18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers. guided projectiles.
Senator ashley. - On the 7th November, Senator Arnold asked the following question: -
During the last few months many statements have been published in the press regarding certain tests with guided projectiles which the Government proposes to carry out in Central Australia in connexion with defence requirements. As these statements have alarmed various sections of the community, will the Leader of the Senate make a statement as soon as possible clarifying the Government’s intentions with respect to these tests I
I am now able to inform the honorable senator that proposals for establishing « guided projectiles range in Central Australia are still the subject of discussion with the Government of - Great Britain, and a full statement with regard to this project will be made as soon as firm governmental decisions have been made.
MANUFACTURE in Australia.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the reported increase of £35 in the price of American motor cars, due to the lifting of price controls. in the United States of America, will the Minister inform the Senate what progress is being made in the production of the all-Australian-made car, and whether the . price of this car will be kept within a price range which will enable citizens with moderate incomes to purchase and so broaden the market which, in turn, will provide employment for the vast army of worker* in the motor industry?
– It is known that several Australian firms are actively engaged on plans for the production of an Australian car. Technicians are at work and plant is being obtained. These firms anticipate placing cars on the road early in 1948. The price at which cars will be sold is not known, but the stated policy of the firms concerned is to produce ia car at a cost lower than the present medium-priced vehicle.
Service PENSIONERS’ Licences.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will ex-servicemen in receipt of the service pension he granted the same privilege as invalid and old-age pensioners in obtaining broadcast listeners’ annual licences at half rates?
– In accordance with section 98 of the Australian Broadcasting Act as amended during the last session of Parliament, broadcast listeners’ Licences may now be granted at half the ordinary fee to any person who is in receipt of a “ service pension “ under Division 5 of Part Til. of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act on the same terms as apply to invalid, old age and widow pensioners. The concession is restricted to pensioners who live alone or with another pensioner, or with another person or persons if the income of each such other person does not exceed the maximum amount of income and pension allowed under the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act 1908-1946, the Widows’ Pensions Act 1943-1946, or section 87 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1946, as the case may be. housing.
Shortage of Operatives.
asked the Minister representing- the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
Wil] the Minister inform -the Senate what steps, if any, have been taken, or are being taken, to train men for absorption into the home-building industry in order to make up the acute shortage of operatives in this key industry?
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has supplied the following answer : - -
This matter has been under constant review and since the inception of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme every effort has been made to afford training to eligible and suitable applicants for entry into the building trades.
The training programme is spread over a period of two years and is based on a progressive intake to the training institutions, to keep step with the rate of expansion of the building programme and increasing production of materials.
It is estimated that the on site building labour force needs to be raised to 130,000 operatives, to do this, an additional 32,000 tradesmen arc to be trained during the next two years.
At the 30th September, 1946, there were 5,701 trainees under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme undergoing their initial training in training institutions in the building trades.
At that date a further 2,257 trainees had reached 40 per cent, or more’ of tradesmen’s proficiency and were completing their training on the job with a wage subsidy.
Existing training facilities have a capacity of 7,410 each six months.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the information given to the Senate some months ago that permission had been given for the erection of two factories at Parkes and Rutherford in New South Wales, for the manufacture of cigarette papers, will the Minister explain why there continues to be a very acute shortage of cigarette papers?
– The factory at Parkes is engaged in tobacco manufac ture. The Rutherford factory has been making. cigarette papers since July this year and its output has increased threefold, from 32,454,000 papers for July to 102,924,000 papers for October.. The factory was equipped with -machines lying idle in Sydney owing to shortage of labour. The machines arc now fully manned. Generally speaking, it can be said that production of cigarette papers has increased very considerably since July, but the demand has also increased, owing to the increased quantities of tobacco now available and supply has not yet overtaken demand. The following table shows the total production for New South Wales and Victoria for the months July to October: -
Figures are not available for production in South Australia and Western Australia but this is small by comparison. Production, generally speaking,- has reached a maximum for the machinery available. Additional machines are expected in Victoria but increased production from these machines is not anticipated before March or April of next year. Supplies available in New South- Wales recently have been affected- by the industrial trouble in Victoria, from which State considerable quantities of cigarette papers are normally received. None has been received since the 20th October.
Transport of Furniture
.by leave - In reply to a question asked by Senator Collett on the 2nd August last, concerning costs of overseas missions I referred to the transport of Mr. Beasley to London. An impression has been gained from my answer that Mr. Beasley charged the cost of shipping his furniture from Australia to London to the Government. I now wish to make it clear that Mr. Beasley did not take any furniture to Loudon. The furniture mentioned in my answer was the property of Mr. Callaghan.
– by leave - I propose to refer to honorable senators for their consideration three matters concerning Australian foreign policy. First, I shall refer to the progress achieved in the making of the peace settlements. The first group of settlements deals with the enemy countries of Italy, Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary and Finland. Secondly, I shall deal with some of the main business now before the United Nations Assembly. I shall then’ refer to certain matters of primary importance to Australia in connexion with the Pacific area ; first, the administration of Japan, and, secondly, our security and welfare in relation to the south-west Pacific.
During the war, the control of the strategy of the United Nations was almost exclusively in the hands of the three big powers1 - Britain, the United States of America and Russia. In the course of the war, as was discovered in piecemeal fashion, and on one or two occasions belatedly, commitments were made which related, not to the control and supervision of the war effort, but to the peace settlement. One example is the declaration made by the leaders’ of the three nations at Cairo, which laid down certain broad settlements, which were to be made affecting Japan and, to some extent, other Pacific countries. As is well known, that declaration was made without reference to other active belligerents against Japan, but the situation had to be accepted at the time because of the war position. The opinion, of the Government is - and in this. I do not think it differs materially from that of parties not represented in the Government - that whatever was done in the actual management and control of strategy, and in the direction of the war, it is essential that .belligerents which took an active and sustained part in the fighting should participate effectively in the making of peace settlements. In the case of Australia our war effort was. not confined to the Pacific. In the early part of r.he war Australia was one of the few countries which took a prominent part in the fighting against Germany, and we have consistently contended for the principle that this fact gives us the right to participate in the framing of peace terms.
The first positive step taken by the nations towards the actual making of peace treaties was the establishment of the Council of Foreign Ministers by the Potsdam Agreement. The procedure laid down under the Potsdam Agreement was this: The Council of Foreign Ministers was to draft peace treaties, in the first instance, with Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland, and afterwards the drafts would be submitted for consideration by the representatives of other countries which had been at war with those five nations. This, it will be understood, represented a departure from the principle that countries which had taken an active and sustained part in the war were to participate in the peace making. Therefore, when the Council of Foreign Ministers assembled in London for the first time last year, we suggested that countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Afric’a should be associated with the Council of Foreign Minis,ters for the purpose of drafting treaties, or, alternatively,, that whatever decisions were reached by the council, should be submitted to a free and open conference of all belligerents, which would have power to modify the decisions of the Foreign Ministers. As the result of this request, it was decided by the Council of Foreign Ministers that there should be a meeting of the representatives of nations which had been belligerents against the’ satellite enemy countries, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Rumania and Finland. However, the proposed procedure was regarded by the Commonwealth Government as open to grave objections. The conference which met at Paris consisted of the representatives of Great Britain, the United States of America, Russia and France, and seventeen other countries, including Australia. This conference of 21 powers was to consider the draft treaties, and to make recommendations regarding them to the Council of four Foreign Ministers, which would make the final draft, Thus, there was no certainty that the conference would have any effective authority whatever in the making of treaties. Indeed, it was to be an advisory body rather than a peace conference, with full power to settle the terms of peace.
The Council of Foreign Ministers proposed to the conference at Paris a certain procedure regarding voting, namely, that only if the conference decided by a twothirds majority to amend any clause in a draft treaty would that decision, in the form of a recommendation, go before the Council of Foreign Ministers. In other words, it was necessary to get fourteen of the nations of 21 to agree to a recommendation before it could even be submitted to the Council of Foreign Ministers. Honorable senators will agree t 11at, although our interest in the European settlement is not so close as is our interest in the settlement with Japan, Australia nevertheless has a definite interest in the European settlement. In any case, it was possible that the same procedure might be applied in the preparation of the Japanese treaties. lt was important that the interests of Australia, and of other countries in a similar position, should be protected. Therefore, we objected strongly to the procedure. Australia proposed that a decision reached by a simple majority of the conference should be sufficient to send a recommendation back to the Council of Foreign Minister; in other words, that eleven of the 21 nations represented at r.he conference should have power, not to alter a. treaty in any vital way, but to recommend an amendment for consideration by the Council of Foreign Ministers. Finally, by a two-thirds majority, the conference agreed that a simple majority recommendation would be sufficient to carry a matter back to the Council of Foreign Ministers. But here another difficulty of procedure, or prearrangement, arose which it is most important, to bear in mind. It had been agreed by the four powers that if any one of them objected to any clause in a draft treaty the four of them would oppose any recommendation being sent back for modification. I hope that the Senate realizes the implications of that arrangement. I repeat that prior to the conference it was agreed by the Governments of the United Kingdom, Russia, France and the United States of America that all of them would oppose any recommendation at the Paris Conference unless all of them agreed to the proposed modification. Thus, the rule of unanimity applied not only at the last stage of finaldrafting, but also at the stage of theParis Peace Conference.
I shall now refer briefly to matters of substance with which we were concernedAgreement upon certain boundaries had been arrived at at the Council of Foreign. Ministers. However, if a disputed boundary, that is, a boundary to which one surrounding country objected, came before the Peace Conference, we proposed that there should be an investigation of the facts in relation to it. We regarded as the dominating factor the desire of the peoples concerned. In a limited observation, the tragedy of Europe is the old trend of thought that some adjustment of boundaries here and there means the settlement of Europe. The view put forward by some countries that there should be wholesale taking up and shifting of people from one place to another, ignoring the human side of the problem, struck Australian delegates very forcibly. The proposal we made in regard to the solution of that problem was the first submitted.
We also made a proposal regarding Trieste. Trieste is a port of great importance; the Yugoslavs wanted it, but Italy wished to retain it. It was suggested that there should be a form of internationalization of Trieste and its hinterland, and to that principle we gave our support. We thought that a genuine attempt to govern it internationally in the interests of the people, without giving either the Italians or the Yugoslavs control, might be successful; but the agreed clause provided that the territory should be guaranteed by the Security Council of the United Nations, and that the governor should be appointed by the Security Council. In the Security Council, however, the right of veto may be exercised by each one of the five countries. It was impossible for’ the council to ensure the integrity. of the territory. In lieu of the agreed clause, we proposed that all parties to the treaty should undertake to respect the integrity of Trieste.
The treatment of enemy colonies was another vital matter from our point of view. The draft treaty considered that the methods of government and the administration of the Italian colonies should be determined by the four principal nations at the Conference of Foreign Ministers. Their view was that, if they did not agree within twelve months, the problem should be referred 10 the General Assembly of the United Nations, consisting at present of 50 nations. We thought that belligerents alone should make the final decision, and no country had a greater right to a voice than countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. We put that view forward, and we at least obtained the result that it was agreed that we should be consulted.
Another matter on which we suggested amendments to the drafts was the problem of human rights. Each of the treaties with the five countries had a clause similar to that inserted in the treaty dealing with Rumania, which reads -
Rumania should take all measures to secure to all persons under ‘Rumanian jurisdiction, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion, the enjoyment of human rights and of the fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, of press and publication, and of religious worship, of political opinion and of public meeting.
These are great rights which are recognized as fundamental in the Charter of the United Nations and are referred to in the Atlantic Charter. They are actually embodied in each of the five treaties. We hold the view - and everybody in this country will understand it - that it is of no use making declarations of rights unless there is also the requisite machinery to enforce them.
Finally, admitting the need to provide machinery to get stabilized treaties, we said, in effect, “ If you cannot agree to r h is because of your arrangements, we Think it is desirable to make provision in the treaty for a review of it under certain conditions and safeguards”. That was a reasonable proposal, but it met with file fate of other proposals.
The position now is that the treaties
Iia ve not been signed. They are back before the Council of Foreign Ministers, which is dealing mainly, almost exclusively, with claims which had not been agreed to by the Council of Foreign Ministers before the conference. The Council is now sitting at New York for that purpose.
With regard to the treaty with Germany, conversations are expected to take place, also at New York, between the four countries I have mentioned; and we have again put our view before them - as I notice Holland and Belgium have also done in relation to Europe - that it is important that our view should be put at the earliest moment.
