18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. Bardon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Some time ago, Mr.
President, I asked you a question with relation to the ‘broadcasting of proceedings in the Senate, and I then requested that «n endeavour be made to arrange for the ^announcement of the names of intending speakers, say, two or three ahead. I made that suggestion with the object of meeting the convenience of the listening public, sand I have since been asked what decision ‘ lias been made in -the matter. Many people still consider that it would be a great advantage to announce in advance the names of the next two, or three, honorable senators who intend to speak in a debate. Has any decision been made in this matter?
– Whenever I am asked a question in the Senate, I point out that it is not usual for the President to answer questions. However, as I am a member of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee and this matter has come to my notice as a member of that body, I shall answer the honorable senator’s question. Up to the present it has not been thought fit to arrange for the announcement in advance of the names of speakers. In the Senate it would be comparatively easy to do so, because, in respect of many debates in this chamber, a roster of honorable senators who intend to speak is drawn up. However, a roster is not always drawn up, and, consequently, it would not be possible at all times to announce in advance the names of those who intend to speak. On the other hand, the position is somewhat different in the House of Representatives. There, Mr. Speaker announces only the name of the constituency represented by the particular member who receives the call, whereas in this chamber I announce the name of the honorable senator who gets the call, and, therefore, the listening public knows which honorable senator is about to speak. I shall give further consideration to the honorable senator’s request
– As I and thousands of other people are dissatisfied with the quality of the tea at present being im ported into Australia, and as the Commonwealth provides a subsidy in order to stabilize the price of tea, will the Minister for Trade , and Customs make provision for periodical tests of the quality of tea distributed -to the Australian people?
– This matter has engaged my Attention for some time. The honorable, senator communicated with me on the subject about four weeks ago. I do not know what methods are used to determine the quality of tea, or how tea is blended. However, the Department of Trade and Customs will test the quality of any sample of tea supplied to it by any person with the object of having such a test made. So far as I know, complaints of the kind mentioned by the honorable senator are not very general. We hear, of course, the saying that the tea being sold to-day is not so good as it used to be. That may be so, because we are experiencing great difficulty in maintaining supplies. I suggest that the honorable senator would assist the department in this matter if he- furnished samples of tea for analysis.
– I understand that several grades of tea are sold to the public at different .prices, but I am informed reliably that these grades all come from the one chest.. Will the Minister have an investigation made to ascertain whether this information is correct and what method is used in blending tea in Australia?
– The distribution of tea is entirely in the hands of the merchants. It is effected on a merchanttomerchant basis, as was the case before the war. The Government has no special control over tea supplies. There is a Tea Control Board, of course, which endeavours to assist in maintaining sufficient supplies of tea to satisfy the requirements of the people. The blending .of tea is entirely a matter for the merchants who handle it. However, if an inferior quality tea iB being marketed, the Government has a responsibility; in the interests of the people, to ensure that it shall measure up to the usual standard. If the honorable senator or anybody else will supply samples of tea to the Department of Trade and Customs, they will be analysed with a view to protecting the interests of the public.
Aircraft Spark Plugs
SenatorCOOPEE. - I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether it is a fact that instructions have been given that all material declared by the army authorities to be surplus to requirements shall be sold at public auction? Is it a fact that recently 52,000 aircraft spark plugs were purchased privately at a price of £1 a thousand from the army stores contrary to that order ? If so, what action has been taken to prevent a recurrence of conduct of that kind ?
– It is not correct to say that instructions have been issued by the Government that all army surplus stores shall be disposed of at public auction. I anticipated that a question would be asked in respect of this matter because it has been the subject of a report in the press; and the Opposition invariably fastens upon any report of a sensational nature and raises the subject in the Parliament. It is true that approximately 50,000 spark plugs were sold to an aircraft accessory firm at £1 a thousand. Those plugs, which were badly corroded and were of no use whatever to theRoyal Australian Air Force, had been passed by theRoyal Australian Air Force to the Aircraft Salvage Depot. They were offered to spark plug manufacturers and distributors, but no offer could be obtained. Having in mind previous efforts to sell plugs of similar type, the price of £1 a thousand was considered to be good. A further quantity of 27,000 plugs from the same batch and from the same salvage depot was disposed of at public auction, and realized less than 3s. a thousand.
SenatorMURRAY. - In view of reports in the Tasmanian press that the Bass Strait steamerNairana will not again be on the run to Tasmania for a long time, if ever, and as the only existing passenger link between Tasmania and the mainland by sea is SS. Taroona, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping give consideration to the reintroduction of a passenger shipping service from Hobart to Sydney similar to that maintained by Ormiston during the last tourist season ?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable senator’s request, and I shall provide him with a reply to his question within a few days.
Reconstruction Training Scheme:
– I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Post-warReconstruction to a report in last night’s Melbourne Herald stating that some State branches of theReturned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia have indicated that servicemen entitled to reconstruction training are drifting into dead-end jobs because it may be years before they are called up for these classes. If that is true, will the Minister take some steps to rectify the position?
