values and they are all rendered more acute My point is that all these costs, which must be met out of the farm budget, can only have a depressing effect on the economic production of the farm.
Let me present this matter in another way. If, in the normal course a debt is incurred, it is with the object of increasing the economic production of the farm. Due allowance is made for the servicing of the debt and a rise in the overall return is expected. In other words, you do not borrow money just for the sake of borrowing it. You borrow with the intention of increasing your production or obtaining some other financial benefit from the debt incurred. Who can suggest that a charge such as land tax, which reflects no increased earning capacity, or the imposition of a substantial debt through the necessity to meet the payment of death duties, can have anything but a depressing effect on farm production?
We, in Australia, are in big business in primary production, yet we are allowing ourselves to shape our industrial and fiscal structure in a way which ignores the necessity for our farming industry to be encouraged or at least tolerated in its efforts to continue to solve Australia’s balanceofpayments problem.
It is suggested that the provision of this bounty on superphosphate will cost the revenue about £900,000,000 in a full year. Incidentally, I have not been able to check that figure, but I presume it assumes there will be an increase in the use of superphosphate because the last figure I had was considerably below that. It is an encouraging move in the right direction and I am prepared to suggest to the Treasurer and his advisers that the commitment in subsidy payments not only will be largely recouped in the return from increased taxable income, but also will have a substantial influence on Australia’s export income. And perhaps, what is more important to my way of thinking, it will have an impact on the cost-price squeeze which threatens our primary industries in this period of depressed world prices for commodities.
I have previously made passing reference to the impact of death duties, and I should say that I have been impressed with the justice of the systems which have been adopted in Victoria and South Australia which have differential bases for the assessment of duty on landed property used for the purpose of primary production as against other types of assets in a deceased’s estate. It also surprises me to know that the Commonwealth Treasury has not accepted the principle involved in the legislation in those two States. At the same time, there is a distinct advantage to be gained from the Budget proposal to exempt from duty in certain circumstances estates up to a value of £10,000, although it is not directly confined to farming estates. As I work out the proposal the diminishing rate applicable to estates of a higher value will be of real advantage to the beneficiaries of such estates up to almost £50,000 as are left to the widow or the children.
There are certain other features of the Budget which I must commend to the House, Taxation deductions spread over a ten-year period for the cost of installation of country telephone lines will be of great benefit. I might add that I have had a good deal of experience of this particular problem. Young settlers and soldier settlers wishing to have telephone services installed as added protection against the risk of fire and flood often find that the initial cost of installation of the service is beyond their means. The proposal contained in the Budget will be of some help in meeting that problem. Again, the provision for additional allowances for investment on equipment will be a useful aid to the farming community. The Budget takes particular notice of the needs of that section of the economic effort in Australia which relies mainly on export prices at world levels and whose internal costs have been added to by our policies in relation to secondary industry, and the cost structure of our railways and other methods of transport. For the first time since I have been in this Parliament there has been a definite trend towards the encouragement of primary production. I reject entirely the nebulous statements of the Leader of the Opposition in his completely unsupported censure motion. I believe that the people of Australia themselves will recognize the importance of this Budget to the community.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I appreciate the attitude of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) who said yesterday that a motion of no confidence is a serious matter. Mr. Speaker, it is because it is a serious matter that the Opposition has seen fit to move this motion. In deciding to take this action the Opposition gave serious consideration to that very aspect of it. Therefore, putting this motion on the plane of a censure motion should be regarded as important, not only by the Prime Minister but also by all the people in Australia.
The various aspects of the Budget are rather interesting. I applaud and support some parts of it, but I reject others in no uncertain manner. The proposals in it which I support are, of course, those which have been stolen directly from Labour’s policy. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) made great play on the question of subsidies on fertilizers. If we refer to the speech made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) yesterday we will find a very interesting statement. It is my view that any man in the Parliament, whether he be a Minister or back-bencher, should be prepared to back his statements with facts. When referring to the speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in moving this censure motion, the Minister said -
He started ofl by complaining that the Liberals had stolen some of Labour’s policy and then, because he claimed the Government’s proposals had been stolen, he generously approved of them. On examining that claim I found that during the election campaign in 1961, there was no reference by the Labour Party to a superphosphate subsidy. That proposal was kicked around a little in the Grey by-election campaign, it is true; but it was being kicked around by every one at that stage. It was not a part of Labour’s election policy. In its 1961 election policy, as it affects the farmer, Labour claimed that it would provide not less than £13,500,000 as a dairying subsidy. That was remarkably generous.
I suggest that the Minister should read through a little booklet I have here. It contains Labour’s 1961 election policy, and in it, in black type, I find the words “ Superphosphate Subsidy “. I do not know exactly what the Minister had in mind. I do not know whether he was deliberately trying to be dishonest or whether he was really ignorant of the position. When he made the statement I thought that a person who occupies the very responsible position that he does in Australia should at least take care to ensure that there is some element of truth in his assertions. I, too, have certain points to make in support of the Leader of the Opposition. There are certain parts of the Budget which I applaud, and the proposal for a superphosphate subsidy is one of them because I realize, as did the honorable member for Corangamite, that the primary producers constitute a most important sector of the economy of the country. It was because of this realization that the Chifley Government provided a subsidy on superphosphate. The subsidy was subsequently withdrawn by the present Government.
– It was replaced by the Nauru subsidy.
– It was taken off by the present Government.
– That was after fertilizer was available from Nauru.
– The honorable member seems to be a bit disturbed. He is not prepared to admit that the Government which he is now lauding for making provision for a superphosphate subsidy was responsible for removing it in the first place. In other words, it would seem that the farmer has apparently been a bad boy but now that he has served his sentence the Government is saying to him, “ We will now restore to you something that you already used to have “. How wonderfully generous of the Government! The honorable member for Corangamite went on to speak about other matters affecting the farming community and to express pleasure at the fact that at last the Government was proposing something that would be of benefit to that important element in the economic structure of Australia. I agree with that portion of the honorable member’s speech, but it must be remembered that the farming community as a whole made one great mistake. If the farmers had not made the fatal mistake of using their various organizations as political rather than industrial machines, they would not have been faced with these difficulties now; it would not now be necessary to give them back some of those things to which they were entitled had they let their organizations work basically for the interests who support and make contributions towards them. The honorable member for Corangamite should keep that in mind. If the farmers’ organizations had divorced themselves from political activities the Government would not have adopted the wrong attitude that it did towards an important section of the community which, after all, supplies some 80 per cent, of our exports, and the honorable member for Corangamite would not to-day be expressing his thanks to the Government for the small mercies that it proposes to extend to the primary producers.
There are many other proposals that the Government has stolen from the Labour Party’s policy. In fact, I go so far as to say that the coat of arms of the present Government should have emblazoned on it representations of a moonlight night and a branding iron. We of the Opposition represent all sections of the community. It has been wrongly stated time and time again that we are concerned only with industrial areas. We do our job for the country people, and the honorable member for Corangamite cannot deny that policies designed to make for the forward development of primary production, whether of wool or wheat, were implemented by Labour governments in the past.
– But are not the industrial unions supporting the Labour Party’s funds?
– The honorable member who has just interjected and who proclaims his great support of the country people had this statement to make in Grafton quite recently-
– Do not lie to the House as you lied up there.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw.
– The honorable member has withdrawn his remark, so we will let it go at that. I was about to tell the House what he said. He said that the people living by the rivers which flooded wanted money to paint their houses and, in one instance, to buy a motor car.
– I did not say that and you know it.
– I will refer again to this branding iron philosophy. We remember the scorn and contempt that was heap:d upon the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) about a year ago by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made certain suggestions in relation to the Budget. The Treasurer spoke of the awful desolation which would occur, of inflation and many other unsatsifactory things, if interest rates were reduced. Yet in this Budget the suggestion has been implemented. I commend that also. I repeat that Government members will get on well so long as we do the thinking for them.
In 1961 the Labour Party proposed a budget deficit of £100,000,000 in order to restore to a depressed nation some sort of stability. The Treasurer stated then that that would be the height of stupidity, yet, as early as February, 1962, after the Government’s near defeat, we found a budget deficit of £118,000,000 proposed as a Supplementary measure. It was proposed by the man who, a matter of months before, had said that such a step would sabotage the way of life of the Australian people. He said that with such a deficit the country would run to rack and ruin, but he quickly changed his mind. That is not extraordinary to me because I understand a little of the workings of the mind of a government which seems to be without any ability to think clearly or to face up to its responsibility.
The Treasurer in his Budget speech explained what a wonderful year we have just had and said that things were going to be very rosy in the garden of the future. He said a great deal about nothing in regard to the future. I would like to quote a few figures in an examination of the situation. Net capital investment for the quarter ended lune, 1963, was £137,400,000 and for the quarter ended June, 1962, it was £132,800,000. There was an increase of only about £5,000,000 in twelve months, but we were told in the Treasurer’s speech that in that twelve months the position had improved tremendously, that we were on a wave of prosperity and were riding high. A £5,000,000 increase is something too small to be concerned about. Bank advances alSO showed a slight increase.
In considering those slight increases we must remember that eighteen months ago one big Australian industry was marked to be thrown to the wolves. I refer to the motor car industry. We all remember only too well how an extra sales tax was placed on motor cars and was suddenly removed when the Government found that the opposition to it was a little strong. No doubt this opposition was reflected in the results of the 1961 election. Any improvement in the Australian economy is no doubt a reflection of the removal of that extra tax on motor cars. The state of the motor car industry has far-reaching effects on the economy of Australia. We live in a large country with many miles of roads. Transport is required whether you live on a farm, in a country town or in a city. We have our railways and airways, but a very important part is played in Australia by people engaged in the motor industry. If we follow it through, we will find that the motor industry has a particular effect on the man on the land. Without his car to-day in most cases he is isolated. The Government saw fit to give the motor industry, which it had tried to crush, an opportunity to expand. It has expanded and has become of great benefit to the Australian economy. But that in itself has not been enough to put us on the way to prosperity, as suggested by the Treasurer.
An income tax reduction of 5 per cent, was introduced, removed and re-introduced. There again the Government followed its off-again on-again system. The reduction is in operation now, which means that we have the sad story of the small man getting no benefit from the reduction and 50,000 people in the higher income groups receiving a considerable benefit. For a man earning £18 to £20 a week - the average wage-earner - the saving due to this tax reduction is in the vicinity of 9d. a week, but the 50,000 people in the higher income groups have increases of from £100 to £120 in their spending money. The 3,000.000 people in the lower income groups receive almost nothing and the higher wage-earners get a considerable advantage. This reduction is merely a sugar-coated pill. It looks attractive but will not stand analysis.
The small wage-earner gets no benefit from other provisions of the Budget. I refer to the increase to £150 of the allowable tax deductions for education expenses and for medical expenses. The average wage-earner cannot spend £150 a year on the education of a child and will receive no real benefit from this. Any man who can spend £150 a year on the education of each child in his family is certainly not in the lower income groups. These concessions have been featured as being very important to the average person, but how can they be important to him when he cannot take advantage of them?
We heard a lot from the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) about the defence of Australia. He went back many years, quoting what somebody had said and referring to what somebody did not say. The point is that we have to look at our defence expenditure from tha point of view of gross national income. For the year 1950-51, 2.8 per cent, of our gross national income was spent on defence. In 1952-53, at the time of the Korean War, defence expenditure was raised to 4.3 per cent, of the gross national income, and in 1962-63 it was reduced to 2.7 per cent.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Mr. Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting, there arose the question of whether a statement that I had made in an earlier debate was correct, and you had occasion to ask the honorable member for Macarthur to withdraw a remark. Unfortunately, the honorable member is not in the House at the moment
I should like to direct his attention to the “ Hansard “ report of the proceedings of this House on 16th May last, at page 1469. The honorable member was then participating in the discussion of an urgency proposal relating to flood relief, and the report of his speech contains this passage -
I suggest that those Opposition members who have told us that their districts are ruined, and that all activity will stop, ought to remember that immediately flood relief money is paid more money goes through the shops in the towns concerned than at any other time in the year. This can be proved over and over again. When flood relief moneys are paid, the people immediately buy new household and other goods.
– Motor cars?
– Yes, in one case.
That was the incident that I was referring to when the honorable member, before the suspension of the sitting, made an unparliamentary remark. At this stage, I merely direct attention to that statement made by the honorable member, who is chairman of the Government Members’ Food and Agriculture Committee and who represents the Federal Government as a liaison officer in matters relating to flood relief. This is the kind of thinking that completely misleads those people who are fortunate enough not to be troubled by devastating floods like those that have occurred on the north coast of New South Wales.
The honorable member, apparently, although he is chairman of the Government members’ food and agriculture committee, has no idea that a person who loses property, whether household goods or anything else, in floods is compensated for only a very small percentage of his loss. I suggest that, on the average, compensation represents only about one-third of the amount of the loss. Neither I nor any one else who really knows what the situation is believes that reasoning of the kind indulged in by the honorable member for Macarthur can solve the problems of flood relief. Merely enabling people to spend a few pounds on urgently needed household furniture and food to replace losses sustained in floods is not enough.
The honorable member for Macarthur and the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) got to their feet rather hurriedly recently to ask the Prime Minister whether he had considered providing certain funds for flood relief purposes. They have left their run a little late. Their pseudo-interest in this very important subject comes a little late. They are merely trying to ride on the wave of popularity that they believe benefits those who associate themselves with the solution of flood relief problems.
The fact is that those who are in need of flood relief have been denied their due not only in this Budget but also in previous budgets. Nevertheless, there appears to be a likelihood that some money will be allocated for flood relief in the future. It is unfortunate that the farming community, particularly in the coastal areas of New South Wales and also in the coastal areas of other States, is afflicted by this great problem of flooding. The entire economies of these areas depend on the vagaries of the weather and therefore the assistance that they need should be provided for in the national budget. I say that advisedly and I believe that the idea will bear fruit in the mind of the Prime Minister, if one can judge by remarks that he made in Casino some months ago.
I may say at this stage that I was disappointed that, among the proposals in the Budget designed to benefit the farming community to a greater degree than has ever before been attempted by this Government, there was no provision for flood relief. I am pleased to see the provision that has been made in this Budget for the farming community, and I commend the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on his attitude in that respect. But, as I have said before, there is nothing new about the idea of looking after the farming community. The idea has been advocated for many years by members of the Australian Labour Party in this House. The marketing of the produce of the good earth should receive close attention, because primary products play such an important part in the economy of this country. I suggest that the Government could consider that matter more closely.
I have mentioned before the use of farming unions and organizations such as the Australian Primary Producers Union and the Banana Growers Federation in looking after the interests of the farmers. I deplore the way in which such organizations are used as political rather than industrial bodies. The particular interests of the individual members could be well looked lifter if these organizations functioned as industrial rather than political bodies.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I should like to mention the importance of the tax concession to be extended to primary producers in respect of the cost of the installation of telephone services. In my capacity as member for Cowper, I have many times dealt with requests for the extension of telephone lines and the provision of telephone services in areas well beyond the limits of those in which such facilities are normally found. There are many small communities which, having no telephonic communication, are denied the opportunity to get in touch with a doctor to to summon assistance immediately in case of sickness, accident or some other event. I believe that the concession to be extended in this Budget will greatly help such communities. The Government should adopt a policy of promoting decentralization by extending telephone services to people in the position of many in isolated locations in respect of which numerous applications for telephone services are refused. In many such instances, when I have supported an application, I have received no co-operation from the Government. I believe that it should reconsider its attitude in this matter.
.- Mr. Speaker, in my studies of democratic government I have not, so far as I can remember, seen reference to any budget brought in by any government that has not automatically been met with a censure motion by the opposition party. It is fair to say that, in one form or another, this applies in Australia, the United Kingdom and elsewhere and that it applies in this country whether the present Government parties are in opposition or the Australian Labour Party is in opposition. In fact, it can be said that an opposition has a duty to censure a government when a budget is presented. I believe that this is good and healthy, because it gives the people - the body politic - an opportunity to judge the merits or otherwise of each political party.
The formulation of a censure motion is not difficult for the Opposition. The task is very easy. For three reasons, I say that the task of the Opposition in formulating a censure motion is much easier than the task of the Government in determining the
Budget. First, the Opposition can afford to be irresponsible. The Government cannot, because, in presenting the Budget, it produces a positive document upon which action must be taken. The Opposition, on the other hand, can indulge in wild and irresponsible promises that it is under no obligation to honour. Secondly, an opposition, whatever may be its political persuasion, has plenty of scope within which to choose its grounds of censure in detail.
The basic framework within the fabric of the Budget is designed to determine the economic policies to be pursued during the ensuing twelve months. But, woven into this fabric, are various goodies, if I may use that term. These goodies take two forms. On the one hand, there are concessions; on the other hand, there are grants. The concessions mean that people are asked to pay less, and can take the form of tax reductions or concessions. Grants, on the other hand, take the form of increased disbursements of funds to various people and projects. For this, there is an enormous field which embraces things such as social services, defence, development projects, bounties and subsidies. When the possibilities are added together, they represent a significant number. Indeed, from what I have seen, the Treasurer, in any year, has a wide choice. In making concessions, he may pick from about 2,000 propositions that are served up to him. Various pressure groups quite rightly put before the Treasurer their own particular wishes. Obviously the Government cannot accept all such suggestions. If it did so, taking the situation to its logical conclusion we would reach the extreme position in which nobody would be paying any taxes and we would be spending twice or three times as much money as we now do. So, as the Government cannot accede to 2.000 requests, it must pick a certain number, and if the economy can stand it it will pick 20 or 30. This still leaves the Opposition 1,900 or more on which to base its motion of censure. This is another reason why it is an easy task for the Opposition to find grounds on which to censure the Government.
Then we come to a third reason. The Opposition’s task is made easier by some sections of the Australian press. We see some sections of the press playing one of the oldest games in the world, setting up their own Aunt Sallies and then knocking them over. For weeks before the presentation of the Budget we see in certain sections of the press statements to this effect, “ We have it on good authority that taxes will be reduced “. A favourite term is “ sources close to the Treasurer”. We see in the press such statements as, “We understand from sources close to the Treasurer that pensions will be increased by 5s. or 10s. So this climate is built up, with certain sections of the press making these statements and claiming that the information has been obtained from informed sources. Then, after the Budget is presented and all their punting proves to have been a failure, the second phase of the game is indulged in; the Aunt Sallies are knocked over by the newspapers which set them up. Then these sections of the press hit the Government because of what has not been implemented.
By way of illustration let me cite one newspaper. It will remain nameless, because I do not want to single out any particular newspaper, but just to make the general point. After the Treasurer had increased the allowance for medical expenses from £150 a person to infinity - the limit had been removed entirely - this newspaper, on 14th August, made, under the heading “ The Notmuch Budget “, on its front page the rather amusing comment, “ Medical expenses are a little more generous “. So when the Leader of the Opposition launches his censure motion the way has already been paved for him. His task has been made easier. But there must be one quality in his speech - sincerity. This chamber is a funny place in some ways; one can rise here and use poor English expression, one can momentarily forget his lines or commit various sins against oratory, and one can get away with those things provided he is sincere. But I say, and I say it advisedly, that in moving this censure motion the Leader of the Opposition was most insincere, and I shall give seven reasons for saying this.
The first reason is this: I do not think it is unreasonable to expect the pretender to the throne of Prime Minister, the man who says he wants to be Prime Minister and deserves that honour, to manifest basic Labour Party policy when he censures the
Government. We do not begrudge him the luxury of being negative for part of his speech, or of criticizing the Government for what it has or has not done, but surely we have a right to expect him to say what basic Labour Party policy is. In his speech, which lasted for 43 minutes, there was not one mention of either of the words “ socialization “ or “ nationalization “. Am I wrong in assuming that nationalization is still a fundamental plank in the Labour Party’s platform? Am I wrong in assuming that it is not still a basic part of Labour policy? If I am, is it not reasonable to expect the Leader of the Opposition to mention such basic features of Labour policy in such an important speech?
In 1951, when speaking in the debate on broadcasting, the present Leader of the Opposition said -
Let me state clearly the Labour Party’s policy on broadcasting. It stands where it has always stood, for the nationalisation of broadcasting.
Has he changed his ground? Has the Labour Party changed its policy? If it has, let its members say so. They have not done so. Let them have the decency to tell the Australian people that this is still what they stand for.
I come to the second reason why I believe the Leader of the Opposition was insincere. He said -
Business confidence and business spending are not merely questions of monetary policy. Restoration of public confidence will only depend on a restoration of basic consumer demand.
These are fine words, and I agree with them wholeheartedly; but who, I ask, has done more in the past eighteen months to destroy consumer demand in this country than the Leader of the Opposition? The unity ticket of insecurity and fear is the honorable member’s only passport to the Government benches, and he knows it. Let me quote an article which appeared in a publication called “ Hawaii Newsletter “ which the Leader of the Opposition either wrote or read: -
Do you want a recession? If so, blame tho Government for any bad news and particularly spread the idea that there is no use working for growth because the Government is out to stifle business.
Scare the hell out of the people by stressing stock exchange jitters.
Stress lack of business confidence.
Exaggerate unemployment figures.
In other words, accentuate the negative. If most of us do that we can make one ring-a-ding of a business recession.
This is precisely what the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues have been doing during the past eighteen months. Yet he has the gall to come here and preach to us about business confidence and the restoration of consumer demand.
Let me come to the third reason why I believe he is insincere. In an extraordinary sentence in his speech he accused the Government of pursuing policies designed to meet special electorate requirements. I can speak with some feeling on this matter, because just before my success at a byelection in 1960 this Government had the tremendous courage to bring down in this Parliament unpalatable measures, measures that it knew would lose it thousands of votes, not only at the by-election that I contested but also at the general election thai the Government had to contest later. I say with great pride that the Government did not shirk its responsibility, and that it brought down, in an election year, the most unpopular and unpalatable measures that had been brought down by a government of this country for many years.
I now come to my fourth reason. The Leader of the Opposition said: -
These concessions … do little or nothing to assist the middle or lower income earning families.
One could go through the list of concessions, which included increases to single pensioners and to civilian widows, increased allowances for medical expenses, increased provision for housing, estate duty concessions, remissions of sales tax which will save Australian housewives about £11,500,000 a year, increased allowances for education expenses, and so on. These things have all been listed by other speakers. But this Budget does more than provide these concessions for the ordinary man, the man whom the Leader of the Opposition supposedly champions. It ensures a healthy economy in which a man who wants to work can work. It ensures a national economy which will assist us to weather the difficult days ahead on the international economy front.
But let me challenge the honorable gentleman on his own grounds, the ones that he has chosen, and on his own terms.
Let me talk for a moment in terms of the taxes imposed at the moment on the middle or lower income earning group. Let us take an objective view of the situation and see whether this ordinary worker is getting a bad deal. Australian taxation rates - and I do not say this with any great pride - are lower than those of most other countries. As I understand the position, there are only three countries with reason.ably sophisticated economies that have lower taxation rates than we have. I believe they are Greece, Spain and Portugal. The honorable member said that the average family wage-earner gets £1,200 a year, or about £23 or £24 a week. I do not agree with this figure. There is a median in the whole scale of salaries; the salary of the family man is higher. However, I will accept his figure and argue with him on that ground.
A man with a wife and two children, after deductions, pays about 24s. a week in income tax. Let us see whether this represents over-taxation, as the Leader of the Opposition alleges it does. What does the taxpayer get for the 24s. a week? We should compare this with the purchases that we can make for 24s. a week. He enjoys the privilege of living in a country like Australia, which at least some Opposition members - not all of them - concede is the greatest country in the world. He has provided for him the most efficient Navy, Army and Air Force Australia has ever had in peace-time, and these forces will automatically defend him if we are attacked. If ill fortune befalls him and he must rely on the pension at 65 years of age - or his wife at 60 years of age - the Government will pay him £5 5s. a week. If he and his wife both receive the pension, they will be paid £10 10s. a week. These amounts will be paid for the remainder of their lives and in addition they can receive £7 a week. A married couple will have £17 10s. coming into the home for the rest of their lives.
The children of the taxpayer are educated virtually free of charge. If he becomes ill, he receives medical benefits and the most expensive medicines. Dozens of Government departments work for his good and his welfare. They ensure his safety in aircraft, protect his health from imported diseases by quarantine, and promote the sale of our goods abroad, thus ensuring that he will continue to enjoy his present high standard of living. They promote immigration, which, as all honorable members will concede, will be the salvation of this country. They help to develop the north and so justify our tenure of the continent. They build roads and bridges and provide police to protect him. I could go on giving the list of services he receives for 24s. a week; but above all this he buys each week a piece of Australia for himself and his family. I know of some areas in Victoria in which the residents pay 20s. to 24s. a week to have the garbage collected, and nobody screams about that. But here we are told by the Leader of the Opposition that the lower income earner is getting a bad deal from taxation. Sir, I dismiss this assertion for the reasons 1 have given. 1 come now to my fifth reason for saying the Leader of the Opposition was insincere. He said, “ We will plan for full employment without inflation “. He made not a mention this time of the old term we have heard - minimal inflation. He has never quite defined this term. His promise to plan for full employment without inflation is an assumption that we are a long way from full employment now. I will say here that in some sectors we are now near or at overfull employment. Let me give just two sectional figures.
– What about Cessnock?
– I will concede to the honorable member for Hunter that there are pockets of unemployment. I did not say there are not and he is deliberately misunderstanding me, as is his wont. On 2nd August, the latest employment figures were released. Let me take a key group. In the group, skilled metal and electrical, 1,500 males were registered for employment and there were 4,900 vacancies. Is this wholesale unemployment? In the group, professional, semi-professional, commercial and clerical, 12,800 females were registered foi employment and there were 3,000 vacancies. These are the figures on paper, but I tell the House that for the past three months I have been advertising in Melbourne for a typist-secretary and I have not had one applicant.
Australia is near the stage of full employment. But what is full employment? Would any member on the opposite side of the House care to define it? Would any Opposition member care to state now by way of interjection that we have full employment when not one person is unemployed? Of course, the Opposition would not say that. We must concede that there are seasonal reasons for unemployment, that there are those who refuse to work - the loafers in the community - and those who have some psychological or physical disadvantage or are unemployable or marginally employable.
Let me refer to a statement by Lord Beveridge. He could never be accused of being a Conservative in his thinking. He said that in a sophisticated society 3 pu cent, of the work force would be a conservative estimate of the necessary pool of unemployed. The United States a few years ago appointed a committee called the National Resources Planning Board to inquire into unemployment. It brought down a figure of 5 per cent, to 8 per cent, as the unavoidable unemployment in a sophisticated society. The honorable member foi Reid (Mr. Uren) is interjecting. He will be interested to know that Karl Marx has conceded that in any society there must necessarily be some unemployed - the unemployables and the seasonal workers. With the greatest of respect, I was dismayed to pick up a copy of the report of the Reserve Bank of Australia this morning and read that the Governor of the bank had made the rather extraordinary statement that unemployment is still too high. That is all he said. He did not say what the number of unemployed should be, and members of the Opposition have not given any figure since the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) made a fatal faux pas some years ago.
I would like to refer to the graphic arts industry. This industry needs skilled tradesmen. I ask the sincere members of the Opposition, particularly the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay), who is interested in union affairs, to listen to the case I am about to state. I have a letter from an employer in the graphic arts industry. He tells me that skilled tradesmen are so scarce in this industry that, although the award wage is £19 12s. a week, the majority of workers in the industry are earning between £40 and £50 a week. The basic salary is £27 10s., but with overtime and bonuses, which employers are forced to pay because of the scarcity of employees, the salary is between £40 and £50 a week. That is the first phase of the case I am stating. I have in my hand a photostat copy of a letter written by the secretary of the Federated Photo Engravers Photo Lithographers and Photogravure Employees Association of Australia, Mr. W. Ryan. He wrote to the trade journal in the United Kingdom and asked that his letter be published. He said -
The number of enquiries for employment that we have been receiving during recent months has become so large that I have been directed to write to you to inform you of the position as it is here.
This is written by a member of the Australian Labour Party, which supposedly supports the immigration programme. He continued -
You will not need to be told that, if positions were available here we would welcome your members but it would be doing a disservice to them and to ours to give them any encouragement whatever to come here Obviously it would be far better if they knew at the outset that the-re were but remote chances of employment and that they should not give further thought to it.
That is, to migrating to Australia. This man is doing a disservice to the nation. His letter is circulating amongst people in the graphic arts industry in England, and he is a member of the Australian Labour Party. We heard the Leader of the Opposition say that he supports the immigration programme. This is the height of hypocrisy. If Opposition members are sincere, why do they not prevent these union leaders from writing such letters? I have only given one case out of many.