The second matter referred to was the business before the United Nations Assembly now sitting in New York. One of the main proposals which we have brought forward is to reconsider the application of the veto. I have shown that the veto was incorporated in the proceedings at Paris ; but in -the Charter of the United Nations there is express provision for the exercise of individual veto by any one of the five powers, not upon enforcement action, but upon conciliatory action to settle a dispute. The proposal that we put forward at San Francisco that, for conciliation and peaceful settlement, there should be no veto, is absolutely reasonable. If necessary, in the emergency that has arisen, we should retain the’ veto in relation to enforcement, action. Otherwise, the organization might be completely destroyed in the early stages of its life. But what is the point of the veto in relation to conciliation ? Conciliation should not be the right of the Security Council to exercise as it thinks fit. It should be the duty of the Security Council to conciliate, and suggest ways of settling disputes. What Australia has done at this Assembly has been to raise the question, in an endeavour to get a resolution expressing the opinion of the nations that the veto should not be used in respect of matters relating to peaceful settlement and adjustment.
The next matter which is before the Assembly is the report, of the Atomic Energy Commission. The United States of America has submitted a proposal which I may explain in this way : “ We are prepared -to give up the use of atomic energy entirely for the purposes of war. and destroy our stock piles, provided it i.= done in an orderly way and with proper timing, and provided, above all, that every nation agrees not only that it will not use atomic energy for purposes of destruction, but also that it will submit to an international system of inspection and control for the purpose of ensuring that atomic energy shall not be so misused “. This relates to the particular problem of disarmament, and I do not consider that the attitude of the United States of America is unreasonable. The scientists say that’, if the raw materials, uranium and thorium, from which atomic energy is derived, are controlled, it is practicable to have a system of control and inspection which will effectively prevent the misuse of atomic energy and which will enable the energy to be used for the purposes of peaceful development, particularly in connexion with power. Mr. Lilienthal. who is associated with the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States of America, was closely connected with this problem. The scientists believe that, for the expenditure of the amount of human energy that took place during World War EL, it will be possible, within four or five years, to have atomic energy for commercial purposes.
The view which I have put is that expressed by the United States of America to the Atomic Energy Commission, and, broadly speaking, that view was supported by all countries represented on the commission, with the exception of Soviet Russia and Poland. Russia’s view was that Ave should start off by having an agreement between nations never to use atomic energy for warfare. Such an agreement, of course, would operate immediately against the interests of the United States of America, because of the monopoly of atomic energy knowledge to which I have referred. The United States of America would not accept that proposal, and considerable criticism of America has been voiced because of that refusal. However, America’s attitude that any arrangement with regard to a weapon of this character should be negotiated in conjunction with the establishment of a system of impartial international control seems to be reasonable. The United States of America looks to an independent commission, established by on agreement, and having a fair basis of representation, as the administering authority not only to inspect countries and prevent the production of atomic weapons, but also to develop atomic energy for peaceful uses.
If the Security Council deals with the matter, it will be possible for any permanent member to decide that there shall be no enforcement of a decision in any particular case. That is strongly objected to by America.
I shall now describe the form of control operating in Japan. There are two controlling bodies. One is the Far Eastern Commission, which sits in Washington. At first, ten nations were represented on it, and in December last Soviet Russia came in as the result of a decision reached in Moscow by the Council of Foreign Ministers. There again the veto intrudes. No policy decision can be reached al Washington except by agreement of the four great powers. Any one of the four can prevent a decision by exercising its right of veto. What happens in practice, of course, is that the veto is not exercised. Agreements may be reached amongst ten of the eleven members of the Far Eastern Commission, but the eleventh may say, “ We cannot accept the proposal at present “. In these circumstances, the threat of the veto hangs over the deliberations of the commission, and a country possessing the right of veto can always have a matter adjourned for a considerable time because the commission does not. wish to see the veto power exercised. The commission aimed at the establishment of a really democratic Japan, when it agreed last year upon a general policy for Japan, and its proposals were, in fact, accepted in a preliminary way by all who attended the meetings. However, although that policy came before the commission after it was reconstituted in January - ten months ago - it has’ not yet been issued to General MacArthur, who, as Supreme Commander, administers the occupation of Japan. General MacArthur is bound by the policy decisions issued from Washington. The general policy is not yet fixed. That places a special burden on the Advisory Council at Tokyo, which can do no more than advise General MacArthur. The council consists of a representative each of America, Russia, China and Australia. The Australian delegate also represents Great Britain, New Zealand and India.
I propose to deal now with matters relating particularly to the South-West Pacific Area. I shall first refer to the general problem of Pacific security. Having regard to the experiences of the war, it has been the policy of the Government - the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has announced it, and the late Mr. Curtin did so previously - to secure some satisfactory regional system which would not exclude the system of security which could be provided for by the United Nations, but would be supplementary to it. Manus Island is in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. A base was established on it by our allies, the United States of America, during the war, and that base was of great importance. With regard to the ase of the base in these post-war years, two extreme views have bren put.
One is the extreme view that the war is over; that the United States of America did the job as a part of its war effort in the Pacific; that the island is under Australian control ; and that there is no further function for the United States of America to perform. The other view is equally extreme, namely, that although the security of this Admiralty group of islands, of which Manus Island is the main territory in question, has been gained in part by the efforts of Australian troops, Australia should say that if the United States of America wants to have control of Manus Island, it may have that control.
The Government has taken neither view. We have had consultations with the British Government and the New Zealand Government in relation, not to Manns Island only, but to the whole matter of Pacific regional security. We have said, in substance, that we should like to continue, in time of peace, that co-operation with the United States of America in the security of this region for defensive purposes which we enjoyed luring the war, and that therefore we would be prepared, in conjunction with the other British countries concerned, to enter into an honorable self-respecting arrangement which would provide, among other things, for, by way of illustration, the reciprocal use of bases in’ that area. Under such an arrangement - again by way of illustration - it would bc possible for the American navy to use facilities at Manus Island, but not control them. In the same way, our Navy and Air Force would be able to use facilities that are controlled directly by the United States of America, the matter of finance and of the proper places to be selected being one to be determined after the principle had been agreed upon. I submit that, if this intermediate viewfound acceptance, it would do justice to the tremendous effort of the United State3 of America in the Pacific, and would also maintain the position of Australia in the South- West Pacific.
Another matter to which I desire to refer is the welfare of the peoples of this vast area. I only wish to point out that, in accordance with an agreement that has been made with New Zealand, the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs, at the Conference of Prime Ministers, sought the co-operation of the British Government in the establishment of a permanent advisory commission for the South Seas, which, dealing not with political or boundary matters, but with the most important matter of all - the welfare of the native peoples of Melanesian and Polynesian areas throughout the region - would endeavour to meet regularly and have a permanent organization for the exchange of information, and whose members would afford mutual help to each other. The idea, of such a commission has been approved by the Government of Great Britain, and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand conjointly have invited the United States of America, Great Britain, France and the Netherlands to a conference to be held in Canberra in January, 1947.
The Government is committed to the principle of international trusteeship of dependent territories, by which a country in control of an area subject to a trusteeship is bound to give an account of its stewardship to the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. The draft agreement which we have put before the Assembly of the United Nations in New York was set out in the statement made by the Prime Minister on the 7th August. The substance of the statement was that Australia, as the sole mandatory power, would continue to be the sole trustee, and that the furtherance of the welfare of the natives of New Guinea would be the main purpose of the trust. It was provided that Australia should have control over New Guinea in conjunction with Papua, and have greater power in respect of the defence of those territories than was given under the original mandate. The administration of New Guinea will continue to be vested in Australia, as though this territory were part of the Commonwealth itself, but we shall be bound year by year to supply answers to relevant questions as to whether we are carrying out the terms of the trust. Some countries are setting out dozens of obligations in their draft agreements which would be impracticable with regard to New Guinea. If Australia is to be entrusted with the administration of New Guinea, it must he trusted to administer it in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Charter.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Foreign Affairs - Ministerial’ Statement, dated 14th November, 1946, and move -
That the paper he printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
– I lay on the table the following papers : -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending the 30th June, 1947.
The Budget 1946-47 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.J, on the occasion of the Budget of 1946-47. and -move -
That the papers be printed.
This afternoon the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) delivered in the House of Representatives a Statement of Revenue and Expenditure for the financial year 1945-46 with estimates for 1946-47 and detailed proposals for the reduction of certain taxes. I propose to read to the Senate an abridged version of that statement in order to inform honorable senators of the main facts and proposal? contained in it. Revenue during 1945-46 was £389.000,000 and expenditure £542,000.000, leaving a gap of £153,000,000 which was financed from the proceeds of public loans. Estimated expenditure during the current year is £444,000,000 and revenue is placed at £385.i 00.000. Special attention has been given this year to the reduction of expenditure arising from the war and related activities. Estimated defence and post-war charges for 1946-47 amount to £221,000,000 compared with £37S,000,000 last year, a reduction of £157,000,000. Included in the total of £221,000,000 is £64,000,000 to be paid overseas, principally on ‘ account of war liabilities carried forward from earlier periods. Thus, the effects of rapid demobilization of the forces and of the war supplies organization in this field of expenditure can clearly be seen.
The estimated cost of defence and allied services for 1946-47 is placed at £147,000,000 compared with £348,000,000 last year, a reduction of £201,000,000. The main reduction has been made in the Departments of Navy, Army and Air for which the estimated expenditure thi? year is £183,000,000 below 1’ie amount expended last year. Active pay and allowances for the current year are placed at £25,000,000, as against an expenditure of £130,000,000 in 1945-46. I nferred pay is estimated at £17,000,000 compared with £72,000,000 last year. On present plans, the strength of the three services, which was 137,000 in June this year, will have been reduced to 67,000 by June, 1947.
Items grouped under post-war charges bulk much more largely this year than in previous years. In this financial year they represent 47 per cent, of the gross expenditure compared with 23 per cent, in 1945-46. Re-establishment and repatriation is estimated at £35,000,000, which is £2.1,000,000 above the expenditure last year, and includes £14,000,000 for reconstruction training, £7,000,000 for repatriation benefits. £6,500,000 for pensions and £5,500,000 for land settlement and agricultural re-establishment loans. Interest and sinking fund on account of war and repatriation borrowings will be £46,000,000, an increase of £5,000,000 on last year.
Subsidies for price stabilization and assistance to primary production are estimated at a net £23,000,000, or £10,000,000 less than the expenditure in 1945-46. Credits to be offset against defence and post-war costs are set down at. £57,000,000, as against £74,000,000 Inst year.
The estimate of total expenditure, other than defence and post-war charges, is £223,000,000, or £59,000,000 above the h mount expended in 1945-46. Payments ro the National Welfare Fund will comprise £51,000,000 in respect of social services contributions, and £13,000,000 from the pay-roll tax, a total of £64,000,000. Last year payments to the fund amounted to £46,000,000. Expenditure from the fund this year is expected to reach £6S.000,000. Last year expenditure was £53^000,000.
Payments of taxation and special grants to State governments are estimated at £45,000,000 or £8,000,000 above payments last year. Of this increase :, bout £6,000,000 is accounted for by the increase in taxation reimbursement grants associated with the continuation of uniform tax. A sum of £34,000,000 is provided for the Postal Department, this being £5,400,000 above the actual expenditure last year. The increases are £2,000,000 for new works, £1,900,000 for maintenance and extensions to service? and £1,500,000 for capital finance for the Overseas Telecommunications Commission.
Provision of £7,200,000 has been made for civil aviation. This is an increase of £5,400,000 over actual expenditure last year. The items in the increase are £2,200,000 for works, £1,400,000 for maintenance and £1,800,000 for advance? to the Trans-Australian Airways. Estimated expenditure on the territories is £6,000,000 compared with £1,600,000 last year.
An increase of £8,400,000 in administrative departments is due principally to the transfer of the Departments of Labour and National Service, Transport. Post-war Reconstruction and Information from war votes to ordinary votes. Certain other expenditures formerly charged to war votes are also being charged this year to ordinary votes.
Apart from the Postal Department, civil aviation and the territories, new works and buildings being undertaken by the Commonwealth involve an estimated expenditure of £10,500,000 compared with an actual expenditure of £1,000,000 last financial year. The largest expenditures will be on war service homes and shipbuilding.
It is estimated that with taxation at the rates in force last financial year, that if before the July reductions in income tax. revenue in 1946-47 would be £414,000,000 compared with actual revenue in 1945-46 of £389,000,000 an increase of £25,000,000. After taking account of reductions of income tax on individual.5 made in July and of certain proposed reductions in indirect taxation revenue for the current year is estimated at £385,000,000, a fall of £4,000,000 on last year. Within this total income tax and social services contribution are expected to show a decline of about £12,500,000 and sales tax a decline of £2,600,000. On the other hand customs and excise will b<greater by about £11,000,000 mainly on account of the anticipated increase in imports during the current year. Hence with estimated expenditure at £444,000,000 and estimated revenue at £385,000,000 there is a gap of £59,000,000 which it is proposed to finance from the proceeds of public loans.