SenatorMcKENNA. - I have not seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred, but if it is in the terms mentioned, I doubt its accuracy. I shall take the matter up with the Minister for Post-warReconstruction, and, if the position is as indicated, I am sure that immediate steps will be taken to rectify it.
Galvanized Iron - Cornsacks
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply and Shipping been drawn to reports regarding the urgent need for galvanized iron to cover bagged wheat at railway sidings, and for other uses to save the forthcoming wheat harvest? If so, can the Minister state whether the Government is doing anything to meet the situation, and also, what action, if any, is being taken to meet the serious shortages of bags for this and other crops?
– I have noticed in the press lately some reports - occasionally in hysterical terms - in regard to the shortage of cornsacks. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that a greater quantity of jute is being imported from India to-day than ever before in the history of this country. A substantial extra demand for bags has been caused by the unusually heavy wheat yield that now seems certain. Although that is a responsibility of the States, this Government, realizing nine months ago the position that would arise, sent a mission to India for the specific purpose of obtaining more jute goods, particularly chaff bags, cornsacks, woolpacks, &c, and additional supplies of these commodities were obtained. The record importation of jute from India has been due to the efforts of this Government. However, the initial responsibility lies with the States and with the Australian “Wheat Board, and I have no doubt that adequate steps are being taken by these authorities. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture stated in the House of Representatives recently that every precaution had been taken to ensure that ample supplies of bags would be available. In regard to sheet iron and other covering materials for wheat, allocations have been made to the various States. Certain shipping difficulties were encountered, but they have been overcome and I expect that all supplies allocated, not only of sheet iron, but also other products, will be transported to all States within the next month.
– Before the war, I understand, supplies of tinplate were obtained from Great Britain, and, after the outbreak of war, from the United States of America. I am informed now by certain interested people that a fear exists that, because of the difficulty in procuring tinplate, foodstuffs such as fruit and vegetables, usually canned, will be wasted. Can the Minister for .Supply and Shipping inform the Senate of the actual position -regarding tinplate for canning purposes, and indicate whether the fear that I have mentioned is warranted ?
– During the war, tinplate was a controlled commodity, and when supplies arrived from the United States of America or Great Britain, allocations were determined by a special authority. This control was removed after the war, but the supply of tinplate remained so acute that the Government decided, at the request of manufacturing interests, to re-impose the control. Missions have been sent to the United States of America and to Great Britain in an endeavour to secure increased supplies of tinplate for Australia. They have been successful to a degree but not to such a degree as to enable the full requirements of industry to be satisfied. However, I am confident that the position will improve at a later date as the result of the activities of these missions. I am not in a position to state exact figures offhand, but I shall be glad to obtain the information sought by the honorable senator and supply it to him.
Motion (by Senator Clothier) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Finlay on account of ill health.
– In view of the necessity for conserving dollars and the fact that petrol rationing must be maintained, can the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the Senate whether it is true, as reported, that motor vehicles with amplifiers attached have been or are still being driven about the City of Perth for the purpose of exhorting the public to demand a referendum? If the Minister is not aware of this allegation, will he have inquiries made?
– I am not aware that motor vehicles are being used for the purpose of demanding a referendum.
L suppose that the Australian Labour party, if it wished to demand a referendum for a certain purpose and could secure sufficient petrol, would do likewise. However, indications are that the petrol supply position will not improve owing to the dollar shortage, and any waste of petrol now will not help the future situation. I shall certainly have inquiries made, because I have asked officers of the Department of Supply and Shipping to exert every effort to prevent wastage of petrol. I have also appealed to the public on similar lines so that as little inconvenience as possible will be caused to people who use petrol, whether for private purposes, business reasons, or for the maintenance of essential services. It is imperative that petrol should not be wasted at present. If it is wasted, I assure the Senate that there will be even more drastic restrictions in future.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether any consideration has been given to the position of invalids aged between 16 and 21 years. To particularize, a person aged sixteen years, who has been invalided since birth by spastic paralysis and whose parents are in receipt of a total income of £8 a week, is, by virtue of that family income, deemed to be ineligible for the invalid pension until he reaches the age of 21 years. Would such a youth be considered to be eligible for sickness or unemployment benefits during the intervening years? The costs of his maintenance and medical attention impose a severe drain upon the family’s resources.
– Consideration was recently given to the situation of invalids whose parents are in a position to maintain them adequately. As the honorable senator will know, it was then decided to remove the requirement in relation to people over the age of 21 years. With regard to the case mentioned by the honorable senator, I point out that, if a person whose parents are able to maintain him adequately is per manently disabled, unemployment benefit would not be payable for the reason that the invalid has not lost any employment. Sickness benefit would not be payable for the reason that there has been no loss of income. In the case instanced, there would be no real hardship, because there is at least some responsibility upon the parents to provide for the maintenance of their child. It may be that this case could be met by way of special benefit. I shall consider the implications of the honorable senator’s question, and if I am able to make a suggestion that might help the case in question I shall be glad to do so.
