17th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Honorable senators will regret to learn of the death of our former Clerk, Mr. George Henry Monahan, C.M.G., which occurred in Sydney yesterday.I felt sure that it would be the desire of all honorable senators that I should convey their sympathy to his widow and family, and I have done so.
SenatorFOLL- Will the Leader of the Senate state whether the Government has given any consideration to the suggestion which I made some time ago that an all-party parliamentary committee be appointed to investigate and report to the Government on the subject of increased overseas publicity for Australia? What is the Government’s decision, if any, on this matter?
– Such a committee has not been considered by the Government to benecessary, but the whole matter of overseas publicity is under review, and an announcement regarding it will be made later by the appropriate Minister.
– Will the Leader of the Senate give details of the national works programme recently agreed upon between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States?
– I shall see that the information asked for is supplied to the honorable senators.
Does the Leader of the Senate intend to make an early announcement with re gard to the ceiling price of hay chaff, and, if so, will he give consideration to the granting of a subsidy to producers of such chaff, in lieu of making a drastic increase of the price of the commodity, specially where it is required for the purpose of horse-drawn transport?
– The matter mentioned by the honorable senator is under discussion by the Prices Commissioner and an early announcement will be made regarding it.
Station 2HD Newcastle - Senator Amour’s Views - Station 5KA Adelaide - Dr. Norman Haire - Australian Broadcasting Commission’s News Service.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral advise the Senate which of the various interested parties will get the licence for station 2HD Newcastle, and whether the Australian Labour party received any assurance from anybody associated with the Commonwealth Government that, if it purchased the station’s equipment beforehand, it would have a prior claim for the licence when it became available?
– I understand that the negotiations have been finalized to a certain degree by a company taking over the whole of the shares of the station on the same conditions as another station in Adelaide was taken over by the Methodist Church authorities. No special consideration has been given to any party in the negotiations for the purchase of the equipment, but it. would necessarily follow that any company, whether formed by church authorities or any other organization, that bought the station equipment would receive consideration in the allocation of the licence.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether he, or his technical officers, concur in the opinion expressed by Senator Amour with regard to the future of wireless broadcasting?
– I am not conversant with what Senator Amour has said on this subject, and am, therefore, not in a position to say whether or not I concur in his views.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral prepared to place on the table of the Senate all papers and contracts in connexion with the three licences about which there has been so much controversy.
– I have already answered several questions on this subject, and am prepared to allow honorable senators to peruse any papers in relation to it.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has supplied the following comments: -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Memorandum as to terms and conditions of agreement between His Grace, the Archbishop of Adelaide,Reverend Samuel Forsyth on behalf of Central Methodist Mission and the Honorable Robert Stanley Richards, M.P., on behalf of Workers’ Weekly Herald relating to broadcasting stations known as 5KA and5AU.
In contemplation of the renewal by the PostmasterGeneral of the broadcasting licences for SKA and 5AU and in further contemplation of the completion of a certain agreement whereby Adelaide Central Methodist Mission and “Workers’ Weekly Herald become the legal owners of all the shares (except one) in the companies to which the said licences were hitherto issued to parties hereto are agreed as follows: -
Dated at Adelaide this 17th day of May. 1943.
Concerning the second portion of section 1 of this question, I am not in a position to give the terms of the sale of this station in detail, because this was not a matter of government negotiation. The legal representative of Sport Radio Broadcasting Company Limited advised me when submitting the application for renewal of the licence, that an agreement had been reached between his company, the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald, by which the controlling shares would be sold to the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald in the proportions respectively of four-fifths and one-fifth.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Chief Inspector (Wireless),
Pursuant to my promise made on the telephone yesterday, I now let you know the position of the negotiations for the sale of 2HD.
When I gave evidence before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, I understood that it was the informal opinion of the committee that I commence negotiations with the Church of England for the sale of the station in accordance with the evidence which I had given to the committee.
I have since been in negotiation with the Church of England at Newcastle, but I cannot understand its attitude. It does not want to pay a fair price for the station. It hopes to get the station for almost nothing. None the less, my offer has not been rejected. It has kept the negotiations open. Any delay in the negotiations is, I can assure you, entirely on the part of the Church of England, which has not yet told me whether it will accept or reject my offer, and whether it wants to make a counter offer.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Acquisition ok Property at Darwin.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– I am advised by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) that it will take some time to collect the detailed information which the hon. senator desires. “When it is obtained answers to his questions will be given in this chamber.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
Will the Minister inform the Senate when Civil Administration will be restored in Papua ?
– The Minister for External Territories has supplied the following answer -
No indication can yet be given as to when Civil Administration will be reestablished in the Territory of Papua. The ministerial sub-committee that deals with matters relating to the Territories of Papua and New Guinea has the question under review in consultation with the military authorities.
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Motion (by Senator Ashley) - by leave - agreed to -
1 ) That Senator Nash and Senator Herbert Hays bo appointed to fill the vacancies on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
, - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is short and simple. Its main purpose is to extend the classes of persons before whom statutory declarations may be made for Commonwealth purposes. Under the present act, a statutory declaration may be made before any of the following persons: - (a) A police, stipendiary or special magistrate, or a justice of the peace; or (6) a commissioner for affidavits, Commonwealth or State; or (c) a commissioner for declarations, Commonwealth or State; or (d) a notary public. That list does not, however, cover all the persons who, by State law, are authorized to take statutory declarations for State purposes. In Western Australia, for example, the persons so authorized include secretaries to roads boards, classified officers of the State or Commonwealth Public Service, and members of the PoliceForce. In Victoria the Evidence Act 1941 gives a wide selection of persons before whom statutory declarations may be made for official purposes.
Inconvenience is often experienced in obtaining a witness qualified to take a Commonwealth statutory declaration, especially in “Western Australia, where settlement is widely distributed. The bill proposes, in clause 2, to meet this difficulty by authorizing any person who may take statutory declarations under the law of a State to take Commonwealth statutory declarations in that State. Declarations taken before such persons will, of course, entail the same penalties for false statements as declarations made under the act as it stands at present. Clause 3 of the bill proposes to make a similar alteration in section 7 of the act, which deals with declarations required by Commonwealth laws other than the Statutory Declarations Act.
Honorable senators will agree, I am sure, that the bill will facilitate public and private business and legal transactions, and I hope that the measure will have a speedy passage.
Debate (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 13th September (vide page 662), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the following papers be printed: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending 30th June, 1945.
The Budget 1944-45. - Papers presented by the Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., on the occasion of the Budget of 1.944-45.
.- The budget figures are almost staggering. Prior to the war the total annual expenditure was less than £100,000,000, but it is estimated that for the year ending 30th June, 1945, the total expenditure will be no less than £653,000,000. I shall not go into details with regard to the various items contained in the papers before us, but I shall draw attention to various principles in connexion with the financial proposals of the Government. I think that we are all pleased that the Government has at last realized that the incidence of the excessive taxation that has been imposed has resulted in certain injustices. The proposals now before us provide for certain concessions in the form of deductions from taxable income. Among the allowable deductions in respect of the income of the current year are the cost of alterations made to plant, machinery, and maintenance expenditure. There is also to be a reduction of the sales tax on certain building materials, and increased rebates in respect of dental and medical expenses. The Opposition is in favour of the small amendments thus necessitated in the Income Tax Assessment Act to provide for those concessions.
I realize that the Government is faced with a difficult financial problem. The Opposition has drawn attention from time to time to the dangers of the excessive use of bank credit. It is stated in the budget papers that the credit issued to the 30th June, 1944, amounted to £343,000,000, and it is anticipated that that total will be increased during the current year. I was pleased that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), acting presumably on the advice of his financial officers, has again drawn attention to the grave dangers confronting this country by the excessive use of bank credit. I believe that the Government would render a good service to the people of Australia, and to the people of other lands who may intend to invest their money in undertakings in this country, if it gave an assurance that it does not support the statements made by responsible members of the Labour party, and even by some responsible members of the Government, that there is no limit to the use that could be made of bank credit, and that the Commonwealth Bank Board should be abolished, thus eliminating all financial worries for Australia in future. I know that that view is not held by the Treasurer or any of the more sane and experienced members of the Government; but the statements that have been made from time to time by some members of the Cabinet have done a great disservice to Australia. If the Government would state definitely that it is alive to the dangers of inflation, and that it intends to be guided by its financial advisers, and prevent the finances of this country from getting out of hand, it would be doing a valuable service to the Commonwealth.
I regret that from time to time the Commonwealth Bank Board has become the plaything of party politics, and I do not think that the whole of the blame in this matter can be laid at the door of the Labour party. I recall, however, the appointment to the board of a man who had played a prominent part in the political life of New South Wales. That appointment did not inspire confidence among a large section of the people. Further appointments will have to be made to the board in future and I suggest that the Government give particular attention to the selection of men with a sound knowledge of financial affairs, irrespective of their party allegiances.
– So long as they represent vested interests their appointment will satisfy the honorable senator.
– I take no notice of clap-trap of that kind, because I am dealing with important principles.
When the Government made a change from statutory deductions for family allowances, insurance premiums and medical expenses to the rebate system, I asked the Leader of the Senate whether attention had been given by the taxation officials to the increased burden that this alteration had imposed on the family man. I again draw the Minister’s attention to this disability. Take a married man with three children, on an income of £500 per annum. The changeover is responsible in his case for an extra taxation burden of £17 16s. a year, plus the extra allowance which he would receive in respect of a deduction for insurance payments and medical expenses under the old system. The tax in respect of an income of £500 a. year is £136 13s., and the rebate for a wife and three children amounts to £63 17s., leaving a net tax of £72 16s. Under the old system the tax would have amounted to £55. I shall not deal with other income groups, but, having regard to the importance of population, migration and the develop ment of Australia, it would be wise for the Government to give close attention to this aspect of taxation as early as possible. Persons without dependants might be asked to contribute something to meet any rebate made in this direction. I also ask whether anything can be done to arrange for a simplification of the Income Tax Assessment Act. This request has been made by various organizations. When a change was made from the old system of income taxation to the pay-as your-earn method, coupled with the fact that the Commonwealth and State taxation systems had been made uniform, there were substantial additions to the Income Tax Assessment Act which made it difficult for even technical men to get a true appreciation of the liability of the taxpayer. The Leader of the Senate will appreciate that when the bill was before the Senate some honorable senators, especially ex-Senator Spicer, who had specialized in this subject, drew attention to these facts. Itis interesting to note that whereas the Income Tax Assessment Act of 1915 consisted of 21 pages and 65 sections, the act of 1943 consisted of 142 pages and 266 sections. The Government would render a great service to the people if the act were simplified. In view of the importance of the development of secondary industries in this country the decision of the Government to call for applications from those in a position to manufacture motor cars in Australia is a step in the right direction. If we are to increase our population we must offer every possible inducement to people from other countries to invest their money in Australia; and as we have encouraged such organizations as General MotorsHoldens Limited and the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited to risk large investments in this country, it is the duty of the government of the day to provide them with security of tenure. A policy which changes from time to time would have a serious effect on the country’s progress. I believe that there are numerous people in other countries who will be prepared to invest their money in Australia after the war, and therefore I hope that the Government will see that all possible protection will be given to those who have already made investments here. I have in mind not only the two organizations that I have mentioned, but also various motor-body building concerns which already exist in Australia. Any action that may tend to destroy what has already been accomplished here would be a retrograde step. In view of the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that Australia will welcome people from other countries who desire to come here and establish industries, statements by certain other Ministers are likely to have a detrimental effect on Australia’s development in the post-war period. From time to time certain Ministers, including the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) and the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), have urged that the policy of the Labour party, namely, the nationalization of industries, should be given effect now that the Labour party has a majority in both Houses of the Parliament.
– Where did the honorable senator see statements to that effect?
– On a number of occasions we have heard the Minister for Aircraft Production advocate the implementing of the Labour party’s policy. The Prime Minister has tried to steer the Government through dangerous waters, and has endeavoured to quieten his colleagues who have been outspoken in their advocacy of the nationalization of industries. He has said that the Government will provide private enterprise with opportunities to develop industries in this country, whilst reserving to itself the right to set up industries, either on the lines of Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited or under complete government ownership.
– “Why not quote his exact statement?
– The people of Australia have had sufficient evidence of the failure of socialism, and of the nationalization of industries, not to want a ‘ repetition of what lias already occurred. It is not necessary for me to gave details, but if honorable senators will study the report of the Queensland Auditor-General they will find that in that State various undertakings controlled by the. Government proved to be financial failures, and resulted in the taxpayers of Queensland having to foot the bill. The same result followed the establishment of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and the State coal mine at Lithgow, New South “Wales. The last-mentioned undertaking showed a loss of about £16,000 in 1943.
– “What about the success of the Postal Department?
– In eleven years government-controlled coal mines in Victoria have incurred losses amounting to about £1,000,000. The Government should take its courage in its hands, and decide either to carry out the policy of the Labour party, or not to do so. Should the Government believe that it is desirable that private enterprise shall be allowed to develop industries in this country, a pronouncement to that effect would allay the fears of a. great many people. If, coupled with such a pronouncement, the Government gave evidence that it intended to follow a sound financial policy, and would as soon as possible reduce the present high rate of taxes, particularly on private companies, and would offer inducements to private concerns to develop Australian industries, I believe that considerable progress would be made. I hope that the Government will consider this suggestion. Unfortunately, industrial disputes have occurred in various industries far too frequently during recent years. They have occurred under both Labour and non-Labour governments. In view of the need to produce goods at reasonable costs, I believe that any government which could ensure peace in industry would do more for the economic success of Australian industries than anything else. I regret, that an extreme element in the trade union movement is causing so much trouble. I do not say that all the trouble has been due to one side in industry, but the policy of appeasement which has been followed by the present Government has done much to encourage extremists, and to incite them to further action. I refer particularly to those holding Communist ideas whose influence has been disruptive. At one stage the Menzies Government took strong action against certain Communist forces which were retarding Australia’s war effort; it declared thom to be unlawful associations. I regret, however, that on the eve of an election the Cur tin” ‘Government decided to remove the ban that had been imposed on them. On that occasion definite action was taken against two men, Thomas and Ratliffe, who were sabotaging the war effort. They were interned, but the Curtin Government released them. When trouble arose on the coal-fields, this Government treated the Arbitration Court with contempt and continued its policy of appeasement towards the coal-miners. It passed special laws to deal with strikers and absentees in the industry, but it did not enforce those laws. The time has- now arrived when the Government must display courage in dealing with the small noisy element of extremists in the trade union movement, whose actions, more than anything else, will discourage desirable migrants from coining to this country.
– What about the extremist element in the employers’ federation?
– If such an, element exists in that organization, similar action should be taken against it. However, this Government has displayed partisanship unparalleled in the history of this country towards certain unions. Senator Nash deplored the defeat of the Government’s recent referendum proposals, and declared that as a consequence this Parliament would not possess sufficient power to prevent another depression after the war. I am reminded of a very graphic cartoon which was published in a newspaper dealing with this matter during the recent trouble at Portland, when certain unions demanded the granting of a licence for a second butchery in that town. The import of that cartoon was that the Government required not fourteen new powers but 14 lb. of courage. The Opposition parties in this Parliament will stand behind the Government so long as it has the courage to enforce the laws of the land, arid deal effectively with the noisy Communist extremists in the Labour movement in order that the large body of decent men, who are prepared to do the right thing, will receive a fair deal.