Since the Loan Council borrowing programme to cover expenditures by State governments on public works and housing amounts to £45,000,000, the total borrowing programme in 1946-47 for Commonwealth and State governments amounts to £104,000,000. In addition there is a borrowing programme of about £24,000,000 for local and semigovernment bodies. This programme while much below the level of borrowing in recent years is still very large and in the light of the present exceptionally strong private investment and consumption demand and the unprecedented levels of employment it is the maximum which could be justified.
After a careful assessment of the whole position the Government has decided to propose substantial reductions of indirect taxes to take effect immediately. These will provide for the following : -
Sales tax -
Clothing and household drapery (present rate 7½ per cent.) - Complete exemption.
General rate (at present 12½ per cent.) - Reduction to 10 per cent.
Third schedule (present rate 25 per cent.) -Reduction to 10 per cent. in respect of certain items.
Additional exemptions - Certain items at present subject to tax to be exempt.
The estimated cost to the revenue of the proposed sales tax concessions is estimated at £16,000,000 in a full year and £9,000,000 for the remainder of the current financial year.
Customs and excise -
Special war customs duty- Abolition of duty.
Primage duty on plant, equipment, materials and minor articles used in connexion with manufacturing processes in Australia - Abolition of duty.
Excise duty on dry batteries, carbonic acid gas and methylated spirits - Abolition of excise duty with corresponding reductions of customs duty.
Customs and excise duty on petrol - Reduction of duty by1d. per gallon.
The cost to revenue of the proposed reductions in customs and excise duties is estimated at £4,000,000 for a full year and £2,500,000 for the remainder of the current year.
The total of the proposed tax concessions is expected to be about £20,000,000 for a full year and £11,500,000 for the remainder of the current year. Taken in conjunction with the reduction in income tax which was made in July in anticipation of the budget, they bring the value of tax reductions made during the current financial year to a total of approximately £37,000,000 per annum. If these are added to the reductions of income tax and sales tax made during 1945-46 the annual value of tax reductions made by the Government since the war ended will be about £61,000,000 made up as follows: - Income tax on individuals, £37,000.000; sales tax, £20,000,000; customs and excise, £4,000,000.
The proposed sales tax reductions will be of immediate and substantial benefit to consumers as a whole and particularly to those people who spend most of their incomes on necessaries. Practically all essential commodities entering into the living standard will be free from sales tax. The customs and excise reductions will also benefit consumers directly and will reducecosts both of current production and of the establishment of new enterprises. In this latter respect they are in line with a series of measures taken by the Government to encourage expansion and reduce costs in Australian industry. Sales tax reductions made during the last financial year in respect of machinery and plant, and aids to manufacture are estimated to have an annual value of £2,300,000. These are now complemented by the abolition of primage on a wide range of capital equipment and in a large degree also by the abolition of the special war duty.
The lower costs resulting from the reduction and removal of taxes and duties on consumer goods will be passed on to the public in the form of lower prices. The effect will be felt at different dates because the lower prices will not apply to stocks of goods upon which the higher rates of tax have already been paid. It is expected, however, that the1d. reduction of the price of petrol will operate almost immediately. The adjustments consequent on the removal of the sales tax of 7½ per cent. on clothing and household drapery will offset the upward movement in the level of clothing prices. The Prices Commissioner is now engaged on a thorough check ofclothing prices and special care will be taken to ensure that the advantages of the lower taxation are passed on to consumers quickly.
The Treasurer in his statement has stressed the need for continued strong measures to resist inflation, and the importance of increasing output in all fields of industry. He has pointed out that although export prices are at present favorable and London Funds of the Commonwealth Bank stand at the high level of £218,000,000 there are factors in the overseas situation which need to be watched closely. He has pointed out that employment at the present time stands at a record level and that in particular factory employment has risen to a figure considerably above even the war-time peak. This creates a great potential for production. But to make the most of this undoubted capacity all who have a share in industry must make a strenuous and sustained effort to raise levels of efficiency and productivity.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) - by leave - agreed to -
That a Library Committee be appointed, to consist ofthe President, Senator Arnold, Senator Collett, Senator J. B. Hayes, Senator Lamp, Senator Sampson and Senator Tangney, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a joint committee with a similar committee of the House ofRepresentatives.
Motions (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That a Standing Orders Committeebe appointed to consist of the President, the Chairman of Committees, Senator Cameron. Senator Crawford, Senator Devlin, Senator Herbert Hays, Senator Lamp, Senator James McLachlan and Senator Sheehan, with power to act during recess, and to confer with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
That a Printing Committee be appointed, to consist of Senator Arnold, Senator Beerworth, Senator Cooper, Senator Gibson, Senator J. B. Hayes, Senator AllanMacDonald and Senator Tangney, with power to confer or sit as a joint committee with a similar committee of the House ofRepresentatives.
That a House Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, Senator Amour, Senator Aylett, Senator Brand, Senator Cooper, Senator James McLachlan and Senator Nash, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a joint committee with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Aylett and Senator Nash be discharged from attendance on the. House Committee, and that Senator Arnold and Senator Fraser be appointed in their place.
Debate resumed from the 13th November(vide page 146), on motion by Senator Tangney -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to -
To His Royal Highness the GovernorGeneral -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to Our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Royal Highness for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– Last night, when I obtained leave to continue my remarks, I was about to make a comparison between Australia’s imports and exports. I was unable to obtain any figures from the Year -Book later than 1934-42 inclusive, and consequently had to content myself with the information that was available. Figures for our total overseas trade, including gold, are as follows: -
I draw attention to these figures because they show that whereas in the first year mentioned there was a substantial disparity between the value of exports and imports, in 1941-42 the figures were much closer, the difference being approximately £10,000,000. In the future, overseas trade must play a tremendous part in our economy. Reference is made frequently to the necessity for overseas markets for Australian products, and we are told that there are distinct possibilities in that direction in the Far East, India, and elsewhere; but we must remember that we can export goods only if the people of other countries are able to pay for them. It is essential, therefore, that countries to which we expect to export our products should have a living standard that will make it possible for them, not only to purchase our commodities, but also to send to us in return goods produced at a level of costs somewhere near to our own. Therefore, I consider that our object must be to improve as much as possible the wage standards of countries with which we desire to trade.
I was pleased to notice in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech a statement that the Government had agreed to the appointment of a committee of Commonwealth and State officers to consider the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. The committee is expected to make a report during this financial year. I have in mind particularly the needs and disabilities of Western Australia. That” State covers approximately one-third of the area of Australia, but it has a population of only about 500,000 people. Thus, the Government of Western Australia has to deal with problems vastly different from those of the other States, which not only have smaller areas, but also have much larger populations. Since federation, Western Australian governments have had great difficulty in obtaining from taxation sufficient revenue to meet the continually increasing requirements of the community. . The field of taxation open to Western Australian governments since federation has been very limited. Before federation, the State was able to raise revenue by means of customs and excise duties, but this source of revenue was transferred to the Commonwealth. Various methods of providing financial assistance to the States have been applied since federation. From 1901 to 1910, financial aid was distributed to the States by the Commonwealth under the terms of what was called the “Braddon Clause “. This clause provided that, for a period of ten years after the creation of the Commonwealth, not more than one-fourth of the Commonwealth’s net. revenue from customs and excise duties should be applied annually to Commonmonwealth expenditure, and that the balance should be paid to the several States or used to cover interest charges on the debts of the several States. The principle was that each State was to be credited with Commonwealth revenue collected in that State and debited with expenditure incurred on its behalf in connexion with transferred departments. In addition, each State was to share new Commonwealth expenditure on a per capita basis. That financial arrangement was intended to apply from 1901 to 1910, but in 1908 the Surplus Revenue Act changed the situation. It provided that any excess of receipts over expenditure should be distributed monthly to each State in proportion to population. The effect of this alteration was to define transferred and new expenditure more clearly. From 1911 to 1927, the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States came under the terms of the Surplus Revenue Acts. Under these acts the Com mon wealth paid, by means of monthly instalments to the States and the payment of the interest accrued on debts of the States taken over by the Commonwealth, annual sums representing 25s. per capita of the population. In addition, all surplus revenue was paid to the States on a population basis. That arrangement at least gave to Western Australia a definite amount of revenue on the basis of its population. While this arrangement continued in force, special annual payments were made to Western Australia, commencing at £250,000 and diminishing by £10,000 each year. In 192S, the Financial Agreement Act came into operation. This provided that the Commonwealth should take over the States’ debts, meet the interest charges on such debts, provide certain sinking fund contributions, borrow money for the States, and redeem the debts. In 1933, because of the peculiar disabilities suffered by Western Australia, the Commonwealth Grants Commission was appointed by the Parliament to report on claims made by the States for financial assistance. Ever since 1933, Western Australia has been obliged to apply to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for special assistance. Thus, the State has always been in the position of a mendicant. I do not know whether the system of uniform taxation introduced during the war has been of much benefit to Western. Australia, hut at least it guarantees to that State a definite amount of revenue each year. Although that system is still in operation, Western Australia is still in a very difficult financial position. One item of expenditure alone, namely, education, has increased considerably. The most recent estimate of the annual cost of that necessary service in Western Australia is more than £1,000,000. I appreciate what the Commonwealth has done in recent years to advance education in Australia, and I am aware of its constitutional limitations, but I maintain that the Commonwealth Government should take much more interest in education than it has clone in the past. It should provide greater financial assistance for education in the States, particularly Western Australia.
The Speech sets out that the Government, intends to maintain some form of control in respect of prices, interest rates, and land values and also of other factors necessary for the preservation of the economic balance and the equitable sharing of goods in short supply in Australia. The National Security Act and the regulations promulgated under it will cease to operate from the 31st December next, so it is of the utmost importance for the Government to maintain certain economic controls for some period subsequent to that date. During the war years Australia maintained a sound economic position, and its stability in that respect is now greater possibly than that of any other country. That result was not easy of accomplishment, and it has brought in its train a good deal of criticism. The fact remains that the people of Australia generally now have more money to their credit in the savings hanks and other financial institutions of this country than ever previously. The amount to their credit in the savings banks alone is £600,000,000, which represents an increase of over 50 per cent, above ihe total deposits prior to the recent World War. The people engaged in primary production have done well as the result of the economic policy adopted by the present Government. A great deal of money lies at call in the savings banks, and the fact that there is a shortage of many consumer goods, whilst the demand for motor vehicles and luxury goods is strong, shows that there is always a great danger of a sudden release of this enormous purchasing power. Unless some form of price control be maintained the menace of inflation will constantly be with us.
I notice that the Government considers it necessary to maintain certain controls with regard to the rationing of goods. This is necessary because of the shortage of consumer goods. What would have been the position of many people in Australia had rationing of essential commodities not been observed during the war years? Those with the means to buy would have purchased all of the goods available, and those in a less fortunate financial position would have been in a most serious predicament. The rationing system proved useful during the war period, and, until we reach the stage al. which the supplies of goods are sufficient to satisfy the demand, we must retain some measure of control of the distribution. High prices of commodities, particularly luxury goods, have the effect of depleting the spending power of the people, and when that happens unemployment occurs. There is a definite desire oh the part, of some sections of the community to have all economic controls lifted, so that there may be an “open go “ in respect of the sale of commodities and the prices that may be charged for them. During the war period I recall talking to a citizen of the United States of America, who apparently di not know that I was a member of the Australian Labour party. He told me that the people of his country were anxiously waiting for the time when they would put the workers in their place. He said that up to that time the workers had been able to dictate their own terms, but he added “ We are waiting for the first opportunity to put the workers back in the position where we have always desired them to be “. I regard that statement as somewhat prophetic.
We know what occurred in the United States of America recently when the control of prices was lifted. The cost of foodstuffs and other commodities and rents skyrocketed. I hesitate to predict the result which may be expected from the action of President Truman in practically abandoning price fixation in that country. The cessation of hostilities with Germany synchronized with the cancellation of many war contracts and a great deal of unemployment was occasioned in the United States of America because there was no work available for people who had been producing non-essential goods. I have no doubt that, when the war with Japan ceased, all war contracts were cancelled, and there must be a rapidly rising army of unemployed in the United States of America. As the law of SUpply and demand is now to operate as formerly, a large increase of unemployment is inevitable. This should provide an object lesson to Australia, and we should prevent a similar catastrophe in this country. I was impressed by the high cost of commodities in the United States of America. I computed on the occasion of my visit that the American dollar, valued at 6s. 2d. Australian, would purchase goods ‘ in the United States of America to the value of only about 2s. 3d. Australian, lt will be a sorry day for the people of Australia if inflation on that scale occurs in this country.