Production: Miners’ Annual Holiday - Distribution
– Has the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen a report in yesterday’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald that coal-field strikes have so crippled production that the only alternative to a “ black Christmas “ in Australia would be for the miners to forgo their annual three weeks’ holiday, which is due to begin on the 20th December ? Is it a fact that the Coal Industry Tribunal has power to direct mine workers not to take their holiday? In view of the seriousness of the position disclosed by the newspaper article, will the Minister immediately have investigations made into coal production and take such action as is necessary to overcome the present lag?
– There have been so many scare stories in the press recently - a circumstance which as not unusual - that I have not been able to keep track of all of them. My attention has not been drawn to the particular one referred to by the honorable senator. I know that the coal position has caused some concern to the Joint Coal Board, which has the power to determine whether or not holidays shall be granted to the miners. But I know also that, if this country did not have so many “knockers” and calamity forecasters and howlers, it would probably be in a much better position than it is in to-day.
Frequently, because of some dispute which might be justified, great head-lines are published in the press. I point out to the Senate and to Australia that the coal production position is much better now than it was last year. There has been increased consumption of coal. Because of the expansion of industry and the general prosperity of the country, there is now a much greater demand for coal. I feel confident that the Joint Coal Board, which was established by this Government in co-operation with the Government of New South Wales, will do a great deal to increase production of coal and to provide better living conditions for coal-miners, a reform which is long overdue. When a satisfactory improvement has been effected in the conditions ofcoal-miner I feel sure that we shall obtain greater production. Officials of the miners’ federation are to-day exhorting their members to. produce more coal, and this demonstrates that the Joint Coal Board possesses the confidence of the miners, and as soon as that feeling of confidence spreads to the rank and file, the country will obtain the benefit of even greater production.
SenatorBEERWORTH. - Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the Senate of the quantity of coal produced and consumed during the 42 weeks ended the 18th October, 1947, as compared with the quantity produced and consumed during the similar period last year? What additional quantity of coal was received by South Australia as the result of any increase of production?
– I cannot supply the figures offhand, but I can assure the honorable senator that there has been a greater production of coal this year than there was during the corresponding period last year, and consumption has also been much greater. If he will place the last part of his question on the noticepaper, I shall obtain the information desired.
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
No Maitland coal is used by the steel industry for coking purposes, but a small amount is used for gas making. As a longterm policy, the Government and the Joint Coal Board hopes to be able to conserve our resources of high-grade Maitland coal and to confine its use to that purpose for which it is best suited, i.e. gas making. However, at the present time, the general shortage of coal supplies requires that Maitland coal should be used for a variety of purposes including ordinary steam raising and locomotive consumption. In these circumstances Maitland and other coals are distributed to their best advantage fromtime to time and shipments exported to other States include a proportion of Maitland coal, some of which is allocated by State Coal Committees to the State railway systems.
SenatorCRITCHLEY. - Can the
Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing inform me: 1. How many applications for war service homes have been received by the War Services Homes Commission in South Australia since the 1st July, 1945 ? 2. How many of those applications have been approved ? 3. What number of homes have been completed and occupied since that date? 4. What is the term of repayment and the rate of interest charged ?
SenatorARMSTRONG. - Later I shall furnish answers to similar questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition, and I shall arrange for additional information to be included in the reply to cover the questions asked by the honorable senator.
SenatorCOOPER asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
What was the total number of applications for assistance under the War Service
Homes Actfor each State of the Commonwealth from the inception of the scheme to the 30th June. 1947?
How many of such applications in each State still remain unsatisfied?
How many applications were received in eachState for the year ended the 30th June, 1947?
How many of such applications were approved ?
How many homes were placed under construction in each State during the year ended the 30th June., 1947?
How many homes in each State were still under- construction at the 30th June, 1947?
How many homes in each. State were commenced and completed during the year ended the 30th June, 1947?
How many homes in each State were (a) completed, and (b.) purchased during the year ended the 30th June, 1947?
– The Minister for Works, and Housing has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minis ter for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Post master-General, upon notice - ‘
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Pictures and Furnishings
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
The representations made in regard to pictures and frames will, however, be noted for consideration when the sales tax law is next under review.
Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The Ministerfor Works and Housing has supplied the following answers: -
Standardization of Gauges
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice - 1.In connexion with the standardization of railways, has the State Government of
Western Australia made any further representations to the Minister, with a view .to that State becoming a party to the CommonwealthState agreement?
