17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Eon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the statement made in the Senate on the 17th July by the Minister for Supply and Shipping that all controls will be removed as soon as possible, and that controls will continue only in respect of goods that are in short supply, will the Minister give immediate consideration te. the advisability of lifting the control from potatoes, which are not in short supply, but, on the contrary, are available in abundance? Is he aware that in Tasmania more than 600,000 bags of potatoes are at present, going to waste?
– It is correct that I stated that the Government was desirous of removing all controls and restrictions as soon as possible. Potatoes are still being controlled by the Government, but the control is exercised at the request of ‘ the producers. As to the honorable senator’s statement that thousands of tons of potatoes are rotting in Tasmania at present, I say emphatically that that is incorrect. I was in touch with officials in Tasmania a few minutes ago. I was informed that only a small quantity of potatoes is stacked at Burnie, that a ship which had been delayed for some time owing to wet weather left at the week-end, with potatoes on board, and that arrangements have been made to ship to the mainland 100,000 bags of potatoes, independent of the regular shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland.
– In view of the recent statement by the Minister fox Trade and Customs that cigarette papers -were to be, or were being manufactured in New South “Wales, is the. Minister now in a position to say when a more abundant supply will be on the market!
– I have little to add to what I said a fortnight ago. It is true that the factory now operating at Rutherford in New South Wales, is in production. I am hopeful that the supply of cigarette papers will improve from time to time, and that the output of the factory at Rutherford and that in Victoria will increase.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping amplify the statement appearing’ in the press at the week-end purporting to be a statement by Mr. Charles Butt, Controller of Rubber, that rubber supplies are now plentiful, and that the control is likely to be lifted at an early date! Is the Minister’ in ‘a position to say whether the control of tyres will be lifted by the 1st September?
– I have seen the press report that the Controller, of Rubber has said that- .there is an abundance of natural rubber in Australia at the present time, but that does not necessarily mean the early removal of the control of tyres. Immediately sufficient tyres have been manufactured to meet the requirements of the whole of the people needing them, and to ensure their equitable distribution, the control will.be removed.
Cash Allowance to Released Prisoners of War
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army inquire into circumstances in which prisoners of war in Malaya were provided by the British authorities with £5 to purchase food locally because the British and Indian Army authorities had none to give them? In view of the three and a half years semi-starvation, and the terrible ordeal through which those men went, would it not be a graceful act on the part of the Government to look upon this money as a gift, instead of calling upon them to refund £6 5s. 5d. Australian currency?
– The honorable senator was good enough to inform me in advance that he would ask a question on this subject. Accordingly, I have obtained . the following statement from the Minister for the Army : -
When Australian soldiers were released from captivity their pay earnings continued as when they were in captivity, and they then became eligible to draw pay in the same manner as did all other serving soldiers. The amounts referred to represent pay drawn by the soldiers from British paymasters acting on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. The amounts advanced to Australian soldiers totalled £37,800 and a claim was duly received from the United Kingdom Government for that amount, supported by the acquitances, on normal pay-sheets, given by the Australian soldiers who had drawn theirpay in that manner. The sum of£ 37.800 hasbeen paid by the Commonwealth Government to the United Kingdom Government. Of that amount, £22,800 was accounted for by entries in the soldiers’ pay-books made by the British paymasters at the time of payment. Where the Australian soldier could not produce the Australian pay-book, a special “green” pay-book was provided by the British paymaster, in which entries were made of the payments as they were made. In a number of instances “green” pay-books were not handed in by the personnel concerned to Australian paymasters, and consequently the amounts received by such personnel were not brought to account when their services were terminated. These amounts represent £ 15,000 of the total of £37,800 paid by British paymasters. Although the amounts in question are properly recoverable from the ex-soldiers concerned, I have issued instructions that when a soldier is discharged and the final payment has been made, recoveries are not to be made of any amounts received from British paymasters at the time the Australian personnel were released.
– In view of the fact that the Government has decided not to recover the £15,000 advanced by the British authorities to prisoners of war in Malaya, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army whether it is proposed to return to former prisoners the £22,000 aleady collected?
Broadcasting of Proceedings - Preservation of Recordings-
– On the 1st August, Senator Nash asked the following questions : -
I now inform the honorable senator -
– On the 19th and the 21st June respectively, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), and the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) in the House of Representatives directed questions to Mr. Speaker concerning the disposal of recordings of the proceedings of this Parliament made during the testing period prior to the commencement of the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings.
The matter was considered recently by the Parliamentary Proceedings Broad-, casting Committee which had before it notes on the technical aspects which had been obtained from the Australian Broadcasting’ Commission and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. These early recordings were undertaken as an essential part of the technical procedure of adjusting the broadcasting equipment and training the staff. They naturally bear evidence of the process of adjustment, such as large variations in noise levels, and in many cases only disconnected fragments of the speeches were recorded. In the ordinary course these records will be destroyed and the committee was of the opinion that this should be done. It was, however, suggested that records of the proceedings on the opening day of the broadcast from each House should be preserved for historical purposes and the committee agreed that this was desirable and that the Parliamentary Library should be the custodian. It will not be possible to preserve the originals as these records, which arc of the type normally used for recording broadcasts, are coated with a relatively soft compound to enable the records to be. re-played directly without processing. Such records are not permanent and after a few months they become almost unintelligible. Accordingly, arrangements have been made for these records to be re-recorded on master plates which will be handed to the Parliamentary Library for safe keeping.
” INDONESIA CALLING “.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen, or heard of, a film entitled “ Indonesia Calling”- a short newsreel, export of which has been banned ? Is he aware that this film glorifies the action of Healy and other Communist waterside workers in holding up the shipment of medical supplies, &c, from the Commonwealth to the Netherlands East Indies? Is political pressure being brought to bear on the Commonwealth Government to remove the ban on the export. of this film? If so, what action does the Government propose to take?
– It is true that a ban has been placed upon the export of the film “ Indonesia Calling “. I have seen the film, but I am unaware that it is Communist propaganda. It is very well produced. To some people, portions of the film might indicate that it is likely to have international repercussions. The banning of the film is still under consideration by. myself. When a decision has been reached, the Government, no doubt, will announce its attitude towards it.
Assent to the following bills reported -
Common wenlth Inscribed Stock Bill 1946. Australian- National University Bill 194(i.
Shortage of Tradesmen
– Has the Government any intention of -bringing tradesmen from Great Britain to Australia to relieve the present shortage of carpenters, bricklayers, tilers and plumbers? “Will the Leader of the Senate confer with the appropriate Minister with the object of planning a more intensive training course of six months in these- trades for exservicemen and other young Australians, so that they may be sent out as trainees- in the home-building industry?
– Inquiries are being made in Great Britain as to whether 1,000 tradesmen of various categories can be brought to Australia, preferably from among the ranks of British ex-servicemen, to help overcome the housing shortage and the shortage of office and factory accommodation in Australia. Consultations are taking place between the responsible Ministers and with the Emergency Council of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions to ensure that the interests of ex-servicemen trainees are not affected disadvantageous^. The shortage of houses, reckoned as high as 400,000 by competent authorities, is so great and the. need to- construct offices and factories throughout Australia is so urgent from the point of view of employment and the development of our economy that, even if all ex-servicemen trainees who are undergoing training in the building trades were given a more intensive course than that which has been prescribed, the number of persons employed in the building trades would not be sufficient to build all the homes, offices and factories required by the Australian people within the next five years or so. The British tradesmen whose services are being, sought could all be profitably employed in Canberra alone in developing our National Capital and “building homes for all the public servants living in hotels, and hostels whilst waiting, for homes for themselves and their families. These British ex-servicemen can also be used to build homes for their own families and other British migrants who will follow them when the1 Government’s immigration scheme commences to operate. Australia, needs population and the opposition being engendered in certain quarters to a full and vigorous immigration plan, will not help this country to solve its most vital problem. I shall confer with my colleague, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, on the question of a more intensive training in the building trades being given to exservicemen and other young Australians.
– I present the ninth interim report of the Social Security Committee.
Ordered to be. printed.
-L-Last week I asked the Postmaster-General whether he had any knowledge of the allegation made before a select committee in London, that Sir Ernest Fisk, while acting as a representative of the Commonwealth Government, had negotiated an agreement in favour of a cable company. Is the PostmasterGeneral now able to reply to my question?
– I directed a cablegram dealing with the subject to the Resident Minister in London, and yesterday I received the fallowing reply: -
Sir Edward Wilshaw in evidence before Select Committee House of Lords July 31st said that Sir Ernest Fisk was sent over by the Australian Government to assist Mr. Bruce in persuading the company to agree to a new scheme to form a new company to take over wireless and cable undertaking in Australia. He added- “I found considerable difficulty on more than one ground and think it may well be that Mr. Bruce might have thought that I was extraordinarily difficult but Mr. Bruce did not know that I was in possession of a. letter from Sir Ernest Fisk asking me to give him [group omitted] he had pulled off for my company against his own Government “.
Fisk issued signed statement last night to the following effect: - “ If statement was in fact made, it is a travesty of fact and one which quite clearly implies either I was seeking a bribe of £02,000 to betray my own Government or that 1 was asking for £(12,000 as a reward for having already done. There is no vestige of foundation in either suggestion. If in fact Sir Edward Wilshaw made the statement attributed to him t challenge him to repeat it in a place where he will not be protected by what I have been informed was an occasion of absolute privilege “. ‘
Reported that Wilshaw has been informed of the full text of Fisk’s statement and has decided to make no comment on it. Newspaper reports containing Wilshaw’s statement posted- to you yesterday and cuttings re Fisk. Reply being sent to-day.
Land Settlement of ex-Servicemen. .
– In view of the information given to the Senate last Friday, in answer to a question, that 412 single unit farms had been purchased for the settlement of ex-servicemen, can the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation explain why no exservicemen of World War II. have yet been settled on the land ?
– I am npt in a position to say whether the statement contained in the honorable senator’s question is correct or not. I. shall make inquiries and supply the information to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has- supplied the following answers: -
Superfluous Personnel at Moorebank.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Army seen the report of an allegation made by Mr. K. Bolton, New South Wales President of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s. Imperial League of Australia, to the effect that army officers had ordered men to “ look busy “ during an inspection of the army advanced workshop at Moorebank by a visiting senior officer ? If the allegation be correct, what action does the Government propose to take to arrest this apparent attempt to waste the taxpayers’ money? Will he have Mr. Bolton’s statement examined with a view to action being taken by the Government against offenders ?
– I haveno knowledge of the statement referred to by the honorable senator. I shall refer the matter to the Minister for the Army and supply the Leader of the Opposition with an answer later.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Nationality questions - Report of Committee appointed by the Minister for Immigration to consider the practical and legal difficulties involved in the possession, by husband and wife, of different nationalities, and other matters relating thereto and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
– Has the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General seen the reported statement by Judge O’M ara that he is unable to agree to bonus payments being made to employees because of wage-pegging regulations? Is the report correct, and if so, will the Government consider removing thatrestriction owing to the acute shortage of essential raw materials and the need for increased production?
– I have not seen the statement attributed to Judge O’Mara. I shall ask the Acting AttorneyGeneral to investigate the statement and supply an answer to the honorable senator’s question.
– In view of the probable early termination of the wagepegging regulations, can the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service indicate when the Commonwealth basic wage will be reviewed?
– I am not in a position to reply to the honorable senator’s question, but I shall have inquiries made and shall supply an answer as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Is it a fact that employees working under the control of the Postmaster-General are unable to apply to the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator for a general increase of wages until the wage pegging regulations under the National Security Act are repealed?
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer -
There is nothing in any law of the Commonwealth to prevent Commonwealth employees from applying to the Public Service Arbitrator for a general increase in wages; but, before any such increase could be granted, it would be necessary, in the first place, under the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations, for the Public Service Arbitrator, after a preliminary hearing or examination of the matter, to be of opinion that the grounds on which the alteration . in wages is sought provide prima facie evidence that the alteration is necessary to remove an anomaly or to compensate for a change of circumstances in employment, and, secondly, for the Chief Judgeof the Arbitration Court to concur in the opinion referred to, and to be satisfied that the increase is not opposed to the national interest.
Leigh Creek Deposits
– On the18th July, Senator Finlay asked a series of questions with regard to the assistance given by the Commonwealth in the development of the Leigh Creek coal-field.
The Minister for the Interior has now supplied the following information, which sets out the present position : -
Specially low freight rates from Telford of 6s. a ton to Quorn (144 miles), and7s.1d. a ton to Port Augusta (109 miles), are charged for conveyance of Leigh Creek coal. These rates are considerably lower than the actual operating cost of running the trains. The ordinary rates for this traffic are 17s. 3d, and 19s.1d. respectively. Twenty-three special trains are being run this week for conveyance of Leigh Creek coal to Quoin for South Australian stations.
Experiments were conducted on TransAustralian and Central Australia Railway (207- mile section) with both main line and shunting engines burning Leigh Creek coal. The coal has also been tried out in workshops and similar plants.
Themain line engines were tried out for a lengthy period on a mixture of 50 per cent. Leigh Creek and 50 per cent. New South Wales coal butit was found that the quantity of sparks emitted was excessive.
Experiments to reduce the danger from sparks are being continued and in the present emergency 40 per cent. Leigh Creek coal is being used on all main-line trains on the Central Australia Railway (771 miles), 20 per cent. on trains between Port Augusta and Port Pirie Junction (50 miles), and 50 per cent. on shunting engines, grabs and other railway boilers, and this consumption will be increased wherever possible. .
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers, which, with the permission of the Senate, I shall incorporate in Hansard : - 1 and 2. Weight in pounds -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice-
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answer 1 and 2. - The subsidy on jute goods was first introduced in 1042-43. Since that time, the total amount of £2,142,700 has been provided for the purpose of subsidizing purchases by farmers. Last year the amount provided was £974.737. The subsidy is at the rate of Ss. a dozen on cornsacks, and its object is to protect farmers against a heavy price rise, he subsidy has kept the price to the farmer down to 13s. 4id. a dozen, on a capital cities basis. The Government is still paying the Subsidy, as part of its plan to arrest rising Costs of production.
” Australia and Your Future/’
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice - .
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers : -
We are not asking British people to emigrate to Australia as a reward for our war effort. We are inviting them to share the opportunities for a full, useful and happy life which Australia offers.
asked the Postmas!terGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Debate resumed from the 17 th July (vide page 2602), on motion by Senator
That the following paper be printed: - Financial Statement, dated 12th July, 1946, by the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, “M.r., Treasurer.
– I have had an opportunity, to read the Financial Statement presented to the Senate by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), and I find that it is a loose document containing a number of estimates which are in fact only guesses. I am confident that many of the estimates that it contains will be found to be wide of the mark. When the history of the last five years, during which a Labour government has been in office, is written, it will contain a record of the most extravagant and wasteful period in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament. All sense of financial responsibility seems to have vanished; money has been squandered right and left; new departments which were set up in war-time have been continued for many months after the war has ended. Indeed, the document discloses that Government expenditure during the first year of peace is almost, as great as during the last year, of the war. the respective amounts being £545,000,000 and £613.000.000. I do not propose to give details of that expenditure, because honorable senators have had copies of the statement supplied to them, and also because legislation will be introduced in respect of many of the items in the statement, and w.e shall have an opportunity to discuss them when that legislation is before us. According to the late’st figures available to me, issued on the 31st March, the Commonwealth employs 512,300 persons, or 25.3 per cent, of the employed population of Australia. Expensive war-time emergency organizations such as the Division of Import Procurement, Food’ Control &c, the retention of which has been criticized by the Auditor-General, remain in existence. They employ hundreds of men and women ; yet, for some unknown reason, the Government refuses, to undertake retrenchment. Having regard to the present burden of taxes, it is criminal for the Government to allow this state of affairs to continue. I have suggested before that an independent committee should be constituted to comb these departments with the object of transferring redundant employees to jobs in which they could he more usefully employed. The position is more than serious when we have regard to the fact that in certain industries there is an acute shortage of labour.
Probably one of the most interesting items in the Financial Statement is the estimated expenditure of £10,000,000 in respect of unemployment. On many occasions during the last five, years we were informed that the Government was opposed to preference to returned soldiers because it intended, if it remained in office, to so guide this country’s economic affairs, that there would be employment for all. “Employment for all.” is one of the parrot cries heard on the Yarra bank and in the Parliament that have misled, and are still misleading, so many people. The following is a brief criticism by an accountant of the proposed expenditure of £10,000,000 on unemployment benefits : -
An interesting point about the £77,000.000 estimate for social services in 1940-47 is this: lt includes an estimate of £10.000.000 for unemployment benefits. The Government’s own estimate is that it will cost £2.000,000 per annum for each 1 per cent, average unemployment. So. an estimate of £10.000.000 means that the Government anticipate* that an average of S per cent of wage-earners will be unemployed throughout the year and in receipt nf unemployment allowance. Since unemployment benefits are subject to a means per annum for each 1 per cent, average of unemployed persons will not be receiving benefit at all.. So, the estimate of £10,000,000 anticipates a higher average rate of unemployment than a per cent, in this current financial year, perhaps 7 per cent, to 8 per cent. There is, therefore, something radically wrong either with the estimate itself or with the Government’s assurance that they can maintain high level employment.
I Lope that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) will not skate lightly over that criticism. It is a direct challenge to the Government.
– Who is the accountant that made the criticism?
– If the Minister examines the Financial Statement he will see that the figure I have given is correct.
Another interesting trend revealed by the statement is the increase of indirect taxation between the yeai-3 1939 and 1946. In 1939, revenue from this source amounted to £61,000,000. ‘In 1945 it was £104,000,000, and in 1946, £119,000,000. 1 believe that there is a special case for a reduction of sales tax on furniture, furnishings and floor coverings. All honorable senators are aware that the cost of homes has risen con.siderably, and I am surprised that th’e Government has not taken any action to reduce the added burden of sales tax on essential household goods. Incidentally, the tax reductions provided for in the statement amount to approximately £17,500,000 ; but in the last financial year, receipts from sales tax, and customs and excise duties exceeded the estimate by £15,000,000. Therefore, all that the Government proposes to do, in spite of the great song’ that it is making about its income tax proposals - it claims that the new rates represent a reduction of 39 per cent, on certain incomes - is to relieve the taxpayers of a total amount of approximately £2,500,000. Revenue from. sales tax in 1939 amounted ‘to £9,000,000.’ By 1945, it has risen to £30,000,000, and in 1946 the figure was £34,000.000. It is quite obvious that in the light of increased turnover, and increased costs, the Treasurer’s estimate of revenue from this source in the present financial year is too low. I have no doubt that once again he will find that receipts are greatly in excess of the figure that he has forecast.
– He will be in a very happy position then.
– He would not be quite so happy if he were a young man wishing to buy a house and furniture. The cost of furniture and furnishings has risen by 100 per cent, since 1939. Therefore, whereas a young man setting up house just before the war was able to buy his furniture and furnishings for about £200, of which 5 per cent, or £10 represented sales tax, to-day, the same goods cost approximately £400, and, with the rate of sales tax at 12$ per cent., the purchaser pays £50 in sales tax. The time is opportune for a substantial reduction of this tax. I agree that in times such as the present a substantial imposi-ti on on luxury lines may be necessary, but there is no excuse for taxing essential commodities now that the war Ls over and costs are rising steadily. I also draw attention to the iniquitous sales tax on motor trucks which are essential to all engaged in both secondary and rural industries. Whereas the tax was at the rate of 5 per cent, in 1939, it is now 12$ per cent., whilst the sale prices of trucks have increased considerably in that period. There .are also many other items essential to the rehabilitation of industry upon which sales tax was increased substantially during the war. For instance, the tax on petrol as at 9th September, 1939. was 7d. a gallon on which, in addition, primage of 10 per cent, was charged: whereas, to-day, the tax on petrol is lid. a gallon with primage remaining at 10 per cent. I urge the Government to review these imposts immediately. It will surely recognize that the great bulk of the petrol used is for carrying on essential industries.