Whilst agreeing to the retention of economic controls as proposed in the Governor-General’s Speech I claim that the (Government should give reconsideration to the control now exercised over the prices of land and houses. I have brought several cases to the notice of the Treasury, but generally without success. I am. interested in cases in which the owners of properties desire to sell out, but there is a conflict between the prices they ask for and the prices which the Treasury is prepared to authorize.
In some instances there is a variation of only about £50 between the prices of the buyer and the seller, but, because a property is valued on the basis of prices ruling in 1942, the owner can sell only at a greatly depreciated figure determined by the Treasury. As the result of some of the Treasury’s decisions hardship has been inflicted on the parties concerned. The Treasury is justified in endeavouring to prevent sales being effected at greatly inflated prices, but it should not adhere rigidly to 1942 valuations. In one instance an old-age pensioner who had held a block of land for eighteen years, and asked £100 for it, was prevented from selling at a higher figure than £50, although no doubt the price of £100 would barely recoup him for his total outlay, including the payment of rates and taxes, during the period of ownership. A more liberal attitude should be adopted by the Treasury in such eases, because the whole intention of the control of prices of houses and land is to prevent the exploitation of the people.
An immediate inquiry is urgently necessary into the cost of house construction. I do not know whether the Prices Commissioner has given consideration recently to the prices asked for homes. I have a property which I purchased for £700, and I could sell it tomorrow for £1;000, £1,200, or, perhaps, £1,300; but, if I wished to sell it, the Treasury would prevent me from accepting a price in excess of the 1942 valuation plus a certain amount. If I sold the house at the low price which the Treasury would allow I should have to pay from £1,000 to £1,500 for another property of the same size. Some people have been forced to sell their houses because of their transfer to other localities, but they have been compelled to sell at a loss, with the result that they have had to pay inflated prices for new homes. I hope that the Government will give serious thought to these matters when considering, the continuance of controls over prices.
Senator Cooper said that, in his opinion, not much had been done by the Commonwealth to combat the scourge of tuberculosis. The present Government has done a good deal to check the spread of this disease since it came into office, and, therefore, the honorable senator’s criticism really relates to previous governments which he supported. I am pleased that the Government proposes to explore the possibility of fuller collaboration with the States for the prevention and treatment of this disease. In Western Australia 173 people die each year from tuberculosis, and for each death it is estimated that, there are eleven cases of pulmonary tuberculosis in active form. On that basis, it would appear that about 1,900 cases require treatment in that State each year. As tuberculosis is infectious, it is unfortunate that only 300 sufferers from this disease are being treated in hospitals in Western Australia, where they are properly isolated from the rest of the community. That means that 1,600 persons each year constitute a danger to the rest of the community. The best, way to deal with this scourge is to take steps to detect it in its early stages. I do not know the incidence of tuberculosis throughout Australia, but there is much to be said for a system of mass radiography of the adult population.
During the year* 1939 to 1942 inclusive, Australia produced 5,940,181 fine ounces of gold, of which 4,363,218 fine ounces, or more than 73 per cent., was produced in Western Australia. The value of Australia’s gold production for that period was £61,573,138, Western Australia’s proportion ‘being £45,211,562, or nearly 74 per cent. In 1941, Western Australia produced 1,109,318 fine ounces of gold, but in 1942 - the latest period for which I can obtain official figures - that State’s production had dropped to 848,1S0 fine ounces. We know that Australia’s internal economy was upset in 1942, when this country was in danger of invasion. One result was the withdrawal of man-power from the goldmining industry. I bring this matter to t,110 notice of the Government now because of the tremendous importance of the industry to Western Australia, apart from its value to Australia as a whole in providing international exchange. The chairman of the Western Australian Industry Expansion Committee, Professor Mauldon-, has said that the immediate effect of a decline of the gold- mining industry is a loss of man-power so considerable as to result in the closing down of many gold-mining towns. It is not uncommon in Western Australia to hear of once thriving gold-mining settlements being referred to as “ ghost towns “. Fortunately, Kalgoorlie and Boulder did not suffer so much as did some of the more outlying districts, but even in those large centres the shortage of man-power caused considerable losses, not only in respect of gold itself, but also in respect of timber for mining and for firewood. Western Australia suffered considerable losses of income because of the war. I believe that the Government is sympathetic towards the gold-mining industry, and I trust that it will render to that industry every possible assistance in the future. There are many other subjects on which I could speak, but I shall leave them until another occasion.
– As this is the opening session of the Eighteenth Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) upon his retention of his high office of the Leader of the Senate. I congratulate also his colleagues who have been re-elected and especially the two new members of the Ministry. Naturally I hope that they will not occupy the ministerial bench for a longtime, but I trust that while they are there they will be happy. To those who fell by the wayside I offer my sincere sympathy. I congratulate also the mover and the seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply on their speeches. To the two new senators who have come among us I offer a welcome, and wish them success in their future careers. Probably they are wise enough to realize that seats in this chamber are not permanent. I assure them that while they are here they will find, not only that the fight is keen but also that their political opponents are, after all, not bad fellows.
I regret that in the near future their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester will leave Australia. They came here at a critical period in Australia’s history. It was a gracious act on the part of the Royal Family to permit them to come here at such a time. During their stay in Australia their Royal Highnesses have seen a great deal of the country and its people, and I am confident that on their return to the Motherland their experience will be of benefit in the counsels of the nation. All honorable senators, I am sure, wish them long life and happiness. The departure of the Governor-General will mean that, in the near future, a successor will have to be chosen. Naturally members of the Opposition are in a minority in this Parliament and probably they will not be consulted when a decision is made regarding a successor to His Royal Highness. They do, however, represent a large number of the electors of Australia, and therefore they are entitled to express their opinions on this subject. I hope that Australia will have another Governor-General from overseas. I say that with all due deference to the men of Australia. I believe that many Australians are well qualified to fill the position of Governor-General, but as each of the six States has a Governor, some of whom are Australian, it is, in my opinion, fitting that the position of Governor-General should be filled by a person who will provide a continuous link with the Motherland. Appointees to the highest office in this country should, in my opinion, be recommended by the Government over which our King presides in person.
The Speech before us, like others that preceded it, is little more than a statement setting out the Government’s legislative intentions for the session. We expect that the programme submitted to the Parliament shall give a clear indication of the Government’s proposals, and that in discussing it we shall have something definite before us, but, unfortunately, the Speech now under consideration is most vague. The most definite thing about it is the obvious intention of (he Government to be lavish in disbursing moneys out of the public purse. Apparently, Australia is to have an expansion of social services, and committees will be formed to deal with numbers o.j subjects, such as education, and scientific and cultural developments. I notice in the Speech that the Government proposes to improve Australia’s commercial relations with Siam. I do not know why that country has been specifically mentioned, as I should think that opportunities just as great exist for an expansion of our trade with other countries. The proposals of the Government, important though they may be, will have to be financed, and therefore increased production is essential. Only by increasing production can we hope to enjoy that prosperity that we all desire. Unfortunately, the Speech gives little incentive to increase production. In that, respect it is a true reflex of the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) which he delivered during the recent election campaign. Honorable senators will recall that, that speech was most guarded. Summarized, it could have read, “ I make no promises. I shall continue to be complacently content to be guided by trade union officials. I shall maintain, wherever possible, a discreet silence, in the hope that it will be regarded as strength “. That is a very fair summary of the Prime Minister’s policy speech at the last general elections. The major part of the Governor-General’s Speech, is mere window-dressing by the Government. However, ten of the more serious paragraphs of the Speech deal with defence. Reading them one would be led to believe that Australia was still at war, or that we daily expected to become involved in war. I recall that six years ago, when the Government supported by the present Opposition parties was in office made provision in its budget for the expenditure of £6,000,000 on defence, that proposal was greeted with roars of disapproval from supporters of the present Government. They wanted to know why the Government of the day should expend money on defence. Our present expenditure on defence is many times greater than that amount. At that time honorable senators now sitting on the Government benches said that Australia should not collaborate with Great Britain in defence matters, that they would have nothing to do with Churchill, who was a war monger. That was the strain in which they spoke six years ago. At that time they also declared that Papua, New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands should be left to fend for themselves against attack. Those statements are recorded in Hansard. But what is the position to-day? Apparently, honorable senators opposite have come to the penitent stool. Whether they are truly repentant remains to be seen. To-day they are Johnny-come-lately military experts, but I advise them to bear in mind the fate at the recent general elections of the ex-member for Capricornia, who was the Minister for the Army, and the ex-member for Franklin, who was the Minister for Repatriation. We know now what the people think of those gentlemen. And the people’s decision in respect of them is significant in view of the fact that army and repatriation policies were among the Government’s main exhibits at the last elections. We must implement a sound policy of self-defence. In order to defend Australia effectively we must collaborate with Great Britain, the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations and our Allies in the last war. But the Government must be practical in this matter. It will not produce results simply by appointing five Ministers to do the work of one. I urge the Government to amalgamate the present five portfolios relating to defence departments. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) has announced his intention to go off to Japan at the conclusion of the session. We are told in the press that he will have Christmas dinner in Japan. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) is to make a tour of inspection of our naval stations. I should like to know how many naval stations exist, in Australia.
The Governor-General’s Speech included the following paragraph : -
The National Security Act will expire on 31st December next. My Government is determined to maintain firm control of prices, interest rates and land values, and also of other economic factors so far as is necessary to preserve the economic balance and an equitable sharing of scarce commodities. My Government proposes to introduce a comprehensive measure continuing for a time safeguards developed under the National Security Act to preserve a stabilized economy.
Having regard to existing circumstances, the inclusion of that paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech is, to say the least, amazing. The National Security Act and regulations enacted under it were passed only because we were at war and as provisions essential to the prosecution of the war and the defence of this country. Now, we are informed that the Government, having a majority in both Houses, intends to perpetuate these controls. It intends to keep the people as subservient to it as they were during the war. It is essential to retain a limited number of the existing controls. The people will have no grouch in respect of such controls. However, the Government is not justified in retaining other controls. It would be wiser to follow America’s example in lifting controls. Deposits in savings banks to-day total £600,000,000. We are told that if controls generally were lifted people with money would rush in and buy everything at the expense of certain sections of the community. But the deposits in the savings banks are owned by the people. Indeed, the people as a whole now have more money than those sections of the community which honorable senators opposite describe as the wealthy. It should be clear that whether existing controls are lifted in 1946, or 1956, such action will be followed by a rush to purchase goods, that abnormal buying would quickly subside and conditions soon return to normal. The Government is making a bogy of inflation. The Government could lift, the controls on the sale of land and houses. The retention of those controls is ridiculous. To-day, we are building houses for ex-service personnel at a cost of from £3,400 to £1,500. In 1942 these dwellings would not be worth more than £900. Yet, to-day, as Senator Nash has pointed out, persons wishing to sell houses are restricted to the values prevailing in 1942. The present controls ignore entirely the substantial increases of prices which have occurred in the interim.
In conjunction with the recent general elections a referendum was taken on three subjects, one .of which was that the Commonwealth should be given power to organize the orderly marketing of primary products. In no uncertain voice the people rejected that proposal, and in view of that verdict the Government should realize that the people are sick and tired of the controls involved in such a proposal. It is safe to assume that they wish the Government to lift the great majority of the existing controls which, in many instances, are administered by incompetent officers. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech also stated -
It has always been my Government’s desire to stabilize all forms of primary production and a bill was passed during the life of the last Parliament to achieve that objective for the wheat industry. My Government trusts that the State Governments will not delay in passing complementary legislation in regard to this important matter.
The Government is most optimistic if it expects the people in any of the wheatgrowing States to allow the wheatgrowers to be robbed of millions of pounds. The growers are prepared to supply wheat at a price which will keep the price of a loaf of bread at a reasonable level ; but they object to any scheme under which they are obliged to supply wheat at an uneconomic price for the production of pigs, fowls, and cows. They also object to any scheme under which they are returned only a miserable pittance from sales overseas. Senator Sheehan prefaced his remarks upon the wheat industry by complimenting. Senator Devlin upon his speech. Senator Devlin showed that he knows something about the wheat industry. I do not know what experience Senator Sheehan has had as a wheat-grower; but one would be led to believe that he knew all that was to be known about it. I say to him that the farmer is not the grovelling, crawling mendicant that he tried to make him out to be.
– I did not say that; I said that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), when he was Minister for Commerce, and the supporters of the Government of which he was a member, described the farmer in those teems.
– The honorable senator said that the farmer was always going cap in hand to the Government.
– I rise to order. The honorable senator’s remarks are offensive to me, and I ask that he withdraw them. I said that, on one occasion, the Leader of the Opposition referred to the wheat-growers as snivelling mendicants. The Hansard report of my speech will show that I did not make the statement which he attributes to me.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls). - Senator Sheehan objects to the honorable senator’s remarks. Therefore, I ask that they he withdrawn.