– The Minister for Transport has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers : -
– I have received a letter from the Leader of the Senate nominating, in accordance with Standing Order 36a, Senator Cooke and Senator Katz to be members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee in place of Senator Large and Senator Tangney. I have also’ received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate nominating, in accordance with the same standing order, Senator
O’sullivan and Senator Rankin to fill vacancies existing on the committee.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senators Large and Tangney be digcharged from attendance on the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, and that Senators Cooke, Katz, O’sullivan and Rankin, having been duly nominated in accordance with the provisions of Standing Order 36a, be appointed to fill the vacancies on the committee.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senators Collings and Nash be discharged from attendance on the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 38, I hereby appoint Senator Cooper, Senator Harris, Senator Nicholls, Senator O’Sullivan and Senator Rankin to be members of the Disputed Returns and Qualifications Committee fo fill vacancies on the committee.
– by leave - On the 15th October, Senator Critchley asked a question relating to the registration of hospitals in South Australia under the Hospital Benefits (Private Hospitals) Regulations. He also made reference to this matter in his speech in this chamber on Friday, the 17th October, and pointed out that patients entering non-approved private hospitals were being denied the benefits available under the scheme. I am now able to advise the Senate that the position as at the 1st October, 1947, reveals a satisfactory situation in the majority of States.
In South Australia only four eligible private hospitals, with a total of 25 beds, are still not approved. In Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, all eligible private hospitals are approved. Queensland has two eligible private hospitals which have not yet joined the scheme. In
Victoria eleven eligible private hospitals are not approved, representing only 4.8 per cent, of the total number eligible in that State. The position in New South Wales is, unfortunately, not as satisfactory as in the other States. Of 327 eligible private hospitals in this State, 261 are approved and 66 have not applied for approval. As the result of special efforts made by officers of the Department of Health, a vast improvement has been made in the position in New South Wales in the last six months. Efforts to induce proprietors who have not yet sought approval to do so are being continued. It is hoped that all eligible private hospitals in Australia will presently become approved and so permit their patients to enjoy the benefits which the Government intended they should receive. I record lily appreciation of the action of proprietors of all private hospitals which are approved under the scheme, in cooperating with the Government in this matter, having regard to their many difficulties, particularly in relation to staff shortages.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The motion for the first reading of an Appropriation Bill in the Senate affords the opportunity to honorable senators to discuss any aspect of administration which they may desire to raise; and that practice is invariably followed in this chamber. However, on this occasion I did not take advantage of that opportunity, because I had no desire to cover the ground which I dealt with fully in my speech on the motion for the printing of the Budget Papers last week.’ I rise at this juncture in order to acquaint my colleagues of the procedure in considering an appropriation measure in the Senate. On the motion for the first reading, they may discuss at length, any aspect of administration which they may desire to raise, whereas only such matters as are covered specifically in the measure, can be raised at a later stage.
Senator RANKIN (Queensland) 1 3.56]. - I rise to make my initial speech in this chamber with a feeling blended of pride and humility - pride, because of the honour of senatorship that has been conferred upon me by the people of Queensland, my native State; and humility in the knowledge that every member of the National Parliament will need strength and divine guidance in the’ tasks that lie ahead of all of them. I come to the Senate by the grace of, not only women, but also fathers, husbands and sons who have seen fit to combine with women to elect me to this chamber. It will, therefore, be my purpose to work in the Senate and throughout the electorate for all regardless of sex, creed or party, in order to make Australia the glorious land it is destined to be. I hope that I shall be able to contribute something constructive to the work of the Parliament, and do so in a way befitting the dignity of this great parliamentary institution. I realize that there will always be clear and sometimes vigorous differences of opinion. In honest criticism and in debate I do -not expect to be given any concession because of the fact that I am a woman. Politics is politics; and I realize that, on entering this sphere, I must be prepared to accept the full responsibilities, no less than exercise the privileges, of political life.
The opportunity will arise for me to express my opinion on particular topics ; but I believe that, to-day, I should invite honorable senators to pause in the midst of the political tumult, lift their eyes above the mists, and try to see for themselves where Australia is heading. It seems to me, a woman with no pretensions to being seer or prophet, that first things are being forgotten and progress arrested, while Those in power indulge their passion. for political and economic experiments that are highly dangerous. “What Australia should be concentrating on now after the sharp lessons of 1941 and afterwards, are the problems of population and development, and the provision of adequate defences for this land. But where is even any sign that we are strengthening our hold on this island continent? Surely, no one can be satisfied with the manner in which world events are shaping. Are there any among us who feel assured of a lasting ‘peace? Where is the forming of even a feeble insurance that in any possible future conflict involving a weakened Britain in Europe, and in which the United States of America might be locked with some enemy in the north Pacific, Australia shall not be left to face without sufficient aid the menace of an awakened and a racially hostile Asia? In that bleak day, if ever that day should dawn, the bolstered economy of a handful of people living on the fat of this continent will avail us nothing; guaranteed wages, or a 40-hour week, will have been a mockery and White Australia will have served only as a taunt and a provocation to those who would conquer us.