One views with grave concern the great problems confronting Australia. Particularly disturbing, when we hear claims for shorter hours, and are subjected to the tactics of absentees and advocates of “ go-slowism “ in industry, is the problem of increasing costs of production. That problem must be dealt with effectively before Australia can play its part in international affairs. We must follow a sound economic policy if we are to maintain our high standard of living. We shall certainly not achieve that objective by merely printing notes and relying on bank credit. The only basis on which we can achieve prosperity is that of economic production, which will enable our primary industries to compete on overseas markets. The primary producers must be enabled to export their products at a payable price. I remind those honorable senators who declared during the recent referendum campaign that the Commonwealth Parliament lacked the power to prevent the depression which followed the- last war, which ended in 1918, that the depression occurred from 19.28 to 1931 - eleven years later. The value of our primary production decreased from £212,000,000 in 1928 to £129,000,000 in 1930. That decline was brought about solely because of circumstances over which this country had no control whatever.
– I do not agree with that contention.
– If the honorable senator examines the economic facts, he will find that the main reason for the depression in Australia was the fall of prices of our exports. That experience brought home to the Australian people the importance of encouraging primary industries and providing payable prices for primary products.
– Why did those prices fall?
– Mainly because other countries adopted a .policy of extreme economic nationalism. For instance, Germany and Italy’ raised their tariffs and embarked on a policy to make themselves self-sufficient in all essential goods. I emphasize this point in order, first, to refute the contention that the last depression arose because the Commonwealth Parliament did not possess sufficient power to prevent it; and, secondly, to show that, having regard to the broad principles laid down in the Atlantic Charter, we must at all times pay due regard to the importance of primaryproduction in our national economy. If costs continue to rise at the rate at which they have risen during the last five years, owing to inflation and other causes, we shall place upon the primary producers so great a burden that they will be unable to compete in the overseas markets. That will be fatal to our economic life. At the recent Conference of Commonwealth and .State Ministers, the Government put forward certain proposals with respect to post-war reconstruction. In thus ignoring this Parliament, the Government offered an insult particularly to the Senate, which is the States’ House. It is the duty of Ministers in this chamber to see that all proposals of the governments in respect of post-war reconstruction are placed before this chamber in order to give to the representatives of the States an opportunity to consider them fully. Australia’s representatives at post-war conferences will carry a grave responsibility. We must not overlook the grave problem which devolves upon the Government in rehabilitating members of the fighting services. In 1939,’ just prior to the outbreak of the war, representatives of the wool industry made the first application from the industry for government assistance because of increasing costs of production and low export prices. On that occasion, the government of the day took stock of all our export products, and found that practically every industry with an export surplus was in financial difficulty, because its exports were sold at an unprofitable price. I draw attention to these facts in order to emphasize the mistakes made in the past. We must not repeat them. If men are to be encouraged to enter primary industry, we must first guarantee them security of tenure. We can do that only by enabling -them to produce at a profitable price for the export markets. That will give us a splendid opportunity for an all-round and balanced development in this country, so long as costs can be kept to a reasonable figure, and we can be assured of export markets at prices payable to the primary producers.
The Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) made reference to the subsidy that is to be paid to the wheat-growers. I atn sorry that the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and. Agriculture is not present, because I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to a very important matter which concerns the wheat-growers of Australia. I refer to a statement made by Mr. Teasdale, of Western Australia, in connexion with the prices at which wheat is being sold by the Australian Wheat Board under the direction of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Mr. Teasdale was appointed to the Australian Wheat Board when I had the privilege of being Minister for Commerce, and I looked upon him as one of the best authorities on wheat in this country from the growing, handling and selling points of view. He had done a great deal for the wheat industry in Australia, and particularly in the State of Western Australia, and I was sorry that the present Minister decided to remove him from the board, but very pleased when the producers of Western Australia returned him to it. I direct the attention of the Senate to the relevant portions of his statement regarding the present policy, which is rendering a great financial disservice to the wheatgrowers. In the Primary Producer, of the 6th July, 1944, Mr. Teasdale says - During recent weeks many references to wheat prices have been made in the press from which farmers have already gathered that a situation unprecedented in the annals of the industry has developed, inasmuch that wheat is being sold daily by the Wheat Board at prices ranging from 3s. 11¼d. bagged wheat f.o.b. to 0s. Hid. f.o.b. for wheat of identical quality.
I draw particular attention to those figures - 3s. 11¼d. and 6s. 11¼d. for wheat of identical quality. He continues -
Within this price range wheat is sold for local flour which, with the flour tax added, returns approximately 5s. 2d. f.o.b. Then there is wheat sold for breakfast food (exempt from flour tax), which returns approximately 4s. bagged. Wheat for New Zealand is sold at the concessional price of 4s. 10¾d. bagged f.o.b. Wheat for Britain and other countries, supplied through Cereals Import Division, is sold at varying prices about 5s. to 5s. 6d. Wheat for stock feed, after counting in the Government subsidy, returns 3s. 9½d. bulk and 3s. 11½d. bagged.
In consequence of the concession made by Canada to Britain under mutual aid terms,. Australia has to make a similar concession for delivery to Britain and the Mediterranean, or she would be undersold by Canada. Hence. the disparity in Australia’s prices to Britain as against the countries before mentioned. Without going into details, it can be said that prices of wheat for stock feed are arranged by direction of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Those for breakfast food are also indirectly fixed by him, because he has not accepted a request to advance the “millers’ price” from 3s. Hid. to 5s. 2d. Returns from sales for locally consumed flour are decided by the flour tax legislation. Wheat for alcohol will no doubt also be the subject of decision by the Minister. The board is under direction by the Minister in regard to sales to Kew Zealand. And so, after all these sales arbitrarily fixed by one process or another, and much below the real market price, there remains only a small portion of the crop being traded out at what may be termed a price obtained by a willing seller from a willing buyer in the open market.
Consideration of these facts will show that the position of a grower’s representative on the Australian Wheat Board is made very difficult; so difficult in fact, that 1 am compelled to lay the foregoing facts publicly before growers in order to avoid any charge of breach of trust and also that growers as a whole may consider the position and then approach the Government direct with a view to the formation of a wheat price policy equitable to all concerned.
Honorable senators will realize that that statement by so eminent a member of the board, elected by the producers themselves, is a very strong -indictment of the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. In order to summarize the position that exists, I point out that wheat at “Williamstown is sold for foodstuffs in bulk at 3s.. ll/d. a bushel, wheat for bread is sold at 5s. 2d., and wheat for stock feed, is sold at 3s. 4$d., plus the subsidy of 6d.
– How does the honorable senator compare the prices in Victoria with those in Western Australia?
– T am taking the average price at Williamstown, from which certain freight deductions are made.
– The freight advantage of Western Australia is as high as 52s. a ton.
– It simply means that breakfast food wheat returns to the farmer 3s. 1¼d. at country sidings, and stock feed wheat 3s. 0¾d. at country sidings. The position is that for the first 1,000 bags delivered at country sidings a farmer gets 4s. 1-Jd. for his wheat, and can buy the same wheat back at under 4s.
– At 3s. 4d., as a matter of fact.
– As the honorable senator suggests, as low as 3s. 4d. It means that the concession that is being made to manufacturers of breakfast foods, and that in respect of stock feed generally is, apart from the 6d. subsidy granted by the Government, being borne by the wheat-growers themselves, and the price is considerably below the market realization price to-day When the blue peas case, recently mentioned in this chamber, came before the High Court the judge said that the Commonwealth had power to acquire property on just terms, and he considered that “ just terms “ meant the ruling rate at the time of acquisition. The ruling rate of wheat at the date of acquisition was 6s. a bushel at Williamstown, yet the wheat is being sold at prices considerably below that figure. I understand that this matter is to raised in the House of Representatives to-day, and I sincerely hope that the Government will give it every attention. Owing to the absence of rain, which has affected practically all the wheat-growing districts of Australia, the position which I have just described will have a most disastrous effect upon wheat-growers this year. In some areas they will not get sufficient wheat to provide them with seed for the next harvest. Their losses will be considerable, and it is a grave injustice for the Minister to direct the board to sell wheat below the market price. T trust that honorable senators will see that this subject receives the attention that it deserves.
I approve the suggestion made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that a parliamentary committee be appointed to consider the payment of a war gratuity to members of the fighting forces. I am, sure that in this Parliament, and in the Parliaments of the States, the view is unanimously held that the splendid performance of our fighting men should be recognized adequately in some tangible form.
There is one other matter to which I shall refer, namely, the expending by the Government of public funds in connexion with “ Yes “ propaganda at the recent referendum. In previous constitution alteration referendum campaigns, there has been a rigid adherence to the law which provides that both the Government and Opposition parties shall have equal opportunity to place their views before the people. On this occasion, in order that the official publication containing the views of both the Opposition and Government parties should not be too bulky, it was decided that the case for each side should be expressed in 2,000 words. I regret to say, however, that despite the scarcity and high cost of paper, and the shortage of man-power, the case for the Government occupied six pages, whereas that of the Opposition, printed in a type which some people had great difficulty in reading, occupied only four pages. I do not know who was responsible for the printing of” that publication, but I trust that there will be no repetition of that state of affairs in the future. Having regard to the urgent need for all available funds to prosecute the war effort, the people of this country were staggered by the wilful waste of money by the Government on the referendum campaign. Delegates to the Constitution Convention, held at Canberra in 1942, were unanimous that a referendum should not be held in wartime - I believe that a motion to that effect was moved by the Labour Premier of Tasmania. However, in spite of that resolution the Government decided to hold a referendum and I shall endeavour to give honorable senators an idea of the manner in which public money was expended through various publicity channels in support of the “Yes” case. I protest strongly against the Government’s disregard for fair play and political decency in such a vital matter as this. There were more than 50 publications issued by the Government relating to the referendum, each one expensively produced and widely distributed. A considerable number of copy-writers were employed in the preparation of the Government’s case. Films were prepared for the Department of Information and the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, and released during the referendum campaign. Extensive use was made of radio publicity at prices insisted upon by the Government under an arrangement with the commercial broadcasting stations which should have had relation to the war and not referendum propaganda. Every household in the Commonwealth received through the post a copy of a letter signed, not by the Leader of the Government, but by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). “Yes” badges, posters, and leaflets were distributed in hundreds of thousands. There was also a wide distribution of the Attorney-General’s book on the powers legislation, a publication originally stated to be for the benefit of members of Parliament only. This was a very expensive undertaking. National expenditure was incurred in advertising in all city and country newspapers under various authorizations, and the cost was charged against public funds. Payments were made to various “ Yes “ committees in the States, or the expenses incurred by those bodies were underwritten. Another expense was the cost of speakers such as Mr. Barry, K.;C, who accompanied various Ministers all over the Commonwealth, and of public servants who ‘travelled all round the country instead of administering their departments and going ahead with the real job of planning. Again I protest emphatically against those activities. One phase of the Government’s referendum propaganda which was stressed over and over again was the claim that, unless the additional powers were conferred upon the Commonwealth, it would not have sufficient authority to deal adequately with the repatriation of service personnel. This was an obvious misrepresentation, particularly in view of the fact that repatriation powers have been exercised ‘by the Commonwealth for the last twenty years. Circumstances which are typical of the manner .in which the ‘Government conducted the referendum campaign are set out in a letter which appeared in the Bulletin of the 30th September. Under the heading, “ Referendum report from a New Guinea camp “. The letter stated -
The area was littered with Communist “Yes” literature, pinned to every second tree on all the roads. The official pamphlets containing the case for and against did not arrive till three days before voting day. . .
– Apparently the Communists are playing their part up there.
– Yes, but if the Government heeds what Senator Brand said last night it will take steps to ensure that’ this element is “ rubbed out” entirely. The letter continues -
They were not accompanied by copies of The Bulletin - the only Bulletins about were pre-referendum issues. Nor were there any “ No “ speakers, but an Army Education Service speaker arrived the day after the official pamphlets were delivered and did his stuff. He was a “ Yes “ man, very thinly disguised, and I suppose he influenced a good many soldiers to vote his way. But he didn’t have the field to himself, for a young fellow who had read the Evatt and Menzies arguments plied him with questions. Like other Army Education Service spouters, he was no slouch at dodging awkward ones and changing to an easier line. He held the floor for a couple of hours, but he could scarcely have left camp with the impression that it would be 100 per cent. “Yes”.
The Government’s action in using Commonwealth public servants and Army officials to travel round the country at the taxpayers’ expense in support of the “ Yes “ campaign is something quite unheard of, and I hope that the Government will heed the criticism that has been expressed not only by members of Parliament but also by a number of its own supporters. I draw attention to the fact that the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act provides that -
Every trade union . . . organization, association, league, or body of persons-
I think that the Postmaster-General will agree that the Government comes within that category - which has, or person who has . . . expended any money or incurred any expense -
Every return filed in pursuance of this section of the Act shall … be open to public inspection-.
I hope that the Government will stand up to its obligations in that regard, and” will submit a detailed statement of its expenditure of public funds in con nexion with the referendum campaign. I move as an amendment -
That there be added to the motion, the following words : “ and that the Senate considers that the action of the “Government in using public funds for Labour party propaganda, and the utilization in the role of public speakers of members of the civil service as advocates of government policy, particularly in relation to the recent referendum, is contrary to established practice and dangerous to democratic public administration “.
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak later.
– The discussion of the budget provides an opportunity to deal with many subjects, but to-day honorable senators have had the additional attraction of an opportunity to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) expounding his most scientific views as to what should be done in Australia in “ the post-war period. I am old enough to remember the time when a gentleman named Pratten controlled the wheat market of Chicago, as a result of which there was a great economic crisis throughout the western world, and probably also in Australia. Jevons, one of the economists of the period to which the Leader of the Opposition referred came to the conclusion, after much deduction, that that crisis was due to spots on the sun ! I had almost forgotten that until I heard the Leader of the Opposition telling the Senate to-day what should and should not be done to enable us once again to get the ship of uncontrolled capitalism on an even keel, so that it might once again run us on the rocks as quickly as possible, as has been its wont.
There is not much to besaid about the budget, because it is really a case of “ as you were “. To talk about sacrifices is all humbug. The only people who are making a real sacrifice are the men and women who are doing the fighting.
– Hear, hear !
– An honorable senator opposite says, “ Hear, hear ! “ If members of the Opposition believe in that, why do they not put their money into them interest free? This war has been run in such a way that the fundamental cause of the conflict has not been tackled. . I refer to untrammelled trade competition, which must result in a lifeanddeath struggle for markets. War, according to the great German, Clausewitz, is merely politics transferred to another sphere. When I say that no sacrifices have been made, apart from those of the men and women in the fighting services, I am speaking relatively, because people in receipt of very low incomes are obviously making some sacrifices. This is the position of the public servant on a low salary, who has to meet the higher cost of living with his income at the same level as prior to the war. Apart from, that section, however, the people of Australia were never so well off as they are now. I have never seen so much money in circulation.
Judging by the remarks of honorable senators opposite, one would imagine that the people are having a bad time. In 1929, there was no cry of communism, either in Europe or Australia, and there was no need for rationing then. The Sydney unemployed workers could then buy any thing they liked for their wives. Their womenfolk could have sable coats in ‘ the morning, and mink coats at night. They could visit Usher’s Hotel in’ the -morning and the Australia Hotel at. night, provided their hotel expenditure did not exceed 5s. lOd. a week, which was the amount of the dole at that time. Australia has suffered less than any other country in the world. Honorable senators opposite talk about appeasers, but to whom do they refer? When I’ was in China some years ago, I met Mr. W. H. Donald, adviser to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. He was an Australian. He said to me, “I never want .to see my country again, because it put into office a government that had deliberately assisted the Japanese”. He also said, “Pacts have Keen made to help the Chinese against Japan, but instead of doing that, the Government helped the Japanese. Mr. Bruce, representing Australia at Geneva, signed pacts on behalf of Australia, but they were repudiated by the Government “.
That was a government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member.