The sixth reason I say the Leader of the Opposition was insincere is his ridiculous statement that the Treasurer is proposing a deficit of more than £300,000,000. We know that the Leader of the Opposition is not an expert on finance or economics - far from it; but we credited him with having enough intelligence not to make such a fundamental error. Does he not consult the experts on economics on his side of the House?
– There are not any.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) certainly would have told him that he was making a reckless statement. Of course, the deficit is £58,000,000, not £300,000,000 as the Leader of the Opposition suggests.
The last reason is that I believe the Leader of the Opposition was completely insincere in his reference to the gross national product. He did not tell us how to increase the gross national product, but he mumbled on about bold action being required and said, “ We will not shirk from the Constitution “. That is a very ominous statement, whatever it means. I concede that it is the duty of the Government - in fact, it is the duty of any government - to the society that it governs to improve that society’s quality of living. That is a phrase that Priestley once used. It includes happiness and standard of living. The standard of living is a component of the quality of living.
As I see it, the standard of living can be raised only if the gross national product is raised, and there are only three ways in which the gross national product of this country can be raised. The Leader of the Opposition is out to destroy them all. First, all of us - I am not speaking only of the workers now - have to work harder if we want to improve our standard of living. That brings a smile to the face of my friend from Reid (Mr. Uren). His idea of Utopia is when nobody is working at all. We know his view. I put this to the Opposition apart from politics: How can you have Australians, whether they be in unions or not, doing an honest day’s work if there are three jobs for one man and the fellow in a job can thumb his nose at the boss when he is asked to do an honest day’s work and go and get another job next door? Is that the way to extract the maximum from the work-force?
The second way to increase our gross national product is to improve the efficiency of management. The Opposition is trying to destroy this method by wanting to inflate the economy, to flood it with money and to have money chasing goods. How can management be efficient when there is no competition? The third way is by technological and scientific development. We can achieve that by increased education or by obtaining free of charge the know-how that comes with the investment of foreign capital. We know that the Opposition has dedicated itself to drying up the flow of capital and investment from overseas. For that reason, I dismiss the sincerity of the Leader of the Opposition in making his charge.
Finally, I say that I can understand some share-brokers who have a vested interest in inflation advocating inflationary policies. I can understand some land speculators who have a vested interest in rising prices advocating inflationary policies. I can understand men who have something to gain from spiralling inflation advocating such policies. But I cannot understand the Labour Party, which supposedly champions the rights and privileges of the underprivileged people - the working men, the pensioners and the men in the lower income groups - advocating in this National Parliament as its basic policy things that would devastate the quality and standard of living of the Australian people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. James) adjourned.
– by leave - As there has not been an opportunity for honorable members to raise the matter of recent developments in South Viet Nam in the ordinary course of the business of the House, I have felt it desirable to seek leave to make a brief statement. The internal situation in South Viet Nam is still obscure and I am awaiting a full report from the Australian Ambassador. Beyond the fact that martial law was imposed yesterday and that postal and telegraphic facilities were apparently closed for some hours, we have no firm information.
As I indicated to the House in answer to a question on 20th August, the Government has naturally been concerned at recent developments in South Viet Nam and their effect on the security situation. As long ago as 14th June, our embassy was instructed to convey to the Vietnamese Government the extreme repugnance which the Australian people would feel for anything in the nature of religious persecution or intolerance. On 8th July, I sent a further personal message to the Vietnamese Foreign Minister and several other opportunities were taken to convey the Australian Government’s concern through appropriate diplomatic channels and to be apprised of the Vietnamese Government’s attitude in the matter.
On 14th August, the Australian Ambassador had an audience with President Ngo
Dinh Diem in which he personally conveyed the views of the Australian Government. A further interview took place the following day. It would not, of course, be appropriate for me to reveal details of these discussions, but I have mentioned them here to assure the House that we have taken every opportunity to express our views and exert our influence. I can also say that we have had very much in mind the reactions of the Australian people not only to the developing situation but to the effect that it would have on other friendly countries.
At the same time, I would strongly urge that this troubled situation should be seen in perspective. Events in Viet Nam are not only concerned with the religious question; nor may the events be wholly explicable by religious considerations. South Viet Nam is fighting for its existence against a ruthless enemy. Tens of thousands are being killed in South Viet Nam every year as a result of the struggle now being waged. It is of cardinal importance that the Communists be not allowed to exploit the present situation itself for their own purposes or to make it the occasion for a diversion or weakening of the efforts being made to withstand and reverse the insurgent pressures.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) does the House and the people a service in making a statement on this matter. I thank him for amplifying the necessarily brief answer which he gave to the question I asked him on this matter during the last question-time two days ago. As far as I know, no Australian newspaper has a resident correspondent in South Viet Nam.
– Nor anywhere else in SouthEast Asia.
– As far as I know, that is the position. Australian newspapers seem to rely on roving correspondents making a couple of trips a year to the area. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, however, has correspondents in the area.
Honorable members have been disturbed by the news that has come to us through the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and via the United States of America and London to our newspapers in the last few days. Australia is involved in this area. We are not nearly as involved as the United States is, of course; but second only to that country among outside countries, Australia is involved in the area. I see from an answer given by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) to the late honorable member for East Sydney that Australia has 30 army instructors in South Viet Nam. We have made some financial contributions under the Colombo Plan, amounting to something under £2,000,000. We have also made some contributions, such as barbed wire, under South-East Asia Treaty Organization arrangements. It does appear that, in the eyes of the people of Viet Nam, Australia, next to America, is more involved, for better or for worse, than any other country. It was a matter of concern to honorable members in this place and the other place when Australia’s visiting mission, comprising members from both Houses and from both sides of each House, went to South-East Asia last month under the leadership of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) and the deputy leadership of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and did not visit South Viet Nam for what would appear to be good reasons of public relations and safety. We have been concerned also at reports that Australia’s ambassador and his family in South Viet Nam are in some jeopardy and that attempts have been made to attack them.
Undoubtedly the problem is a most painful one. One can ask: What is the alternative to the present regime? There can be no doubt that it is not succeeding in gaining support from the population of the country. Political dissatisfaction is now coalescing with religious dissatisfaction. In America a re-assessment is taking place of America’s commitment in South Viet Nam and I imagine that a re-assessment of Australia’s commitment, at least in association with America, will be made.
Honorable members will remember that last October President Kennedy wrote to Senator Mansfield asking him and some of his colleagues in the Senate to visit and review the South-East Asia area. The four senators who visited the area reported, in part, in these terms -
When that has been said, however, it is also necessary to note that present political practices in Viet Nam do not appear to be mobilizing the potential capacities for able and self-sacrificing leadership on a substantial scale.
It is most disturbing to find that afta 7 years of the Republic, South Viet Nam appears less, not more, stable than it was at the outset, that it appears more removed from, rather ;han closer to, the achievement of popularly responsible and responsive government. The pressures of the Vietcong guerillas do not entirely explain this situation. In retrospect, the Government of Vict Nam and our policies, particularly in the design and administration of aid, must bear a substantial, a very substantial, share of the responsibility … it must be clear to ourselves as well as to the Vietnamese where the primary responsibility lies in this situation. It must rest, as it has rested, with the Vietnamese Government and people. What further effort may be needed for the survival of the Republic of Viet Nam in present circumstances must come from that source. If it is not forthcoming, the United States can reduce its commitment or abandon it entirely, but there is no interest of the United States in Viet Nam which would justify, in present circumstances
The words “ in present circumstances “ are italicized and repeated later - the conversion of the war in that country primarily into an American war, to be fought primarily with American lives.
It is plain that America is re-assessing its position. The statement I have just read is not a statement by the Administration: It is a report by the mission which the President himself asked to go to Viet Nam. In the last few days statements have been made on and to Viet Nam by the American Administration and also by Pope Paul. We learn that Australia has repeatedly made representations to the Government of South Viet Nam. It must be a matter of great concern to Australians in particular to know that they are involved, obviously and overtly, in support of a regime which is not receiving the support of its own subjects. The arrangements under which Australian aid and instructors have been made available to Viet Nam, are unnecessarily secret and discreet. Are these Seato arrangements or not? The Australian people are entitled to know much more than has been hitherto disclosed concerning the conditions under which this material and expert aid have been made available. Conditions in Malaya are relatively public property compared with those in Viet Nam. The Malayan Government is a democratic government - certainly as much so as any government in SouthEast Asia - but this is not the case with the Government of Viet Nam. The peril facing Australia is that if it is thought within Viet Nam and in surrounding countries that Australia is supporting a government that is not supported by its own people, not only distrust and disillusion but active hostility will arise in those neighbouring countries towards Australia. It is essential that we should know what our commitments are. Australians should know them and the citizens and neighbours of Viet Nam should know them. Further, there should be no dispute that Australia will support only governments that are supported by their own people. One does not under-rate the difficulties of the siege under which the Government of Viet Nam and the President’s dynasty operate, but it is high time they heeded their protectors. I say no more than that at this stage. We all are grateful to the Minister for having made his statement. It is in the public interest that this matter should be more widely understood and debated than it has been hitherto.
Sir GARFIELD BARWICK (Parramatta - Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General). - by leave - This is not the time to debate the many matters raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) but I would like to say that my information, which is fairly direct and not derived from newspapers, does not agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s assertion that the Government of South Viet Nam does not have the support of its people. This is a matter about which newspapers have been talking freely but not always accurately. My information would not lead me to go as far as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did in asserting that the Government of South Viet Nam lacks the support of its people. As the House knows. Australia has made available under the South-East Asia Treaty Organization a considerable quantity of material to assist the strategic hamlet programme which has done much to strengthen relations between the people of South Viet Nam and their Government. There is no secrecy about the position of Australian instructors in South Viet Nam. My colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) made quite plain the basis on which the instructors were there and their function. They are there as instructors in the art of guerrilla warfare. They have no other function in relation to military activities, no matter for what purpose the military may be used.
I do not propose at this stage to go into the other matter raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I thought it proper, however, as question-time has been suspended, to say to the House so much as I have said relating to the Government’s activities and its concern with this area, which is of great importance to Australia not merely in any philanthropic sense but in the sense that in great measure our security depends on turning back the Communist thrust in South Viet Nam.
Debate resumed (vide page 427).
.- I listened with great interest to the important statements made by the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) concerning Australia’s interest in the situation in South Viet Nam. The Minister informed us - this fact was well known to honorable members - that Australia has military instructors in South Viet Nam playing no other important part than instructing. I think instructors are more important than men in the battle line. They may be compared with the base at North West Cape which will be capable of directing fifteen or twenty mobile nuclear bases without the concurrence of the Australian people. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that Australia was more closely tied to the United States as far as the dispute in South Viet Nam was concerned than was any other country.
I want to refer briefly to an article in the Sydney “ Sun “, of Friday, 12th July, 1963, relating to the war in South Viet Nam. The heading is “ Viet Nam War Brutal “, and the dateline is “ New York, Thursday “. The article states -
The United Slates was accused today of bolstering “ an open and brutal dictatorship “ in South Viet Nam.
The charge is made in an open letter to President Kennedy by more than 650 prominent U.S. citizens, to be published next Sunday by “The New York Times”. “South Viet Nam could become America’s Algeria “, they warned.
The letter claims that more than 12,000 U.S. soldiers, engaged 10,000 miles from home, are fighting an “ undeclared war that has never received the constitutional sanction of the U.S. Congress “. lt quotes a statement made by a news magazine recently that the campaign is “ a dirty, cruel war - as dirty and as cruel as the war waged by French forces in Algeria which so shocked the American conscience “.
I shall say no more about South Viet Nam, but it should be the concern of every Australian because Australian Army personnel are stationed there and we know full well what happened in South Korea.
I rise mainly to support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), on Tuesday evening last, but before proceeding with my submissions I shall make brief references to the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp), who stated during his speech that as far as he was concerned there were no unemployed in Australia.
– He did not say that.
– He used words to thai effect.
– Be fair!
– He said there was no concern in connexion with unemployment in Australia.
– You have misrepresented him.
– He used flowery words, but that is what he meant. He said that he had been advertising for the past two or three months for a secretary but had been unable to get one. I suggest that had the honorable member left his name out of the advertisement he probably would have got a secretary overnight. What is more, the secretaries available in Higinbotham electorate no doubt are still conscious of what happened in England with members of the Conservative Party who were tied up in the Profumo affair. If the honorable member for Higinbotham is not concerned about unemployment, I am, because in my electorate there is a greater pocket of unemployed than there is in any other part of Australia. This Government has shown no interest or concern in the matter.
My leader on Tuesday evening last, and other Opposition members since then, have shown clearly to the people of Australia that this Menzies-McEwen tory government has again failed miserably to meet the pressing needs of the great majority of the Australian people, particularly in the most important fields of education, housing and hospitalization. The declared number of unemployed stands to-day at approximately 80,000. The number of applicants for homes is about the same. I believe that the number of unemployed is much greater than the number which the Department of Labour and National Service has announced to the nation, because in my electorate I know of an unemployed male who has been refused social service benefit because he has a girl friend who is in employment and is earning £10 or £12 a week. Naturally that and other similar cases are not counted in calculating the number of unemployed.
Like the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), I have had many tragic cases brought to my attention. I know of an unemployed father who desires to give his son a better education than he had and has been refused social service benefit for the son, who is over sixteen years of age, because the boy is still at school. The application has been refused despite the fact that in the next three or six months the son will obtain possibly his Intermediate or Leaving Certificate. The unemployed father has to battle on with whatever means he has - he receives a social service benefit only for himself - to keep his son at school so that he will have the benefit of a good education.
The time is long overdue when the Department of Social Services should deal with such cases on their merits. Where there are mitigating circumstances and where the people concerned live in places in which it is very difficult for young people to obtain jobs, social service benefits should be paid while the youngsters remain at school after attaining the age of sixteen years. But this Government turns its back on cases like those because it is ruthless in its application of the provisions of the social services legislation. I hope the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) will consider the matters I have raised and the others that I intend to mention later.
A great body blow has again been dealt to the age pensioner couples. They are expected to live on the mere pittance they get now, whilst single pensioners have the advantage of an increase of 10s. a week in their pensions. In any case, the increase is
Inadequate. The treatment which is meted out to age pensioners is inexcusable and deserves the criticism it has courted and the censure it has invited from members of the Opposition. This Government’s treatment of our aged persons will not be forgotten by the Australian people when they have the opportunity to express their opinions at the ballot box in the next federal election. Because of its maladministration during its period of office, this Government is existing on borrowed time. At the last federal election the Australian Labour Party, to which I belong, received over 350,000 votes more than did the ruling Liberal and Country Parties. Any self-respecting government, any government with any dignity, honour, self-consciousness or pride, would have resigned after such a crushing defeat. But not this Government!
In his Budget speech the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) failed to show any sympathy for the unfortunate workers in my electorate, particularly in the Cessnock, Paxton and Bellbird areas. Sweeping changes have been made in the coalmining industry there in the last few years. Now if miners are fortunate enough to be employed they must make a round trip of 70 miles a day to industries in and around Newcastle. I have pleaded with the Treasurer for many months to allow these unfortunate people, who have spent a lifetime in the coalmining industry, to claim as a deduction for taxation purposes the expenses involved in travelling to and from their places of employment. Through mechanization of the coal industry and the intrusion of residual’ oil, these unfortunates have had to give up the only profession which many of them knew. On several occasions in this Parliament, when I have appealed to the Treasurer and the Government to allow these people a taxation concession, with a minimum of £50, to cover travelling expenses to and from work, the Treasurer, in his usual debonair manner, has said, “ Yes, I will give sympathetic consideration to that request “. But I am sick and tired of the manner and the plausibleness of the Treasurer in giving assurances but taking no action on requests made by members of the Opposition. He reminds me of an expression used by one of my constituents and which I think could be applied to him. My constitutent said: “ He reminds me of a taipan. He smiles as he strikes.”
The Treasurer is always smiling, but, as far as doing something constructive for the poor and unfortunate in our community is concerned, he is found wanting when introducing a budget. Having to travel 70 miles a day to and from their employment, many of my constituents must pay £2 a week in travelling expenses such as bus fares. Most of them contribute 10s. a week to the mine workers’ superannuation fund. They have been paying into that fund for many years and if they now discontinued their payments they would not be eligible for the mine workers’ pension on reaching 60 years of age. Most of them also contribute approximately 10s. a week to some medical benefits scheme. After the deduction of £2 or £3 a week from a basic wage of approximately £15 a week these men have only £12 to take home to maintain their wives and families. I submit that it is utterly impossible for a self-respecting man to keep a wife and family on £12, £13 or even £18 a week.
This Government has failed to do mything to aid the people of the coal-fields in overcoming these problems. In the dark days of the war the coal-miners measured up to meeting the requirements or requests of the nation and gave the country coal. In those days, they were assured that they would never want and would always be looked after. Now they have been thrown on the scrap-heap by the Menzies Government. That is only what might have been expected, because this Government’s policies are directed to looking after the rich and wealthy, and to hell with the poor.
– The miners were promised full employment.
– Yes. During the war years they were promised full employment in peace-time and were told they would never want. Now they are thrown on the economic scrap heap. This Government could not care less for them. This treatment conforms to this Government’s usual disregard of the people in my area. This has been its performance all along. Wherever the same type of government exists, we invariably find that it is a case of the survival of the fittest, where the rich grow richer and the poor grow poo,r-x.
This Government has, in the last twelve years, permitted uncontrolled foreign investment in Australia. This will ultimately prove detrimental to our economy and will lower our living standards. Honorable members on this side of the House have pointed out that the need for control of foreign investment is not imminent but is long overdue.
Only yesterday the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), when speaking in this debate, dealt very effectively with the danger of uncontrolled foreign investment. I had the honour to represent the Australian Labour Party last year at the Interparliamentary Union Conference in Brazil. On making first-hand inquiries in Mexico I learnt that the Mexican Government permits foreign investment to control only 49 per cent, of any industry in that country. It does so because some years ago Mexico suffered as the result of foreign investment. The Canadian Government also has expressed resentment at the uncontrolled flow of foreign investment from the United States of America into Canada.
I had the pleasure of visiting Cuba last year, a week before the Cuban crisis came to a head. When you discuss their problems with the people of that country they point out that it was uncontrolled investments of American capial, which practically owned their country, that brought about the situation that nearly plunged the world into a full-scale thermo-nuclear war. Cuba, one of the richest little islands in the Western world, had 38 per cent, illiteracy and its economy was controlled by foreign capital. Rents and telephone charges, under private enterprise, were the highest in the world. I am not entirely in agreement with the present government of Cuba, but I have the greatest sympathy for the people of that country in what they are going through at present as the result of the economic blockade by the United States. I hope this problem will be resolved in a manner satisfactory to all concerned.
After careful probing I found that 65 per cent, of the people of Brazil are illiterate and that that country is virtually on the verge of a political explosion. This is well realized by President Kennedy of the United States, for whom I have a great deal of respect. He is trying to enlighten the people of the United States with regard lo the problems pf the people of Latin America. To my mind a factor contributing to the situation which exists in South America is uncontrolled foreign investment. I think it is worth mentioning, in support of my statements, that I have a certain admiration for President Kennedy, who is endeavouring to enlighten his people about the problems of the people of South America. In the Newcastle “ Sun “ of 27th December last, under the heading “ Red Challenge to West “, a report of President Kennedy’s views appeared, as follows: -
The challenge to the West was whether Communist revolution or peaceful democratic methods would bring profound change to Latin America in the 1960’s, said Mr. Kennedy.
The people of Latin America were moving through a period in which they were determined to change. “ For too many years, too many millions of them have known poverty, disease, illiteracy, lack of education for their children, lack of employment during their working years, a lack of security in their old age,” he said. “ Millions of our neighbours live on an average income of 50, 60 or 70 dollars (£22, £26 or £30) a year, with a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years.” “ They want to enjoy some of the benefits of life which we in North America have long known and taken for granted.” “ The great question is whether this change is going to come through revolution and communism or whether it is going to come through peaceful, democratic means.”
I think it would be the wish of every member of this Parliament that the change should come about democratically, and 1 applaud President Kennedy for having made that statement to the world. At one time prior to the last world war, Australians were not greatly interested in the problems of other countries, but they realize to-day that the actions of other people and governments far distant from our shores could mean the loss of Australian lives and they are therefore becoming more alert than ever to the problems of other countries.
In making my contribution to this debate, I want to refer to the problems of my electorate. First, I refer to a recent statement by the mayor of Cessnock, Alderman Brown. When addressing Rotary at Newcastle he said that approximately 3,000 people journey each day from the coalfields to Newcastle to follow their lawful calling and that this has all been brought about by the sweeping changes that have taken place in the coal mining industry, and particularly by the changes that have taken place in the northern coal-fields. The time is long overdue for this Government to take steps to encourage secondary industries to the now redundant Cessnock and other northern coal-fields areas. I remind the Government that at the moment there is approximately £300,000 lying idle in the Coal Conservation Fund. As we know, this fund was built up by the imposition some years ago of a tax of approximately 4d. a ton on coal. When the distribution of coal was thrown wide open to private enterprise, the tax was reduced to about Id. a ton. The Government seems to have no set plan for using this money to encourage the establishment of an industry which would relieve the anxieties and soothe the afflictions of many of the people in my electorate. The Coal Conservation Fund was established to finance experiments in the conservation of coal seams by the adoption of stowage methods, but the seams proved not to be conducive to treatment of that kind and the money is at present lying idle in the fund.
I stress again the urgent need for the establishment of a pilot by-products plant on the coal-fields to carry out research into the production of chemicals and other byproducts from coal which has been so successful in other countries. We know that combs, buttons, synthetic rubber, plastic rainproof overcoats, oil, road-making materials, body powders, fertilizers and many other urgently usable by-products can be produced by a modern coal byproducts plant, but this Government does not seem to be in any way sympathetic towards any scheme designed to overcome the problems besetting my electorate. We know that this country is in urgent need of fertilizers because in many districts the soils have proved to be deficient in certain minerals. High-quality fertilizers could be obtained from a modern plant for deriving oil from coal. Again, should we have another war - I hope we never do - our oil supplies from overseas would be cut off. The Moonie valley oil reserves could supply only a negligible quantity of Australia’s crude oil needs and the establishment of the type of plant which I have suggested would be of tremendous value in meeting our oil requirements.
The Labour Government of New South Wales has done a great deal to ease the burden of the people in my electorate. For instance, it has set up a geriatrics clinic for the aged people there. It is now building a reform school for those unfortunates who come in conflict with the law. These are all the actions of a government that has some sympathy for the district and its problems, but, the Commonwealth Government has simply turned its back on the repeated appeals made by myself, and by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) for aid in overcoming the problems confronting the residents in our respective electorates.
As my time is running out, I want to emphasize that the surplus disclosed at the end of this financial year should have pricked the conscience of any selfrespecting government and prompted it to be a little more liberal with the small man rather than pander to big business as this Government has done by liberalizing the retention allowance to enable industry to retain 50 per cent, of its first £5,000 of profit. To my mind, by this action, the Treasurer has perhaps unwittingly created a situation under which the value of shares in private companies will sky-rocket to the extent that these private companies will become choice plums for take-overs, and the original shareholders will be enabled to make handsome tax-free profits by disposing of their shares. There is a strong school of thought in my electorate that possibly greater financial assistance could have been given to the primary industries by making a more positive approach to methods of production, by carrying out scientific research rather than by way of granting increased depreciation allowances which only help the farmer who has the money to purchase new items of plant. This Government overlooks the fact that many soldier settlers who have acquired land under the soldier settlement scheme would probably appreciate more and prefer the advice of experts in agricultural techniques. I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that many soldier settlers have acquired blocks of land in your electorate of Lyne. If these young soldier settlers were given some practical help by way of expert advice in agricultural techniques, they would appreciate it much more than being pestered by a farm machinery salesman. I ask the members of the Country Party to consider my submission, if they have not already done so, because it is worthy of consideration.
As I said previously, no appreciable financial assistance has been provided for flood mitigation work in the Hunter valley, which has been ravaged by floods down through the ages. A flood-free railway line from Minimbah to Morrisset would be a great asset to the Hunter valley and the people of the north, as also would be a road from Rylstone to Cessnock. Such a road would open up the central west and enable the primary producers to transport their products to the port of Newcastle much more cheaply than is now possible. 1 had many other matters to bring to the notice of Parliament and the people of Australia during the course of this debate, but my time has run out. I support the amendment.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In the closing stages of his speech, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) once again emphasized the shortcomings of the New South Wales Government by suggesting that more assistance should be given to the soldier settlers, that a new railway should be built and that more financial aid should be given to counteract the great damage caused by the recent floods in that State. The honorable member knows very well that the first two matters are the responsibility of the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, not of the Federal Government.
Turning to the Budget, we all congratulate the Government and the Treasurer on its contents. The reaction of country people has been very satisfactory. The primary producers and, for that matter, all country people, are extremely pleased. Perhaps one of the most important comments I have heard came from Mr. Sharp, the general manager of the North Eastern Dairy Com pany Limited, an undertaking with a turnover of about £2,500,000 a year. He said-
This is a wonderful effort on behalf of Jack McEwen, both as far as the Budget is concerned and as far as the Japanese Trade Treaty is concerned.
I am certain that we all heartily agree wilh that comment. There will be an opportunity later to discuss the Japanese Trade Treaty. There is no question that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) is a wonderful negotiator. He is respected by all sections of the community for his leadership, his statesmanship, and his dedication to the welfare of the primary and secondary industries of Australia. I am certain that I speak on behalf of all members of our party when I say that we are mighty proud of him.
This is a sound Budget and there has been very little tangible criticism of it. There has been some criticism because there are no cuts in company tax or personal income tax, but I believe that criticism to be unjustified. Record saving bank deposits indicate that there was no necessity for a cut in personal income tax. In relation to company tax, one has only to study the financial pages of the daily papers to see how companies are faring. I have here copies of the financial pages from all issues of the Melbourne “ Age “ last week. They contain about 45 company reports. Forty of those 45 companies showed a profit, many of them a peak profit. This does not indicate a lack of confidence or a slowing down of business activity.
What is the position, generally speaking, of the share market? On Wednesday, 14th August, one newspaper reported -
Market at peak before even keel Budget.
On Saturday last, almost a week after the Budget was announced, and when the people had had time to react to it, this heading appeared -
Market closes week pointing upward.
The index figure on the Sydney Stock Exchange is about 348 points. That was the peak figure in October, 1960. That surely indicates the prosperity and confidence of the Australian people.
The family man benefits in many ways, although perhaps he could have benefited more. There has been no change in child endowment rates and this has disappointed one of our colleagues, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon), who, for obvious reasons, was hoping for an increase.
Outstanding features of the Budget are the subsidy on superphosphate, the increased exemption from estate duty, the extra benefit to single pensioners, the abolition of the sales tax on ice cream, the 20 per cent, special investment allowance and the allowable deduction of 10 per cent, of the cost of telephone line erected privately by primary producers. I am certain that we all congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) on his persistence and his determination to see that the primary producers received a subsidy on superphosphate. As my colleagues know, I have raised this matter a number of times both inside and outside the Parliament. On checking, I found that I first mentioned it in my maiden speech on 26th February, 1959. I am highly delighted by the introduction of this subsidy. In my electorate it will assist the production of wool, wheat, dairy products, tobacco, oats, maize, barley and hops. Three major advantages will flow from the subsidy on superphosphate. First, it will make a direct attack on the farmer’s costs; secondly, it will give to the farmer - particularly to the wool-grower - a tremendous psychological lift; and thirdly, it will mean greater productivity, which has been the aim of the Government year after year.
There is no question that the costs of the primary producer have risen over the last ten years. People often quote the consumer price index as an indicator of the cost structure of the primary producer. I do not think that changes in that index necessarily show how the cost structure of the primary producer has changed. For instance, the overall average consumer price index did not change very much in the period from March, 1961, to March, 1963. It remained at a constant figure of about 124. If we investigate the reasons for that, we see that food prices have had a great stabilizing effect. In the weighted average, food prices weight at about 32.1 per cent, which is very heavy when compared with the other four major classifications. In March, 1960, the food index was 128 and it is now down to 123. This fall of five points has had a considerable effect on the overall average consumer price index. Therefore, the steadiness of the overall average does not mean that (he farmer’s costs have remained steady.
In the calculation of the consumer price index, many of the farmer’s vital costs are not taken into account. I refer to costs such as those for plant and equipment, fencing, galvanized iron, rail and shipping and marketing. These are expenses that a farmer faces but which are not taken into account in calculating the consumer price index. There is no doubt that the subsidy on superphosphate will assist the farmer in his continuing battle against rising costs.