We can hold this empty land in a crowded and hungry world only if we are worthy to hold it, and strong enough to hold it. In the presence of this quickening dread, what are our leaders doing? Instead of attending to first things first, they are, spending their energies in tinkering with the nation’s economic system, making worse the confusion of a people who have not yet tasted the real fruits of a peace so dearly purchased by the lives and sufferings of brave men and women. I saw something of the tremendous sacrifice made for this grand country by its young patriots in war; and one of the saddest thoughts that bears upon me to-day is that the ambitions and follies of a few people may endanger our wonderful heritage and make vain the noble sacrifice of Australia’s heroic dead. While T am permitted to serve in the Senate, it shall be my unswerving purpose to see that tho rights of those who fought for this country, and the rights of their dear ones, are maintained, and that the generosity of the nation in recognition of their service shall, where possible, be widened.
I made it clear at the outset of my remarks that I do not regard myself as representing only the women of the electorate. However, I believe that at times it will be necessary to assert the rights and express the viewpoint of those for whom there is no such thing as organized unionism, no such thing as pressure politics or a 40-hour week - the homemakers, particularly those in the lonely places of Australia. For that reason I feel that there is a strong womanly bond between myself and the honorable senator from Western Australia, who has the distinction of being the first woman ever to become a member of the Senate. There are things that transcend party politics, and Senator Tangney may be sure that in anything designed to help the women of Australia, or the children who are their care, she can count upon my ready and sincere interest.
I propose to direct this, my first speech in this august chamber, to an earnest appeal to the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) for greater consideration and better services for the women of Australia. This mammoth department, in many governments controlled by a Minister from this chamber, touches closely the lives and well-being of every man and woman of the Commonwealth. If the unit of society is the home; and we all admit that it is, then the home life of this society, its happiness, comfort, unity and influence, are all bound up in the services rendered by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. If the wife and mother are to enjoy enduring family love, the quiet satisfactions of long sustained friendships, and the comfort of social contacts, .then they must use, and use largely, the services of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. If they are to feel adequately protected against emergency, accident and sickness, then it will be because of the communication services provided by the PostmasterGeneral. Nothing has done more to alleviate the loneliness of the outback than the postal services. These services are so interwoven with the texture of the daily lives of our women that they are necessities, not luxuries. What a pity it is, then, that so little has been done to enlarge and develop the PostmasterGeneral’s services in their application to the home, and to encourage their use by the women to whom they mean so much. Obviously, it is not a question of money.
One of the first things that I did on arriving at Canberra was to ask for a copy of the Postmaster-General’s Department’s annual report. I was given one covering the department’s operations to the 30th June, 1945, and this is October, 1947 - more than two years later. When I pressed for a later report, [ was informed that that was the latest available. An examination disclosed that it was tabled in November, 1946, and printed in March, 1947. Therefore, I was compelled to accept that the report was in fact the latest, and that the department was two years in arrears. I venture to express the hope that in the event of the operations of the Commonwealth Bank increasing largely in the near future, there will be no temptation for that organization to follow the example of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and to present reports two years late. Can I urge the PostmasterGeneral to bring the departmental reports up to date ? We all realize what a burden the war threw on the postal staff, and we have some knowledge of the problems that the expansion programme of the post-war years has involved ; but it would be more in keeping with the ideals of democracy, and of parliamentary control, if the reports upon which votes are cast were less than two years old, and debates based upon up-to-date information. After all, if the Postmaster-General’s Department were conducted by private enterprise, the law would compel the presentation of a balance-sheet once a year, and one much less than two years late.
However, the details in this belated report confirm my assertion that it is not because of money that the department has not catered adequately for the women of Australia. The postal section discloses a profit of £2,500,000, after meeting interest and depreciation charges - surely a magnificent profit, but also one so magnificent that it plainly indicates unnecessarily high charges. Undoubtedly members of this chamber have often heard the statement that private businesses charge as much as possible for as little as possible, whilst the government enterprises charge as little as possible for as much as can be given. But if ever there was an example of charging as much as possible, it is in this section. The net profits reported were more than 20 per cent, of the turnover ! Truly a grand example of high charges; and this is the section that handles the mail. If a letter is written by a mother to her child or by a husband to his wife, the postage stamp of 2½d. shows the department a profit of ½d. It is true that there have been proposals to send all firstclass mail by air, but doubtless there will be ‘ some charges added to this 2-Jd. to cover the added cost. Who will benefit most by this ? Obviously business houses and the Government itself. I commend to the Postmaster-General that he should consider the women of Australia, the wives, the mothers, and the sweethearts who comprise 50 per cent, of our population, and set the whole world an example by creating a new class of mail - the “ family “ and “ social “ letter. The Postmaster-General could well afford to carry such letters for a minimum charge of Id. or lid. or whatever the minimum might be from time to time. Itwould do much to encourage the use of the mail services, to maintain family love and friendly associations, and would make a valuable contribution to the family as the basic unit of our social life. The department could afford it. A profit of £2,500,000 per annum, would not be seriously depleted by a concession such as this.