The present company tax also is vicious. The general tax is still at the rate of 6s. in the £1 ‘ plus a super tax of ls. in the £1 and a tax at, the rate of 10 per cent, on undistributed profits as well as a double tax on dividends. I am convinced that this excessive taxation is preventing many commercial organizations with, head-quarters _ in Great Britain, the United States of America and other countries from extending their operations to Australia. This excessive taxation is also discouraging large numbers of migrants of good type who would be prepared to invest capital in this country if our taxation were more reasonable. The Government should reduce income tax by from 30 to 40 per cent. If it did so it would receive more revenue from taxes within two years than it is now receiving on the present higher rates. Australia needs migrants more than anything eke in order to provide additional employment and to help develop this continent which with its sparse population offers greater opportunities than any other country. Many ex-service personnel in the. United States of America and Great Britain who saw service in Australia are anxious to return to this country and settle here as soon as possible. If the Government had any business sense at all it would .not hesitate to reduce the existing income and company taxes, as well as indirect taxes on essential items such as I have mentioned.
All of us are perturbed by the continual civil war in industry. Upheavals are occurring day after day. Constantly, we hear the melancholy story of strikes, in every part of the Commonwealth, particularly in essential industries, such as, the building, galvanized iron, coal-mining and shipping industries. For five years the present Labour Government has been simply floundering along, being afraid to deal in a positive way with this problem of industrial unrest. Its attitude now is to appeal to disruptors in industry to stay at work at least until after the general elections when it might be able to do something to meet their claims. The people of Australia are sick and tired of being denied materials essential to the building of homes. At the same time, we are missing the opportunity of a lifetime to secure markets in countries adjacent to Australia. I am amazed at the respect which the Government pays to the most militant sections in industry, particularly those who have caused the most trouble. I refer to the leaders of the coal-miners, I recall that when we were discussing a measure in this chamber, spokesmen for the Government indicated that if the Government were given authority to take over the Coalcliff colliery peace would be established in the coal-mining industry and coal would be produced at a lower cost. At that time, I deprecated the Government’s policy of appeasement towards the coal-miners, and described as dastardly its decision to override both State and Federal arbitration authorities” by appointing as the Central Coal Authority Mr. A. C. Willis, an excoalminer and president of the Australian Labour party, who had also been prominently associated with a Labour newspaper. I have nothing against Mr. Willis personally, but I strenuously object on principle to his appointment to that position. However, the Government said that by that means it would stabilize the coal-mining industry. I have never been able to understand why the Government could give to Mr. Willis such great authority under the National Security Regulations- to enable him to prescribe that men when transferred from the face in a coal mine, where they earned £2 5s. a day, were to be paid wages considerably above those prescribed for such work by the tribunal previously _ charged with the duty of fixing the rates for that work. This policy of pandering to one. section of the community is causing grave dissatisfaction in other industries and notably within certain government departments.
During the early part of the war I had the honour to be Postmaster-General, and I know at first hand the excellent work done by the large body of employees of the Postal Department under war conditions. In that department the spirit of service was more pronounced than in any other department with which I have had the honour to be associated. Yet, the employees of the Postal Department, although so poorly paid, work harder than those in any other department.’ During the war their duties increased tremendously by having to handle petro! tickets, war savings certificates and stamps, war pensions, soldiers allotments and undertake many other similar duties. In reply to a question this afternoon, the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) stated that it appears that the employees of the Postal Department, and I presume other government employees, will find it very difficult, because of National Security Regulations, to obtain an increase of wages unless they can show that certain anomalies exist ‘ in respect of their present duties. It is interesting to find that the president of the Employers Federation, Mr. Oberg, and other industrial leaders are urging the Government to authorize the Arbitration Court to review the whole problem of the basic wage in order to give a fair deal to all workers. It is clear, that- the great body of employees who are prepared, in season and out of season, to do a fair day’s work, and to refrain from strikes, are being penalized because of .the Government’s policy to appease a band of militants whose disruptionist tactics are making industrial recovery much more difficult. Many thousands of industrious employees who are anxious to do a fair day’s work have strong claims for increased wages and better conditions. Only this week we learned that as the result of stoppages in the coal-mining and shipping industries, over 20,000 employees in industry have been thrown out of work in Adelaide. It is dreadful to realize that the -Government has provided by legislation that, whenever strikes are caused by militantunionists, the taxpayers’ money shall be used to provide unemployment relief for certain workers. For the current financial year, when every man who wants to work should be able to work,- the Chifley Government has provided £10,000,000 for unemployment relief. I shall be very surprised if this young country can progress and secure higher standards of ‘ living under this sort of mismanagement. I urge every member of the Government to appreciate the seriousness of the situation and do justice to all sections of the community instead of pandering to a few unionists led by extremists and fanatics, some of whom would be better employed doing hard labour in an internment camp than causing trouble in industry. The Prime Minister decided at one stage to call a conference in .an endeavour to secure peace, in industry, but - the conference was postponed owing to a coal strike at the end of last year and months have passed without anything further being done by the right honorable gentleman to give effect to the proposal. As the result of a short-sighted policy, the Government decided to intervene before the Arbitration Court to support the application for a reduction of hours of work in industry. I cannot imagine anything more ludicrous at this stage of the nation’s history when, after six years of war, the fundamental need is for a re-adjustment of the basic wage, which apparently the Government has not considered. It has become necessary for employers’ organizations and others to urge the Government to stand up to its obligations in this connexion. It is interesting to trace the history of the basic wage in Australia. The first rate fixed in 1907 for a family unit of five, consisting of a man, his wife and three children, was £2 2s. a week. By means of cost of living adjustments, that rate has increased to the present level of £4 18s. a week. In 1920, after World War I., when the .right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister, the rapid increase of costs caused great concern to wage-earners and the government. The Executive, therefore, appointed the Piddington Commission, consisting of two representatives of employers and two representatives of employees, with Mr. Piddington as chairman. One of the term’s of reference of the commission was to estimate the actual cost of living for a family unit of a man, wife and three children under the age of 14 years. The commission found that the average “cost of living in all capital cities and Newcastle for such a unit was £5 14s. 7d. a week. The commission recommended that this declaration be re- ported’ to the Commonwealth Arbitra-‘ ti on Court with a view to that rate being made the basic wage by the court in such a manner as the Parliament might prescribe.” Suggestions that are now being raised by Mr. Oberg and others should be acted upon by the Government. Everything possible should be done to bring about peace in industry and improve the relationship between employers and employees in order to secure increased production, which is essential to the economy of the nation.
– What, was done by the Government of the day to carry out the recommendation of the Piddington Commission?
– The Minister had better concentrate on his own sins instead of on the sins of others in days gone by. In an Arbitration Court . judgment delivered on the 7th February, 1941, the
Chief Justice, Sir George Beeby, supported by Judge O’Mara and Judge Piper, made these interesting comments -
The court has always conceded the needs of an average family should be kept in mind in fixing the basic wage. I regard the present basic wage as adequate for a family unit of three persons, but it offers only a meagre existence for a family unit of four. The more logical system would be to grade the basic wage according to family responsibilities. If a scheme of this nature (child endowment) were established, future fixations of the basic wage would be greatly simplified.
Judge O’Mara and Judge Piper agreed with the Chief Judge, particularly in regard to the need for a child endowment scheme. I am pleased that, in spite of the fact that the nation was at war, the Menzies Government introduced a child endowment scheme to cover all children under the age of sixteen years, other than the first, in each family. That very important forward step was supported, by the Labour party.
– And it played an important part-
– I wish that the “ Bankstown fog-horn “ would keep quiet. The basic wage in New Zealand to-day is £5 5s., and the child endowment rate in that dominion is 10s. a week for all children under the age of sixteen years.
I take this opportunity to draw attention to the peculiar action of the Labour Government in relation to child endowment. First, the Government decided to alter the method of taxing the family man. When the uniform income tax plan was bludgeoned through both Houses of the Parliament by sheer weight of numbers, the method of assessing taxes in the States” and in, the Commonwealth was altered. Up to that time, a taxpayer was allowed by the Commonwealth ‘a statutory deduction’ of £50 a year for each child under the age of sixteen years. Some States granted a similar statutory deduction. This meant that income tax was. assessed at the rate applicable to the balance of the income after these deductions had been made. Under the uniform income tax plan, this method was “abolished ‘and the Government introduced the concessional rebate system. To-d’ay, a concessional rebate is allowed in respect of all children under the age of sixteen . years, and the rebate for those in respect of whom child endowment is paid amounts to only £30, in place of the previous deduction of £50 allowed by the Commonwealth and the deduction allowed by the State. Furthermore, the tax rate is determined by the total income. This means that the value of child endowment, which was introduced by the Menzies Government, has been very largely written off by the Labour Government as the .result of the new system of assessing tax. I cannot understand why the. Government has acted in this way, because if there is any taxpayer who deserves ‘consideration in times of rising costs it is the man with children. We have heard a good deal of “ skiting “ about the reductions of income tax provided by the Labour Government this year. It will be interesting to note just what those reductions are. The following table shows percentage reductions indicated in the financial statement of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and the weekly amounts of the reductions to the taxpayer : -
Whoever was responsible for those concessions had little regard to the burden now carried by the family man. I shall present another table which sets out the net weekly reductions which certain taxpayers will receive under the proposals of the Government -
This table shows a diminishing net weekly saving as the taxpayer’s dependants increase. Compare the position of persons with a weekly wage of £4 16s.. 2d. We. find that a batchelor gets a reduction of ls. 4d. a week; that. a man with a dependant wife gets a reduction of ls. 2d. a week; that a man, with a wife and one child get3 a reduction of 6d. a week ; and that a man, with a wife and two children gets a reduction of 2d. a week.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is something wrong with the honorable senator’s intelligence if he suggests that a married man with children should get a reduction of tax less than that of a single man without dependants. The time is ripe, having regard to all the circumstances, for the Government to amend its ways and correct the wrongs which it has done. First it should alter the method of taxing the family -man. Surely those without dependants could shoulder greater financial obligations than those with families to support. I move -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “and that it be an instruction to the Government that the Child Endowment Act 7 !)4 1-1 945 be extended .to provide for the payment of 7s. (id. per week for the first child in order that all children under sixteen years of age may come within the benefits of the scheme.”.
I trust that Ministers and all other honorable senators opposite, particularly Senator Tangney, will follow the lead of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) in this matter. If there is anybody in Australia who can speak with authority on the subject of child endowment, it is she.
– How would the honorable senator finance this proposal?
– I hope that the Government will correct the present anomaly of the exclusion of the first child ‘ from child endowment, and make amends for its mistakes with regard to income taxation during the last few years. Ministers should give consideration to the suggestion of the learned judges of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration that it would be of assistance in the determination of the basic wage if it were fixed on the basis of the requirements of a man, his wife, and two children, and if child endow: ment were payable to all children under the age of sixteen years. My final appeal to the Government is that it should’ be prepared to reduce the income tax on the family man, and the sales tax on furniture and furnishings. It should also reduce, as far as possible, the company tax, which is now a vicious impost, in order to encourage people from other countries to. invest their money in Australia.
– Why did not the Menzies Government, in 1941, introduce endowment in respect of the first child?
– Because the Arbitration Court said that the basic wage was sufficient.
– Has expressed a different opinion since that time ?
– No, because the Labour Government, under National Security Regulations, prevented the workers from getting their just dues from the court. Senator Finlay should know that the cost of living has risen since 1941 to such a. degree that the time i? overdue for the court to reconsider the basic wage.
I was asked by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), by way of interjection, how my proposal could be -financed. It is reported that there is £50,000,000 of income tax uncollected. The Auditor-General will support my assertion that millions of pounds are being wasted by go-slow methods, strikes and other industrial disturbances. If we have reached the stage- in our history when a Labour Government declares that it cannot raise £19,000,000 to provide child endowment for 1,000,000 children, I am amazed at its ineptitude. I hope that my amendment will receive the consideration to which it is entitled. Despite the fact that the Labour caucus has barked, and a decision on this matter has been reached in the House of Representatives, I hope that honorable senators opposite have enough independence and courage to do what is right.
-cKENNA (Tasmania Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services) [4.25]. - But for the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), I should not have participated in this debate. The honorable senator commenced with a general statement that the present Government was the most extravagant and wasteful on record. It is significant that he did not attempt to furnish one item of evidence in support of that broad, rash and incorrect statement. I quite understand the reason for his reticence in the matter. He could not support such a statement by citing particular instances. He referred also to the fact that the expenditure during the first year of peace was almost as much as during the last year of war, but he failed to advert to the clear statement by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that many terminal war costs which came into the last war year were not in existance previously. Deferred pay,, which last year cost £72,000,000, is purely a terminal war cost. The total of items of that nature which figured in last year’s budget amounted to 48 per cent, of the war expenditure. If the honorable senator has read the Treasurer’s statement which is now. being debated, he will realize that costs of service departments have fallen appreciably, and that in the present year it is anticipated that they will fall by a further 50 per cent. The honorable senator has- said much about industrial unrest. He touched broadly and lightly upon many ‘aspects of administration and of the national economy. Other speakers will deal with those matters, but I propose to demonstrate how unthinking and how irresponsible the Leader of- the Opposition is. He devoted a considerable part of his speech to the subject of child endowment, and claimed that endowment should be paid in respect of a first child. There are many aspects of that matter, but not many of them appear to have occurred to the honorable senator. Take first the constitutional aspect. Every honorable senator must know that the High Court last year decided, by a majority of four, that Commonwealth money could be expended, only for those purposes specified in the Constitution. Child endowment, which is not specified in the Constitution, is obviously not one of those purposes. In fact, members of the Opposition in the Senate and in the House of Representatives with the exception of three - I believe that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate was absent at the time - supported the bill providing for a referendum of the people on pro.posed alterations of the Constitution, one of which was designed to provide a proper constitutional basis for the payment of child endowment.
– We are now providing child endowment, and there is no argument about its constitutionality.
– That is an extraordinary statement. The Leader of the Opposition claims that there is no question about its constitutionality despite the decision of the High Court last year, and in the face of the support given to the referendum regarding social services. That was supported by every member df the Opposition in the Senate, except two, and by. every member of the Opposition in the House of Representatives except one. In case there is any doubt on the point, I make it clear that the Commonwealth Government is now providing child endowment for two reasons. The first reason is that the withdrawal of child endowment would impose great hardship on many people, and the second reason is that every act of this Parliament is deemed to be valid until it has, in fact, been pronounced invalid by the High Court. If the Leader of the Opposition was correctly reported in last Friday’s Melbourne Herald he has receded from the position that he took up then. The report reads -
Senator McLeay said that lie would propose finance by a pay-roll tax because he considered that child endowment should be a charge on industry kept separate from the ordinary budget.
To-day, he talks about finance in another way indicating that he’ has receded from the position that he outlined to the press last week. I doubt whether the honorable senator has any idea as to where his proposal leads him. Indeed, I doubt whether he has a clear mind at all regarding the financing of his proposal. If his first idea regarding the pay-roll tax were to be adopted, it would impose such a burden on industry that there would be no person in industry who’ would not be ready immediately to challenge the validity of child endowment because of the extra burden that it would involve. Child endowment, in common with other social services, is hanging by a thread. Despite the fact that his party has strongly supported the matter of providing a constitutional base for . child ‘ endowment, the honorable senator, in the dying hours of this Parliament is urging it to do something which, in the view of his party, is plainly unconstitutional. He proposes that there should be child endowment, for the first child. I ask him what happened when a previous government, with the support of the Labour party, introduced child endowment in 1941. I take it that the honorable gentleman then was in accord with the policy of his ‘government. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), who was then Minister for Labour and National Service said, when introducing the bill providing for child endowment -
It is proposed to pay an endowment of os. per week for all children under sixteen years in excess of one child in each family. . .
. The Government has given a great deal of consideration to the provision of an endowment iri respect of the first, child. … It has decided that payment for the first child is not warranted. . . . The presence of one child in the household does not put it at a serious disadvantage compared with the living standards of its neighbours. Inclusion of first children iii the benefit would raise the cost of the endowment by over SO per cent.
Now the Leader of the Opposition, and presumably those honorable senators who support him, seek to reverse that outlook. The reversal of form on the part of the Leader of the Opposition is the clearest indication of his belief that his party will not be returned to power at the forthcoming elections, and that, therefore, he can afford to be irresponsible. But another aspect’ of his speech is even more serious. The honorable senator referred to some of the things that wore said by the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, Sir George Beeby, in the 1.940 application for an increase of the basic wage. The court, in delivering judgment in February, 1941, said that the time was not’ opportune, and it deferred the application, which was a general one, until after flip 30th June of that year. The Arbitration Court hps never yet.. clearly decided fr> what family unit the basic wage relates. In the case cited by the Leader of the Opposition the court said: -
The court has always conceded the ‘‘needs’* of an average family should be kept in mind in fixing a basic wage. But it has never as the result of its own inquiry specifically declared what is an average family or what is .the cost of a regimen of food, clothing, shelter and miscellaneous items necessary to maintain it in frugal comfort, or that a basic wage should give effect to any such finding. In the end economic possibilities have , always been the determining factor. . . .
His Honour went on to say -
I regard the present basic wage as adequate foi- a family unit of three persons but think it offers only a meagre existence for a family unit of four. When’ the unit gets beyond four, hardship is often experienced.
That is the clearest indication of what the court thinks constitutes the family unit. .His Honour then went on to say that if child endowment after the first child were given’, future fixations of the basic wage would, be greatly simplified. I suggest that, in moving his amendment, the Leader of the Opposition clearly had in mind that portion of the Court’s statement, because it is clear that, in his opinion, endowment for the first child would mean a reduction of the basic wage. That reduction, I suggest, is the purpose of his amendment. Just as child endowment was introduced in 1941, not so much to benefit the family as, in fact, to- prevent an increase of the basic wage, so to-day the. honorable senator has moved to provide child* endowment for the first child so that the basic wage may be reduced - that is his primary objective - or else to prevent the basic wage from being increased. The court said in 1941 that the basic wage covered a nian, his wife and at least one child. Placed as we are in respect of powers in relation to industrial matters, it would be impossible for this Parliament, or for the present Government, to alter that position, for the simple reason that then; is no broad power to declare a basic wage, to fix hours of employment, or to attend to other major “aspects of the relations of employers and employees.
– Not until after the referendum has altered” the position.
– What may be possible after the referendum will be determined by the powers then vested in this Parliament. But for th& purpose cf this debate we must face what the court has said regarding the exceedingly limited power that the Commonwealth has over the terms and conditions of employment in industry.
I pass on to refer to tax rebates to which the Leader of the Opposition directed attention. He complained that the benefit of child endowment was reduced because of the change from concessional deductions to concessional rebates. Let me say, first, that that change in itself did not affect taxes so far as the- family man was concerned, because when it was made the allowance for a wife was raised from £50 to £100 and that in respect of the first child from £50 to £75. Under those conditions, the position of the family man was in no way altered. Let us have a look at what the present Opposition did when the parties comprising it were in power in ‘1941. The government of the day introduced child endowment to apply to all children, in a family after the first child. What did that Government do in the matter of tax concessions ? It wiped them out completely excepting in respect of the first child. It was the present Government which restored those concessions, first, in the form of concessional deductions and, later, in the form of concessional rebates. It ill behoves the Leader of the Opposition to say anything derogatory concerning the present Government and its .attitude towards concessions in respect of children other than the first.