There is no difference between the views held by the late Mr. Chamberlain and those of the Leader of the Opposition ; the latter represents the same interests as those for which Mr. Chamberlain stood. Were the Communists responsible for the tragedy of Munich, or for the selling of Czechoslovakia twice? Were they responsible for 2,000,000 people being out of work in Great Britain and 6,000,000 unemployed in Germany. The Hitlerite regime was produced, not by communism, but by the capitalist system. A leading trade unionist in Great Britain who is now a distinguished British Cabinet Minister came to Australia some years ago and discussed with me the socialist movement throughout the world. This gentleman told me that he was the secretary of probably the biggest union in the world, and that his offices were next to those of Lord McGowan, head of the great international chemical trust. He frequently discussed matters with Lord McGowan, and he travelled to and from the Continent of Europe. In the course of conversation, the trade union secretary said to him: “ How are things in Europe ? “ He replied : “ No good. What is the use of entering into agreements and cartels with the French. They know nothing about organization. Take Czechoslovakia”. There is no organization in that country. What we want is German organization and British capital, and then we could control the production and prices of chemicals in Europe “. It may be surprising to know that, when this war broke out, there was an agreement between British and German heavy industries to control industry and keep up prices in Europe. This was broken only at the outbreak of war, with an apology to the Germans and an expression of the hope that the agreement would be resumed at the conclusion of the war.
We know what happened in the United States of America, after the Senate of that country refused to ratify the agreement entered into by the late President Wilson. In those days it was said that private enterprise should be allowed free scope and that children seven years of age should work in the mines in Great Britain, as advocated by John Bright.
– Is the honorable senator going back to a date B.C.?
– The honorable senator’s mentality is “B.C.”. Hoover came along some years later, and said that all war controls should be lifted. He added - “ The people of my country have the greatest initiative in the world. Anybody in the community is capable of being President of the United States of America. Let private enterprise have an open go, and there will be two chickens in every pot, and a car in every garage “. But, after a while, there were 200,000 unemployed in the United States of America. Then the total increased to 2,000,000, and, finally, 13,000,000 people were out of work. Private enterprise had had an “ open go “, and only government interference enabled President Roosevelt to realize the position of his “ New Deal “. In the United States of America similar forces are at work as in- Australia. The most democratic man there - Donald Wallace - was pushed overboard, because vested interests were determined to get rid of the “New Deal”.
I heard a member of the House of Representatives speaking last evening. I think that he represents an electorate in the same State as the Leader of the Opposition represents in this chamber, because his viewpoint was the same. He said that he was convinced that what was said about the “ New Order “ was only so much talk, and he added, “ I am convinced that the working people will have to work longer and harder than for many years past”. A member of Parliament should be prohibited from making a statement of that kind under present conditions. Is that a proper incentive to the members of the fighting services? Australia is in perhaps a more serious position than any other country, and I am most perturbed about it. The war is far from being over yet. We have heard what China is doing. I know that that country is so devastated and broken with fascist elements that it is not in a position to do anything, although it has put up a great fight, and has helped to save Australia. If the Allies have to get to China before they can beat the Japanese,, we shall have a pretty long war. China is in a. desperate position to-day. In order to illustrate its desperate predicament, I may say that, had Australia been in a similar plight, every Australian port would be in the hands of the Japanese, and our national capital would be, say, at Alice Springs, whilst the enemy would be ravishing and burning property everywhere.
Reading from the speeches by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and taking into consideration Mr. Churchill’s statement about the Atlantic Charter. I am of the opinion that the ‘Commonwealth Government should tell the native races in the Pacific region that we are not fighting this war so that their conditions will be the same as before the war. Indo-China was proJapanese because the people of that country had nothing to fight for. The Chinese had nothing to fight for. It was the same to them, whether they were working for the British imperialist or for General Tojo. They were pulling 10-ton loads, and the blood was running out of their feet just the same. In the Philippines the position was different, because the Americans had done something to help the people. Therefore, when the invasion of the Philippines takes place the Filipinos will rise against the Japanese. There has been too much of the big sahib who calls out, “ Boy, coffee “, or, “ Boy, tea “, with never a “ Thank you Should the same situation arise again America might not be with us then. Australia would still be a country of 3,000,000 square miles with a population not greatly in excess of its present 7,000,000 people. Obviously, something must be done because, should we meet a similar situation in twenty years’ time without a greatly increased population, or unless in the meantime we have -made alliances with powerful nations, we would not be successful. When I was in the East, numerous people asked me what the population of Australia was, and how great was the Australian continent. When I replied’ that fewer than 7,000,000 people occupied 3,000,000 square miles of country they wanted to know why they could not be allowed to migrate to Australia. The almost unoccupied centre of Australia was a subject of special interest to them. We cannot hold this country unless we change our policy, and, therefore, we must take steps to meet a situation which may arise in the future. If we are to induce immigrants to come here, we must provide better social services than now exist. That means that the policy of the Labour party must be put into operation. “What chance have we of inducing any considerable number of Czechoslovaks to come to Australia in view of the fact that the social services of Czechoslovakia before ‘the war were 50 years ahead of ours? In that country there, is a system of child and mother endowment, and the higher forms of education have the support of the Government. In considering our chances of inducing Swedes to come here we must have regard to the fact that the housing system of Sweden is 50 years ahead of the system in operation here. Before wc can induce Swedes to come to Australia we must demolish the slums in such places as Redfern and Alexandria. In other words, we must see that our country is better than theirs before we oan hope to induce large numbers of people to come here from other countries. Our migration policies of the past were failures. Even- our attempt to bring large numbers of British migrants to Australia failed because statistics show that in fifteen, years before the war more Britishers left Australia than came here. These facts show that there has been something radically wrong. We have been’ like the fellow in the bicycle race, who, because he was so far behind, could not see any one in front of him, and so thought he was winning the race. When I spoke in this chamber on a previous occasion I said that it appeared that Germany was almost beaten. That situation is closer to-day than it was then. With the ex-President of Danzig I ask what will happen when Germany has been defeated. Lord Vansittart says that after the defeat of Germany everything German should be exterminated, whereas there are other people who say that the Treaty of Versailles was too severe and that its harsh terms led to the present war. We must realize that Germany is a part of an international economy. There are those who tell us that democracy should be established in Germany. But those who say that fail to realize that democracy has not yet been established in Australia. It may he said that we have in this country a parliamentary democracy, but Germany also has had that. The party which honorable senators opposite support - the party of the appeasers - is the same party that helped to overthrow parliamentary democracy in Germany. There was a time when we heard a good deal about the need for a. “ new order “, but what kind of a “ new order “ was advocated last night in the House of Representatives by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) ? He said that when our fighting men have beaten the Japanese the prospect before them was harder work and more working hours each day. The honorable gentleman should have been prevented from making such a statement, because it was so detrimental to Australia. One thing that we must do is to refrain from referring to southern Europeans as “ dagos “, and to people from the north of Europe as “ squareheads “. Some time ago the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) spoke in similar terms. I heartily agreed with what he said. I am not afraid to draw attention to the policy of the Labour party, or to discuss any of the planks of its platform. The Labour party does not believe in untrammelled private enterprise. If private enterprise were what the Opposition says it is, why is not private enterprise controlling our war activities? When its property is at stake, private enterprise will back up the war effort of the Government and encourage the nation’s fighting men; but when the war is over private enterprise will demand that those men shall come back to the same conditions as existed before the war. It is the Labour party’s job to see that such a demand is not given effect. The reason why I am in favour of fighting this war to a conclusion is that we have in this country certain democratic institutions, such as the Parliament, and the trade union movement, and that I believe that the existence of these institutions in our midst may help us to give effect to the policy of the Labour party. Honorable senators opposite are not fighting this war in order to destroy fascism. Indeed, one member of this Parliament said that he would rather have Hitler than some leading trade unionists. In this war the Labour party is fighting fascism : it is not fighting for any glorified imperialism. The fundamental difference between the Labour party and the Opposition is that the former says that the needs of the people must come first and that profits must be a secondary consideration, whereas the Opposition reverses that order. Is there anything wrong with the aim of the Labour party ? I challenge any one to show that any great thing has ever been done when profit has been the main motive. I ask honorable members to think of Einstein, Darwin, Shakespeare, Burns, Shelley, Chopin, even Jesus Christ - I speak with all reverence - or Mohammed, Buddha, or any other saint, and if they can point to any person who, with profit as his motive, has done anything great for humanity, I shall resume my seat. I am sick and tired of listening to what has been accomplished by profit-seekers. Profit has brought the world into a state of chaos; profit has set one-half of the human race trying to annihilate the other half. It is our job to see that we are not fighting a war for unworthy purposes; we must put profit into the background and consider only the needs of the people. Is there anything wrong with a policy like that? The Labour party has never had a real opportunity to do anything really worth while for humanity. The Leader of the Opposition said that socialism had been tried and had failed. I say that socialism has never been tried. I do not accept the Russian situation as the best solution of the world’s problems. I have never been a strong supporter of Stalin; but there are certain aspects of socialism in Russia, such as the non-existence of landlords and of private ownership of the means of production, which I admit have been of great advantage to Russia. The capitalist system is full of contradictions. Under it the tendency is for each man to seek only his own advantage. That was the trouble with the recent referendum; instead of seeking the advantage of the nation as a whole, people said, “ How will I be affected ?” I regard the defeat of the referendum proposals as a tragedy. Australia will have to enter into international commitments with other nations; already there have been discussions about a monetary agreement. I do not know what that agreement entails, but it may result in persons outside this country dictating to us. It is our job to see that that does not happen. Under the capitalist system of society dictatorship by those who have the power is our lot, because force is in control and force is the policy. Honorable senators opposite say that the objective of the Labour party is nationalization, including the nationalization of the coal mines. Why not? The land should belong to the people. What right has any person to say that coal shall be produced for the nation’s war effort only if profits be made out of it? The only thing wrong with Hitlerism is that it organized society for wrong purposes. I favour organization and discipline for the benefit of the people as a whole. It is the duty of the Labour party to take its courage in its hands, and to say that it is opposed to untrammelled capitalism.. The ques-. tion of how far production shall be for profit moist be determined before there can be any real peace. We are told that costs must he reduced, but the people of Argentina, Britain and other countries are being told the same thing. The more costs are reduced the greater will be the surplus production, because every country that reduces costs will have a surplus. Australia’s home market is another country’s foreign market. People are hungry, not because there is too little food for them, but because there is too much. Some people talk as though capital were sacrosanct. Why should it be sacrosanct ? The extraordinary thing is that in other spheres of science people reason one way, whereas in sociology they reason in an entirely different way. In all life there is birth, growth and decay; but those laws are not supposed to apply to capitalism. We are told that capitalism must be given another chance. It has had a fair trial and it has ‘been a great system. Crises in society arise out of natural causes. When a person is young he may get a slight cough, but his powers of disintegration are not so great as are his powers of cohesion, and so he throws off the trouble. Later, he finds that something else is the matter with him. That trouble, too, he throws off; but as he gets older it takes him longer to throw off each succeeding attack. Gradually his power of resistance decreases and, eventually, he ceases to exist ; because the power of disintegration is greater than the power of cohesion. That is the position in the sociological field - the power of disintegration, of capitalism is greater than its power of cohesion. It is useless to say that capitalism was a great system. I know it was. It has helped us to fly from Australia to England in three or four days. It has helped to evolve machines that were undreamed of by past generations. But we have erred in that the sum total of the scientific energy of man- has been used to produce machines which have been used solely by private individuals for the purpose of profit. We have no organization of the means ‘ of distribution. Socialism will provide for that deficiency. The masses of the people must realize that the next step in human evolution is the solution of the problem of distribution. To-day, approximately 750,000 of our men are in the fighting services; and 75 per cent, of our total economy is associated with the war. Thus capitalism has solved the problem of production and distribution by war ! Every one is better off to-day than during the depression, when we had no soldiers and there was no war. What a lovely state of affairs ! What an indictment of capitalism ! All of our people can be provided with work only in time of war. Only when there is a war, when we send our loved ones to the battle front to be slaughtered, can our men at home get a job. Under capitalism, it is war and work or peace and starvation. That is all that capitalism can show for itself since the days of the Sudan war. Capitalism has been down again and again and its supporters are now trying to rebuild it. It is the duty of those in the Labour movement to see that capitalism is not rebuilt ; and even should the penalty of declaring oneself to -be a socialist be the loss of his seat in Parliament, I am prepared to declare from the house-tops that I am a socialist. In that I am supported by science, common sense and humanity; and I know that the future is with me. I hope that as the Labor party progresses through the next few years it will systematically introduce its programme to save any individual from being in the position where, in the words of Burns, “He will beg a brother of the earth to give him leave to toil “. It is most astounding to me how objective conditions can exist which are easy for all te understand, while, at the same time, so many people fail to understand them. One of the reasons is that under capitalism the means of propaganda - the press - is in the hands of those who control the livelihood of the masses. If the Labour party does not intend to substitute unrestricted production for profit for production for the benefit of the people, the party has no real mission. That is my mission; and I believe that it is the mission of the Labour movement. Therefore, I hope that the Labour par.ty will as soon as possible endeavour to put that part of its platform into operation.
.- We have just listened to a tirade against capitalism. Senator Grant might have used for the text of his sermon, “ Profit is Criminal “. The relative merits of working for profit and working for need are best reflected in Russia’s experience during the period of its first five-year plan. In that period the Russian people were working for the nation and not for profit, and at that time millions in that country starved. In those nations where profit is the incentive for people to go forward, as they have gone forward, we see proof of the fact that were we ‘living in a society to-day where there was no incentive to work for profit, we should not have survived the present struggle. To-day, all profit is governed ; the Government takes all excess profits in the form, of taxes. I again recommend Senator Grant, to study Russia’s experience during the period of its first five-year plan. If hedoes so he will learn that it is wiser for a people to work for profit than solely for their needs. To-day, a. man in Russia is allowed to retain what he earns; he is working for profit. In a small way he has become a capitalist; and that is the main reason for Russia’s success in the wai-.
At this juncture, I shall no,t speak at very great length, because I intend to postpone my observations on certain matters until the Appropriation Bill is before us. I have no fault to find with the budget. It is extremely good so far as it goes ; and I have no hesitation in giving credit where credit is due. The principal reform indicated in the budget is the Government’s intention to allow tax concessions in respect of deferred maintenance. Up to date, a taxpayer has been paying tax on the .amount which he would have expended ordinarily on repairs to his plant and property. That rate of tax in very high, rising in some cases to 10s. in the fi. Under the Government’s proposal such a taxpayer will now be enabled to keep his property and plant in something like fair condition. 1 wish to draw particular attention to a movement which will create very grave injustice to a section of the community with which, I am sure, Senator Grant has no sympathy. I refer to land settlement. I take it that land settlement is n function of State Governments. Victoria has already passed legislation which will enable the State Government compulsorily to resume land required for soldier settlement. In my view it is the duty of the State to carry out land settlement, whilst it is the duty of the Commonwealth, which has now taken over the whole of the taxation machinery, to provide the money required toy the States to carry out such schemes. I hope that the forthcoming Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers will arrive at some arrangement on this matter. The Victorian Government, under the legislation it passed recently, is enabled to resume land compulsorily down to a productive value of £3,000 on the basis of productive values in 1939. The Commonwealth Government could not resume land under the same conditions for the simple reason that it would have to pay a just price for the land. The point I emphasize is that as soon as a property is compulsorily resumed, the owner, or occupier, must sell the whole of his stock. That is where the hardship will arise. Take, for instance, a property of 6,000 acres. I understand from a statement made by the Premier of Victoria that 90 estates in Victoria will be compulsorily resumed under the State Government’s land settlement proposals. I assume that the average area of those estates is at least 6,000 acres, and that on each property there are about 6,000 sheep. Those sheep will stand in the books of the owner of the property at anything from 2s. to 10s. a head, 2s. being the minimum valuation at which an -owner can take natural increase on to his books, and 10s. the maximum. Let us suppose that the 6,000 sheep on a given property are shown in the owner’s books at 10s. a head. Should the property be a leasehold, the holder will have occupation for perhaps only a further year or two years. .Supposing those sheep are sold at 30s. a head. That will yield to the owner an income of £9,000. From that sum must be deducted the book value at the rate of 10s. a head, namely, £3,000, and he thus has forced upon him a taxable income of £6,000. He has already sold in November and December of the previous year his wool ‘ and aged sheep, which returned a net income of £3,000, and on his income of £9,000, which has been forced upon him owing to the forced sale of his property, he has to pay income tax amounting to £7,230. Thus” the Government will, in effect, take possession of every sheep, and, in addition, over £500 in order to pay the owner’s liability. Should the taxpayer only lease the property he may have on those 6,000 sheep an overdraft from pastoral companies, or a bank, of £2,000. In this case his position is as follows : - Assets, nil, and a liability to the Government of £832! Surely the Government will not allow that sort of thing to happen. A man in those circumstances would think that he was worth £12,000, less his tax liability on £3,000. If averaging of income is adopted, a slight reduction would be made in this amount. Should the property be a leasehold, as is commonly the case in Queensland and New South Wales, the Government will thus take every shilling from him and leave him stranded.