Then there is the telephone section - another £3,000,000 profit! It i« a profit of which any department might be proud; almost dazzling in its magnificence. But is it not the result of charging as much as possible for as little as possible? Nothing contributes -more to the comfort, convenience and safety of the home, than the telephone. Nothing saves more time, nothing saves more worry. The only reason every home is not equipped with a telephone in normal times is its expense - the present shortage of instruments is, I hope, a passing phase. Yet these figures plainly indicate that the present expense is unjustified. On the same basis as my previous submission, [ urge the Postmaster-General to give close and careful consideration to the provision of telephones in the home at greatly reduced charges. A low charge, say about 10s. for installation, and 10s. rental for a half year, would bring the convenience and the comfort of a telephone into hundreds of thousands of Australian homes, and on the basis of the profits disclosed in this report, the department could well afford to accept the reduced profit until additional subscribers restored the revenue to its present figure, and even higher. A telephone for every home should be the objective of the department and a rental charge of 10s. or some similar amount, would bring this objective appreciably near accomplishment. I look forward to the day when a telephone will be installed in every home just as a city’s water is provided where reticulation exists.
Then there is the telegraph section, and again what a lucrative business! The profit made by this section was £1,000,000. How grandly this reads ; but vh at does this section do for the home, for the mother, for the wife, or the family? We have full-rate cables, deferred cables, daily letter cables and so on - all kinds of rates for cables. But what special rates have we for telegrams ? Only the lettergram, and then only from a limited number of post offices. Surely the family require special consideration here too. I suggest that the PostmasterGenera] should give consideration to the institution of special “ family “ and “ social “ telegrams at a special rate, say, 8d. for twelve words, or a similar amount What a -boon such a privilege would be! The extra traffic this would bring to the Department would he measurable year by year, but the comfort it would give to wives and mothers would be too great to be measured. I am quite aware that the question will he raised of how much all this would cost, but may I again point out that, during the year under review, the Department made a profit exceeding £6,000,000, and that it has been making large profits consistently for years? It can well afford to reduce its charges to provide the special facilities that the women of Australia deserve and have earned. Of course, the fact that the department has been making thesehuge profits, may not have challenged attention because of a policy that I cannot trace having ever been debated in this chamber. I refer to the policy of each year investing large sums out of revenue in capital works. I am sure that aD honorable senators will agree that little or no fault can be found with the policy of re-investing the amount of depreciation in the department each year, but I do not agree with the policy of levying high charges in order to make large profits to be re-invested in the department. Capital outlay should be provided from loan account, and redeemed by depreciation and a modest contribution from profits. Investing some £4,000,000 per annum from profits in capital works simply means charging this generation too much, in order to charge the next generation too little. I direct the attention of the Minister to the huge amount of capital works expenditure that has been met from revenue, and invite his consideration of whether it is just and equitable, and in accordance with his Government’s policy, to charge so much for postal services that about £4,000,000 of capital expenditure can be met from revenue.
During the last few years, much has been said in this chamber a’bout social services. May I remind honorable senators that one of the great social services is the service rendered to the home by the Postmaster-General’s Department ; th.it this service reaches all homes, rich or poor, in one or more of its activities ; and that this great department serves all classes, all creeds, and, in fact, all Australians? I ask for a new realization of how much it can do for the housewife - a new orientation of the department’s approach to its service problems, and a policy decision that this department must develop, expand, and cheapen its “home and social “ services to the lasting benefit of the women of Australia, and to the upholding and uplifting of the ideal of the home a.= the basic unit of society.
.. outset of my first speech in this chamber, I feel constrained to say that in a democracy no citizen can ‘be paid a greater tribute or compliment than, as the result of free elections, to be chosen by his fellows to represent them in the senior legislative chamber of the land. I am deeply sensitive of that compliment. I trust that I shall be worthy of it, and shall,, at all times, maintain the dignity and prestige of this chamber. I hope, too, that I shall be able, in some small way to make a contribution towards its deliberations.
Because of my respect for the traditions of this Senate, I was sorely disappointed at both the tone and subjectmatter of some of the speeches which have already been made in this debate. To honorable senators from whom I had hoped to learn something of the manner in which the Government proposed to use its majority in both houses to implement a policy of progress and development, I listened intently, but in vain. Without any suggestion of presumption or patronage, however, I should like to compliment two comparatively young senators from Tasmania, Senator O’Byrne and Senator Murray, upon the tone and subject-matter of their speeches, which, I am sure, struck a note that will find a spontaneous and sympathetic response in the hearts of all Australians of goodwill. The addresses of most other honorable senators were more in keeping with the hustings, the soap-box and the street corner, than the traditions of this chamber. . They were substantially an effusion of Labour propaganda of a type more notorious for its bitterness than respected for its accuracy. Without blush or qualification it has been suggested that I, and my colleagues of the Opposition, have been sent to this Parliament by people who were responsible for every plague and tragedy that has ever afflicted this country, from the causes of the Eureka stockade 100 years or more ago in Victoria and the introduction of kanaka labour in Queensland in the latter half of the last century down to the shocking depression from which we suffered in the ‘thirties of this century. What good does that “bally hoo,”* accomplish? Surely in this chamber we are entitled to expect something more edifying than a rabble-rousing hymn of hate dedicated to an ancient and alien theme. It is really sad and depressing to. hear honorable senators whose shadow of life is lengthening give utterance to, such sentiments. I say to them, and to all who preach the gospel of domestic hate, and strife, that we Australians are essentially one people sharing the same traditions and charged with the responsibility of handling and settling the same difficulties and problems. If evidence in support of my proposition were needed, the magnificent effort of our people when Australia was faced with invasion supplies it eloquently and in abundance. The splendid efforts of those people showed clearly that we are essentially one people.