– The Minister for Health might just as well argue on the basis of what the Scullin Government did in 1931.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government was not meeting the needs of the family man in regard to concessions. I .am pointing out that when a government of which the honorable senator was a member was in power in 1941, and. introduced child endowment in respect of all children after the first, it abolished all tax deductions in respect of those children. I now ask what the Opposition would do if there was a change of government? Would it again abolish tax concessions in respect of children, which at the rate of £75 for each child represent a tax remission of £7,000,000 a year? Or has the
Leader of the Opposition not given any consideration to that phase of the matter ?
Let us consider the financial aspect of the proposal to provide child endowment for the first child. The Leader of the Opposition has made a habit of communicating in advance to the press what he proposes to do in this chamber. From time to time that has proved to be an . advantage to the Government because .it has provided an opportunity to prepare an answer. The practice must be disadvantageous to the honorable senator, because it leaves on record his proposal for financing this addition to the child endowment legislation, already on the statute-book. His proposal would mean an additional £19,700,000 per annum at the present time. With the effect of that additional drain on the country’s revenue I shall deal later. At the moment, I propose to take up with the Leader of the Opposition the ground upon which he bases his proposal. I ask him whether he still adheres to the statement he made to the press, namely, that he would finance the proposal by means of a pay-roll tax, because of his view that child endowment should be a charge on industry separate from the ordinary budget? Does the honorable senator adhere to that statement, or does he propose an additional tax to cover the amount involved? I remind him that on a number of occasions he has said that the tax burden on industry should be relieved. It is well that I should remind the Senate that the pay-roll tax is payable only by employers, including State governments, who pay in wages more than £1,040 per annum. The pay-roll tax was introduced by a non-Labour government in 1941, at the same time as legislation to provide for child endowment was introduced. Therefore, a pay-roll tax was the invention of the parties now in Opposition. At the moment, that tax is’ not a heavy burden on industry; it is only 2 per cent, of the amount on the pay-roll.
– The tax is passed on.
– That is a significant interjection. If the pay-roll tax is to be increased by another 4 per cent, or 4ti per cent, to meet additional child endowment payments, will that addition also be passed on, and if so will it be added to the prices of commodities, thereby affecting the “ C “ series in items of which the Statistician has to take notice? If so, it will start again the old spiral of wages chasing rising prices. In fact, the cost involved in the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition would be approximately £2,000,000 more than the total taxation relief that is being afforded to the people of Australia at present. It is obvious that the proposal would have the effect either of forcing up prices or increasing taxes to . pay subsidies to industry. “Where would the burden of the pay-roll tax fall? Inevitably it would fall on those industries that are providing the greatest employment - the ones whose services and energies are needed most to implement the Government’s policy of full employment, and the ones that are absorbing large numbers of ex-service men and women. In the presss, the Leader of the Opposition has advocated one method of finance, and in this chamber, has made a totally different suggestion. I do not propose to ignore his public statement outside this chamber on a matter of such importance. I venture to say that the imposition of’ the increased pay-roll tax that he advocates would’ not yield £19,700,000 from employers whose annual pay-roll amounts to £1,040 or more. The exemption would have to be lowered, perhaps to £500 or even £400. It would be necessary to grub down amongst small farmers -and shopkeepers, including ex-servicemen who have just set up in business. Pay-roll tax is payable whether or not a profit is made. It is a tax upon expenditure and has no relation to income. That may not be very important when the rate of tax is as low as 2£ per cent., but it would be a vital factor if the rate were considerably higher, and the result would be a decrease of the yield from income tax itself. I ask the Senate to consider for one moment what would be the effect on fixed incomes such as pensions and superannuation payments, of the proposal to increase the tax on industries. Prices would rise and pensioners would suffer most, I dr.aw attention also to the effect that an increase of the pay-roll tax would have on home construction.
The tax would be reflected in the cost of every item used in the construction of homes, and in the aggregate, would probably increase the cost of a house by £40 or £50. With the price of houses already inflated, this additional impost would be intolerable.
The real purpose of child endowment is to meet our great national need for an increase of population and a stimulation of the birthrate, and I shall demonstrate to the Senate that the payment of endowment in respect of the first child of any family . would not further those objectives. Let us examine the number of children in respect of whom child endowment is paid. .There are 475,700 children in families with only one child; 534,300 children in families with only two children; only 233,700 in families with three children, and throughout the whole of the Commonwealth, only 172,000 families in which there are four or more children. Where then would the benefitlie if child endowment were payable hi respect of the first child. About half of the total additional sum paid in child endowment would go to families in which there was only one child. The greater proportion of the balance would go to families in which there were only two children, and an infinitesimal proportion would be received by families of three children or more - the families that most require the additional payment.
– They would get an extra 7s. 6d. a week for the first child.
– I suggest that it would be improper for the Government to raise an additional £19,700,000 to extend child endowment payments, and then to disburse a large proportion of that sum amongst families in which, there were only one or two children. I do not suggest that the payment of child endowment in respect of the first child, in each family is not desirable, but we* should consider such a proposal in the light of other desirable social services,, such as pensions for the families of invalids, financial assistance for tuberculosis sufferers, a relaxation of the means test and increased sickness benefits. There is also a vast field of necessary work in relation to maternal welfare and infant mortality. Also, once this Parliament assumes the necessary power, it must have regard to the provision of an adequate and competent system of domestic help to mothers, particularly at time of childbirth. Possibly we could make a better distribution of child endowment to large families.
The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition is unreal and unconstitutional. It discloses several inconsistencies. It would clearly be disruptive of our economy. It is, in my view, designed to lower the basic wage or prevent an increase of it. It. show.s a complete lack of appreciation of other social needs, and discloses a degree- of irresponsibility, obviously inspired by the conviction that the Opposition has no prospect of becoming the government, after the forthcoming general elections.
Senator COLLETT (Western Australia) *4.54’. - I listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) with a great deal of interest and confidence, and with equal interest, but not so much confidence, to the reply by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna). I propose to confine my remarks to one matter, namely, the gold-rnining industry of Australia. On several occasions, my colleague, Senator Allan MacDonald, and I have referred to the position and importance of the gold-mining industry in Western Australia. I desire to repeat those representations, and once more to draw attention to a field, ready at hand, for post-war reconstruction - one rich in prospect in regard to a product having a definite place and an unlimited market in international trade. In advocating the cause of Western Australia let me give something of the recent history of the industry as a whole.
During the war years, the. gold-mining industry in Australia was a casualty to the “ rationalization.” policy of withdrawing men and materials for war service. For whilst in 1939 a total number of ‘28,840 persons were employed in the industry, the number shrank to about 7,000 towards the end of the war, during which the industry had neither preference nor priority. The following table shows the consequential decrease of production : -
The Australian price of gold during 1940 and 1941 varied from £10 14s. and £10 10=. a fine ounce, and foi- more than half the time was at the higher figure. In January, 1942, the price was £10 9s. and it remained at that figure until June, 1944, when it was raised to £10 10s. and three months later, £10 12s. In May, 1945, it reached £10 13s. 6d. and in June, 1945, was fixed at £10 15s. 3d. or slightly below British parity. At the beginning of World War II., and to assist in meeting our war expenditure, the Commonwealth Government imposed a tax on gold produced in Australia or in any territory under its jurisdiction, and delivered to the Commonwealth Bank on or after the 15th September, 1939. The rate of tax was fixed at 50 per cent, of the. price payable by the bank in excess of £A9 a fine ounce. Gold tax collections since the financial year 1939-40 have been as follows : -
Under the Gold Mining Encouragement Act 1940, a rebate of tax is allowed to bona fide prospectors in respect of the first 25 oz. delivered each year, and a refund of the whole or part of the tax is made to certain producers on low margins. From Western Australia, which produces more than three-quarters of Australia’s gold,.£3.5.”>0.000 was collected in gold tax to the 31st December, 1945. Refunds to that State during the same period, to assist prospectors and low-grade producers totalled £748,896. When the basis. for valuation of international funds was established at -Bretton Woods, the rate of conversion for Britain was fixed at four American dollars to the £1 sterling.. On that basis, the Australian price of gold would be £10 18s. 9d: This would mean a net price of £9 19s. 4$d. to the producer and allow the Federal Treasury 19s. 4 1/2d. .an oz. by way of tax.
When man-power in the gold-mining industry was severely reduced and machinery impressed for war purposes at the end of 1942 and early in 1943, the Government agreed. to assist mines which were unable to carry on, with- some finance from the gold tax. On the Sth August, 1945, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) told a representative deputation from the Western Australian gold-mining industry in Perth, that he would give sympathetic consideration to their request for the release of men and the replacement of impressed and deteriorated machinery. Little of the impressed machinery has been returned. Further, Government officials were slow to adjust their ideas about the importance of the gold-mining industry when the war and lend-lease ended unexpectedly. Apparently, the Labour Government’s policy has been coloured by the belief that the industry is “nonessential “. Although restrictions on the use of labour and materials’ have now been lifted, the need to render rehabilitation assistance to the gold-mining industry has not been appreciated. No justification can exist for continuing the war-time gold tax. Apart from the removal of this deterrent, the capital issues control should not be unduly exacting in scrutinizing project? inescapably speculative in nature, yet offset by prospects of high rewards for success.
On the 19th July I asked certain questions with regard to the gold tax and the assistance given by the Commonwealth Government towards the maintenance and development of the gold-mining industry. From the answers to those questions it would appear that although more than £5,000.000 has been collected from- all Australia in the form of a gold tax, only a small proportion has gone back in some attempt to keep the industry alive. The Government must know the true place of mining in Western Australia’s economy, how wide- spread are its effects upon other industries and public utilities, and the great range of employment that it offers. Now is the time for a bold policy of assistance. I trust that the Government will make full use of the present opportunity. It is not a matter of providing assistance to the large well-established mines, which have been temporarily deprived of machinery and labour. It goes beyond that. There are the smaller shows outback upon which work, has been suspended through loss of both man-power and essential supplies, and the prospector who, as ever, is the vanguard in new development. The opportunity exists for Government action. I must confess to some wonderment at the delay that is taking place. I am also amazed at the recent proposal to close the Royal Mint, which has been operating at Perth for 50 years, and to transfer ‘its operations elsewhere. This proposal has caused much dissatisfaction in Western Australia.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) preferred to make a few general observations rather than deal with the Financial Statement itself. He contented himself by asserting that the Government during the last five years has shown itself to be the most extravagant in the history of this Parliament. However, he did not present any grounds to justify his assertions. Whilst admitting that legitimate criticism of the Government’s financial policy may .be offered, I. can only suggest that the Leader of the Opposition should read the Financial Statement’ and study its contents. If he does so he will find no ground for his statement thatin the immediate future £10,000,000 is to be provided for the relief of unemployment during the next twelve months. I understand that unemployment benefits under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act. are calculated on the basis that £2,000,000 will be required in order to meet benefits in respect of 1 per cent, of the unemployed among our people. On that basis which has been scientifically calculated, the statement by the Leader of the Opposition means that the percentage of unemployed would be only 5 per cent. Therefore, his assertion is not so dreadful as some might suggest, even assuming that his forecast be justified. I remind honorable senators that not so long ago 30 per cent, of our people were unemployed, whilst in normal times the percentage is from 4£ to 6. Unemployment may arise from many causes. .For instance, considerable unemployment was caused in Western Australia as the result of the breakdown of machinery at a power station in that State, when many industries were forced to, cease operations. Persons who became unemployed immediately qualified for benefits under the act. The point I make is that benefits under that legislation are payable in respect of persons who become unemployed for reason other than hold-ups in industry.
One would expect the Leader of the Opposition to have been sufficiently generous to give credit to the Government for the magnificent job it has per-‘ formed in .the demobilization of service personnel. The Government’s demobilization plan was implemented on the 1st October, 1945, and ‘in the following nine months 450,000 men and women were released from the armed forces. That figure was 50 per cent, in excess of the target set under . the Government’s original demobilization plan. From the 30th June, 1945, to the 30th June last the number of persons employed in this country increased from 2,650,000 to 3,030,000, and at no time during that period was there, any pronounced unemployment. However, the Leader of the Opposition did not refer to those facts although one would expect that, whilst criticizing the Government where criticism was justified, he would give credit to the Government where it was deserving of credit. We have also been told that expenditure during the first year of peace was as . high as during the last year of war and we hove not’ been told the reasons for that position.
– That is what we want to know.
– If the honorable senator will read the Financial Statement he will ‘ have no difficulty in discovering the reasons. In the financial year 1944-45, war expenditure amounted to £340,000,000 although the estimated expenditure for that year was only £298,000,000. Thus, expenditure . exceeded the estimate. Deferred pay alone exceeded the estimate by £18,000,000, reaching a total ‘ of £72^000,000. The Government made promises to the members of the fighting services, and it will not break faith with them. That is one reason for the high expenditure. If. we took the Leader of the Opposition seriously, we should be led to believe that the Government is heedlessly continuing with unnecessary and wasteful expenditure. However, , a brief examination of the financial statement exposes the weakness of the honorable gentleman’s statements. For instance, although a total expenditure of £28,0.00,000 was estimated for arms, armaments :and ammunition, actual expenditure was only £13,000,000. Army camp expenses and rations were estimated at £26,000,000, but only £17,000,000 was expended. Aircraft equipment and stores were estimated to cost £46,000,000, but only £24,000,000 was expended. Reciprocal lend-lease was estimated at £89,000,000, but only £26,000,000 was expended on this item. These figures show that the Government is not guilty of the extravagance with which it has-been charged by the Leader of the Opposition. Let us examine some of the increases of expenditure that have occurred. The unavoidable indirect costs included debt charges, which cost £42,000,000 instead of the estimated £34.000,000. Assistance to primary production and the subsidizing of price stabilization schemes cost £33,000,000, instead of the estimated £25,000,000. Furthermore, there was an entirely new item of £6,000,000 for contributions to Unrra. Can anybody honestly claim that those increases were unwarranted, wasteful, or unnecessary? It is absurd for a person holding the responsible position’ of Leader of the Opposition to make such assertions. The honorable gentleman said that the gap between war expenditure and available revenue during 1945-46 amounted to £153,000,000 instead of the estimated £152,000.000’. I point out to him that this total has been financed entirely bv borrowing from the public. It is significant that, during the last two years, the whole of the Government’s war expenditure has been met without recourse to treasury-bills or central bank credit. Thus, although honorable senators opposite complain that the economy of the country is being endangered by the Government, the facts prove the contrary to be the case. The Financial Statement forecasts some reductions. For instance, during the last financial year, expenditure for the three service departments and reciprocal lend-lease totalled £330,000,000. This amount is expected to be reduced by 50 per cent, this year. The Government, in pursuing its progressive policy must inevitably increase expenditure in certain directions. Subsidies paid last year amounted to £33,000,000, including £20,000,000 for primary production. Non-war expenditure last year totalled £132,000,000. There will be a substantial increase this year, the estimated increase being approximately £45,000,000. Of this amount, £20,000,000 will be set aside for housing. Thus, an intelligent examination of the financial statement must make it clear to the average person that the Government’s proposals are reasonable and will be equitable in their incidence. Apparently the Leader of the Opposition did not delve very deeply into the statement.
I am very pleased that a reduction of £17,500,000 will be effected in income tax collections during the current financial year. An effort has been made by the Leader of the Opposition . to prove that the reduction will be of little material benefit to many individual taxpayer’s. I fail to see how the honorable gentleman could arrive at such a conclusion. The cold fact is that reasonably substantial tax cuts will be made. In addition to the tax concessions, the Government* intends to improve the economic standards of certain sections of the community. For example, the permissible income of persons entitled to draw the full rate of old age, invalid or widow’s pension will be’ increased from 12s. 6d. to £1 a week. In addition, the property limitation of £400 will be increased to £650. It is expected that the immediate result of these concessions will be that 50,000 pensioners now receiving only part pensions will receive increases, and that 95,000 persons will become eligible for pensions for the first time. Another very pleasing feature of the Government’s plans is that the pensions system will be examined from year to year with a view to liberalizing the means test when desirable. Honorable senators opposite have frequently criticized the Government’s policy on prices control and wage pegging. During the war, retail prices increased by not more than 24 per cent., a triumph of economic organization by the. Government which requires no elaboration by me. The Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment with a view to making child endowment benefits’ applicable to every’ child under t the age of 16 years in each family. The honorable gentleman also referred to the desire of certain persons associated with employers’ organizations to have the basic wage level raised. I view with the greatest suspicion this agitation, by the honorable senator and his political friends for the extension of child endowment payments.
– Then the honorable senator is not in favour of the proposal? ‘ . . .
– If child endowment be paid in respect of every child under the age of sixteen years, the basic wage will be adversely affected. That is the scheme behind the proposal submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. In Western Australia, the Arbitration Court determines the basic wage on the requirements of a man, his wife and a family of fewer than two children, not on the requirements of a family unit of. a man, wife and two children. The average family in Australia does not comprise two children. The intention- of the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters in seeking to extend child endowment benefits to every child under the age of sixteen years is to make it necessary for the courts to find a new basis for calculating the basic wage. Honorable members opposite have said- that child endowment is not of much benefit from an economic point of view. The fact is that endowment has been of great value to thousands of families throughout Australia. It has augmented the wages of breadwinners and enabled their wives to purchase additional nourishing food for their children. Opponents of child endowment have claimed, that endowment payments are frequently expended for purposes other than for purchasing essential commodities. The fact is that endowment has been used for the benefit of the children of the nation. We must face the fact that, if endowment becomes payable in respect of every child under the age- of sixteen years, the courts will have to review the basic wage and find a new basis upon which to establish it. That is “ the nigger in the Opposition’s wood-pile “.
.- No doubt, one of the reasons why the Government has not granted complete tax relief to the lower income groups is the necessity for those people to contribute towards the ever increasing costs of social services. The Government’s policy is to levy taxes for these services rather than to finance them by weekly contributions, by each wage-earner, each employer, and’ the Government into a social insurance fund. Instead of paying ls. 6d. a week under that scheme the. employee with ian income of £150 a year is now to be taxed 2s. 6d. a week; on an income of £200 a year the tax-gatherer will collect 5s. a week; and, if the taxable income is £5 a week, the employee will pay 10s. a week. To meet the annual commitments for social services, a contributory policy is favoured by the Opposition on the lines indicated in the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act 1938. Many Labour supporters are convinced that the Government is making a cardinal mistake by piling up an expanding annual liability of £70,000,000, and declining to put these services on a sound financial basis. In Great Britain, New Zealand and other, countries, social insurance, based on the principle of hand-outs, and doles financed entirely by taxes, as a protection against unemployment, illness and old-age, is rejected as unsound. For taxpayers, other than those in the lower income groups, no worthwhile, relief has been forecast by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley).
Nothing is more vital at this stage of post-war recovery than substantial relief from imposts that are at the root of much industrial unrest, absenteeism, failure to produce, and refusal to put forth extra exertion. Industrial expansion, the attraction of investment’ and enterprise, the restoration of incentives to earn, and a better deal to the ordinary citizen who wants more “take home money” are largely dependent on income tax policy. People in all income groups would welcome a state of affairs in which harder work would be worth while, because of the inducements and rewards. Production and taxation are closely interrelated. The stranglehold which high taxes have on production is so great, that the output of consumer goods is only a fraction of the demand. Ample supplies result in cheaper goods. Strong objection is taken to retaining heavy company taxes. This is class taxation. The working man, the widow, the spinster, and the man who has saved a little money and is too old to work, have invested their savings in companies, and they are as much entitled to some return in the form of a reasonable dividend as are those who,’ with their spare cash, back horses or dogs. An analysis of the lists of shareholders in most companies shows that the middleclass’ community holds most of the shares. In seeking to get at the bigger companies, the Government’s severe company tax is akin to “ burning down the house to roast a pig”. After meeting all commitments, little is left of the companies’ profits for transfer to a reserve fund. In the absence of reserve funds, development is impossible; business will stagnate or deteriorate. In either case,, employees are in jeopardy, and are likely to be discharged. In short, continuity of work and wages for the employees depends upon the financial stability of employers, either individually or collectively. Profit sharing by employees is a possibility in the future. -Some companies have adopted this excellent policy to the mutual benefit of employers and employees. The Government must reduce excessive’ taxes, -otherwise the sources of the livelihood of the working man will be exhausted. A company without reserve is unable to prosper. More modern machinery has to be installed from time tq time. Baw material, has to be processed, and other overhead expenses to be met.