The second matter I would like to touch on is the increased exemption from estate duty. It is estimated that on an estate valued at £30,000 the saving will be £666. This is a considerable sum. Although I feel that the Government could have gone a little further, that is a move in the right direction. A vital factor in relation to estate duty is the inflated value of land. When a primary producer dies, it is obvious that the value of his land, calculated at the market price, will represent the major part of his estate as assessed for duty. What is the reason for this inflated price of land? It is very difficult to arrive at one outstanding reason, Sir, but from my observations it appears as though people who are not really primary producers in the first place, such as business men who have a lot of excess money, are investing in land and forcing up values.
I think that there should be a different method of assessing the valuation of property so as to do justice to the beneficiaries in the estate of a man who is a genuine primary producer and who has devoted himself full time to that occupation. Perhaps the Treasury could arrive at a formula under which gross income could be multiplied by a certain percentage to arrive at a valuation in respect of the estate of a person who had been permanently engaged in primary production for a specified period, say five years. This would assist in counteracting the inflated valuations that are at present taken into account in assessing estate duty. I have not quite worked out how this could be done on a sound basis, but I am sure that we could arrive at a practicable arrangement that would give the beneficiaries in the estate of a genuine, fulltime primary producer a fair deal in the assessment of estate duty.
The third matter that I want to mention is the increase of 10s. a week in the pension paid to single pensioners., I am reluctant to mention this, but I want to tell the House that at one of the first meetings of the Wodonga branch’ of the Combined Pensioners Association that I attended after I became a member of this Parliament I was told, “ We are happy with the pensions paid to married couples who between them receive two pensions at full rates, but we are not at all happy with the situation of single pensioners “. The reasons that were given appealed to” me, and I have persistently raised the matter since with the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). All I can say is that 1 am extremely pleased that the Government this year has seen fit to do something more for single pensioners. This consideration is justified. There is no question about that. I should like to pay tribute to the Wodonga branch of the Combined Pensioners Association. It is an extremely active branch and it works hard in the interests of pensioners.
– Is not it working for married pensioners, too?
– I have told the honorable members what the members of the branch said about married pensioners. They said that they were quite happy with the pensions that married couples were receiving.
I pass on now to the wheat industry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We all agree that this is not only an extremely important domestic industry but also an extremely important export industry. The stabilization plan has been a winner. It has not been a burden on the taxpayer, as some economists would like to have the general public believe. In fact, the wheat industry organizations claim that the stabilization plan has saved the taxpayers of this country about £189.000,000 since the war. This is another primary industry that has become more efficient through both the skill of the farmer and the use of more effective machinery. There is no doubt that the 20 per cent, special depreciation allowance on new plant and equipment to be allowed in the first year after the expenditure has been made will be of great benefit to those engaged in the wheat industry.
The announcement of a new wheat stabilization plan is imminent and we all know of the representations made to the Government by the wheat-growers’ and primary producers’ organizations, as well as by the honorable members for Wimmera (Mr. King), Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), Lawson (Mr. Failes), Calare (Mr. England) and other people who represent great wheat-growing areas, in their efforts to achieve a guaranteed price for 150,000,000 bushels of export wheat. I urge the Government to consider these representations extremely sympathetically.
I turn now to defence, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was very pleased to hear the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr.’ Brimblecombe) mention the school cadet corps yesterday. There is no question about the cadet corps being a great source of recruits for the Citizen Military Forces and the Permanent Army, as it will continue to be. Only in the last week, there have been discussions in Wangaratta about the forming of cadet corps units at the various schools.
– The honorable member for Lawson mentioned the cadet corps, too.
– As my colleague has reminded me, the honorable member for Lawson, also, mentioned this matter. I am pleased to see that this Government is coming into line with the general trend throughout the world by increasing our defence expenditure. There is no doubt that our allies will be happier in the knowledge that we propose to spend more on defence.
Before I pass on to the main theme of what I want to say on defence, I want to mention a matter that was discussed yesterday by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay). Talking about the establishment of the proposed new brigade group, he said something that I did not agree with when he expressed the hope that the Army would provide quarters for the proposed new group near a capital city and not in the bush or near a small town. He did not go on to define what he meant by these words. The honorable member went on to say that his main reason for expressing that hope was that the wives and families of Permanent Army officers and instructors attached to the group would take up residence where the unit was stationed. The honorable member said that they ought to be able to live in a suitable environment. I assure him that the environment of the bush leaves nothing to be desired. I can assure the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley), both of whom are now in the chamber, that we who come from the bush do not agree with the honorable member for Flinders when he says that the proposed new brigade group should not be quartered in a rural area.
– Perhaps it could be stationed at Wangaratta.
– There has been an announcement that it will be located at Woodside.
– Wangaratta has been mentioned, and 1 would not mind the unit being stationed there.
There are units of the services whose activities perhaps are not so well known as are those of the Armoured Corps, the infantry or the artillery. In my electorate, there is a .vast complex of Army units under the Albury command. I have visited these units on many occasions. On one occasion, the Minister for Defence accompanied me. The personnel of the units certainly appreciated his visit. There are about five units altogether, and I should like to mention several of them in particular. One very important unit is 1 Central Ordnance Depot - commonly known as 1 C.O.D. - which is stationed at Bandiana. It is really a stores depot - one of the largest in the southern hemisphere. About 1,000 people are employed at 1 C.O.D. - some 500 Army personnel and approximately 500 civilians. The depot covers an area of about 2,000 acres and has 1,500,000 square feet of storage space in which is stored well over £200,000,000 worth of equipment. The actual value is secret. The Bandiana area workshops unit, which is adjacent to 1 C.O.D., provides repair facilities for local equipment and stock held within the ordnance service.
The third unit I would like to mention is that known as the R.A.E.M.E. Training Centre, R.A.E.M.E. standing for Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. This unit trains about 400 tradesmen each year, whose job it is to repair the technical equipment for the whole of the Australian Army. They have to be skilled in the repair of vehicles of all kinds, cf weapons and of complicated electronic equipment. In the past three years this unit has trained 29 Pakistani officers, who were all engineering graduates before they came to this unit. It has also trained some New Zealand and Thailand officers. It is well for the people of Australia to know that there is much technical skill and finance involved behind the scenes in our defence system.
I shall now move on to the subject of immigration. However, I should like later to refer again to the commanding officers of these units I have mentioned. I want to give some attention now to the Immigration Reception Centre at Bonegilla, which will be called on to look after many of the 135,000 immigrants that will come to Australia during the next year. This centre has handled 250,000 people of 30 different nationalities over the last fifteen years. Colonel Gwynne, has been the director of the centre for the last ten years and has done a magnificent job in helping these people to settle in after they come to the centre direct from’ their ships. During the whole of this time there has never been an outstanding problem in the centre, except, of course, when a few fellows went berserk some years ago, and I can assure honorable members that Colonel Gwynne handled that situation with great tact and courage. 1 might mention that the immigrants are taught English at the centre.
Within the reception centre there is an employment centre. The job of Mr. Reeves, the officer in charge of the employment centre, is to obtain employment for the immigrants after they have had time to settle in and when they are ready to go out and take jobs. On one day on which I visited the centre the Chief Personnel Officer of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was there, interviewing tradesmen for prospective employment in our great steel industry.
I want to pay a special tribute to the three top men at the centres I have mentioned, Colonel Anderson, the commanding officer of I.C.O.D., Colonel Barker, commanding officer of R.A.E.M.E. Training Centre, and Colonel Gwynne, the director of the Immigration Reception Centre. These chaps give great service to the country in their ordinary jobs, but they and their staffs also play a magnificent part in community life in the Wodonga area. In fact during the last six years they have raised, between them, £7,000 for Legacy alone, quite apart from all the other wonderful community jobs that they do. They are connected with the Good Neighbour Council and they attend all naturalization ceremonies. These men have all given long and distinguished service to their respective services and to the community of Wodonga.
In the few minutes that remain to me I would like to say something about our wool industry. This subject was very well covered earlier to-day by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King). I saw an announcement in a newspaper this morning to the effect that the Opposition supports a £l-for-£l wool promotion scheme. There is no doubt about the members of the Opposition. They hop on to every political point that they think will get them a vote.
– What is wrong with that?
– Well, you have to pay for it, that is what is wrong with it, and if you intend to impose on the people of Australia a printing press government, there is not much future for this country. It seems to me that the Opposition party has become a promise-everything-to-every one party. It does not matter what anybody asks for, the Opposition says, “ That will be all right. Just leave it with us. Put it on the list and we will fix it up when we come to power.” It is impossible to estimate how much the promises made by honorable members opposite in the last two weeks alone would cost this country.
Let me return to the wool promotion levy. I attended a meeting convened by Sir William Gunn at Benalla a few weeks ago. I want to deal with the £l-for-£l promotion scheme, because a question on this very matter was asked at this meeting, which was attended by about 600 woolgrowers. Sir William Gunn gave a very sensible reply to the question, and I prefer to take notice of his views on the wool industry rather than those of members of the Opposition. He said, “ No, I would not be in favour of asking the Government for assistance in this matter. I would rather ask for assistance for productivity than for promotion.”
If the Opposition does not see the trap it is falling into in respect of this £l-for-£l promotion plan, then it is not very longsighted. As soon as you give a £l-for-£l grant for promotion to the wool industry you will have the dairying industry, the wheat industry, the sugar industry, the canned fruits industry, General MotorsHolden’s Proprietary Limited, the Ford Company of Australia Limited, The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and every industry that contributes to Australia’s export income on your back. This is something that you should realize.
Sir William Gunn’s opinion is evidently shared by the Government, because it is giving a superphosphate subsidy which is worth £9,000,000 to Australian primary producers. Of this amount about £6,000,000 will go to wool-growers.
– That subsidy was advocated by the Labour Party.
– That was another of Labour’s promises. But when was it advocated? It was advocated last year, while there have been members on the Government side of the House advocating this for at least the last four years.
– It took you long enough to get it.
– Of course, it did. You will not get everything through that you want at the first go. You will be lucky to hold your seat.
My final point is this: I do not think this wool promotion levy should be imposed according to the bale system. I think a much fairer method of imposing a levy for promotion would be on a percentage system. By this I mean that the grower should pay a percentage of the amount he receives for his bales of wool. If a sale brought £10 he would pay only 3 per cent, or 3i per cent, of £10. If it brought £100 he would pay 3 per cent, or 3± per cent, of £100. I think this would be a much fairer way of conducting the scheme.
This is a very good Budget, and we hope that some time in the near future the Government will see fit to support our representations for a uniform petrol price.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Riordan) adjourned.
.- I move - [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 87).]
Mr. Chairman, the proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments to the Customs Tariff 1933-1963, and give effect to the Government’s decisions following receipt of the Tariff Board’s reports on -
Die casting machines’,
Image projectors and slide viewers;
Magnet winding wire; and
Plastic sheets, strip and plates.
The recommendations made by the Tariff Board in these reports have been adopted by the Government. One effect of the proposals is to retain the existing ordinary duties on cycle saddles. The Tariff Board considers that these provide adequate protection against imports of leather saddles. The Australian industry, however, is experiencing increasing competition from imported plastic saddles and in those circumstances the Government has agreed to the Tariff Board’s suggestion that ‘he industry be again reviewed in two years time.
Increased duties on die casting machines of not less than 70 tons and not more than 1,200 tons clamping capacity are imposed following the board’s recommendation that moderate protective duties would enable the manufacturer to obtain a larger share of the Australian market and a reasonable return on funds.
Increased protection has been provided in respect of slide viewers and image projectors of types designed for the projection of slide or film strip transparencies and which are being produced in Australia. Certain other types of slide viewers and image projectors not made in Australia are being admitted under customs by-law at concessional rates.
On magnet winding wire the duties have been increased to 20 per cent. British preferential tariff and 27½ per cent. most favoured nation to allow Australian manufacturers to compete profitably against imports but still permitting internal competition to continue. The Government has decided, however, that there should be a further review of this industry in three years time.
The increased ordinary duties on sheets strip and plates of unsaturated polyester provide a protective level of 40 per cent. ad valorem applicable to imports from most favoured-nation countries, with British preferential rates determined in accordance with international commitments. I commend the proposals to honorable members.
Reports on Items.
Mr. FAIRHALL (Paterson - Minister for
Supply). - I present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Die casting machines.
Diphenylamine and phenothiazine.
Image projectors and slide viewers.
Magnet winding wire.
Plastic sheets, strip and plates.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed (vide page 438).
.-I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). It tells the country where the Australian Labour Party stands on the economic and social problems that confront us. The Budget was heralded by a press bally-hoo campaign, in which it was said that this would be a budget that would restore confidence and add to the prestige of the Government and that there would be something in it for everybody. But the speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) showed that it is a Budget of bits and pieces and that there is a very little for very few. No attempt was made to analyse the economic situation, although this analysis is anxiously awaited by sections of the community each year. It is true that there is to be a large expenditure by the Government, which it hopes will be an incentive for private investment. However, business investment has not recovered from the credit squeeze of November, 1960. The Budget will give no incentive for investment, except for a small incentive to primary producers.
The share market is the best gauge of incentives. The press bally-hoo campaign suggesting that the Budget would contain great incentives led to a slight improvement in share prices in the six weeks before the introduction of the Budget. But following the introduction of the Budget, there was a fall in the share prices that had risen during the previous six weeks. This showed the reaction of investors to the Budget. The substantia] over-subscription of the recent Commonwealth loan also shows that investors lack confidence in the ordinary share market. Before the Government talks about future prospects, it should restore the confidence of its own supporters in the economy.
The Budget provides for increased Commonwealth expenditure, and the Government hopes that this will stimulate private investment. Government expenditure is to rise by ?162,000,000, compared with an increase of ?90,000,000 in the last financial year. The Treasurer estimates that revenue for this year will rise by ?122,000,000, compared with a rise of ?45,000,000 last year. These two increases almost offset each other, but the Treasurer did not explain the movements. We all know that the Government over-estimated the buoyancy of the economy when it imposed its vicious credit restrictions in 1960. The Treasurer may not have given any explanation on this occasion because he is afraid to make any forecast.
The largest increases in Government expenditure are in the fields of defence and primary industry. Surely the Treasurer does not expect increased defence expenditure to stimulate the economy. More than half of the increase will be spent on ships, aeroplanes and equipment purchased abroad. The superphosphate bounty originally introduced by a Labour government and taken away by this Government is to be restored, but only a section of primary producers will derive any benefit from it. Let me read from a report of a statement made by Mr. C. B. P. Bell, president of the United Graziers Association, which appeared in the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “, of Thursday, 1 5th August. The report states -
Missed great opportunity.
The Federal Budget has missed a great opportunity to grant primary industry some production incentive, the United Graziers’ Association president (Mr. C. B. P. Bell) said yesterday.
While the Budget contained many deserving concessions of immediate concern to those in the lower income bracket, it gave no great encouragement to industry as a whole.
I will not read the whole of the report. lt continues - “ But the bounty on superphosphate and concessions on new plant will only affect a small section of primary industry,” said Mr. Bell.
Mr. Bell went on to say
But in view of the fact that the Budget indicates that the economy is capable of granting concessions, a great opportunity has been missed to grant to primary industry some production incentive which would have benefited the community generally in the final analysis.
Those were the opinions expressed by the president of the United Graziers Association in Queensland. This is certainly not a workers’ budget and it is not a small man’s budget. It is clear from that opinion expressed by Mr. Bell that it is not a graziers’ budget.
The superphosphate bounty, which the Opposition supports - we have been asking for its restoration for some time - is of benefit to other primary producers. The 20 per cent, investment allowance to primary industry is twelve months overdue. That represents a belated recognition of an injustice to primary producers, in that the manufacturers received such an allowance twelve months ago, in the last Budget. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) said that he was happy about this Budget, the superphosphate bounty and the investment allowance. He is happy because the Government is now restoring to primary producers something that they had, but which was taken away from them. He is happy because they had to wait twelve months to receive the same treatment as the manufacturers received. I do not know why he should be happy, except because this is a belated recognition of something that should have been recognized some time ago.
The taxation concessions in the Budget are negligible. They will cost the Commonwealth only ?12,800,000 in 1963-64. Defence expenditure will rise by ?33,000,000. Grants to the States will rise by ?29,000,000. Expenditure on Commonwealth public works will rise by ?18,000,000. Personal cash benefits have been increased by ?41,000,000. That group accounts for ?121,000,000, or threequarters of the increase of ?162,000,000. On Wednesday, 14th August - a week ago yesterday and the day after the Budget was presented - some comments on the Budget by spokesmen for various organizations appeared in the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “. The article is headed “ ‘ No stimulus in Budget ‘ attacks “ and states -
Queensland employers’, business, taxpayers’ and workers’ representatives said last night they were disappointed at the lack of stimulus provided by the Budget.
The Queensland Employers’ Federation secretary (Mr. J. R. James) said the Budget seemed to nave completely ignored the private enterprise section of the community.
There was no real stimulus to private industry, be said.
This could have been given by reductions in company tax and pay-roll tax, and increased allowances for building depreciation.
The immediate effect of the Budget might be to increase spending and provide more employment, but this was likely to be only temporary.
That is the opinion of Mr. James, the secretary of the Queensland Employers Federation. The article also states -
Brisbane Chamber of Commerce deputy president (Mr. W. R. J. Riddel!) said it was disappointing that the Treasurer had not announced any major measures to stimulate spending and thus restore confidence.
The article later says -
Queensland Trades and Labour Council secretary (Mr. A. Macdonald) said the Budget contained practically nothing for the worker.
It should have introduced such measures as a capital gains tax to draw taxation from capita] gains resulting from increased values of shares, take-overs, and other appreciation of capital.
There should have been heavier taxation on high company profits. Reciprocal taxation arrangements which resulted in extensive taxation relief to foreign countries operating in Australia should have been abolished.
There are opinions from both sides; on one hand, from the Employers Federation and the Chamber of Commerce and, on the other, from the Trades and Labour Council.
It is quite obvious from a perusal of all the Budget Papers that this is certainly not a wages or salary earner’s budget. It is all very well to remove the sales tax on biscuits, cakes and pastries; but we have to remember that there was no sales tax on dog biscuits, so now babies’ arrowroot biscuits have been brought into line with dog biscuits. If there is a desire to stimulate industry and a desire to grapple with the hard core of unemployment, about which we hear so much, sales tax should be removed from all durable consumer goods. The sales tax on building materials should be removed as part of an attempt to keep home construction costs at the lowest possible level, and so enable young couples to obtain homes at a reasonable price, or at least a price that is not loaded. The removal of sales tax from all durable consumer goods would certainly be a stimulus, would contribute to a reduc tion of the number of people unemployed and would create opportunities for apprenticeships.
I could continue on that subject, but I turn now to social services. Despite an increase of 10 per cent, in wages by the wage-fixing tribunals, no corresponding increases have been made in sickness and unemployment benefits. There should have been substantial increases in the allowances for wives and families. Those increases would have given real benefits and real assistance to the needy sections of the community, particularly the workers. The Government is afraid of inflation and of the ghosts that it created in November, 1969. It is afraid to give an incentive to restore the confidence lost at that time and not yet fully restored. It is afraid to assist the needy sections of the community. It is afraid that if it gave any assistance to such people, that assistance would have an inflationary effect.
Travelling expenses are allowable deductions for certain classes of taxpayers. Other sections of the community who have to spend money in order to earn their taxable incomes are allowed such expenditures as taxation deductions. But workers who to-day, because of housing shortages, are forced to live far away from their places of employment cannot claim fares to and from work - a necessary expenditure to enable them to earn their incomes - as taxation deductions. The Government should give favorable consideration to this very reasonable request, which has been made on quite a number of occasions but which has not been granted in this Budget.
The most scandalous omission was the failure of the Treasurer to provide for an increase in all social services. The Labour Party supports the partial increases granted. The Treasurer and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) have not explained to the satisfaction of the community the failure to grant to married pensioners an increase equivalent to that granted to single pensioners. The honorable member for Indi said that he was happy about that discrimination against married pensioners. He forgets that rents have risen, and that in the States in which there are anti-Labour governments rent control is a thing of the past. The cost of living is rising; yet married couples will receive no increase in their pensions.
That failure was bad enough, and the failure to increase child endowment was equally bad. Child endowment was introduced by the Menzies Government in 1941. The amount of 5s. a week was fixed for each child after the first under the age of sixteen years. That rate was 5.8 per cent, of the basic wage of £4 16s. In 1945 the Curtin Government increased the rate to 7s. 6d., which represented 7.8 per cent, of the basic wage. The Chifley Government in 1948 increased the rate to 8.4 per cent, of the basic wage, which was then £5 19s. a week. In 1950 the present Government provided child endowment for the first child under sixteen years of age and fixed the rate at 5s. a week, which represented 3.7 per cent, of the basic wage. The endowment of 10s. a week then being paid in respect of the second and subsequent children represented 7.4 per cent, of the basic wage. To-day the basic wage is £14 8s. a week. Since 1950 the basic wage has more than doubled but child endowment remains at the level fixed in 1950. An increase in child endowment is warranted and is long overdue. Parents everywhere are asking when will they get some measure of social justice in this field. On the score of its social services record alone the Government deserves censure.
I turn now to the subject of unemployment. Figures published in the Sydney “ Sun “ of last Monday indicate that in July 78,131 persons were unemployed. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) is reported to have said that the reduction in the number of unemployed was the greatest ever recorded in July. That may be so, but surely no government can derive satisfaction from the fact that 78,000 of our work force are registered for employment. The greatest reduction in unemployment took place in Queensland due to a seasonal rise in employment in the sugar, meat and fruit processing industries. In Queensland the number of unemployed declined by 2,468 to 9,557. The reduction in unemployment in Queensland represented 73 per cent, of the total reduction in unemployment in Australia in July.
Of the 9,557 unemployed in Queensland, 3,408 are under 21 years of age. Of that latter number, 2,562 are females. Those young people have been denied apprentice ships. This Government and the Queensland Government should be planning to make apprenticeships available to those who will leave school at the end of this year. It has been estimated that about 85,000 young people will leave school at the end of this year. What chance will they have to secure employment when we remember that in Queensland to-day 3,408 juveniles are seeking jobs? Figures released by Mr. Gibson, director of the Department of Labour and National Service in Queensland, indicate that by 1970 the teenage population will be double that of 1950 but the overall population will have increased by only 25 per cent. Each year the problem of youth employment will become progressively worse.
This Government cannot hide behind its grant of £20,000,000 to the States for the relief of unemployment. The problem of unemployment is too big for any one State or for all States jointly to solve. It is a national problem and should be handled nationally by the National Parliament. The problem of juvenile employment is getting progressively worse each year. This is happening at a time when there is an increase in mechanization in industry and a speeding-up of automation. This Government must give some indication, particularly to the youth of Australia and their parents, that it is interested in the problem. Never mind about the situation in 1970; the problem is with us now. It has been with us for the past couple of years but the Budget makes no provision for solving the problem, nor have we had any other indication from the Government of where it stands in this matter. It is all very well to talk about child delinquency. Where will we get our tradesmen from in the future if we do not apprentice the youth of to-day? In the future we may be faced with a problem similar to the one with which we were faced during the last war when dilutees were introduced into the munitions factories. It is all very well for the Minister for Labour and National Service to say that the fall in unemployment was a record for July. What is he going to do about the hard core of between 70,000 and 80,000 persons who are registered for employment?
I turn now to the subject of shipbuilding, particularly naval shipbuilding. This is a matter that is vital from the point of view of our defence. It is almost fourteen years since this Government took office. The position that is developing in Australia today resembles closely the situation that developed in the years prior to 1939. The Government has the same old complacent outlook. Once we were able to shelter behind the United Kingdom umbrella based on Singapore and the Dutch in Indonesia, but to-day all that has changed. The Royal Australian Navy has been allowed to run down. It is all very well for the Government to point to the orders that it is placing for ships. The “ Sydney “ is now an Army transport. The “ Melbourne “ is a helicopter carrier. In the sweet bye-and-bye we will have new ships, including submarines constructed overseas. This is a nuclear age - an age of underwater craft and missiles. The policy adopted by this Government should be the policy adopted by the Chifley Government in the last three years of its term of office, namely, that what is physically possible is financially possible. That should be this Government’s slogan in this age. Australia has no underwater craft. It was a Labour Government which in 1949 - fourteen years ago - arranged for the Royal Navy to make available submarines for antisubmarine training by the Royal Australian Navy. Fourteen years later orders are being placed for the construction of submarines but those orders have gone not to Australian shipyards but to overseas yards. For years we have known that large ocean-going submarines would be the capital ships of the future. For years this Government has done nothing but now it has placed orders overseas. Every Australian hopes that it will not be a matter of too little, too late.
We know that shipbuilding and shipyards are vital to the defence of any country. From the defence angle, it is necessary to keep our shipyards at the highest peak of their efficiency. Their value in time of hostilities cannot be calculated in terms of money. The Government’s action in subsidizing in peace-time the construction of merchant vessels in very laudable, but why did it have to place orders for new destroyers and submarines with overseas shipyards? 1 know from personal knowledge something of the capabilities of Australian shipyards.
The orders that have been placed overseas could have been completed here. If the orders had been given to Australian yards they would have meant employment for large numbers of skilled Australian shipbuilders. They would have helped to develop Australian shipyards. But no, the vessels must be built overseas. What a reflection on Australian shipyards! What a poor view this Government has of Australian shipbuilders! Orders for shipbuilding to the value of £101,000,000 have been placed by this Government, but £78,000,000 worth of those orders have been placed in the United States and United Kingdom for naval vessels. Three Charles F. Adams class destroyers, each costing £20,000,000, are to be built in the United States. Four Oberon class submarines, costing a total of £18,000,000, also will be built, but the orders for those submarines have not yet been allocated by the Admiralty. The Defoe shipbuilding company of Bay City, Michigan, is building two of the Charles F. Adams class destroyers. There is no doubt that the Defoe company’s theme song is “God Bless Australia”. It has £40,000,000 worth of contracts, with the prospect of another £20,000,000 contract for a third destroyer. The Australian shipbuilding industry, which is holding only £23,000,000 worth of orders, must be envious of Bay City, which holds an Australian order for £40,000,000.
An article which appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of Wednesday, 14th August, 1963, was in these terms -
Considering the value of shipping now on order for Australia (£101,000,000 worth of it), one might well imagine that the local shipbuilding industry had its hands full. But £78,000,000 worth of these orders are naval orders which have been placed in America and Britain - three Adamsclass destroyers, each costing about £20,000,000, and four Oberon-class submarines costing a total of £18,000,000. “ Wo could have done a lot of the work here,” remarked one shipbuilding authority who must remain anonymous. “ Adams-class destroyers are certainly sophisticated; but the shipbuilder doesn’t have to make the black boxes, he merely wires them in. The Defoe Shipbuilding Company is not a pukka Navy yard like Portsmouth or Newport News. It doesn’t necessarily have any more knowhow than Cockatoo.”
Much as it would have welcomed a share of the Adams-class orders, Sydney’s Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Pty. Ltd. is resigned to departing from its traditional field of naval construction.
This is a scandalous state of affairs. We talk about defence. One of the most important parts of naval defence is the retention at the highest level of efficiency of the naval dockyards. The article goes on in this way - “ One could take two or three shipyards around the world,” said the chairman of the Australian Shipbuilding Board, Mr. H. P. Weymouth, at the Tariff Board inquiry last January, “one m Hamburg and one or two in Japan, which would outdo anything we have; but in regard to shipyards producing ships of the types and sizes we produce, I think that our two or three best yard, would compare quite favourably.”
From the point of view of the economics of the situation, from the point of view of social services, from the point of view of development and from the point of view of defence is it any wonder that this Government deserves the censure which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), with the unanimous support of the Australian Labour Party, has levelled against it?
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). He said that I stated I was happy about this discrimination against married pensioners. What I said was that I was pleased with the 10s. a week increase for single pensioners, because I had been making representations on this matter for some time. I then went on to say that I attended a meeting of the Wodonga branch of the Combined Pensioners Association in 1959 at which I was told that the association was happy with the position of married pensioner couples. At no stage did I make the statement attributed to me by the honorable member.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am sorry if I misrepresented the honorable member.
.- The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) said that this Government is complacent. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in his speech on the Budget said that we had mishandled the economy. Indeed, he launched what is, in effect, a motion of censure on the Government. He said, amongst other things, that there had been no real planning and that no direction had been given to the economy. He referred to economic slumps and expressed his fear of another recession. His statements then were completely different from his statements a few months ago when he was in America. An article in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 25th July, 1963, under a Washington dateline of 24th July, 1963, is in these terms -
Australia’s Parliamentary Labour Party Leader, Mr. A. A. Calwell, told President Kennedy yesterday that Australia was progressing at a rate faster than the United States achieved during its greatest developmental period.