– What the honorable senator mentions has not happened yet?
– No, but some provision will have to be made in order to prevent men in the circumstances I have described from being ruined.
– I agree with the honorable senator.
– I hope that the Government will take into consideration what exactly is likely to happen in cases of the kind I have just described. Many settlers in the district in which I reside have already had their land valued, and they are distressed because they believe that the State intends to take over their properties. If a man whose land is resumed were able to lease another property on which to place his stock, his position would not be so difficult, but he is unable to do that. He is rendered helpless because of the compulsory sale of his stock.
– I shall have that matter looked into.
– The forthcoming Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers is to consider closer settlement. I believe in closer settlement, but I hope that future schemes will not be carried out along the lines of those undertaken after the last war. After the last war, I valued many properties for the Victorian Government for purposes of soldier settlement, but neither my valuations nor recommendations were accepted. I addressed many meetings of returned soldiers who were prospective settlers, and I advised them not to buy land under any conditions at £60 an acre. In some of the schemes undertaken after the last war many soldiers bought land at that price when the carrying capacity was one cow to 2 acres, making the value of a cow for dairying purposes £120. At that time, the price of butter was 2s. 6d. a lb., and that fact led the Government to run amuck with land settlement schemes. I advised many returned soldiers to purchase land at £5 an acre, and to go in for sheep, because on such a proposition they would probably have a chance of improving the land and making a living. In any scheme of land settlement, the first essential is the provision of payable markets. This is where the Commonwealth Government will come into the picture when the States embark upon such schemes. It will be the duty of the Commonwealth Government to associate itself with such schemes in order to see that market conditions do not force settlers off their holdings.
– That is why the Government asked for powers in respect of marketing at the recent referendum.
– I believe that the main reason why the Government’s referendum proposals were defeated in the country districts was because the power it sought in respect of marketing was subject to the passage of legislation by the respective States. Primary products were specifically exempted. Had the Government sought that power straight out instead of making the exercise of such power conditional upon the passage of legislation by the States, its referendum proposals would have had a much greater chance of success. After the last war in Victoria soldier settlers started mixed farming, and the Government guaranteed to the machinery people payment for their machinery. Agents were sent out, and the men who had gone on the land bought machinery right and left, which was quite unsuitable for them, and the Government paid for it. I hope that this time the men will have to pay for their own machinery. If they do, I undertake to say that very little of itwill be bought. I can instance one man who took up 400 acres and said, “ It will be a pretty clever man that will sell me anything but a wheelbarrow and a spade “. He was a returned soldier, and is now making a clear profit of £1,000 a year from his ground, but all he has is just a few tools around the house. Others who paid £1,000 for a tractor and header, and large sums for other machinery, have to-day practically the whole of it idle. Local committees should be set up consisting of experienced farmers who know local conditions, and should have the right to veto any purchases of stock -machinery or anything else made by the men on the land. If the right men are chosen to form these committees they will be very much better than the inspectors whom the Government placed in charge of soldier settlement last time. These were for the most part theoretical men brought from offices, who knew nothing about land settlement.
I am certain that land settlement can be made successful if carried out on proper lines. It is not right to allow a man who goes on the land to purchase and sell sheep. A man who deals in sheep had better go to Flemington and bet on the races for he is simply pitting his wits against somebody else who knows the business, and is bound to fail. The man who breeds and sells his own sheep, however, gets the full value for the whole of them. I have not purchased any sheep for twenty years. Good seasons plus plenty of grass and credit have ruined many a man. The man. who is tempted to buy surplus stock to eat off a good season’s grass is looking, for trouble. If he can store good grass for future use, he will make money. I hope that the conference which is to be held shortly will be most successful.
Care must be taken in choosing the men to go on the land, and also in choosing the land for closer settlement. A man should know the land and be fit to go on it before he is placed on it. Last time men chose blocks from plans without having ever been within 100 miles of the place. A man to be a successful farmer nowadays must be a scientist. He must be a veterinary surgeon and also an expert accountant to fill in the returns which he has to send to the different departments about his property. He must know local conditions which, of course, vary, and he must have a knowledge of stock and of farming methods. Irrigation will be one of the essentials of closer settlement. I notice that it is proposed to increase the height of the Hume Reservoir to raise the capacity to 2,000,000 acre feet. It is now 1,250,000 acre feet. The proposal to increase it is entirely wrong. My authority is the best engineer that Victoria ever had in regard to water conservation. The Hulme Reservoir should be allowed to remain where it is, and another weir should be erected up the river above Tallangatta. That would provide another 250,000 to 300,000 acre feet, and its cost would be saved by preventing Tallangatta from being submerged. The roads, railways and bridges also could remain, and the town would not have to be removed. All the country between Hume and Tallangatta could be used. If the capacity of the Hume Reservoir were increased as proposed, it would be necessary to increase the height of almost a mile of earthworks stretching out into Victoria, which might break away and flood the town of Albury. Besides a weir above Tallangatta, another weir or two, each of 250,000 acre feet could be built up the river. These should be built when required, and in that way provide the 2,000,000 acre feet suggested. The cost would not be as great as the Hume proposal, and as the water level would be dropped at three points, the electricity supply could be increased, and the early catchments of silt would prevent the Hume Reservoir from silting up unduly. The reservoir and the first, second and third weirs that I suggest would probably provide sufficient water to meet the demand for years.
More ground has been submerged by the water in the Hume Reservoir than has been irrigated from it to date. All the water taken off has been from Yarrawonga weir. It is true that the work that has been done has resulted in filling the Murray as far as the mouth, but in the not-far-distant future big irrigation schemes will be started- in New South Wales and Victoria, and the 2,000,000 acre feet will be necessary, but I advise honorable senators not to accept the Government’s proposal to increase the size of the Hume Reservoir. Additional water should be stored in the poorer country up the river, where the land which would be submerged would be of very little value. I am prepared to give the Government the name of the engineer who advised me. When I was Minister for Works and Railways, he gave me the figures which I have just quoted. A commission was appointed at the time to investigate the cost of the Hume Reservoir, which had risen from £3,000,000 to £7,000,000. I assure the Leader of the Senate that the report of that body is well worth studying, and the evidence of that engineer, who is still living, is most valuable.
A good deal has been said about wheat. I did not know that it was being discussed in the House of Representatives to-day, but I do know that the wheat position is exceedingly serious, much more so than most people imagine. Much of the trouble has been brought about by the Government. Stocks on hand to-day, unsold, total 106,000,000 bushels. The total yield for the present year on the latest estimate will be 63,000,000 bushels, making a total of 169,000,000 bushels. The average yield for the last ten years was 178,000,000 bushels, so that the stock in hand and the whole of the yield for this year in all the States will provide a smaller quantity than in any year in the last ten years. The latest estimate I have seen is: Queensland, 6,000,000 bushels, New South Wales, 25 000,000 bushels, Victoria 6,000,000 bushels,
South Australia 12,000,000 bushels, and Western Australia 14,000,000 bushels. Home consumption will absorb 35,000,000 bushels, seed for 13,000,000 acres 1.4,000,000 bushels, poultry and stock feed at the present rate of consumption, according to the department’s own figures, 45,000,000 bushels, making a total of 94,000,000 bushels, leaving only 74,000,000 bushels for sale. Consumption, on that basis, is only starting, because a drought does not happen in the springtime, but during the summer and autumn. The quantity of feed for stock to-day will therefore largely increase in the doming months. We are using for feed at present 1,000,000 bushels a. week, which comes out of our reserve stock. We are also using 750,000 bushels a week for human consumption, so that at that rate our reserve stock will not last very long. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said -
Although the wheat stabilization plan provided for the planting of up to 13,000,000 acres of wheat, farmers had been able to plant little more than half that area.
Production this season will be the lowest I can remember. It means about 8,000,000 acres will be used in the production of wheat and 11 per cent, of that will be cut for hay. In a season like the present a great deal more than 11 per cent, will be cut .for hay, because many farmers will have to save their stock and to do so will out what little they have for hay instead of stripping it for wheat.
What I envisage is that the Government will immediately stop the sale of wheat for overseas. That will be the next step. I am certain that the Government will do it, and if it does the wheat-grower will have to take a maximum of 4s. a bushel for his wheat, while the grower with 3,000 bushels and over will get 3s. a bushel. I can then see the wheat-growers going to the High Court and obtaining a judgment, as was done by the growers of blue peas, because they will submit that if their wheat is taken from them .it 4s. a bushel they are not getting just terms, seeing that the market value is 6s. ti1, and 7s. a bushel. If they do approach the Court, there is no doubt that they will win. Much of this has been brought about by the action of the Government. It astounds me to find that practically all those on the Government side of the Chamber who opposed the restriction of production when a previous Government introduced it, are now supporting it. They have turned a complete somersault, and are restricting production themselves.
– That is because of the fertilizer position.
– I hoped that the Minister would raise that point. The Government restricts production by issuing a licence to a man to grow wheat on a certain area. It will not allow him to grow wheat on land which would produce excellent crops without superphosphate. I have land that will do that, but I am not. allowed to grow wheat on that land. That state of affairs prevails throughout Victoria. If the Government did not restrict production by tying a man up to one area, farmers could have grown wheat where they liked, and there would have been 13,000,000 acres under wheat to-day instead of 8,000,000. The position to-day will be what I call a black market in reverse-. Farmers who would bc getting at least 6s. for most of their wheat are to be forced to take 4s. a bushel.
– How many bushels would they have sold?
– There are 30,000,000 bushels of wheat waiting to be shipped. Millions of people are dying of starvation in India, and it would be better that millions of bushels of wheat had gone to waste than that millions of lives should be lost. The genuine wheatfarmer who grew over 3,000 bushels is the man who has been hit, and has gone out of production because the Government made it unprofitable for him to produce. The most profitable “wheat-growing” to-day that I know of is that of the man who receives 12s. an acre not to grow wheat on land which is worth £2 an acre. Over £500,000 has had to be raised to pay those farmers 12s. an acre to sit down and look at their land lying idle.
– They cannot grow wheat on that land without fertilizers.
– The Government does not allow them to grow it. Its action in paying men not to grow wheat is criminal. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLea.y) said that wheat is bought for 3s. 4d. a bushel for pig feed, and at os. 2d. a bushel for converting into flour. The honorable senator’s figures do not coincide with mine, because I can buy wheat at 3s. 4d. a bushel at sidings for stock food purposes. I do not know who gets the difference between the 3s. 4d. and the 6s. 6d. a bushel for overseas wheat. Personally, I do not grow wheat. There is the differentiation between wheat prices in New Zealand and other overseas countries and those in Australia. What is exported to New Zealand is sold at 4s. 6d. a bushel, compared with 5s. 2d. in this country. There is something radically wrong. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has attributed the decrease of wheat acreage to the shortage of superphosphate; but I ask the Leader of the Senate if he will impress upon Cabinet the necessity to wipe out wheat-growing licences. Let us license the wheat-growers if necessary, but wheat-growing should not be restricted to particular areas. The present system can only bring about a substantial reduction of wheat production. If the farmers were able to grow their quota wherever they pleased they could manage with very little superphosphate. For instance, with wheat .at 4s. a bushel, it could be grown profitably in the country around Ballarat, without superphosphate.
In conclusion, again. I impress upon the Government the necessity to deal fairly with those people whose land virtually is taken from them in taxes, whether they be leaseholders or owners whose properties are subject to .a mortgage of 60 per cent, or SO per cent, and to do away with the “ dog-collar “ restriction at present placed upon the growing of wheat.
Senator NICHOLLS (South Australia) pri.17]. - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) appears to be very perturbed because of the amount of bank credit that hps .been made available for the prosecution of the war. Apparently he believes that this is a step in the wrong direction. I disagree entirely with, that view. The actual amount of credit available in Australia to-day could be ascertained readily by a systematic and comprehensive survey of the whole of our resources; but any investigation of that kind must take into consideration the tremendous reservoir of man-power, materials, and services which is absolutely essential to provide adequately for the prosecution of the war. The balance between that reservoir and the real wealth of Australia, as measured in goods, must be utilized to the greatest possible degree in accordance with the policy of the Labour movement. For many years the cornerstone in the policy of the Labour party has been the nationalization, of banking, and in season and out of season, we have advocated that particular reform from thousands of public platforms throughout the Commonwealth, because we realize that the only alternative to Labour’s financial proposals is the perpetuation of the present system which has been responsible for this war. No doubt all honorable senators are fully cognizant of the fact that in the early months of the last war private banking institutions found the position beyond them. A depression similar to the one from- which this nation and almost every other country of the world emerged comparatively recently, seemed about to settle over our primary and secondary industries. The Commonwealth Bank undertook the stupendous task of financing our -wool and wheat crops, in addition to making funds .available for the prosecution of the war. On that occasion, the Commonwealth Bank provided many millions of pounds for purposes not constructive but destructive in character, and if money can be provided in these circumstances I see no reason why it cannot be provided also in peacetime when every £l of credit would be backed by our .primary and secondary products and by great public works. That, in the final analysis, is the real wealth of the Commonwealth. The £1 note is merely the medium of exchange. The present private ownership and control of our monetary system permits the restriction of credit by the greatest gang of international crooks the world has ever seen. It is upon these people that the responsibility for this war truly rests and the same may .be said of the last war. They are responsible also for world-wide social evils such as unemployment, poverty, and degradation. In the dark days of the depression it was most degrading for men, through no fault of their own, to be thrown out of employment and denied the right to earn a decent ‘living for themselves and their dependants. It was demoralizing for these men to have to stand by idly and see their loved ones make application to “silver-tailed “ charitable institutions, in our city, suburban, and country districts for left-off clothing. Not in any circumstances can we revert to that system. The first step in the right direction is to implement Labour’s financial proposals. When that has been done, every man and woman who is in employment to-day will be able to continue in employment and poverty will be practically eliminated from, our midst; but we cannot stop there, because it must be only too obvious to all concerned, that even in our so-called prosperous days, when every one who so desires is able to remain in constant employment, adequate provision is not made in the basic wage for the various disabilities which are more or less inevitable, and sooner or later must affect workers and their dependants. I refer mainly to the disabilities to be faced on the death of the breadwinner. Therefore, the adoption of Labour’s financial platform is merely a means to an end. Once it has been achieved, we can proceed immediately with the next step, namely, the socialization of key industries as the first move towards the complete socialization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. That goal could be reached easily by concerted action. Individually, we oan accomplish very little, but collectively with all sections of the working community united and prepared to pull their full weight, the outcome is a foregone conclusion. It can be only a question of time before Labour’s main objective, in its true sense, will be fully realized. One docs not require a college education to recognize the correct path that must be travelled to arrive at Labour’s objective. I was educated in the university of hard knocks; the university in which the great majority of the ‘workers and their dependants are being educated to-day. The principles of economics which have been brought home to us so forcibly in that university have bred such discontent in the hearts of the people, that at the last Commonwealth elections they revolted in no uncertain manner, and returned a Labour government with a majority in both Houses of the Parliament. It ia childish and ridiculous for any one to imagine that the Niemeyer policy with its 10 per cent, wage-cuts and scaling down of invalid and old-age pensions can, in any circumstances, deal with the abject position of the thousands of people throughout the Commonwealth who were unemployed during the last depression. The implementation of the Niemeyer policy only made the rich richer and the poor poorer. Those individuals who were fortunate enough to remain in employment during the depression had to slave to earn sufficient money to provide the necessaries of life for themselves and their families. They still had to eat the same kind of food, and, unfortunately, as Senator Grant reminded us, that was the kind that could be obtained in the ration queues, for approximately 5s. lOd. a week. They still wore the same kind of clothes and footwear and in a great majority of cases, that was the kind which had been cast off by more fortunate members of the community. All the time, vested interests - the same old vested interests which fight the workingclass anywhere and everywhere and at all times - had it in their power to sweat and starve the workers and to cast them aside like a useless glove as soon as their services proved unprofitable. Measures such as those advocated by Sir Otto Niemeyer were not remedies, but merely camouflage to fool and delude the working-classes and distract their attention from the only true solution of the problem- which, as I have said, is Labour’s real objective - the socialization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange; the social ownership and cultivation of the land; the social ownership of the mines, railways, ships, factories; and the establishment of an industrial civil service, a national army of industry to produce not only the necessaries of life but also the comforts and refinements of life in all the .abundance which has been made possible by science and machinery. That is the next great change. It is not merely desirable but is absolutely inevitable, and it will be brought about by concerted action just as soon as the working-classes all over the world become united.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the recent referendum campaign. At the conclusion of this war the care of service men and women will be a primary obligation upon this National Parliament. Many of them will need special training; many will need homes and equipment to re-establish them in civil life and business.
