17th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform the Senatethat I have received from Senator Uppill a letter, dated the 16th September, 1944, resigning his place as a senator for the State of South Australia, onaccount of ill health. In compliance with section 21 of the Constitution, I have notified the Lieutenant-Governor of South Australia that a vacancy has happened in the representation of that State in the Senate.
Acknowledgment by His Majesty the King.
– I have received from His Excellency the Administrator the following communication in connexion with the Address-in-Reply : -
I desire to acquaint you that the AddressinReply at the opening of the Second Session of -the Seventeenth Parliament was duly laid before His Majesty- the King, and I am commanded to convey to you and to honorable senators His Majesty’s sincere thanks for the loyal message to which your address gives expression.
Winston Dug an. 13th September, 1944.
– As Chairman, I present the fifth report of the Broaden sting Committee.
Ordered to be printed.
– by leave- - On the 15th September, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) referred to a statement made in the House of Representatives by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) regarding the manufacture of certain aircraft in Australia, and he requested me to make a considered statement to the Senate on the subject. The allegation was made, inter alia, that out-of-date aircraft were being built in Australia. There may he others equally uninformed as the honorable gentleman to whom that, statement was attributed, and I welcome the opportunity to state plain and unadorned facts concerning the aircraft production programme that has been authorized by the Government. Security reasons alone have hitherto prevented me from making these facts available to honorable senators.
It will be appreciated that the typesof aircraft required are determined by those in charge of the operational forces, who alone are ina position to assess . operational requirements. Australia could not possibly hope to build all the operational types of aircraft required to provide the Royal Australian Air Force with a wellbalanced striking force. Consequently, some types of aircraft have-had to be supplied from Great Britain and others from the United States of America. Australian industry has,- nevertheless,made a splendid contribution. By far the greatest source of supply of trainer aircraft and bombers has been Australian factories, and I have no hesitation in saying that had it lacked the supply of Australian-built aircraft, the Royal Australian Air Force would have been a very small force indeed. The types of aircraft produced in Australia and the numbers of those, types to he manufactured have been determined in collaboration with these in charge of operations and of production, after taking into account the capacity of the local industry to fulfil orders. The aircraft that have been produced, are now in production, or are about to enter production are: Trainer aircraft - the Tiger Moth and the “Wirraway: operational aircraft - the Beaufort, the Boomerang, the Beaufighter, the Mosquito, the Mustang and the Lancaster. We have also produced the following aircraft engines: The Gipsy engine for the Tiger Moth; the single-row Pratt and Whitney engine for the Wirraway; the twin-row Pratt and Whitney engine for the Beaufort and the Boomerang; and there is also contemplated the production of the Merlin engine for the Mosquito, the Mustang and the Lancaster. We have also produced all classes of other aircraft components such as propellers of various kinds, undercarriages, gun turrets, aircraft instruments, and a host of other accessory equipment required for modern operational aircraft. Of the two trainer aircraft that have been manufactured here - and, incidentally, they have been manufactured in relatively large numbers - it can be said that the Tiger Moth is still regarded as a first-class elementary trainer. Australia supplied not only its own requirements, but also sent supplies to India, New Zealand and South Africa. The Wirraway is an Australian version of the North American Harvard trainer, which, just before the outbreak of war, won the competition at Wright Field in the United States of America as the best all-round, basic, lowwing, monoplane trainer in the country. The United States of America Air Force has used thousands of them, and Britain, too, purchased a large number. The Wirraway to-day has no superior in its class. The last of the Beaufort aircraft has now been delivered. These machines have an unsurpassed record of achievement in Australia’s defence. They have been flown millions of miles on ocean’ reconnaissance and convoy work, a function they arc still required to perform. As torpedo-bombers, they have played a prominent part in attacking shipping in the waters surrounding New Guinea and New Britain and they have scored many successes against Japanese warships, submarines and transports. My colleague the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) recently announced that Australian-built Beauforts have achieved what is probably a world record in the number of sorties and weight of bombs dropped on the enemy on any one day. The Boomerang was developed in Australia as an interceptor fighter at a time when our gallant airmen had nothing to fight with but the f331
Wirraway. We can never forget the undaunted courage of those hoys who took tha air in trainer aircraft, to meet the attacks of the Japanese who were flying in modern bombers and fighters. Our unpreparedness in those days is a tragic story. The Government, realizing the danger of air attack against the mainland of Australia launched from Japanese aircraft carriers, authorized the building of the Boomerang, which,’ although not an interceptor fighter of the Spitfire class, was, nevertheless, the best that Aus: tralia could produce quickly with the resources at its command, and which, since it was equipped with 20-millimetre cannon, would give our boys at least the fighting chance they did not have in the Wirraway. The Boomerang has since rendered excellent service as an Army co-operation machine. The Beaufighter, which is now in production, is the fastest, low-altitude, twin-engine, hardhitting intruder aircraft that Britain has produced. These aircraft have given, and are still giving, excellent service in the European theatre of war. British-built Beaufighters have been operating in the South-west Pacific, too, tor some time, and squadrons of these aircraft are now being supplemented with Australian-built Beaufighters. Their versatility is remarkable for low attack by torpedo, or cannon, or rocket bomb.?.
The Mosquito aircraft surely needs no words of commendation from me. This aircraft is one of the world’s wonders. It is the only military aircraft built of wood which has been a success in this war. No twin engine aircraft is faster than the present-day Mosquito at medium and high altitudes. Its striking power is remarkable for intruder work; and for photographic reconnaissance, without fighter cover, the Mosquito has no equal. The manufacture of this aircraft in Australia has been established not without difficulty, hut production is now established and more will be heard soon of the exploits of Australian-built Mosquitoes.
The claims which I have made for the aircraft now in production in Australia may seem extravagant, but I assure honorable senators that they are based, not only upon the statements of experts competent to judge, but are supported alao by operational experience which cannot be gainsaid.
Early in 1943, the Government, not being in a position to judge how long the war in. the Pacific would last any more, than it can to-day, but realizing from experience how long it takes to tool up for production of new types of aircraft, despatched to the United States of America and Great Britain a mission comprising operational and production experts to select two new types of aircraft to be built in Australia. The mission was provided with carefully prepared specifications for the purpose of enabling its members to select a high altitude fighter and also a long range reconnaissance bomber. The mission was absent from Australia for only three and a half months, during which it visited every important aircraft factory in the United States of America and Great Britain, and also discussed its problems with the leading operational authorities in both countries. On its return, the mission recommended the Mustang for production as the single seat fighter and the Lancaster for production as the bomber.
The type of Mustang recommended is regarded to-day, both by British and American authorities, as the world’s best, single seat, pursuit aircraft. The aircraft employs the latest Rolls Royce Merlin engine and with that power installation it has no superior in its class. Tooling for production in Australia is now well advanced and the aircraft will be in production within a few months.
The Lancaster to be built in Australia is the latest of a type of bomber which is recognized, the world over, to have no equal in range or bomb load for its all-up weight. The prototype of this aircraft was not flown in Britain until less than four months ago. Deliveries off the production line in Britain have not yet commenced, but Britain is taking no chances and production there is now in full swing. Canada, too, intends to produce this model of the Lancaster. Australia intends to do likewise and will not call a halt until the war is won.
The honorable member for Watson is reported to have stated that these Lancaster machines were intended to be built for passenger and freight traffic, and. that after the war such needs could be met more cheaply by the purchase of Douglas aircraft from the United States of America. I emphasize that the Lancaster project is being undertake]: purely to meet operational requirements and to satisfy the need of the Royal Australian Air Force to have, in addition to long range reconnaissance bombers, a long distance striking force. It has not been possible to procure these aircraft from Britain because Britain- required every one she could build for the bombing of Germany.
The establishment of production of these two new aircraft, the Mustang and the Lancaster, could not bc done without aid from the United States of America and from Great Britain and I wish to pay a tribute to both countries for the great help they are rendering to the Commonwealth in these two projects.
I have not told the whole story of aircraft production in Australia, but I may mention one other item to indicate how keen the Government has been to ensure that Australia should be up to date in its aircraft production policy, and that Australian technicians should have the opportunity to keep abreast of latest developments and, if possible, assist in those developments. Jet7propelled aircraft have been much in the news of late. It may interest honorable senators to know that for several months a number of Australian engineers and other technical officers has been in England studying jet propulsion and assisting in its further development in Great Britain. In making this statement I have set out neither to defend Government policy in aircraft production, nor to refute illinformed criticism. I have merely given a more or less dispassionate statement of what the Government has done and is doing, so that honorable senators may be in a position to judge for themselves whether or not the Government has acted wisely in its choice of aircraft and has been enterprising in its forward planning. The achievement in aircraft production has not been won without much hard work, numerous disappointments and many grave difficulties. Aircraft manufacture in Australia, judged by the few years that have passed since it was commenced, is only in its infancy ; but, judged by what has been attempted and has been achieved it can now be regarded as a mature and well established industry. Great credit is due to those who have guided its development so wisely, and also to the men and women of all ranks who have contributed so much to its success.
Mails forfighting Services registeredsecondclassmailmatter.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral had his attention drawn to the editorial in the Sydney Sun of the 18th September, which states that Australian soldiers are still writing home from northern battle stations nostalgic letters telling of the non-receipt of letters and secondclass mail matter? Also parents and friends at home complain with equal bitterness that parcels and newspapers sent, when they reach the soldier, only do so after long and inexplicable delays. Will the Minister have immediate investigation made into the causes leading up to these complaints with a view to steps being taken to have such unsatisfactory conditions altered at an early date?
– There have been com plaints of delays to mails. Some are inevitable, as the addressees may be in forward areas where the mail cannot reach them, but, generally speaking, the Postal Department receives as many letters of commendation of the service which it has given to the soldiers abroad as it does complaints. It should be remembered that the department merely receives the mails, which then go on to the Army and Air Force post offices. I shall, however, be glad to make inquiries and furnish the honorable senator with any further information which is available.
– Some time ago I asked the Postmaster-General a question regarding the acceptance by the Postal Department of registered second-class mail for the troops, which was subsequently forwarded by ordinary post. Has the Postmaster-General investigated that matter, or is his department still accepting registered second-class mail matter which is not being treated as such by the Army or Air Force authorities ?
– I shall obtain information regarding the matter mentioned by the honorable senator, and let him know the position. I know that it was taken up some time ago by my department and the Service departments.
Frequency Modulation Wireless Sets
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that concern has arisen in the minds of owners and manufacturers of wireless sets because of the revelations made by Senator Amour, chairman of the Broadcasting Committee, in regard to the introduction of frequency modulation? Will the Postmaster-General make a statement on behalf of the Government clarifying the position?
– I am not in a position at present to make a statement in regard to the development of wireless broadcasting. My own opinion is that there will be no great advance in broadcasting technique until after the war. However, that is a matter of Government policy, and as the honorable senator is aware, it is not usual to make announcements of Government policy in answer to questions.
– In view of the difficulty which farmers are experiencing in obtaining tractors and tractor tyres is there any likelihood that tractors suitable for agricultural work may become available as the Allied Works Council’s undertakings approach completion? If so, will the Minister endeavour to ensure that these machines are handed over to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission so that they may be made available to the farming community as soon as possible.
SenatorCOLLINGS. - Arrangement; have been made on the lines suggested by the honorable senator. When tractors of the type required become available steps will be taken to ensure that farmers who need them urgently are able to obtain them.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Tariff Board Annual Report, year ended 30th June, 1944, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service is obtaining the information,. and it will be made available when it is to hand.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
With regard to the terms of the Superannuation Act (1) Has the Government received a request for an increase in the first four units of all pensions payable to former members of the Commonwealth’ Public Service? (2) If so, what decision has been arrived at?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
Debate resumed from the 15th September (vide page 877), 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 1944-45.