During the depression years, from 1929 to 1932, the companies which stood the strain and kept a large proportion of their staffs in employment were those with substantial reserves. In addition to the company tax, shareholders’ dividends are taxed. That is unjust. Groups of wellfounded, well-managed companies are an asset to the nation. They give Stability in the community, and guarantee continuity of employment. It seems to me that the Government, in its endeavour to please the masses, is penalizing the thrifty. We must depend upon the thrifty, and not upon the spendthrift section of the community, for the rebuilding and development of Australia in this post-war period. Some people predict that there will be a boom in Australia in the near future, whilst others consider that a period of lean years is more likely to be experienced. The best contribution to post-war rehabilitation will be made by groups of financially sound companies capable of employing permanently the many thousands of men released from the fighting services. These companies can expand, and new companies can be formed only by the use of capital supplied by the thrifty. During the last financial year, about £9,000,000 of new capital for industry has been subscribed by thrifty citizens in the form of new ‘debentures and share issues in public companies.
– I rise to order-. Is the honorable senator in- order in reading his speech?
– If the honorable senator is reading his speech he is not in order; but he may seek the leave of the Senate to read it.
– I ask for leave to read the remainder of my remarks. [Leave granted.’] Overseas industrialists and manufacturers are steadily turning to Australia .:…. a view to establishing their industries in Australia. They would turn to this country more promptly and more bodly if they had an assurance of a progressive taxation policy to sharpen their incentive.
Despite high taxes, production is not altogether at a standstill. Such commodities as are surplus to our requirements are not finding their way into pur pre-war markets. Industrial anarchy on the waterfront, and the Government’s inability to enforce the nation’s laws, have enabled the United States of America to capture our pre-war trade with the Netherlands East Indies and China.
Contrast the position of Australia with that * of Great Britain. That war-stricken country, with its illnourished people, anticipates its 1945-46 export trade to reach that of the pre-war year 1938-39. Britain’s output from steel plants during the present year is an all-time record. What a recovery! Australia, barely scorched during the war years, is floundering along, whereas it should be producing goods, not only for home consumption, but also for despatch to pre-war overseas markets and to new markets. If the Government had only practised economy in the expenditure of public money, and refrained from embarking on dubious socialist schemes, it would have been able to grant much greater relief from taxes.
The necessity for amelioration of the social position of invalid, old-age and service pensioners provides justification for the abolition of the means test in respect to pensions for bereaved dependent parents or the parents of exservicemen. On the 17th April last, in Melbourne, I introduced a large deputation to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost). It comprised representatives of the Fathers Association, the War Widows and Widowed Mothers Association, the Mothers Association and the Association of War Bereaved Parents. Speaker after speaker cited cases in which the application of the means test was causing hardship to dependent parents, whose sons were killed in World War II. The Minister was told that it seemed anomalous that dc facto wives of deceased ex-servicemen were not subject to the means test, but that the test was applied to bereaved parents. The speakers also claimed that, it was impossible for ageing parents, ineligible for the old-age pension, to supplement their .incomes in most cases. Therefore, they rightly contended that the loss of a son who had previously helped in supporting them, made it incumbent on the community through the Government to take over the son’s responsibility. The Minister promised sympathetic consideration of the request. A month ago, I asked a question, upon notice, whether the Government would consider abolishing the means test in respect of pensions of bereaved dependent parents. The only answer I received was a curt statement that the Government does not divulge matters of policy in reply to questions. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), had a motion on the noticepaper in the House of Representatives, relating to the same subject, but it has been relegated to the bottom of the notice-paper, with the result it will lapse when this session ends. My representation for the betterment of this section of the community is worthy of sympathetic and favorable consideration, and should not be brushed aside. For one bereaved parent in affluent circumstances there are scores battling along on a pension of about £1 a week or les3, after a means test .has been applied. A de facto wife receives the full war widow’s pension of £2 10s., and is not subjected to a means test. A dependent mother whose son is dead is entitled to better treatment than she- is now receiving. I hope that the next Minister for Repatriation will give consideration to these matters.
The economic reasons which induced the Government to grant some relief to old-age, invalid and service pensioners, apply in some degree to war pensioners. It is true that a means test is not applied in their case.. The pension rates originally, fixed in 1920, and slightly increased in 1942, were related to the degree of an ex-serviceman’s war disability and his inability to earn a livelihood. The cost of living was not overlooked, though the decision arrived at wa3 not based entirely on the fluctuations of living costs. No matter what may be the result of the general elections on the 28th September, it is to be hoped that the new government will cause a further investigation to be made of war pensions generally. It is clear that for numbers of ex-servicemen the present rates are too low. If hardship is to be relieved, some acceptable formula will have to be devised to provide a more adequate payment; ‘ Those who wish to find an excuse for retaining the present war pension rate usually turn the spotlight on the pensioner in comfortable circumstances, leaving the . struggling “ Digger ‘? in the shade. It is for the latter that I make a- plea for a more adequate pension. Bv means of questions in this chamber, I sought an assurance that section 84 (9) (c) of the
Commonwealth Public Service Act would be restored, in the interests of exservicemen. The Minister’s replies indicated that he did not realize that the obligation for ex-servicemen to attain permanent status depended upon passing a stiff education test unassociated with the particular work in which he was engaged. Young fellows who have just left school could pass the examination, but not these returned servicemen. I have, however, given up hope of getting satisfaction or justice for them.
The Government is to be commended for having improved the social position of invalid and old-age pensioners. It isnecessary now to concentrate on those at the other end of the scale - the younger generation. It is generally agreed that the present basic wage does not adequately meet the needs of even the smallest family. The basic wage is based upon the fluctuating cost of certain commodities and foods, but many vitamin-laden foods, such as vegetables and fruit, are not listed. These foods are needed to nourish young bodies. A strong, healthy boy or girl is one of Australia’s best assets. That should be -our objective. How is it to.be achieved ? Some contend that the basic wage ought to be increased so that these vitamin-lad en foods can be placed on the family meal table; others contend that child endowment ought to embrace the first child, as well as subsequent children. By all means raise the basic wage, in conformity with the economic situation. That is a matter for the Arbitration Court. In my opinion the improvement of the health of thousands of undernourished children in Australia ia the concern of the whole community. That can be done’ in a large measure by an extension of child endowment to cover the first child. The additional cost is a- matter for the incoming Treasurer to tackle. A start could be made by drastically curtailing extravagant government expenditure.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has moved an amendment to the motion of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Ashley), the effect of which would be to provide child endowment for the first child of a. family. Had the amendment emanated from this side of the chamber the public would at least have realized that it was genuine, but as it has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition the people will know that it is merely a part of the Opposition’s policy to make promises with a view to gaining support at the forthcoming elections. During recent weeks the Opposition has indulged in a good deal of this kind of propaganda, but the fact that it has gone to such extremes is evidence that it realizes that it has no chance of being returned to power. Although some honorable senators opposite may remain in the Parliament until June next, they know the fate that awaits them in September.
– The speech of the Leader of the Opposition was like a speech from the gallows.
– It was. Opposition senators are making such rash promises that it is evident that they know that they will not be called upon to fulfil them. They hope, however, to embarrass the Government, which, in addition to doing- a magnificent job during the war, also has not lost sight of the social needs of the people. For ten years before the outbreak of war, non-Labour governments occupied the treasury bench and they had ample power to legislate for the improvement of social conditions, but they were not willing even to promise reforms because the people would have expected such promises to be fulfilled. Now that non-Labour parties are in opposition they can make rash promises knowing that they will not have the opportunity to honour them after the elections. I am convinced that the people generally appreciate the achievements ‘of the Curtin and Chifley Governments. As leaders of a great political party, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and his predecessor, the late Mr. John Curtin, have done more in five years for the prestige of Australia than did the leaders of other governments in the previous twenty years. The Prime Minister’s statement relating to the finances of this country shows clearly that in fundamental matters a grand job has been done. During recent years some of the members of this Parliament have had the opportunity to travel abroad and see conditions in other countries, and every one of them on his return has been loud in his praise of what Australia has achieved. In this connexion, I give to honorable senators opposite and their colleagues in the other chamber credit ‘ for their honesty. As they have alighted from aeroplanes, or stepped ashore from ships, they have had in their minds what they have seen in other lands, and they have said what was in their minds. Among those who have been abroad recently are the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator Foll. I include them among the members of this Parliament who, on their return to “Australia, have praised Australia’s efforts and the achievements of its Government. Lt is strange that after a month or two in Australia they seem to have forgotten the impressions they gained while abroad, and seek every opportunity’ to gain a minor political advantage over the Government that has steered this country through many difficulties. There is evidence that in almost every other country a stern fight, and in many instances a losing fight, is being waged against infla-tion. Senator Brand has referred to Great Britain and- the efforts of its people to increase production. Any ohe who has been in the United Kingdom within the last six months is aware of the fight thatis going on there against inflation, and entertains fears as to the ultimate ‘outcome of the struggle. Last week, I inspected a lady’s handbag of the type that in normal times would cost about £2. To:day, that handbag costs £8 in Britain. The cost, of many items of food is still uncontrolled in Britain, whilst the price of clothing has increased by about 150 per cent, since 1939.
– The cost of many articles of clothing has increased four times.
– That is so.. The direct result of these high prices has been a. big increase of wages to British operatives. There was a time when operatives in the cotton industry of Britain were among the most downtrodden workers in that country with the possible exception of the coal-rnining industry, but to-day operatives in British cotton mills are paid higher wages than are paid in Australian mills. That has had its effect on the prices of cotton goods. Such goods which are being exported from Britain at the present time are much more costly than similar goods were in 1939. Whether the controls still being exercised in Great Britain will keep prices at their -present level, or whether the inflationary tendency will prevail, time only will tell. ‘ How different is the position in Australia! The fundamental items of food, such as those which are placed on the Australian breakfust table every day, are as cheap as they were in 1939. That is evidence of the extraordinarily effective controls that have been exercised by the Government. Milk, bread, butter, and sugar cost no more in Australia to-day than they did in 1939. Tea is even cheaper to-day than it was then. It is true that the prices of clothing have risen, but that has been due to causes outside the control of the Government, the chief of which is the higher cost of raw materials. The increase is about 60. per cent, or 65 per cent, in the larger capital cities; it is less in the smaller capitals. The price of Indian and American cotton has risen considerably and, as I have said, cotton and cotton goods manufactured in Britain , are more costly than in pre-war days. A sound system of subsidies has done much to keep prices under control. That system, however, cannot be applied to every item that comes within the family budget, because it would involve the expenditure of many millions of pounds. Shortages of some classes of goods has led to black markets. For some time there was a black market for beer, as there is to-day for cigarettes and second-hand cars. It will be appreciated, however, that the goods in respect of which black marketing does take place are not the essential needs of the people, and do not’ effect the general situation. Some articles the prices of which have risen depend on overseas supplies, but some of our internal problems will be overcome relatively quickly when production again reaches to pre-war levels. Black markets will then disappear. The position is entirely different in France, Poland, Hungary, Italy, and other European countries where the black market is the ruling market. So loose are the controls in those countries that even the necessaries of life have to be pur chased at high prices in the black market, where fortunes are made by the semicriminal element in the community.
– Is the honorable senator sincere?
– The honorable senator who has interjected does not even look sincere.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– There is one aspect of our internal ‘economy that I should like to discuss. Considerable criticism has been offered of this Government because.it is considered that taxes are too high. Of course, taxes were never low enough to suit all of us, and no matter to what degree we were to reduce taxes, there would still be some members of the community who would ask for further concessions. However, those of us who realize that the important job of government requires taxes, will pay what we are called upon to contribute, willingly, knowing that the imposts are fair. The tragedy of war and its aftermath have necessitated the imposition of heavy taxes, but the fact remains that in. this country combined with high taxation there is stable government, and judicious government spending, with the result that our internal economy to-day is sounder than ever before. Not only the general level, but also the individual level, of prosperity is higher now than at any time in our history. Evidence of present-day prosperity in the commercial sphere is abundant. A survey of the finances of public companies reveals that they are enjoying a prosperous era despite high taxes.
– They are having a big business turnover.
– That is the result of wise government expenditure. A combination of high taxes and wise government .expenditure produces prosperity. We would all like taxes to be reduced, but let us examine for a moment the effect of high taxes upon the commercial life of this country. I have selected at random the Sydney Morning Herald of last Saturday and gleaned from it some very interesting information. I find, for instance, that the dividend paid by
Howards Limited, Brisbane, has been increased from 8 -per cent, to 16 per cent. It is trite that the extra payment is described as a victory celebration, but the fact remains that it could not have been made had there not been sufficient profits to finance it. Carpet manufacturers nave increased their dividends from 6 per cent, to 7$ per cent.
– Is that not good for the country?
– Yes, and this Government is good for the country. The North Shore Gas Company Limited paid a dividend of 6 per cent, in 1939. By 1942 that had been reduced to Z% per cent. In 1945 it was 5i per cent., and this year it has returned to the 1939 level of 6 per cent. The profits of the Australia Hotel, Sydney, have increased by £2,0S0 after reserving. £10,000 for renewals of carpets, furnishings, &c, and a further £10,000 for depreciation. The profits pf Zinc Corporation Limited have increased by £20,739, and the dividend paid by the New South Wales Monte de Piété has increased from 8 per cent, to 10 per cent. The dividend of Sons of Gwalia Limited is up by 25 per cent. Seeing these figures, I “thought that perhaps all the prosperity was confined to New South Wales - it was quite obvious that there was ‘.a considerable degree of . prosperity in that “State, despite the “ wailing at the walls “ we have been hearing in the Senate during the last four weeks - and I began to wonder what was the position in Victoria; so I turned up the Melbourne Herald’ oi Saturday ‘last, and under the heading “ Week’s Business Review “ I found the following information: -
Aust. Mot. Petrol buys 14,500 tons tanker, negotiating’ for another; bought eight inland “bulk fuel depots from Disposals Comm.
Wm. Adams developing Tasmanian branch. Brooklands Accessories new issue. 25,000 fi ords. at par to s’holders and employees.
Cons. Fibre to make £20,000 ordinary share issue.
Davies Coop takes over Stawell munitions annexe.
E.S. & A. Bank opens six new agencies.
Fauldings & Co. purchases Melbourne manufacturing site.
Jantzen can now produce three times prewar output; additional capital needed.
Kelly and Lewis floating £200,000 subsidiary. K.L. Tractors Ltd.
Meggitt makes additions to Vic. and S.A. plants.
John McGrath, Sydney, to increase capital to £300,000 by 75,000 £1 ords. to s’holders at 1 for 3.
There are half, a dozen more items, all telling the same story. The article goes on to point out that Associated Dairies had raised their dividends from 8 to 10 per cent.; J. C. Ludowici and Sons from 5 per cent, to 6£ per cent,; Mick Simmons Limited from 7 per cent, to 9 per cent., and Carpet Manufacturers from 6 per cent, to 7£ per cent.’ I place that information before the Senate because I believe that too little consideration has been given to the fact that not only the workers of this country, but also other people whom honorable senators opposite purport to represent in this chamber are also benefiting substantially from the stability ofAustralia’s economy. -I warn the Senate, however, that this prosperity could be wiped out in a matter of months if the Government’s control measures were not strong and wise. We could easily experience here the state of affairs that exists in America. When price controls were removed in that country, the prices of commodities jumped overnight. Rents increased by as much as from 750 per cent, to 1,0.00 per cent., and the over-all increase of the price of food was 25 per cent. - not in a month or in a week, but in 24 hours, as a result of the lifting of controls by the Government. Australia’s two war-time Labour Prime Ministers have given to this Commonwealth solidity ‘ of control which is now bearing fruit, not only to the individual, but also in the commercial world. I know that business organizations are anxious for a reduction . of the company tax. We all hope that that tax will be reduced soon, hut the fact remains, as I have pointed out, that after paying the taxes which honorable members opposite claim to be a suffocating burden- on industry and a destroyer of initiative, the revenues of public companies are exceedingly buoyant. Companies have been able to pay taxes and still increase profits and dividends to shareholders.
– That is so. Farmers are now out of debt. In the same Melbourne newspaper from which I quoted certain figures, there appeared a report stating that the position of pastoral companies too had improved materially, and .that their shares were being quoted at enhanced values. Therefore, not only the workers, but also pastoral companies and commercial organizations generally, have benefited considerably during (he life of this Government. In the coming twelve months we shall write our history for the next thirty years. If, during that period, the Labour Government, by its wise legislation, can hold back the flood-gates of inflation, and, at the same time, continue its tax reductions without giving way to pressure groups who demand concessions, not knowing that in most cases these concessions would be to their own detriment, it will make secure the economic stability of this country for more than a generation. Unfortunately, many individuals who do not think deeply’ on such matters are prone to be influenced by the Opposition’s cries of “lost initiative” and “ reduced turnover “. They are deceived into the belief that the one panacea for all present-day economic problems is a reduction of taxation. I warn these people that if taxes te reduced substantially, and the Government expenditure decreased to a marked degree, we shall be taking the first step on the road not to inflation but to deflation. In this country, as in others, the position of the Government is more important than ever before in history. That has been a natural war-time development. Governments now have more influence than ever before, and possibly more than they will ever have in the future; but I emphasize that the most rigid control of our economy must be exercised during the next twelve months. It might easily get’ out of control. That has been the unfortunate experience of other countries. Earlier in my speech I described the effects of inflation upon individual. items in Great Britain - the country most closely allied to us. The United Kingdom to-day is having a great struggle to maintain its position. We in Australia are far more fortunate as all of us who have travelled abroad will agree. It is up to us to support the efforts of this Government to maintain economic stability, because it is doing a job, not only for’ Labour supporters, but for the whole nation. Turnover is of little avail in the face of uncontrolled inflation. During the last few years, the Chifley and Curtin, Governments “have set an example to the people of this country, and to the world. They have tackled this country’s immense economic problems boldly and fearlessly. The job still confronting this administration is of great magnitude. It has not. been .decreased by the conclusion of the war; in many respects it has increased by the fact that the war has ended. The Government is facing the problems of peace as it faced the problems of war, with only one thought, namely, the establishment of a high level of individual and collectiveprosperity, not only in the immediate future, but also for 20 or 30 years to come. We are determining now whether the people of this country shall enjoy a high standard of living, or like certain European peoples, we shall fall to our knees because of our inability to handle our internal economy. The Prime Minister has done an excellent job and he should be given every support. We should forget our. party differences, and follow the example of the Prime Minister by tackling our problems
On a national basis, devoting, as he hasdone, all our energies in order tha t ‘ this country may develop as the years go by, not only as the social laboratory of the world as it is to-day, but in such a practical manner that we shall be able to look back upon the next twelve months with pride, knowing that we all played our full part in assisting Australia to take its rightful place among the nations of the world.