Honorable members will notice that the Leader of the Opposition expresses different opinions when he is away from the influence of some of his masters. If further press reference to the state of the economy is needed, let me read an article bearing a London dateline of 27th. May, 1963, under the heading, “ Australian Economy at Postwar Best “. The article states -
The Australian economy is in better shape now than at any time in the post-war period, a “ Financial Times “ survey on banking shows.
With stability in the external accounts and domestic costs, the economy is well placed to cope with the testing period which lies ahead.
It will be of advantage for the House to keep those articles in mind when discussing this motion of censure.
Before dealing with this Budget in detail we should have in our minds some of the general background to it. We realize that our population is growing rapidly and that we expect to have 11,000,000 people here by the end of the year. We know that the workforce is increasing annually by 100,000. We must realize that a budget should not be considered alone, as indicating the Government’s programme. Previous budgets should be studied so that the Government’s continuing programme can be understood correctly. As an example of this let me refer to social services. A number of honorable members have discussed this subject at length so I shall refer to it only briefly. Previous budgets have given direct assistance to pensioner couples, the last being the introduction of the merged means test in March, 1961. The benefits then made available to married pensioner couples were extended to couples living on a bona fide domestic basis. I mention that because there has been some criticism in the press and elsewhere of the present proposals. The criticism indicates that some people do not understand the provisions of the social services legislation.
This Budget increases the direct benefits to single and widowed age and invalid pensioners by 10s. a week. Like other honorable members, I am glad that the Government has been able to increase this benefit. A number of us have been approaching the Government for a number of years about this because we realize that many expenses are the same for a single pensioner as they are for a married pensioner couple. Conditions become more difficult for the surviving partner of a married pensioner couple when his or he pension is reduced suddenly to the single rate. Rent and rates on property remain unchanged, power and fuel accounts remain almost unchanged, and food bills would be more than a half of what they were previously. One could refer to a number of expenses which make necessary special provisions for pensioners who live alone.
I am pleased also that further direct benefits are being given to civilian widows. This category includes deserted wives. Civilian widows with children will have their standard rate of pension increased by 5s. a week to bring it to the new standard rate of £5 15s. a week, and they will receive also new benefits - a mother’s allowance of £2 a week plus 15s. a week for each child. The civilian widow with one child will now receive a total benefit of £8 10s. plus child endowment, and widows without children will also receive a 10s. increase. There is an increase in the wife’s allowance paid under appropriate circumstances to the wife of an invalid or age pensioner, and the payment of 15s. per week for children undergoing full-time education has been extended from the age of sixteen years to eighteen years. There are also appropriate increases in repatriation benefits, the principal one being the 10s. increase in the special rate T.P.I, pension. There are also the education allowances for children under the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme, which have been increased by 15 per cent. The war widow’s domestic allowance will go up by 7s. 6d. to £3 10s.
When we are discussing these matters it is interesting to note that the total estimated expenditure from the National Welfare Fund this year will be £411,386,000 compared with £379,294,000 in the year just completed. Benefits under the heading of War and Repatriation Services will also be increased, the estimated expenditure for the coming year being £123,035,000, compared with £111,216,000 in the year just concluded.
I notice that a large number of people ask, “ How does the Budget affect me? “ I think it would be wise, therefore, to examine how the Budget helps the family. I have already described some of the ways in which direct assistance is being given to the family, in relation to widows with children and with respect to education allowances. Of course, we know that there are other allowable deductions being granted, and they have been described by other honorable members.
I think that perhaps the most important way in which the present Budget helps the family is in the realm of housing. Approximately £90,000,000 is to be spent on housing during the forthcoming financial year. The greater part of this sum will be expended on new houses, although some money will be expended on existing homes. As we know, until now the savings banks have been required to invest 70 per cent, of! their deposits in Commonwealth securities, the remaining 30 per cent, being used for housing loans and savings bank withdrawals. Under the proposals of the present Budget the rate proportion is varied to 65 per cent, and to 35 per cent, and this should release an extra £70,000,000 for housing during the current year.
While discussing the provision for housing, we should also realize that 30 per cent, of all funds provided by the Commonwealth to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has been channelled to building societies and other approved institutions. This provision for housing is, therefore, making a great contribution towards helping the family.
I should also like to refer to the amendments that are being made to the sales tax law, providing for the removal of sales tax from almost all items of food, with the exception of confectionery and some beverages and cordials. Sales tax has been removed from just about all food for human consumption. Among the items exempted under the heading of beverages and cordials are non-alcoholic carbonate beverages containing not less than 5 per cent, of Australian fruit juice and cordials and concentrates containing not less than 25 per cent, of Australian fruit juice. This will be of great assistance to the citrus fruit industry.
I want to discuss, in particular, the provision made in this Budget for defence. The vote is to be increased by more than £30,000,000, bringing the total estimated defence expenditure during the year to £251,671,000. I think it is necessary for us to discuss why we have to plan the extension and re-equipment of the defence services. We must remember that a good defence policy also includes good neighbour policies in our external affairs and also continuous national development.
We must not be lulled into a false sense of security by the recent agreement on a partial ban of nuclear tests. This is a most important contribution towards the objectives of world peace. We all realize that, and men of goodwill everywhere will support it, but it does not mean the end of Communist pressures in South-East Asia, nor does it mean the end of what in these days is called the brush fire type of war. The democratic countries must remain on guard and seek to contain communism within its present bounds.
We must realize that the conflict between Russia and China is one of method and strategy and despite their rivalries they are at one, as Communists, in working for the defeat of the democracies. It is most important to keep that fact continually in our minds when making our plans for the future. Although Mao Tse-tung believes he is now the true interpreter to the world of Marxism, it would appear that China’s internal problems have perhaps contributed to the conflict of ideas which we see at present between Russia and China.
It is said that Stalin first laid the groundwork for this dispute by failing to recognize China’s nationalism. I think that the essence of the argument is in the method to be used by the Communist bloc in its struggle for worldwide victory and that the issues may be stated in this way: Firstly, the problem of war in the period prior to a complete Communist victory; secondly, the question of peaceful co-existence and the related problem of how to capitalize on the anticolonial struggle; thirdly, disarmament and the sharing of nuclear weapons between nations in the Communist bloc; and, fourthly, the stages of the domestic construction of communism.
When we consider this deep ideological dispute between Russia and China we should keep in mind the trouble spots, as they are now, in the periphery of mainland China. They are these: Recently northern Koreans have been crossing the demarcation line and we know that some American soldiers have been killed. There is a continuing tension in the Straits of Formosa. There are the activities of the Communist Pathet Lao, aimed at upsetting the status quo in Laos. There are the increasing activities of Communists of the Viet Cong in Viet Nam, which are being directed mainly from North Viet Nam. There are the problems over the formation of Malaysia. There is the serious situation and the uneasy peace along the Sino-Indian border and the reports that large numbers of Communist troops are on the Chinese side of that border ready to attack. There is the deterioration of the economic situation in Indonesia.
While we are thinking of Indonesia, I believe we have to realize that there are a number of young men, officers who are growing up in the pattern of Soekarno’s revolution, who have not known any other condition. There is also the possibility of increased strength in the Communist Party in Indonesia. If that comes about, we wi!l have to consider the possibility of that party turning more towards mainland China. As I see it, those are the main problems that exist in Asia and they are centred on China. There is obviously not lime to discuss all these questions to-day, or many of them in detail, but I would like to discuss three of the matters I have mentioned. The first is the present situation in Viet Nam.
Earlier this afternoon the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) made a statement on this matter. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) also made a statement on it and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) made some comments. The first thing we must realize regarding the present situation in the democratic republic of Viet Nam is that there has been a war in that country since 1956. The government of President Ngo Dinh Diem has been fighting continually the infiltration of armed Communist bandits and aggressors from Communist North Viet Nam. So when we consider these problems, we have to realize that this war has been going on.
I believe that one of the reasons why the activities of the Viet Cong have been increasing during recent months is the success that the Diem Government, with assistance from America and some assistance from Australia, has had in the scheme of stragetic hamlets. The progress of this scheme has been remarkable, especially during the last twelve months. At long last we have been able, during this period, to say that this battle is starting to be won by the democratic regime of President Ngo Dinh Diem. This, to say the least of it, is most annoying to the Communists, who have felt it necessary to step up their activities of sabotage and war against the republican government.
We are aware of the difficulties and problems that have been lately shown to exist between some Buddhist sects and the Government of Viet Nam. I think we should realize that the original problems and difficulties in this regard were associated with the flying in Viet Nam of flags, which was not properly understood by some sections of the Buddhists. I make these comments because I have some knowledge of the situation, having had the opportunity to visit Viet Nam on two occasions. While there have been quite legitimate problems and difficulties in existence between some members of the Buddhists generally and the Government, we must take fully into consideration the fact that these problems have now been used by the Communists to cause more unrest in the country and to step up their activities, which I have described.
We must also realize that there are a number of Buddhists who are members of President Ngo Dinh Diem’s Government. Indeed, the vice-president, Mr. Tho, is himself a Buddhist. He has been chairman of the Government’s committee that has been having discussions with representatives of the Buddhist General Association. The two parties have come to full agreement with regard to the problems that the Buddhists felt they needed to discuss with the Government. The present disagreements are not with the majority of the Buddhists, who are affiliated with the Buddhist General Association, but with a number of smaller sects outside the association, which, I understand have some following in various parts of the country. These are the people who are being used by the Communist agents to cause the distress of which we are aware. I am sure it will be of interest to the House to know that not only is the majority of the Ministers in President Ngo Dinh Diem’s Government of the Buddhist faith but so also is the majority of the senior officers in the defence forces. I think we need to take these things into consideration and have a full knowledge of the situation and its background when we read some of the reports that suggest that American and Australian aid is not well devoted in being sent to the Republic of Viet Nam.
I wish to discuss briefly some of the problems associated with the formation of the Federation of Malaysia. I do not think we need go any further back in our minds than about 1959 when the Prime Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman, said that in no circumstances Would Singapore be admitted to the Federation of Malaysia. The Tunku said that because he realized that the majority of the population of Singapore was Chinese. The majority of the populations in the Federation of Malaysia itself is Malay, but the Chinese are increasing more rapidly than the Malay and other races forming the federation and for that reason Tunku Abdul Rahman’s Government did not wish to include Singapore, for that would bring about a preponderance of Chinese in the Malaysian federation. It will be recalled that the proposal to include Singapore in the federation was proposed by the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr, Lee Kuan Yew, but it became obvious that Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s Government or any succeeding government in Singapore would not be able to maintain a free and independent Singapore without the control and domination of the Communists; so the Tunku and his Government realized that it would be preferable to have Singapore within the federation rather than have it a Communist centre only a few miles from the federation itself.
It was suggested that the territories of North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak, which had only a comparatively small percentage of Chinese population, should be included in the federation so as to maintain tha balance that I have described. This proposal met with opposition from Indonesia and the Philippines. I think there is one common denominator in the opposition of those two countries. It is that they both fear the expansion of Chinese communism in Asia. They believed, either rightly or wrongly, that the proposed federation of Malaysia would be loosely knit. that it would not be strong enough to contain communism within its present bounds, indeed that it could be infiltrated by Chinese Communists and there would therefore be a spearhead of communism coming in a general southerly direction from Asia, which would divide Indonesia and the Philippines.
There are many other reasons why each country has, in varying degree, objected to the Malaysian proposals. I think it would be only fair to say that one of these is the ambitions of the Indonesian leaders themselves to be the leader of the Malay group in Asia. I think they view the progress that Malaya has made since gaining independence with some jealousy. They realize that the Malays have a form of democracy in their country which is the envy of quite a number of other countries in Asia. They realize also the economic stability that exists in Malaya. This, of course, has been brought about in some ways because of the peaceful changeover of authority from the original colonizing power - Great Britain - and the transfer of that authority to the Malayan Government. Indonesia and the Philippines have not had the happy experience of the same type of transfer of power.
We in Australia perhaps find it difficult to understand the thinking of those who have lived for a number of years under a colonizing power because it is not an experience that Australia, in that sense, has had. We have not had it to the same extent as the United States of America and for that reason you sometimes find a difference of opinion between the people of the United States of America and ourselves when discussing matters affecting the countries in South-East Asia.
I have given this brief description because I believe it is necessary for Australia, being a part of the Asian region, to take an even greater interest in what is going on than we have in the past. I believe it is necessary for us to make a greater contribution to a number of countries than we have done in the past, and I believe it is necessary for us to give greater study to what is going to be the role of the Commonwealth of Nations, not only in Africa, but also in the Indian sub-continent and South-East Asia. I refer in particular to the problems that still exist between India and Pakistan, parti cularly the problem of Kashmir. So, in speaking to this Budget under the heading of defence, I am glad to know that it has been possible for us to make provision for the proposed extra expenditure because I believe there are occasions when we have to make our contribution towards keeping peace in South-East Asia. I hope that we will be able also to make a greater contribution, by our own understanding of some of the problems I have described and in cooperation with our neighbours in South-East Asia, to a solution of those problems and to the maintenance of peace in that part of the world.
.- I rise 10 support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) wherein he condemned the overall economic policy of the Government as outlined in the Budget. I feel that one must be really concerned about the Government’s failure to accept its responsibility to bring down a budget to stimulate an expansion of the economy, to provide employment for our people and to build up confidence in the development of the nation. This Budget may be described as an unadventurous budget, presented by a confused Government seriously divided internally on issues affecting the Country Party and the Liberal Party - the parties which form the Government.
This morning we saw the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen) produce a poster printed by the Brisbane “ CourierMail” which stated in huge letters, “ McEwen Attacks Liberals “. That is a clear indication of the fighting that has been going on between the Government parties in recent months. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) was sacked from his post as Minister for Air on the insistence of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). The Minister for Trade has attacked the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) because of his criticism of the Government’s tariff policy, and in recent weeks, at Orange, has attacked the Government’s policy on overseas investment in this country. The Country Party realizes that the Liberal Party is slowly but surely selling Australia out. As the Minister said, each year we sell a bit of the farm in order to keep on living.
It is quite obvious that we cannot expect a budget that will inspire confidence in the people when the Government parties are so seriously divided and are squabbling among themselves on questions of policy. In these circumstances it is not surprising that this Budget is not one which has the approval of the public. Let me quote from two issues of the “ Financial Review “’. In the issue of Tuesday, 13 th August, this statement appeared -
In continued anticipation of a buoyant and imminent budget Australian investors have been buying heavily on the stock exchanges.
The investors had been led to believe that the Budget would be of that kind, and the Government had not contradicted the statements in the various newspapers about what was to be expected. The people were looking to the Treasurer last Tuesday week to give a lead so that the economy could expand, so that we could get rid of unemployment, and so that we could provide a substantial social service structure and homes for our people. It was hoped that our education system would be expanded and a programme of national development carried out. What happened to the enthusiasm shown by the investors on 13th August can be seen from the “ Financial Review “ of Thursday, 15th August, when an article appeared with this heading -
Halt shows investors don’t like the Budget. The article stated -
The one clear factor emerging from yesterday’s confused reaction by the stock market to the Budget was that investors did not like it. Yesterday saw the first halt to the market upsurge that has marked the six weeks since the financial year started.
To-day we received from the Reserve Bank of Australia its annual report for 1963. On page 52 of the report honorable members will find this statement -
The increase in economic activity in 1962-63 had encouraging features with further progress towards achieving full and effective use of the work force and physical resources while preserving the stability of costs and prices. However, unemployment is still too high.
Let us examine some figures which are available to honorable members in another publication. I am going to deal with the number of people in employment. I am sorry that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has already spoken, but I hope that he will take another opportunity later to explain the figures I am about to give. The employment statistics show that in November, 1960. there were 1.579,000 males in private employment and that in April, 1963, there were 1,576.100. In that period the number of males employed by private enterprise fell by 2,900, although in the same period the population increased by over 400,000 and the work force, on the figures given to me recently by the Minister for Labour and National Service, had been increasing approximately at the rate of 100,000 a year. From November, 1960, to the present time the population has increased by over 400,000 and the work force by about 300,000, yet we find that the number of males in private employment has declined by 2,900. These figures are undeniable. They are available to honorable members in the publications we receive.
I would like the Government to give us some explanation of the fall in employment in that sector. My view is that any increase in overall employment has been brought about only because this Government has been able to make money available to the State governments to provide employment by way of relief work on sewerage projects, roads and the like. That is the only reason why the number of persons unemployed has fallen. If the economy is to expand, you have to build up confidence in the private sector. You have to encourage investors to invest their money in the development of new industries so that employment can be provided for our people. These figures clearly show. Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this Government does not hold the confidence either of this Parliament or of the electors and industry.
If the Government had the confidence of the people, investors would go ahead and undertake necessary development. Our industries would expand and employment would be provided for all our people. Honorable members opposite know as well as I do that industry is hesitant to-day. People do not know whether this Government, after adopting over the last two years what it says is a policy of expansion, will once again clamp down on industry and increase imports, thereby creating unemployment in Australia. Industry does not know whether, in the very near future, the Government will clamp down on credit and compel the banks to reduce their overdrafts.
This atmosphere of hesitancy and lack of confidence has been created by the Government itself. I believe that full employment and the development of our economy can be expected only after the present Government has been defeated, and 1 await the time when it will test the wishes of the electorate and give the people an opportunity to express their views.
Last May, during the consideration by this Parliament of the United States Naval Communication Station Agreement Bill 1963, the Prime Minister was strutting about and talking of an election. The Government and its supporters were talking about an election prior to the presentation of this Budget. However, Government supporters realize that the Government, just as it made a blunder in handing over to outside powers control over the defence policy of this country, has made another blunder in the preparation of this Budget. I believe that, the moment the Government has sufficient courage to go to the electors, it will be finished and that Labour will take office and be able to undertake the development that this country needs. A Labour government will be able to win the confidence of the people and develop this country at a rate much faster than the present rate ‘of development. Under a Labour government, we shall see much less poverty than exists to-day among the unemployed, whose ranks are now so numerous.
Between 29th March of this year and 2nd August - the date on which the latest figures became available - the number of unemployed men and women fell from 84,912 to 78,131 - a decline of only 6,781 in about four months. In the same period .. the number of citizens in receipt of unemployment benefit rose from 36,269 to 37,174 - an increase of 905 in the number of those who represent the hard core of the unemployed. They are the most unfortunate people of all. This Government is not tackling the problem of unemployment. It is not tackling the job of expanding the economy, which is the only means by which full employment can be achieved.
In the Newcastle district, the number of persons registered as unemployed was 2,121 in July, 1960, 3,969 in July, 1961, 4,028 in July, 1962, and 4,037, or nine more, in
July of this year. The area to which these figures relate covers Newcastle, Cessnock and Maitland and includes the electorates of Newcastle, Shortland and Hunter, as well as the Paterson electorate, which is represented by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), whom I see sitting on the front Government bench at the moment, and part of the Robertson electorate. Honorable members can see that there has been no great improvement in the level of unemployment in the Newcastle district. The number of people in receipt of unemployment benefit increased from 951 in July, 1960, to 2,701 in July of .this year - easily the highest level over the period. There were about three times as many people in the district in receipt of unemployment benefit in July last as there were in July, 1960, and the number of people registered as unemployed was about twice as great.
One of the unfortunate features about the present level of unemployment is the great number of young people who are out of work. In the Newcastle district, there were 798 junior males and 1.260 junior females - a total of 2,058 young people - unemployed in July of this year. The Government has said that the economy is improving and that things are getting better, but these figures do not bear out that statement. In July last year, there was a total of 1,871 junior males and junior females unemployed in the Newcastle district. The number increased by 187 in the twelve months to the end of July last. The. unfortunate part about it is that although so many young boys and girls were unemployed at the end of last July, only 3.3 vacancies were registered in the district on 2nd August last - none in Cessnock, nine for boys and five for girls in Maitland, and fourteen for boys and five for girls in Newcastle.
The employment situation is seen to be serious, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when one realizes that so many young people have no opportunities for employment. I hope, during the consideration of the Estimates, to develop more fully my arguments on this aspect of unemployment and to prove conclusively, on the figures, that this Government has done nothing whatever about increasing the number of apprentices employed in Commonwealth departments. The facts and figures clearly tell the story. This Government should be giving a lead by employing increasing numbers of apprentices, but it is doing nothing about the matter. Instead, it is content to leave the employment of apprentices to other employing authorities. Instead of setting the pattern and employing ‘the maximum number of apprentices, the Government jogs along and is content to let the various departmental heads take on a few here and a few there. The percentage of apprentices compared to tradesmen employed in various Commonwealth departments shows no improvement whatever. I ask the various Ministers in charge of departments that employ apprentices to consider the matter seriously and to do what they can to ensure that opportunities for employment are provided for young people in order to build up our effective work force and our economic potential by training in the various skills that are so necessary to the development of this country.
I should like to turn now to immigration and housing. I believe that these two matters, together with employment, have received insufficient consideration by this Government. Immigration, housing and employment must be carefully planned so as to ensure a proper balance. It is of no use to bring people to this country if we cannot provide employment for them or house them. I have some very interesting figures on housing, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In 1959-60, 103,837 homes were built throughout Australia. The decline in 1960- 61 was not accidental, but was due to the situation created by this Government. The number of homes built dropped to 93,616 in 1960-61 and even further to 84,791 in 1961-62. In 1962-63, 94,316 homes were built, some 9,500 fewer than in 1959-60, although the population had increased by about 645,000. In the same period we brought to Australia 514,000 migrants.
I believe that this Government should be severely censured and condemned for its failure to make available adequate amounts of money for home building. Home building is one of the main requirements of any nation. If your people are not decently housed you will face many serious social problems. You will have delinquent children and many broken marriages. I say to members of the Government: The opportunity is yours. No one can deny that at present there are not sufficient tradesmen available. The figures show that to-day there are 6,000 fewer tradesmen in lbc building industry than there were in 1959-60.
What is the position with building materials? It is a well-known fact that many timber mills have closed down, and this has caused very serious concern to local government authorities and to the members representing the timber-producing electorates. There is quite sufficient material available. There are plentiful supplies of timber, bricks, cement and everything else that goes into the building of a home. The labour is available. But this Government will not make adequate finance available so that the labour force can be employed. Does the Government realize that at the present time about 30 per cent, of our total work-force is either directly or indirectly associated with the building industry, the building of homes? If you want to increase home building activity there is only one way to do it, and that is to make more money available.
The Government says it will make certain amounts of money available. It says it has encouraged the private banking system to make more money available. It says that it will allow the savings banks to lend a greater proportion of their deposits for home building. But the real problem is not being tackled by the Government. The problem lies in the fact that the average married couple to-day have not the money necessary to make a deposit on a home. Building societies, although they do not offer the lowest interest rates, require smaller amounts of deposits than are required by the private banks. The secretary of one of the leading building societies in Australia told me that he still has a waiting list of people wishing to obtain 90 per cent, advances. But to obtain a 90 per cent, advance an applicant must have a deposit of at least £400.
Unfortunately many young people who marry these days have to pay anything from £4 to £7 a week for a flatette or some such accommodation. How can the average worker to-day afford to pay £4 to £7 a week in rent while, at the same time, saving enough money for the deposit on a home, and also enough to furnish the home when it is completed? If you want the people to build homes, and so to bring about a recovery in the economy, you must do a better job in this matter of deposits. You must reduce the amount of deposits that home builders are required to lodge, you must reduce the interest rates and you must provide advances on a long-term basis. What is the difference between lending money to an ex-serviceman through the War Service Homes Division and lending it to a nonexserviceman for the same purpose, the building of a home? The ex-serviceman is able to repay his loan over a period of 45 years, but the average fellow who is not eligible for a war service homes loan can get finance from the Commonwealth Bank or through the private banking system over a 22-year repayment period. Why cannot 45-year loans be made available to every one? Why cannot the rate of interest on those loans be reduced to 3f per cent., or even less, for all home builders? If you want to accelerate the rate of home building you must reduce the deposit required, reduce the interest rate and lengthen the term of the loan, so that the weekly or monthly repayments will be brought down, and people will be able to afford to build homes and repay their loans.
There are several other matters that I think are worthy of mentioning. One is the increase in pensions. I have no objection to the increase of 10s. a week for single pensioners. I think it is a recognized fact that such people have had difficulty in meeting their commitments. At the same time, married pensioners to-day are obviously not getting enough on which to live decently. I refer to pensioners who have no other income and are unable to work. Pensioner couples of this kind are restricted to an income of £10 10s. a week. If the Government really wanted to assist pensioners it should have done something to help the unfortunate people who get the flat rave pension and no other income. There are two other groups of pensioners who are very badly done by. I refer to widow pensioners and to invalid pensioners with dependent wives. There are 24,500 civilian widow pensioners in the community. I would like to ask: What is the difference between a war widow pensioner and a civilian widow pensioner? Why is the war widow pensioner paid a domestic allowance of £3 10s. a week, while the Government will give the civilian widow pensioner only £2 a week? Why the difference? They both have to live. They should be treated on a basis of equality. Both the war widow pensioner and the civilian widow pensioner should be paid much more than they a’c getting at the moment.
Why should the wife of an invalid pensioner be restricted to £3 a week? Why can she not be treated in a manner similar to that in which a widow pensioner is treated? Why can she not be classified as a B class widow pensioner and paid the same amount as the widow pensioner? There is neither rhyme nor reason in differentiating between the two. If an age pensioner couple need a minimum of £10 10s. a week, surely an invalid pensioner and his wife need a similar amount. If the wife of an invalid pensioner goes to work she immediately loses the wife’s allowance, because she is no longer available to give her husband constant care and attention. These are all social service matters that the Government must do something about.
Let me refer also to aged persons’ homes. In my electorate and the adjoining electorate in the Newcastle district the number of elderly people desirous of obtaining accommodation and unable to get it has reached serious proportions. The various church homes are no longer able to raise enough money to cover their share of the cost of erecting buildings to provide accommodation for these old people. As to the Housing Commission, it has a waiting list of 200 such applicants, and it is now allotting units to people who applied in August, 1956. This must surely convince the Minister and the Government of the serious plight of old people in Newcastle. The Right Reverend Bishop of the Church of England in Newcastle has told his committee that because of the large numbers of people who have applied for homes through his church organization the committee would be simply fooling people if they accepted any further applications. He has instructed the secretary to take no more names. The St. Joseph’s Home has a long waiting list, as has the Wesleyan Church home.
When you talk to these church people about accommodation for elderly people they all regret their inability to assist, and they all explain that if more money were available they might be able to do something about the position. Money should be made available on much more generous terms than it is at present. A greater proportion should be provided by the Government. One alternative is to subsidize the State governments on the same basis as charitable organizations are subsidized at present, £2 for £1. Another solution would be to allow trade unions and certain clubs to build homes for old people on the basis of a similar subsidy. If you are prepared to extend the provisions of the legislation in this way you will be able to provide much greater numbers of homes for our elderly people.
I would like to d:al very briefly with one other matter in the few minutes remaining to me. and that is the announcement by R. W. Miller and Company Proprietary Limited that it would purchase a tanker from overseas for trade on the Australian coast. I am very disappointed at the inactivity of this Government and its failure to make a clear statement of policy. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) has said that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission has not been placed under any restriction and is not prevented from entering into the tanker business. He is in charge of this commission and he should direct it to start operating tankers. This would break the monopoly held by overseas oil companies, which take profits out of the country and put nothing into it. These companies use the cheapest possible labour to man their ships and they construct their ships in overseas yards.
I do not have any great brief for R. W. Miller and Company Proprietary Limited. Up to date this company has not built any ships in Australia, but I look to the time when it will break the monopoly of the overseas oil companies. The Government should say clearly whether it will assist the company to build ships in Australia. I think it should say quite clearly and frankly: “ Yes. we will provide a subsidy on the construction of these ships. In addition, we will, through the Commonwealth Development Bank, make money available on loan at reasonable interest rates for the construction of the ships.” Work would then be provided for the Australian shipyards and instead of there being talk of reducing the number of Australian shipyards, there would be talk of opening additional shipyards. A shipyard should be opened in Western Australia, for example. Honorable members know that there are no docking facilities west of Melbourne. Why should there not be a shipyard and adequate docking facilities in Western Australia? Why should there not be stability in the Australian shipbuilding industry? If orders were placed, the industry would know where it stood. It would not be scraping around year after year looking for orders.
The present situation is that the Phoenix shipyard and Walker’s shipyard have each been given an order for one lighthouse ship. This will increase the cost of the two ships. It is much cheaper to build two, three or four ships from the one screed than it is to build one ship in this yard and a second ship in another yard. When this is done, everything has to be duplicated. But this is typical of the blundering and the lack of planning by the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Government as a whole.