Upon which Senator McLeay had moved by way of 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”.
– A good deal of loose talk is heard in this chamber on the subject of national credit, and some misconception appears to prevail as to what the term really means. To my mind, the extent of a nation’s credit is determined by its power to produce, and, while it can continue to produce at a satisfactory rate, its credit remains good. I recall an occasion when the Treasurer in a Labour government attempted, during the cruel depression years, to introduce in the House of Representatives what was described as a fiduciary note issue. The financial lords of Lombard-street held up their hands in horror at what they described as an attempt to undermine the financial structure by such a. policy on the ground that the financial world could not withstand, such a shock. The sum mentioned on that occasion was only £18,000,000. I was impressed by an item of news published in the London press three days after the commencement of the present war. It was reported that Mr. Montagu Norman, one of those who had held up his hands in horror at the method suggested when an attempt was made to finance Australia during the crisis caused by ‘ the last depression-, had said that he was making the sum of £210,000,000 available to the Government of Great Britain. He was at some pains to explain that that action- must not be regarded as indicative of inflation. Of course, the total amount of credit that has- been made available is now many thousands of millions of pounds. The average relief worker who, throughout the depression period, endeavoured to get some light on what he regarded as a piece of financial wizardry beyond his power to understand, would look astonished now at that statement by Mr. Montagu Norman, and pass it over with a smile, because he now realizes that finance, after nil, is a huge joke. Knowing that money can. be obtained without stint for war-like operations the people are justified in believing that, -when it is necessary to help our people over a period of stress or trouble, money should be made available quickly, I believe that the sooner the Commonwealth Bank becomes what i t was originally intended to be, a people’s bank, and used to meet the financial needs of the people, the better it will be for them. Since the days of the Bruce-Page Government, it has been merely a banker’s pawnshop, but I am sure that it could bc made the medium -whereby the conditions of the people could be ameliorated.
I was impressed by a statement made by Senator Brand. I was not aware that all service pensions were now static at about 27s. a week. I trust that I have not misunderstood him. If that be a fact, I shall be able to claim Senator Brand as a supporter of honorable senators who sit on the Government side of the chamber, when at a later period, an attempt is made to improve the conditions of the unfortunate section of the community who, through age or adversity, find it necessary to lean on the beneficence of the State. The invalid and old-age pensioners receive 27s. a week, and I hope to see that stun increased considerably.
– The rate is already the highest in the world j it is even higher than the pension paid in Russia.
– I know that, but that is no reason why it should not be made even higher. Any law-abiding citizen, whose life has been clean, has conferred a benefit on the community. A man who has worked well as a member of the community and has reared a family should be guaranteed security in the evening of life.
– Did the honorable senator suggest that pensions should ©e paid to men at the age of 45 years.?’
– No. A statement to that effect was attributed’ to me by the Sunday Sun. I do not blame any pressman for the wrong report ; I believe that, in the main, newspapermen arthonest. I was asked by a representative of the Sunday Sun for a story, and I complied with the request. I did not, however, say what has been attributed to me. In this interview I said that a few years ago a working man, 40 years of age, was deemed by many potential employers to bc too old for employment, and that if that were a generally recognized principle, the payment of a pension at the a are of 45 years would be necessary in many cases. I 3aid, further, that, in my opinion, payment to aged persons should be made, not as an act of charity, but as a right, and that the amount should be at least equal to the basic wage - a standard which might have to be determined as the basic wage for an unmarried adult. It would appear to be the prerogative of the press to tear words from their context, in order to suit its own ends.
– That is frequently done with the object of embarrassing this Government.
– Yes. On previous occasions I have referred to the art of lying by inference, which appears to bethe prerogative of some lawyers. I believe that in the newspaper world there is an Ethics Committee, and I suggest that there is a large field in which that body may operate. What I said was that many young men, having before them the examples of their parents and older acquaintances, determine that they shall not be dependent on a pension payable by the nation when they reach 65 years of age, but will endeavour to save sufficient from their earnings so that, when they reach the age of 45 years they can feel reasonably assured of enjoying the evening of life without fear of want. I went on to say that, unfortunately, many young men, who subsequently rear families, find it impossible to retire even when they become 60 years of age. One of the tragedies of life is that as they approach the age of 60 years so many men are haunted by fears concerning their future. It is not right that a man of 50 years of age should live constantly in a state of fear and that, say, an unsatisfactorily cooked breakfast may cause his employer to victimize him ; yet that is the position of many wage-earners. If we are to have the “ new order “ of which we have heard so much, we should remove from those who are growing old all fears concerning their future economic security. When we have done that, we shall find that many of the problems which now worry us will have disappeared. Much of the acquisitiveness of human beings is born of a desire to obtain every shilling possible as a means of safeguarding the future. Unfortunately, in many instances, ill health and the rearing of large families, interfere with that objective, whilst others find that the accumulation of wealth becomes no longer a means to an end, but an end of itself. That view of life will be understood by many honorable senators opposite, because so many of their acquaintances have been “ bitten by the money bug”. It frequently happens that wealthy men bequeath their wealth to much younger men, thereby making it unnecessary for them to earn their own livelihood, with the result that too many of them become profligate and develop undesirable traits. That acquisitiveness which is bom of insecurity for the future is responsible for many of our domestic troubles, and practically all our international troubles. We rightly acclaim the heroic men who are fighting freedom’s battles on various battlefields, yet we deny to their parents the measure of comfort and security which th’ey should enjoy in the evening of life. We owe a debt to the fathers of heroes whose epitaphs are written on little crosses on the world’s battlefields. We shall fail in our duty if we do not do all that we can to improve the lot of people whom circumstances force to lean on the beneficence of the State. We must consider, not only the soldier, but also his parents who brought him into the world, and nurtured and trained him. We could thus improve the morale of the soldier at the front, who would know that his dear ones at home were adequately cared for. Furthermore, by increasing the old-age pension to at least the basic wage we should improve the birthrate. The average young fellow knows from the experience of his own parents what bringing up a big family really means. He has no desire to face the same difficulties, and, therefore, decides to limit his family. He adopts the Malthusian doctrine, that the way to defeat the pernicious capitalist system is to limit each family to one child, and thereby gradually starve out capitalism. If a bread-winner knows that his future and that of his children would be safeguarded, one of the greatest present deterrents to larger families would vanish. Furthermore, a country’s best migrant is the nativeborn. The more we improve our economic conditions the more attractive shall we make Australia to the best, class of migrants. To-day, Australia leads the world in social legislation. I wish to see this country become and remain the spearhead of democratic advancement. I wish to see established in Australia conditions which will attract the best classes of migrants. We should then be in a position to choose the best. In that way, we should also help to fill, our vast empty spaces, and increase our internal markets, because every migrant coming to this country is a potential user of commodities whose manufacture and distribution are the life-blood of trade and production. A new settler on a farm is a purchaser of footwear and clothing, and his arrival here would mean increased production and sales in those and other trades. In this process of improving the social lot of the invalid and old-age pensioners, and others who meet with adversity, and making them less dependent upon the State, we should so improve conditions in this country that our population would be greatly increased, and thus allay so many of the fears now entertained by our people because we have a population of only 7,000,000 with hundreds of millions of Asiatics to the north of us. In such circumstances, we should feel much safer than we feel at present. Unfortunately, however,, honorable senators opposite do not seem to have learned these simple economic lessons. ‘.Chey seem to be living in the Dark Ages. Their “ new order “ is the “ old order “ patched up. I heard one honorable senator opposite state that people who believe in a new social order and a new way of life after this war are just visionaries; that the new social order of which they speak is just a mirage which continues to recede as the pursuer chases it. However, much of the talk we heard recently of a new social order and a . new way of life has receded commensurately with the retreat of the Germans and Japanese. Although a few years ago we heard all sorts of people in this country talking about a new social order, and admitting that the profit motive must go, we find today that those same people are singularly silent on those subjects. Those honorable senators who so strongly opposed the socialist ideal in this debate are really playing into the hands of the enemy. I am convinced that the Labour party stands as a buffer between our people and red revolution; and if we are to build up this country into a self-reliant nation we must improve the living conditions of those people who have reached the age when they should be retiring and enjoying the evening of life. By adopting the policy I have outlined we could make Australia an example to the world in the field of social legislation, and thus establish in this country such conditions as would enable us to choose the migrants we desired from those who, no doubt, would then want to settle here. Although the Treasurer has not been in a position to reflect in his budget some of our prosperity in improved conditions for our aged and invalid people, I com- mend him upon the excellence of his budget.
– As this motion affords to honorable senators an opportunity to speak on a wide range of subjects, I propose to refer to a few matters before I address myself to the budget itself. The result of the referendum is a reminder to the Government not to count its chickens before they are hatched. During the last session we listened to the Governor-General’s Speech, which did not contain any suggestion of a party political programme. The reason for that fact was obvious to every thoughtful citizen. In the interim, the Govern ment appealed to the people to transfer from the States to the Commonwealth additional powers, which it said it required to enable’ it to implement 90 per cent, of its party programme. Parliament was summoned to meet on the 30th August, or eleven days after the holding of the referendum. I have no doubt that when the Government decided upon that date, it. had finalized its legislative programme on the basis that those powers would be granted to it. But the referendum was defeated, and with it the hopes of the Government of putting its party political programme into operation. Therefore, seeing that the referendum did not result as the Government expected, Ministers felt that they had to give us this holiday at Canberra to enjoy its beauties, whilst they put together a programme more in keeping with the views of the Australian people. The peoplehave through the ballot-box soundly condemned the Government for its reckless expenditure on the referendum, and for putting before them, at a time like this when unity was imperative, contentious questions that would divide them into two parties. In fact, the referendum, in the main, was an insult to the intelligence of the people of Australia, who resented the Government trying to persuade them, by means of press and platform propaganda, to give up that freedom for which their manhood was fighting, especially when from 60,000 to 70,000 of Australia’s soldiers, scattered all over the world, had not a proper chance to record an intelligent vote on the important questions which were the subject of the referendum. However, the people have spoken very decisively, and, although the result has caused a certain amount of inconvenience to the Government and to honorable senators opposite, we are quite prepared to give them a little time to lick their wounds. Some day we shall probably realize what this fiasco has cost the country. It is hard, at present, to compute the figure, but we know, judging by the amount of advertising, and the extent of travelling done by Ministers and their retinues practically all over Australia, that it must have cost a huge sum of money. The people are beginning to ask themselves : “ Is this what we economize for? Is it for this that we make frenzied appeals for war loans for the defence of the country”. To use the money which has been raised from the public in this manner shows a great lack of public conscience, but the Government tries to hide its guilt by asking us : “ What did you spend, and where did it come from ? “ We know that what we expended came from the pockets of the people, in sums of1s. and upwards from thousands of subscribers. Is there anything criminal about that? During the referendum campaign people shouted from the platforms for the four freedoms. Is there anything in our laws to prevent a man from spending his own money as he thinks best? If there is, honorable senators opposite should make a note of it and put that in the next referendum as one of the desired freedoms. It was unfortunate that the Government should have wasted so much of the taxpayers’ money for such a poor result, although the taxpayers are now obtaining some slight relief, because they are getting far more coal today than at any time preceding the 19th August last. Before the referendum, supplies of this necessary commodity were gradually falling off, and the Government, instead of controlling the industry, was being controlled by it. The miners were then threatened, cajoled and reprimanded, and in one or two eases even fined. The industry has for a considerable time been a source of trouble, not only to this Government, but also to preceding governments. Before the referendum, this was in some degree accentuated by the vote which the Labour party received at the last general elections, and the miners were quite satisfied that, once the referendum vote was taken, every coal mine in Australia would be nationalized, and they would be able to have things all their own way.