The result of the referendum is regrettable. The Leader of the Opposition and many members of his party spoke of industrial conscription with their tongue in their cheek. Imagine their party being interested in industrial conscription! It did everything possible during this war, as during the last war, to take men from their homes. It asked them to give their lives on the battlefields of Flanders, and sought to impose military conscription on the people. When that attempt was defeated by the vote of the electors at a referendum, that party said to the members of the fighting services, “Fight for us and we shall look after you when, you come back. If you are killed we shall care for your wives and children “. The servicemen on that occasion accepted the word of the Government of the day and went to the war. To the working classes in industry, an anti-Labour government said, “ Return us to power and we shall maintain your wages and working conditions in accordance with the determinations of the Arbitration Court “. Those men helped to return that Government to power. To the vested interests the Government said, “ Lend us ‘your money se that we may win the war and make this a country for contented people to live in “. It should be noted that the vested interests did not take the word of the Government. They lent their money, but received a written contract. There were thus three contracts. The first two of them were only verbal, and have gone by the board years ago, but the third contract, which, was in writing and was made with vested interests, is still in existence to-day. At the outbreak of the present war, interest with regard to the national debt was piling up at the rate of £110 a minute, £6,600 an hour, about £158,000 a day, or considerably more than £1,000,000 a week ! Whether we like it or not, that was the magnificent legacy which the people of Australia were compelled to hand down to children not then born.
Last year about £554,000,000 was provided for the purpose of prosecuting the war; but only a few years ago, when Parliament was ‘asked to provide about £31,000,000 for the purpose of getting the unemployed back into production, a squeal of repudiation arose from vested interests, who said to the people of Australia, “ What will they think of you in London, and what will Sir Otto Niemeyer think? On that occasion vested interests overseas should have assisted in, carrying the financial burden of the Commonwealth. Let us consider whether those interests have ever been guilty of repudiation. Not many years ago, intense competition occurred in the wheat markets of the world. Did those vested interests then say, “ We cannot repudiate Australia. We remember all those fine soldiers which Australia had sent over here, and we also know that a great deal of the wheat Australia is now offering for sale was grown by those soldiers “ ? Did they, on that occasion, buy Australian wheat? Not at all. They bought all the wheat that they could get from Russia, and to Australia they said, in the words of Sir Otto Niemeyer, “You can stew in your own juice”. That was a patriotic message to send to the people of Australia through their representative, Sir Otto Niemeyer, the perambulating bailiff of vested interests.
The Leader of the Opposition is somewhat perturbed at the amount of bank credit made available last year for the prosecution of the war. In 1941, he and his party opposed the return to Australia from overseas of the Australian Imperial Force, for’ the defence of this country. That was done in Australia’s darkest hour. The Japanese were moving southwards at a rate almost bewildering in its rapidity, and we called upon the
United States of America for assistance. That assistance was not only forthcoming, but it came in. time as a result of a direct appeal by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who undoubtedly saved this country. Honorable senators can readily visualize what would have happened to Australia had that appeal not been responded to promptly at that particular time. Australia was being defended through an outer screen extending through New Guinea, the southern Solomons, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia and Fiji. It was realized that, if the eastern part of that screen could he held, the eastern portion of Australia could be defended from the Owen Stanley range in New Guinea. Surely it was preferable to keep the eastern part of Australia inviolate ‘by keeping the enemy at arm’s length, rather than permit him to gain a foothold in this country. A similar position arose in regard to the northern and western parts of Australia, when it was realized that the ‘battle would have to be fought in Timor and the adjacent islands, because those islands are situated in the South-West Pacific Area and are absolutely essential for our defence if we are to hold Australia. Further, because -of the very nature of the set-up of the continent of Australia, it becomes in fact a series of military isles, and the movement of troops and equipment from, one isle to another created grievous transport problems, all of which made mobility a matter of extreme difficulty. At that time, Japanese planes were continually operating over Darwin. Reconnaissances had been made over Sydney and Brisbane, and the Japanese were awaiting an opportunity to invade this country. The Commonwealth Labour Government took a realistic view of the situation, and, as the result of its action, Australia’s position to-day is much stronger and brighter than in the dark days of 1941. The Japanese are now receding farther and farther from the shores of this country, and the promised “new order” is also getting farther away ; but those who were incapable of organizing the nation for war now come out of their fox-holes and are doing everything possible to revive the very system that was responsible for the war - a system which results in poverty in the midst of plenty. I repeat that the
Labour Government, with an absolute majority in both branches of the Legislature, will proceed at every opportunity to implement its policy in globo, keeping in mind that the only way to solve the problems of the working classes to-day is to proceed to the objective of the Labour movement - socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange.
.- The reply by the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) to my question with regard to war pensions being considered as an asset when determining financial assistance under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act was not satisfactory. The Minister said that his predecessor in the House of Representatives on the 30th March last promised, before a division was called for, that he would ask the Cabinet to reconsider the matter.
– The Minister asked the House to give him an opportunity, but the House itself decided the matter.
– The motion to exempt war pensions when calculating income was defeated on party lines. The consequence was that the vital principle of keeping soldiers’ pensions sacrosanct was not observed. The Government knew full well that a mistake had been made, and therefore should have accepted the motion, or postponed the matter for further consideration. On behalf of war pensioners who may at some future date seek assistance under that act, I again ask the Minister to take the matter to Cabinet before the measure comes into operation on the 1st January next.
I venture to say that, of the 72,442 war pensioners of the 1914-18 war, and 15,576 of this war, about 50 per cent, will not need to seek assistance under this act. These figures are official up to the 30th April last. Before peace is declared, the number of service personnel returned from this war will probably be doubled Roughly speaking, about 50,000 exservicemen will be penalized by the Government disregarding the timehonoured policy of not taking into account war pensions. These payments are in the nature of compensation for injuries received in the protection of this country. A soldier pensioner receives under the act, as it now stands, less consideration than an alien with one year’s residental qualification. I ask the Government to he fair to these men and amend the definition of “ Income “ before the 1st January next. It is of no use to argue that pensioners receive medical attention through the Repatriation Department. That is not the point at issue. What is considered unjust is the weekly amount each will receive after taking into consideration the ex-soldier’s assets. A war pension has never been considered as an asset. It is exempt from income tax and cannot be garnisheed for debt. 1 desire now to bring to the notice of the Government a matter which is causing much concern to driedfruitgrowers throughout Australia, many of whom are repatriated soldiers of the 1914-18 war. After struggling for 24 years they had, on the outbreak of the present war, hopes of liquidating their debts, but, owing to the lack of materials and man-power in the war years, their assets have deteriorated through their inability to continue proper standards of maintenance of vineyards. It is true that, irrespective of some assets, a low depreciation allowance is provided for in connexion with income tax assessments, but growers are becoming alarmed at the mounting costs which they will have to meet in the post-war period, to bring to the pre-war standard other assets which are excluded from that depreciation allowance. It is admitted that favorable prices have been received, both locally aud overseas, under agreement with the British Government; but when peace returns and other countries, which also produce dried fruits, resume production there will be keen competition in the world’s markets. In order to maintain the high standard of their products in the post-war years, Austraiian growers will need every assistance that the Government can give to meet deferred maintenance. Growers are not seeking direct financial assistance; they merely desire that in determining taxable income provision be made for deferred maintenance of their assets. Should that involve an alteration of the present income tax law, a concession on the lines suggested would enable them to make a start as soon as materials and man-power are available, and thus bring their properties up to former standards. . These growers are not wealthy men. Other industries, I understand, are to receive income tax consideration whereby a reserve fund
Gan be established to meet post-war expenditure in replacing worn-out machinery with up-to-date plant and equipment. The assets on which little or no maintenance has been possible owing to lack of material and man-power are land, channels, drainage, vines, trellises, dip tanks, drying racks, and spraying implements and equipment. Of these, the land is the most important, and it has deteriorated to the greatest degree, owing to a shortage of fertilizers. In pre-war years the average application of artificial manure was 5 cwt. to the acre, whereas less than 2 cwt. an acre has been available in the present war years. As the cost is an allowable tax deduction, the grower now pays tax on money that he should be expending on fertilizers. Growers are also paying tax on the money which should be spent on repairs to channels. The same remarks apply to drainage which is essential to counteract seepage. Without adequatedrainage many acres of vines are lost. Vines suffer from lack of cultivation and fertilizers and labour required in. the pruning season to reconstitute the vines with new wood.
During the budget debate last year I made a plea on behalf of service pensioners, but twelve months have elapsed without any action being taken to amend the repatriation regulations in order to improve the living conditions of these “ burnt-out “ war veterans. The latest published figures show that 7,461 service personnel of the 3914L1S war and 94 of the present war arc receiving the service pension, which is given tx> those whose permanent unemployability is not traceable to war service. To qualify for such a pension a soldier must have served in a theatre of war and have an income of less than 39s. 6d. a week. The service pension, like the invalid and oldage pensions, is now static at a minimum of 27s. a week. That means that the ex-soldier can earn only 12s. 6d. a week. Should he earn more than that the pension is reduced so that the total payment will not exceed 39s. 6d. a week.
When legislation was passed in 1936 to grant the service pension it was never the intention, I am sure, to curtail the ex-soldier’s weekly earnings to that degree. There is no sense in preventing a man from earning a few shillings by doing work which serves to keep his mind occupied, and if the employer is willing to put up with him. The man is all ‘the better for working intermittently for a few hours each week.
Another grievance that these men have is in relation to the allowances payable to their wives. If married before the 2nd October, 1931, a wife receives 22s. a week, but if married after that date she receives nothing. The wife of a civilian invalid pensioner receives 15s. »a week irrespective of when the marriage took place. This is an anomaly which has been overlooked and requires adjustment.
A matter which is exercising the minds of those interested in the future of discharged soldiers is the problem of the man who is- discharged suffering from some form of nervous disorder. This is a question far above party politics. There ia an obligation upon every honorable senator to bring a searchlight to bear on the least suspicion that discharged ex-servicemen whose health is impaired by active service are not receiving the best treatment that the nation can give. I am loath to believe that the Repatriation Commission is unsympathetic. Generally speaking, the commission has done a good job in the past, but there is abundant evidence that something is lacking in the treatment of discharged men from this war who are suffering from nervous disorders. The chief complaints are the reluctance to regard any nervous catastrophe as being due to war service, and the assessment of the degree of incapacity when the nervous condition is accepted as due to war service. In the earlier stages of the present war the commission instructed the State branches to regard nervous diseases as being- similar to any other disease or disability from which a man might suffer. Now, when the percentage of nervous cases is mounting, principally as the result of the New Guinea campaign, there seems to be a departure from this policy and a general reluctance to regard neurosis as being war-caused.
It is difficult for a layman to dispute medical opinion, but, like lawyers, doctors do differ at times. Some doctors contend that, though a soldier may be discharged as being a handicap to his unit while the neurotic state exists, such a condition, after treatment, need not be a handicap in civil life. Others regard nervous disorders as an illness contracted On service, which impairs ‘the man’s nervous system and so causes him to suffer an incapacity when he returns to civil life. From what I have been able to gather, there is a tendency to regard an anxious or nervous state of mind as due to any cause rather than war service, notwithstanding, that it is part of our repatriation policy that the benefit of the doubt shall be given to an ailing soldier. What is the best way to restore temporary mental cases to normality so that they may take their place in economic life? That result certainly will not be attained by transferring them to a civil mental hospital, or by withholding a pension. Tha soldier patient soon (finds out where he is being treated, and eventually he becomes depressed. Thus his recovery is prolonged, more particularly if he finds out he is not entitled to a pension. The psychological effect of being in a non-soldier atmosphere, and without compensation for his services to his country, is depressing, and his condition deteriorates. But if accommodated in a special wing of a repatriation hospital, where he can see, during his spasmodic periods of normality, soldiers and a soldier’s uniform, the chances of recovery are much brighter. The amount of the pension is immaterial ; the fact that he has one is what matters. It can be withdrawn when his pre-war condition is restored. I hope that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) will see that all men suffering from neurotic illnesses are accommodated in or near repatriation hospitals, where constructive and effective treatment can be given. Such accommodation should be built now. Amongst the returned prisoners of war there will be many suffering mentally; no expense should stand in the way of restoring these unfortunate men to a normal state of mind.
It is pleasing to know that the Government is considering the payment of a war gratuity to members of the fighting services. The Treasurer’s suggestion that the matter should be referred to a parliamentary committee for investigation is a wise one. After the last war, the Hughes Government brought in a war gratuity bill to provide for the payment of1s. 6d. a day, irrespective of rank, for each day of service beyond Australia, and1s. a day for those who had enlisted for such service but had not embarked before the armistice on the 11th November, 1918. The legislation was assented to on the 30th April, 1920. The gratuity was paid in non-negotiable bonds, redeemable on or before the 31st May, 1924. In certain specific cases, cash instead of bonds was paid after investigation by a State committee. Persons with a dishonorable record were ineligible for the gratuity. The total sum paid to 330,011 claimants amounted to £27,515,000, including interest at 51/4 per cent.
Sitting suspended from 6 to8 p.m.