.- It was of considerable interest to every one, I am sure, to hear the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) talk of a frank and clear statement of policy. Similar words were used by many Opposition members. I presume Opposition members are thinking of the clear and frank statement of policy that came from their federal executive in Perth. But if this is the basis on which the Government should build its policy, I think most of us would prefer to leave it alone. Earlier in the afternoon, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) referred to the need for a stimulus. He used the word “ stimulus “ very frequently. After listening to a number of Opposition members for the past week. I am quite sure it is needed, but I am not sure whether it should come from the Department of Health or the Department ot Customs and Excise.
The honorable member for Newcastle seemed to me to be the spokesman for the stock exchange and big business, but last year and for years past he has spent his time criticizing these undertakings. He wai critical of the fact that fewer people are in civilian employment to-day than there weN previously, but his former policy was tha* every one should be in Government employ ment. We thought he was a left wing lightweight, but now we are not sure even of that.
When the Government brings forward a Budget, the Opposition has the right and the opportunity to attack it, but there seems to have been very little attack in this debate. It seems to me that the Opposition has taken this opportunity to dangle the carrot in front of the electors. It is getting ready for the next election which maybe it does and maybe it does not wish is just around the corner. Many of the Opposition members have not even discussed the Budget. They have spoken about everything but the Budget. They have read long extracts from books and manuals. They have used long terms, and I wonder whether they know what the terms mean. The words used by some of them would need a clear and precise explanation before we would know whether they understood what they were talking about. 1 may have agreed with sections of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), but I certainly did not agree with most of it. When he told us what the Australian Labour Party would do, I, and I am sure many others, wondered about the bona fides of his statements. Since the Budget was presented last year, we have had many confusing and contradictory statements from the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), other members of the executive of the Australian Labour Party and other Opposition members. From these statements, an answer can be found for almost any question that may be asked. This is really worth a lot of study, and I think we should examine the statements. Opposition members will give you anything mentioned by anybody over the last year. They will give you classical music, light music, opera or farce. If they have not got it, they will get it. If you do not like it, they can explain it away. It reminds me of the old Dr. Doolittle books and the “Push Me -Pull You” policy.
If you want defence, you can be referred to the chairman of the Labour members’ defence committee, who is also, I understand, a staunch member of the Peace Corps, If you do not want defence, you can be referred to the shining and active members of the Opposition who strongly support the Peace Corps. The display in the Labour Party is like a departmental store - the broad policies of Labour on all matters can be seen. If you do not want defence, you can raise the question of Malaya. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, when the Leader of the Opposition was away, said that Australian troops were not required in Malaya, but the Federal President of the Australian Labour Party said at the Perth conference that Labour policy is to bring the troops home from Malaya. Again, if you want defence, the right wing delegates will say that the loopholes were left to enable the troops to stay in Malaya. Which of these is the policy of the Australian Labour Party? No one on this side of the House knows, and I am sure that no one on the other side knows either.
If you want the United States communication base and co-operation with the United States on defence, the Leader of the Opposition will say that they voted for the United States base. But if you do not want it, he will explain that Labour will re-negotiate. However, no one knows just what that may entail. Anything can be included in the re-negotiation, and the whole proposition can be scrapped. What is the policy of Labour on this matter? If you do not like unity tickets and cooperation with the Communists, the Perth conference will confirm the ban on them. But whenever we in this House produce a unity ticket and present it to the Leader of the Opposition, he cannot see. He says that it is not there and that unity tickets do not exist.
Let us examine Labour’s foreign policy. Labour will recognize Communist China, but it will also recognize Nationalist China. Indeed, in the Communist “ Guardian “ of last week, my friend - I am sure he will not mind my mentioning it - the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) is quoted as speaking at the Assembly Hall, Melbourne. To whom was he speaking? He was speaking to the Australia and New Zealand Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament. This is the Communist front organization well known to both sections of the Australian Labour Party. The article states -
Labour M.H.R. for Yarra, J. F. Cairns, told the meeting he was often asked by people why he continued to address peace meetings. He said: “I do so because the peace movement is more often right on any matter of international importance than any other part of the country. I personally intend to be with those who are right, despite political labels, whatever the cost.”
Does that mean to the Labour Party that his loyalty has now been clearly declared to a Communist-front organization? If it does, that should be noted. The article continues -
Dr. Cairns sharply condemned current attempts to “ make China into a pariah “. He said, “ China has voiced support for disarmament, nuclear-free zones and world peace.”
That does not seem to be well known currently. He should tell that to the people of South-East Asia and some of the other countries who are a little more concerned than he is. They seem to have a different view of China from his. To those people who like the Communist line, the Labour Party can always point with pride to the honorable member for Yarra and his statements which have been made with such vigour.
On education, too, you can get reverse policies. I will not go into them. On tax cuts, on ATN7 on 4th August the Leader cf the Opposition stated - lt would be wrong for the Labour Party to promise tax cuts at the next election.
But he walked into this House and stated in his speech on the Budget -
Labour, on its return to power, will reconstruct the whole schedule of income tax rates.
How much of Labour comment is genuine and how much is desperation and frustration? How much will the Labour promises cost? Last night the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) estimated the cost. I think he did that very effectively.
I now leave the Labour Party and turn to the Budget. I support this Budget as a most reasonable one. Most people to whom I have spoken consider it a good and fair budget; one that was brought down after consultation and deep consideration of the factors facing Australia to-day. At present we have just over 98 per cent, employment, and we plan to make the figure 100 per cent. Most people feel that the Government sanely has not given in to the pressures of certain large groups - they seem to have been quite effective with the Labour Party - which have endeavoured to construct a campaign that would force the Government to make policies which, whilst no doubt being of short-term benefit to themselves, could be of long-term disadvantage to the ordinary people of this country. Some people may benefit by inflation, but not many. Company reports, which have been published in all the newspapers, and stock exchange reports ever since the introduction of the Budget show that Australia is in a state of prosperity. The majority of companies are turning out very good reports. It is easy to be popular. It is easy to buy popularity. But this does not always earn respect. Buying votes can be a dangerous thing, and the Labour Party ought to remember that.
In this Budget the Government has endeavoured to give assistance to sections of the community which, it was considered, most needed assistance. The increases in social service benefits are a great step forward and are in keeping with the Government’s policy of assisting wherever possible. Many of the irritant anomalies have been removed. The amendment to the defence forces retirement benefits, the increase in widows’ pensions and the acceptance of Government grants for handicapped people are things that many honorable members have wanted for some time, and they have been introduced. lt is never possible to make a budget suitable to every one. All honorable members realize that many worthy people and causes have yet to be catered for; but it must be realized that budgeting is doing as much as you can with the money available to you. This the Government has done. Briefly, by permitting the savings banks to increase the percentage of money that they may invest in housing from 30 to 35 per cent., the Government has made an additional amount of about £72,000.000 available for housing loans. That should make it easier for people still without homes to arrange the necessary finance. I shall say more about that later. The primary producers have been given a superphosphate bounty, which will be of great benefit. Many honorable members have asked for such a bounty over a period of years. Primary producers have also been given an investment allowance of 20 per cent. The capital of the Commonwealth Development Bank has been increased. Taxation benefits have been extended in respect of forestry. Estate duty has been reduced on certain rural holdings.
I mentioned earlier the increase of 10s. a week, to £5 15s., in the pension payable to single age and invalid pensioners. That is something that everybody appreciates. About 516,000 of the 786,000 pensioners will receive that benefit. Repatriation pensioners will receive corresponding increases. In addition to receiving the £5 15s. a week, a civilian widow pensioner with one or more children will receive £2 a week and an allowance of 15s. a week for her eldest or only child.
Defence expenditure has been increased this year to a record £250,000,000. When I hear the Leader of the Opposition, and some of the other members of the Opposition, talk about the defence of Australia, I wonder whether it has just hit them, because for years, even before I came into this House. Labour’s attitude to defence was common knowledge. When the Leader of the Opposition comes out and literally says, “ If I am Prime Minister I will buy you a bomber overnight “, I wonder whether he has any idea of what buying a bomber means, what finding the most suitable bomber means, how long it takes to build a bomber and how long it takes to be delivered. I wonder whether he realizes that usually when the bomber arrives it is old-fashioned because there are others on the drawing board.
This year there is a greater commitment for national development. An extra £20,600,000 is to be spent on various projects. Sales tax has been removed from foodstuffs. The education allowance, for taxation purposes, has been increased from £100 to £150. Business has been assisted. Possibly more could be done. We hope that in the future the Government will be able to do more. There is a new basis for the valuation of trading stock and taxpayers will be entitled to deduct certain business expenses. Assistance has been given to private companies, and we expect that in the future the Government will be able to do more. The whole Budget is based on the soundness of the economy and confidence in the future. I am sure most people share that confidence.
I shall now make a few comments on some of the matters affected by this Budget. The increased defence vote is very necessary at this stage. It is interesting to compare the statements of the Leader of the Opposition with what is being done by the
Government in a practical manner at tha present time. As I said, the Leader of the Opposition may believe that buying bombers is like going into a department store and saying, “ I will have a dozen of those “. But that is not so. You have to choose your equipment, and it takes some time for yow orders to be filled.
One wonders when one hears Labour members talk of a waste of defence expenditure. That is now a popular line. They do not amplify the statement. They always say that the amount of money that has been spent over the last few years has been wasted Do they feel that defence expenditure is wasted because it has not been used in war? Do they feel that when you buy a gun, a tank or something else you have to have a war to justify your purchase? I can only say that on that basis I hope defence expenditure is always wasted. Defence expenditure is designed to avoid war and to enable you to fight a war, if necessary It is not something about which you should say that because it has not been used the money has been wasted.
In respect of defence, quite correctly the Government’s policy has been to assess tha strategic situation and to plan, in conjunction with our allies, as to defence requirements. I believe that the defence assessment has been based on the theory that our forces should have ready availability, mobility and modern equipment and, as far as possible, should be self-contained. We have endeavoured to have a balanced force of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force available either to fight on our own, if necessary - I trust that it never will be - or to play our part with our allies. This aim will be very much nearer achievement as a result of the increased defence expenditure that has been announced. However, we should ask ourselves, particularly in relation to the Army, whether our present organization meets to-day’s requirements as well as it should. Although the integration of the Australian Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces may have been satisfactory at the time of its execution, is it satisfactory in to-day’s situation? It is necessary to have a regular force available to go immediately where required with Citizen Military Forces available for followup or for defence at home. This is something that demands attention. Let us remember that the Army will be effective only if it knows where it is going. For that matter, the same reasoning applies to any of the services. It is of no use talking about building up an army of so many permanent divisions and of increasing the strength of the other services and’ making them efficient unless you have a definite plan in mind so that those services will know what is to happen to them in five or ten years’ time. If we do not have a war in five years’ time let us at all costs avoid the the situation in which people who previously wanted to build up the services now want to cut them down in order to save money that would otherwise be spent on defence. That is the most effective way of destroying the incentive for the right people to go into the Army.
It is a popular habit in time of need to say that we must have an army. You encourage young men to become regulars. You encourage the school cadets and the other young people to go into the Army, but after five years some say: “ Who is that bludger over there bludging on the Commonwealth? We must cut down on the Army.” People must realize that we need a permanent force that knows where it is going. Unless that situation prevails it is not fair to ask young people to go into the Army.
Sitting suspended from S.57 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was making a passing reference to the versatility of Labour Party policy, which has been expounded during this Budget debate. I had stated that the Budget was formulated for the benefit of all the people and not only for some small sectional interests which may have thought they should have received special mention.
Then I dealt with the question of defence as it applies particularly to Army organization and the integration of the Australian Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces. I wonder whether in to-day’s circumstances they will be able to meet our requirements. I mentioned also that if we are to have an increased defence build-up and more volunteers for our services we must give some guarantee of continuity of service. It is no good asking young men to leave school and enter the services and then in five years, because there has been no war. retrench them. This has been one of the failings of our defence system in the past and the reason why it is becoming more difficult to get suitable young men to enter the services. They wonder exactly what the future holds for them.
I suggest - I think a number of people agree with me - that there is a great need for a professional or regular army, and that what we have, plus the new battle group, will certainly be very effective. But we should consider certain things relating to the Australian Regular Army. First, it should be a volunteer force, enlistments should be for long service and members should be adequately paid. It will not be suitable for national defence because inevitably it will be too small. When one considers Australia as a whole, it is reasonable to claim that the professional force we have may not be able to withstand any threat to the Australian mainland. The force is suited to attack, being compact, trained and cohesive. We have always wanted a force which could go overseas immediately and take its place with our allies in any eventuality in the areas which concern us.
A professional army is the most expensive force to maintain. That is understandable. The members must be paid regularly, and this is a drain on the economy. Over a period of years a country such as Australia could maintain only a limited regular army, but together with C.M.F. conscript divisions it could be a reasonable force. I visualise a citizen conscript army as being similar to a national service training force. It would operate in conjunction with the Regular Army, but would be quite separate. I envisage a nation in which military service is the normal thing for all young men and is accepted by the citizens in the same way as compulsory schooling is accepted. This is a necessity for Australia. We must realize that we may be threatened from close at hand. The world in which we live is full of threats and we must instil into the minds of our young people the idea that if they wish to remain free they must accept automatically certain responsibilities when they come of age. This should be natural to Australians. A plan of this kind probably would be accepted by all young Australians if it were put to them by every one of us. Unfortunately in the past certain sections of the community have done their best to discourage any form of service in peace-time and indeed in time of great peril. However, if this proposal were accepted by all citizens it would provide the kind of service that we want.
Such a citizen conscript army would have many advantages. Its members would be drawn from and serve in their local areas. Recruits would be given basic training for a brief period and then they would serve for a number of years in their local regiments. All commands would belong to the citizens and a small cadre of regulars would be attached to each head-quarters. This is the ideal national defence force since it is economical and can be very large. It does not need to be mobilized, paid and fed until an emergency arises, except, of course, for camps, parades and so on.
When we think back to 1938 and 1939 we must realize the part which was played by the C.M.F. When war was declared we had in every city a C.M.F. battalion with a ready-made centre of enlistment and an organization to handle the recruits coming forward. There was local loyalty. Local men served with, say, the Essendon battalion or the Royal Melbourne battalion. They lived in their own area, they knew the people they were serving with and they knew where they should go in an emergency. The days when the C.M.F. could be called up to protect oil refineries, bridges and ports against attack, either externally or internally, are no longer with us. What would we have if the regular battle groups left Australia now? We would have no organization. A few years ago this perhaps was not necessary. To-day we must have a closer look at the organization of the Army to see whether it completely covers the present situation.
I turn now to foreign policy, which in a way concerns our services. With honorable members from both sides of the House I had the honour of visiting South-East Asia. There is no doubt that all members of the parliamentary delegation were impressed by what they saw. We realize now that we must accept more responsibility and show more understanding of the internal problems of the countries of South-East Asia. We must endeavour to assist the people there. We have a responsibility to do this. In fact, I think that to a certain exent they expect us to accept a little more responsibility than we have accepted in the past. I was amazed at the high regard in which Australia is held in these areas. Indeed, at times it was slightly embarrassing to hear the leaders and the people of these countries say: “ Of course you in Australia have thrown off the colonial yoke and are a free and independent people. The problems that we have now are the problems that you had and which you succeeded in solving. You did it, and we think that you are able to help us with your know-how “. 1 am sure that diplomatically and in matters of trade we have a great future in this area. No one knows from day to day exactly what will happen, but we must understand these people and stop looking at them always with the eyes of a western nation, in which if you say one thing every one understands what you mean. Because of the internal situation in South-East Asia, what people say in their own country does not always mean what we interpret it to mean. [Quorum formed.] Before I was rudely interrupted I was saying that Australia has great opportunities in the countries of South-East Asia. It is to our advantage to visit them frequently, to learn about the people there and to endeavour to assist them. From the trade aspect they look to us for assistance. We can make very effectives sales to them. This may mean some action or help from the Government in the terms of credit. But I say that what we do now in the terms of diplomacy and assistance may well be responsible for what will happen to us in the future.
The little time still available to me does not allow me to go into the detail I would have wished. There are matters of housing on which I would have liked to say a few words and other matters also which I hope I will be given the opportunity to discuss when we are dealing with the Estimates. I support the Budget. I think it is a good Budget and a fair Budget. I am quite happy to go to my electorate and fight an election, should it be necessary, on the Budget presented to us.
.- The honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) finished his speech with a fine peroration in support of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). He spent the first fifteen minutes of his speech in a smear campaign against the Labour Party and four minutes supporting the Budget. Then he gave what he thought were the measures necessary to defend this country and followed that with a travelogue on his journeys throughout the State. After a quorum had been called, as a sop to the Treasurer on a Budget which I do not think he supports, he had to say he though it was a good Budget.
As far as the Liberal Party is concerned this is a budget of sops to its friends of the Country Party. The leader of the Country Party, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), has taken the liberty over the last few months of espousing the policies of the Australian Labour Party throughout Australia. Our leader (Mr. Calwell) withheld no critcism the other night in his comments on investments from overseas. The Country Party, too, supports this issue. I understand that at the present time the white-haired boy with the Country Party is the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) with his proposed restrictive trade practices legislation.
We find the Country Party leaning more towards the platform of the Australian Labour Party to-day. We feel this, and we know that every time our leader rises in this House and criticizes a budget - or when at election time he propounds the plans and platform of the Australian Labour Party - the Liberal Party is careful to extract those sections of our platform that it can implement. But it strikes a brick wall. Most of the things which are good for this country to-day are contained in the platform of the Australian Labour Party and it is against the grain of the Liberal Party to accept too many things from that platform. But not so the Country Party. Members of the Country Party can twiddle the toes and the little fingers of the Liberal Party as much as they like, because in this National Parliament the Country Party represents a section of the community, just as the Liberal Party represents a section of the community. I think this Budget exemplifies the sectional representation given by the Liberal Party and the Country Party. On the one hand there are the great concessions to the pressure groups that apply pressure to the Liberal Party and on the other hand there has been the great campaign to which honorable members were subjected over the last nine months by the food producers of Australia - who are now nearly all controlled from overseas - to reduce the sales tax on food such as biscuits and ice cream.
There will be a big war in the ice cream business shortly with Unilever Australia Proprietary Limited coming into Queensland. But the sectional Liberal part of the Government has granted an £11,000,000 concession to the people who produce foodstuffs, and the newspapers, and speakers on the other side of the House have the audacity to attempt to convince the Australian people that food will now be cheaper. On the day after the introduction of the Budget, Queensland newspapers told the children of that State that their ice creams would still cost them 5d. So it will be throughout the Commonwealth. There will be no reduction in food prices throughout Australia.
One must then consider where the £11,000,000 represented by the reduction in sales tax will go. It will go into the pockets of the combines. One must congratulate Unilever, Peters, Pauls and Westons for their magnificent campaign and undoubtedly, during the next election, they will pay heavily into the Liberal Party’s funds. In the Budget last year the Liberal Party was too hoggish and took loo many concessions. It gave the double 20 per cent, depreciation allowance to manufacturers and one could hear, on the other side of the chamber, the squeals from the Country Party - the country cousins of the Liberal Party - for double depreciation on their farming implements. When the Treasurer was delivering his Budget last Tuesday week we saw him turn to the Country Party and heard him say, “ a bounty for superphosphate “. “ Hoorah! “ said the Country Party. “ A 20 per cent, depreciation and a further 20 per cent, on plant and implements “, said the Treasurer. “ Hoorah! “ said the Country Party. One wonders whether the Treasurer really classified big Black Jack as the unofficial spokesman of the Australian Labour Party, especially in regard to overseas investment.
Criticism of this Budget is heard from time to time. One of the most influential reports published in this country to-day is that of the Reserve Bank of Australia. I refer to the document entitled “Reserve Bank of Australia Report and Financial Statements 1963 “. This report is accepted by all sections of the community except bigoted sections of the people who represent the Liberal Party. In the introduction to the report, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr. H. C. Coombs, says -
However, unemployment is still too high.
A careful analysis of the economic and employment situations in Australia by the organization in the foremost position to make such an analysis - the Reserve Bank - shows that unemployment in Australia to-day is still too high. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), at question-time in this House and almost every time he rises to speak here, says that the employment position is on a very sound footing in Australia. As a matter of fact, he would have us believe that the unemployment position is not a problem at all. We on this side of the House have repeatedly asked what the Government considers is a reasonable number of people to be unemployed. Various Ministers, including the Minister for Labour and National Service, have dodged answering this question. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for La Trobe say to-night that the aim of this and subsequent budgets and the aim of his Government is 100 per cent, employment. We will look forward to the attainment of that goal, but the statement has been made for some time.
We know for sure how the application of the policy and platform of the Australian Labour Party can best be suited to this country and one looks for support on these things. We certainly get support from the people of Australia at a poll and we are getting support from the Deputy Prime Minister, who is the Leader of the Country Party. We find in the report of the Reserve Bank support for the stress and strain that we apply to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in an effort to get him to do something about education. My colleagues on this side of the House have repeatedly demanded that the Government do something about education. Here again, Austra iian Labour Party policy is supported by this most influential report, in which Dr. Coombs says -
In the longer run, growth depends on many factors; but with the advance of science and technology, standards of education and the upgrading of skills have become of increasing importance.
Will the bank, like the Labour Party, soon be at the wailing wall with the great white father? How often have my colleagues risen in this House and asked the Prime Minister, “ Will you do something about education, about which every family man in this country is concerned? “ The great white father rises in this House and says, “ I have nothing to say beyond what I said in my speech eighteen months ago “. So much for this Government’s concern about the need for educating the young people of Australia to-day! When reading this report, I become a little confused. Sometimes I think that I am reading the document setting out the platform and objectives of the Australian Labour Party and not the report of the Reserve Bank of Australia. During the debate on the Budget last year my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), dealt with the question of high interest rates. He stressed the need for a reduction of interest rates. The Reserve Bank of Australia agreed that the rates should be reduced, but the Treasurer and the Government refused to do this. The Reserve Bank, hand in hand with the Australian Labour Party - with the Reserve Bank a little behind because the Australian Labour Party gives it the lead - carried the fight against the Government and the Treasurer for some months until finally the Government capitulated and agreed to the reduction necessary to stimulate the economy of this country.
The people of Australia will soon come to realize that the Liberal Party-Country Party coalition, this combination of sectional interests that have no ideas of their own. is a combination that continually selects and implements sections of the platform and policy of the Australian Labour Party, but is too frightened to steal too much of Labour’s policy because it fears that pressure will be brought to bear on it by certain sections of its supporters. The people will soon realize that it is a combination which continually produces budgets designed to placate these pressure groups, and that at the moment, the Australian Country Party is the greatest pressure group of all.
This Budget has been introduced after a year of unprecedented affluence in the Treasury and at the beginning of another year in which cash seems likely to flow into Canberra in even greater volume than before. For the first time since the war, this Government has no significant worries about being able to finance a record public works programme; but, despite this, the Treasurer still finds it impossible to grant any direct stimulating concessions. The concessions which are proposed in the Budget will do nothing for those who are in greatest need, the most important section of the community, the families of wage and salary earners. These families are subjected to high taxation which leaves too little scope for many people to put anything aside for a rainy day and, because of that, in time of need they must rely on the welfare state.
I have already mentioned the gestures made to the Country Party in an effort to strengthen, if possible, this very shaky coalition that we have in government to-day. Recently we had a demonstration of just how shaky this coalition is when the redistribution of electoral boundaries was under consideration. One wonders whether the people of Australia generally realize that the Country Party demands that the people in cities other than the major cities and the people in country towns should be entitled to one vote for every two people residing in the major cities. Would that be in the interests of all the people of Australia? Or would it be in the interests of only a section of the people? Last night we heard a prominent member of the Country Party say -
We have the highest standard of living in the world, the shortest working hours and falling unemployment.
This is contrary, of course, to what the Reserve Bank has to say about these matters. He continued -
I invite honorable members to look at the assets of this country. We have almost unlimited bauxite -
The Country Party put it there!
We have iron ore reserves -
I wonder again if the Country Party put it there! amounting to thousands of millions of tons. We have the cheapest steel in the world. . . . “ The cheapest steel in the world “, yet every small child in Australia knows that we are exporting immense quantities of coal from Moura coalfields to Japan, that we are exporting iron ore to Japan and that we are buying back this iron ore in the form of steel. How can he hope to convince any body that we have the cheapest steel in the world when we have to export coal and iron ore and bring back these products in the form of steel? The honorable member concluded his speech by saying -
What a stable government it is ! Under it we have had three horror budgets, a series of ups and downs, thousands of people out of work, a record number of bankruptcies and no care taken of the people. The newspapers can have their say, members of this Parliament can have their say, but I and the people of the electorate of Petrie whom I represent are far from convinced that these are golden days. They are not convinced that they are earning ample money to live on; they are not convinced that Australia and the Australian people are rich. They know the problems that exist in Australia to-day; they know that under the system of wage control in vogue in this country - a system which is possibly unique in the world - the employers will not increase a man’s wage out of generosity to their employee. One employer will not say to his employees, “You have been working well in this industry, here is an extra £2 for you “, because he fears that his brother employer will say, “ Look what you have done to me “. No generous gestures are made to the worker for the greatest asset he has to offer his employer - his labour. He must rely upon the arbitration system to grant him an increase. Over the last few years under this Government, the workers of Australia have feared an increase of their wages because the increase in the cost of living which automatically follows will more than wipe out the wage increase. The story in Australia to-day is that with every increase in wages inflation receives a boost. The workers are waiting to receive a fair remuneration for their labours, but the cost of living is rising continually. The wageearner is always No. 2 in the race. When the cost of living goes up he is required to wait for two years before the arbitration court decides to grant him a wage increase commensurate with the estimated increase in the cost of living, and the very next day after he gets his increase, the employers’ association says, “ This cost must be passed on to the consumer “. That is what is happening in Australia to-day. The workers are fearful of getting an increase in payment for their greatest asset - their labour - and no one can convince them, as this Government is trying to do, that they are well off to-day. We hear Government members say, “You have never had it so good “. What a corny phrase for any political party to mouth in view of what is happening in this country at the present time!
The people of Australia are going into pawn in order to obtain the ordinary amenities. The thousands of young people in my electorate who are becoming engaged and getting married are condemning themselves to a terrific struggle. This applies especially to the wife who goes to work for the first four or five years of her married life so that she and her husband might be able to buy a block of land. Having bought the land, they buy a home and then put themselves into pawn in an effort to furnish it. And the gentlemen on my left say, “ You have never had it so good “ ! The people who are struggling to raise a family on £16 or £17 a week - and there are many of them in my electorate - welcomed with great gladness the recent announcement by the Commonwealth Bank and the Bank of New South Wales that they would grant personal loans of £360 to their customers. These young people said: “ Thank Heaven for that. Now we might be able to buy an extra bed; we might be able to get a refrigerator; we might be able to add a sleep-out for our young child “. Under this social system, you would think that to borrow money your only obligation was to go to a bank, detail your income and put up your security. You would think that you would be granted a loan if the bank manager decided that you could pay. Mr. Sweeting, the representative of the people’s bank, which will operate the new system under direction from this Government, is reported as having made this statement -
This personal credit scheme is not designed to accommodate people who buy a frig, on 10 per cent, interest to-day and expect us to give them the money at 61 per cent, to pay it off to-morrow.
What a shocking thing! Fancy anybody expecting to get money at 64 per cent, interest from the banks when he can get it at 10 per cent, from the subsidiaries of the banks! The banks will now tell you what you can spend your money on. Anybody who goes into a bank to borrow £360 as an unsecured loan will be told - but only if he wants the money for certain purposes - “ You are a good little boy. You are O.K. Your money is good. Your collateral is good. We will grant you a loan.” Mr. Sweeting has said that where the bank has established the bona fides of a customer it will grant him a personal loan for medical purposes - they will give you the money to see a doctor - and for dental, hospital and education expenses, property improvement and maintenance. In this society organized by the LiberalCountry Party Government, if you want to borrow money at 64 per cent, interest, you are told how to spend it. You cannot spend it in any way other than that specified by your bank.
Many pious utterances have been made about what has been done for the pensioners in Australia. There has been the great increase of 10s. a week for the single pensioner! The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) often rises very carefully, goes to the table and says, “ From time to time reviews of social services are made “. One wonders what sort of a review was made when this Government decided that a married pensioner couple could live adequately on £10 10s. a week and at the same time decided that an invalid pensioner, his wife and three children could live on the same amount. How can you equate two old people, who probably have sufficient clothes for themselves, with an invalid pensioner, his wife and three children, expecting them to live on the same amount? The invalid pensioner has to clothe and educate three children. I suppose that consideration was given to that when the Government increased the allowable deduction for education expenses from £100 to £150 for each child. Hoorah for the invalid pensioner who can send his child to a school where he has to pay £150 a year for the child’s education! What sort of a review is this? Is this Government making two reviews - one for the haves and one for the have-nots? Judged by the type of Budget introduced by this Government, it would seem so.