– I object to Senator James McLachlan’s statement that I said that the wheat-growers of this country were grovelling mendicants.
– I did not say that. Therefore, I shall not withdraw.
– The honorable senator’s remarks are offensive to me, and I insist that they be withdrawn. He said that I said the wheat-growers were grovelling mendicants.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The honorable senator said they were.
– I said nothing of the kind.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Senator Sheehan says that the honorable senator’s remarks are offensive to him Therefore, I ask ‘Senator James McLachlan to withdraw them.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Out of deference to you, Mr. Deputy President, I withdraw. Senator Sheehan said that the wheat-growers of this country were mendicants. Mansard will show that I am correct.
– I rise to order. Again I ask for a withdrawal. I did not say anything of the kind.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The words to which exception was taken have been withdrawn. I ask Senator James McLachlan to continue his speech.
– Amongst the wheat-farmers of this country there may be some who have been captivated by the glamour of the new order that has been put before them, and are gladly accepting it, but the majority of farmers are not in favour of the scheme in its present form. Most wheatgrowers are hard-working, reputable citizens who are prepared to attend to their own business. They object strenuously to any government saying to them, in effect, “You cannot look after your own business. You grow the wheat and we shall handle it and export it. In return we shall give you something to provide you with bread and butter “. Wheat-growers naturally are indignant. They believe that they should be permitted to obtain the full value of their labour. Some of them no doubt have sons whom they wish to set up in life, but under the Government’s proposals this may not be possible. Will it say to them, “ Don’t worry about your sons, we are carrying out the standardization of railway gauges, and there will be plenty of pick-and-shovel jobs for everybody “. Farmers are entitled to voice their own views on this matter.
Senator Sheehan branded honorable senators on this side of the chamber as inhuman monsters, grinding down the working man. This, he said, was the cause of the growth of communism in this country. That is not true. Members of the Opposition are just as considerate as are Government supporters of the welfare of the people of Australia. I was rather struck by Senator Sheehan’s charge that we on this side of the chamber were fostering communism, because it is not so long since the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), in reply to representations made by the Opposition that ex-servicemen should be permitted to own their own homes, said, “ No ; that would make them into little capitalists “. I do not know just where we stand. Senator Sheehan accuses us of driving the people of this country to communism, whereas the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction claims that we are endeavouring to make them into capitalists. I am prepared to leave the Government’s wheat scheme to the State parliaments and to the courts of this country, where, I understand, litigation is already in progress.
Paragraph 30 of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech states -
My Government is desirous of securing greater and more continuous production, and it intends to do everything possible to eliminate causes of industrial discontent. To that end, my Government will continue its widen von rs to establish improved amenities and working conditions in all workshops and factories.
That is most commendable and necessary. Production must be increased because only by increasing production can we increase our prosperity. The Government claims that its aim is to eliminate industrial unrest. The term “ industrial unrest “ seems rather mild in view of the fact that some of the upheavals in recent years have reached record proportions and have seriously interfered with our interna] economy and with our overseas trade. Transport has been particularly hard hit. For many months waterside workers have held up Dutch ships in Australian ports because of their alleged sympathy with the Indonesian cause. In fact the waterside workers apparently thought so much of their own efforts that they had a propaganda film made and submitted it to this Government. The film has since been shown throughout the Commonwealth, apparently with the Government’s approval, and has been sent overseas. No doubt it is being shown to the Indonesians to demonstrate what the people of this country can do. It has been referred to as a moving picture, but the only “moving” aspect of it is the fact that whilst the dispute has been in progress, Australia has lost many million pounds worth of overseas trade.
I am at loss to understand why the subject of migration was not considered of sufficient importance to be mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. This country as we all know is seriously under-populated. Everything should be done to attract migrants. .Senator Brand said recently that in Britain at present there were 150,000 men from southern Ireland who had fought with the Allies and were not permitted to return to their own country. They would be most desirable migrants. There is also, I understand, a similar number of Poles who do not wish to return to their native land. They too could be brought to Australia. Whilst I agree that young people make the most desirable migrants, this country’s most urgent need is for men and women who are ready to play their part in the development of this country.
Recently I asked a question of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) in regard to the Bretton Woods Agreement. The reply was that it was not customary to disclose matters of policy in answer to questions. Whilst I agree that, to some degree at least, that is so, I do think that a definite statement of the Government’s attitude to the Bretton Woods
Agreement should be made at an early date. It is now some time since the conference was held. We were represented at the talks by Mr. Melville, who upon his return to this country consulted with Mr. Wheeler. A report has been presented to the Prime Minister but so far as I am aware, only the Prime Minister and perhaps some Cabinet Ministers have seen it.
Related to the Bretton Woods Agreement is another matter of which there has been much discussion in recent months. I refer to the exchange rate between America and Australia. When representations are made for an increase of the Australian petrol ration, the defence advanced by the Minister for Supply and Shipping usually is that dollar exchange difficulties would result. That obstacle could be overcome by the ratification of the Bretton Woods Agreement by this Government.
Reference was made by Senator Cooper to the need for substantial constitutional reform. There should be no repetition of the fiddling attempts at reform made at the last two or three referendums. A long-range view should be taken of this vital matter, and the whole subject should be thoroughly discussed by a competent body of men, charged with the task of making recommendations to the Government.
– Who would be competent ?
– The Constitution was framed by elected representatives of the people from each State. That was a very fair method, and I see no reason why it should not be adopted in regard to constitutional reform.
– A conference of elected representatives of the various States was held in Canberra not long ago to discuss this very matter, but, although agreement was reached on certain subjects, when the State representatives returned to their Parliaments they renounced their previous decisions.
– I agree with Senator Cooper that the method of electing the Senate should be altered, either by the introduction of proportional representation, or by dividing the States into districts. The Senate polling figures at the last elections were quoted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), and they present a sorry picture. The honorable senator showed that 47 per cent, of the electors were represented by 33 senators, and 39 per cent, by three senators. Even the most biased critic will admit that this is a ridiculous state of affairs, and that something should be done.
– The party of which the honorable senator is a member was responsible for the introduction of the present system, but during its many years of office it made no attempt to alter it.
– 1 have always been in favour of the bicameral system of government because 1 believe it to be the best system. On the other hand, the Labour party favours the abolition of the Senate. Now, honorable senators opposite have the opportunity to implement that plank of their platform.
– The Senate cannot be abolished by legislation.
– 1 know that, but a referendum could be taken on the subject. There are other matters with which I should like to deal, but I shall reserve my remarks on them for a future occasion.
– In his opening remarks, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) expressed the view that the Speech of the Governor-General was the most vague, the weakest, and most anaemic statement of policy on behalf of a government that he had ever heard. The honorable senator, of course, is entitled to his own opinion; but in my view, on the contrary, the Speech was one of the most comprehensive ever delivered in this Parliament by a representative of His Majesty the King. It covers a much wider field than any other opening speech has done. Furthermore it directs attention, for the first time on such an occasion, to the need for organizing our internal economy so that we shall have what we should have had years ago, namely, full employment. It deals very comprehensively, very clearly, and in my opinion very convincingly, with international affairs. Evidently the Leader of the Opposition did not take the trouble to analyse the speech. Had lie done so, and had he been prepared to debate it in detail, he would have realized that it is a most significant speech reduced to the fewest possible words, a rare and desirable thing. We are living now in an age that is vastly different from the pre-war era. People do not want to hear tedious and meaningless speeches. They want to know exactly what, their Government proposes to do in a constructive w,ay in their interests. They will not be side-tracked by mere words or empty platitudes. Anybody who reads the Governor-General’s Speech as it should be read must agree that it is one of the best speeches of its kind that has been- delivered since federation.
The Leader of the Opposition and Senator James McLachlan referred to industrial unrest. However, they dealt only with effects and totally ignored causes. Honorable senators opposite have never attempted to establish the relationship between cause and effect in relation to industrial disputes. I refer them to the October issue of the Australian Business Conditions Bulletin, which contains the following statement under the heading. “ Industrial Policy “- lt is only proper to point out that Australia’s post-war record has not been a bad one in comparison with the United States of America, which is the avowed home of private enterprise, or even with Britain.
The bulletin is issued by an impartial authority interested in industrial matters, and the statement which I have quoted is correct. I venture to say that, had the Opposition been in power throughout the war and up to the present, there would have been much more industrial unrest in Australia than there has been. Reference has been made to America. What is the position there? In America we find a capitalist economy similar to our own, and we find private enterprise there controlling the affairs of the nation to a far greater degree than it should and than is permitted in Australia by a Labour government. America possesses at least 80 per cent, of the world’s gold; it has virtually unlimited resources; it is 100 per cent, self-contained and produces sur pluses of many commodities. Nevertheless, industrial unrest is far more prevalent, there than in Australia. What are the reasons for this state of affairs? One reason is that the means by which the people of America live are privatelyowned, principally by monopolists who are much more concerned about increasing their own profits than they are about the welfare of the people. Industrial unrest is the natural and only result of such a condition. In fact, I am amazed that the people of America have been so tolerant. If I were asked, what constituted the greatest obstacle to the introduction of desirable social reforms, I would say that it is the readiness of the people to acquiesce in the conditions of their own subjection. That readiness of the American people, as of the Australian people, has now been tested to the limit. Another reason why industrial unrest is rife, particularly in the United States of America, is that inflation has been resorted to by private monopolies, assisted by other interests, for the purpose of reducing the purchasing power of wages to the irreducible minimum. Inflation could have been avoided. America, for instance, has the gold and the material resources necessary to prevent it. Nevertheless, inflation was resorted to, as part and parcel of the technique peculiar to capitalistic economy, first, to reduce the purchasing power of wages to the lowest level, secondly, to drive weaker competitors out of business, and, thirdly and above all, to increase profits and establish stronger control of production by private monopolies. That sums up the position in the United States of America in a few words. If that great nation were managed as it could be managed, and as I hope it will he managed ultimately, the economic process would be put into reverse gear. Instead of the purchasing power of wages being in inverse ratio to the wealth produced and the profits created, the purchasing power of wages would be made to increase along with the increasing productivity of the workers. Early in the war, I said - and I believe that my colleagues agreed with me - that I would rather suffer at the hands of enemies within the nation than at the hands of our external enemies. All that the Government has been able to do to defend the nation against its internal enemies has been to apply the brake to prevent Australia from rushing into the morass into which America has fallen. When honorable senators opposite assert, by implication or by direct statement, that the actions of a few Communists, extremists, militants, irreconcilables or other persons have been responsible for industrial unrest, it is evident that they sire either ignorant of the true position or are not prepared to face it. I am not influenced in the slightest degree by their wild statements.
After reviewing what was done in Australia during the strenuous war years, T pay tribute, in spite of the troubles that have occurred, to all workers in Australia who were engaged in primary and secondary production, not only for the magnificent work that they did during the war but also for the way in which they tolerated conditions which should not be tolerated. Consider, for instance, conditions in the Postal Department. There are approximately 66,000 workers in that department. In my view, 50 per cent, of that number have been underpaid for years past. Consider the work that they did during the war. They extended postal services in every direction. The department was deliberately starved during the depression years when arrears accumulated, and again during the war years when man-power and materials were needed for the defence of the country. In spite of this, the progress made in every branch of the Postal Department’s activities in recent years has been outstanding. In order to meet the enormous demands caused by war, the normal activities of the department were extended in a way that exceeded all expectations. The transactions of the department have reached record proportions. Indicative of the extension of the communication services rendered to the community is the fact that the financial turnover of the department increased from £185,000,000 in 1939 to approximately £450,000,000 in 1945. This expansion was carried out by depleted staffs. Approximately 7,500 members of ordinary working staffs and about SOO members of technical staffs served in the armed forces, but those who- remained extended and improved postal services to a far greater degree than had ever been done under anti-Labour governments. I have considered, as we all should do, the conditions under which those men and women worked during the war and are working now. We should pay a great tribute . to them for the fact that they worked so well under such trying conditions.