..- When a Supply Bill was before the Senate some weeks ago I expressed, I am sure, the views of the Oppo- .sition in this chamber when I said that we had a right to expect that the budget and Estimates for the ensuing financial yearwould be presented to the Parliament during this session. Instead, the Government places before us a Financial Statement, which is merely a summary of its finances. In such circumstances we shall not be- able to ascertain the real financial position of the country until after the general elections. I am not suggesting that the Government is actuated by any sinister motive in following this course; but it has failed to observe the practice followed in the past by presenting its budget before the general elections’. Indeed, in some years, previous governments have presented their budgets in July. The Government on this occasion offers no ex-, planation for placing before us merely a summary of its financial position, instead of its budget and Estimates for the year. Six months of this financial year will have passed, and the country will have been committed to expenditure in respect of at least five months, before the Parliament will be given an opportunity to study the country’s finances for the current financial year.
Senator Armstrong had much to say about the widespread prosperity which he said exists in Australia to-day. In support of his contention, he quoted from newspaper reports dealing with the balance-sheets and profits of many companies. Does he suggest that it is not in the interest of this country that private enterprise should prosper? He has implied, of course, that the present Government is responsible for the prosperity of the companies he mentioned. The position is quite clear. The present Government assumed office-
– Under the worst possible conditions.
– It cannot he denied for one moment that the Government assumed office under very great difficulties ; but it has been admitted that most of its success has been due to the fact that it built on foundations firmly laid by preceding governments, which had actually commenced to erect the superstructure. I could not offer better proof of the truth of that assertion than the fact that the late Mr. Curtin, when he was Prime Minister - and his remarks are recorded in Hansard–acknowledged the good work that was done by this Government’s predecessor, and said that his Government was building upon foundations laid by the previous Government. The captains of industry, who were co-opted by the previous Government, and its appointees to important positions, were retained by the present Government in carrying out its policy. Their retention has been more than justified. Otherwise, the present Government would not have retained their services. However, not one honorable senator opposite has paid tribute to those men who were so largely responsible for the success of the present Government, and also the success of the companies to which Senator Armstrong has referred. They were the Government’s right-hand men, and, as -advisers ti; the Government, were largely responsible for assuring the successful prosecution of the war. However, whilst admitting the success of those companies, we must not lose sight of the fact that hundreds of millions of pounds of loan money have been expended in the establishment and operation of war-time industries .which have not been reproductive in the true sense. Consequently, in Australia, as in all other countries, millions of pounds worth of the products of such industries . are now being dumped. In to-day’s press we read ‘reports that in Great Britain 800,000 tons of ammunition is to be destroyed. Thus, much of the prosperity to which Senator Armstrong refers is purely temporary. It is clear that we cannot look to industries of that kind to enable
Hi1 to develop this country.
The reduction of taxes is not the only problem which confronts this Government. The inference to be drawn from Senator Armstrong’s argument is that the higher the rates of taxes the more prosperous the country must become. That argument, of course, is erroneous. What is the general complaint made by workers such as the coal-miners and those employed on the water-front? They complain that, because of heavy taxes, they are as well off when they work only three, or four, days a week as when they work six days a week. The burden of taxation to-day-
– Falls upon the workers.
– It does.
– No. The honorable senator knows quite well that Australia has the highest rate of tax per capita in the world. I am sure that when Government supporters face the electors they will not tell the people that they believe that the burden of taxation is not heavy. On the contrary, they will bid up, and tell the people that the Government will reduce taxes.
– Of course we will.
– Yet, the honorable senator says that present rates of taxes are not high, and are not a deterrent to the industrial development of this country. I hold the opposite view. The people of Australia have responded effectively, if not altogether gladly, to all appeals that have been made to them to subscribe to. loans for war purposes, and in order to enable the Government to finance the development of Australia, and repatriate ex-service personnel. However, our people will not continue to furnish funds to the Government to be expended on Government enterprises. The people believe that the best service the Government can render to them in the present circumstances is to reduce taxes substantially. In that way, it can give the greatest possible encouragement to private enterprise which has done so much to develop Australia. Secondly, the Government must restore to the people their individual rights, and enable all persons in the Commonwealth, as free men and women, to map out their own destiny. Only in that way can the country be given true prosperity. The true ideal of every Australian -is to live and work as free citizens with full citizen rights, and, without let or hindrance, to choose his, or her, way of life. Honorable senators opposite know that the Government is not free to carry on its work without the approval of the great labour organizations of the country.
– That is a fairy story. The honorable senator knows nothing about it.
– The onlooker very often sees most of the game. Honorable senators who support the Government know that their greatest concern is to secure the pre-selection preferences of the trade unions.
– That is another story.
The- PRESIDENT.- Order ! The honorable senator must be heard in silence. He must also address the Chair.
– That is where a great difference is apparent between honorable senators in opposition and those who support the Government. We in opposition are free men. We submitted broad general principles to the p’eople who elected us to this Parliament. We have not come here as delegates of organizations; we represent the people. We view the approaching general elections without any misgivings. I am sure that the good sense of the people will prevail at the elections, and much as we appreciate the good company of Ministers and their supporters, I am sure that many of them will not be re-elected.
– Now the honor- . able senator is being really funny.
– It is all very well to be gleeful at the moment; but I remind the Minister that he who laughs last laughs longest.
– The honorable senator is not very happy.
– I am very happy aBout the election prospects.
I refer now to the shipping shortage as it affects Tasmania. Representatives of Tasmania on this side of the chamber have frequently approached the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) on this subject. We appreciate the sympathetic treatment that he has accorded to us. Although we have not achieved satisfactory results, he has always been courteous and has. endeavoured to the best of his ability to help us. Tasmania is in a unique situation. It is entirely dependent for its development upon the provision of an adequate shipping service to the mainland States. A large proportion of its products is . sent to market by ship, and it imports manufactured goods in large quantities. Recently, the Minister for Supply and Shipping, in answering a question which I had asked, said, if I recall his words correctly, that there were 50 per cent, more ships on the Tasmanian coast than at any previous time.
– That is incorrect. I said that primary production in Tasmania had increased by 50 per cent, during the war.
– And, as L said at the time, that speaks veil for Tasmania’s productive effort. Tasmania’s ‘ sea’ communications are in a worse condition to-day- than they were 30 years ago. That is undeniable. Before the war, six trips of passenger and cargo vessels operated weekly between Tasmania and Melbourne, one passenger and cargo ship traded between Launceston and Sydney at ten-day intervals, a passenger vessel operated between Hobart and Sydney, and another operated between Hobart and New Zealand. The only vessel carrying passengers between Tasmania and the mainland now is the steamship Nairana, which makes two trips weekly across Bass Strait, as compared with the six trips weekly that were made by various ships 25. years ago. Senator Sampson referred this afternoon to- the handling of cargo at- Tasmanianports and spoke particularly of potatoes. Under present arrangements, vessels call only occasionally to. load potatoes, and stocks accumulate at the wharfs. A month may elapse between calls by cargo ships, and each ship may load only 36,000 or 40,000 bags of potatoes. Fifteen years ago, two vessels left the north-west coast of Tasmania every Friday.. They each carried about 2,000 tons of cargo, and the growers knew that their potatoes would reach the Sydney market every Monday morning. Potatoes represent a very substantial part of the primary production of the north-western coastal area of Tasmania. At present,, stocks are allowed to accumulate at the wharfs, or to remain in the ground. If bad weather occurs,, enor-mons wastage occurs amongst those in the ground. .Those awaiting shipment also deteriorate, instead of. being shipped to people who need, them badly, and a great deal of expense is caused to both the producers and, the Government, which has guaranteed the price of potatoes. I askthe Minister to give very special attention ;o this problem.. I know the difficultiesof his task, but shipping’ services provide the commercial life blood of Tasmania. That State is a part of the Commonwealth, and if it is to be developed :is it should be developed, the Government must provide more ships.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) urged that child endowment should be paid in respect of all children under the age of sixteen years instead of all except the first child. I listened with, a great deal of interest to the reply made by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna).
– He spoke well.
– Yes, and being a good Tasmanian he spoke courteously. I regret that he is not on this side of the chamber. However, the Minister said that payment of child endowment in. respect of the first child, under the age of sixteen years in each family would impose a direct charge on industry. “We realize that, whether payment of child endowment b.e financed, by means of a pay roll-tax or otherwise, the- money must be- produced from national revenue. The Government should be consistent. The Financial Statement shows, that the Government pro* poses this year to increase the number of persons eligible for invalid, old-age, or widows’ pensions by 9.0,000.. Every honorable senator will agree that aged and invalid persons and widows- deserve assistance, hut the .mothers of the country’s children have an equal: claim upon our generosity. I hesitate- to make comparisons, but if we do the right thing by providing- adequately for the welfare of the aged and invalid, we should do like. wise for parents who, though not actually on the bread line, are struggling against great difficulties to raise families of good citizens. These- are almost our “ forgotten people “. The Minister said that parents with the largest families should be given some consideration. I point out that to a degree they are provided for already by the .payment -of child endowment in respect of all children, excepting the first, under the age of sixteen years. Therefore, the honorable gentleman’s contention does- not bear close scrutiny. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court is considering claims to. reduce the hours of- work, in industry, and another important industrial problem, that of increasing the basic wage, should, also receive close attention. Putting party political considerations aside, is it not abundantly clear that, by extending the payment of child endowment to the first child under the age of sixteen years in each ‘family, the Government would ;be adding to the spending power of ‘parents as though the wages of. the bread-winner had been increased? Would it not remove in large measure the necessity ‘for raising the basic wage? The provision of child endowment for each child under (he age of sixteen years would simplify the work of the court in fixing the basic wage. When child endowment was introduced, the court had before it the determination of the basic wage, and its decision was postponed until the government of the day had formulated its policy in respect of child endowment. The Minister for Health has not advanced sound argument as to why child endowment should not be provided for the first child. I do not intend to discuss whether the provision of child endowment is ultra vires the Constitution, but the fact remains that that question has not been considered by the court. If it was constitutional to provide endowment in respect of all children except the firs’t, there can be no argument at present as to whether it would be unconstitutional to provide for the first child. When the Senate reassembles after the forthcoming general elections, I suppose that the budget will be brought down by a government formed from the ranks of the Opposition. Perhaps that is the reason why on this occasion . the presentation of the annual budget has been delayed.
– I shall commence where Senator Herbert Hays concluded his speech. Only two objections have been raised to the Financial Statement by honorable senators opposite. In the first place they desire that child endowment shall be applied to the first child as well as to subsequent children, and secondly, they ask for a greater reduction of income tax than that contemplated by the Government. As to child endowment it seems strange that there has been a great change of front on the part of honorable senators opposite. A few years ago, a government which they supported and which introduced child endowment, fought strenuously against the inclusion of the first child in the scheme. “Now, despite heavy income taxes and ‘the fact that the cost of social services has increased to over £60*000,000 a year, in order to provide for further necessitous cases, and although -employment is more plentiful than ever before, honorable senators opposite desire that the cost of child endowment shall ‘be increased by providing for endowment in respect;of the first child. The Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) replied adequately’ to the ‘Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), who contended that his proposal could be financed by means of a’ pay-roll tax. The only other suggestion advanced ‘by the Leader of the1 Opposition was that his proposal could be financed partly by using the uncollected arrears of income tax which amount to £50,000,000. I doubt whether the arrears are so large as that, but even if that were the correct amount, it would not be sufficient for the payment of child endowment in respect of the first child for more than a year or so. “Nobody knows better than the Leader of the Opposition that every year there is a carry-over of arrears of income tax, and the arrears this year are not larger than those usually remaining uncollected from year to year. Even under the payasyouearn system of income tax there are arrears uncollected at the close of each year, and I imagine that those arrears will be experienced in future. So it is hopeless to say that the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition, could be financed from uncollected taxes. The Opposition has advanced no concrete _ argument to show in what way the additional £19,000,000 could be provided for the purpose of providing endowment in respect of the first child.
The relief from the burden of taxation and the social benefits ‘provided by the present Government has been of great benefit to the people, particularly to those members of the community who have a large number of dependants. According, to the remarks of Senator Herbert Hays, one would imagine that a worker in receipt of the basic wage is burdened _wi,th high income tax. A similar, opinion might be formed from the remarks of the ‘ Leader of ‘the Opposition, but the fact is that if a worker has two or three dependants he pays no income tax at all. Therefore it is nonsensical for honorable senators opposite to ask for a further reduction of tax in the interests of the basic-wage worker. Either they have not read the Financial Statement of the Treasurer, or, if they have, they have not taken the trouble to notice .where the’ tax burden actually falls. There is no tax at all on a single man in receipt of less than £200 a year. A man with a dependent wife pays no social service tax at all until he receives £150 a year, and no income tax until he earns £280 a year. A married man with one child does not begin to pay social service tax until he receives £157 a year, or until his income reaches £345 a year. A man with a wife and two children pays social service tax. when he reaches an income of £212 a year, and his income tax starts at a salary of £378 a year. In addition, he collects in child endowment £19 10s. A man with a wife and four children does not pay social service tax till he attains a salary of £278 a year,’ and must have an income of £447 a year before he is called upon to pay income tax. He receives in child endowment the sum of £58 10s. In other words, he pays no income tax whatever until he receives £504 10s. a year.’ In Australia the social service tax is light compared with the impost in New Zealand, where the people pay ls. 6d. in every £1 of income. That does not include other social service benefits such as hospital and medical attention, medicines, sickness and unemployment benefits, and similar advantages. The two reductions of income tax given at the instance of the Government last year and this year amount to £38,000,000. The Leader of the Opposition said it was a weak and spineless attitude on the part of the Government to propose such a small reduction of income tax. If we consider the reduction of £38,000,000, plus the social service benefits, and the manner in which the tax deductions are determined, we find that the working classes are not heavily burdened by taxes. The Leader of the Opposition took exception to the small reduction of the income tax. He remarked that, on incomes of £1,000. a year, the reduction amounted to only a few shillings a week. I interjected: “ What has such a taxpayer left ? “ and the Leader of the Opposition took me to task. I am interested only in what the taxpayers have left after they have paid their taxes. I am not particularly interested in the amount of tax they pay. We find that a single man on an income of £1,000 a year, after he has paid his tax, has £754 left, and that is not an inconsiderable amount. A man with a wife on the same income range has a balance of £754. If he has one child he has £774, and, if he has two children he has £782 left. Yet the honorable gentleman says that the reductions are not sufficient. I ask him whether he advocates further reductions being made in respect of people in the higher ranges of income, and at the same time I remind him “that workers on the basic wage do not pay much, if anything in taxes. If persons in receipt of incomes between £500 and £1,000 a year are to pay less there must he a reduction of expenditure in some other direction. Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that the amount of which the Treasury would be deprived if effect were given to his suggestion, should be made up by invalid and old-age pensioners, or by a reduction of child endowment, or by a lessening of expenditure on defence? Senator Herbert Hays showed by his speech to-night that he is completely out of touch with, the waterside workers in Tasmania. I know that few waterside workers in Tasmania have an income of £500 a year. The majority of them have incomes well below that amount, and most of them have dependants. Under the new scale of taxes, few waterside workers in Tasmania will pay any income tax at all, although they will be required to pay a small social service tax.
The Leader of the Opposition also said that a perusal of the Auditor-General’s report showed that the Government had been guilty of gross extravagance in many directions and that a “ go-slow “. policy was in operation but. he did not cite one instance of waste, or of the operation of such a policy by workers. I seriously doubt that the Auditor-General said what has been attributed to him. If he did he should be called upon to show where a go-slow policy is in operation.
– It is in operation on the Newcastle wharfs.
– Does the honorable senator make that interjection as the result of a recent visit to Newcastle?
– I have been there.
– Honorable senators opposite should not make a charge of that kind against workers generally. There may be isolated instances of men not doing a fair day’s work, but honorable senators should not charge all workers with the sins of a small minority. Compared with the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America, and many other countries, Australia is comparatively free from strikes. I challenge any honorable senator opposite to say where a strike has taken place in Tasmania during the last twelve months. lt is true that from time to time strikes do occur in Australia, but only a’ few hundred workers may be involved; yet honorable senators speak as though workers in industry generally were constantly going on strike. It is not fair to cast such slurs on Australian workers generally. The Leader of the Opposition would do well to ascertain the facts before he . makes charges against Australian workers.
The war of 1939-45 increased Australia’s interest burden by £38,0S0,000 a year. It is well to remember that that amount is in addition to other commitments which. the Government has to meet. “When honorable senators opposite advocate further reductions of taxes they should keep those figures in mind. If the money to pay that interest bill does not come from taxes, where will it be obtained? When honorable senators opposite advocate a further reduction of raxes, as well as an extension of child endowment which would increase the drain on the Treasury by a further £19,000,000 a year, do they suggest that the country should repudiate its interest obligations? I do not think so. Each year the Commonwealth and the States have to pay £79,067,000 as interest on borrowed money. That money must be derived from taxes. I would be disappointed if any government should consider it necessary to enter, the money market and raise further loans. Only recently the Commonwealth Bank Act was amended to enable the Commonwealth Bank to1 engage in banking business anywhere in Australia in competition with private banks and State savings banks. The country is still paying huge sums annually to private banks as interest on the loans which were floated to finance the war of 1914-18. If it is necessary to float further loans, the Commonwealth Bank should take up the whole of each loan at interest not exceeding 1 per cent., or the actual cost of administration. The Commonwealth Bank should lend money to the Commonwealth Government to finance public works of a reproductive or developmental nature, having as security the productive capacity of the nation. ‘ If our interest debt continues to increase as it has done during recent years the time will come when the interest burden will be too great for us to carry. A much larger population will be needed to pay a bigger interest bill than has to be faced now. We shall have a financial crash if we continue to borrow money for a huge building programme, the land settlement of exservicemen, water conservation and re-afforestation schemes, the standardization of railway gauges and the development of naval, military and air forces for the defence of Australia. <I detect a change in world affairs. Many nations have gone as far as they can go under the orthodox system of finance, and to-day they are tending towards a change. What the future holds in this connexion is difficult to forecast, but unless the nations learn that money must be made the servant of man, rather than that man must be the servant of money, the future outlook will not be bright. Australia cannot afford to increase its burden of debt at the rate of £38,080,000 every five or six years. Such a policy must inevitably lead to another depression. It is the duty of the Government to consider seriously whether the orthodox system of finance should be continued longer, because it is placing too great a burden on this generation and jeopardizing the prospects of future generations. The old financial system under which Australia piled up a huge public debt is not satisfacory. As public men it is our duty to leave public life with the burden of debt lighter than when we entered the Parliament. We must take the long view and look ahead, not three years, five years, or ten years, but 50 or even 100 years. 1 can see no bright future for this country if we continue to finance our public, reproductive and developmental works with loan money for which we pay a high rate of interest. It is the interest burden that is crippling this country financially, and unless we can find some way of overcoming this> problem, the outlook is very poor indeed.
Senator JAMES MCLACHLAN (South Australian [9.16]. - This statement has been brought down by the Government instead of a budget. The excuse offered for the absence of a budget is that it will not be possible to prepare one until some time in August or September. That argument obviously falls to the ground when we recall that in the past budgets have been brought down in July or early August.
– How many?
– I cannot say exactly how many, but we have had some.
– Only two.
– It is deplorable that we have not had a national balance-sheet placed before us. We are the directors of this Commonwealth, and the people are the shareholders. No body of directors would hold an annual meeting of a company without presenting to the shareholders a balance-sheet showing the results of the year’s trading. The main reason for the Government’s failure to introduce a budget is, of course, that the general elections are approaching, and, like other governments, this Administration has to answer for many sins. By not bringing down a budget, it places itself in a happy position. If it be not returned at the forthcoming elections, honorable senators opposite can say, “ We would have done so and so had we been elected “. If, on the other hand, it has the good fortune to be returned to the treasurybench, it can do just what it likes.