The position is similar for a widow with three children. The maximum amount payable to such a family is £10 a week. Most honorable members have groups of widows in their electorates. They tell us of the hardships they face, and they must tell Government members. Even if they go to their offices only one day a year, there must be widows waiting to tell them that their children have been condemned to wearing second-hand clothes, to getting second-hand books and to being denied an opportunity to go on trips with other school children, because they are regarded as second grade children by this Government in its reviews and consideration of the wants of the widows.
I turn now to child endowment. The people of Australia are waiting for an increase in child endowment rates. Wages are fixed according to the arbitration system, and as soon as an increase in wages is granted it is absorbed by rising costs. Australia to-day must be considered as a welfare state, and most of our social service benefits were introduced by the Australian Labour Party. Some people can look only to this Government to give them a few extra pence in their pockets. Child endowment of 10s. a week for a second child and subsequent children was introduced in 1941 and has not been altered since. It has remained the same for 22 years. From time to time Ministers of the Government piously tell us, “ We make a review “. For just how long can you dupe the people of Australia? Most certainly the Country Party is going to try to dupe the people by gerrymandering electoral boundaries so that one country vote will be worth two city votes.
In Queensland and South Australia the majority of the people vote for the Australian Labour Party. In federal elections the majority vote is for the Australian Labour Party. Our party has the policy for the people. Its policy for development has been outlined by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) many times in this House. I have often watched him here, as legislation is introduced, strike his brow and say, “ More of my ideas and my party’s thoughts are being adopted by the Liberal Party” - a party which is bereft of any ideas and is kept busy trying to patch the enormous split in the coalition government’s ranks. One hopes that in more electorates there will be contests between representatives of the Liberal Party and the Country Party. One hopes that that might occur even in the electorate of Macarthur.
There are many problems in relation to pensioners in Australia to-day. I wonder how long it will be before the representations to the Minister for Social Services and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) will result in a reduction in the rental of telephones for pensioners. To old people living alone a telephone is essential. It is time that this Government recognized that it must stop the No. I monopoly-grab organization in Australia - the PostmasterGeneral’s Department - from exploiting the people as it is doing to-day. The AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) is trying to curb the activities of monopolies. Before any monopoly could get into the field in relation to decimal currency, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department increased the price of a public telephone call from 4d. to 6d. The first in the field of inflation in that regard was the Postmaster-General’s Department, giving the lead to all other organizations in Australia. How can this Government criticize any organization or company in Australia for trying to exploit the decimal currency system when the PostmasterGeneral’s Department leads the way?
In most States of Australia to-day there is a tremendous demand for secondary education, brought about by the high birthrate in the immediate post-war years. Repeatedly honorable members on this side of the chamber have drawn to the attention of the Government the urgent need for greater grants for home construction. What is going to happen in three or four years* time when the young people born during 1946, 1947 and 1948 reach marriageable age? The position will be tragic. It is time that the Liberal-Country Party coalition listened closely to the wise words of the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues when they say, “ You must wake up to the needs of the young people in Australia to-day.”
There can be no doubt in the minds of all our young people that the Australian
Labour Party has their best interests at heart. We are forever demanding a greater housing allocation and greater educational allowances. We are aware of the people’s needs because we are close to the people. We know what the people want and our ideas have been adopted by this Government.
– It has made a complete mess.
– As my honorable friend from Bowman has just said, the Government has made a complete mess.
I do not think that anybody has ever heard such pathetic support for any budget presented in this chamber as we have heard on this occasion, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As a new member of the Parliament, I am quite sure that the people of Australia are not convinced that they are as well off as this Government would have them believe. The sooner the people have an opportunity to decide who will govern them, the sooner, I am sure, there will be an Australian Labour Party government to govern for many years in the way they wish to be governed.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. O’Brien) has just made it quite plain that he does not like the Government. The feature that puzzles me now, and has often puzzled me, is that, while one expects Labour speakers to attack the Government - in a way, that is their job - one finds it difficult to understand why they always represent Australia as being about the most miserable country in the world, inhabited by the most unfortunate people in the world. There is a big difference between the way in which we see the Australian nation and the way in which the Opposition persistently represents it. We see Australia to-day as a progressive country with a vigorous and enterprising people who are making it year by year an even better country.
I want, first af all, to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on the Budget that he has brought down. I do not confine my congratulations, however, to the contents of the present Budget and the benefits that it confers on this or that section of the community. I want to relate my congratulations to the succession of budgets that the
Treasurer has had the honour and, as I think he would account it, the privilege to present to this Parliament. This is the fifth budget that my colleague has presented since he succeeded to his present office towards the end of 1958.
As I see this Budget, it is part of a series of economic activities that have redounded very much to the benefit of the nation. I ask honorable members to cast their minds back over some of the things that have happened since the Treasurer assumed his present office and brought down his first budget five years ago. One important change that has taken place is that inflation has been halted. The post-war inflation that threatened the Australian economy, and, what is more important, perhaps the happiness and the welfare of a great number of individual Australians, has been brought under control, and Australia has enjoyed remarkable stability of costs and prices since 1961. In this House the other afternoon, my colleague, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), quoted some figures contained in a table recently published by the International Monetary Fund showing the price rises that took place in various countries between December, 1960, and December, 1962. In Japan, prices rose by 14 per cent., in Italy by 10 per cent., in France by 9 per cent., in the United Kingdom by 7 per cent., in West Germany by 6 per cent, and in Australia by 1 per cent. Such a small increase in prices in this country is an amazing achievement and something that is worth noting in the context of the whole economic progress of Australia.
Another thing that has happened since 1958 has been the change in Australia’s overseas balances, which now stand at the highest level since 1951. At 30th June last, our holdings of gold and foreign exchange stood at £626,000,000. That remarkable and very happy result in itself indicates the strength of the Australian economy and of our exchange position. In addition, I may mention that our drawing rights in the International Monetary Fund have been increased from £93,000,000 at the end of 1958, when my colleague assumed his present office, and now stand at £223,000,000. So, in addition to our more favorable exchange position wilh respect to our total balances, we are in a stronger position to buttress our economy through the International Monetary Fund to withstand any difficulty that may arise in respect of overseas exchange.
Australia’s credit standing abroad has improved enormously. It has never stood higher than it stands to-day. Every honorable member knows that our most recent loan on the New York market was raised at the lowest interest rate negotiated for many years, and the rates of interest payable on our borrowings elsewhere compare favorably with the borrowings of other countries.
Turning to Australia itself, one has to recognize - it is indisputable on the evidence - that the Government has greatly improved the standing of Australian bonds and the strength of public support for them. Last year, the Government succeeded in raising by way of loans enough to meet the total requirements of the State works and housing programmes. In previous years, our inability to finance those programmes out of loans had meant that more than £800,000,000 had to be provided from revenue to support the State programmes.
I could speak of other changes, but I want to direct attention to only one more. 1 refer to the significant banking reforms that have been carried out by my colleague since he became Treasurer. Banking reforms were introduced in January, 1960, when action was taken to separate reserve banking activities from trading bank functions. We well remember the gloomy prognostications made on the other side of the House about the terrible things that were to happen to what honorable members opposite chose to call the people’s bank. To-day, no one can avoid noting the strength and the successful operations of the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia. At the same time, the whole banking system has been placed on a more truly competitive basis and has been freed from the old shackles. Recalling more of the gloomy prophecies that were made on the other side of the chamber, one should recognize that the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia, which was established to carry out a particular function, has now been given access to resources that have been provided amounting to about £70,000,000 from revenue, loan raisings and elsewhere.
I could mention some of the other banking reforms that have been undertaken, such as the establishment of the short-term money market, the introduction of treasury-notes, the use of the term-lending fund and, within the last few weeks, the introduction of a scheme for the making of personal loans by savings banks. However, I think 1 have said enough to show that this Budget, regarded not as an isolated event but as one event among many, represents yet another contribution to the record of the Treasurer in his successful management, on behalf of the Government, of the financial and economic policies of the Commonwealth. The final tribute to the right honorable gentleman’s record is to be found, not in anything that I say - not even in the particular instances that I have cited - but in the fundamental health of the Australian economy to-day and the fact that the Australian nation is vigorous, enterprising and progressive and that, throughout our land, the Australian people share in the country’s prosperity.
The main topic on which I wish to speak this evening is northern development, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that at the outset of any discussion of this subject we ought to try to get clear in our minds what we mean by the expression “ the north “. In my view the rainfall maps, the soil maps, the population maps of our continent define the north and separate it from the rest of Australia. This part of Australia, to my mind, still identifies itself because of its comparative emptiness. It stands out in clear distinction from the rest of Australia because, broadly speaking, it has difficulties of climate, difficulties of geographical isolation, difficulties in arranging access to its own natural resources. If we take that view we will recognize at the outset that it is going to be harder - it is in fact harder - to develop the northern part of this continent than it has been to develop other parts of the continent. The reason why it is less developed than other parts of the continent is fundamentally that it is a tougher place, a harder place, a more difficult place to develop.
But this does not mean that we cannot develop the north. It does not mean that we should not attempt to develop it. It means only that we have a greater challenge in front of us. I think it also means that we must stop using catch cries like “ neglect of the north “, and recognize that this is a practical problem and a tough problem. We must turn our minds to trying to find ways in which the opportunities of the north can he mastered, and ways in which its very great disadvantages can be overcome.
I think, too, that if we appreciate these fundamental facts about the north we will also appreciate that governmental action alone, and expenditure of public funds alone, will not overcome the difficulties. It is very easy, fatally easy, to say that Australia must be prepared to spend millions in the north. It is much more important, I think, for us to realize that we have to use our brains as well as our money, and that unless we use our brains as well as our money we will never get worthwhile results in the north. There is a good deal of room for argument about what is the right way of tackling northern development. Our esteemed friend, the Leader of the Opposition talks casually about northern development as though it was the same thing as spending a week-end on the gold coast, a good deal of spectacular spending and the contemplation of bare and sunburnt expanses. But the development of the north is a practical problem. It is not a spree.
There are some who would apply a strict economic test to any proposal for northern development. That sort of test will carry us a certain distance. When I say an economic test, I mean really a test of cost. We all know that we can grow certain products in the north. I suppose you could grow oranges in Antarctica if you were prepared to spend enough millions to do it. But at some time or other the question has to be asked whether there is a market for the products and whether the cost of production is somewhere near the price to be received for the products. That is the economic test.
In discussing this economic test of northern development I should like to make two comments. The first is that no one should imagine for a moment that the economic test condemns this region. Already, in the present day, at Mr Isa and Mary Kathleen in Queensland, at Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, at Yampi and Wittenoom Gorge in Western Australia, there is mineral production worth millions of pounds a year. At Weipa, Gove, the Pilbara and Mr Goldsworthy there are very good prospects of further major mining development. This northern region is already the major producer of beef cattle. Indeed, it turns off nearly half of Australia’s export beef cattle. So here we find already an existing economic test for northern development, and I am personally confident that there are immediate possibilities, both in minerals and in beef cattle, which would justify major development on a sound economic basis, backed by significant public expenditure.
The general effect of what I am saying is that on a strict economic test alone there is a case for public expenditure, and that case has already been recognized and acted upon by the Menzies Government. This Government has already promoted, and has also co-operated with State governments in promoting, major developments in roads, railways and harbours for the existing industries of the north. It has engaged in extensive research programmes to aid the pastoral industry and to help overcome some of its big problems. It has embarked on the most extensive exploration and investigation of mineral resources that the north of Australia has ever known. It is in course of promoting further basic investigations of the water resources of the whole region and the problems associated with their conservation and use.
I would like the House to look at just part of the list of what the Menzies Government is doing in northern development. I will recite some of the actual projects and activities that are in train. First of all, there are the advances of up to £20,000,000, at the rate of £2 for every £1 provided by Queensland, for the reconstruction of the Mount Isa railway to cater for expanding mineral production. Then there are the grants that have been made and spent for the reconstruction of the Wyndham jetty in Western Australia, the grants for the replacement of the Derby jetty in Western Australia, the proposed grants mentioned in the Budget speech for a deep-water jetty at Broome in Western Australia, the grants and advances totalling £8,300,000 for beef cattle roads in Queensland, the grants totalling £3,350,000 for beef cattle roads in Western Australia, with provision for matching finance from the State, and the advances up to a limit of £7,250,000 for brigalow lands development in Queensland.
Earlier than these contemporary projects there was the expenditure of £2,166,000 for encouragement of meat production in Western Australia and Queensland. Currently there is a beef roads programme to the extent of £4,750,000 in the Northern Territory, on top of earlier major expenditure on developmental roads.
These projects cover the provision of funds, either by advances or by grants, of a total amount approaching £50,000,000 for the assistance of northern development. The point I want to make is that each one of these projects has an economic justification and the money is being applied directly to those undertakings which are calculated to lead to the strengthening of the existing mineral and pastoral industries of the north. They illustrate the way in which the Menzies Government is vigorously backing this phase of northern development. The value of what I have recounted must be increased because of the fact that, accompanying what the Federal Government is doing there is, under Federal inducement, a very much increased State effort both in Queensland and in Western Australia along corresponding lines.
These works and undertakings, justified, as 1 have said, by economic tests applied to existing industry, are only part of the story. The second comment I wish to make is that the economic test alone is recognized as not being enough. For northern development it is necessary to engage also in some experimentation and to branch out into new fields. The ever-widening national interest in the development of our continent requires us to promote ventures which might not pass the test that a money-lender would apply. There is nothing novel in this. Throughout Australia there are at the present time some hundreds of thousands of persons making a living in industries that could not pass a strict economic test and which could not survive without some calculated support from public sources. The academic purist might say that it is just crazy economics to support such enterprises with public funds, but, by and large, the
Australian nation, in the past and in the present, has believed it to be worthwhile, and I think we would be a smaller and weaker nation if we had not done this sort of thing.
T do not think we should fool ourselves for one moment by thinking that we can avoid the economic consequences of our decisions; but we can recognize that it is possible for a nation to choose one kind of national advantage at the expense of another and pay for one form of development by placing an economic hurden in another place. If we do not demand that every developmental decision in southern Australia has to pass the economic test, we should not demand that every northern development project must also pass it.
Having said that, I want to emphasize as strongly as I possibly can that we have to make very exact calculations from time to time about the advantage we gain or the disadvantage we incur from any noneconomic venture. What we are doing is that, instead of allowing the economic test to work itself out, we are replacing the economic test with a judgment of our own, and that places a tremendous responsibility on governments or on people who advocate northern development to ensure that the judgment is soundly based and is not just a fly-by-night or catch-as-catch-can venture into the unknown.
The Menzies Government has recognized this point. As the House well knows, it has made substantial sums available to the Western Australian Government for the development of the Kimberley region. As a result of the special grant of £5,000,000, the Western Australian Government is now carrying out a large-scale experiment in tropical agriculture on the Ord River. This is a bold and visionary step into a new phase of development in that part of the north. I use the words “ bold and visionary “ in their best sense and not in any attempt to belittle this scheme. As honorable members know, in the current Budget the Commonwealth is making further money available so that the project may continue. I believe that there is a need for further projects of a similar kind, but they are not to be chosen lightly. Merely having an experiment means very little. It is necessary at all times to see clearly what the experiment is designed to prove and what will be the next step if it turns out to be successful.
There is yet another aspect of northern development that I should like to illustrate from experience in the Northern Territory. The illustration I draw from the Northern Territory will, I think, also help to amplify what 1 have already said about northern development directly related to existing economic industries. I have mentioned that the Menzies Government is helping to finance current developmental projects totalling £50,000,000. I can add to the figure the fact that, up to date, including the current year, the Menzies Government has provided at least another £50,000,000 for public works in the Northern Territory and about £40,000,000 of these works have been completed. To avoid misunderstanding, I should add that these figures do not include projects related to defence but refer only to civil and developmental works.
This £50,000,000 worth of works in the Northern Territory can be divided into two main categories. There are those which are necessary in order to provide the services, the public utilities and the amenities to which the Australian community is accustomed - in other words, to help create the normal conditions of life. These include the provision of schools, hospitals, houses, water supplies, electricity, sewerage and recreational facilities. Then there are other works which are plainly designed for developmental purposes and these include developmental roads and harbour projects.
Side by side with this provision of approximately £50,000,000 for civil works in the Northern Territory, the Menzies Government has also established in the Territory itself administrative services for a modern community and has set up a complete decentralized structure of administration. An indication of the transformation that has been wrought in Territory life is indicated by the fact that the operational expenditure of the Northern Territory Administration - that is, the money spent each year in maintaining these services and utilities - has increased more than fivefold under the present Government. In the current year, as was shown in a paper I distributed recently to all honorable members, the total financial provision for carrying on the works and services of the local community will be £19,400,000. In addition to this there will be other expenditures which will probably lift the total governmental provision in the Territory itself to £25,000,000. This is seven or eight times as much as in the last year of the previous Government.
As a result of this - this is the point I want to illustrate - in the Northern Territory to-day we have the standard pattern of Australian life and the standard set of facilities and services as a base on which all the activities of the Territory community can be founded. The best way in which I can amplify this illustration is to refer to the recent opening of two export meat works, one at Katherine and one at Darwin. The establishment of these two meat works involves a private investment of about £600,000 and the expenditure of public money, principally on a cool store, of something over £100,000. Let us call it a total investment of £750,000, mostly private and some public. Largely because of the underlying base of development that already existed in the Territory, this investment of approximately £750,000 had the immediate consequence of adding about £2,500,000 a year to the export income of Australia. That is not something for which we had to wait until the investment matured, but something that could happen immediately because the roads, water supply, electricity, harbours and the work of the animal industry branch had already been done, and because it had been done already we had the immediate result. To-day, the way is open in mining, in many other forms of industry and in pastoral development for other investment to show immediate results because of works previously undertaken and services already established.
I do not want to spend the short time remaining to me in talking about particular aspects of Northern Territory development, although I should like to do so. However, I would express the view that the full potential for development of the north will not be realized without substantial private enterprise. That is a point that may separate us from the Opposition. It is a fundamental point as far as I am concerned, and I think as far as the Government is concerned. Another point that flows from it and is also fundamental is that private enterprise will respond only to economic opportunity. We cannot separate northern development from markets and from costs of production. Governments have a role to play in finding and testing the opportunities, in providing the services, the public utilities and the facilities, and in establishing the sort of local community and maintaining the sort of economic conditions in which enterprise can flourish.
I will admit, and I think all my colleagues will admit, that a good deal remains to be done in each of these fields. In particular, we see the dominant need for improved roads and all other transport facilities. We see the need for research and investigation. But we still have to face the underlying problem of costs. In my own experience, on successive occasions I have seen the prospect of major investment in mineral enterprises in the Territory hover on the balance of costs and then come down on the wrong side. There is no local fuel, pending the breakthrough in nuclear power. The freight on imported fuel is high. Steel, cement and machinery go up the coast of Australia on one of the most expensive transport systems in the world. The cost of local treatment of ores is high and the cost of shipment of ores is high. In agriculture, to give one example, the superphosphate that leaves the works in the southern States at approximately £13 a ton becomes over £30 a ton on the inland farm. My own view is that the most direct, valuable and immediately effective support for northern development would be a form of aid that directly attacked this problem of costs. The practical disadvantage in the way of economic development in northern Australia to-day is that in most enterprises it is easier and cheaper to do the same sort of thing somewhere else in Australia, and so long as it is easier and cheaper to do something somewhere else in Australia it will not be done in the north. Any one who dodges that reality when advocating northern development has left the story of northern development incomplete.
In conclusion, Sir, I say that the Menzies Government has done and is doing more for northern development than has ever been done before. As earnests of that I instance the £50,000,000 that it is providing for current projects; the foundation of £50,000,000 worth of civil works that it has laid in the Northern Territory; the current annual expenditure of more than £20,000,000 in the Northern Territory; and its financial support of the great Ord River experiment. Those are earnests of the Government’s intention to serve the national advantage through northern development, making sure that each act of development strengthens the nation as a whole.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the importance of the subject that has just been brought to the notice of the House justifies a special debate on it. Anything that deals with the development of the northern areas of the Commonwealth of Australia is surely a major subject which should not be caught up with the many other circumstances that are involved in a budget debate. Whilst the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) may feel that he has justified the attitude of the Government and his own administration of these matters, much remains to be done in the north. Something far more spectacular than what has been indicated by the Minister will have to be done if we are to have a really satisfactory programme of northern development.
Those remarks will suffice for the moment, but Opposition members certainly will have more to say on this matter, if not in this debate then on a subsequent occasion, and we will review fully the essential principles that must be observed if the best results are to be obtained from a programme of northern development. The area north of the Tropic of Capricorn has fewer people than some of the smaller cities of Australia. This Government has something to answer for because its administration over a period of more than a decade has not produced a great deal of northern development, and certainly not as much as is justified. The Government has had an opportunity to put forward some ideas and show some enterprise in the development of the north.
At budget time the Government has its greatest opportunity to give the Parliament some idea of the lines of policy it will follow in the ensuing year and to review the receipts and expenditure in the previous financial year. The results of the financial year 1962-63 leave very much to be desired in the way of concrete advancement of the nation. Whilst we have the present number of people unemployed, we cannot be content with the attitude that the Government has adopted to many of the economic problems, especially to the solution of the problems raised by the unfortunate experiences suffered by so many of our fellow-citizens. Unless a government contributes to the security and well-being of the people it governs, it forfeits the right to continue in office. However, it is a hopeful and comforting thought that our system of parliamentary government provides an alternative to the present Ministry which is composed of members of the LiberalCountry Party coalition. Only when a Labour government is restored to the treasury bench of this country will there be that advancement and well-being of our people that the resources of this country make possible.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in a trenchant and searching analysis of the economic position of the nation, proved how unreliable and unrealistic the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was. He has now presented five budgets and each year he has found himself in conflict with what he said a year earlier. Serious errors of judgment and forecasting have been made. Now the Treasurer finds it convenient to be either silent or ambiguous. No wonder an authoritative journal like the “ Australian Financial Review “ made the statements that it made in the leading article in last week’s issue. I now give the House this declaration, which is the authorized view of that journal -
The Budget has been hard to understand, partly because the Treasurer gave so little explanation in his speech of the likely economic effects of what he was doing. . . .
Any party that is to lead Australia effectively through today’s dangerous and urgent times must know where it is going and where it wants the country to go.
Australia now finds itself in a most dangerous position in the world it lives in - the world of South Asia and the southern seas.
Internally, the country faces great issues like the need for accelerated national development, for education, for devising sound policies to meet issues like that of the increasing role being played by overseas investment.
Merely derivative policies, or more reactions to ad hoc administrative pressures will not suffice for the needs of the times.
That is a’ timely statement by those in a position to offer an opinion about the Budget. I have heard and read more criticisms of this Budget than I have ever heard or read about any other Budget in the many years that I have been a member of this Parliament. The Budget has been called disappointing, uninspiring, unimaginative and unrealistic. It is perfectly obvious that whoever was associated with the drafting of the Budget lacks vigour, vision and enterprise and is completely out of touch with what is urgently needed to give an impetus to Australia’s development. The Treasurer and his department seem to have engaged in some peculiar hit and miss thinking; but the Government as a whole must share the responsibility for the Budget.
I have always been under the impression that mathematics is an exact science but the Treasury figuring reveals some extraordinary errors. Last year the Treasury told us that the Government would stimulate the economy by budgeting for a deficit of £118,000,000, but the Government ended the year with a surplus of £16,000,000. Somebody was astray in his calculations to the tune of £134,000,000. How can this House or the country place any reliance on the forecasts of a government that could make an error of that magnitude?
I will not attempt a detailed analysis of the tables accompanying the Budget. To do so would produce an unreliable result having regard to the fact that price index levels and costs have varied so much over the years. I feel that many honorable members fall into serious error when they compare sets of figures relating to different periods of time. That is not an accurate way of assessing the situation.
A budget must deal with certain essential matters if it is to obtain the approval of the nation. It must deal with defence, economic and social security, education and national development. If any of those matters is not adequately provided for in a budget, then to that extent that budget fails. I should like to make some observations about each of those aspects of public policy. Dealing with defence, I was disappointed yesterday to hear the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) endeavour to justify the Governments’ action in placing orders overseas for new aircraft and naval vessels without paying any regard to the fact that if our own Australian factories and shipyards received some of those orders the experience gained in fulfilling them would be invaluable in time of crisis. I have had some experience in these matters. During the last war I was at times Minister for Aircraft Production and Minister for the Navy. In the initial stages of the war Australia was under the serious handicap of having to organize and develop the necessary aircraft and shipbuilding industries in this country. Hitherto we had very limited experience in this kind of work. It is to the credit of the executives of various industries, and particularly to the expert tradesmen, that we were able to overcome many of the difficulties that confronted us and to create in Australia, even during the war, an industry such as that of aircraft production. The Minister for the Interior suggested that we should be satisfied to make the spare parts for the equipment that is to be obtained from abroad. He would seem to want Australia to be a spare-part nation - a nation without the resources and the means to supply the needs of our fighting forces and the equipment so essential for our security.
We should have an adequate programme of shipbuilding in Australia which would ensure that the necessary repair and maintenance of our naval vessels could be carried out in this country. The shipbuilding industry should have all the modern equipment necessary to meet any demand made upon it. At present too many industries in this country lack up-to-date equipment. I have received correspondence from a major manufacturer of machine tools in Australia claiming that there is an urgent need to modernize the equipment that is used in Australian factories to-day. In many industrial establishments to-day the equipment is of war-time vintage. So many years have passed since that equipment was installed that it is now outmoded. More efficient and up-to-date equipment is needed if our factories are to work efficiently. It would be well if we had some authoritative body, experienced in the higher branches of engineering, to examine the various Australian industries to learn to what extent they would be able to undertake the responsibility of producing our essential needs in time of crisis.
Another important aspect which must not be overlooked is the importance of training our young people to a full and complete understanding of the various trades in which we feel they should be interested. During the war experienced tradesmen were as valuable as fine gold. Although Australia at that time was extended to the limit of its man-power and the ability of its engineering tradesmen, we possibly could have accomplished much more than we did if more tradesmen had been available. The experienced tradesmen that we had were capable of undertaking certain work with initiative and resourcefulness. They were capable of improvising to such an extent that they overcame many difficulties that an ordinary trained operative could not have overcome. To-day there is disposition on the part of many industries to have what are known as partly trained operatives. We should be taking more apprentices into our workshops and ensuring that they are fully and efficiently trained in those trades which are essential if we are to build up a skilled work force capable of undertaking all the work required both in peace and in war.
During the war we were dependent upon resources from overseas for much of the industrial equipment that we should have had long before the war broke out. In the circumstances, we were required to obligate ourselves under the provisions of something in the nature of a lend-lease arrangement. We did not have full control over the resources which we obtained and the country which made them available to us more or less dictated the way in which they should be used. That is a very undesirable position for any country to be in which claims to be independent in character. As much as we may require the assistance of our allies, we have the right to be master in our own house and to control certain of the operations which are related to our internal affairs. We should have complete control and authority over anything related to the production of those things which are essential to us in peace or in war. We should be able to utilize both our manpower and our equipment in what we regard as the best interests of our country.
Let me deal now with the provision of essential means of development. As the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) stated last Tuesday evening, a railway system is an extremely important adjunct to any defence system. We should be making greater use of our railway system, not only to make it more efficient than possibly it is at present but also to serve areas which are still undeveloped. It is to the credit of the party with which the Opposition has the privilege to serve that it was responsible for trying to bring our railway system to a more efficient level by the standardization of railway gauges. We knew what a serious handicap different railway gauges were during the war and, profiting by that experience, we were able to give the lead in the standardization of gauges. I was very impressed by a conversation which I had in the United States on one occasion with General Marshall. He told me something of the importance of the British railway system to the mounting of the offensive from Great Britain to the Continent in the last war. He said that if it had not been for the efficiency of the British railway system at that time, the offensive, which was regarded as imperative for the defeat of the aggressor, would have been greatly impeded.
In a country of such great distances as Australia, we should realize the importance not only of having an efficient railway system but also of providing and maintaining a fully efficient airlines system. They should both be regarded as essential to the security and future development of our country. Because they can provide communications between various parts of Australia which require communications urgently, they can play a part in our future prosperity. I agree with the views expressed by the honorable member for Blaxland in this regard, and anything that I can do to further our progress in this field I shall regard as a personal responsibility.