-Has the honorable senator ever read the history of the coal-mining industry in Great Britain?
– I have read a great deal about the industry, but I am afraid that the honorable senator has not. The defeat of the referendum proposals, however, had a salutary effect on the coal-miners. I should like to hear from honorable senators opposite their explanation of why the miners have gone back to work. Theymustnot tell methatit is because the Government has persuaded them to do so, or ordered them to do so. Time and again, when the Government ordered them back to work they refused to go. We were even asked to pass legislation to compel them to work, but all was in vain. More recently, the Prime Minister told strikers in South Australia that they must go ‘back to work, but they did not do so. He also told the gas employees in New South Wales that they must return to work, but they did not. It is, therefore, of no use to tell me that it is through the instrumentality of the Government that the coal-miners have resumed work. I am firmly of the opinion that the rejection, of the referendum proposals has influenced them. Every member of this Parliament, regardless of the party to which he belongs, deplores the rapidly growing tendency of men to strike. Too many people are ignoring the Arbitration Court, preferring to resort to the strike weapon in order to settle industrial disputes. Last week Senator Sheehan followed the example, of which we have had far too much lately, of members of Parliament making excuses for the striker, telling us why he strikes, and apologizing for him. Only a few minutes ago the honorable senator suggested by interjection that the coal-miners of Australia are striking because their great-grandfathers, 100 years ago, did not have a fair deal in Great Britain. That is ridiculous, because the coal-miner in Australia to-day is as well treated as men in any other section of industry, and in fact, is better paid. Senator Sheehan went on to talk about the recent strike of railway employees in South Australia. He said that the men were not receiving the same wages as were being paid in Victoria. He also made the following remark : -
In Queensland men occupying responsible positions, men who are responsible, not only for producing war material, but also for thousands of lives, are working hours which are almost beyond human endurance. If, as the result of those conditions, they cannot carry on, who can wonder at it?
Anyone working “ almost beyond human endurance “ must be weary, tired and exhausted.
– Worn out!
– I am pleased that the Leader of the Senate has made that interjection, because it will serve to heighten a comparison which I shall make. To-day, captains of industry like Mr. Essington Lewis, who early in the war left their normal occupations to guide this country at a time when maximum war production was required, are very tired and weary; but they have not gone on strike. The doctors and nurses serving with our armed forces, and many of whom are working under appalling conditions at all hours of the day and night, are tired and weary, but they have not gone on strike. The production of foodstuffs required not only for the civilian, population and the armed forces of this country, bur, also for the civilians and servicemen of Allied nations, has been carried on by the farming community with totally inadequate labour. Primary industries have been kept going by aged people who should have retired many years ago, and by youngsters who should be at school. They are tired, too, but they have not gone on strike. Small subscribers to our war loans have been saving and scraping to purchase their bonds. They have supported every war loan, and I trust that they will continue to do so. They are tired and weary, but they have not gone on strike. Consider also the Red Cross workers- those good noble women of Australia who have been at work ever since the war started making and collecting comforts for members of our fighting forces and prisoners of war. Do honorable senators opposite believe that these self-sacrificing people are not tired and weary? Of course they are tired, but they have not gone on strike. They have done their work nobly and well. Last but not least, consider our fighting men! I refer not to the men who have stayed at home and obtained cushy jobs for which .they are better paid than they have ever been in. their lives, but to the members of our fighting forces who have distinguished themselves in the Middle East, at El Alamein, Tobruk, and in Syria, Greece and Crete, and who, upon their return to this country in the crisis of the Pacific war, went straight to New Guinea to fight in the mud, blood and filth, of the jungle. Do honorable senators opposite imagine for a moment that these men are not tired? Of course they are tired, more tired than any of us, but they have- not gone on strike. Tiredness and weariness are poor excuses for strikes in any section of industry. It is claimed that the South Australian railwaymen, suffer because they are not receiving the same rate of pay as Victorian railwaymen. Our soldiers are not receiving the same rates of pay as their American: Allies,, with whom they are fighting, but they are putting up just as good a fight. Perhaps the industrial workers are tired, but we must all play our parts until the war is won. The people of Australia are looking to the Government to take firm action with strikers, but whenever one dares to speak of such action, one hears the same old excuse, “ What, and hold up industry for three months? It cannot be done “. Six or seven years ago, Hitler decided that he would start a world “ strike “. The other nations favoured appeasement, and the result was the Munich Pact. Appeasement failed, and twelve months later Hitler started his “ strike “. (Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin stood firmly for law and order, and their countries went to war. Following logically upon their present argument, no doubt honorable senators opposite would claim that it was not. Hitler who was responsible for the war, but Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, because they would not tolerate Hitler going on “ strike “. Honorable senators opposite argue that because the coal-miners ari. now producing more .or less to full capacity, I should not discuss coal production. This is a matter to which the people of Australia should have their attention drawn, because of the dislocation of transport and industry generally. T believe that the Government could assist very considerably in regard to rail transport. Why should not the Sydney-Albury express travel during the day instead of at night, and thus obviate the need for sleeping cars? The same could be done with the Adelaide-Melbourne express. If this alteration were made, the influx of people to border towns such as Albury, where hotel accommodation is taxed to the limit by travellers who wish to avoid travelling at night without sleeping cars, would be eliminated. I have a suggestion to make also in regard to the transport of members of Parliament. There is an obligation upon all of us to attend the sittings of Parliament. Comfortable accommodation is available at Canberra, and the climate is pleasant. If some honorable members and honorable senators wish to return to their homes or to travel to the capital cities every weekend, that is their business; but I contend that at the beginning and at the end of each period of sittings, air transport should be provided to carry honorable members and honorable senators from their home States to Canberra and back again. New South Wales members and senators could perhaps be excluded from that arrangement in view of the short distance which they have to travel.
The Government’s policy of appeasement of the coal-miners and other strikers is having a marked effect on other industries. The penalties imposed upon those individuals who are responsible for serious dislocation of our war effort are out of all proportion to the magnitude of the offences committed and to penalties imposed for other relatively minor breaches of the law.For instance, severe penalties are imposed for offences against the prices regulations. Whereas a coalminer who goes on strike and, with his colleagues, deprives the nation of 10,000 or 20,000 tons of coal, may be fined £2 10s. or some such paltry amount, a fruiterer in South Australia who,recently sold three oranges for1s. instead of 10½d. was fined £10.
– Quite right, too. He was robbing starving babies.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Apparently it does not matter about the coal-miners who robbed the people of Australia of thousands of tons of coal.
– Why not carry out the law?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.This country would be far better off if the law were carried out. If the coal mineowners did much that was wrong they would be brought quickly to book.
– They are not tired like the miners.
– If they were guilty of any offence, a charge would soon be brought against them. In nearly every case where a strike occurs the strikers receive some concessions. These are of small importance, and the miners would probably get a better deal through the ordinary arbitration channels. The miners achieve certain benefits by direct action, and that gives them an incentive to seek further concessions.
– Has the honorable senator ever resorted to direct action in his own business?
– No. The methods adopted by the miners sometimes give them a chance to victimize somebody whom they consider should be penalized.
Now I turn to the fiasco which has occurred at Portland. On the 4th August last the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin ) said that there would be no more butcher shops in Portland, but on the 22nd August another licence was granted. The strikers demanded it, and they got it. The local butcher, Mr. Dargin, received a full dose of the medicine administered by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) at the referendum. It was true to the formula which the Attorney-General submitted to the people on the 19th August.
I have a matter or two to submit to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), and hope that he will reply to my statements at the conclusion of the debate. I have before me a leaflet issued by the Stock, Meat and Allied Industries Council. It expresses the opinion of those who practically control the supply of meat to the New South Wales markets.
– Are there any names on that leaflet?
– Yes. It was published on behalf of the council by Mr. E. L. Killen, chairman, and Mr. J. Allen, secretary.
– By whom was it printed ?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Bloxham and Chambers Proprietary Limited. I brought this matter to the notice of the Minister for his special benefit. On Friday, the 4th August, the following appeared in the Sydney Sun: -
The Prime Minister, in reply to a request from strikers to requisition a shop for a cooperative butchery, said, “ I am not requisitioning any shop in Portland for any purpose whatever “.
On the 5th August, Mr. Donovan, secretary to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), visited Mr. Dargin’s home, and tried every means possible to persuade Mr. Dargin to reinstate Miss Wylde. The threat was held out that a new shop would be established if he did not give in, but Mr. Dargin refused’, saying that the Conciliation Commissioner and the Prime Minister had acted in the matter. Most of us remember Saturday, the 19th August, when the referendum was held. It was a “ glorious day “. It was just the sort of day that we expected it to be, and we are thankful that it was. On Wednesday, the 23rd August, the Minister, according to the Sydney Sun, confirmed that he had given permission for the opening of a second butchery at Portland, and’ said that the decision had nothing to do with the recent disputes. He had arranged with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) that the new business should receive a meat quota. On Friday, the 25 th August, only two days later, Mr. Tonkin, the Controller of Meat Supplies, said that he knew nothing about the matter, and could not explain the public statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs. That is a very conflicting position, and I hope that the Minister will clarify the situation. I should not like to do him an injustice by saying that his statement was hardly true.
Senator Large gave us his political history. He explained what a Communist, a Socialist, and an Anarchist were.
– Is the honorable senator a Communist?
– No. I am a humanist. I believe that everybody in this country who behaves himself should have a fair deal. There should be equal educational opportunities for all. Employers and employees should always resort to conciliation in the settlement of their industrial disputes, and they should not preach class hatred. I do not mean that all children should be kept at school until eighteen years of age. I believe in compulsory education up to a certain age, but all children who display special ability should have a chance to go to the top of the educational tree.
We have heard something about the way in which the result of the referendum will affect ex-servicemen, but that is all piffle. There is no justification for such an assertion. After the last war £400,000,000 was expended under existing laws on repatriation. Australia could have expended £800,0.00,000 or. even £1,600,000,000 for that purpose under its present powers. Item No. 1 on the menu which the Attorney-General submitted to the people during the referendum campaign was mere sobstuff. It was the bait on the hook that was thrown out to the electors. Everybody in Australia is prepared to give a fair deal to ex-service personnel.
– As they did after the last war?
– I challenge any honorable senators to tell me of any country which did more for its returned soldiers than Australia did after the last war?
– Will the honorable senator support price fixation after the war?
– Up to a certain point I will. An honorable senator who referred to the effect of the referendum on the future of exservicemen, also said that hits party did not try to hoodwink the people. Nor did the party with which I am associated. I simply told the people what would be the effect of conferring on this Parliament the fourteen powers sought by the Government. It will be found on reference to Hansard of the 21st March last, at page 1625, that I submitted seven points when the proposed powers were under discussion in this chamber, and I showed what could be done under those powers. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) remarked that, although the Government sought those powers, they would not necessarily be exercised. I merely told the people what was possible under the powers sought by the Government. Another honorable senator said that unless the referendum proposals were accepted -a depression would occur after the war, but that if the proposals were accepted a depression would be prevented. He explained that the depression after the last war was caused by the “money bags “ - the combined wealth of Australia, Great Britain and the United States of America. If that caused the depression, in what way could the success of the proposals submitted at the referendum affect the monetary position in Great Britain and the United States of America? I do not think that the last depression was due to financial causes, but was rather occasioned by lack of control of markets. The honorable senator criticized the “ money bags and particularly Sir Otto Niemeyer; but who brought Sir Otto to Australia, and why was he invited? The Government which brought him out was of the same political colour as that which now occupies the treasury bench. That Government was pleased to have his advice. It was a good thing that he came to Australia, because not long afterwards another government put his ideas into operation, with the result that Australia was the first country to emerge from the depression.