This statement deals almost entirely with two items, taxation and old-age pensions, each of which, no doubt, is regarded as an “ election winner “. However, I shall pass over these matters for the moment, and direct the attention of the Senate to the Government’s claims in respect of employment and demobilization. It is stated that there are 400,000 more in employment to-day than there were twelve months ago; but it is more than twelve months since the European war ended, and it is only natural that there should be a great many more men in civilian employment now. A special point is made of the fact that the 400,000 does not take into consideration people who have gone out of employment because of age. That may be true, but on the other hand, neither does it take into consideration young people, numbering probably 200,000, who have reached an employable age since the war started.
I do not think that any great credit is due to the Government for its record in regard to demobilization. After all. why should men and women be kept in the services? The war is over, and it is only natural that service men and women should he demobilized. The figures given by the Government in regard to demobilization and employment do not tally. The Government claims that a certain member of men and women have been demobilized from the services, and that others have gone into civilian employment, but the strange fact remains, according to the Financial .Statement, that the Army pay-roll has been reduced by only’ £20,000,000’, although the war has been over for a year. That is a matter that requires some explanation. On page 3 of the Financial Statement appears the following pronouncement : -
The actual gap between war expenditure and available revenue was therefore £153,000,000. compared with the budget estimate of £152,000,000. I would emphasize particularly that this was financed wholly from the proceeds of borrowings from the public.
That is not exactly correct, as -the figure.for the last two loans, the fina! Victory Loan, and the First Security Loan will show. In respect of the Victory Loan the Government took 49 per cent, of the money from the savings banks, the State governments and government departments. That money was not borrowed from the public at all.
– Who put the money into the hanks, and to -whom did it belong?
– It belonged to the people. If depositors wished to draw -their money out of the bunks and subscribe to war loans that was their business, but the Government had no right to take money from the banks. In respect of the Security Loan, 38 per cent, of the money subscribed came from the sources that I have mentioned; yet the Government claims that the whole of that money . was borrowed from the public. Certainly it belonged to the public, but it was not lent by the public. Further on in this document we find the following statement: -
Since the Labour Government took office in 1941 Australia’s governmental loan indebtedness in London has been reduced by £57,000,0’00 sterling
That is misleading. . Certainly our indebtedness overseas has been reduced, but only by borrowing the money in Australia. That is merely transferring The debt; but the average man or woman reading that statement would think that our indebtedness actually had been reduced by £57,000,000. ‘ Certainly, the transference of the debt will relieve us of a certain amount of interest, which is to be commended, but the public should not be gulled into the belief that our indebtedness has been reduced.
I come now to taxation. The Government’s concession in direct taxation for the current financial year amounts to £17,500,000. Only by a reduction of faxes can we get back to full production, which means full prosperity. I consider that taxes on industry should have been reduced first to aid production. 1 have no objection to concessions being granted to taxpayers’ in the lower income groups, but I think that relief could have been given to these people in a much easier and much better way. A feature has been made of tax reductions on. low incomes. The main reason- for that, of course, is that election time is near. The Government is pandering to the wageearner, and trying to convince him that it is opposed to capitalists. Most of our manufacturing industries are in the hands of public companies which are financed by investments of shareholders. “No relief has been given in company tax despite the fact that public companies pay 27 per cent., of income tax revenue. Last year companies contributed £54,831,000 in taxes. In addition, of course, shareholders have to pay income tax on dividends. As an illustration of the severity of the company tax, I point out that a business organization with a capital of £90,000,000 and earning £23,000 in income, has to pay £13^500 in taxes. Allowing say, another £4,500 for reserves, only £5,000 is left for distribution to shareholders. ‘ In addition, of course, the shareholders have to pay income tax upon the profits distributed to them. Out of the total profit made, therefore, the Government gets something like 54 per cent., and the shareholders 46 per cent. Before the war, company tax was 4s. in the £1; to-day it is more than 10s. The general tax is 6s. in the £1, super tax ls. in the £1, 10 per cent, is paid on undistributed profits, and then there is the war-time company tax. How can any industry , expand whilst carrying that burden?
– They are expanding.
– There may be a few- odd companies whose finances are buoyant; but the honorable senator knows quite well that public companies in Australia to-day are crippled by taxes. Other countries have realized the damaging effects of company tax. In the United States of America company taxes have been reduced by 980,000,000 dollars. In South Africa they have been reduced from 15s. to 10s. in the £1, and a generous allowance is made for replacements. In Australia 2,000,000 people are directly engaged in industry, whilst 5,000,000 are dependent upon- them. If the Government persists with its present policy the standard of living must decline, and every one in the community must suffer. The Government should have reduced company tax and income tax on the higher ranges .of income in order to encourage increased production, and, at the same time, afford relief to those on the lower ranges of income by reducing indirect (axes. Direct and indirect taxes in 1944-45 amounted to £360,000,000, or £49 per capita. Of that sum, income tax collections amounted to £216,000,000, or £29’ per capita, and’ indirect taxes amounted to £144,000,000, or £20 per capita. Persons who earn £8 a week, or less, pay the bulk of indirect tax. Of our total wage-earners of 3,000,000, 80 per cent, receive a wage of £8 a week, or less; but their total earnings amount to £725,000,000 a year, or £247 per capita. After allowing for concessional deductions, those persons pay tax of £9 or less per capita. The Government now proposes to relieve those persons of some of that average tax of £9 per capita, hoping, apparently, that such people will show their gratitude by returning it to office at the next general elections. However, there is the distinct possibility that those people will realize that the Government has relieved them of very little tax when it has the opportunity to relieve them of very much, and, consequently, will not support the Government, if only because they resent the insult which it offers to their intelligence. Persons who earn £8 a week or less pay the bulk of indirect taxes. That is because indirect taxes are imposed upon many of the necessaries of life. For instance, collections of excise duties total £46,000,000 a year, or £6 8s. per capita, whilst collections of customs duties total £21,000,000, or £2 15s. 9d. per capita; and sales tax totals £29,000,000, or £4 per capita, whilst entertainments tax totals £7,000,000, or £1 per capita. An excise duty is imposed on such items as beer, cigarettes and tobacco. When a worker buys a schooner of beer for lid., the Government receives 5-Jd. in excise’ duty, whilst 6 1/2d. of the lOd. the worker pays for a packet of cigarettes is excise duty. Of the 2s. lOd. which the worker pays for 2 oz. tobacco, the Government receives ls. 9d. in excise duty; and, in terms of money, four matches out of every nine represents excise duty. No doubt, some people will say that only 37 per cent, of items are subject to sales tax, but that 37 per cent, includes many of the everyday needs of the worker. Sales tax is imposed at the rate of 1 per cent, on certain items, 12^ per cent, on others, and 25 per cent, on others. Sales tax upon items in the second class produces the greatest revenue of the three classes. That is because . those items include such things as furniture, carpets, linoleum, crockery, cutlery, kitchenware, &c. Those things are required in every home, and it is significant that collections of sales tax during the last financial year exceeded the Government’s estimate by £3,500,000. The reason for this is not hard to find. Many exservicemen have been setting up homes, and have been obliged to buy such articles. For instance, of every £50 a person expends on furniture subject to sales tax- at the rate of 12^ per cent., the Government receives £5 lis. Very few people can carry on without purchasing items which are subject to sales tax at the rate of 7 per cent., although such goods are usually described as cheap goods. Of the cost of a suit of clothes, the Government receives in tax 17s., ls. 9d. of the cost of a new shirt, and about 4s. 9d. of the cost of a hat. Many so-called luxury goods upon which sales tax is levied at -the rate, of 25 per cent, are purchased by the low wage-earner. Of every 5s. . a person expends on ice cream and chocolates, the Government receives ls. in sales tax. From these figures it is clear that the Government could have afforded most, relief to the working man by reducing indirect taxes. At the same time, it should have reduced company tax and income tax on the higher ranges in order to give an impetus to production. However, the Government has made up its mind. . I firmly support the Liberal party in advocating an immediate reduction of taxes by 40 per cent. Another good vote catcher in the Financial Statement is the proposal to increase the rate of the old-age pension. No honorable - senator on this side of the chamber has ever opposed the liberalization of invalid and old-age pensions. Bearing in mind the increased cost of living, these people are entitled to an increase of pension. However, the Government could be more generous towards them. For instance, it should not limit in any way whatever the income which a pensioner can earn independently of his, or her pension. If a pensioner is healthy, he, or she, should be allowed to earn whatever he, or she, is capable of earning without ‘surrendering, or reducing, pension rights.’
– Honorable senators opposite had many opportunities to implement that proposal when governments which they supported were in office.
– I believe that we shall be given that opportunity after the next general elections. I regret that the Government .does not intend to abolish the means test in respect of invalid and old-age pensions. Under the Government’s present system of deducting from income tax an amount which it calls a social service contribution that reform, of course, is impossible. Such a reform can only be implemented, under a contributory system, under which all citizens will contribute to a common fund, and have the right to benefit from that fund. The Government’s present method of allocating an amount of income tax as a social service contribution is all “hooey”.
The speech of the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) was -most interesting. He made out what seemed to be a good case on behalf of the Government; but, obviously, he was speaking to a brief; and, being a lawyer, he was able to make his points with some effect. While he was speaking I was reminded of the story of two old tourists who were walking through a graveyard in Scotland and noticing on one tombstone the inscription, “An honest lawyer lies here “, one of them said to the other, “ I say, Jock, there must be two fellows buried in that grave “. When the Minister for Health was moving the second reading of the Australian National University Bill, Senator J. B. Hayes asked, by interjection, why the Government did not spend some of the money proposed to be devoted to that purpose in the provision of houses. The Minister replied in effect, that- the Government had plenty of money with which to build houses. I agree with his statement, because when we. realize the degree to which our people have been taxed during the last few years, the position could not be otherwise. I warn the Government that, even if it has plenty of money, it cannot do what it likes with it. That money is not party funds. The Government is the custodian of it for the people; and its duty is to expend it in the interests of the community as a whole and not for the benefit of any one section. A private person who expends trust funds for his own benefit commits a criminal offence. Of course, the Government need not- always observe such a law. This Government has indulged in an orgy of spending unparalleled in our history;
Senator Armstrong expressed concern for the welfare of the British people who, he said, had done so much for the peoples of the world. He emphasized the fact that the British people were now urgently in need of increased food supplies. As he was speaking, I could not help recalling the lack of sympathy displayed by honorable senators opposite when we discussed the subject of food for Britain some days ago. If they think that the British people have done so much for Australia, surely, we should send them all the food we possibly can.
– Are we not doing so?
– Honorable senators did not make one constructive suggestion in that debate.
– I suggest that the honorable senator read the remarks made on that occasion by Senator Sampson. When Senator Armstrong was dealing with the subject of food for Britain, he remarked that several honorable senators had. gone abroad, and that, as the result of what they saw, their outlook had been widened. There may be some truth in the honorable senator’s statement, but I regard those trips as being a part of the orgy of spending for which the Government must be called to account. During the last three years, the Government has despatched ten honorable senators on world tours, and I suppose that each delegation cost the country about £4,000. Probably some of the tours were necessary, but one senator made two trips abroad, and I am sure that this was not necessary. He was sent abroad as adviser to the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) but was recalled from London to support the Government on the constitutional alteration bills. Having done his duty in this regard he went abroad again. That was unreasonable, and the people realize the fact. It would have been better for Australia if,’ during the last two or threeyears, the Government had legislated in the interests of all classes of people instead of pandering to a few favoured groups. It should have set out to improve the standards established by the pioneers. They were not spoon-fed, but they established high standards. It is all very well for Senator Arnold to smile, but before he was born these men were struggling to build up this country, and they did their job well.
– The latest generation has not done badly.
- No, but they did not stand up to the job as their forefathers did.
– About 600,000 of them stood up to their job very well.
– It is unworthy of the honorable senator to suggest tha.t I am criticizing the deeds of our fighting men. I would not insinuate anything against them, and it is unfair of the honorable gentleman to interject in that way. An election is looming in the offing,, and I regard the Financial Statement as electioneering propaganda of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). I have tried to show ‘ its faults, but there are more faults than’ I have time to mention. I am confident that the people will take a common-sense view of the Government’s failings, and therefore I shall be surprised and disappointed if this Government returns to power after the 28th September.
– I should not have participated in ‘this debate had not the Leader of the Opposition (Senator MoLeay) said that I was bound to support the amendment which he submitted in relation to child endowment. I regard the amendment as being hypocritical window-dressing for the elections about which we have heard a .great deal during the debate. If the parties in opposition were genuine in their desire to extend the range of child endowment payments, they would have done something- to achieve that objective in the years that. have elapsed since child endowment was introduced. For the information and guidance of honorable senators opposite, I shall trace the history of child endowment, which, is not new. Like many other social innovations in Australia it has been borrowed from Europe. It was introduced first in France. in. 1862, but its application did not become general in that country until 1918. Belgium followed France’s lead in 1921. Germany also introduced a limited scheme in 1920 and developed it further prior to World War II. The Labour party in Australia has fought hard since its inception for the granting of more generous allowances to families. This item has always been a basic part of the party’s platform, from which the idea was taken by the Menzies Government. In 1928, a royal commission was appointed by the Bruce-Page Government to inquire into family allowances and child endowment. Two reports were presented to Parliament in March, 1929. One was a majority report by three members of the commission, and the other was a report by the remaining two members, of whom one was the late Mr. John Curtin. In the light of what has been said in the Senate to-day, both’ reports make very interesting reading. The Bruce-Page Government at that . time, not. being hampered by post-war commitments as this Government is now hampered, decided to abide by the majority report and nothing was done to provide child endowment until the Menzies Government introduced its scheme in March, 1941, twelve years after the original reports were made, despite the agitation of Labour party members in the interim. I shall read some of the basic conclusions of the majority report in order to expose the weaknesses of the arguments advanced by honorable senators’ opposite who have submitted their proposition in the dying hours of this Parliament and who expect me, a loyal supporter of the Government, to aid them in pressing what is tantamount to a vote of censure on the Government. The majority report stated -
In our opinion, the imposition of large additional taxation for a scheme of child endowment, leaving present wage rates untouched, is practically an impossibility.
That is the crux. of the whole situation. There’ cannot be any extension of the child- endowment scheme over fields already covered by the basic wage without interfering with the basic wage. As has been admitted by one honorable senator opposite, that is the point at issue to-day. Honorable senators opposite are prepared to alter the foundation of the basic wage by extending child endowment to the first child under the age of sixteen years in each family, which would cause a complete upheaval of industrial standards. That is not merely a statement of my opinion. I support it by quoting further from the report made by members of the . commission who held the same political views as the parties now in opposition. Their report stated -
If child endowment as a gage of battle be tossed into the arena of the present industrial tribunals, disputes will inevitably increase in number and in intensity.
Disputes would naturally follow any move to alter the present method of computing the basic wage in such a w,ay as to lower its standard. The report also stated -
On these points, however, much would depend upon whether the scheme were one in which the large additional sums necessary for full maintenance, were distributed without corresponding, or at least partial reductions being made in the basic wage.
Without such reduction, the result, in om opinion, would be a marked flush of extravagant spending, and a sharp rise in the cost of living, shortly followed by a check in prosperity, by a more or less severe collapse in values, and by serious unemployment.
Those were the ‘conclusions reached by the majority of the commission in 1929. They were so well thought of by the Bruce-Page Government that it decided not to continue with the scheme. However, the report offered a gleam of hope for the future, towards which the present Government is aspiring -
We are of opinion that essential conditions precedent to the establishment of any scheme of child endowment should be -
that the Commonwealth Parliament should have first obtained full and exclusive power - 1 (a) to control wage fixation, and “industrial matters” as defined in Industrial Statutes; (6). to establish and control child endowment.
Power to control social services will be sought, by the Government at the forthcoming referendum. A concluding passage in the report contains the’ following statement: -
No expenditure of public money realizes such special value as that upon wisely controlled services, such as hospitals, maternity training, . maternity homes, child welfare, training- of nurses, bush nui sing, kindergarten, training of girls in domestic economy and similar services.
We are satisfied that the expenditure of relatively moderate sums, far below those which would be required even for a small measure .of child endowment, would suffice to secure superior benefits to the community.
Mr. Curtin and Mrs. Muscio dissented from that report. Their conclusions were -
That on the whole the basic wage as determined by the Commonwealth Band State Tribunals has provided a frugal standard of comfort for a family of man, wife and two children.
That it is undesirable to make allowances for the families of wage-earners part of the system of wage fixing, and that although it may be desirable for all wages to be fixed for the same family unit, it is not essential that anr scheme of family allowances should be delayed because the Commonwealth Govern- . ment has not at present sole control of industrial matters.
That the country can at present afford to inaugurate a moderate system of family allowances.
The minority report, with its thirteen recommendations, was rejected by the Bruce-Page Government, although the commitments for social services were much smaller than they are to-day. For. instance, the 1929-30 budget provided £10,000,000 for invalid and old-age pensions, whereas the amount set aside for that purpose this year is £33,250,000. The estimate for repatriation benefits, in 1929-30 was £8,000,000 ; ‘ this year it is £17,000,000. The estimate for maternity allowances in 1929-30 was £700,000 ; this year it is £2,600,000. An analysis of these services to-day would show exactly what this Government has done in order to give social security to the people. It has not been guilty of making empty electioneering promises. When, after much Labour prodding, the system of child endowment was introduced in 1941, the then Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr. Holt, made the following remarks in his second-reading speech : -
It is proposed, to pay an endowment of 5s. per week for all children under sixteen years in excess of one child in each family . . The Government has given a great deal of consideration to the provision of ‘ an endowment in respect of the first child . .
Tt has decided that payment for the first child is not warranted , .’ . .
That was not a new conclusion. In. March, 1941, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court ruled that the basic wage catered for a man, his wife and one child. Imagine what would happen in industry if this important method of computation were altered. Apparently, from the remarks made by honorable senators opposite, that is exactly what this amendment seeks to do - to bring down this charge on industry. Mr. Holt’s speech continued -
The presence of one child in the household does not put it at a serious disadvantage compared with the living standards of its neighbours. Inclusion of first children in the benefit would raise the .cost of the endowment by’ over 80 per cent.
To-day the cost qf child endowment would increase by 105 per cent., because there are more one-child families “now than then. The extra children to be catered for outnumber those covered by the present child endowment scheme.
Pay Roll tax of 2i per cent, on amounts in excess of £20 a week will bring in £9,000.000. More than £2,000,000 will come from the abolition of income .tax deductions for each child after the first. The balance will be financed from general revenue.
He admitted that it would be giving 5s. “a week with one hand and taking away with the other the income tax deductions in respect of all children after the first. The present Government has increased eli i 1 d endowment in respect of the second and all subsequent children by 50 per cent., by raising the payment from 5s. to 7s. fid. a week, for each child. It would be necessary to provide an extra £20,000,000 a year to finance the proposal advanced by the Leader of the Opposition.
The irresponsibility of the sponsors of the amendment is shown by the election baits which they have already thrown out to the people. During the debates last week we were told by the Opposition that increased prices for wheat should be provided. That would have involved an additional £30,000,000 a year. We are now asked to provide a further £20,000,000 in respect of child endowment. Senator James McLachlan has suggested the abolition of the means test which is applied to applicants for pensions. That would brins the total increased expenditure to about £100,000,000. Heaven knows how many more promises honorable senators opposite will make in the next few weeks, yet they solemnly advocate a reduction of the income tax by 40 per cent. ! They must regard the people of Australia as simpletons, - if they expect them to reconcile those two proposals. I seem to have been brought into’ this debate as a kind of election decoy, so that my opponents may be able to say that I opposed the provision of child endowment in respect of the first child. That is rather unfair, because we. are all in favour of increasing the income of families as much as possible, consistent with the interests of the national economy. I am a member of a large family, and some form of child endowment would have proved a welcome addition to our family budget. I have sisters and brothers who are married and would derive benefit from the proposal advanced by the Opposition, but I am bound to consider the practicability of the proposal. I agree that every child is a great asset to the nation, and ‘that where possible mothers should be assisted in meeting their family responsibilities. We must realize, however, that -Australia has a population- of only 7,000,000, and, following quickly upon- the gigantic burden of war expenditure it has been plunged into the problems of peace, which will prove no less difficult to solve than some of the problems of war.