– Bearing in mind the decreased purchasing power of money since 1920, it is reasonable to expect an increase of the rate of war gratuity from1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. a day. In determining eligibility for the gratuity in respect of the war of 1914-18, there were few complications; but on this occasion the task will be much more difficult. One factor stands out prominently. The personnel who have served overseas, and in active operations against any of our enemies, must receive the full rate of 2s. 6d. a day. The question will at once be raised as to why the thousands who have enlisted for such service and have not had the opportunity of seeing active service should be debarred from receiving a gratuity. My answer is that the war is not over yet; these men will see plenty of service before Japan capitulates. The proposed parliamentary committee will have difficulty in assessing what rate, if any, should be paid to those on the full-time pay-roll of lines of communication units, garrison duty units, and other home-front personnel necessary for the maintenance of the three fighting services in the vicinity of and beyond Australia. For patriotic reasons thousands who enlisted for the duration of the war for service within Australia, are receiving less service pay than they received in their pre-war occupations. On the other hand, the personnel who have seen, or may yet see active service outside Australia, were prepared to give their lives in the performance of any duty assigned to them by their commanding officers. In modern warfare, those employed in supply and maintenance duties in a theatre of war are just as liable to become casualties as their comrades engaged in actual combat. Ministerial statements set the number of men and women enlisted or enrolled in the three services since the outbreak of war up to the 30th April, 1944, at 865,100 and 47,900 respectively. Of that number, only about 40 per cent, would qualify for a war gratuity under the conditions laid down after the last war. In other words, the number of eligibles in both wars would be about the same. Assuming the rate to be 2s. 6d. a day, the cost would be approximately £45,000,000. If Canada can be so generous as to provide £210,000,000 for this purpose, Australia can also be generous in showing some recognition beyond repatriation benefits for members of the fighting services. The service pay in both dominions is somewhat similar. A war gratuity is one way of helping servicemen to rehabilitate themselves. I commend the Government for its good intentions in this matter. Should the Treasurer be able to provide more than the amount I have mentioned, serious consideration might be given to providing some form of gratuity at a lower rate to members of specified home defence units.
.- The budget provides for an expenditure of £653,000,000. Naturally, in time of war we more or less expect high expenditure. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), who had something to say about the magnitude of the proposed expenditure, should realize that it is impossible to compare this Government’s war-time budgets with prewar budgets, none of which exceeded £100,000,000. Our war expenditure has rapidly increased. Furthermore, in making any such comparison the honorable senator should remember that in framing their budgets governments which he supported made no provision for the tens of thousands of unemployed. To-day, every employable person is at work, and the cost of supplying equipment for the fighting services is very high. Therefore, it is not difficult to Understand the magnitude of this budget. In addition to. providing for war expenditure, this Government is carrying out its pledge to the electors that it would increase social service benefits and improve existing benefits. The list of benefits now coming within this category include hospital benefits, tuberculosis pensions, invalid and old-age pensions, child endowment, widows’ pensions, unemployment and sickness benefits, pharmaceutical benefits and many others. Most of those benefits have been inaugurated since this Government assumed office, whilst it has considerably liberalized the remainder. The expenditure in this sphere is considerable, having regard to our current war expenditure. However, in establishing additional social benefits, this Government has been strenuously opposed by honorable senators opposite. Nevertheless, the Government persisted in its social service programme in order to give to the people tangible proof that they are not fighting in vain in the present conflict. They want a guarantee that after the war we shall not return to the old conditions. Before the war, a person who became ill was left to fend for himself without assistance from the Government, whilst those who lost their employment were merely given a dole. I do not think that the Government has yet gone far enough in this field, and should we fail to improve the existing benefits, although they are much more satisfactory than those provided when the Government assumed office, I shall be very disappointed. After an old-age pensioner has paid rent, very little is left out of the pension for the purchase of the necessaries of life. A few years ago a widow with two or three children was obliged to find full-time employment. In the battle thus confronting her she could not help neglecting her children, and her own health rapidly declined. Those conditions have now been alleviated to some degree, but we must provide still better conditions for widows. To-day I was given a reply to a question which I asked concerning a particular case of this kind. I do not blame the Minister in this matter, because he cannot override the law. I mentioned the case of a widow with one child who receives an income including a pension of £2 4s. 6d. a week. After paying £1 rent, she has £1 4s. 6d. left on which to keep herself and her child. That is the maximum income allowable including a pension. Should this woman earn above a certain amount her pension is reduced correspondingly. Therefore, she has no option but to stay at home and do the best she can on this pittance. Her only alternative is to find full-time employment, and, at the same time, neglect her child. However, in this case, as in very many others, this woman is not able to undertake full-time work. The point I wish to make is that, in such circumstances a widow should be allowed to undertake part-time work and to earn up to approximately the basic wage, without incurring a reduction of her pension. Much the same observation applies with respect to invalid pensioners who are not totally incapacitated. I am hopeful that in the very near future the Government will enable pensioners in all categories to earn up to approximately the basic wage, without incurring a reduction of their pension.
A substantial portion of the huge expenditure provided for in the budget, about which the Opposition has complained, is in respect of the stabilization of prices, and the payment of bounties to primary industries. Honorable senators opposite cannot have it both ways. They complain that the Government is giving away too much in the form of subsidies, but, at the same time, they claim that dairymen and other primary producers are in need of financial assistance from the Government because of unpayable market prices. One honorable senator declared that a price of from 4s. to 4s. 6d. a bushel was not a payable price for wheat. On previous occasions, honorable senators opposite said that many dairymen were abandoning the industry because they could not obtain payable prices for their products. I point out to them that on this occasion provision is being made for the payment of subsidies to the dairying industry amounting to £8,500,000, £7,500,000 ‘ being in respect of butter, and £1,000,000 in respect of milk. ‘ Provision is also being made to stabilize prices of goods to keep down the cost of living; the total expenditure proposed in this respect being £12,000,000. That provision compares more than favorably with the assistance given to primary producers by governments which honorable senators opposite supported. Therefore, they cannot fault this budget so far as such comparisons are concerned.’
Approximately 5,000,000 cases of apples will be unmarketable in Tasmania this year. In these circumstances, the Government should explore the possibilities of establishing more canning and evaporation factories in .that State for the processing of fruit for export. For some time I have been making representations to the Government along those lines, but without success. I was told officially that insufficient markets would be available for the disposal of the additional fruit processed. Surely, we should be able to prevent the waste of 5,000,000 cases of apples annually in Tasmania. I realize that in such matters the Minister is guided by experts who should know the position better than I do. However, I am convinced that a huge market for canned apples exists on the mainland. Some arrangement could be made with the Apple and Pear Board to dispose of more apples than are being handled at present, even if it meant only a few thousand more bushels. I am satisfied that the people, in my own State at any rate, could use many more than they can get at present. -No doubt that is true of the other States, but I know that transport is a problem. Still, there is room for the Minister in charge of the department to check up with the board to see whether many of the apples which are now going to waste could not be utilized. If that were done, the loss would probably be less than the £750,000 anticipated this year.
I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to make some concessions in taxation, such as the extra allowance for medical and dental expenses, and for children up to eighteen years of age who are still attending school and are wholly dependent upon their parents. I am glad that the primary producers are also to benefit from a considerable concession which is well warranted and long overdue. We- realize that the primary producers have not been able in the last few years of war to obtain sufficient fertilizers to keep their land in its previous good condition, or to keep their fences in order, because even if they could have got the material, they could not obtain the labour. In the meantime they have been paying a tax on some of their income which would otherwise have been spent on cultivating their properties, or maintaining improvements, and it is gratifying to know that the Government has made provision to relieve them of paying a certain amount of income tax.
– It is a form of postwar credit.
– Whatever the honorable senator likes to call it, it is deserved and I commend the Government for taking the step. I know properties which, owing to lack of fertilizers, have gone back to less than half their productive value, and this remission of income tax will give producers a chance to bring their properties back to normal with money which would otherwise have gone in taxation.
Senator Brand mentioned the necessity for paying a gratuity to the members of the fighting forces. There is nothing that we can do for them which is not well deserved. They have done a magnificent job during the war. One may complain now and then about some members of the forces holding certain official positions, but, taking them as a whole, the forces have done a great work, and when the war is over will certainly be entitled to some form of gratuity. The form which it will take will be well considered and will, I assure honorable senators opposite, be to the best advantage of those whom it is intended to benefit. I hope that it will be something substantial, which will give them a. chance to reestablish themselves in civil life. Many members of the forces have never followed a trade. Some were taken direct from schools or homes, and have been debarred from learning a trade. Therefore, a great deal will have to be done for every class of men in the forces in order to give them the opportunity which they have missed through no fault of their own. As we go on, we shall no doubt find that large sums of money will be required for various purposes. I disagree with the rate of interest which the banks are allowed to charge, and even with that which is being paid on loans. If the members of the forces are called upon to do the fighting to protect the wealth of others who have property from which they derive their incomes, then the least that those who have the wealth could do would be to lend it to the Government, I should say free of interest, for a term of years to enable the war to be prosecuted to a successful conclusion. They should even be called upon to lend their money free of interest to the Government to help to re-establish the members of the forces when they are demobilized. Something similar could be done with the money which the banks are able to lend out at interest. A substantial reduction should be made in the rates of interest charged for money by the banks and other financial institutions. The rate should be brought back to not more than- 1 per cent, or 2 per cent. - I should say 1 per cent, in most cases - because, after all, wealth is only produced from another man’s labour, and to charge interest on it is only to make a second profit on another man’s labour.
If the banking system were controlled, as I consider that it should be in the interests of the nation, there would be no difficulty at all in reducing the rate of interest to 1 per cent. When I say it should be controlled in the interests of the nation, I mean that it should be controlled under one bank, and not a multitude of banks. The bank which has the control should belong to the people, so that any profit which it produces would still belong to the people who own the bank, and not go to privileged persons.
– What is the position now?
– There is a multitude of banks, and the people who control them, with the exception of the Commonwealth Bank, are the privileged few. The Commonwealth Bank Act needs amendment to enable the Commonwealth Bank to be conducted in the interests of the nation. I hope that in the very near future amendments will be introduced into the Senate or the House of Repre sentatives to improve the people’s bank, and remedy the injustice caused a few years ago by the Bruce-Page Government.
– Tell us what the injustice was.
– An amendment which made the Commonwealth Bank a mere clearing house for private banks, and nobody knows that better than the honorable senator himself. I know that more use is- being made of that institution under National Security Regulations during the war, and that certain restrictions have been imposed on the private banks so that they do not exploit the people to the degree that they found possible in the pre-war days. Probably that is the point which is beginning to hurt the honorable senator. lft he wants to know who controls the private banks, I can tell him that they are controlled by the privileged few who own business monopolies.
– How many shareholders have they?
– The honorable senator can use his eyes to count them. He will find that they include not only local but international interests. If he reads Causes of the Slump he will be surprised to find how many international world combines there are, how they control the world’s banks, and also how the world’s banks controls him.
All past governments have paid tens of thousands of pounds every year to the daily press for advertisements, and the present Government is following their bad example. It is paying through the nose for every advertisement that it inserts in the press. A huge number appear every day all over Australia. The press is very biased and nobody knows it better than honorable senators opposite. I see no reason why the Government should not include in the Government Gazette, which is published weekly, all its own advertisements. This would comply with the law of the land, which requires that certain matters shall be advertised in the daily press or the Government Gazette. Every one would know where to look for all government advertisements, and the Gazette would find its way into every home in Australia. Important government statements could also appear in it if necessary. That method of advertising would save the Commonwealth Government tens of thousands of pounds. I once asked how much the Government expended in advertising loans, and the amount was astounding. Wherever one picks up a newspaper in Australia, he finds a number of government advertisements, which are paid for very dearly.
– Did the honorable senator put that suggestion before the Prime Minister?
– I am putting it before the National Parliament, not for a particular party, but for the nation. Some day the honorable senator may be able to put it into practice. If I suggest it in the party room it might not go any farther. I am making it publicly because I see no harm in the people of Australia knowing of it, and I want the idea to catch on. I do not believe in feeding the big fat press all the time with government funds to enable it to fight the Government at election times.
Many responsible jobs are being carried on in various parts of Australia, some by members of State Parliaments, which should be given in the interests of Australia to other responsible persons.
– Such as members of the Australian Labour party?
– I know positions held by members of State Parliaments which could very well be held by members of this Parliament, and the duties performed just as efficiently, it not more so. In addition to a considerable saving of expense, Commonwealth officers holding these positions would be more sympathetic to the Government’s policy, and would have a clearer understanding of what the Government, desired. In addition, the administration with which these people are charged, probably would be carried out with more justice. It is wrong that State members of Parliament should be carrying out Commonwealth work and drawing substantial remunerations in addition to their ‘ own parliamentary allowances. No doubt some of these men have to attend not only to their parliamentary duties, but also to committee work. How can they serve two, three or four masters, and at the same time, carry out their duties with justice to all concerned’?’ It is quite wrong that any
Commonwealth member of Parliament should be subordinate to a State member, or that a State member should have access to information which is not available to Commonwealth members. I am not asking specifically that these jobs be given to Commonwealth members of Parliament. My view is that the work should be carried by independent responsible officers. At present a State member engaged on this type of work may be receiving his parliamentary allowance of £500 or £700 a year, a fee for work on parliamentary committees, and in addition perhaps £750 a year from the Commonwealth Government, plus payment for out-of-pocket expenses, car allowance, &c. The public is opposed to individuals holding three or four positions, and. drawing payment for each of them.
In. conclusion I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) upon the introduction of this budget. I congratulate him also upon his success in introducing social reforms even in time of war. I am hopeful that in the near future the Government’s plan of social betterment will be further implemented and that the anomalies to which I have drawn attention will be adjusted. I trust that the Government will see its way clear to grant to invalid and old-age pensioners, and widows, a little more income to enable them to enjoy a higher standard of living than they have to-day.
– With Australia entering its sixth year of a most disastrous war, any Treasurer of the Commonwealth is to be congratulated, and I echo the commendatory remarks of Senator Aylett to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) upon the presentation of this budget. With war expenditure rapidly reaching £2,000,000 a day, a great strain is thrown upon the Treasury. It must be remembered, however, that there are also other people to whom congratulations are due. I refer to that patriotic body of large and small - mostly small - investors who have contributed so generously to war loans. The results of the successive loan campaigns have been marvellous. Those people who have shown their unbounded faith in the future of Australia by contributing willingly and generously to loan after loan are deserving of the highest praise for making the Treasurer’s task much easier than it would have been had they been unwilling to place their trust in the Government’s financial policy.
The amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) is appropriate because all possible care must be exercised in the expending of the funds so willingly and generously subscribed by the public. Today we must visualize not only the commitments of the financial year covered by this budget, because we shall have quite a number of victory loan campaigns after the present one has ended. It will be quite a lengthy period before the war ends and that period inevitably must be an expensive one. This Parliament will be called upon to ask the people of Australia on many occasions to be just as willing and as generous in contributing their money - and I do not mean idle money - -to war funds in order that the work of the Treasurer in preparing his budgets may be facilitated. Those public-spirited individuals who have contributed to loans in the past, and I am sure, will continue to contribute in the future, want an assurance that their money will be expended wisely. The ravages of war and the intricacies of war-time finance offer many loop-holes for unwise expenditure. That is something which it is quite impossible to check completely; but so long as the people have that assurance, and have confidence iii the Government, they will continue to subscribe to loans. Therefore, the Government must be more than careful in its handling of public money.
I congratulate the Treasurer also upon some of the improvements which he has effected in regard to taxation, especially those which I have been advocating in this chamber for a number of years. Notable amongst them is the decision to permit a tax deduction in respect of dental expenses. This is an important concession, . although the amount is small, especially to the family man who may be put to great expense for dental treatment for himself and his dependants. It is a step in the right direction, and I should like to see a similar concession in regard to payments for the services of- opticians. In some families, such expenses are very high, and at present no concessional allowance is made for them. Treatment by an optician may be just as essential to the health of a child or a parent as the services of a doctor or a dentist.