– If Sir Otto Niemeyer did that for Australia, why did he not do the same for Great Britain?
– Sir Otto Niemeyer was brought to Australia by the Scullin Government. Another shibboleth is that the present Prime Minister was responsible for obtaining American aid for Australia after Japan entered the war. If that be so, can honorable senators opposite explain why the first American soldiers to land in Australia were intended to _ be sent to Pearl Harbour, but were diverted here after Pearl Harbour was attacked?
– Why did a section of the Opposition oppose the Americans coming to Australia?
– The Americans came here not only to assist Australia but also to protect the United States of America. I shall not allow to go unchallenged the statement that the Americans caine here because the Australian Prime Minister asked for them. If it be true that General MacArthur was invited here, why did not honorable senators know that he was coming?
– Honorable senators are not told everything that is contemplated by the Government.
– Honorable senators know that the welcome to General MacArthur was a most hurried affair, indicating that his arrival was not expected.
– Why should the Government have told honorable senators that he was coming?
Senator JAMES McLA’CHLAN.The Minister for Trade and Customs did not know that. General MacArthur was on the way.
– I met him in Melbourne when he arrived.
– If the Prime Minister did ask the Americans to come here to protect Australia, it is strange that be was so unwilling to collaborate with the Americans in finishing the job, but, instead, made it clear that Australian militiamen would not fight beyond a mythical line, and that when that line had been reached they would have to return home.
– That was never said by the Prime Minister.
– The previous Government would not have sent men farther than Brisbane to fight against the Japanese.
– It u true that the Prime Minister said, in effect, “We have some excellent fighters among our chaps; they have had a bad time in the Middle East, Greece and Crete, but they can be sent to fight against the Japanese in New Guinea”. Such treatment of the Americans did not indicate much gratitude to them for their help.
I repeat what I have said on former occasions, that it is a pity that the Auditor-General’s report has not been made available to us concurrently with the presentation of the Estimates and Budget Papers, as it would have been of great assistance to us in dealing with a mass of figures which alayman finds it difficult to understand. The budget has been described as a wonderful document. It may beso if we regard as wonderful a budget of £653,000,000 for a population of a little over 7,000,000 people. However, when we examine the budget, we findthat about half of that money istobe obtained by means of loan, a method which has been practised in connexion with many previous budgets. Any deficiency is to be met by the issue of treasurybills, or the utilization of moneys in trust funds, particularly the NationalWelfare Fund. The last balancesheet of the nation reveals a serious situation in regard to trust funds : whereas theNationalWelfare Fund previously contained about £25,000,000, the amount to the credit of the fund now isonly about £25,000. A sum of about £12,000,000has been taken from the War Damage Insurance Trust Fund and put into war loans. Why should that be done? Australia is not bankrupt. Since the war began the note issue has increased byapproximately £135,000,000, or nearly 600 per cent. Deposits in the trading banks total £220,000,000, whilst savings bank depositors have £227,000,000 to theircredit. Those two items alone total about £500,000,000 and therefore it is difficult to understand why treasury bills should have been resorted to while so much money remains liquid.
– Does the honorable senator wanttaxes to be increased?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.No. They are alreadyheavy enough. I prefer a system of compulsory loans. Notwithstanding adecrease of production for war purposes, the expenditure this year on defence is estimated tobe about £392,715 more than it was last year. That additional expenditure is made up of £192,616for the Department of Labour and National Service, £28,599 for the ManPower Directorate, £55,000 for theDepartment of WarOrganization of Industry,and £116,500 for Food Control. Thisyear the Department of War Organization of Industry proposesto expend£134,500more than wasexpended by it last year, although it would appear that the expenditure of that department should be decreasing rather than increasing. Anew department is being created within the taxation department, because, apparently, we are to have a special organization to check returns from soldiers. This work will entail the employment of additional staff. I cannot see why it should be necessary to do this extra work, -particularly as many people in the community wish to get rid of controls as soon as possible. Even the Government has expressed that view. Why should not more use be made of the State departments of labour and industry? Arrears of taxes are increasing. In 1942 the amount in arrears was approximately £13,000,000. Last year the amount increased to £18,000,000, and by 1944 it had still further increased to £33,000,000. I realizethat with the change-over to the pay-as-you-earn system there must be some arrears, but the amount is greater than it would be if a less complicated system were in operation. More and moretaxpayers are finding it necessary to engage experts to prepare their income tax returns. One of the fairly recent innovations causing much inconvenience is the adoption of the rebate system. Previously, a taxpayer, when preparing his returns, was allowed certain deductions from his income, such as medical expenses and allowances for wife and children. His tax was then assessed at the rate applicable to his net income.Under the rebate system a different practice operates. We are told that the new system is an advantage to the taxpayer and also that child endowment must be set off against the amount payableas tax. The system previously in operation should be reverted to. Let us take, for instance, the case of a taxpayer whose gross income is £400. Should he have a wife only, or a wife and only one child, he pays £311s. and £1 7s., respectively, less tax under the rebate system than under the old system. But a taxpayer with a wife and two children pays £9 16s. additional tax, and a taxpayer with a wife and three children pays £17 10s. additional tax under the rebate system. Therefore, today, thetaxpayer with children is really subsidizing the child endowment. which, is paid to him in respect of his children, because a. taxpayer with a wife and’ two children who pays £9 16s. tax receives £13 child endowment, and a taxpayer with a wife and three children, who pays £1’7 10s. . tax, receives £26 in respect of child endowment. Surely this system cannot be justified.
– The party of which the honorable senator is a member always advocated the principle that beneficiaries under any social service scheme should themselves pay for it.
– The figures quoted by the honorable senator do not appear to be accurate. I shall check them up.
– 1 referred these figures this morning to a taxation official, who checked them and found them to be correct.
This is the first budget for some years which gives relief to any section of the community. Most of the relief . on this occasion is in respect of the taxpayer’s family, and in respect of the cost of maintenance and repairs to plant and property of the taxpayer. Although these concessions are limited, they are very welcome, because they are long overdue. It is obvious that, owing to shortage of labour and materials under war-time conditions, taxpayers have been unable to attend adequately to maintenance. The Government now proposes to allow n certain amount, of deduction from taxable income in respect of maintenance costs. However, I cannot understand why it does not propose to pay interest on that money. It is only right and proper that it should. As sufficient labour, or materials, will not be available for some considerable time to enable the taxpayer to carry out maintenance work on his plant or property, much of this money will be retained by the Government for, possibly, three or four years. That being so, the Government should pay to the taxpayer interest on such money at a rate at. least equal to that payable in respect of war loans.
I do not find fault with the Government’s present wheat scheme. On this point I disagree with some of my col leagues. However, I believe that » guaranteed price of 4s. lid- a bushel at the siding for the first 3,000 bushels and an advance of 2s. l-jd. a bushel on all wheat in excess of the first 3,000 bushels is equitable.
– The advance on the excess wheat is now 3s. a bushel.
– I admit that up to the present the Government has actually advanced 3s. a bushel on that wheat; but under the original agreement the advance of 2s. l&d. a bushel on such wheat has not been altered. When the rural workers’ award came into operation the wheat-grower was allowed an additional 1-Jd. a bushel in respect of costs incurred under that award. I now ask the Government to allow a corresponding increase in respect of barley, because the farmer who employs labour under the award mentioned incurs the same additional costs in respect of barley. At present, the price of barley is considerably less than that of wheat, and we must ensure that Australia does not cease- the production of barley. The restriction of production of wheat on an acreage basis has been proved to be a mistake. The production of wheat should never have been restricted, because Nature itself imposes sufficient restrictions in that respect. [Extension of time granted.] Production would have been sufficiently restricted for the Government’s purpose by drought and seasonal conditions generally, and the lack of man-power and superphosphate. However, when the Government sought to restrict production it should have done so, not on an acreage basis, but in respect of the individual grower. The lack of superphosphate has seriously reduced production. At the same time, however, thousands of acres which are capable of producing good crops without treatment with superphosphate, have not been sown because of the acreage restriction. In view of present seasonal conditions, our production may not be sufficient to meet demands for wheat for human- consumption. Therefore, I urge the Government not to permit of further sales of wheat for feed purposes or for the manufacture of power alcohol, because I remind honorable senators that in 1915 we had to import wheat from the United States of America to make good the deficiency in local production for human consumption; and this season threatens to be almost as bad as the 1914 season in this country. It must be obvious that all wheat disposed of for stock feed reduces the supplies available for human consumption.
– What is the quantity of wheat in stock now?
-I understand that present, reserves total 150,000,000 bushels, but, that is not likely to be sufficient to meet the possible shortage in the near future. I protest against the present system under which different, prices are paid to the. grower in respect of wheat, for human consumption and wheat for pig feed, the respective prices being 5s. 2d. a bushel and from 3s. 4d. to 3s. 6d. a bushel. Under the present system, a man could deliver 200 bags of wheat at a siding and receive an advance of 4s.11/3d. a bushel, and then immediately apply for 200 bags for pig feed, whereupon the agent could tell him to take back his 200 bags upon the grower paying 3s. 4d. a bushel.
I take the following quotation from a report published in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: -
The grain alcohol distillery at Cowra may have to suspend operation because of the shortage of whea t.
Mr. Cahill, M.L.A., said the position was due to the federal restriction of wheat acreages. It had been repeatedly stated that the reaction would be serious if the policy were persisted in. A stoppage of the distillery would deprive the nation of thousands of gallons of power alcohol.
I now wish to refer to the point raised by Senator Gibson with respect to taxation as it will affect land-holders whose properties are resumed for the purposes of soldier settlement. On the last three occasions during the debate on the budget in this chamber, I have emphasized the necessity for the Government to make plans immediately for the acquisition of land for this purpose, first, because prices undoubtedly will rise, and. secondly, because, under the present high rates of income tax, the land-holder whose land is resumed will be placed in a very difficult position. I again urge the Government to purchase land for this purpose immediately, and to arrange to take delivery of it, say, two or three years hence. Under such an arrangement occupiers will be given an opportunity to sell their stock, or to transfer their stock elsewhere, and thus will be protected from a ruinous tax which they would be obliged to pay as the result of the forced sale of their stock. In order to illustrate this point, I submit the following details of two typical cases. I shall deal first with freehold property.
Assets have decreased by £5,104, and the balance of £15,021, if invested in War Loans, would return an income of £482.
– He probably will. The position of the man on leasehold property is shown in the following table: -
This man’s capital lias been reduced by £1,803, and the balance of £2,697, if invested in War Loans, would give him an income of £68. Taxation, including 8$ per cent, lag, would be £33, leaving him a balance of £35.
This state of affairs must be remedied, because it is most unfair to the landowners of Australia.
– May we have the names in those two cases?
– They are only typical. There must be hundreds like them.
– Are they actual cases ?
– Yes, they are, or they will be.
– Does the honorable senator want the names kept secret?
– No, but, as I say, they are typical.
– They are typical of nothing.