The Government is asking for a mandate from the people in respect of the provision of social services, but the Opposition has had 46 years, in fact, since the establishment of federation, to take action along the lines of its present proposal regarding child endowment. It has had three years during the life of this Parliament to submit a concrete proposal reregarding the matter, but it postponed action until last week. Its followers were wondering no doubt how they could best hoodwink the people, and one of their number came forward with a bright idea of advocating child endowment in respect of the first child. The problem of the effect of such a proposal in the computation of the basic wage, cannot be solved merely by voting1 against the present motion. The best way to deal with it is to ask the Government of the day, after the next elections, to institute an inquiry into the method by which the basic wage is computed. I shall not be misled by the hypocritical arguments advanced by the Opposition. Ex-servicemen and their wives and families and the working class generally have not looked to the Labour Government in vain for improvement of their social conditions. I have no doubt that when the electors, study the records of the Australian Labour party and the lack of achievement of their opponents, who have been in power for most of the time that has elapsed since the establishment of the Commonwealth, they will readily come to a decision as to how to vote on the 28th ‘September next. I realize that I should not discuss election prospects, but the purpose behind the amendment is clear. The Opposition could have taken its present action at any other time within the last fifteen years. Obviously, it has merely raised an election cry.
As a rule, I have the greatest respect for the opinions of Senator Herbert Hays, but on this occasion I take exception to his remark that members of the Labour party have to kow-tow to the trade unions for selection as party candidates at the elections. I obtained my position in this chamber as a result of winning a ballot among 20,000 trade unionists in “Western Australia, and I am in a vastly different position from an honorable senator opposite who, after 27 years’ service - in this Parliament, has been ousted in the matter of selection by a junta comprised of fifteen persons. Reference has been made to the fact that coal-miners and dock-workers occasionally refuse to work overtime because the extra money they would earn would find its way to the Treasury in the form of income tax. None of us is pleased to pay taxes. We pay because we have to do so. and the reluctance of the coal-miners to pay income tax is not peculiar to the working class. I know professional men who have told me that they have worked from 10.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and patronized a picture show in the afternoon, because if they worked for the whole day they would be merely “working for Ben Chifley “. I have ‘seen coal-miners and. waterside workers toiling under the most disagreeable conditions, and when pro fessional men refuse to work long hours, it is hardly fair to blame coal-miners and wharf-workers for refusing .to do so. T read in the Sydney Daily Telegraph that coal-miners in the Collie district in Western Australia had achieved a record output one day last week. I have seen them at work in the height of summer arid the depths of winter, and I would not like to have their work to do for even one day. They had not more than seven days off during the six and a half years of war. There are good and bad employees in every industry or profession, but the average employee in the coal mines is no worse than the average working man.
We all know that the gold-mining industry was brought practically to a standstill during the war years. Gold could not be used to feed people, and at that stage the industry did not ask for protection. The employees were willing and anxious to join the armed forces. Many of the miners fought gallantly, and one who was employed at Norseman obtained “ the Victoria Cross. The first fact, that impresses’ one when visiting the Western Australian gold-fields is the contrast between the immense wealth taken from’ the “ Golden Mile “ and the squalor and poverty in which the miners live. I hope that when plans are being prepared for the rehabilitation of the gold-mining industry care will be taken to provide decent housing conditions for the employees. I .have visited a “ ghost town “ in Western Australia, where the population was formerly from 10,000 to 12,000, but has dwindled to perhaps only one lonely prospector. I know that goldfields come and go, but the deposits at Kalgoorlie and Boulder will remain and will provide permanent employment for numbers of men. The miners who have extracted vast wealth from the earth are entitled to a greater share in that wealth in the form of amenities. I should like to know how much of the wealth derived from gold-mines in Western Australia has remained in the State to develop it, and how much of it has gone overseas. These are matters to which this National Parliament should give serious consideration, because gold-mining is an important and valuable industry. We must not forget that the workers in the mines are more valuable assets of the nation than is the gold that they win from the earth. At various mines that I have visited I have seen shelters provided for horses although no shelters have been provided for the men.- That is because horses1 cost money, whilst human lives are cheap. Our first thought should be for human beings rather than for plant and machinery or horses.
The expenditure shown in’ the Treasurer’s Financial Statement is divided into two parts. First, there are inescapable commitments; such as war debts, and secondly, there are social services, including pensions of various kinds. There is to be a big increase of expenditure in connexion with’ invalid and old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, and child endowment. If these well deserved social benefits are to be provided for those who need them, it is better that the Government of the country should remain in the hands of the Labour party which has such a wonderful record of achievement to its credit, than that we should rely on the airy promises of the politicial parties which when in power did very little to improve the social conditions of the people.
– The Financial’ Statement now before us was presented to the House of Representatives- by theTreasurer (Mr. Chifley)’ on the 12th J July, and is now a rather stale document. In it the Treasurer stressed the importance of a greatly increased production of essential goods. He said that that should b’e the aim of the country’s economic policy not only’ now but also for many years to come. With that view . I heartily agree, because Australia can become a strong nation. only by its people working hard and producing real wealth. In no other way can the people of this country gain greater security and enjoy increased social benefits. From time to tame we have endeavored, by legislative action to stabilize the production of primary industries,, which constitute much of the wealth of this country. When the head of the Government advocates increased production, and’ says that it is essential to the’ economic security of the country, he would do well to take into* account what his own Government has done to stimulate production. Whatever . may be said to. the con? trary, industrial power must be givenfirst consideration, because it is power which drives the machinery which, in turn, produces wealth. For that reason it is not- to be wondered at that in this Parliament and elsewhere there are constant references to industrial stoppages, especially on the coal-fields of New South Wales, there have been repeated references to the Government’s mishandling of the situation on the coalfields in that State. Even. Western Australia has to depend in some degree on coal from New South Wales. South Australia is even more dependent on New South Wales coal than is Western Australia. It can be said with truth that every .State is dependent on coal from New South Wales. If honorable senators doubt that statement 1 suggest that they ask the opinion of any housewife in South Australia or Victoria, or any other State in which electricity and gas have been rationed, and great inconvenience caused through shortage of coal supplies. The production of coal in New South Wales is, however, short of the nation’s requirements. The industries of the Commonwealth and domestic users require ‘ between 11,500,000 and 12,500,000 tons of coal a year, but according to the, latest, figures available not more than 11,000,000 tons of coal will be produced this year. The- deficiency will have a serious and detrimental effect on industrythroughout the Commonwealth, and must’ militate against the production of that wealth to which the Treasurer has referred in the Financial Statement, before1 us. I was pleased to hear-Senator Collett refer to gold-mining as’ a means of providing employment and producing wealth, because in season and out of season I’ have emphasized that, gold-mining represents about one-third of the activities of Western Australia. The gold mines of that State employ much manual labour as well as mechanical power. Before the war they employed over 35,000 workers^ and it is easy to visualize an increase’ to 50,000 workers in the not distant future; Those workers are engaged in the production of real wealth, because gold does provide food for the people- and does protect them. As the production of gold becomes greater, so does the nation’s wealth increase. Senator Collett also referred to a matter which I have mentioned in this chamber .on a number of occasions when he drew .attention to the continuance of the tax on gold. Of the total yield from that tax, Western Australia has contributed more than £3,000,000, or 82 per cent. As the tax was imposed early in the war as a purely war-time measure, it should now be removed, but there does’ not appear to be any indication that its removal is contemplated by the Government. Apart from moral considerations, .the main reason why the tax should not be continued is that the costs which the gold-mining industry has to meet are increasing. As far back as the 21 st August, 1940, I drew attention to the’ increased costs in the industry, and cited a number of instances to show how the prices of various articles used in gold-mining had increased. T. shall not how repeat all the items in that list, but I shall mention a few of them in order to show how greatly costs have risen since 1940. At that time, the cost of wire rope had increased by 33^ per cent., miners’ lamps, 50 per cent. ; hessian, 150 per cent.; and bratice cloth, used in the filtering of the gold, 200 per ‘ cent. Those are only a few of the items. Therefore in fairness to the industrywhich .means so much to Western Australia, the collection of the Commonwealth selective tax should cease, thus allowing the industry to meet, in some degree at least, the rising costs that I have mentioned. I need not enlarge upon the fact that so long as Australia’s dollar funds are rationed we need to export as much of our pro-‘ duce as we can to make available credits for goods that we require to import. This is one means whereby our dollar pool could be increased, because the Government of the United States of America is still most anxious” to purchase all the gold produced in Australia. As recently as six weeks ago there was support for a movement in’ the United States of America for an increase of the price of gold from 35 dollars an ounce to 45 dollars an ounce. That increase may not come just yet, but at least it is an indication that the price of gold will in crease. Even a small increase would be welcome to the gold-mining industry in this country to enable it to meet rising costs to which Senator Collett has already referred- and to which I have referred on several occasions when discussing .his very important item of Australian production.
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition for - an extension of child endowment payments to the first child of each family. The time has arrived for this additional relief to be given to Australian families. When the Menzies Government originally introduced child endowment, T criticized the proposed payment of a flat rate because I maintained,, and still believe, that the fourth, fifth or subsequent children impose a greater burden upon a family and therefore that endowment should be payable upon a sliding scale according to the number of children. The Government would be well advised to adopt that method. At the time of the- passing of the original measure many of us had hopes that child endowment Would be the means of correcting, to some degree at least, the downward trend in our birth-rate. It is generally accepted now that this social service has not been responsible for any increase of the birth-rate, but, in my opinion, sufficient time has not elapsed for a considered judgment to be made. The war years cannot be regarded as normal, and I am still hopeful that’ an improvement will result. I contend the time has now arrived for the inclusion of the first child of a family within the scope of this important social service. Since the original scheme was introduced, conditions have altered considerably. Prices of household goods have increased, and in that regard’ the Govern-“ ment has to accept some degree of blame because of the high taxes that have been levied since it came into office. 1 realize that a war necessitates heavy taxes, but there is no reason for the continuance of these impositions for longer than is necessary. The increased cost of domestic commodities has rendered the payment of endowment in respect of the first child absolutely necessary. To say that when the scheme was introduced the Menzies Government ignored the problem of- the first child, ‘ and that we on this side of the chamber are raising the matter now as an election cry, is nottrue. As I have said, conditions have altered during the last five years. The additional sum is needed by housewives to offset rising costs, many of which are attributable to the incidence of high taxes. I cannot understand the argument advanced by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) that the suggested method of providing the finance necessary for the payment of additional endowment - I believe that the sum involved would not be more than £12,000,000 - would break the back of industry. If the hack of industry can be broken so easily, how will it be possible to increase the basic wage? One has only to look at the costs of essential commodities - I do not mean the costs given in the booklet issued by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), Australia and Your Future, because they are too farcical for words - to realize that the basic wage will have to. be increased before long. How will industry bear this burden? It is quite true that the imposition of a higher pay-roll tax to finance the payment of child endowment in respect of the first child would increase production costs, but all social services increase industrial costs because they must be paid out of taxation’ revenue. To hear the Minister for Health argue, one,would think that the working man’ could expect no assistance at all, either by way of an increase of the basic wage, or an extension of social service benefits, because such concessions would cause the spiral of inflation to reach higher than ever. “We must be realistic in our approach to this problem. The basic wage will be increased, and industry will survive just as it has survived other impositions throughout’ past year’s. Many things that are happening to-day were thought impossible twenty years ago. For instance, who would have dreamt that the tax-paying population of Australia could afford an increase of- direct taxation from £51,000,000 in 1939 to £230.000,000 last year? I am sure that when Mr. E. G.’ Casey was Treasurer of the Commonwealth he would have had a fit had anyone suggested that the tax- payers of this country could bear such an immense burden of direect taxes in addition to £143,500,000 in indirect taxes. Incidentally, it is the burden of indirect taxation that gives housewives so many headaches. Quite apart from election propaganda I hope that the Treasurer will give consideration to some reduction of these impositions. For instance, the 12£ per cent, sales tax on furniture and furnishings is a serious burden. Now that the war has ended, and the Government has so many avenues of re-imbursing the Treasury, a serious attempt should be made to reduce these taxes so that the wage-earner or the salary-earner may enjoy a real return for his labour. By the time he has paid his accounts, he has very little left. In this respect, the Government is one ‘of the greatest racketeers that I know of. It is high time that it made a serious effort to reduce indirect taxes, because it can in very many ways recoup itself of any loss of revenue so incurred. It can make good that loss by collecting income tax in respect of unissued assessments, the amount owing in this respect being cited at from £75,000,000’ to £90,000,000, whilst it has already derived from £30,000,000 to £40,000,000 from the sale of surplus war material. I sincerely hope that honorable senators opposite will support the amendment because, I repeat, before an attempt is made to adjust the basic wage - and I believe such adjustment to be inevitable - the Government should pay to the mothers of Australia the endwoment of 7s. -6d. in respect of the first child in a family.
.. - I rise from the depths of a very deep depression to say a few words in this debate. The depression has been caused, first, by the Financial Statement which we are now considering; secondly, by some of the speeches made by honorable senators on this side of the chamber; and, thirdly, by the- replies made by honorable senators opposite. The most important feature of the Financial Statement is that it reveals a gap of £153,000,000 between estimated revenue from taxation and estimated expenditure; and nothing is said in the Financial statement as to how the Government proposes to bridge that gap. Some day this country must balance its national budget, and the sooner we do so the better. The Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) took the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) to task because of his amendment. The Minister, .with his usual cleverness, passed over the main points of my leader’s amendment, and implied that the sole purpose of it was to engineer a reduction of the basic wage. On previous occasions I have commended the Minister for his suavity; but I warn him that suavity is apt to turn into fruitines, and fruitiness very often degenerates into emptiness. When he implies that the object of the amendment is to bring about a reduction of the basic wage, he goes very close to emptiness. Therefore, I frankly warn him against drawing conclusions for which no grounds exist. T cannot help singling out the speeches made by the Minister for Health and Senator Armstrong among the speeches made by honorable senators opposite. I do not wish to make invidious com- parisons, but their speeches impressed me. Senator Armstrong, in his attempt to justify the Government’s proposals, proclaimed the splendid prosperity which he said now exists in Australia; and he added that this prosperity could be dissipated over night. He said that any reduction of government expenditure would cause a depression, and, therefore, he concluded that the Government must keep on spending money at the rate at which it has been spending it for the last four years. Lot us examine this supposed prosperity. I should assume that prosperity means an abundance of the good things of life. What are the facts? To-day, the abundance we enjoyed before the war has disappeared. When I visited Melbourne during the week-end I found evidence, not of prosperity, but of what I can only describe as despair on the part of the people, because this -Government is saddling them with conditions which they now fear will become permanent. .1 found that women unable to obtain help in their homes were obliged to walk from half a mile to three quarters of a mile to purchase their meat and other household requirements, and that when they returned home they could not cook their meat be cause gas was rationed. One householder said to me, “ I do not know how I will be able to cook this joint. It will take from two and a half hours to cook, but I can use gas for this purpose for only one and a half hours. “ That is what’ Senator Armstrong calls prosperity. What is the basic cause of such conditions? They arise from the fact that the things needed to make Australia prosperous are not available because the present government will not stand up to its responsibilities. Yet, honorable senators opposite proclaim prosperity in this country at a. time when, in Melbourne, for instance, many factories are .able to work only on a day to day basis, (“id, being obliged to put off employee.., are operating at only half of their capacity because they lack essential supplies. It is amazing, therefore, to hear honorable senators opposite, gravely and earnestly, say that the country is prosperous. If we are prosperous, where are the goods and services which make life worth living for our people? The war in the Pacific concluded twelve months ago; and the Government has said over and over again that the great majority of service personnel have returned to civilian life and are working in industry. The Government has said that to-day more persons are employed in industry than were employed before the war. If that be so, where are the goods they are producing? If the Government’s statement be correct, the only conclusion one can draw is that, on the basis of man-hours, they are not producing as much as our industries produced before the war. Employees generally are encouraged in that attitude by the sort of talk in which honorable senators opposite and supporters of the Labour party indulge. This country is not prosperous. I doubt whether it ever will be prosperous while the present government is in power, and continues to saddle our people with conditions which the Government, evidently, hopes to make permanent features of our industrial and social life. If the Government persists with that policy it is due for a rude awakening. Senator Aylett sneered about “ the poor little children “ because the Leader of the Opposition advocated the liberalization of family endowment. .Such an attitude comes with ill grace from an honorable senator who is a member of a party which for years has lived on sympathy, and made ‘all the progress it has 1 made by exploiting discontent and misery among our citizens. He said also that the Opposition could not expect a reduction of taxes. We do not expect the present government to reduce taxes. The Financial Statement now before us makes great play upon the fact that certain taxes are to be reduced ; but over-all we find that the Government will collect’ greater revenue than it now collects before making any reduction, whilst collections of sales tax last year exceeded the Government’s estimate by nearly £4,000,000. Therefore, the Government’s talk about reducing taxes is mere “ flam “. The Government refuses to subscribe to the idea that the best way to increase total tax collections is to remove the present shackles on industry. Some years ago when speaking on the subject in this chamber, I urged the Government to- strike the chains off industry, and watch industry expand. The Government adopts the opposite policy. It prefers to keep industry shackled. Thus, it keeps the country poverty-stricken. When honorable senators opposite talk about increased production, they talk about the money-value of production but ignore the entire volume of production. No matter what efforts be made to convince the people that the nation is producing more goods, that, the national income is now £1,300,000,000, whereas before the war it was £750,000,000, no sophistry can disguise the fact that before the war people were happier, more comfortable and more satisfied than they- are to-day. Senator Aylett tried to make political capital out of the interest charges on the national debt, and advocated the cancellation of the debt by the use of credit secured from the Commonwealth Bank, which the Government now controls. That would appear to be a very simple matter, but I can very easily expose the folly of the proposal. The national debt, at the moment is £2,6SO,000,000, which is about two and a half times the ordinary income of the nation. Imagine what would happen if £2,680,000,000 of purchasing power were released in one year.
There would be an orgy of inflation such as even Germany and Hungary have never known. These “ glorious “ proposals by Government supporters sound very attractive at first, but it is only necessary to consider their effect to realize that they would, involve the nation in a disaster which would be little better than that of being conquered by an enemy nation. The Treasurer’s Financial Statement is not a budget. It has been submitted on the eve of general elections, and, therefore, I have been impelled to ask why the Treasurer decided ;o- cubm]t a financial statement instead of a budget. I have been, forced to conclude that the Government has something to hide and cannot afford to be honest with the people: Apparently, it feared that, if it brought down a budget, with everything exposed to the public gaze, the reaction of the people would ruin its chances of being returned to power. Therefore, the Government took the easy way, and decided to hide the true financial position of the nation from the people. It has issued a lot of propaganda about national prosperity and has submitted figures in an effort to prove that the people are better off than they have ever been. However, the people are not so gullible as the Government believes. They have not forgotten the state of their social life before the war. They had- certain comforts and privileges in those days, and they know that such injustices .as then existed were being gradually removed. The Labour party is foolish to proclaim that the nation is in a state of high prosperity, because the people have never been more, uncomforta’ble than they are !o-day. The Government has allowed costs to increase, and has done little to ameliorate the hardships which the people were obliged to suffer during the war. I was interested to hear the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) state that the object of tho Leader’ of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), in moving his amendment, was to reduce the basic wage.
– Is that not a fact?