Reference has been made to the coalminers and to their action in ceasing work at various times. We are extremely fortunate that the position with regard to coal production has not been worse than it is. The miners work under extremely dangerous and difficult conditions. Whilst there has been an increase of the basic wage since J 907 of about 140 per cent., there has not been any increase of the purchasing power of wages. The wage fixation system established by the political parties represented by the Opposition and inherited by the Labour party amounts to a colossal confidence trick. That is one of the reasons why strikes have been experienced. The purchasing power of the basic wage, as far as necessaries of life are concerned, is less than it was in 1907, although, prima facie, it would appear that an increase of 140 per cent, has occurred. In the United States of America, workers receiving equivalent to about £3 a day in Australian currency are not able to buy as much with their money now as they wen; in pre-war years. Paradoxical as it may seem, the economic cost of conducting a business, mining coal, running railways, building houses, or manufacturing any commodity was never lower in terms of labour power than it is at present, but the monetary cost in terms of a faked currency was never higher. Although the average worker may not understand the technique peculiar to the manipulation of the currency to his detriment, and despite the fact that certain highly privileged economists speak or write at great length in an effort to prove that we are better off than we previously were, the effects of that manipulation are realized and understood. That is why industrial unrest occurs. If Australia is to experience industrial peace and social harmony to the degree that we all desire, we must set about re-organizing our internal economy. Despite the bitter and unwarranted opposition of honorable senators opposite, the Government has tried to improve the position to some degree. It has provided means of relieving unemployment; medical attention and hospital treatment are available to those who need them ; pensions have been provided for the people; and the Government has done as much as it could with the resources at its disposal. “We shall not have industrial peace in Australia or any other country unless we continue to organize along the lines followed by the present Government.
– lt has not been particularly successful so far.
– I contend that it has been successful, having regard to the unprecedented world war now happily concluded and the unpreparedness of Australia, to which reference has been made in this debate. The men and women engaged in aircraft production, particularly those in charge of the work, did a remarkably good job for Australia. Under peace-time conditions they would have done a great deal more. The part which Australia played in the war reflected the utmost credit upon the men in the firing line and those engaged in the industrial arena.
The recent war, which was a terrible tragedy, was tremendously profitable to leading monopolists who control the means of production. Practically every branch of industry controlled by monopolies and private enterprise can show profits to-day which are almost unprecedented in the history of this country. Those men, who called on high heaven to witness how patriotic and self-sacrificing they were during the war period, actually capitalized the country while it almost bled to death. They capitalized the troops who fought in the front line and the people who sweated in the workshops. “When I refer to the need to organize our industrial economy, I speak in the light of experience and of the attitude of the workers in every country. When they cease work they virtually refuse to be capitalized to any greater degree than in the past; but the men in the workshops are under an obligation to pay tribute to people who neither fought nor worked during the recent war, but are known to be some of the most vicious critics of the workers, who. merely ask for decent living conditions.
Paragraph 10 of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech states -
In its international policy, my Government has given, and will continue to give, unwavering support to the United Nations organization and its related organizations, and to the principles and purposes declared both in the Atlantic Charter and the United Nations Charter. The Australian Government consistently endeavoured to assist in establishing a just and lasting peace based on those principles.
That is a statement of fact. Australia is better known to-day than ever before, simply because in councils overseas the representatives of the Government, and particularly the Minister for- External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), have risen to the occasion and pointed out exactly what could and should be done.
Paragraph 13 of the Speech reads - lt is also a basic part of the Government’s policy to take an active part in all measures aimed at international and economic welfare, full employment and a higher standard of living throughout the world and also at encouraging the political and economic development of dependent peoples.
Those few words mean volumes to men and women who take an intelligent interest in their own country and in countries overseas. World Wars I. and II. were an inevitable and practical outcome of the economic warfare previously waged. Had economic warfare not been waged to establish economic domination, there would have been no war. Honorable senators have already indicated that there must be a cessation of economic warfare, if another war is to be avoided.
The Government directs attention to the necessity for full employment and a higher standard of living in all countries. If millions of unfortunate Indians can be exploited to the level of a handful of rice for their meal, a few yards of calico for their clothing, and a few hovels in which to live, and if the people of Indonesia can be used to produce commodities at a cheaper rate than that prevailing in Australia, where we enjoy a higher standard of living, the outcome must be further warfare. Therefore, full employment must be provided for all people and we should raise their standards of living. When people are reasonably satisfied with their conditions of employment and the standard of living is consistent with their physical needs, it is almost impossible to induce them to prepare for a war of aggression. If a war of aggression cannot be organized, a war of defence, such as that in which we were recently engaged, becomes unnecessary. Those who are intelligent enough to see the meaning of the paragraph will realize that the Government has in mind giving effect to a policy which will eliminate the causes of war.
Paragraph 22 of the Speech contains the following: -
My Government believes that full employment is essential to an increase in production of wealth and its fair distribution, to the lifting of cultural standards, and to the heightening of an active progressive spirit in the community.
I have not read a similar passage in any previous Governor-General’s Speech. The Government believes in these things and, consistent with the support that it receives, will give effect to them. I remind the Senate that the power of a government is not absolute, but is relative, just as the power of a dictator is relative. To the degree that a. government has the support of thepeople, it can accomplish what it sets out to do. The elections of 1943 and 1946 are an indication that the people are prepared to support a government which gives evidence of its sincerity and capacity to do things. Consequently, the Government is encouraged to include these matters in its policy, so that the world may know its intentions.
Paragraph 30 of the Speech sets out the desire of the Government to remove the causes of industrial unrest. It reads -
My Government is desirous of securing greater and more continuous production and it intends to do everything possible to eliminate the causes of industrial discontent. To that end, my Government will continue its endeavours to establish improved amenities and working conditions in all workshops and factories.
That is a more important statement than the Government’s critics are prepared to admit. The removal of the causes of industrial discontent means that the nation’s economy must be placed in reverse gear. Those who do the useful work of the community - those who work in mines and workshops and factories - are entitled to the best conditions that can be provided. If I had my way, I would make all post offices and factories as comfortable and attractive as the best of homes. The workers have a right to enjoy reasonable conditions. We cannot justify a state of affairs under which miners work under unhygienic conditions and their families live in hovels. No man should be compelled to work in a filthy factory. Let us consider, for instance, the places in which moulders and other workers in heavy industries spend their working hours. Too frequently they work amid dirt in places insufficiently ventilated and without proper natural light. The Government will revolutionize conditions in industry to the degree that it has the support of the community. When I was Minister for Aircraft Production I was careful to stipulate that in the erection of workshops for which my department was responsible amenities of the best kind were to he provided. On one occasion a bright departmental intellect suggested to my unsophisticated mind that the workers were being given toomuch in the way of amenities. Hesaid that roast beef should not be on their menu; that they should be given only entrees, and small serves at that. I told him that if he would take steps to ensure that at such places as Scott’s Hotel, and Menzies Hotel, roast beef was eliminated from the menu, and entrees only provided, I would be prepared to consider his suggestion. I went on to say that so long as I had any power in these matters, men and women doing vital work for the nation would receive the best that was available. In spite of such paragraphs as I have just read, the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Sampson referred to the Speech as vague, weak and anaemic. I believe that, far from considering it to be weak, its strength alarms them. Let us see what the Government has in mind in regard to the basic wage. Paragraph 32 reads -
It is my Government’s intention to set upas early as possible a committee, including representatives of both parties in industry, to inquire into and report upon aspects of the basic wage. The setting up of this committee will not preclude earlier consideration by the court of any application that may be made relating to the amount of the basic wage or the principles upon which it is determined or varied.
That paragraph speaks volumes. “What is the basic wage? I remember the time when Mr, Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary, who was associated with the Transport Workers Union, spoke of the basic wage as a “ fodder wage “. The trouble is that many persons in the community are concerned only with what it costs to keep a man in reasonable health so that he can do a day’s work and thereby produce wealth for those who are interested solely in rents, interest and profits. The Government realizes that the basic wage should provide for something more than the bare necessaries of life. The basic wage is not sufficient, and unless some alteration be made there will be a great deal more industrial unrest in the future than there has been in the past. The Government consists of men with sound practical experience as well as theoretical knowledge - men who will not hesitate to bring about reforms as quickly as possible. It is for that reason that in paragraph 35 of the Speech the following statement appears : -
My Government will introduce legislation, at the appropriate time, to establish a statutory body, similar to the Stevedoring Industry Commission, for the peace-time control of waterside operations.
I know the need for legislation in this sphere, because in 1908 I was a member of the Fremantle Lumpers Union. I applied for employment on the waterfront, where men were paid ls. 3d. an hour for carrying wheat, coal, and other commodities. At that time, it was not uncommon for 200 or 300 men to await the coming of the ganger who selected men to work. He went among the waiting men and, pointing to different ones in turn, said, “ You “ and “ You “ and “You”, and so on. Those men went with him, and were given a day’s work. The rest had to wait until another such call was made. I was placed in that humiliating position hundreds of times. Whether or not a man obtained work depended on the whim of a ganger who, in some instances, was merely the “ stooge “ of the ship-owners. Only if he so willed was a man entitled to the privilege of earning a living for himself and his dependants. Are working men, themselves as good, or better, than the ganger or the ship-owners, to be treated in that way ? Are members of the working community to be humiliated from the cradle to the grave? Those who think so are making a great mistake. Men working on the waterfront will not accept the treatment meted out to dumb, driven cattle; they claim to be treated as human beings. The Government is determined that they shall be so treated. Consistent with the resources at its disposal, the Government will guarantee them continuity of employment and a sufficient purchasing power to enable them and their dependants to buy more than the necessaries of life. Far from being weak and anaemic, the Speech indicates the intention of the Government to effect a revolutionary change from pre-war conditions. In 1928, when the Arbitration Court, backed solidly by the then Government which, in turn, was inspired by a capitalist press, reduced the wages of waterside workers, we had the spectacle of large numbers of returned soldiers, who had fought at Gallipoli and elsewhere in World War I., denied the right to earn a living.
Silting suspended from 6.59 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was directing attention to paragraph 35 of the Governor-General’s Speech. I reminded honorable senators that, prior to what is proposed to be done now, waterside workers were treated like a lot of cattle. They had no rights worth speaking of; they had no guarantee of continuity of employment, and thousands of them were compelled to wait for engagement day by day, and week by week, pending the convenience of the employers. I pointed out that in 1928 their wages were reduced, and they, with every justification, went on strike. The patriotism of the government of the day, and its supporters, was such that waterside workers were denied the right of employment, and were forced to accept the dole. Included in their number were 2,500 returned soldiers of World War I. They were replaced on the wharfs by Germans, Italians, and other foreign labourers. The present Government is resolved that a similar state of affairs shall not be allowed to occur again; it will not allow history to repeat itself in that respect. And the sons of those returned soldiers who were starved out of their jobs were the men upon whom we depended to fight for our existence in the last war! I know perfectly well that were this Government to be replaced by an anti-Labour government a similar state of affairs would be allowed to recur. The government of the day introduced what was known as the “ dog-collar “ act, which was designed to starve the waterside workers into submission. That legislation was introduced by a gentleman who later became a justice of the High Court. With all those memories now before us we shall concentrate on doing something better for the workers than anti-Labour governments in the past have done for them.
The Government has announced in the Governor-General’s Speech its intention to establish a permanent Australian shipping authority. The object of this proposal will be to prevent the shipowners from being a law unto themselves, as they have been in the past. I could take each of the paragraphs of the Governor-General’s Speech in order to illustrate the constructive work which the Government proposes to do. Paragraph 46 reads -
My Government has completed arrangements with the States under which accelerated construction of houses will be undertaken to overtake the housing shortage which was intensified by the war.
I cannot imagine any other government attempting to do that; because the policy of anti-Labour government has been to keep either houses or purchasing power in short supply. In each of the capital cities there are thousands of houses which should have been demolished years ago, but these are kept in existence and rented to workers who are compelled to live in them at exorbitant rentals. When a house is built the wage cost is recovered once; but after the lapse of about ten years the capital cost of the structure is recovered over and over again. That is sheer robbery. Under anti-Labour governments, houses are kept in short supply so that hovels can be rented to workers just so long as the latter are prepared to tolerate such dwellings, or as long as the structures will remain standing.