– They show what can happen. Instances have been brought before other Ministers, who are not so sceptical as the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), and who have admitted that the cases are difficult and will have to be dealt with. Thi; question is : What is the best method of dealing with them ? If the Government could get land now for forward delivery, and give the people a chance of getting rid of their stock or finding somewhere to put it, it should do so, but apart from that it is quite reasonable and fair that the Government should amend the Lands Acquisition Act and get the States to follow its example, to provide that, when the Government acquires land for soldier settlement the owner’s stock and plant shall be free from income taxation, although, of course, he will he expected to pay tax on his ordinary average year’s income.
– The States will resume the land.
– That is so, and what I suggest is a reasonable way to get over the difficulty. A number of methods have been proposed, but that is the one which will cause the least trouble.
– Senator Gibson raised that point.,
– Yes, and I think that Senator Gibson’s figures are practically identical with mine.
The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is reasonable, and I have no doubt that every honorable senator, regardless of the side on which he sits, will vote for it, because senators are simply directors for the people of Australia, and any director who dipped his hands into the funds of a company which he helped to control would be liable to be sent to gaol.
– Not always.
– I am afraid that in this case the members of the Government will escape by weight of numbers. We have not been given any statement of the money expended by the Government on the referendum. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) stated, I believe, that the Government was allowed to spend £50,000, and Senator Leckie suggested that it had spent £49,999 10s. 6d. The Leader of the Senate argued that, “ as the Parliament had passed the act “, it had a right to follow it up by doing everything that it possibly could to induce the people to accept it.
– The honorable senator should have supported the measure ; it was an act of this Parliament.
– I could have supported some of its proposals, but not the whole of them. It was rather misleading to say that the Parliament “passed the act”. Parliament decided that certain questions should be referred to the people, the only authority to decide them. I therefore maintain that any funds used in propaganda work should have been private funds, and it was most unfair of the Government to use the taxpayers’ money for the purpose.
– But that has always been the practice.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN The honorable senator cannot find a precedent. It is allowable to circulate certain pamphlets setting out the case for and against, including the speeches of members of this Parliament.
– The honorable senator did not have so much to say about the secret fund used by a government which he supported.
– I am sorry that I cannot speak about that, because I know nothing of it. I have never heard of it except from honorable senators opposite. It is evidently so secret that the knowledge of it is confined entirely to the Government and its supporters. I support the amendment and sincerely hope that it will he carried.
Senator FINLAY (South Australia) j 5.10] .-The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is to be congratulated upon the budgot which he has presented to Parliament. Considering that, we are now in the sixth year of Avar, it can easily be understood that the people not only of this country but also of all countries, are becoming a little war-weary, and, are looking for some relief from the heavy burden of taxation which we are all called upon to pay to assist the Government to bring Australia safely through the war. A great deal has been said to-day about taxation relief for rural industries, but I am somewhat disappointed that the exigencies of war have not made it possible for the Government to increase the statutory exemption, so that workers in both industrial and rural’ occupation could have the basic wage free of taxation. I hope that when the next budget is presented we shall be free from the horrors of war, and that Parliament will be able to give relief not only to the farming community but also to all other sections of the people. I am particularly hopeful that the basic wage, which represents the absolute minimum to meet the cost of living in Australia, will he exempt from income taxation.
There has been much criticism of the Government for putting the country to the expense of a referendum. Much is also being said about the horror of dividing the people on a contentious issue during war-time. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that if the representatives of the State Governments had honoured their obligation to the Commonwealth Government there would have been no need to take a referendum. Honorable senators opposite know as well as we do that the planning of the peace is just as essential as is the planning of the conduct of the war. The planning for peace in Europe is much closer than we anticipated that it would be when the referendum was taken. That .being so, it was nil the more necessary that the sanction of the people should have been obtained to the referendum proposals, in order to give the National Parliament powers at least equal to those enjoyed by the States. It is indeed regrettable that men of great eminencein our land were so parochial in their outlook that they fixed theirminds on the year 1946 instead of on Australia’s welfare, and forgot the necessity of assisting the Commonwealth Parliament to solve the great problems that must be faced in the near future. Had’ the members of the Opposition taken a national view instead of stumping the country north, south, east and west, and’ agitating the minds of the people still further by dwelling on the friction caused by National Security Regulationscontrolling food supplies, the resultwould have been different. Propaganda of that kind was used during thereferendum campaign to induce peopleto vote “ No “’. Honorable senator? opposite who supported the “ No “ campaign were well aware that various sections of the community were grumbling because of the rationing of butter, tea, meat, and clothing. That feeling of resentment was played upon to such a degree that, in the larger cities of the Commonwealth at least, the “ No “ advocates were able to bring about the defeat of the referendum.
– Yet they agreed with all those measures when they were first introduced.
– Yes. I contend that the Government has done amagnificent job in ensuring that available supplies of essential commodities shall be distributed equally throughout the community. The organization has been remarkable; but certain controls must continue for some time at least after peace comes. If we do not have some form of price fixation, and some degree of control over goods which will continue to be in short supply even when the war ends, a chaotic position will arise and there will be strong inflationary tendencies as was the case after the last war.
– We have inflation here already.
– Inflation in Australia is not nearly so bad as it is in other parts of the world. The workers of this country have co-operated willingly with the Government by agreeing to the pegging of wages to facilitate price control. Evidence of this is to be found in the fact that the basic wage in Australia has risen by only a few shillings since the outbreak of war, and I remind honorable senators that the basic wage is determined by the index figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician, who is completely free from political influence. This Government is to be highly commended for its success in controlling prices, and it is not to the credit of certain members of this Parliament that they played upon the feelings of the people of this country merely to bring about the defeat of the referendum proposals.
I am in partial agreement at least with Sir Keith Murdoch when he sug- gests that it is imperative for the Commonwealth to have certain added powers after the war, and that if necessary a further referendum should be taken, no matter what the cost. Thecost would be infinitesimal compared with the benefits which would accrue to the people of this country if the Commonwealth were able to proceed uninterruptedly with its. plans for post-war reconstruction. This is a matter to which the Government should give close consideration; but let us have the proposals put to the people in one question - whether the Commonwealth should have powers equal to those enjoyed by all the States.
Much has been said in the course of this debate about the Government’s proposals with regard to ex-servicemen. 1 speak upon this matter as a returned soldier of the last war. Let us for a moment direct our attention to what happened after the last conflict, and see just how ex-servicemen were treated on th at occasion. As a railway employee, I was one of the fortunate ones who had a job to come back to; but there were hundreds of my soldier mates who did not have jobs waiting for them.
– Many of them did not, come back at all.
– Unfortunately, that is true. During the last war our fighting men were assured that they would return to a land which would be a veritable paradise for them.
– Who assured them of that?
– They were given that, assurance by the then Prime Minister, the Right Honorable William Morris Hughes. That right honorable gentleman told them that they would not know want; but what actually happened? In the first place, a gratuity was paid.
– Totalling £27,000,000.
– And it was £27,000,000 well spent. No reward is too great for a man who is prepared to sacrifice his life in defence of his country. This Government also proposes to pay a war gratuity, but I trust that it will benefit from what was learned after the last war and will not expose ex-servicemen to the pitfalls which confronted them on that occasion. The war gratuity bonds given to exservicemen in 1919, could not be cashed until a certain period had elapsed, but they were negotiable, which meant that business people eventually acquired almost all of them at substantial discounts, and it was not long before the ex-servicemen did not have any money loft.
Quite a number of ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war received training in various industrial avocations. The results of that scheme were quite good and many men who otherwise would have earned only the basic wage or a small margin above it, had an opportunity to become skilled tradesmen. However, other ex-servicemen were rural-minded and they did not fare so well. They received very little training at all. They acquired a block of land, a certain amount of money and were told to go ahead. Many of them were put on land which was still in its natural state, and they had to hew timber and carry water.
– In what parts of the Commonwealth were ex-servicemen of the last war put on unimproved land?
– In the vicinity of Wilmington and Melrose, in South Australia, 80 returned soldiers were settled on the land under those conditions. Few of them are left to-day. These are pitfalls whichmust be avoided when this conflict ends. After the last war, exservicemen enjoyed a period of comparative prosperity, resulting mainly from their war gratuities and deferred pay. However, after a few years their surplus, cash had been expended, those individuals who control the financial destinies of the world decided that it was time to call in all credits. All talk of preference to returned soldiers ceased and thousands and thousands of men who had been promised security of employment upon their return from war service, suffered years of enforced idleness. In spite of what may be said by returned soldiers organizations, I agree with the statement by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) thatmany of the first Australian soldiers to enlist and fight in this war were the men of lost opportunities - men who had never had a job before. In many cases, the first constant employment enjoyed by sons of returned soldiers of the last war was the job of picking up the weapons that had been laid down by their fathers and carrying on the fight which was supposed to end in 1918. I sincerely trust that the repatriation measures of the future will not be similar to those adopted in the past; that there will not be mere talk of preference to exservicemen, but that every man who has served his country in the fighting forces will be guaranteed employment. If we can provide money to maintain our fighting forces in time of war, I see no reason why we should not be able to provide it for full employment in time of peace. Ex-servicemen must be given not only security of employment, but also adequate housing.
I am very hopeful that when the Commonwealth Disposals Commission is selling surplus government property, it will not dispose of certain internment camps. I have just paid a short visit to an internment camp at Loveday, in South Australia, and I take this opportunity to commend those individuals who have been responsible for its development. In my opinion, it will be an ideal place for the training of exservicemen in rural occupations after the war. I was astounded to find a camp of such dimensions. In addition to the improvements on the camp site itself, there has been considerable development for miles around in such undertakings as vegetable growing. Large quantities of vegetable seeds are being produced for the Australian market, and, in addition, the vegetables themselves are being sent to military hospitals. I was surprised also to find acre upon acre of rubber trees, which have been planted in an endeavour to establish the rubber-grow- ing industry in this country. I also saw one of the finest piggeries that I have ever seen. The pens are of concrete, and railway lines run throughout the establishment. Nearly 800 pigs are being raised there today. In addition, there is a poultry farm built to accommodate 10.000 birds. I should be very sorry indeed to see these valuable assets sold to the highest bidder. The establishment has a magnificent frontage on the Murray River. In this area, also, citrus and dried fruits are grown in large quantities and I imagine that no better training ground could be found for the training of ex-servicemen in rural occupations. I do not knowwhether other internment camps in the Commonwealth have been developed on the same scale, but this one at least should be retained and utilized to the fullest advantage.
Quitea lot has been said in the course ofthis debate about industrial stoppages, and there has been considerable comment concerning the workers involved in these disputes. Reference was made by Senator James McLachlan to the fact that in other sections of industry, and inthe Australian Army, no strikes have occurred, andmuch has been said about the part which the Communists have played in fomenting strikes. I am in no way associated with the Communist party, but in fairness it must be said that, prior to Russia entering the war, the Communists believed this to be a capitalistwar, and they would have no hand in it. They did everything possible to prevent its successful progress; but, immediately Russia came into theconflict, a change took place overnight among the alleged leaders ofthe Communist party in Australia. They foresaw that, if they hoped todefeat fascism, the united efforts of thenation were required in order tokeep thewheels of industry turning, and ensurethe winning of the war. I do not subscribe to the principle that the Communist party is responsible for many of the industrial disputes happening today. Owingtothe exigencies of war, the necessity has arisenfor employing in industry thousands ofpersons who had not previously worked in it.Manyofthem probablyhad been accustomed to periods of leisure. Many parents, nodoubt, had several daughters living at home, and even sonswhopreferred anything to hard toil. Many of those persons have been forced by theman-power authorities to accept their present jobs in industry. I have no doubt that some of these people areresponsible for the pin-pricking tactics which result in industrial disputes. Asthe war proceeds, and the general situation, from Our point of view, improves, many people believe that the present restrictions are no longer necessary.Someare compelled to work seven daysa week throughoutthe year. Through lackofman-power, many shops and stores are understaffed, and these premises are closed before the working people generally have an opportunity to purchase their requirements. In many instances it is impossible for persons working in industry to get even a haircut unless they absent themselves from their work. Absenteeism is due largely to weariness caused by war-time conditions, and it is not resorted to inorder to embarrass the Government.