This Budget contains many provisions which have caused serious criticism by those who have reviewed it. Such items as are regarded favorably have been taken from previously announced Labour policy. While it removes some anomalies - particularly in regard to social services - it creates new ones. The Government’s differentiation between single and married people in its application of the increases in social service benefits will create no end of difficulty for and serious concern to many worthy people. To illustrate the anomaly that is being created I point out that two single pensioners living together in a house will now receive a greater benefit, while a married pensioner couple living next door will be denied the increase. An extra £1 a week will be coming into one home, but will be denied to the couple next door who are equally as deserving and whose need is equally urgent.
This Budget should be reviewed. Surely the Government will not be content to allow this to be its final word! If the Government is prepared to recognize its responsibility it will bring down a supplementary budget to do far greater justice to the people than is provided in the measure which we are debating.
.- Having heard the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) deliver his Budget speech last week, I, like many other honorable members, began io examine my own reactions to the Budget and the reactions of my electors. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) this week moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Appropriation Bill 1963-64, which the Government has accepted as a censure motion. Therefore, in the normal course, I could be expected to pause, reorganize and possibly change what I had intended to say during this debate. However, after having heard the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, having read it in “ Hansard “, having heard it completely answered, in my opinion, by various members of this coalition Government, 1 will not spend time in dealing with it. I intend to devote my remarks to matters which I think are exercising the minds of those about whom I am going to speak to a greater degree than does this censure motion. This is all the more so since I see no reference, in the Leader of the Opposition’s defence of his party’s budgetary policy for 1963 and beyond, to the theme on which I wish to speak. While one should take a national view of a national budget it is only natural that, as the representative of an inland electorate, I should deal only with that money earmarked in the Budget for inland spending.
In looking not only at the Budget, but also at some of the recently enacted legislation, we see provision for expenditure on the Mount Isa railway and on the beef roads programme. We often hear about these things and I will deal with them as expenditure for inland purposes on matters such as the brigalow land development and the Kalgoorlie-Kwinana railway. There a;e more and more Commonwealth commitments everywhere to provide finance for the State governments for development work.
We see the Commonwealth Government, in co-operation with the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, working under the River Murray Waters Agreement. There is more expenditure provided for that scheme, as well as for the Chowilla dam, the total cost of which will be in the vicinity of £14,000,000. The Commonwealth Government is not only to pay its one-quarter of the cost of the scheme, but is, in addition, to advance to the Government of New South Wales that State’s share of the cost on agreed terms. The Commonwealth is to advance to the Government of South Australia all the funds needed to convert the Broken Hill-Port Pirie railway to standard gauge. It is true that South Australia will subsequently be required to repay 30 per cent, of the sum involved- in the vicinity of £20,000,000- to the Commonwealth over a period of 50 years. The Budget also provides for the finance necessary to carry out the work required on the Blowering dam.
The Budget makes provision for that great incentive to production, the superphosphate bounty. I am pleased to be able to say that in my maiden speech in this House I mentioned such a bounty as one of the needs of the primary producers.
The Commonwealth Development Bank is to receive an additional £5,000,000, to bring its funds up to £31,000,000. While that sum will not necessarily all be spent in the country we know, from the history of that bank, that under its policy the greatest part of its funds is used in providing assistance to primary producers. The Budget also provides for an investment allowance on new plant and equipment, and that is straight out inland spending. Next there is the general assistance grant of £5,000,000 to Western Australia, the greater part of which is to be used in connexion with the Ord River diversion dam and part of the Ord River irrigation development programme. Then there is provision to write off, for taxation purposes, the total cost - over tcn years - of the extension of telephone services to primary producers. That, in itself, may seem a small benefit, but to individual people in the inland it is a very welcome provision.
All this proposed expenditure shows some willingness on the part of the Government to specify selected areas, away from the coastal concentration, in which to expend the money entrusted to its keeping. But does this denote a dynamic decentralization policy? Does it indicate that the Government is sensitive to the growing clamour in the inland - a justified clamour - for action to reverse the trend of the drift to the cities? Can all this inland spending, commendable as it is, be interpreted as evidence of the Government’s appreciation of the immense defence risks we are running by allowing and even encouraging our heavy industries to site themselves in what one could call an ideal setting for them to be wiped out with the minimum effort? I claim to have been a loyal supporter of the Government throughout my life in this Parliament, but I cannot truthfully answer “ Yes “ to the questions I have posed. I always consider it my task to keep before the House the views of the electors I represent.
It is not hard to detect, in my travels through my electorate, the winds of change relating to these problems of decentralization, population and industry. It is not hard to detect among my electors a more constructive thinking. It is not hard to perceive an active effort, on the part of many of them, to help themselves. It is very easy to detect a change in the temper of the people and to hear their demand that governments, both Federal and State, should come to this party, too.
What can governments do in this regard? We have a Constitution and constitutional responsibilities. It is up to every government, no matter what level it is on, to accept those responsibilities as they are laid down in our Constitution. But it is a stock answer that the Constitution prevents a great deal of action by the Commonwealth, and it is Commonwealth action with which I am now dealing. In my short experience I have found many instances of how it is possible to track around the Constitution when that course is considered to be in the best interests of the nation and when the desire to do so is strong enough. There has been so much talk about this matter that I now propose putting before the House four ways in which I believe the Government might give a lead in connexion with it. I have spoken on prevous occasions about the first suggestion I have to offer. It is that the Government should step up the movement towards decentralization of its own administration. Great examples of how this can be of benefit are to be seen in the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Department of Social Services, and in the Department of Labour and National Service, with its various Commonwealth employment service offices. The Department of the Arm’y is another department in which we see some movement in the desired direction. Why cannot decentralization be attempted in some of the other departments and not only bring government closer to the people but also make job opportunities available for school leavers and others in the inland areas?
My second suggestion is that the Government should seek the co-operation of the States to close the gap between the price charged for petrol in the cities and the prices charged in country areas. This matter has been referred to several times in this House. The policy of the party to which I belong is, and has for a very long time, been one of decentralization. We of the Parliamentary Country Party are so concerned about this question that we have formed our own committee to study the whole problem of decentralization. At the moment it is considering the subject of a uniform price for petrol and all that it involves. This matter is not the entire responsibility of any one government. It is a big problem and we are dealing with it, not as one that we have simply plucked out of the air, as it were, but in response to the demands of the constituents whom we represent.
The third way in which I suggest the Government might give a lead is by an adjustment of telephone charges. I should like to say more about that when we are considering the detailed estimates set out in the Second Schedule. At the moment I am thinking of Sweden, where the device of lowered telephone charges was adopted with a view to attracting population to the northern parts of that country. Because of the climate and peculiar topography of the country, it was very hard to induce people to move to the northern areas of Sweden. The Swedish Government adopted the device as a means of attracting people to those areas.
An adjustment of telephone charges would be of particular benefit to decentralized secondary industries which have factories in country areas and headquarters and buying or selling houses in one or more of the capital cities. The present cost of communications impose a very heavy burden on them. Meatworks also would benefit. I know something of the charges that have to be met by decentralized killing works because there are four of them in mv electorate. Decentralized killing is a great improvement, but it must be remembered that the bulk of the meat killed in the country has to be sold in the cities. Here again we come up against the problem of costly communications.
The last suggestion I have to offer is the one about which I wish to speak at greatest length. It is that this Government should seek the co-operation of the States in laying down a national policy for water conservation and flood mitigation. Some progress has been made in this direction, but is the desire strong enough in the Commonwealth and State governments to co-ordinate plans and activities related to water conservation and flood mitigation as was done in connexion with such enterprises as the Snowy Mountains scheme, the Blowering dam, the Chowilla dam and the activities of the River Murray Commission, to mention but a few?
Here I refer again to my maiden speech in which I laid down what I considered to be the first three steps that should be undertaken. The first was the carrying out of an Australia-wide survey of our water resources. The second was the allocation of priorities, on a national basis, for water works. The third was the allocation of funds for those works and the taking of the necessary executive action. I, like everybody else who is interested in this problem, was very pleased indeed to see that this Government has done something about my first proposition. It has already set up the Australian Water Resources Council, and although we cannot expect anything dynamic from that body immediately, the basic initial step, a step that should have been taken long ago, has now been taken. Now that the authority has been established, we are looking for good results from it.
If I might, I should like to pass over my second proposition for the moment and refer to my third suggestion. Already, funds have been allocated and executive action has been taken to put in hand great works which will be of great benefit to this country. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has been set up and is in full operation, the Blowering dam project has been undertaken and construction of the Chowilla dam is under way. At least in those three projects we have seen the Commonwealth and the States getting together, talking, planning and moving. We also see this co-ordination in connexion with the Ord River scheme in the north-west of Western Australia.
I revert now to my second suggestion - the allocation of priorities as advocated by me in my maiden speech. Work in connexion with water conservation had lagged because we have had no national planning authority. The Australian Water Resources Council is already faced with a major task, and in my opinion it should be left as it is presently constituted to undertake that task. I think that few people realize the immense amount of work involved in the planning and detailed designing of major water conservation projects.
So far as I know, no country of any size, indeed, no country larger than the State of Victoria has yet been able to make a complete survey of its own water resources. So far as I can learn from reading about and studying this problem, Israel leads the world in this respect, but when we realize that the area of Israel is only approximately 8,000 square miles - only a little bigger than my own electorate, only one-tenth the size of Victoria and only one four-hundredth the size of Australia - one gains some appreciation of the task we have ahead of us here. Australia needs an authority, or council - call it what you like - to correlate, analyse and study the wealth of data put before the Water Resources Council and, with due regard to all the circumstances, arrive at a proper order of priorities for the various projects. This separate authority should consider the whole matter from a national viewpoint and, after having arrived at the proper order of priorities, it should set about obtaining the approval of the governments concerned and the necessary money to execute the work. Possibly such an organization could assimilate the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority or, as that authority becomes redundant, perhaps it could provide the framework on which to build the organization I suggest. Surely such a proposition would be of constitutional validity. If it is not, then many of our other organizations, boards and so on are operating ultra vires the Constitution. This is not a question of unification - a word which is abhorrent to me - it is a question of carrying out plans which would first require the consent of all the governments concerned. What I suggest does not deny the States any of their rights, nor does it preclude them from carrying out whatever water works they want to undertake independently of the authority with money which they receive out of the proceeds of uniform taxation. Dramatic progress along these lines would give a remarkable boost to decentralization of industry and population. This is incontestable. If you wish to seek proof in Australia, go to Leeton, Griffith and Mildura and compare those places as they are now with their condition before our present grand water schemes came into being. If you want to go further, have a look at the Tennessee Valley. You may look all over the world. A recent project is in Ceylon - the Gal Aya Dam. The population of the valley of that river has grown from 1,200 in 1949 to over 100,000 in 1963. The water conserved and the power generated by that scheme have been responsible for the setting up of seven thriving industries where one existed, in a sort of way, before. There are many more examples.
Without a national plan, what is to come next? Blowering is urgent and must be carried out. Who is to say what will como after that? Is is to be Chowilla, the river scheme on the border of New South Wales and Queensland, a modified Bradfield scheme, or a project in Western Australia? It can be seen that there is a necessity for this sort of work.
Without a national outlook, there is an imbalance of effort in different States. I can quote instances to prove the justification and the need for national research, national priorities and a combined national effort. I have lived long enough in the Lachlan Valley to know the destruction and heartbreak caused by periodical flooding. I am aware of the. problems involved on each side of the Great Divide. East of the Great Divide is an area of high rainfall and the problem is to get the water to the sea as quickly as possible with the least possible damage. West of the Great Divide, in the inland generally, is an area of low rainfall and water is so valuable that it has to be stored and released in times of need. The Lachlan Valley and the area of the Belabula River, its main tributary, must be Australia’s most flooded inland area. Twenty floods a year are not unusual. In 1916 there were 26 floods. The water is fast flowing and unharnessed. The flats in that area were once regarded as being some of the finest lucerne flats in Australia. Production records will show that this is no idle boast. However, persistent flooding has broken the hearts and emptied the pockets of the farming community there. The cost of resowing, with the attendant risk of failure, has generally prevented farmers from resowing and re-establishing lucerne stands. The recurring costs of fencing, levelling and resowing, the recurring losses of stock and the spread of noxious weeds - burrs and Johnson grass which are completely beyond the control of man - have caused tremendous individual losses, a great district loss and, I contend, a great national loss. The bulk of these losses can be avoided. Three dam sites have already been surveyed and costed in the Lachlan Valley area to such an extent that it is known exactly where to begin work. The pegs are in and the estimates made. The people in this area look for action and they are not getting it from the State Government, which is directly responsible for it at the moment. That is what prompts me to look for a bigger scheme.
Concern for decentralization is not new. Nor is the cry for Commonwealth-State co-operation in harnessing water. It may not be very useful to mention this now, but it is interesting to go back to “ Hansard “ of the first session of the first Parliament of the Commonwealth in 1902, held in the reign of Edward VII. Reference was made then to concern over the depopulation of country areas, particularly the lower Murray area. A question was directed by the member for Echuca to the Minister for Home Affairs, who at that time was Sir William Lyne. He asked the Government to endeavour to bring about united action between the Commonwealth and the States of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.
Let me quote some of the people who agree with me. I refer to men like our late colleague in this corner of the House, Sir Earle Page, who made a study of this problem. He addressed the Water Conservation and Irrigation Convention, sponsored by the Australian Country Party, at Orange in March, 1961. Many profound statements seem to have come from that city. Sir Earle Page said -
Before further good money is spent, it behoves us to take stock of the position. With a background of over half a century’s study, I have come to the conclusion that the remedy is at hand - a simple remedy such as we have found in our handling of problems of finance, marketing, roads, &c, but one which is capable of enormous possibilities.
My proposal is that there should be a similar partnership of the Federal, State and local authorities to control and develop our water resources. In such a partnership, the Federal Government, as the sole income -tax collector, should provide the capital for headworks free of interest and redemption; the State Government the water channels; while the local authority, which should be the local river basin authority., would advise and assist the water user on the spot. There is already a precedent for similar Federal action in the Snowy Scheme, whereby capital for headworks is provided by the Commonwealth Government out of revenue.
I am supported in my views by great men of this country such as Professor Munro, Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of New South Wales. He is regarded throughout Australia as our foremost authority on water. Professor Keith Campbell, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Sydney University, holds the same opinions as I have expressed to-night.
Sir Robert Jackson, a brilliant Australianborn administrator, is another authority I could refer to. A number of these men have spoken ia some detail on this problem but time prevents me from quoting them.
This Budget is, in my opinion, a good one. It is being well received, despite what I heard from the honorable member for Bonythen (Mr. Makin). It is being well received in my electorate. I commend the Government for its spending in inland areas. I urge now and will continue to urge that the Government give intense consideration to consultation with the State governments with a view to setting up an executive authority to carry out water conservation works calculated to increase the production of exportable foodstuffs, to increase the generation of power and to decentralize population and industry. These aims are in the interests of the nation as a whole. I urge the Government to develop a dynamic policy of decentralization and to exhibit and inspire leadership in that direction.
I have explained what I and my constituents think. I shall continue my efforts to promote decentralization of population and industry and increased production in the interests of inland people in particular and of Australia as a whole, keeping in mind the requirements of both primary and secondary industries and the armed services.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, this Budget mirrors the attitude of the Government and its supporters and reflects the barrenness and sterility of this Government in all its ideas. In this Budget, once again, we find no new ideas and only slight improvements in existing benefits. This is a budget prepared by super-conservative advisers for a Treasurer who knows more about fishing than about finance. This Budget is part of the ransom that is being paid by the Liberal Party of Australia to secure peace with the Australian Country Party, which one could describe as a party of blackmailers or as the tail that wags the dog. Everybody knows that the Liberal Party and the Country Party are at each other’s throats, and have been for the last two or three years. They are fighting over the projected establishment of branches of the Australian Country Party in Tasmania and over talk of the establishment of branches of that party in South Australia, as well as about rumours that Country Party candidates will stand against sitting Liberal members in marginal seats and that Liberal candidates will contest marginal seats against sitting Country Party members.
There is trouble between the two parties over the proposed redistribution of electoral boundaries and the associated proposals that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), who is leader of the Australian Country Party, is endeavouring to force down the throats of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and his colleagues in a blatant attempt at a gerrymander of electoral boundaries designed to enable the Country Party to hold the seats that it at present represents in this Parliament.
– You opposed the redistribution, too. Did you also want a gerrymander?
– The Australian Labour Partly opposed the . redistribution for the simple reason that the proposals were certainly aimed at the interests of the Labour Party. The redistribution proposals were submitted at the behest of and under the instructions of this Liberal-Country Party Government, with the full knowledge of the Deputy Prime Minister. Those proposals were formulated under provisions that have appeared in the Commonwealth Electoral Act for a great many years. Until the Australian Country Party found that the proposed redistribution of boundaries did not suit it, those provisions of the act had been given no force at all.
As soon as the Country Party found that the proposed redistribution would be against its interests and was likely to cause it to lose some seats in this House, the Deputy Prime Minister, a loyal and honorable member of the Government, in this Parliament attacked his Liberal colleagues. He attacked also every distribution commissioner involved in the New South Wales proposals and said that those commissioners had acted in bad faith and had attacked the interests of the Country Party. Since that time, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that party, through its leader, has been endeavouring by every means at its disposal to ram down the throats of the members of this Parliament and particularly of Liberal members on the Government side the idea that country people should have greater representation than people in the cities. Let us not hear any interjections by members of the Australian Country Party about the redistribution of electoral boundaries that was proposed. The people of Australia are absolutely certain about what the Country Party is trying to do u this matter.
– Tell us something about the Budget.
– I shall deal with the Budget and, if time permits, I shall say something about the Department of the Army and the Minister. Instead of discussing that department at length this evening, I hope to be able to devote two periods in the Estimates debate to an account of exactly what is wrong with the Army. The other day, at the Canberra airport, I saw twenty or thirty officers - one could be excused for thinking that that is about the entire complement of officers in the Army - in transit from one place to another. The Minister knows full well that the Australian Army is almost the laughing-stock of the armies of the world.
Apart from the redistribution of electoral boundaries and the other matters that I have mentioned, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party are at each other’s throats over this Government’s policy on overseas investment in Australia. On top of everything, we find the inherent dislike that exists between members of the Country Party and members of the Liberal Party in this House. The breach is widening every day. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Liberal members of the Cabinet have formulated this Budget in order to placate the Australian Country Party. This is a budget that can be described only as a Country Party budget. One has only to look at the benefits that it confers wholly and solely on country interests to see that that statement will withstand investigation.
First of all, there is the superphosphate bounty. Let me at this point deny a statement made in this House last evening by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), who said that the proposal for a superphosphate bounty was not a direct steal from the policy put before the people by the Australian Labour Party in the 1961 general election campaign. One has only to examine a copy of the booklet that contains the policy speech delivered on behalf of the Labour Party by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on 16th November, 1961, to find that, at page 18 there is specific mention - this is perhaps the only point in the speech at which the Leader of the Opposition mentioned rural matters - of an undertaking that Labour would restore the subsidy of £3 a ton on superphosphate which had been introduced by the previous Labour Government and abolished by the present Government. As appears at page 26 of that booklet, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) stating the rural policy of the Australian Labour Party, declared -
A Labour Government will restore subsidy payments at the rate of £3 per ton on superphosphate and at related payments on Nitrogenous, Potassic, Mixed and other types of fertilisers, including Trace Elements. Subsidy would be payable on all purchases on and from the 1st of January, 1962.
This is another example of the way in which the present Government takes planks directly from the policy announced by the Labour Party in the campaign for the general election held in December. 1961.
This is a Country Party budget, as we can see. because a bounty is to be paid on superphosphate and a depreciation allowance is to be granted to primary producers in respect of plant and machinery other than motor vehicles. If it is necessary to give such an allowance to primary producers, why is not a similar allowance given to secondary industry? Other significant features of this Country Party budget are the proposal to increase the capital of the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia and the special developmental projects announced in conjunction with it. All these projects are in country areas. I make no complaint about that, because this Government has neglected to undertake developmental projects in country areas. I merely mention these features of the Budget in order to prove that this is in fact a Country Party budget. It represents part-payment by the Liberal Party to the Country Party in an effort to restore harmony between the two.
Finally, there is the increase in the allowable tax deduction in respect of education expenses. The limit is to be raised from £100 to £150 for each child. There are very few people in the cities of Australia who have to submit specific and detailed particulars of expenditure on education when a deduction of £100 is claimed for any or every child. So this increase from £100 to £150 is not going to be of much benefit to many city dwellers, except those people who send their children to boarding schools or the more costly private schools. On the other hand, this will be of consider able benefit to members of the Australian Country Party and its supporters. They are people who have sufficient money to send their children to boarding schools in the city or in country towns where the expenses are likely to be higher than £100.
– It applies to all children.
– I would say that in the past two or three years people who have children attending primary schools have claimed tax deductions of far less than the £100 they are allowed at present for education expenses. 1 feel that this fresh concession has been put into the Budget not only to grant benefits to graziers and rural producers but also to benefit the members of the Liberal Party and their friends and supporters who send their children to costly private schools. I turn now to the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). Under the heading of “Territories” the Treasurer said this -
The grant to the Papua and New Guinea Administration will this yeal be increased by £5,250,000 to £25,250,000. This is an increase of a full 25 per cent, in the funds made available to the Territory. It is the highest proportionate increase of any major item in the Budget. It will enable a further significant advance to be made in Territory development, especially by providing more houses, schools and hospitals, and a large increase in the personnel required to staff them. It provides further evidence of the determination of the Government to achieve the fastest practicable rate of progress in that region. I may recall that in the Budget of 1949-50, the last Budget prior to this Government taking office, the grant for Papua and New Guinea was only £4,200,000. Thus, we have provided over the years for a sixfold increase.
Let us take time to analyse that paragraph. The Treasurer said that in 1949-50 - the last year of the Labour Government’s administration - £4,200,000 was spent in the Territories of Papua and New Guinea. The estimated revenue in 1949-50 was £544,000,000 and £4,200,000 represents 77 per cent, of that figure. The actual revenue in that year was £580,600,000, and £4,200,000 represents .72 per cent, of that. In 1962-63 the estimated revenue was £1,665,500,000, and in that year the Government spent £20,000,000 in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, or 1.2 per cent, of the estimated revenue. The actual revenue in 1962-63 was £1,685,300,000 and the proportion spent on Papua and New Guinea was 1.18 per cent.
This year - a year in which the Treasurer congratulates himself and the Government on the amount that is being made available - the estimated revenue is £1,837,200,000 and the amount to be spent in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is £25,250,000. That represents 1.37 per cent, of the estimated revenue. So, since 1949-50 we have had an increase of .60 per cent, in the amount that is being spent on the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, relative to estimated revenue, and an increase of .47 per cent, relative to actual revenue.
Therefore, for the Treasurer to cite the figures he has given and to claim an increase of a full 25 per cent, in the funds made available for the Territory is a blatant attempt to disguise the maladministration of this Government. Further, to use such an example as is used in the paragraph I have quoted and to go back to the last year of the Labour Government’s administration in 1949-50 is misleading. The Treasurer claimed that the Labour Government had spent only £4,200,000 in that year and said this Government had provided over the years for a sixfold increase in this appropriation. But when we get down to a comparison of the actual increase based on the amount of money collected in 1949-50 and the amount collected in recent years we find that there has been an increase of less than i per cent, in the amount of money spent in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Even if we take a comparison of last year with this year we find there is an increase of only .17 per cent, in relation to the estimated revenue to be received by this Government.
I want to stress that in 1949-50, conditions in Papua and New Guinea were very different from those of to-day. In 1949-50 there were still Australian troops in Papua and New Guinea clearing up after the Second World War. In Australia itself the Labour Government was endeavouring to place in employment hundreds of thousands of Australian ex-servicemen and women. The Australian Government at that time was more inclined to spend money in Australia than in Papua and New Guinea. But in 1963-64 a miserly £25,250,000 is being spent in the Territory when nobody knows whether we have four, five, ten or fifteen years to give that country selfgovernment.
For the Treasurer to be so imprudent as to cite such an example in an endeavour to score a cheap political point shows the shallowness of the Government and its thinking. It is absolutely essential that we develop the Territory of Papua and New Guinea rapidly. I, for one - and I am certain every member of the Australian Labour Party would support me - would make no complaint about any amount of revenue that was spent in Papua and New Guinea, because unless we develop the Territory rapidly we could have on our hands within a few years the greatest problem that has ever faced Australia.
I turn now to the failure of the LiberalCountry Party Government to face up to the needs of families. Again there has been no increase in child endowment. Labour policy, which was announced in November, 1961, indicated that a Labour government would grant an increase to 10s. a week for the first child, to 17s. 6d. for the second child and to £1 for each subsequent child. This Government again has shown that it has no intention of helping to relieve the needs of families and it will not give them an increase in child endowment. That was shown quite clearly in this House two years ago to the day, when I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) a question which was reported at page 299 of “Hansard”, volume 32 of 1961. The question I asked then was in part as follows: -
Will the Minister appoint a committee of inquiry to investigate the urgent needs of the wage earner with a larger-than-average family?
The Minister’s reply was, in part -
It must be perfectly obvious to-day that the present basic wage would sustain more than that.
– -Who said that?
– That was the Minister for Labour and National Service, and the statement was made in this House on 22nd August, 1961.
– Is that Government policy?
– Undoubtedly it is Government policy, because the Government has not increased child endowment payments since 1950, in which year it introduced child endowment for the first child. There is no doubt that as soon as the Labour Party forms a government it will do something to implement its policy on child endowment. But if this Government has an opportunity to introduce another budget - it can hold an election any time it chooses so far as the Labour Party is concerned - then let it have a look at the problems confronting the parents of Australian children. If the Government believes that it cannot increase child endowment because the cost would be too great, or if it believes that many people who are receiving child endowment could quite easily do without it, then let it consider introducing some kind of means test for child endowment. There would be no administrative problem in introducing such a system. It would be quite simple, and I put this forward as a suggestion: Those who wish to receive child endowment could, when submitting their income tax returns, ask the Commissioner of Taxation to supply a declaration stating exactly their net or gross income for the year. Then, if the Government placed a limit on the amount of income, gross or net, that could be received if child endowment has to be paid, there would be no administrative difficulties.
In order again to illustrate my point that this Government has done nothing to help the families of Australia, let us turn to the matter of deductions from taxable income for dependants. Since 1957-58 the allowance for a spouse has been £143, for the first child £91 and for the second and subsequent children £65. Before that time the allowances were, respectively, £130, £78 and £52. In other words, in the income year 1957-58 there was an overall increase of £13 in these allowances. There has been no increase since then. The Government takes great credit for the fact that it has increased the allowance for education expenses from £100 to £150, but if it wants to grant concessions to every body right through the scale, then let it have another look at the allowances for taxpayers’ dependants. Every dependent wife of a taxpayer should realize that in the eyes of this Government she is worth only £143. lt is no wonder that a certain radio announcer or commentator in Sydney has found it difficult to pick the ten worst dressed women in that city. I believe that the women of Australia are to bc congratulated because so many of them can look well-dressed although this Government allows such a small income tax concession for them. The Government should realize that it costs just as much to provide blankets, sheets, clothing and food for the second, third and fourth children as it does for the first. It seems completely wrong to me that the Government should provide a graduated scale which assumes, in effect, that the second and other children are costing less than the first child.
A similar principle seems to have been followed in respect of the widows’ pension. There has been a change in widows’ pension which amounts to an overall increase of £3. In 1956 an allowance was granted of 10s. a week in respect of the second and subsequent children. In this Budget there is to be an allowance, for the first time, of 15s. for the first child. I make no complaint about that at all. I believe that civilian widows in this country have been ill-treated and overlooked for a great number of years. But if the Government is prepared to pay an allowance of 15s. a week for the first child of a widow, then surely the other children of a widowed mother deserve some consideration. The last time they were considered was in October of 1956. Again I emphasize it costs just as much to feed, clothe and provide necessary furnishings and furniture for the second, third and other children as it does for the first.
I am inclined to think that this Government believes it is wrong for parents to have more than one child. Frequently we find that concessions are granted to the family with one child, while no consideration as given to families that are larger than average. If the Government thinks it is wrong to have families larger than average, and that punishment should be meted out to parents who have such families, then it should say so. If the Government thinks, as has been asserted by the Minister for Soci.il Services (Mr. Roberton), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), and various other honorable members opposite that the foundation of our way of life is the family, then it should give some consideration to families by way of taxation concessions or child endowment.