Senator Sampson referred at great length to the need of universal military training. That is merely another name for conscription. The honorable senator believes in conscription, the object of which,- from his point of view, and that of those who agree with him, is to obtain labour power for the fighting line at the cheapest cost. Ostensibly, universal military training is advocated on the ground of need to train men to defend this country; but, in reality, it is advocated in order to obtain soldiers at the cheapest cost. In the Crimean war in 1854, English soldiers were paid 3d. a day; and in the South African war, as Senator Brand will recall they were paid the paltry sum of ls. to ls. 3d. a day. All through history, so long as labour power could be capitalized for war purposes, conscription has been enforced for the purpose of obtaining labour power at the cheapest cost. Conscription can be classified under three heads - economic, industrial and military - and in each case the purpose is the same. The objective in obtaining man-power at the cheapest cost for military purposes is to make it possible to increase the profits of wartime profiteers. During and after every war, including the last war, as I have already pointed out, enormous profits were ma.de by those in charge of essential production needed for the civilian population, and even for the purpose of carrying on the war, and while soldiers fight under the cheapest and worst conditions, the black-marketeers live in a paradise, wining and dining, while the men in the front line make the sacrifices. That is how it works out in practice. If we are to defend this country as we should, the men who are asked to do the fighting should receive the very best conditions and the highest rates of pay it is possible to give them. I should certainly give to the soldiers much higher rates of pay than I would give to workers employed exclusively in luxury trades. I am not impressed in the slightest degree by what Senator Sampson has said, because history proves what I have said to be the truth. After each war in the past those in control closed down workshops and left the men as they were demobilized from the armed forces to walk the streets. That was the case after the Napoleonic wars in 1815, the Crimean war in 1854, and the South African war in 1903. It was so with a vengeance after World War I., and it would he so after the last war but for the fact that a Labour Government is now in office and will provide for ex-service personnel to the degree to which they are entitled. Therefore, I say to Senator .Sampson and those who support his views that the sole motive of enforcing what is called universal military training, which is simply another name for conscription, is to secure the services- of soldiers at the lowest possible cost. In my judgment those who did not fight or work in the last war, and those who are now in receipt of big incomes as the result o.f war-time investments, should be taxed to the limit in order to provide for our ex-service personnel and for the future of the nation. I fail to see how we could do anything else. If that is not done a position similar to, and certainly worse than, that which arose after World War I. will arise again. It has already arisen in the United States of America where millions are now on the bread-line. While men and women who served in the armed forces were indispensable in the defence of their country they were paid comparatively high wages and treated fairly well ; but now the war is over, and they are dispensable, they are forced onto the bread-line where they were before war was declared. We should bear these matters always in mind. Such events have impressed themselves upon the minds of ‘the people generally. If that were not so it would not be possible for a Labour Government to be elected in Great Britain or Australia. But it is clear from the attitude of the people to-day that those events have impressed themselves very vividly upon the minds of the people; or the people have been disillusioned in the hard school of experience.
No government in any other country has done as much as this Government has done under difficult wartime conditions. In 1941, when the Labour Government assumed office with a minority in both Houses of the Parliament, Australia was practically in a state of chaos. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who was then Minister for the Army, declared that one division of the enemy <:ould practically capture the Commonwealth. So soon as this Government assumed office, it created order out of chaos. Our people and our fighting forces were organized as never before. I defy honorable senators opposite to refute my statement that this Government has done as well as any government in any other country. No government in any other country has done so much .under similar conditions, and certainly no other government in this country will do as much for the welfare of our nation as the present Government has done.
.- Paragraph 8 of the Governor-General’s Speech reads -
In the meantime, Australia’s defence effort will be the maintenance of the strength and organization necessary with existing weapons; to provide for commitments in the interim period for the Australian component of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, and for forces on the mainland for administrative and maintenance purposes, as well as to provide a basis for carrying forward the organization of the peace-time forces.
Some months ago, the former Minister for the Army, Mr. Forde, announced that the strength of the interim army was to be 39,000, including 10,000 for duty in Japan, and with a permanent military force of 17,954. The interim figure for the Royal Australian Navy is 12,500, and the Royal Australian Air Force is allotted 15,000. The land force is intended to meet requirements of training, administration, and maintenance of equipment, after demobilization is complete in February next. It will form the basis upon which a larger force, yet to be determined by the British Commonwealth of Nations, will be built, both for our own protection and for Australia’s contribution to world peace. That the Government recognizes Australia’s obligation is revealed in paragraph 9 of -the Governor-General’s Speech, which reads -
My Government will make full and adequate provision for post-war defence. The size of each service will be determined by the blending of the Navy, Army, Air Force and supply services in a balanced scheme which provides in the most effective manner for our selfdefence, for our co-operation in Empire and regional defence, and for the fulfilment of our obligations under the Charter of the United Nations.
The Government’s sincerity is not questioned. World War II. has taught prewar pacifists and isolationists a lesson. Australia is now in a team, and other members of the post-war Empire defence team will expect us to pull our full weight. So far the Parliament has not been told how Australia’s contribution is to be raised and maintained. Very likely the plan is only in the blue-print stage. Judging by the former Army Minister’s statement, the Empire service chief’s considered opinion at the recent conference in London is that, for the present at any rate, the atomic bomb can be ruled out. Its full strategical significance has yet to be determined. For the sake of mankind, let us hope that its use in settling international disputes will be banned for all time.
The English-speaking nations can never be accused of “ trailing the coat “ or “ rattling the sabre “. Lovers of peace, mindful of the importance of the old League of Nations and sceptical of the security plans of the United Nations, prefer to prepare for any eventuality. It stands to reason that those preparations cannot be on a war-time scale. As a joint guarantor of world peace, Australia’s interest is mainly in the SouthWest Pacific. The Government has stated its intention to make full and adequate provision for that area. As a preliminary to that effort, it is imperative that the foundations of the interim army be well laid - foundations that must not be sabotaged for political expediency, as in pre-war years.
The present strength of the Army is about 63,000, including troops in Japan and permanent units. When those eligible for discharge are released by the end of February, this number will be considerably reduced. The personnel on the Army pay-roll at the end of the demobilization period, i.e., the 1st March, 1947, will become the interim army, the greater proportion of which will be maintained by voluntary enlistments. There has never been any difficulty in keeping the peace-time Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force up to strength by the voluntary system. The same may be said of the permanent military force, but not of the Militia. From all accounts, there is great difficulty in keeping present units up to strength. The novelty of serving in a foreign country, Japan, has worn off and those who sought service for a further year or two more before settling down in civil life are beginning to find that their absence is militating against their successful rehabilitation. The rates of pay and allowances are not attracting recruits. How does the Government hope to raise and maintain a force of 39,000 by voluntary enlistment? From bitter experience, it is impossible, with the constant ebb and flow of recruits, to maintain a stable force that will enable leaders and specialists to .be thoroughly trained. Combined training on a higher plane in accordance with the lessons of World War II. cannot be undertaken. Instead of being a striking force ready at a week’s notice to meet an emergency, the interim army will be confined to training camps for some months. If that be true of a voluntary enlisted army of 39,000, obviously the position would be hopeless should Australia’s voluntarily enlisted post-war defence army, perhaps four times greater, be called upon to act in an emergency, in concert with Britain and New Zealand. Will Australia default when its assistance is urgently needed ? Will the Government of the day be compelled to say to our partners - “You carry on, Australia is not yet ready “ That is unthinkable. The Government’s assurance in the Governor-General’s Speech that full and adequate provision will he made to fulfill our obligations is worthless unless action be taken now to ensure that, when the time comes, Australia shall be able immediately to fulfil its obligations.
I have referred to the weakness of the voluntary system.. That is the Government’s responsibility. It must face facts. Higher pay and allowances may make the voluntary system more attractive for a period, but if after a fair trial the system breaks down, there will be no alternative but universal service, either by ballot or selective quotas.
What of the Royal Australian Air Force? The future of Australia’s defence lies primarily in a strong, efficient, mobile air force. So far, little or nothing has been done to re-create such a force.
The strength on paper is now only about i 1,000, and there is discontent amongst airmen because no policy has been laid down. Possibly the Government is waiting to see what Australia’s obligations are; but is it wise to let this splendid service disband? Discharged beribboned personnel cannot settle into civil life, or permanently establish themselves in some business enterprise while there is a possibility of a career in the interim, or later, the post-war air force. These brilliant young fellows are anxious to pass on their knowledge to the younger generation, but they must be fully informed of the conditions of service, particularly in regard to pensions or retiring allowances. Delay in announcing a policy means dislocation and greater expense in bringing the air force up to date. Now is the time to reconstruct the Citizen Air Force, and to formulate a scheme for training air-minded youths. The Government must know that an Air Force is vital to Australia’s defence, and the preservation of world peace, so why wait for the final Empire decisions? A nucleus force now, would be better than a waitandsee policy, which will breed apathy and undermine the splendid esprit do corps of the war years.
Political expediency, with all parties keeping one eye on the next elections, had much to do with the partial unpreparedness of Australia. This must not occur again. Defence policy must be formulated in a national spirit. Defence preparedness is a continuing responsibility, not something that can be whittled down by succeeding governments for votecatching reasons. Continuity of policy is of the essence of defence preparedness. Unfortunately it seems that our defence policy is again to be determined on party lines. To keep defence above party politics, I suggest the appointment of an all-party parliamentary committee to consider and report on defence matters. For instance, the. report of the recent Empire Defence Conference in London has been printed, but where it is I do not know. A committee such as that to which I have referred could be givenaccess to reports of that kind. If that suggestion be not acceptable, I would urge Opposition representation on the Defence Committee which, at present, consists of ministerial heads of the three services, and the chiefs of those services. If members of the Opposition are to bo denied such representation, it is inevitable that many important decisions, some of them not necessarily confidential, will become known to Parliament only when the defence estimates are being passed hurriedly during an all-night sitting. This is a matter which should be entirely divorced from party politics.
Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) [S.29J. - In the Governor-General’s. Speech, the Government has expressed a progressive policy. It has announced its intention to set up a special committee to consider the defence preparedness of this country, in collaboration with that of allied nations. The Government has also expressed its support of any move aimed at securing world peace. Senator Brand talked about preparedness in the air. I recall when the late Mr. John Curtin, as Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatatives in 1937, led a campaign for an aircraft construction programme in the interests of national defence. The anti-Labour Government in power at that time ignored his appeals in spite of the threat of war. Common sense warned Mr. Curtin that war was inevitable because of the policy of Nazi Germany. There was nothing surprising about the inaction of that Government, because the then Prime Minister said in the Parliament that a great deal could be learned from Nazi Germany. That is why nothing was done to prepare for the defence of Australia. Senator Brand was a member of the Defence Council at the time. He must know that Mr. Wackett, a great Australian, was anxious to build aircraft in Australia, but the anti-Labour Government discouraged him, and the technicians and tradesmen whom he had gathered about him were scattered all over the Commonwealth. Supporters of that Government to-day urge us to prepare for defence. The situation is ridiculous. We should be preparing for peace, not for war, which the clamouring of honorable senators opposite is likely to cause. Senator Sampson made a very long speech in which he said repeatedly that the salvation of Australia lay in the introduction of a system of universal military training. He said that we must train youths, not by sending them on Saturday afternoon marches as was done in the past, but by instructing them in the use of the most modern war equipment. Of course, Saturday afternoon training would not satisfy the honorable senator; he would like to see men in training all day every Saturday. He did not suggest that training should be carried out on Wednesdays or Thursdays in the bosses’ time, instead of in the recreation time of working men. What happens if young men are trained for war? Give them rifles and machine guns and all the latest equipment of war, and train them for years, and they will want to fight. That is what happened in Nazi Germany. When Germany was unable to manufacture rifles, its young men were provided with picks and shovels and they drilled with pick handles. Eventually they were given rifles and machine guns, and they found joy in shooting down defenceless women and children. That is the sort of thing that happens if young men are trained under a military system. Surely Australia could do better by training diplomats instead of soldiers. We must expand our diplomatic service and send young Australian men and women abroad as ambassadors of goodwill so that future generations will be instructed in the ways of international friendship rather than those of racial hatred. World War II. began in Europe with the dropping of small bombs. These were followed by more horrible weapons, such as the “ block-buster “ and the German V1 and V2 bombs. Then the most dreadful destructive weapon of all, the atomic bomb, came into use. What weapon will be used to start the next war, and how can we train men for such warfare? The bosses should pay the costs of military training because, if war should come, they will be the only ones who will have anything to protect. Many of themen who enlisted at the outbreak of World War II. had been denied the right to work and earn a decent livelihood in peace-time. When the Nazis were marching over Europe and the Italians were driving towards the SuezCanal and the future looked very black, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, “ They deserve a better deal, and when they return we must give them more than they have received in the past “. When they did come back and began to settle down in the ranks of industry, in the transport services and in the workshops, they looked to the bosses for the fulfilment of those promises. They were disappointed and so many of them have revolted. Therefore Mr. Menzies and his supporters call them communists and disruptionists. Only a few years ago these men were the “ rats of Tobruk “ and the heroes who struggled over the Kokoda trail. Now that they are out of uniform and involved in industrial disputes, the anti-Labour forces call them destroyers instead of saviours of the nation. When Mr. Menzies made his glorious promises, he knew that many of the soldiers had had no jobs before the war and had been homeless. They had been “shoved about “ by various anti-Labour administrations, and nothing had been done to give them security. No pretty pictures of the future had been painted for them before 1939. Now honorable senators opposite talk about establishing a permanent army and introducing universal military training.
I am confident that this Government will do all that is necessary to assist in maintaining peace in the world and, until such time as nations become wise enough to use their skill for the benefit of humanity instead of for war, it will maintain adequate armed forces in the Commonwealth. Australia has made little economic progress in recent years. For a long time our population has remained near the seven million mark. This is a sad state of affairs. During the depression years women wept in their misery and said, “ We will not bring any more children into this world if this is the best that can be given them “. I have heard mothers say that they would not rear more children to be used as gunfodder. The thought of her children being destroyed by a military machine put the fear of God into a mother’s heart. Mothers are the most important persons in this nation. We must remove from them the fear that their sons will grow to manhood only to be hurled into the horrors of a modern war.I quote these words from the United Nations Charter for the benefit of honorable senators opposite -
We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can bc maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.