I again impress upon the Government the necessity for speeding up the preparatory work which a quickchangeover from war production to peace-time industry will entail. The manufacture of aeroplanes and motor cars, in fact, all engineering work, calls for a great deal of planning and the preparation of tools, and, during the transition from war-time to peace-time industry, comparatively few men will be employed. I hope that the Government will release sufficient labour to manufacturers at the earliest opportunity, so that the necessary skilled men will be available for the toolingup processes, and that a minimum loss of time will occur before the workers generally can be fully employed in peace time occupations.
– I congratulate thehonorableand gallant senator who has justresumed his seat upon his speech, and I concur in a great deal that he has said, particularly as to the necessity for granting a gratuity, or some similar recognition, to returned members of the fighting services. If that recognition be in the nature of a bond it should be made nonnegotiable. After the last war,the bonds presented to returned ex-servicemen were negotiable, and many a”digger” was taken down badly. He was permitted to take goods in exchange for bonds, but “ under the lap “ he sometimes took cash, and was badly done by.
I shall address my remarks principally to the amendment, but I was interested to hear Senator Large say that the way tostarve out capitalism was by birth control.
– He didnot saythat.
– I made a note of the remarkat the time. If we carried out that principle to its logical conclusion, we should allbestarved out. He also saidthat socialismmadefor selfreliance, but that is what it doesnot do.
I had the pleasure last week of listening to Senator Grant, who drew attention to what he regarded as the overheated atmosphere of this chamber. That amused me, because if any honorable senator generates hot air, it is the honorable gentleman to whom I have just referred. Some of the air which we were forced to breathe during his speech was like a noxious gas, and I wished that I had had a small box respirator with me for a while. The honorable senator was followed by Senator Nicholls, who also put up a good “ show “ of hot air. I have heard Senator Grant speaking in the Sydney Domain, and he has often delivered interesting and entertaining addresses there on Sunday afternoons, but in this chamber he should try to serve up something of a higher standard. I admired him for his courage and truthfulness when he said that he was a socialist, but what is socialism? I have heard many definitions of it, and I think that the simplest is the following from the Oxford and Universal dictionaries:-
A political and economic theory and movement for the reform of society by the substitution of collective for individual ownership of capital and property.
I take it that, in other words, that implies State ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, which is the policy of the Australian Labour party. I assume that honorable senators opposite are all socialists, and that they desire to put socialism into practice.
The honorable senator said that the defeat of the proposals submitted to the people at the referendum was a tragedy, but personally I consider that the result was a triumph, of common sense. Had the proposals not been rejected, the result might have been, a tragedy. I came to the conclusion early in the campaign that a considerable number of members of the Australian Labour party were not keen about a “ Yes “ vote and would be pleased if the proposals were defeated. They have a fine excuse now, if the wonderful reforms which are expected under a Labour administration are not realized. They can say, “ The people would not grant the constitution alterations which the Labour party sought and that is why such a shocking muddle has been made of the show “. Like Pontius Pilate, Labour supporters can now wash their hands of the referendum proposals and say,” Our hands are clean in the matter, because the people would not give us the powers we desired “. I was surprised at one or two remarks of Senator Grant, particularly when he referred to John Bright having advocated that children of the ‘age of seven years should work in the coal mines of Great Britain.
– I shall give hisexact words.
-I shall be interested to hear them. The honorable senator then went on to speak of Chinese coolies pulling 10-ton loads with the blood running out of their feet.
– That is so. Has the honorable senator ever been in China?
– Yes, andI know that the poverty and destitution in that country are almost unbelievable unless one has witnessed them.
– At last the honorable senator agrees with me.
– The same could bo said of India. I have seen great distress in Bombay, but conditions in India are gradually improving. Through the League of Nations something was done, in both Asia and Africa, to stop the exploitation of child labour. The honorable senator went on to say that democracy had not yet been established in Australia and that the party of the appeases had overthrown parliamentary democracy in Germany. Democratic principles have never been practised in Germany, and the honorable senator’s suggestion that the appeasers - whoever they were - brought about the overthrow of parliamentary democracy in Germany is utter nonsense.
– No money for the rehabilitation of Germany was made available by the capitalists of Great Britain and France.
– The honorable senator has apparently read books oh only one side of the subject. He should read others. He then went on to talk about Labour fighting fascism, but from what I have seen of the Labour party there is a lot of fascism in its policy. The Government has given evidence of Fascist tendencies. The honorable senator then said that the only thing that was wrong with Hitlerism was that it organized society for wrong purposes. He proceeded to explain that he favoured the organization of labour and the use of disciplinary methods for the benefit of the people as a whole. “With that statement I agree, but I want to know who is to be in charge of the organizing and the disciplining.
– The “ crowd “ represented by honorable senators opposite has been in charge for twenty years.
– I am concerned to know who is to do the organizing and the disciplining in the future. Another priceless gem in the honorable senator’s speech was his statement that many people were hungry, not because there was too little food, but because there was too much.
– “What was wrong with that? Has the honorable senator forgotten that during the depression, when people were hungry, huge stacks of wheat were eaten by mice?
– The statement is utter nonsense. There may be malnutrition in Australia, but there is no shortage of food. The trouble in Australia is not lack of food, but that the wrong food is eaten, or that the food is badly cooked.
– There has been lack of food in Australia.
– The honorable senator then inquired what right any nian had to say, “This is my factory; others can starve”. I ask him, “What right has any union to say, ‘ If you do not join a union, you can starve’”? The honorable senator cannot have it both ways. If the people are to be organized and disciplined, there must obviously be compulsion.
– Compulsion is necessary at times in the interests of society.
– That form of compulsion means conscription. One of the powers sought by the Government in the recent referendum, amounted to the power of conscription. Senator Grant and Senator Nicholls spoke enthusiastically of socialism, a system of society which has the endorsement of the Australian Labour party. I do not believe in socialism. I am utterly opposed to it because I want to be a free man, and socialism and freedom cannot exist together. The best definition of socialism that I have seen is “ Socialism is an arrangement for destroying initiative, invention, creation and originality; its advocates are always willing to participate in profits without accepting any responsibility for deficits “. The honorable and gallant senator from South Australia - Senator Nicholls - spoke of a great number of things, and advanced the same old argument that if money could be provided for war purposes, it could also be provided for the needs of peace.
– That argument is unanswerable.
– No, it is not. A nation cannot engage in a campaign of slaughter and destruction for four or five years, and then, when it comes to its senses, say that it is better off than before it commenced to smash things. During the war everything has been subordinated to the war effort, and rightly so, but it is a fallacious argument to say that we shall be better off at the end of a destructive war than before it started. One has only to look at the banking statistics to realize that there is a limit to which a nation can go. We must, and we shall, provide all the money possible for the purposes of reconstruction in the period of peace following the war, but the argument that because money can be provided for war it can also be provided in days of peace is entirely erroneous. One of the choicest statements of Senator Nicholls was that private ownership and control of our monetary system permits the restriction of credit by the greatest gang of crooks the world has ever seen. I should like to know what gang of crooks is responsible for unemployment, poverty and degradation. Reference was also made to Sir Otto Niemeyer. I met that gentleman when he was in Australia. At that time I was a member of a committee which was inquiring into the establishment of a central reserve bank. According to Senator Nicholls, Sir Otto Niemeyer made the rich richer and the poor poorer. He must have been a “ tough guy “.
– He was.
– Honorable senators opposite seem to forget that Sir Otto Niemeyer came to Australia at the invitation of the Scullin Labour Government. At that time Australia was sick, and the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) called in “Dr.” Niemeyer to see what could be done for the patient.
– He nearly killed the patient.
– It is true that he prescribed nasty medicine. Generally, a medicine that benefits a patient is rather distasteful. But the patient took the medicine, with the result that Australia soon started on the road to recovery. [ confess that some of the medicine of that time was most unpleasant to the taste, particularly that which robbed the soldiers of over £1,000,000.
– There was no taste at all in the mouths of half a million people. Moreover, the soldiers agreed to the cut, as the honorable senator knows.
– I could tell the Senate the whole story. The soldiers were told distinctly that war pensions would have to be reduced by £1,000,000 a year. Representatives of the soldiers went to the then Government and asked that before the reduction was made they should be permitted to submit a plan which would ensure that the minimum hardship would result from the cut. To the credit of the Government of the day, it can be said that it was wise enough to listen to the suggestion.
– The honorable senator grabbed the Scullin Government’s offer with both hands, because he wanted to destroy the Government.
– The result was, that although soldiers did not suffer directly, the pensions payable to certain classes of their dependants were reduced by £1,000,000 a year.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended, I drew a hornet’s nest about my ears when dealing with the. reduction of war pensions in 1931. That was a very distasteful task for any government.I have a very distinct recollection of what happened. The then Treasurer,Mr. Theodore, said that soldiers’ pensions must be reduced by approximately £1,500,000. The returned soldier members of the Parliament got together and discussed the matter, and proposed to the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who was then Prime Minister, that a committee be formed to devise ways and means as to how the reduction could be made with the least hardship on those least able to bear any reduction. That committee knew perfectly well that, regardless of any proposal it might put up, over £1,000,000 annually had to be saved by reducing those pensions. During the suspension of the sitting I took the opportunity to look up the matter in Hansard in order to refresh my memory.
– But what happened could not be recorded in Hansard.
– Hansard shows how the soldiers were treated. At that time, every invalid and old-age pension was reduced by 2s. 6d. a week regardless of the amount. That cut was made on invalid pensions as low as 5s. a week. Is that not correct?
– Yes, it was murder; and I opposed it.
– The pensions of over 70,000 soldiers were not reduced. No reduction was made in the war pension of orphaned children, war widows, nurses, or widowed mothers of unmarried soldiers who were killed or died from war causes. A 22½ per cent, reduction was made in the pensions coming within the following categories : “ Other parents, children, wives, brothers and sisters, other pensioners, and omitted from approximate pensions payable “. Together with other savings the total reduction made amounted to £1,018,230.
– And that was agreed to by every member of the honorable senator’s party in both chambers.
– I am simply stating what happened. The proposal was signed by members of that committee who were -
That committee concluded its letter to the Prime Minister as follows: -
The conference recognizes that the surrendering of the aforementioned’ amount was essential to the success of the rehabilitation plan, and, whilst the said .proposal will doubtless occasion considerable inconvenience to those concerned, they will accept the sacrifice entailed with a view to assisting in expediting the restoration of prosperity in Australia.
That letter was forwarded to the Prime Minister on the 3rd July, 1931, and, eventually, the Government, adopted the committee’s proposal.
– With the support of every member of the United Australia party in this Parliament.
– It had to be done.
– It should not have been done.