It seems to me that one of the reasons why this Government has done nothing about this matter is that the parents of our children have not ganged up against the Government. In the ten years I have been in this Parliament I have often noticed that as soon as pressure is applied by a section of the community, the Government gives in. Until now our Australian parents have not ganged up. They may do so before very long. I also hope that they will not have to gang up, and that, instead, they will vote solidly for the Labour Party at the next election, whether it is in December of this year or some time next year, so that a Labour government will be able to give justice to them and to the community generally.
I have great pleasure in supporting the motion of the Leader of the Opposition, which represents a censure upon this Government for its maladministration. As speakers who have preceded me have already shown, and as those who will follow will show, this censure motion has been well worthwhile, because it has been amply supported by the arguments we have advanced.
.- This Budget, I believe, is a good budget. This has been amply demonstrated by speakers on the Government side of the House. The Opposition’s amendment lacks merit, -md this also has been clearly shown by speakers on this side. Opposition speakers generally in this debate have attempted to engender ill will between the Liberal Party and the Country Party.
– We have not had to do that; it is there.
– Alternatively, they have falsely pretended that the ill will exists. There is no ill will between the parties that form the Government. Indeed, the members of the Liberal Party regard the members of the Country Party as close friends and associates. This is a government which has survived for a longer period of time than any other government in the history of the Australian federation. It will continue to survive and prosper. No doubt we will capture the seats of many of those on the other side of the House who now offer their criticism of this Budget.
The tactics of the Opposition can perhaps be best demonstrated by the extraordinary quietness that it has shown on the question of restrictive trade practices. The attitude of honorable members opposite is to remain silent so as not to expose their real intentions in relation to this subject, should they ever become the government. There is no doubt in my mind that if the Labour Party came into office it would legislate for restrictive trade practices, but not with a balanced scheme such as that proposed by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) on behalf of this administration. On the contrary, Labour’s scheme would be a scheme designed upon the United States pattern. It would have all the elements of criminal prosecution and all the elements of compulsion and prohibition which are well known and criticized in the United Kingdom and in Australia.
The truth of this proposition is very amply demonstrated by the fact that television companies in New South Wales have taken action before the High Court in relation to conditions which have been imposed by this Government. It was open to those television companies to challenge the very basis of the constitutional power of this Federal Government to licence television stations. There is, indeed, an opinion by the then Mr. Justice Dixon of the High Court, the present Chief Justice, in a case in which he held, as a minority of the court, that the Commonwealth lacked licensing power under the Constitution. But the television companies have not chosen to argue this point because they know that, if they succeeded and established that the Federal Government had no constitutional power, the power would devolve on the Labour Government of New South Wales. The prospect of the conditions that would be imposed upon them by a Labour government is too terrible for them to contemplate. This exposes the reality of the Labour Party’s attitude to restrictive trade practices.
I want to pay some attention to the elements of the scheme which was outlined in a statement given in the House on 6th December last by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) on behalf of the Attorney-General. Since that date there have been criticisms of the scheme. Those criticisms have been of two types - criticisms of the very policy of the legislation and criticisms of the contents of the legislation. As to the first type of criticism, it is quite apparent from what 1 have read and heard that the real proposals are misunderstood and that too little attention has been given to the basic elements of the scheme as proposed.
The reasons for the scheme have been stated quite- clearly to be to eliminate harmful practices. The proposal is that the legislation shall create machinery to determine practices which are harmful. As to the reasons for the scheme, I do not want to go into them now, because that would take too much time. But let me remind the House that Australia is the only country in what might be called the industrialized world that does not have restrictive trade practices legislation. The experience of other countries, which has led them to pass restrictive trade practices legislation, cannot be so foreign to our own experience that our need is not basically the same as their need, and that the benefits which will flow to us from such legislation will not be matched by the benefits that those other countries have received.
There are constitutional problems involved which will not be easy to solve, but solved undoubtedly they will be. Largely, they will be solved on the basis of State co-operation. I firmly believe that there will be State co-operation in the form of ancillary legislation, if not direct copying legislation, to enable a single-knit scheme. The Attorney-General has said, and I agree with him, that the proposed scheme is not merely a registration scheme; it is a scheme which enables individual examination of the registered practice. It is not helpful to apply any tag to the scheme because a tag does not give an understanding of it. I think it is an important notice that the scheme extends to services.
I come to the next point, which is registration. The first question that may be asked is: Registration of what? The answer is: Registration of a description of the practice. Quite often registration of a document, which is in fact the vehicle of the practice, will suffice. The method of registration will no doubt be prescribed by the regulations which will accompany the act. It is important to make the point that not every operation which flows from a restrictive practice will require registration. What is required to be registered is the description of a practice. The regulations will attempt to facilitate registration, and I have no doubt that they will do so. In the case of trade associations, for example, I have no doubt that a trade association will be able to register the description of a practice on behalf of all its members and, to the descriptions of the practice, will be able to attach a schedule naming the people who are engaged in the practice. I have no doubt that the rules will specifically attempt to make registration simple, or as simple as it can possibly be made. No doubt provision will be made for registration on a State basis if a practice arises out of an arrangement between a number of people within a State. If the same practice applies throughout more than one State, it could find registration through the Federal organism which controls and conducts the practice.
Within the elements of the scheme are set out a number of words. There will be seen the words “ multi-lateral “, “ bilateral “ and “ unilateral “. Each of these three words has its ordinary dictionary meaning. “ Multi-lateral “ is an arrangement between a group; “ bilateral “ is between two; and “ unilateral “ applies to a single person or company conducting a practice.
A question which must have arisen in the Attorney-General’s mind when coming to this proposed legislation was whether or not the proposals should relate to the collectives only or whether they ought to apply to a practice as such, whether the practice be conducted by a collective, by two people or one person. When the decision was made - it is apparent from the statement on behalf of the Attorney-General that it was made - it was clear that the elements of tho scheme applied to practices as such and not merely to collectives. The consequence is that two additional words have come into the scheme, those words being “ vertical “ and “ horizontal “. The vertical practice and the horizontal practice depend on the level of the distributive process. A practice which is horizontal is one which relates to people on the same level of a distributive process; a practice which is vertical is one which runs down through the different distributive processes.
The next point that arises is the consequence of non-registration. If there is no registration, then prosecution is available because the practice is per se unlawful. So benefit will be obtained by those persons engaged in a practice that is registered. If there is- no registration at the time that the practice is questioned, there is no opportunity for the people engaged in the practice to plead that no harm arises from it nor can they plead any of the exculpatory grounds in the gateways set out in the elements of the scheme.
The benefit of registration is the certainty of the continuance of the scheme without challenge. The scheme after registration can be continued until such time as the tribunal orders it either to be varied or to be de-registered. The procedure of registration amounts, in effect, to the equivalent of a standing inquiry. The person who is obliged to register, of course, knows best what he does. Nobody can know better than the person engaged in the practice what the practice is. So that to put upon him on the one hand a benefit from registration, and on the other hand a sanction for lack of registration leads him to registration. This very process results in the situation where it avoids unnecessary investigation by any public servant, by the registrar or by any of his staff.
The next step in the procedure is tha register. The register itself is secret, in the sense that it is not available for open inspection by any person. The only circumstances in which a person can have access to the register is if he is given permission by the commission to search the register, and only after he shows the commission reasonable grounds for doing so. Registration in itself does not operate as an admission or anything of that kind against the person who registers. The registrar is a public official who, no doubt, will have a staff. He will have public duties to perform and they will be imposed upon him by the legislation. In order to execute those duties, he will no doubt have to be clothed with powers. It is here that the point arises as to the powers that the registrar ought to have. It is because of this question of the powers of the registrar that I have no doubt that the Attorney-General in the elements of the scheme chose to insert the commission.
The commission is a body of laymen. Its fundamental purpose is twofold. It is, first, to protect the secrecy of the register, and secondly to operate as a protective shield between the registrar and the community generally, particularly that section of the community engaged in restrictive practices. Before the registrar is entitled to take a practice to the tribunal for consideration, he must show the commission prima facie evidence that the practice has resulted in a substantial reduction of competition.
The point occurs to me that there may be sound grounds for eliminating the commission altogether. I think that the commission is likely to prove unwieldly because of its size and that it is likely to prove to be a body that is not composed of the best available talent from the business world in the form of laymen. The basic function of the commission - that is, to preserve the secrecy of the register and to enable a person, who shows cause, to look at the register - could very easily, in my view, be carried out by a judge in chambers. The other aspect - authorizing the registrar to take the practice before the tribunal - could well be left to the registrar himself without the inprimatur of the commission being necessary. I think, therefore, that there are very strong arguments for eliminating the commission altogether, not eliminating its functions necessarily but eliminating the commission.
We then come to the tribunal. The tribunal is expressed to be a body composed of a judge And two laymen. Sometimes the expression “ two businessmen “ has been used. I rather foresaw at the time it was announced that the two laymen or businessmen would be leading businessmen from the community who offered their services on a temporary basis to serve on the tribunal. If this were so, I am sure we would have available to us the very best that the business community could offer. But I fear, in thinking about the matter, that we are unlikely to get the standard of businessman that we would like. I see that there are problems in this matter and I rather think that the Australian community would be content to accept a judge alone on the tribunal. I believe that the Australian public has tremendous faith and confidence in the complete integrity of the judiciary and I believe, therefore, that the public would have confidence in a tribunal so composed. I believe that no errors or improper decisions would be made by the tribunal if it were composed of a judge alone.
Those component parts of the elements of the scheme demonstrate what clearly appears to me to be the very antithesis of bureaucracy. On the contrary, the machinery is established to determine what practices are reasonable and proper and what practices are harmful and should be de-registered. The scheme has been criticized on the ground that it is a socialist scheme. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the direct opposite of socialism. It is a scheme that enables the free play of competition to assert itself in the business world and in the community. It is there to enable private individuals to assert the rights that we as Australians believe they have. We jealously guard those rights, but in many instances examination shows that the individual does not in fact possess them.
There has been unreal criticism that this legislation would impose price control or capital issues control. Anybody who makes this criticism - I fear it comes from an otherwise responsible source - quite clearly has not read the elements of the scheme. When it comes to the question of the challenge to the practice, it is necessary for the registrar first to prove that there has been a substantial reduction of competition as a result of the practice. This is no light task, though I am bound to say that in my belief some practices by their very nature will reveal that they do result in a substantial reduction of competition. But the register itself does not amount to an admission; it is evidence only of what the practice is. Once registered, that is the practice and it is clearly stated.
We come then to the gateways. If it is shown to the tribunal that there is in fact a substantial reduction of competition, the opportunity arises for the practitioners of the practice to plead exculpation through one of the gateways. There are in fact fourteen gateways in the proposed elements of the scheme - just double the number of gateways in the United Kingdom scheme. In fact, the gateways in that scheme have been picked up almost in their entirety and put into the elements of this scheme. The seven additional gateways are quite clearly designed to provide gateways that may be needed for a particular environment and particular experience of the Australian community. Indeed, a close friend of mine, an academic of very high quality, has criticized the gateways on the ground that they are too wide. On the other hand, we have the criticism that they are too narrow.
One thing becomes clear from an examination of the gateways and that is that there is unlikely to be in Australia the same sort of so-called falling timber reaction, as was found in the United Kingdom. In this reaction, if one practice is declared to be unlawful, a whole host of other practices are brought down. I think that is unlikely to emerge in Australia. Certainly it will not emerge to the extent that it did in the United Kingdom, because the natures of the gateways will require that each individual practice be examined independently to determine whether the gateways are appropriate in the circumstances.
The gateways have been criticized on the ground that the onus of proof has been shifted. I think this is a totally unwarranted criticism. There is no shifting of onus of proof at all. It is the practice that when an exculpatory provision is inserted in legislation, the person pleading the exculpation shall carry the responsibility of proof. Onus of proof is a very narrow thing. It only comes into operation when the proofs are balanced. I think it very unlikely that a situation will ever emerge in relation to proceedings before the tribunal where things are so evenly balanced that onus will determine the issue one side or another. To use the term “ onus of proof “ in this context is quite misleading, in my view.
The tribunal has the power to order deregistration, but it also has power to order variation of the practice on the condition that if the practice is varied it will be permitted to remain registered, and if it is permitted to remain registered then, of course, it can carry on. The decision of the tribunal is prospective in effect, and can have no retrospective application so as to make a practice which was registered unlawful in any way or any consequence of actual things done in relation to that practice before de-registration consequentially unlawful. There is no appeal from fact from the tribunal. This is in accordance with the principles of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. There is no appeal from fact from that commission.
The question may be asked, “If there were to be an appeal, to whom would the appeal be addressed? “ You would only get an appeal from one structure to another structure; and the only way you could put in an appeal would be to have two judges and four businessmen instead of one judge and two businessmen. There is appeal on questions of law, and the tribunal is required to state a case on a question of law if it arises during the hearing of the proceedings. In this matter there is judicial control of the tribunal, because the tribunal, while basically administrative and getting its authority to operate from the administrative provisions of the Constitution, nevertheless executes a quasi-judicial function.
Costs can be ordered either against the party or the registrar. You have then, at this point, the de-registration, if it occurs. From that there flow enforcement provisions by an ordinary court of law for failure to comply with the order of the administrative tribunal.
I think, at this stage, I should say that I believe the Attorney-General ought to consider a provision whereby people who register a practice will have the opportunity of taking that practice before the tribunal for early hearing. It may well be that a company with a unilateral practice may wish to expand its operations and may want to know whether the practice in which it engages unilaterally will be approved or disapproved, because the decision on this fact may very well make the difference between whether it pursues its operations in one direction or another. I feel that there ought to be opportunity for a person, or a company, or a group of practitioners to bring a case before the tribunal for early hearing. It also follows that a person who is suffering damage from a restrictive trade practice ought to have the opportunity to have the practice brought before the tribunal at an early stage so as to have it considered by the tribunal and, if appropriate, deregistered so that the damage that he suffers is brought to an end as quickly as possible.
There is a list which is commonly called “ list B “ although it does not appear under that title in the elements of the scheme. It creates new offences which are four in number. The people committing these offences would be proceeded against in the ordinary courts and not before the tribunal.
– There is the black list.
– The list is commonly called the “ black list “. The four offences are: First, persistent price cutting at a loss with intent to drive a competitor out of business. I want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the elements of the offence are contained in the definition. First, it must be persistent; secondly, it must be price cutting at a loss; and, thirdly, there must be intent to drive a competitor out of business. If anybody can say that a person who does all these things ought to be permitted to continue doing them I would be interested to know the reasons upon which he bases that argument. I have given close attention to it and can find no reason why it should not be an offence in the manner suggested in the elements of the scheme.
The next two offences listed are collusive tendering and collusive bidding. I think it important that the House should realize that the scheme should be looked at as a whole and not in sections. You cannot look at these list B offences in vacuo. They must bo looked at in terms of the whole scheme. If a group of people is engaged in a practice and the practice is price fixing and if they register that practice they will then be permitted, in accordance with the legislation, to continue that practice without question. If, in pursuance of the office-fixing agreement, members of the group tender at the same price or bid at the same price this will not be collusive bidding or collusive tendering, in my view. It will amount to a continuation of the registered practice, which is price fixing. I think it is important clearly to understand that the list B offences so-called should not be considered in vacuo from the remainder of the scheme. The fourth offence on list B is monopolization. This offence has had scarcely any exposition. No doubt it will need a great deal more exposition when the legislation is presented to the House.
– What is the definition?
– Only one word is used. There is no definition as yet because monopoly must not, in my view, be an offence. Monopoly can come from a patent right, for instance. There is no greater example of monopoly than a patent right. A person can be in a position of monopoly or near-monopoly through the vacation of a field by others for reasons unconnected with the way in which the person occupying the position of monopoly or near-monopoly has conducted his business. Monopoly in itself ought not to be - and it is not proposed under the elements that it should be - an offence. I think that the important thing about the scheme is that the policy of the scheme is a matter for the Parliament and not for the courts. The position has been the reverse in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. I feel that we must be prepared, when the relevant legislation is introduced and passed, to regard it as we would regard any other legislation. It should not have any sacred preservation from amendment as amendments become obviously necessary.
I believe that the gateways provide a balance between competition and a very necessary self-protective action which business should be able to take when the circumstances justify it and the public interest is not detrimentally affected. I believe there is a balance in this scheme. I have noted that the Attorney-General has indicated that the scheme would come into operation progressively. I think this is highly desirable. I should think it would be done by requiring the registration of the multi-laterals in, perhaps, the first three categories of registration and, at a later date, the unilateral or the bilaterals.
The important final point that I want to make is that this scheme will require registration only of those things which are set out clearly in the scheme of the legislation. There is not - and I believe there ought not to be - a dragnet clause.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) told us that he was supporting the Budget because it was a good budget. Having said that, he immediately left the subject of the Budget as if he could find nothing good in it He commenced to tell us all about restrictive trade practices. He took over the job that the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) should be doing. We have waited for a long time for the Attorney-General to rise and give us some information on this subject. Tonight the subject has been dealt with by the honorable member for Bruce who is well known, not only as the Liberal member for Bruce, but as an advocate in the arbitration courts for those who oppose wage increases and decent working conditions for the wageearners of Australia. He is not content with representing the employers before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and receiving decent fees from them. To-night, in advance of the legislation, he has come into this House and practised on us to see how he can present cases for chambers of commerce and other big business interests in this country. He dealt with that subject because he could find no good in the Budget which he said was so good. He practised on us. At this late hour, I promise that I will not keep the House for my full half-hour.
Because the honorable member for Bruce mentioned restrictive trade practices I should like to spend a few minutes on that subject. I have before me a copy of the speech made by His Excellency the Governor-General on 8th March, 1960. In that speech the Governor-General said -
The development of tendencies to monopoly and restrictive practices in commerce and industry has engaged the attention of the Government which will give consideration to legislation to protect and strengthen free enterprise against such a development.
That statement was made about three and a half years ago and we are still waiting on that legislation. It is true that some time ago the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) gave the House an outline of what he proposed. Since then we have heard nothing. He has stumped round Australia talking to meetings of chambers of commerce and businessmen. He will talk to anybody outside this Parliament on monopolies and restrictive practices, but he will not speak on it in this Parliament, where the matter should be debated. This is the place where we should talk about the policy on monopolies and restrictive trade practices. The Attorney-General goes up and down the country, speaking wherever he can find an audience. I venture to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that so many pressures have been exerted upon him and so many arguments have been put forward by this section as to what should be done and by that section as to what should be done that by the time the bill reaches this House, if it ever does, it will be unrecognizable when compared with the proposals that he presented to this House originally. It is not good enought for such an important proposal to be hawked all over the countryside and not brought before this Parliament for discussion.
The Attorney-General might have some excuse. We are mindful of the fact that he also holds the important portfolio of External Affairs. Of course, the Prime) Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) is to blame for the fact that that portfolio is not the full-time job of one Minister. The grave situation around Australia’s shores makes it imperative that that portfolio be a full-time job. So there might be some excuse for the delay in bringing legislation on restrictive trade practices before this House. I believe that by the time the legislation reaches the House it will be watered down so much that it will be totally ineffective.
I suggest that all that the honorable member for Bruce did to-night was try to get away from this Budget, which contains nothing worthwhile. He could say nothing that would help the position of the Government, so he ran away. He tried to draw a red herring across the trail in order to draw the attention of the people away from the Budget. He should be frightened of the people in this connexion, because many of his friends who were in the last Parliament have gone. He knows that full well. He has hardly smiled once since the general election in December, 1961, a little more than eighteen months ago. He well remembers his friends - the former Minister for Repatriation, the former Minister for Health, the former Minister for Supply, and the twelve or so others - whom the electors, when they had their say, dismissed from the Parliament and replaced with men who were prepared to put into effect the policy of the Australian Labour Party - a constructive policy if we were given the opportunity to implement it. The honorable member for Bruce is fearful of the day of reckoning. He knows full well that what happened to some of his friends in the last election could happen to him when the people have their say. So he is frightened to talk of the Budget. He will talk of anything but it. To-night we had the spectacle of him trying to lecture us on what the bill of restrictive trade practices should contain, when we have not yet heard from the AttorneyGeneral what he proposes to introduce.
Let us have a look at this “ good “ Budget. Some one said it is good for nothing. It certainly does not contain much for the people of Australia. It was described by my colleague, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), as barren and sterile. That is a good description. of it. The Treasurer cannot be very pleased with the attempt that he has made to come to grips with the problems of this country. It is no wonder that he goes to Bingil Bay for spear-fishing or to bask in the sun. Shortly, no doubt, he will dash away to Capri or somewhere else because the Budget is so bad. There is certainly nothing in it that does him credit. It contains nothing to take up the slack; nothing to provide work for the 80,000 unemployed people in this country; and nothing to withstand the rising unemployment that will occur towards the end of this year.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has moved an amendment which the Government is treating as a want of confidence motion. The people of Australia are watching this debate with great interest. The Leader of the Opposition, in moving his amendment, not only criticized the Government’s budgetary policy but also put forward constructive proposals setting out what the Labour Party would do if elected to office. We could almost say, “ Holt’s hopeless, Calwell’s courageous “. The Treasurer has thrown in his hand. He cannot manage the affairs of this nation. He started his Budget speech by telling us that this is a good budget and that this is a prosperous time. He told us of the developments that are taking place. But to-day the report of the Reserve Bank of Australia was delivered to us. One member of the board is a gentleman by the name of Sir Roland Wilson.
– What does he do?
– He is the Secretary to the Treasury. I think he would have something to do with the Budget. I think he would be an adviser to the Treasurer. But it is strange that that gentleman, in the report of the Reserve Bank, notes a number of things and then says, “ However, unemployment is still too high “. If unemployment is still too high, if Sir Roland Wilson considers it is still too high, what does the Treasurer intend to do about it? Has he not acted on Sir Roland’s advice, or is the advice such that the Government is prepared to keep in this country that pool of unemployment which many honorable members opposite have said time and time again is necessary? Eighty thousand seems to be their accepted figure for mid-year, and over 100,000 seems to be their accepted figure for the end of the year when the school-leavers come on to the employment market. Again it looks as if many school-leavers will be doomed to be without employment for months and months. This country cannot afford the wastage of their brains. We cannot afford to have youngsters leave school, stay away for a month or so while looking for jobs, and then to return to an overcrowded school because no jobs are available to them. We say that early next year we shall have well over 100,000 persons again out of work. But the Treasurer can do nothing about it. The Treasurer made great play on mole liberal savings bank housing programmes. He cited figures and mentioned the amounts that are being expended. The cold fact is that the wage-earner, the ordinary little person in the community, who tries to buy a house is lucky if he can buy a very modest one for £5,000. Unless he is purchasing his home through a housing trust or housing commission, he will have to buy a block of land and will be up for a total of £6,000 or £7,000. About the most he can obtain from a lending institution is £3,500, so unless he can arrange a second mortgage, he must have about £2,500 as a deposit in order to obtain a house. We believe that the wage-earners and, indeed, all sections of the community, should be encouraged to own homes, but first we must provide the finance. It is of no use to let matters get out of hand. It is of no use to say that we shall increase loans from £3,500 to £5,000, because the amount borrowed will have to be repaid and the interest charges will have to be met. What we want is some stability, and we are not getting it from this Government.
The Leader of the Opposition has put on record what a Labour government would do in the field of housing. We would treat it as a national problem’. We would not run away from it saying that it was a job for the States. We would get on with the job and do something about providing houses for the people. We have been told about the superphosphate bounty steal from Labour’s policy. We are not sorry that the Government has stolen that proposal. That bounty is long overdue; people on the land need it. But we should like the Government to be honest and admit that it has stolen Labour’s policy in this regard. It is only a small section of what the Government has stolen from us, but in some respects the Government has not been able to do very much with what it has acquired.
We have been told earlier to-night about the discrimination in proposals for increased social service benefits and how the Government proposes to split up pensioners. It will pay to single pensioners 10s. more than is paid to each married pensioner, and it will continue to pay a 10s. rent allowance in some instances. There will be three distinct rates of pension. As the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) said, while trying to remedy one anomaly the Government is creating anomalies galore. The Government should have given additional thought to this matter.
Likewise, there is discrimination in the matter of repatriation benefits. I applaud the fact that the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner will receive an increase of 10s. That increase is overdue; he needs it. But what is the Government doing for the 100 per cent, war pensioner? Does he, too, not need an increase? Anybody in this House who knows the plight of the 100 per cent, pensioner surely must know that he is in almost as bad a position as the T.P.I, pensioner. If it was equitable twelve months ago to give both the T.P.I, pensioner and the 100 per cent, war pensioner an increase, it must be equitable to-day to give both sections a similar increase. Increases are long overdue.
There may be some room for argument in relation to those pensioners further down the line. Most men in receipt of a 50 per cent, pension are working, but many of these 100 per cent, pensioners are not able to work. There is not much difference between them and the T.P.I, men, but Wis Government has discriminated once again. It was said to-night that the Government had yielded to pressure. Perhaps it would not be right to say that that is the position in this field, but the T.P.I. boys are very efficient. They go about their job very diligently and let the Government know what they want. They make no bones about it. But nobody seems to have worried about the men receiving the 100 per cent, pension. They are being discriminated against, and this is not just.
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) dealt with child endowment. As a family man, he knows something about the needs of a family with more than one or two children. He spoke from experience. He is fortunate, perhaps, in that the salary he is receiving as a member of Parliament enables him to bring up his kiddies and provide for their welfare. But thousands of men and women in this country who are on low incomes are in dire need of assistance because this Government has completely neglected child endowment since it came into office. Why does not the Government either say that it does not believe in child endowment and do away with it completely, or get on with the job of restoring value to it?
The Government’s attitude to this matter is in line with its general attitude to the young people and to education. The Government runs away from the education problem, as it runs away from housing. The Menzies-McEwen Government is the only section of the community which is opposed to the provision of more Commonwealth aid for education. We on this side are very proud to have led the fight in the demand for more assistance. We are glad of the support that has come from all quarters. Little credit is due to Government supporters who go into their electorates and say that they favour more Commonwealth aid but come into this Parliament and do nothing about it. The Labour Party believes that something must be done. The Government has neglected education as it has neglected child endowment. It cares little for the family man, but its day of reckoning is drawing near.
I have referred to pensions. Another cause for complaint occurs to me straight away. The funeral benefit has remained at £10 for years. Anybody who has had any experience of pensioners knows the plight in which they find themselves when a bereavement occurs. A funeral costs anything up to £100 but the best that this Government can provide is a miserly £10. It might as well provide nothing. It ought to be ashamed of itself.
– We want to keep them alive, not to kill them.
– We should all like to keep them alive, but the Government is failing to meet its obligations. It is not providing them with enough care to enable them to keep alive. One of the greatest problems in the community is the provision of adequate housing for aged persons. The Government has thrown the entire responsibility for this upon charitable and religious organizations, instead of taking the lead through the Department of Social Services and establishing homes for the aged. It is of no use for Government supporters to try to salve their consciences by saying that the Government is providing £2 for every £1 provided by an organization desiring to establish a home for aged persons. These organizations, apart from building the homes have to provide nursing services and equipment for the aged who fall sick. The Government should do something more about this matter. Unfortunately, to-day in this country no government, State or Federal, is prepared to take the responsibility of establishing an organization to deal with this great problem. There is no bed of roses for those organizations which obtain subsidies.
It is with some hesitation that I now raise a certain matter, because I would not like to imply that any organization associated with homes for the aged may be doing something that it should not do, but I know of one organization which has received subsidies from the Government for the construction of homes for the aged and which has requested fairly large donations from people wishing to obtain those homes. I do not necessarily blame the organization for indulging in that practice because it has become the pattern. Unfortunately, in these days you get a home only if you have money.
I know of a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman pensioner who paid £1000 to a certain organization for the right to enter a home for the aged. He was to pay a weekly rental of 30s. Having entered into this arrangement he naturally thought that he had some security for his wife and himself and he thought that by continuing to pay 30s. a week he would be able to spend the rest of his days in that home. But within six months of paying the initial £1000 he was asked to pay an extra 7s. 6d. a week an the ground that costs had increased. I make it clear that I am not referring to any of the religious organizations that engage in this work, I will not name the organization concerned because that may not be fair, but the Minister for Social Services (Mr Roberton) should ensure that some protection is afforded to people who obtained these homes. He should ensure that after paying over large sums of money they are not thrown out of their homes because they are not prepared to pay additional amounts. The Government must do something about this matter. The time is long overdue for some attention to be paid to it.
I support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition. Undoubtedly, when the vote is taken the Government will have the numbers, but we challenge it to go to the people. Let the people judge on the Government’s record. Let the people decide whether this is a good Budget. Let the people decide whether they want Holt the hopeless or Calwell the courageous.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Leslie) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.33 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 August 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1963/19630822_reps_24_hor39/>.