– No. Apparently, the Labour party’s supporters, outside Parliament are not aware that the actions of this Government have been responsible for keeping the basic wage at a low level.
– The real purpose of the amendment is to destroy the economic security of the workers.
– This Government has been responsible for keeping down the basic wage. The basic wage is fixed chiefly on the “ C “ series index.
– And the Employers Federation makes sure that the “ C “ series index is used.
– The honorable senator would be wise not to interject. He should remember that his cultured accents are being broadcast.
– The honorable senator belongs to the Employers Federation, and he and his colleagues want to. suppress the workers.
– I have never belonged to the Employers Federation, and I have never attended any of its meetings. I hope that the honorable senator will allow me to proceed without interruption. The basic wage is fixed according to the “ C “ series index, which was established by the Arbitration Court. The index does not include all of the goods necessary for ordinary living. It was established as a measuring stick only, and, for the most part, it has worked fairly well. However, it would be wrong to assume that the goods included in that index are the only ones needed in an ordinary household. The Labour Government decided that it must keep’ down the basic wage, and it proceeded to do so by subsidizing some of the more important commodities included in that index. It overlooked the fact that the prices of commodities which were not subsidized were rising sky high. As the result of this unbalanced control, the man on the basic wage is worse off than he would have been otherwise. The basic wage, if the Government had not interfered, would have increased to meet increasing costs. Government supporters wrongly accused the Leader of the Opposition of attempting to reduce the basic wage. The Government is at fault for keeping it at a low level. I have been greatly disappointed by the Treasurer’s Financial Statement. I had expected to sees omething that would give cause for optimism by indicating the Government’s intention to restore true prosperity in the Commonwealth. Honorable senators opposite foolishly proclaim the outstanding prosperity of Australia, when every citizen knows that his condition is worse now than it was at any time during the years immediately preceding World War II. The Government cannot persuade people who are buying food, clothing, household goods and furniture at inflated prices that they are more prosperous than the people of any other nation. I am sorry that I cannot praise the Government, but I foresee only disaster if its plans are carried into effect. I hope that I have given Ministers and their supporters serious cause for thought. No doubt they will put on their “ thinking caps “ It is already apparent that the people have done so. They will not be content while they have to go without hot baths and radiators while their chilblains burn. Does the Government expect the people to rise in a mass and say, “This is a glorious Government. We like chilblains, we like going short of gas and electricity, we like to eat our meat half-cooked, we like going without tyres for our motor cars, and we like walking miles to buy our food “ ! If the Government believes that the people are contented, it is due for a rude awakening.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator McLeay’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. . (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority. . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– in reply- Judging by the remarks of honorable senators opposite, one might imagine that the ills of the nation during the last decade are the result of the policy , of the present Government, which has been in office only since October, 1941. Stress has been placed on the fact that the Government has not submitted a budget, and it has been suggested by innuendo that there is something sinister in failing to introduce a budget prior to the general elections. That situation is not extraordinary. The Opposition, which has been in office for 36 years since the establishment of federation, has presented a budget only on one occasion prior to a general election. The only other time “when this happened was when the Scullin Government was in power. I do not take exception to honorable senators opposite being frantic about their prospects at the approaching elections. Obviously, they have endeavoured to present as much propaganda as possible to the people, but they belittle the Parliament by introducing into a debate, on the nation’s finances such topics as chilblains and the cooking of roast beef.
The Leader of .’the Opposition (Senator McLeay) referred to the industrial troubles that have occurred during the life of this Parliament. He would have the people believe that industrial disputes arise only when a Labour government is in office,’ but the people know that that is not correct. Industrial unrest is’ not confined to Australia. The chief complaint of the Opposition is the shortage of coal. If the 900,000 tons of coal which was lost during the ten weeks’ strike ‘in 1940, when 10,000 men were out of employment, were on hand at present, the industry would be in a happy position. The inconvenience suffered through the present loss of coal production is as much the responsibility of the previous administration as it is of the present Government. It is futile for the Opposition to draw attention to industrial troubles. The complaint was made by the Leader of the Opposition that a tribunal had been appointed to bring about peace in the industry. Exception was taken to the appointment of Mr. A. C. Willis as chairman of the Conciliation Commission. ‘ In February, 1941, when a United Australia party government was in office the Central Coal Board and local reference boards were appointed, the Minister for Labour, and National Service then being the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt).
The petrol, tax was increased in 1939- 40 by the Menzies Government from 7d. to lid. a gallon. Similarly the excise duty on locally produced petrol and shale was increased from 5£. to 9£d. . a gallon. No increased tax has been placed on petrol since the present Government has been in power. The great majority of those who pay the petrol tax are the wealthy members of the community, and they are well able to pay it: It is amusing to hear the Opposition pretending to be solicitous for the welfare of the children of this country. In submitting his amendment with regard to child endowment, the Leader of the Opposition contended that there was need for an improvement of- the method by which the basic wage is computed. He reminded us that an inquiry had been held into the matter by a commission of which the late Judge Piddington was chairman, and on which were representatives of both employers and employees. Reports were issued by that commission in 1920 and 1921, and, showed that the cost of living at the 1st November, 1920, for a family consisting of a man, his wife and three children under the age of 14 years was £5 15s. 6d. on the weighted- average of the six capital cities. The basic wage paid in Melbourne at that time varied from £3 18s. a. week to £4 2s. a. week. When child endowment was introduced by a United. Australia party government, the payment in respect of each child after the first was 5s. a week, but that” has been increased to 7s. 6d. a week, or by 50 per cent., at the instance of the present Labour Government. The basic wage in New. South Wales which is fixed in accordance with the needs of a man with a wife and one child is £4 19s. 6. a week. If we add to that the child endowment paid in respect’ of two children, the weekly income is equivalent to the amount recommended in the Piddington report. The Government has given consideration to this matter and a committee on which both employers and employees will have representation will be set up to inquire into the fixing of a formula for the determination of the basic wage. An independent chairman will be appointed by the Commonwealth Government.
During the debate some honorable senators opposite have dealt with matters of purely local interest.. One of them, Senator Herbert Hays, frequently brings forward parochial matters. I notice that the honorable senator is carrying his arm in a sling to-day because, I suppose, of his continual working of the parish pump. As to the complaint that potatoes have been rotting on Tasmanian wharfs, I have already informed Senator Sampson-
– The Minister’s information was incorrect.
– This afternoon I received a telegram from Tasmania on this subject. It reads -
I wish to submit report on the position, of potato shipments on the north west coast Tasmania stop. There are at present no potatoes on wharves for shipment stop. Dilgar left with 28.000 sacks was to have loaded 35,000 but only had space available for 2S,000 stop. There are some potatoes lying in sacks in farmers barns also undug potatoes caf! be keptin barns for a considerable time without deteriorating stop. Next ship duc at Burnie and Devonport on 10th to take 20,000 sacks also Indian ship to take 30,000 in crates.
– Some one is pulling the wool over the Minister’s eyes.
– That is not so.
– The Minister is not now on the air.’
– I am not concerned about that. “Unlike Senator Sampson, I do not babble like some- merely to be heard by the electors. I have never yet given to the Senate information which I did not believe was . correct. I have no reason to believe that the information 1 gave this afternoon was other than correct. Only last week, the Controller of Potatoes, Mr. Foster, with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) and Mr. McPherson and Mr. Sutcliffe of the department concerned, waited on me in relation to the transport of potatoes from Tasmania. They pointed out that it was necessary to remove about 100,000 bags of potatoes from Tasmania. I have here a departmental report on the subject supplied by officers in whom I have the utmost confidence. I have never yet been misled by my departmental officers. Should. I, at any time find that they have attempted to mislead me, changes will take place. The report reads -
From inquiries I have made, there is no evidence to support the statement that potatoes are rotting on the wharves in Tasmania. There were certainly some stacked at Burnie last week because the loading of shipping was held up owing to rain. The ship subsequently cleared at the weekend.
The arrangements for removal of. potatoes are being made in close consultation with, the Potato Control Authorities, and the question of moving certain quanities from the northwest coast to Hobart by rail is being pursued. Every effort is being made to provide the maximum amount of shipping tonnage to ensure the movement of potatoes and other primary products. 1 have ascertained from the Director of Shipping that tonnage has been allocated to lift the usual weekly shipment of potatoes from Tasmanian ports, plus 50,000 bags of the 100.000 bag surplus which the Potato Controller desires shifted to the mainland. Tonnage for the remaining 50 000 bags will be allocated to lift that quantity over the next 14-20 days.
In another report, Mr. Hetherington, stated that the total tonnage available in Australia was 140 vessels, 25 .of which were on the Tasmanian run, 23 traded with South Australia, nineteen with Queensland, and fourteen with Western Australia. He was of the opinion that Tasmania received a fair allocation of the available tonnage and pointed out ‘ that there would be an improvement of the existing situation within a few weeks when Taroona and Tarlune were again on, the Tasmanian run.
– That statement is no good unless it gives the tonnage of each of those vessels.
– One would think, from that interjection, that Senator A. J. Fraser was an authority on transport by sea as he. claims to be in connexion with road transport problems in Victoria. In the near future, the people of Victoria will have an opportunity to express their opinion of him and will show him where he stands.
Senators Collett and Allan MacDonald complained of the’ continuance of the gold tax. It is strange that honorable senators who are members of the party which, when in office, imposed the tax should urge its removal practically on the eve of an election.
I shall not delay the Senate longer. I hope that the explanations that I have offered will be satisfactory, and I am sorry that I cannot do anything about chilblains or any of the other minor matters mentioned by Senator Leckie.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, a’t its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11 a.m. *
Royal Australian Air Force : ex-Pilot Officer Buckingham - Penicillin - Potatoes - Senator Herbert Hays : Accident.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed, -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– ‘I bring to the notice of the Senate the case of ex-Pilot Officer Buckingham, of 35 Ryan-road, Northgate, Brisbane, from whom, when he was an accounting officer in the Royal Australian Air Force at Morotai, approximately 3,500 guilders was stolen on the 8th June, 1945. A court of inquiry was held at Balikpapan on the 7th July, 1945. The recommendation of that court was that an amount not exceeding £50 be debited against him.
That’ recommendation was made by men who knew the conditions under which accounting officers were compelled to work in that area. The cash in the control of ex-Pilot Officer Buckingham was kept by him in a looked case in his tent. No facilities whatever were provided by either the Base Finance Officer or the First Tactical Air Force Headquarters. Moreover, no guards were provided toprotect public funds, as all regular guards had been employed to guard the nurses’ quarters which adjoined the unit with which ex-Pilot Officer Buckingham served. On the 10th March he received from the Air Board advice that a penal deduction of £250 had been made against him, and he was charged with negligence. On the 12th March he lodged an appeal against that . deduction with . the GovernorGeneral in accordance with his rights as a commissioned officer. Since then he has not received any further advice from the
Air Board. I took up his case with the board, and on the 27th June I received from the then Acting Minister for Air (Mr. Makin) the following letter: -
I refer to your telegram of the 22nd June concerning the appeal lodged by ex No. 24705, Flying Officer W. E. Buckingham of 15 Ryanroad, Northgate, Brisbane.
I have now ascertained that the case has just been reviewed by the JudgeAdvocate.General and that Air Board will now reconsider its earlier decision having regard to the views expressed and recommendations made by the Judge-Advocate-General
It is understood that that action will be completed within a week and, as soon as derision is taken, I shall again communicate with you.
Twelve days ago I was told that the case would be settled. I telegraphed to the Minister for Air in Melbourne on Satur- day last, but have not received a reply. Ex-Pilot Officer Buckingham has not been informed one way or the other, since he made his application to the GovernorGeneral in March of this year. There seems to be a definite disinclination on the part of the Air Board to close this matter. On very good authority I have reason to believe that the £250 has been taken from this man illegally. The money was lost at Morotai under service conditions, and the Air Force authorities seem to be evading the issue hoping that it will be dropped. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Air to make a decision in this case as soon as possible.
– In view of questions which have been asked in the Senate by several honorable senators, including Senator Allan MacDonald, I desire to make the following statement : -
Penicillin is produced’ in Australia at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories at Royal Park. Sufficient supplies are in stock, and in course of production, to meet all present human and veterinary needs in Australia. Improvements in the method of production, effected from time to time, and a close examination of costs, have enabled the. Serum Laboratories to effect a reduction of prices as from the 24th of July last. The new prices are as follows: - .
These prices represent a very substantial reduction. They permit a modest profit to be made, and enable the product to compete with imported penicillin. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories are proceeding with the establishment of new plant- that will enable penicillin to be produced on a large scale in accordance with the latest methods adopted in the United States of America and Great Britain.. Until recently, penicillin had not been imported into this country, but some supplies are now being imported from Great Britain. The arrival of these supplies raised the question as to whether customs duty, which is imposed generally on all medicinal importations, should he imposed under tariff item 281
Considerable research work has been done in various parts of the world on the use of penicillin for the treatment of mastitis and other cattle diseases. The results have been promising. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, have also carried out investigations in a limited way with satisfying results. In the manufacture of penicillin there is produced a quantity of second-grade product, which has an extremely limited use for human treatment but which is particularly valuable for veterinary use. ‘ The Commonwealth Government approved the free issue from the laboratories of 300,000,000 units of this second-grade product for veterinary research. An advisory committee of Commonwealth and State veterinary officers was called together by the Commonwealth Department of Health to consider the best use of penicillin for veterinary work. The committee recommended lines of investigation that should be carried out into forms of’ mastitis research and made recommendations for the issue of penicillin free of charge, to a number of research institutions in Australia where proper and full investigations can be carried out. Thee institutions have submitted their programme of research and have been granted free penicillin. They have undertaken to keep the department fully advised of their results. This research, which . will be extremely useful to animal health . and food production, is being continued.
The Common wealth Serum Laboratories have on hand a very large quantity of second-grade penicillin which will be available for release for veterinary use. The Australian Veterinary Association , litis recommended that this penicillin should be made immediately available t.> veterinary officers of the Departments of Agriculture’ for use in those districts which would benefit most by its use: i.e., dairying districts, for the treatment of mastitis in cows. The laboratories ;ire at present preparing a pamphlet con-‘ corning the use of penicillin for veterinary use, and the’ Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is working oh plans for a suitable apparatus for the administration of the drug to cows. . At the present time the Australian Veterinary Association does not recommend the issue of penicillin to stock owners except for injection by a veterinary surgeon. Indiscriminate use of penicillin may at this stage do more harm than good. Moreover, steps need to be taken to ensure that a black market is not created in second-grade penicillin for use by human beings. Plans for controlled distribution are being developed. It is expected that the use of penicillin “for veterinary purposes will have been completely demonstrated in the near future.
There are at present sufficient supplies of penicillin on hand for1 all legitimate purposes for many months. With the developments now in contemplation, penicillin will in the reasonably near future be produced at a lower cost and it is hoped in quantities that will permit Aus- “traila to engage extensively in the export trade. The Government would, if it were possible, ‘ provide all medicines including penicillin, to the people of Australia free
, - I should like to refer to the v matter of the shipment of potatoes from Tasmania, as I have been in touch with the growers in that State. The’ problem is not merely local, but is of vital importance to the State. During the war the Government contracted with Tasmanian potato-growers to supply the war-time demands of the services, and of the civilian population. This year, to help them over the transition period from a war-time economy to a peacetime economy, it again made contracts . with the growers, and large quantities of potatoes have been produced. The shipment of potatoes from Tasmania lasts for practically the whole year, although there is a generally accepted season of ten months from the middle of January to the middle of November. I do not know anything about the position on the wharfs. ‘ One would have to be on the spot to know the details because it varies from week to week. One sees stacks of potatoes on the wharfs one week and then next week “they may have been cleared. Although seven months of the potato shipping season has already passed, I am informed that only about one-third of this year’s potato crop has been shipped. I have been in touch with a very reliable authority on this matter, and I shall be surprised if my ‘ figures can be- contradicted. I am informed that between 900,000 and 1,000,000 bags of potatoes remain to be shipped from Tasmania this year. That, of course, is only an estimate, as large quantities of potatoes have not yet been dug; the season has been wet and there are weeds everywhere. Prior to the war, 1,000,000 ‘ bags of potatoes was about a year’s supply, so, in effect, we have to ship a year’s supply of potatoes from Tasmania in the next two or three months. During the war the production of potatoes was two and a half to three times greater than normal. The Government’ paid a fair price and farmers were encouraged to grow potatoes. They worked the clock round and managed to fulfil demands. The problem at present is not the few bags that may be lying on the , wharfs, but the total of 1,000,000 bags that must be shipped in a short space of time. I have grown potatoes and I know that between now .and November deterioration will be considerable. Every time the potatoes are moved they deteriorate further. The Government is increasing its payment by a few shillings,, a ton for every month that the potatoes await shipment, but that is not enough. Again I emphasize that this is not a local, or a day-to-day problem. ‘ I understand that the Minister is doing his best . to ‘remedy the position. Probably the trouble on the wharfs has already been eliminated, but that is not the end of the matter. It has been said that Tasmania bad bad a fair deal in regard to shipping, but what we want is not merely a fair deal, but a generous deal. Tasmania is entirely- dependent upon shipping for the transport of the perishable commodities that it produces in large quantities. With Senator ‘ Herbert Hays I have approached the Minister (Senator Ashley) on .several occasions in regard to the shipment of potatoes from Tasmania. On each occasion the Minister has been courteous and helpful, but I am not sure that be understands the position. At any time within’ the next three and a half months, the position in regard to potatoes in Tasmania may become disastrous. Again [ ask the Minister to be as generous as possible, and to do everything in his power to expedite this1 matter. I trust that he will redouble his efforts to proride shipping during the next three and a half months to transport the potatoes to the mainland.
– When I was speaking I was generous towards the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley). I am sorry that he was not so generous in his attitude towards me. He made flippant reference to the fact that I now carry my left aim in a sling. I jarred an arm while travelling to Canberra in an aeroplane; and I am here, despite my injury, in order to attend to my duties as an honorable senator. However, proceedings were still being broadcast when the Minister made that remark. I regret his lack of generosity towards me.
– i» reply- 1 assure Senator Herbert Hays that I made the remarks to which be refers in a jocular way. I did not know that proceedings were being broadcast at the time. I express regret if my remark has given offence to the honorable senator. However, the subject to which he and Senator J. B.. Hayes have referred has been raised so often in this chamber as to lead one to remark that they are adopting a parochial attitude. Senator. J. B. Hayes has emphasized the need to make provision for the shipment of potatoes from Tasmania during the next three months. Earlier to-day, I informed the Senate that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) and the Potato Controller, Mr. Poster, waited upon me last week and discussed this subject with me. As the result of that discussion I arranged for the shipment of 100,000- bags of potatoes from Tasmania, and Mr. Foster said that relief would clear ‘ the accumulation. That action was taken last week. In . view of the acute shortage of shipping caused by the losses sustained’ during the war, that action represents generous treatment towards Tasmania. Senator A. J. Fraser has complained that building materials are held up at Newcastle because of a shortage of shipping. I assure honorable senators that all shipping available is being allocated as equitably as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c.- - No. 20 of 1040 - Commonwealth Public
Service Clerical Association.
No. 21 of 1940 - Professional Officers’ Association - Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 22 of 1948 - Commonwealth Legal Professional Officers’ Association.’ “
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Works and Housing - W. E. Potts.
Life Insurance Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 101.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders - Rubber (Relaxations) (Nos. 5,6).
National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations - Order -Liquid fuel (Restriction on sale of motor spirit in containers) (Revocation).
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations - Rules - Trial of prisoners of war.
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders - Deferment of banking business (2).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 128.
Wool (Contributory Charge) Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1040, No. 103.
Senate adjourned at 12.3 a.m. (Wednesday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 August 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19460806_senate_17_188/>.