– I was a member of the Senate at that time, and I am simply giving; my recollection of what happened. The discussion on this subject has arisen because Senator Nicholls introduced the name of Sir Otto Niemeyer into this debate. The honorable senator said that Sir Otto sent a message to the people of Australia, saying, “ You can stew in your own juice “. I have no recollection of that message. However, I was particularly impressed by the honorable senator’s description of Sir Otto as, “The perambulating bailiff of vested interests”. The honorable senator said that with an absolute majority in both Houses of this Parliament, the only way in which the Labour party will solve the problem for the working-class is by implementing its policy -in globo. Who are the workingclaw in Australia? Practically all of us are workers. There are very few idle rich in this country. I have a most decided objection to the preaching of class hatred and class consciousness.
The Leader of the Opposition ha? moved the following amendment: -
That the Senate considers that the action of the Government in using public funds for Labour party propaganda and the utilization of public speakers and members of the Civil Service as advocates of government policy, par ticularly in relation to the recent referendum, is contrary to established practices and dangerous to democratic public administration.
I endorse the amendment because the action of the Government which it condemns has established a very dangerousprecedent. When a government uses the taxpayers money for propaganda in connexion with a referendum it needs totake only another step to do the same thing in connexion with an election. That practice is extremely dangerous, and absolutely immoral. I have in my hand a pamphlet entitled, “You, and the Referendum “. It is a very interesting document. It is issued under the authority of the Commonwealth Government and it. cost £2,044 ls. lOd. to produce. What the cost of its distribution was I do not know; but as nearly 750,000 were printed, I presume that that item was fairly expensive. The pamphlet commences with a lot of absolute nonsense and rubbish: -
You are being asked to vote “ Yes “ or “Nil” at a Commonwealth referendum. Tim vote you east will affect your future vitally, because on it will depend - Your job; Your home; Your security; and the personal happiness of your family, your children . . . and you yourself.
Any government which can legislate for the happiness of a man’s family is pretty clever to say the least. . That cannot be done by legislation. During the referendum campaign, I also received a letter, of which I suppose millions were distributed. It was signed by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). The quantity of paper used in its production was 7 tons 4 cwt., and the paper alone cost £539 13s. 4d. The number of envelopes used in its distribution was 1,637,631, the cost of which was £1,11 S 16s.; and the cost of printing the letter was £579 8.s. 2d., whilst the postage was £13,646 18s. 6d. All of that cost was paid by the general public. We are told that approximately £50,000 of public money was expended in connexion with “ Yes “ propaganda, but I doubt whether that amount covers the actual expenditure of public funds by the Government to boost the “Yes “ case; because, to-day. every government department has its publicity and propaganda machine. That expenditure was a shameful waste of public money in order to boost a party political policy and cannot bc justified in any circumstances.
– It was a national measure.
– The Government’s referendum proposals were conceived in the Labour party, and the relevant measure was passed in this Parliament with the support of only a few members of the Opposition. Pamphlets galore were published in order to advertise Ministers and their policy, the cost being met out of public funds. Northcliffe’s propaganda in the last war was insignificant when compared with the Government’s propaganda during the referendum. The Government turned out its publicity in an unending stream, in spite of shortages of paper and manpower. Over 3,000,000 copies of propaganda of various kinds, has been issued this year by this Government. Such action is wrong in principle. It is immoral for a Government to spend the money of the taxpapers in that manner.
Senator NASH (Western Australia) [8.15”J . - The Treasurer, in presenting the budget, has pointed out that price inflation has not lessened but increased because of the increased absorption of goods and services for war purposes and the lessening of goods and services for civilian use. This means that incomes have increased and the spending power of the people has also increased. That is illustrated by the tremendous growth of savings banks deposits in the hands the people, and at the same time th’i inability of the people to spend.. “We know that the cause of the people’s inability to spend is due to the control tb’it had to be set up as the result or war economy, but it is also, in my opinion, an indication of the inherent danger t > the people’s savings unless safeguards are provided to prevent profiteering when the war is over. We have heard from Opposition senators a good deal about the referendum and all who have been associated with it, but despite all that has been said by them, there must be some method whereby price controls can be maintained after the conclusion of the war. Whether that can be done in conjunction with the States, or whether it will he necessary for the States ‘as such to enact price-controlling legislation, I do not know, but I visualize that, unless’ legislation emanates from some source to continue the- system of price control after the war, the savings of the people, and, in fact, the whole of the community of Australia, will be in serious jeopardy. When the people were told during the referendum campaign that this Parliament had all the necessary powers under the Constitution to do what was required for the post-war period, I asked Opposition senators: How are we to prevent profiteering at the conclusion of the war without some legislation, and where is that legislation to come from? The people by the decision given have =aid, in effect, that they do not agree that that power should be vested in the National Parliament. They were told that all the National Parliament desired was to have transferred to it powers already posse-v.ed by the various State legislatures. Unless the Commonwealth has the constitutional authority to enact legislation to prevent profiteering, is it feasible to anticipate that the various State Governments will, if they bring down any legislation at all, introduce legislation of a uniform character to control that aspect of our economic life? Taking history as a guide, it is- inconceivable that they will bring down uniform legislation, but unless it is uniform we shall not get anywhere. After this war, and, in fact, at this very moment, the outstanding problem throughout Australia will be, and is, housing for the people. The Commonwealth Government was desirous of having the necessary authority made available to it to ens Hp it to enter the field of home construction, so that it might assist the States in that direction. The Commonwealth must gi?a consideration primarily to the materials required in building homes A..= the result of the enormous demand which will occur when the war ceases, the position will become acute, and the supply will be very restricted for some time. Under our present system of control, taking rationing as an example, we have been at least able to guarantee to the whole of the people, an equal distribution of the available goods. Unless there is some legislation to retain that control when the war is over, how is the Commonwealth Parliament, or any State Parliament, to regulate the position so as to ensure an even distribution amongst the States of the available goods for the construction of homes ? Although Opposition senators tell us that the referendum proposals were all moonshine, rot and bunkum, they cannot deny that, unless there is some method of control over the distribution of goods in the post-war period, goods will be obtained by those with the ability to pay, while those who have not the means will of necessity go without, just as in the depression period when those who did not have the ability to purchase were allowed to starve in the midst of plenty.
What chance will this or any State government have of controlling extravagant and unnecessary expenditure, unless controls are retained after the war? It Ls conceivable that there will be much speculation because of the tremendous spending power available not only to the people, but also to various financial concerns. Large sums of money will be required for the purpose of providing pleasure resorts, erecting big hotels or similar buildings, the erection of which will require goods and materials as well as capital. How is this Government, under its existing constitutional powers, to meet tha.t situation when the war has ended ? Will the States be able to do the job and, if they are, will they do it? Profiteering is going to be a very big problem after the war. It is rampant even now. Al though we have pricefixation regulations in operation throughout Australia, I have been informed quite recently that bakelite ash trays of the same size and the same make can be purchased at one place in Canberra for 2s. and at another for ls. 3d. That is only a small matter, but it shows a disparity of 9d. between retail prices in two different establishments in the same city. If that happens now under controlled prices, what will happen in the after-war period all over Australia, when there is no control, either Federal or State, over the rapacity of profiteers?
To-day Senator Sampson has told us of what happened after the last war in respect of war gratuities. Because they were not redeemable until after a certain period, they were so traded in that other people were able to reap the benefits which the gratuity was meant to give tothe returned serviceman. A similar problem will face us after hostilities cease in this instance.
– The Western Australian Parliament corrected that position.
– It did, but it did not maintain the correction. The legislation was either repealed or ignored. Will honorable senators opposite indicate how these problems are tobe overcome when the war ceases? I visualize that for a while after the war there will not be any unemployment owing to the long period during which many essential and non-essential goods have been out of production. In all the countries of the United Nations rehabilitation work will have to be undertaken. Great Britain is faced with the immediate problem of restoring shattered homes and damaged properties, but that does not apply to the United States of America or Australia. The lag in this country is due to the lack of nonessential and some essential goods now in short supply. That lag will be overtaken by means of our productiveresources in a very short time, but immediately that happens, and Australia gets back to a normal economic footing, we shall be faced with the problem of unemployment, unless a method is devised whereby this Parliament or the State Parliaments can not only make work available, but also provide the financial resources to carry it out. When I hear the allegation that the referendum was all “bunkum” I am reminded of what happened after the last war when we had a period of prosperity, a period of decline, another short period of prosperity, and then the most severe depression in history. That is the prospect which faces Australia unless the Commonwealth has wider powers. It is to the credit of the Commonwealth Government that in co-operation with the State Governments it has already prepared a public works programme, totalling £200,000,000, with the object of providing employment in the post-war period. Whether the States will be able to do all that is required of them in financing those proposals remains to be seen, but there was no catch in asking the people of this country to confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to legislate in respect of employment and unemployment. The Government’s case for the referendum was a statement of fact, and showed an honest desire to do the right thing by the people of this country. In Western Australia one of the outstanding opponents of the referendum was a gentleman associated with the Employers’ Federation, and his loudest cry was, “ Industrial conscription I remind honorable senators that during the depression we did not have industrial conscription in this country, yet exactly the same condition of affairs existed at that time as could exist to-day or to-morrow if the war were over. At that time, every member of the community had the right to choose whatever job he liked, but for tens of thousands of unfortunate individuals there were no jobs to choose. The shops were stocked with commodities of all kinds, and there was no restrictions upon their sale, yet thousands of people did not have sufficient money to purchase even the necessaries of life. Those individuals who talk of industrial conscription now, and tell the people of this country that if they confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to legislate in respect of employment and unemployment, industrial conscription will be introduced, and workmen will be sent to Darwin or some other remote part of the Commonwealth are indulging in so much clap-trap. The people of this country will require work after the war. and the responsibility will rest either upon this Parliament or upon the State Parliaments- to see that work is available and that there will not he a repetition of the dreadful state of affairs which occurred during the depression to which I have referred.
Senator Sampson spoke tonight of the reduction of invalid and old-age pensions during the depression period, and claimed that that action had to he taken in view of Australia’s financial position: In other words, that the then Government had to obey the instructions of Sir Otto Neimeyer, who visited this country and told us that, as our standard of living was too high, we should have to take in our belts. Senator Simpson said that the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who was the Labour Prime Minister during the depression years, was responsible for the visit to Australia of Sir Otto Neimeyer. If my recollection be correct, immediately the Scullin Government came into office - I stress the fact that the Scullin Administration was in office and not in power - overseas financial interests demanded immediate repayment by this country of certain debts. To meet that demand, ?5,000,000 worth of gold was exported from Australia. That was the legacy which the right honorable member for Yarra inherited from the previous administration. Apart from that, there is this aspect of the matter: Whatever the Scullin Administration had to do ai that time to meet the problems with which it wa6 faced, this Senate, in which the anti-Labour parties held a majority, was in a position to do exactly the opposite. There was no reason why members of this chamber should have allowed 760,000 people in Australia to exist at a starvation level. It could have determined, of its own accord, to assist the then Prime Minister by making available to the Commonwealth Government the paltry sum of ?18,000,000 to tide this country over a difficult period. But no, the Senate opposed the proposals of the then Treasurer, Mr. Theodore. Therefore, I contend that it is most unfair to blame the right honorable member for Yarra for what happened in those days. It is not playing the game.
The budget provides for an increase of expenditure of ?37,700,000 on social services this year. Of that sum, invalid and old-age pensions will require ?4,650,000 and widows’ pensions ?3,050,000. There is a widespread belief to-day that invalid and old-age pensions should be increased. Although the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) has pointed out that in Australia, invalid and old-age pensions are higher than anywhere else in the world - 27s. fl week - I contend that that sum is not sufficient to enable these elderly members of the community to enjoy a reasonable standard of living. The aged citizens of this country have given a lifetime of service to the nation. They have worked, paid taxes, and lived up to the. requirements of modern society; yet the best, that we oan offer to them is 27s. a week, or slightly less than onethird of the generally accepted basic wage, of approximately £5 a week. I hope that at the earliest possible moment the Government will give consideration to increasing invalid and old-age pensions. In my view, these pensions should be approximately half of the prevailing basic wage. I do not know how these old people carry on at present, after paying rent.