I can epitomize my political philosophy in a few words. I believe that man by his Creator- is endowed with definite natural rights and is charged with equally definite obligations toward his Creator and his fellow men, that his prime purpose in life is the salvation of his soul, that the duty and responsibility of organized society is to ensure that”, in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, man shall not be unduly frustrated. Governments are fast losing, if they have not already lost, all appreciation of the fact that they are the servants, not the masters, of the people. A government is recreant to its duty and false to its mandate if it behaves contrary to that basic concept. It is the duty of the government so to legislate that the family, the community, and organized industry, each in ite own sphere may enjoy ite natural rights and perform its natural functions in accordance with the moral law. In the absence of a clear mandate from the people in regard to specific industries, the government has no right to assume to itself those functions properly belonging to the family, to the community, or to organized industry, I trust that honorable senators will believe me when I assure them that I have neither the desire nop the intention to throw my fellow Australians into the political or the economic jungle.
Referring specifically >to the speeches of honorable senators -who support this Government, a fair summary of them would be that the immediate predecessors foi office of the late John Curtin were completely recreant to their duty in regard to the defence of Australia. In passing, I am pleased to say that John Curtin was a. good and sincere Australian. Such limitations .as there were upon his greatness as a leader were more extrinsic than intrinsic. He was undoubtedly severely ‘handicapped by his followers in the Parliament and his masters outside of the Parliament. Here is an instance -of his decency and sincerity, which I quote from Hansard of the 28th May, 1941-
Notwithstanding .that there am political parties in this country, I claim that the war has b.een prosecuted to the maximum .of Australia’s capacity, and I doubt M any great improvement could have been made upon what has b.een .done by the Government working in collaboration with .the Opposition..
Again, addressing & Labour conference in .Sydney in October, 1942, he said, and repeated later in the House -
I ‘have to pay tribute to the governments which preceded my own for the constructive monk they have done in defence, and the –foundations they have laid. The Labour ^movement accepted responsibility for not making preparations for war; it thought the world had finished with the determination of disputes in that fashion.
These quotations are .striking evidence «of hie instinctive decency ‘and sincerity Obviously, he appreciated much more thoroughly than did ‘his followers the splendid foundations that had been laid by the Menzies and the Fadden administrations. The establishment of the War Advisory Council ‘by Mr. Menzies had enabled John Curtin and his colleagues to be acquainted with the most intimate day to day happenings in every sphere and theatre where the interests of Australia were affected. The National Security Act passed by the Menzies Government was not altered or amended in any substantial way by the Curtin administration. That act enabled Mr. Curtin to step into the control of a country geared to face all the exigencies of war. He was mindful, too, as the people of Australia generally are mind!ful, that long ‘before Mr. “Menzies relin quished office he had offered on many occasions, in order to achieve complete unity and co-operation in pursuit of the war effort, to stand down and serve in any capacity under Mr. Curtin. So much for Mr. Curtin’s splendid effort. Let us now see how it contrasted with the attitude of some of his followers. I quote from a speech by the present Minister for Transport ,(Mr. Ward) in Parliament on the 5*h November, 1936 -
I should not be prepared to take up arms against the workers of any country, whether they be German or of any other nationality. As a matter of fact, because I am not prepared to do that, I am -not prepared to tell others to .do so. 1 believe, and judging by statements made by honorable members on both .sides of the committee it seems ito be generally agreed, that Australia would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to defend herself against an aggressor.
Again, the honorable member for Batman (.Mr. Brennan) made the following statement in 19.39 : -
Our association with the British Navy is an entirely evil one. . . The Navy, in truth, can no longer serve any useful purpose, as far as Australia is .concerned. I know of no more inveterate fallacy than that which is constantly being reiterated, ad nauseam, that we in Australia are dependent for our safety on tile British Navy. . . As to the need for defending Australia, this country has never been threatened with attack. . ,. There was never even a suggestion of an attack upon Australia. .. ,. If we attended to our own business and bent our best efforts to the maintenance of this country as a bright jewel in the world, free from the entanglements of imperialism. . .
Mr. -Curtin, before he saw the light as he eventually did, said on the 29th November, 1939-
This House is of the opinion that Australia’s manpower is required for the defence -and safety of the Commonwealth and is opposed to the despatch of expeditionary forces.