Also on the matter of concessional deductions, I should like some consideration given to assisting the parents of boys over the age of sixteen years, who are undergoing apprenticeship training. At present unless a child who has reached the age of sixteen years is continuing with full-time education, the tax-paying parent is not entitled to a concessional deduction. There are many people who cannot afford to keep their children at school beyond the age of fourteen or fifteen years, and they are deserving of some consideration. Lads who are undergoing apprenticeship training are still a financial burden upon their parents for perhaps two and a half or three years. For instance, engineering apprentices have to incur expense in the purchase of dungarees and other clothing. In addition, of course, there are laundry bills, travelling expenses and fees for technical education. I ask that the parents of these lads be given a concession similar to that enjoyed by more fortunately placed parents whose children can be kept at school until they are seventeen or eighteen years of age.
I am glad that Senator Gibson brought up the matter of the alarming decrease of, wheat production in this country. This is a matter which warrants, the immediate attention of the Government. The figures quoted by Senator Gibson gave a clear picture of the position. The present quota system must be abandoned or modified in some way in view of the substantial reduction in plantings in certain States. Western Australia, of course, has suffered a greater reduction than any other- State. If necessary the Government should make available increased supplies of fertilizers for wheat-growing areas where the soils are light. We have been informed- in various ways by government spokesmen that in the very near future Australia will play an even more important part in the Pacific war operations than is the case to-day. We have heard hints that in the not distant future, British servicemen will be quartered in Australia, and that this country will be the base for the drive against Japan. That, of course, would entail intensive organization for the supply of foodstuffs. If something is not done before the next harvest to increase plantings of wheat, this country may be in a most unfavorable position as regards the supply of food. In Western Australia there has been an acreage reduction of 33^ per cent. In some of the so-called marginal lands, certain areas have been excluded altogether from compensation although the rainfall in those areas is sometimes from 1-J to 2 inches more than it is in other marginal lands which are not excluded. In Western Australia we have ample opportunity to make up the leeway in the production of wheat by increasing next season’s plantings. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to this matter. Land settlement schemes for the benefit of ex-servicemen are being prepared by some of the State governments, and these will require careful preliminary organization. When the Commonwealth Government contemplates the introduction of schemes for the settlement of exservicemen on the land, I hope that it will not adopt fanciful socialist ideas.
This afternoon we heard dissertations on the objective of the Labour party. We have been regaled by them on many previous occasions, although perhaps not in quite such forceful language as today. The “ back room boys “ in the Labour party have been awaiting the time when the excuse for failure to implement the policy of the party could not be advanced that,- although a Labour Government was in power, it could not govern, because it lacked a majority in the Senate. That excuse has now disappeared, but I do not wish to witness the introduction of the fanciful socialist ideas of the Trades Hall group, particularly those relating to the settlement of soldiers on the land. The Lands Departments in the various States are quite capable of undertaking the preparatory work which such schemes involve. Even had the proposals of the Government at the recent referendum been accepted by the people, I cannot imagine that any Commonwealth Government would ride roughshod over the State Lands Departments, and inaugurate land settlement schemes without reference to the State officials. Judging by the references heard in this chamber to-day to the Labour party’s objective, the Government supporters may be toying with the idea of establishing collectivist farms on the Russian model; but I fear that the poor old “ digger “ will be the sufferer, if such schemes are introduced. I believe that some members of the Trades Hall group are itching to try out that principle. We have heard much of the alleged success of the collectivist farm principle in Russia, and many people in Australia sincerely believe that the Russian system should be adopted. I recall a conversation that I had with certain officials in Washington. Even there the opinion was held by some that a success could be made of collective farming in the United States of America. This was tried out in some of the States, chiefly at Penderlea, in North Carolina, and in Alabama, but the experiment was an inglorious failure. The Government could obtain a great deal of accurate statistical information on this matter by applying to the Farm Service Department at Washington.
– The system was tried in Victoria, and it proved a dismal failure.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Since the Victorian experiment a great deal of propaganda has been indulged in. regarding the alleged success of various ventures in collective farming in Russia, and I am afraid that members of the Trades Hall group, who are very fond of new ideas, especially Russian ones, may consider the present time most opportune to try out the collective principle in connexion with soldier land settlement. I should hate to see the “ digger “ become a pawn in any socialist game, particularly in the growing of primary produce.
During the depression in the United States of America, and particularly during the ten years period commencing in 1933, the Farm Service Department at. Washington helped no fewer than 950,000 farmers at a cost to the Treasury of approximately £200,000,000. That assistance was given to farmers who owned their own land, on the same basis as assistance is given to Australian farmers by means of agricultural bank advances.
The money is advanced on the farm assets and the personal equation of the farmer. Of that sum, 9a ner cent, was repaid as it fell due. No fewer than 400,000 families have paid their debts in full, and have trebled their food production. Under the United States of America scheme of collective farming on the Russian model, there were 197 such projects arid 15,500 farmers. One scheme in North Carolina comprised 105 farms, which, after ten years’ operation, showed that the cost to the nation had amounted to £7,500 a family, and all of that money had been lost. Another such scheme worked out at a loss of £5,000 a family. There are other schemes at Arthurdale in West Virginia, Skyline in Alabama, and Scuppernong Homesteads in North Carolina. Full information regarding those projects can be obtained from Washington, and I have referred to them merely in the hope that the Government, now that it has a majority in both branches of the legislature, will not be induced to experiment with land settlement for ex-servicemen on the collectivist model.
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, because it cannot be overemphasized that the greatest possible care should be taken in the expenditure of public money, particularly funds generously subscribed by the public in the various victory loan drives. To suggest that it is proper to expend money which was raised for war purposes on. any electoral campaign is wrong, and the Government is deserving of tha strongest censure for having so expended it. We were informed that the expenditure would not exceed £50,000, but I shall be greatly surprised if it was not double that sum, judging by the advertisements which were published, and the broadcast propaganda and mailing of pamphlets which was indulged in. I should think that the cost to the Government would be over £100,000.
– Does the honorable senator suggest dishonesty with regard to the figures supplied to him ?
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.They verged on being dishonest. I am complaining not so much of the figures, although they are important, as of the expenditure of any of the ‘taxpayer’s money at all on propaganda of that kind. Private individuals throughout Australia, who felt inclined to advocate the rejection of the Government’s proposals, did so at their own expense, as they were entitled to do. If the Trades Hall group considered it to be its duty to educate the people as to how they should vote at the referendum, and to urge an affirmative vote, it should have used its own funds for that purpose. It is about the wealthiest political campaigning agency that Australia has ever known. I remember that in 1930 when we were opposing the. greatest Labour Government of any Australian State - I refer to the Collier Government of Western Australia - our campaign expenditure was well under £1,000; but if I were asked what the trades hall group expended during that campaign I should say that it was little less than £20,000. That money came from the pocket3 of hardworking trade unionists in Western Australia who paid their dues in order to receive benefits, and did not expect that the money would be expended in political campaigns. If any body of people in this country can be charged with ‘having vested interests, it is the Trades Hall Group. I know of no wealthier political group in this country. If those in control of that body thought that it was their duty to enlighten the people regarding the recent referendum proposals they should have drawn on their own funds. It was not proper for the Government to expend in such a campaign the taxpayers’ money or to use for the purpose moneys contributed to war loans. No argument will convince me that the referendum campaign was in any way associated with Australia’s war effort. That is why I asked the Leader of the Senate if he .had any information from Western Australia that honorary secretaries of sub-branches who had helped to organize various war loans had resigned as a protest against what they regarded as the misuse of moneys which they- had helped to raise. The Leader of the -Senate said that he did not know that any of these men had resigned, but if he looks up the records he will find that some secretaries did resign as a- protest. 1 hope that the honorable gentleman will pursue the matter further and will get definite information about it. The amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the
Opposition is appropriate. The Government should take heed of what has been said, in order to avoid a repetition of this undesirable practice. “With this reservation, I congratulate the Treasurer on his efforts in connexion with this budget and I hope that the people of this country will continue to subscribe to government loans. During the recent referendum campaign I was asked what would happen if the people did not respond to the war loan appeals submitted to them, and whether in such an event the Government was likely to take steps to acquire their savings compulsorily. I told the people that there would be no alternative. I should not like to see arise a state of affairs in which a government, becauseof lack of confidence in it, would be forced to take steps to acquire compulsorily the savings of the people. For some time the deposits in savings banks throughout Australia have shown an increase; many people are using that means of preparing for the post-war period when ordinary commodities will have to be renewed. I should hate to see the time come when any government would be compelled to acquire compulsorily the savings of the people; and, therefore, I hope that the Government will refrain from any action which would destroy the confidence of the people, and cause them to cease to subscribe to war loans.
.- I can claim to be one of the Trades Hall group which Senator Allan MacDonald fears will do things which will adversely affect the economic equilibrium of this country. Before I took my seat in this chamber a few months ago, I resigned £rom the position of chief executive officer of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council with which I had been associated for a good many years, during which it had been my privilege to be actively associated with the trade unionists of this country, and to endeavour to implement the political ambitions and aspirations of a large section of the community. Over 50 years have passed since the industrial movement in Victoria decided to endeavour to obtain control of the political machinery of this country. At periods Labour has governed in Victoria and also in other States. Labour has also been in control in the Commonwealth sphere. No one will say that the result of the trade unionists of this country deciding to take political action has been other than of benefit to the people generally. The question now before us is most important. If anything would alarm me, it would be the fact that not only in this chamber, but also in the House of Representatives, members of the Opposition have been somewhat lavish in the praise bestowed on the Treasurer for the excellent budget which he has placed before the Parliament. After examining the document, I can understand how difficult it would be for the Opposition to find, fault with it, particularly in the light of the improved war situation. The budget of any nation is an important document, because it is not only a review of the previous year’s activities, but is also a forecast concerning the future. When I recall that the last budget to which I had an opportunity to refer in this chamber was for the raising of a sum of about £100,000,000, and that the Treasurer of the day, Mr. Menzies, drew attention to the fact that it was only during the period of the last Gladstone Government in the United Kingdom that an expenditure of £100,000,000 a year was contemplated, I can understand the great demand that is being made on the resources of this country. Last year, our total expenditure was £686,532,000 - a colossal sum for such a comparatively few people to raise. It is a matter for congratulation that the Government, which is faced with the responsibility of conducting a war, is able to present to this Parliament a statement which shows that it intends not only to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion, but also to set aside a considerable sum of money to provide social services for the people of Australia. There are indications that certain relaxations in respect of income tax are to be made. With those that are contemplated, I agree. As a Trades Hall representative, I can appreciate the fact that commercial interests and primary industries in this country have suffered as a result of shortage of man-power, and a scarcity of certain -materials. We can understand that certain capital works have been falling into disrepair, and that in the near future some renovations will have to be made, and that for that reason the Government has decided to grant relief to the section of the community concerned. We are mindful of the progress that has been made, and we know that immediately the war is over there will be a great demand on all sections of the people to engage in the work of rehabilitation. Accordingly, the budget makes provision for people to set aside sums of money for the renovation of their property. We also find that concessions are to be granted to other sections of taxpayers. The Government has given heed to suggestions that concessions should be made in respect of the family responsibilities of taxpayers. I am pleased to see that additional concessions are to be provided in respect of medical expenses and the cost of educating children over the age df sixteen years. These and other concessions will prove most helpful to taxpayers especially in view of the present high rate of tax. Because of the reduction of war expenditure, demands are already being’ made for other concessions. Honorable senators opposite have made suggestions of this kind, mentioning disabilities which they claim bear heavily upon certain sections. Whilst I welcome the concessions to be made, and whilst I should like to have seen other concessions granted, which 1 think could have been granted with safety, I should like to see relief given to those who’ subscribe to superannuation schemes, namely, Commonwealth and State public servants whose wages are fixed, and who, therefore, are not participating in the prosperity which has come to so many as the result of the Government’s vast war expenditure. I refer to all classes of taxpayers whose incomes are fixed, and to beneficiaries in respect of estates. To that type of taxpayer I should like to have seen some relief granted. However, I appreciate the difficulty confronting the Government in that respect. I hope that we shall be able to reduce our war expenditure substantially next year, and that the next budget presented to us will give a considerable reduction of income tax to those coming within the lower income groups. It was quite foreign to Trades Hall thought and Labour principles that those in the lower income groups should be taxed at all. However, because of the exigencies of the war, and in view of the dire peril confronting this country, that section of the community has submitted to taxation without grumbling. They have willingly borne that sacrifice because they appreciate the fact that, unless the United Nations win the war and we remain in control of Australia, their future would be very dark, indeed. However, as a parliament, we .should not exploit the readiness of that section to make such sacrifices, and as soon as possible we should grant relief to them.
Honorable senators opposite have referred to a number of other matters. I do not intend to deal at length with the remarks of Senator Gibson and Senator Allan MacDonald with regard to the wheat industry. That subject was discussed fully in the House of Representatives earlier to-day. One could almost foretell word for word the utterances of honorable senators when dealing with this matter. For many months past honorable senators opposite have been endeavouring to make political capital out of it. I have travelled extensively in Victoria, which produces a considerable quantity of wheat, but I have yet to hear a wheatfarmer complain regarding his position as a member of the community. On the contrary, I found them ready to express the’ opinion that the present Government in organizing the industry has given them invaluable aid. As a matter of fact,” they claim that they are now in the best position they have been in for many years, notwithstanding the fact that in the past they have had what some might think was a beneficial Government formed by a coalition of the Country party and the United Australia party.
– Why do the wheatfarmers say that they are better off now than they have ever been.
– They are more contented to-day simply because under the schemes organized by this Government they have at least an assured income.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the rise in world prices is mainly responsible for the improvement in the industry?
– The wheatfarmers appreciate that during the period when no market could be found for Australian wheat, and when no shipping was available even if such markets existed, the Scully plan meant their salvation. It enabled them to remain upon their farms whereas previously in not only Victoria, but also other States, under anti-Labour governments, wheat-farmers were abandoning the industry. In Victoria a considerable sum of public money was expended in an effort to adjust the farmers’ debts. They were in such a serious position that the Government had no alternative but to come to their rescue.. I know that the wheat-farmers do not ask for charity. They demand only a fair and reasonable price for the product of their labour. I know that they desire only that they should be given the same protection and the same benefits which the worker in secondary industry enjoys. This Government has planned its legislation to meet the needs of the farmer along those lines. Does the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) mean to suggest that the wheatfarmers are unmindful of the fact that when no market was available for Australian wheat this Government came to their assistance, not only by stabilizing prices, but also by granting concessions in respect of wheat sacks and fertilizers? Because, at the moment the Government is able to sell a small quantity of wheat to some countries at a price a little higher than the ruling price, they are not so ungrateful as to forget the real assistance given to them by this Government. Honorable senators opposite realize that as the result of the conditions which have existed in this industry over a long period of years the farmers are slowly but surely awakening to the fact that it is to the present Government that they must look for relief and succour. Many farmers are now becoming adherents of the movement which originated in the Trades Halls of this country. Honorable senators opposite are now attempting to make political capital out of a position which has developed temporarily. They declare, “ “We, the remnants of the Country party and the remnants of the United Australia party are the only people who can save the primary producers of this country from destruction “. I say definitely to Senator Gibson and Senator Allan MacDonald that the farmers will not be caught with such stuff as was “ put up “ by honorable senators opposite in this debate to-day.
– What did the primary producers say with respect to the Government referendum proposals?
– The farmers voted at the referendum like other , sections of the community. The referendum was defeated as the result of a vote of the whole community, but, at the same time, those who are making the greatest sacrifices on behalf of Australia, the men and women in the fighting services, declared in favour of the Government’s proposals. Certain primary producers voted against those proposals, and certain thick and thin adherents of the Labour movement did likewise, because they believed that as the war was moving away from this country some of the existing restrictions might possibly be lifted.