The budget provides £2,400,000 for maternity allowances, compared with £2.259,000 last year. Possibly this increase reflects a rise in the birth-rate which Australia requires so urgently, find I am sure that the people of this country commend the action of the Government in providing an increased allowance. We have heard a good deal about the necessity to increase Australia’s population. In my view the first essential to a higher birth-rate is economic security.
– There is a greater one than that, national security.
– I admit that. I suggest also that the Government could encourage an increase of the. birth-rate bv providing housing at a reasonable cost and without fear of dispossession or of unemployment. In addition, serious consideration should be given to the granting of marriage loans, which I conrend are not be>“>nd the economic capacity of this nation. The loans could be repayable at a nominal rate of inter-st, on. the basis of one day’s pay a week. As children are born, certain deductions could be made from the purchase price of the home. In that way, I believe, the population could be greatly increased.
The estimated cost this vear of widows’ pensions is £3,050,000. as compared with £2,801,000 last, year.’ T’ie amount of this pension is now stabilred at £’7s. a week. I understand that p widow may earn 12s. 6d. a week in addition to the pension, but, should she augment her pension by more than 12.=. 6d. a week, it becomes’ subject to review. This restriction, is not regarded as just, because widows are required to rear families and maintain their homes- at a reasonable standard of comfort. The Governmentsays, in effect, that they may earn only 39s. 6d. a week. A widow who has children to support is entitled to at least the equivalent of the basic wage, and it would not he. over generous to permit hear to earn up to that sum. It is. pleasing; to note that the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act and the Pharmaceutical! Benefits Act will become effective next January. The public has heard, very little about these measures, which became law only recently. I am pleased to know that proposals for the granting cf hospital benefits and for the care of tubercular patients will soon be the subject of legislative consideration.
The concessions to be granted to income taxpayers, although they do not go so far as I personally should like, at least indicate that the Government, despite the necessity for giving primary consideration to the prosecution of the war, has still in mind the improvement of the social conditions of the people. Deductions from taxable income are to bo made available in respect of dependent children receiving full-time education up to the age of eighteen years and in respect of the medical and dental expenses of children up to the age of 21 years. Deductions up to £50 are to be allowed in respect of medical expenses, and of that sum £10 will be allowed in respect of the cost of dental treatment. That is a desirable concession and will benefit many thousands of taxpayers throughout Australia.
War expenditure is estimated to require £505,000,000 and non-war expenditure £.148,000,000, a total of £653,000,000. Revenue anticipated from taxation amounts to- £286,000,000, and from other receipts £39,000,000’, a total of £325,000,000. That leaves a deficiency to be financed by means of loans, or, I presume, treasury-bills, to the amount of £328,000,000. Up. to the end of last June, treasury-bills were issued for war purposes to the amount of £3.43,000,0.00. l.t seems impossible to finance this war solely by means of taxation and loans. We are compelled to obtain credit from some other source, and resort is had to treasury-bill finance.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) referred to the excessive use r.C bank credit, and hoped that it would, not be- resorted to unduly. He referred?. to statements made by Ministers and other members of the Labour party with regard to national credit, aud claimed that those remarks did a disservice to Australia. He also indicated that the. Commonwealth Bank Board had become a plaything of party polities. He was concerned about the nationalization of banking, and the Labour party’s policy of. socialization. I make no apology for the policy of that party. It provides that the Commonwealth Bank should be developed as a nation-wide trading hank, bundling the ordinary business of the community, and as a savings bank, performing the ordinary functions of such a bank, and providing a Credit Foncier system for the purpose of financing primary producers and home builders. The policy of the Labour party also envisages a national credit advisory authority to collaborate with the Government, the bank to plan the investment of national credit, and thus utilize to the fullest degree the real wealth of Australia. That is a policy which some honorable senators opposite consider to bc wrong. Under the war-time powers, bank credit is controlled and co-ordinated with the life of the nation. The Commonwealth Bank is exercising a definite influence on the private banking institutions, and the credit control of the nation is regarded as sound. When the war is- over there will not be complete financial control by the National Parliament, and the danger is that the sole prerogative for the issue of credit will then reside in the private banking institutions.
I ask honorable senators opposite how will the credit of this country be controlled when the war-time powers cease? There will then bc a real necessity for concern about any excessive use of bank credit. The difference then will be that the credit will not be issued in the best interests’ of the nation. The Government should use its sovereign prerogative to issue credit on a controlled basis to meet the requirements of the community, and should not hand that right over to private banking institutions, as well as pay for services rendered. The tragedy is that we adopt what is called orthodox finance; in other words, we give to somebody else the right to create credit at a premium, but without cost to the issuing authority. That function is the- right of the Commonwealth Bank, which was originally called, and was intended to be. the people!s bank. That should be the only authority throughout the Commonwealth, with the right to issue credit. History has shown that, when bank crashes occur, the resources of the nation have to be used to remedy the positionThat has occurred in the United States of America and elsewhere, and I believe that it occurred, in Australia, in the nineties. Why should the nation have to come to the assistance of private banking institutions? I submit, that the whole financial system is wrong, and that, when the country requires additional credit to meet difficult times, the only authority permitted to make it available should be the Commonwealth Bank. When prosperity returns, and less credit is required, that bank would then be able to cancel some of the credit that had been issued, so that there would he continuous control of finance. That would he preferable to a system which, at no cost whatever, provides large profits for thousands of shareholders in the private banks.
In 1911, some interesting comments were made regarding the proposal for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank. The then member for Hindmarsh, Mr. Archibald, said, during the debate on the second reading of the Commonwealth Bank Bill-
It does not seem to me right that we should have to go cap in hand to any hank to do our national financial business; and there is no doubt that we have great business to do.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was then the member for West Sydney, remarked -
As credit is the basis of banking, consider the position of the Commonwealth Bank. Could there be any individual or collection of individuals whose credit is as great as tin* credit of the whole people?
The following observations were made by the then member for Wimmera, Mr. Sampson :-
It is generally admitted that the credit of the Commonwealth is greater than the credit of any section of individuals within the Commonwealth. The teachings of history are very clear that the strength and legal authority of the Government has been necessary over and over again, in order to avert financial disaster.
Yet the Leader of the Opposition claims that the Commonwealth Bank Board has become a play-thing of party politics. Why has he not. told the Senate that the Commonwealth Bank was sabotaged by the Bruce-Page anti-Labour Government? Originally, the Commonwealth Bank was controlled by a manager, who was responsible for its administration, but, to-day, control is vested in a board of directors, which consists of a Governor, the Secretary to the Treasury, and six other persons who are, or have been, actively engaged in agriculture, commerce, finance, or industry. Four directors form a quorum, and at any meeting of the board all questions are decided by a majority vote of the directors present. The result of the change is that the Commonwealth Bank is no longer a people’s bank, but has become a banker’s bank, its chief functions being to safeguard the solvency of the private trading banks. On many occasions representations have been made to me that general trading facilities are not provided by the Commonwealth. Bank in many towns in Western Australia. Requests that those facilities be provided have not been complied with, and I assume that a similar state of affairs exists in the other States also. I hope that before long the Government will introduce legislation to restore the Commonwealth Bank to its original charter, so that it may trade in open competition with private banking institutions, and also that it will have the sole right to create credit in this country. Banking is a lucrative business. Despite the change of management, the aggregate net profit of the Commonwealth Bank, including its general banking section, the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the Rural Credits Branch, to .1941 amounted to £16,875,646. Since the inception of the bank its average annual profits have been more than £500,000. Had the control of the bank not been changed the amount would have been greater. Those profits go into the Consolidated Revenue Account, whereas the profits of private banks go’ into the pockets of private shareholders. I have no quarrel with shareholders of private businesses, but banking is a national matter, and should be treated as such.
I am pleased to note that the Government proposes to recognize either by means of a straightout gratuity or by payment for extended leave the services rendered by our fighting services. In view of the opinions that have been expressed in this chamber regarding the manipulation of gratuity bonds after the last war, it is desirable that an all-party parliamentary committee should consider this matter. I think, however, that a straightout gratuity would find most favour in the community.
I ask the Government to give special consideration to the provision of shipping facilities for the Port of Esperance, in Western Australia. Prior to Japan’s entry into the war, ships of various sizes called at Esperance, but, since then, the policy has been to direct coastal shipping to main ports. The result is that Esperance is visited only occasionally by one type of vessel. Esperance is the natural port for the eastern gold-fields of Western Australia. It is the nearest port to the towns of Salmon Gums, Norseman, Kalgoorlie, Boulder, Menzies, Leonora, Gwalia, and other centres farther north. The Government of Western Australia has built, at Esperance, a jetty which cost approximately £60,000 and is capable of berthing simultaneously two vessels drawing up to 35 feet of water. The harbour is of good depth, and will accommodate a large number of vessels. Esperance i= connected by rail with Kalgoorlie via Coolgardie, which is situated 2-5 miles from Kalgoorlie. Railway facilities are available also between Kalgoorlie and Leonora. It will be seen, therefore, that railway facilities exist between Esperance and the majority of the gold-mining centres At present most of the requirements of the eastern gold-fields are distributed from the port of Fremantle, which is 392 miles by rail from Kalgoorlie. As the distance from Esperance to Kalgoorlie is only 210 miles, there is a difference of 182 miles in favour of Esperance. From Fremantle to Norseman, which is on the railway line between Esperance and Coolgardie, is 477 miles, compared with 125 miles from Esperance to Norseman. In this instance, the difference in favour of Esperance is 352 miles. If Esperance, which I have said is the natural port of the eastern gold-fields, were given its rightful place, considerable’ freight savings could be made, as the following table shows : -
[Extension of time granted.]
I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to tomorrow, at 10.30 a.m.
.- I move -
That the Senate dp now adjourn.
On the 14th September,Senator Arnold asked the following question. -
Will the Leader of the Senate give details of the national works programme recently agreed on between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States?
The information required is so voluminous that it might meet the honorable senator’s requirements if he were to refer to the report of the Co-ordinator-General ofWorks to the National Works Council, and also to the resolutions adopted by the council. Copies have been laid on the table of the Parliamentary Library for his perusal.
On the 13th September Senator Sampson asked the following question: -
Will the Minister representing the Prime Minuter inform the Senate whether the Australian Army is to take any further active part in the war?
I undertook to obtain an early reply. I now inform the honorable senator that upon the establishment of the South West Pacific Area, the Government assigned the combat sections of the Australian Military Forces, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force to the operational control of the Commander-in-Chief, SouthWest Pacific Area. That assignment stands and the Australian Army, in common with the other Australian Services, will continue to play a full and active part in the war in accordance with the operational plans and directives of the Commander-in-Chief, SouthWest Pacific Area.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 24 of 1944 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists andPostal Clerks’ Union.
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for 1943.
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Twentyfirst Annual Report, for year 1943-44.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Use of land.
National Security (MeatIndustry Control) Regulations - Orders -
Meat, Nos. 31-34.
Stock, No. 12.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Statement of Receipts and Expenditure of the Australian Capital Territory, for year 1943-44.
Senate adjournedat 9.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 September 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440919_senate_17_179/>.