Every member of this Parliament and every other Australian would do well to adopt that declaration and strive always for peace in the world. This Government will do everything possible to assure the maintenance of peace.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), Senator James McLachlan, and other honorable senators opposite are anxious to know when the Government will become a signatory to the Bretton Woods Agreement. They are becoming anxious because they have only a few months left in which to serve the ends of the people whom they represent in this chamber. It would be to the advantage of the international high financiers for Australia to subscribe to that agreement. I hope that the Government will never give effect to the terms of the Bretton Woods Agreement. Australia has a unique institution, the Commonwealth Bank, which was established by a Labour government. The activities of this institution were considerably restricted by those people who now want the Government to sign on the dotted line and become a partner to the Bretton Woods Agreement. However, a Labour government unshackled -the Commonwealth Bank. Australia is the only country which has its own bank. Australia has an extremely good climate, which varies from extreme heat to extreme cold. We are now producing most of the things we require, and we are capable of producing all of them. It may be said that this country does not contain flow oil, but I have no doubt that, if unfettered opportunities were given for a systematic search for oil in Australia, it would be discovered. When I returned from World War I., motor cars were not numerous, but at present motor traffic is so dense in the capital cities that driving has become difficult and it is hard to find parking places even in country towns. Personally I think it unnecessary to have any anxiety as to whether flow oil will ever be discovered in Australia, because a few years hence, in all probability, atomic energy will be used for transport purposes. Then this country will be independent of international financial rings that may try to restrict its development. I hope that the need will never arise for Australia to decide whether it should accept such an arrangement as the Bretton Woods Agreement. “ In a recent report to this Parliament, the Broadcasting Committee recommended the adoption of a new system of broadcasting. It referred to the desirability of introducing frequency modulation. The Postmaster-General’s Department has made certain move3 in the matter, but these have not been so rapid as one would have hoped. The early introduction of frequency modulation would be of great value to the working classes. The radio industry could easily manufacture receiving sets suitable for both frequency modulation and amplitude modulation. Unfortunately, the industry advertises, in the newspapers and over the air, receiving sets containing components manufactured prior to 1939, and tells the workers that it has a full supply of 1946 radio sets. These are being sold to-day at a price many pounds higher than those on the market in the United States of America capable of dealing with the frequency modulation band and the amplitude modulation band. The committee has evidence that sets containing those two selective bands are sold in America at a price equivalent in Australian currency to £18, yet in any shop window in Australia so-called up-to-date sets are priced at £25, £29 and £30.
The statement has been made that, if the commercial broadcasting stations were equipped with a greater power output, much of the trouble now experienced from statics would be eliminated, but I contend that when a thunderstorm is in progress trouble will be experienced from statics irrespective of whether the power output of the station be 100 watts, 2,000 watts, or 10,000 watts. I believe that this fault with electrical microphones will never be overcome until frequency modulation is introduced. Every effort should be made to have these modern receiving sets constructed in Australia, and the necessary transmitting stations erected. Both the frequency modulation and the amplitude modulation bands could be served by the same programme from one studio. It would be unnecessary for the working man to buy a receiving set covering the two bands. The present radio sets would not be made obsolete, but those who wish to purchase new sets embodying the latest radio developments should have an opportunity to do so.
Another recommendation by the’ Broadcasting Committee related to the adoption of television. It urged that tenders should be called for the production in Australia of television apparatus. I have always considered that improvements found satisfactory in other countries should be promptly adopted in Australia. Television marks a great advance in the amenities and enjoyment of the people. Some difficulty might be experienced in providing television equipment in Australia, because of the Empire trade preference arrangements, but we should not be greatly concerned whether we adopt the British or the American system of television. An Australian standard should be determined, and I believe that the people of this country would be satisfied with black and white rather than coloured pictures. A standard once having been fixed it should be adopted for ten years, and legislation should be enacted to prevent an alteration of the standard, as that would involve the workers in the purchase of new radio sets. Ten years is considered to be the normal life of such a set.
A great deal of crime is committed throughout Australia. Almost daily we read in the press of criminal acts, particularly by the younger members of society.’ This is not less than we may expect, because every night when we listen to radio programmes we hear of murders, or of detectives beating up people. Programmes are punctuated by screams, and the children have no alternative but to listen to stories of crime. Surely our people should live on a higher plane. Many Australians are anxious to become actors and have all thetalents demanded of stage performers, but there is no place for them in the present radio programmes. The picture theatreshave an unfettered right to display whatever films they desire, irrespective of their quality. Some pictures are advertised assuitable for general exhibition and others as not. The theatre proprietors usually show on every programme one picturewhich is suitable for general exhibition and one that is not. If on any night there happen to be two pictures fit for genera] exhibition, the management usually crams ‘ in some shorts showingpictures to be screened in the followingweek. Thus they are sure to include unsavoury features in every programme. The theatre proprietor should be compelled to indicate prominently above theoutdoor signs relating to their shows whether the films are suitable for general exhibition, so that parents will have no doubt as to the nature of the programmes which they and their children pay to see. It is of no use merely to say that the number of murders committed by young people is tragic. We should do something about it. We should prevent picture theatre proprietors from thinking more of their purse than of public service. I admit that these matters we not mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech, but I have thought it proper to draw attention to them. The time has come for action to be taken to raise the standards of radio broadcasts and motion pictures. Most of the pictures which are shown in our theatres come from the United States of America and are, I understand, prepared for audiences with the mentality of a child of six years of age. Something of a higher standard than that should be presented to Australian audiences. There is talk of developing the film industry in this country, and I sincerely trust that it starts off on right lines. Australia provides plenty of scope for the making of excellent pictures, and it is a disgrace that pictures which tend to destroy the morals of the people, and have a deleterious effect on the minds of young people, should be shown so regularly. When we consider the wealth controlled by radio stations, there is no justification for the broadcasting of poor programmes.
It is tragic to hear in almost every home the sound of shooting, squeals, and screams, emanating from radio sets. I hope that something will he done along the lines that I have indicated.
.- T. had hoped that in this, the last session during which I shall be a member of the Senate, I should hear a GovernorGeneral’s Speech which contained something of interest, but I have been disappointed. Next year “ the glory will have departed from Israel,” and there will then be few honorable senators to contradict the assertions made by Ministers and Government supporters. For instance, there will be little or no opportunity to contradict the assertion of the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) that the United States of America is more than 100 per cent, self-contained. Nor will there be any one here to tell Senator Tangney that the building of ships in Australia at three times the peace-time cost in other countries will cause many transport difficulties and higher living costs. There will be few Opposition members to reveal the fallacies expressed so freely by Government supporters. Senator Amour has told us that, because the Government has taken over the control of the banking system, conditions will be better in the future, but the PostmasterGeneral still accuses private interests of manipulating the currency in their own favour. Those claims are contradictory, but. it will be left to Senator Cooper and two colleagues to draw attention to such things.
– A similar state of affairs has existed in the Senate before.
– That is true, but there was then some criticism of the Government’s programme by its own supporters. Unfortunately, we cannot hope for a repetition of such criticism in the future, because Labour supporters are not allowed to criticize proposals emanating from the Labour Government. To do so would be to incur the displeasure of the party, and be condemned to political oblivion. It is dangerous for a supporter of the Labour party to say that a comma is in the wrong place in any proposal of his party. The Postmaster-General said that everything would be all right if we were working under peace-time conditions.
– I said that, in such circumstances, the Government could do a lot more.
– The PostmasterGeneral does not seem to know that the war has been over for over a year. What does he mean when he refers to peace-time conditions? There is room for improvement in the department of which he is Minister. During the last month I have had two instances of delays of ten days and over in delivering in Melbourne parcels from. Western Australia. They were properly addressed. The Minister should not deceive himself by saying that everything is all right. Everything is not all right.
– Things will be all right.
– When the ranks of the Opposition become thinned after June next it will be possible for Government supporters in this chamber to indulge freely in clap-trap. In their homes, the people will then be able to listen spellbound to Senator Amour, or the PostmasterGeneral; and, in the absence of any criticism from the Opposition, some of them will be inclined to say that what they have said is right. The Senate will be a dull place after next June. In my opinion, the worst thing that ever happened to the Labour party was the recent voting for the Senate, because the result will be that supporters of the Government will have no one to contradict them and keep them alert.
– Senator Cooper will be here.
– I have no doubt that Senator Cooper will do a good job, but the task which will confront him will call for a superhuman effort. Instead of the Senate being a chamber in which national issues are debated, it will become a place in which honorable senators will merely ‘ praise one another’s speeches. During the last few days I have heard Senator Tangney and Senator Devlin complimented on their speeches in this chamber. I do not wish to detract in any way from the praise that is their due; but, instead of praising them, I feel disposed to sympathize with them because of the poor material that they had to paint. No amount of glamorizing, no paint, powder or lipstick, can make anything attractive out of the Speech.
– The honorable senator is devoid of chivalry.
– The Speech is mutton dressed up as lamb. I hope that Senator Tangney is not taking these remarks as personal. I sympathize with her in the difficult task which she so eloquently performed. She realized that she could not make anything of it, and so site scarcely referred to the Speech at all. Beyond some praise of the GovernorGeneral, in which I join, there was not a great deal in the speech of Senator Devlin. I hope that he will make many better speeches as a member of the Senate. The Speech before us is merely a reflex of speeches made by Government candidates during the recent election campaign. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) told the electors that his Government was prepared to be judged on its record, but we have in this chamber a Minister who does not know that the war ended nearly eighteen months ago. I am not astonished that there is so little in the Speech, because the Labour party has never had a constructive policy. It has always done best when criticizing the policy of others. The Labour party has never built anything, but it has pulled down many things. At times, its criticism has been valuable, because previous governments have been prepared to listen to Labour critics and to amend their programmes if they regarded the criticism as sound. But the role of the Labour party always has been the role of the axeman. It cheerfully cuts down a tree of many generations of growth, just because it thinks the tree ought to be cut down no matter how old, or valuable, it may be. Then that party leaves the stump and branches lying about in a mess. The difference between the Labour party and the Communist party is that .the Communist party is not content that the tree should be cut down. That party “ blows “ up the lot, and sets about destroying even the land on which the shadow of the tree fell. The Communist party goes farther than the Labour party. Some days ago, when listen ing to the debate in the House of Representatives, I heard an old, prominent member of the Labour party, who still claims to be a Labour man, criticize that party ; and in the face of his criticism Ministers and their supporters gasped for breath. The theme of his speech was that the Labour party had departed from the real Labour programme. Repeatedly, he said, “ I am justified in asking where is the Labour party ? “ There was no answer. No one knows where the Labour party is; and that question is not answered in the Governor-General’s Speech. As I have said, no Minister replied to that strong indictment. But the honorable gentleman was absurdly wrong. The Labour party has not departed from its policy. However, Ministers and their colleagues were so flabbergasted that they were incapable of replying to his clever and strong indictment.
– -He had the wrong bait on the hook.
– I do not know; all I know is that he was not endeavouring to help the Liberal party. Repeatedly he asked, “ Where is the Labour party? “ and again in the Governor-General’s Speech echo answers, “ Where is the Labour party ? “.
– I wonder.
– And I wonder, also. I cannot recall anything good that the Labour party has done except that it has appointed Senator Courtice as Minister for Trade and Customs and Senator Armstrong as Minister for Munitions. What Senator Armstrong is going to do as Minister for Munitions I cannot say, because, this country, I remind honorable senators, is not at war and has not been at war for some considerable time, despite the obsession of the PostmasterGeneral on that point. Although the previous Minister for Munitions controlled several other departments as well as that of Munitions, Senator Armstrong is to deal solely with munitions. The Governor-General’s Speech states -
As a part of British Commonwealth defence policy, Australia will undertake an important role in defence production and supply. Steps will be taken to establish a defence production commission which will be responsible for the production activities of the Commonwealth. i presume that the Government intends to set up that defence production commission over the new Minister’s head. What the commission will produce besides munitions I do not know. Theref ore, I ask what will Senator Armstrong do as Minister for Munitions. What is he going to “ munish “ ? I am puzzled at the appointment of an individual Ministry of Munitions, and I am still more puzzled when the Government now proposes to set up a commission to produce munitions, thereby taking the new Minister’s job from him. Either the Government does not trust the new Minister, or it intends to give him even a lighter job than it seems possible for any Government to give to a Minister. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers . were presented : -
Autralian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals - Reports for year 1945-4S.
Senate adjourned at 9.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 November 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19461114_senate_18_189/>.