However, I believe that at the moment the swing of the pendulum is in the opposite direction, because already certain sections of primary producers are beginning to realize how they were tricked and hoaxed by the people who should have been their guides, philosophers and friends so far as the referendum was concerned. It was rather amusing were it not so tragic to read in the Melbourne press only a few days ago, that a gathering of primary producers in the Gippsland district strongly complained that certain workers had decided to leave that district and go to Shepparton. Those workers decided that instead of assisting the farmers in the Gippsland area to harvest their crops, they would move to the Shepparton district to assist the fruit growers. Those primary producers and workers were advised through advertisements published in all the newspapers to vote “ No “. Why ? - in order to preserve their inalienable rights to select the location in which they would sell their labour and the particular job at which they would work. However, to-day, when these rural workers in the Gippsland district act upon the advice thus tendered to them, by the Country party, primary producers in that district raise a hue and cry. The latter are now demanding that the Commonwealth Government use its power - the power that they were told would lead to all sorts of difficulty if granted to the Commonwealth, and inflict great hardship upon the people of this country - to prevent these men from leaving the district. They spoke about industrial conscription and to-day they clamour for the Government to exercise its rights and compel the workers to remain in a particular locality. That was the sort of propaganda that induced thousands of workers to vote against the referendum proposals. There has been a certain amount of prosperity, and men have in recent years been in full-time employment. The position is quite different from the time when I last discussed a budget in this chamber, and when we endeavoured to obtain £250,000 for the relief of the unemployed. I tried to debate the question on the adjournment one morning only to ‘be told by the present Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that I was only wasting my own time and the time of the Senate, because no money was available, and that, even if there had been, the Commonwealth Government had no authority to direct the States how they should spend it. Workers to-day are, as I say, in full-time employment. Possibly the men to whom I have referred were like the man who felt that prosperity was here for all time, and so decided’ that they ought not to be “ pushed about “. Honorable senators opposite misled the workers. I hear a chuckle from Senator Leckie, a gentleman who has exploited labour in. this country for quite a number of years. I do not say that of him personally or offensively, but he is one of that section of the community which is engaged in industry, and he and the rest of his type have always endeavoured to secure labour in the cheapest market. I understand that as an individual the honorable senator has not been a bad employer, but the industrial organization of which he is a member, the counterpart of the Trades Hall of which Senator Allan MacDonald is so afraid, has always desired cheap labour. It has always been anxious to have an army of labour on the outside of its factories, looking in for the job that is not there. The honorable senator and’ others opposite told the workers to vote “ No “, and to select their own jobs.
– And they took our advice.
– Unfortunately, and very foolishly, they did. Can the honorable senator or any one else on that side of the Chamber tell me when the workers of this or any other country have had the right to select their own places of employment, or to choose their own jobs? They never have had and never will have that right whilst the system of production for profit and not for use remains part of the economic set-up of this country. Howover, honorable senators told the tale, and it was accepted as true, but it will not be long before the workers appreciate that they have made » mistake in the same way as the primary producers are beginning to realize that they made a mistake. The primary producers who voted against the referendum proposals felt that, as the Government had been so successful in arranging trade agreements abroad for the purchase of their wool and other commodities, prosperity must be here for all time. I am afraid that immediately after the cessation of hostilities, when this Parliament loses the powers which were placed in its hands as the result of the war, and the producers have to fend for themselves, they will begin to appreciate that thus Government did something for them.
– It guaranteed prices to them.
– As the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) suggests, there is to be found in this budget a list of what the Government has done for the primary producers by guaranteeing them the security of stabilized prices, which is the only way in which they could be assured of a place in the economy of the Commonwealth. Some of our primary producers, however, voted against us, just as some of the workers voted against us, for the reasons which I have indicated.
Senator Allan MacDonald is afraid that communism will make its appearance in this country.
– Why did Labour re-admit the “ corns “ to the Trades Hall ?
– The Communist who is a member of a trade union has never been debarred from the Trades Hall. Honorable senators opposite have such a limited knowledge of the set-up of the Labour movement that they fail to distinguish between the rights of a member of a union and his right to .belong to a political party. A Communist who is a member of a trade union registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act is entitled to membership, but no Communist can be a member of the Australian Labour .party, which is a political organization. It is true that certain unions which have Communists as members and also United Australia party members are affiliated with our party en masse, as it were, hut their members cannot bc individually associated with the Australian Labour party.
But what is the use of honorable senators screaming against Communists as such? Why did communism become the popular “ism” that it is to-day? Why are honorable senators opposite afraid of it? They object to communism to-day in the same way as they objected to “ labourism “ a few years ago, and they still object to “ labourism.” Communism will make its appearance in this or any other country unless progress is being made. Some people imagine that communism became established in. Russia in October, -1917, but the October revolution in Russia was no more the genesis of communism than was any other event that, has taken place in that country. That revolution was the ultimate outbreak, the destruction of the last force that was keeping the people down. It was a revolt of the people against centuries of oppression, and the breaking down of the last restraining force which was trying to prevent the people from escaping from what, they had gone through. The history of communism, or the origin of the Russian revolution, goes back many, centuries to the oppression of Ivan the Terrible, to the bloody Sundays, the pogroms, practised by the ruling forces of Russia against the common people, and the imprisonments and deaths inflicted on the great masses of the people, who had hoped to see progress, and the chains of bondage and slavery lifted from them. Because of the refusal and the stupidity of the ruling classes over the centuries, there was inflicted upon Russia a period of travail in an effort to bring forth the new society.
In this country we have followed different lines. We were able to organize ourselves, and a little over 50 years ago, as I have said, the trade unionists decided that they would win to power in the Parliaments of this country, where progress could be made and laws could be enacted which would give to the people some of the good things of life, and enable them to develop along free lines. I warn those people who to-day fear the inroads of communism that it is periods such as we passed through after the last war that are the breeding ground for communism. If after this war we find, that this National Parliament is incapable of grappling with the problems facing it, if it cannot rehabilitate the thousands of people who will be returning to civilian life from the armed forces, and if we fall down on our job, then “ labourism “, which our friends oppose to-day, will pass away, and a more ruthless method than parliamentary action, will be indulged in by the people in order to save themselves from what they passed through in the years that are gone. The way to breed communism and revolt is by the oppression of the people, by efforts to keep them submerged, to make them live on a miserable pittance, and to deny to them social benefits and the realization of the uplift which all men in their innermost minds desire. Students of history realize the vast changes which have taken place in the uplift of mankind during the centuries. Why did feudalism, slavery and other oppressive systems which existed in the past disappear? Because of the intolerable position in which the people found themselves, and because all the harsh measures adopted by the masters to keep the masses in continuous subjection proved futile. So, to my friends opposite and to the people whom they represent in this chamber, I say that we must be warned by the .position which has developed in other countries. If honorable senators opposite and. their friends abhor the violence that was necessary to enable the people of Russia to obtain their release, they must see to it that the people of this country are given an opportunity to develop along the lines which I ‘have indicated. The individuals whom honorable senators opposite represent object strongly to the upward trend of the working classes.
– When Senator Leckie speaks to this motion, I ask him to show in what way those individuals have been solicitous for the welfare of the people of this country. Let the honorable senator tell us what anti-Labour forces have done to improve the lot of the working man, apart from what they have been forced to do. The unionists have had to spend large sums of money to wring from vested interests every concession which they enjoy to-day. I have been associated with the trade union movement for many years. The Leader of the Senate and I were colleagues many years ago when we were endeavouring to raise the standard of living of a certain section of workers whose jobs to-day are regarded as vital to the war effort, namely, railway employees. To-day the transport workers of Australia are playing a magnificient part in the war effort. They are working many hours of overtime in order that the transport of war materials and personnel may be Carried out with the minimum of delay; but, it is only ,a year or two ago, comparatively speaking, since those men were amongst the lowest paid workers in the community.
– The railway employees are on strike in South Australia now.
– The railway men are in revolt in South Australia today because over a long period of years the individuals who control their industrial lives have indulged in pin-pricking tactics, and frequent demonstrations of authority and power. Whatever may be happening to-day, it cannot be said by anyone with justification that these men have not done a good joh. I know the hours that these men have to work, and the conditions under which they have been working since the war began. In- Queens land men occupying responsible positions - men who are responsible for the safe custody not only of war material, but also of thousands of lives - are working hours which are almost beyond human endurance. If as the result of these conditions they are finding that they cannot carry on, who can wonder at it ? Is it not the duty of every one of us, irrespective of his party affiliations, to endeavour to have these difficulties smoothed over? Have we not an obligation to ensure that working conditions are made as tolerable as it is possible to make them? It is not to the credit of any one to point the finger of scorn, at men who have done such a magnificent job for this country. The wages of railway employees in South Australia are lower than in any other State. A long struggle has been going on to secure a lifting of wages and conditions in that State to the general Commonwealthwide standard, and I hope that as the result of representations which are being made at present, the industrial trouble amongst the South Australian railway employees will be remedied speedily. In fact, I trust that by negotiation, industrial unrest throughout the Commonwealth will cease. Especially do I hope that the last has been heard of the stoppages on the coal fields, and that the mine-owners as well as the miners will appreciate their obligation to Australia.
– That is a vain hope.
– Once again Senator Leckie raises his hand in horror when I mention the coal-owners. Apparently he fears that we on this side of the chamber may say something about those gentlemen. In the view of honorable senators opposite, the mine-owners constitute a class whose activities must not be interfered with. They own the mines, and who dares to challenge them? Are they not the successors of individuals who right down the years have said : “ This is our little bit of the world. If you want to come here and work, you will have to do so on our terms. It is a privilege for you to be allowed to sell your labour in this part of the globe”. That has been the attitude of the mine-owners for decades ; but I do not intend to go into that matter at the moment. An exhaustive study of the history of the coalmining industry would, occupy the.
Senate for many days. Within the last few hours I have seen within the precincts of this building a man who not so long igo was in prison because of the part he played in an endeavour to achieve some amelioration of the conditions in the coal-mining industry. I hope that the mine-owners appreciate that these days are passing away. The Labour party is a power in the land to-day and it intends to give full expression to its objectives. It knows where it is going, and it understands the difficulties which it will have to face. Having been returned to power in this Parliament, it will do the job which the people of this country expect it to do. We are all here as the result of the goodwill of the people of Australia. We are here because the people realize that the future success and stability of this country can be secured only through the Labour movement. This budget is an indication that when peace returns, which we hope will be in the very near future, the Government will bring forward such legislation that the people of Australia will always look to the Labour party as the only organization fit to guide the destinies of this land. Honorable senators opposite fear these things, and are willing to grasp at any little straw which they think may save them from total political destruction. I am confident that following upon the progress which is outlined in this document, we can look forward to a degree of economic security in this country. I have no doubt that further social benefits bringing contentment to our people will be introduced in the very near future. Those who believe that as the result of the failure of the Government’s proposals in the recent referendum it will falter in bringing in further social legislation, are doomed to disappointment. I have every confidence that the Minister for Health and Social Services (Senator Fraser) will at an early date introduce into this chamber legislation, which will be of such benefit to the community, that no one will have the temerity to challenge its validity. Let us have further social reforms. If honorable senators dare to oppose them, the people of Australia will be more than ever converted to the belief that their future lies in giving to’ this Parliament power to do all the things which we believe should be done. Mistaken ideas which may be held by some people as the result of misrepresentation during the referendum campaign will be short lived, and this great national Parliament will be able to plan not only for the present generation, but also for future generations of Australians whom we hope will occupy this country, and enjoy social conditions which will set a shining example to other Pacific nations.
.- I propose to speak merely to the amendment, and to reserve my remarks on the budget for a future occasion. I presume that I am entitled to do that.
– The honorable senator will be speaking on both the motion and the amendment.
– I am rather disappointed at that ruling. It seems to me that the debate has taken a peculiar and a wrong course. The charge levelled against the Government is the gravest that has been made against this or any other ministry. It is to the effect that it has been guilty of the misuse of public funds, or in other words, the misappropriation of the taxpayers’ money. No honorable senator opposite has attempted to justify the action of the Government in using public funds for political propaganda. Any self-respecting governmentwould first attempt to clear itself of the charge of the misuse of public money,’ because, after all, that is the basis of all sound administration.
– The honorable senator is out of step with his own party, because his colleagues have congratulated the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and the Government upon the budget.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has moved an amendment condemning the Government for the misuse of certain powers. That is one of the main reasons why the people showed their want of confidence in the Government at the recent referendum. I am astonished that no honorable senator opposite has attempted to justify the Government’s misuse of public funds.
– We are keeping our powder dry.
– The Government’s powder seems to explode at the wrong time. Reference was made by Senator Sheehan to the stupidity of the ruling classes, but who comprise those classes? Has greater stupidity ever been displayed than that shown by the Government on the occasion of the referendum? For a mere temporary advantage it has completely destroyed public confidence in its administration. That is the reason for the vote of no confidence in the Government which was recorded throughout the Commonwealth. Of course there was a slight majority on the “Yes” side in Western Australia. I do not know whether that was due to the advocacy of the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser), but it is interesting to recall that, some years ago, the people of that State voted for secession from the Commonwealth. The Minister has tried to persuade us that he has such influence in Western Australia that he has completely changed the_ views of the people of that State, which now favours, not secession, but unification. It seems to me to be most ridiculous to suggest that a State like Western Australia would be prepared to accept the mass production in Canberra of the laws that are to operate in that State. The people of Australia set a high value on probity and fair play in government, and the proper use of public funds; but we have witnessed a glaring example of party political propaganda being indulged in at the expense of the taxpayers. If Ministers do not agree that that is a grave charge, the position is all the worse. If they do not realize that the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds .belonging to people of the Commonwealth for party political purposes is a serious offence, they are indeed hopeless.
– The official figures show that the expenditure was £50,000.
– The propaganda posted to every elector in the Commonwealth involved a considerable outlay in postage alone. There are 4,481,000 electors throughout Australia. Some of them received more than one copy of the propaganda and each copy sent out involved the expenditure of 2d. in postage.
– The law requires the Government to supply the electors with the case for and against referendum proposals.
– I am speaking of the propagandist matter signed by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and the Attor-ney-General (Dr. Evatt).
– The expenditure on postage went back to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– The 2d. postage, which amounted to £3-7,340, was only one item. There was also the cost of the envelope in which the matter was posted, and that would average about Id. The paper on which the matter was printed would cost Id. and the printing would cost at least Id. There was also the cost of folding the printed matter and placing it in the envelope.
– What about the gum?
– That was on the envelope; it was a sticky matter anyhow. The total cost would be about £93,550. A list was given of the material that was paid for, but where it is hidden I do not know. It is not shown in the budget.
– I have yet to know that the nature of the secret fluids used by the Government with which the honorable senator was associated was divulged in the budget.
– To what secret funds does the Minister refer? I wish that I had some funds, secret or otherwise, which I could have used. At least, I did not use public money to advance the interests of my own party.
– The Government acted in accordance with the law. It was not a party matter at all.
– The Government submitted a proposal to the people because it had a majority in both branches of the legislature, and, as soon as the measure was passed, it decided that as the referendum was a matter of national importance, all expenses incurred by the Government in connexion with the campaign should be borne by the Commonwealth. That i3 a dangerous principle, and the more publicity that is given to the action of the Government the better. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Land Tax Assessment Act - List of applications for relief dealt with during the year 1943-44.
National Security Act - National Security (Man Power) Regulations - -Orders- Protected undertakings (43).
Senate adjourned at 10.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 September 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440914_senate_17_179/>.