The present Minister for Transport also said on the 16th November, 1939 -
I am firmly of the opinion that, irrespective of how long this war lasts, the boundaries of Poland will not be restored to what they were prior to the commencement of hostilities. Therefore, the only sensible thing to do is to adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), namely, that instead of carrying on this stupid conflict, that cannot bring benefit to the workers .of ‘any country, an effort should be made at the earliest possible moment to summon a conference of the major nations for the purpose of ending it.
The present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said on the 12th October, 193S-
Personally, I would not spend three pence on armament works or on defence works of any kind in Australia.
Mr. Forde, f ormer Minister for the Army, said on the 29th November, 1939-
I am opposed to an expeditionary force leaving Australia. If peace should fail our dangers are increased, and while this uncertainty confronts us then most certainly we should not agree to the depletion of our manpower.
The present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) said, on the same date -
I shall oppose, even to the the point of stretching the law to breaking point, any proposal to send Australian soldiers to fight on foreign battlefields.
Senator Collings said on the 1st December, 1939;
I would not negotiate with that scoundrel Churchill. I regard Mr. Churchill as a mad dog let loose for the purpose of spreading hatred where previously none existed.
Thank goodness, the people of Great Britain and its allies thought otherwise! T refer now to the following resolution passed by the New South “Wales branch of the Australian Labour party on the 24th March, 1940, several months after the declaration of war -
W:e declare that the Australian people have nothing to gain from the continuance of the war. The management of this war in the hands of the anti-Labour Menzies Government, in association with the anti-Labour Chamberlain Government, means that the war is being pursued in the interests of big finance and monopolists. Conference is opposed to Australian participation in overseas conflicts. The Labour party unhesitatingly demands that no Australian troops be permitted to leave Australia.
Let us now examine the comments of one who is not an Australian but who, during the most severe days of the Pacific war, occupied a position of great responsibility in Australia. I refer to LieutenantGeneral Brett, who was the commanding officer of the American 5th Air Force, under which the Royal Australian Air Force squadrons in the Southwest Pacific fought. The statements which I shall mention can be found in a recent article in Look. They were quoted and commented upon in the Melbourne Argus of the 20th September, and also in the Sydney Bulletin of the 1st October.
Lieutenant-General Brett had a good word to say for John Curtin, but not as a war leader. He described him as - sincere, hard-working, intelligent, easy to talk to and with a knack of understanding another’s viewpoint.
He described Mr. Curtin’s Cabinet as - purely political. Its members had been selected not for experience and knowledge in the peculiarly specialized business of war but because of their importance in union activities. . . . The politicians, not the army, were running things in Australia and at the time were giving us as many headaches as the Japs. The Labour Government seemed more interested in .keeping to the party line on wages, hours and . working conditions than in the threat poised by the Japanese, then on the other side of the Owen Stanley ranges.
It may be suggested that I have outlined Labour’s war record at too great length, but when honorable senators have the audacity to claim that the Labour party saved Australia, I am impelled to refute such nonsense. Australia was saved by the courage of its sons in the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, by the generous assistance it received from Great Britain and the United States of America, and by the unity and cooperation of the mass of the people on the home front. I am sorry that Senator Hendrickson is not in the chamber, because I shall refer to some of the statements that he made last week. He said -
The Government was only dilly dallying and playing at politics. Its members we’re giving vent to petty jealousy at a time when our soldiers were dying in thousands in the Middle East and on the islands of the Pacific.
The Curtin Government took over in October, 1941. The first Japanese attack against mandated territory, which was at Rabaul, occurred four months later on the 23rd J January, 1942. Senator Hendrickson also said -
The situation was not caused by any troublemaking on the part of our then leader, the late Mr. John Curtin. It arose from the inability of Mr. Menzies to command the confidence of his own Cabinet. Because of this, the reins of government were handed to Mr. Curtin.
Again, a gross inaccuracy! Mr. Curtin took over from Mr. Fadden. Mr. Menzies relinquished office in August 1941. The two statements which I have quoted are probably typical of the disregard for accuracy of some’ honorable senators. Senator Sandford made the following statement earlier in this debate -
For at least 25 years prior to 1943, including the ‘thirties, this country was controlled by governments formed from the anti-Labour parties, when the people of Australia were subject to the most inhuman treatment.
That is not correct. The Scullin Government was in power from the 22nd October, 1929, to the 6th January, 1932.
– That is not correct.
– Then the Commonwealth Year-Book is not correct. The first legislation to provide pensions for aged persons was introduced by the Deakin Government and was assented to in June, 1908. In 1925 the amount of the pension was increased by the BrucePage Government from 17s. 6d. to £1., an increase which was all too small I admit, but the amount of the pension was reduced from £l to 17s. 6d. when Mr. Scullin was Prime Minister. I do not allege that Mr. Scullin had any heart in making that reduction; he was probably compelled to do so by circumstances beyond his control, and I think that there could not have been any sadder man than Mr. Scullin when he had to do that. But let us be fair. I do not blame Mr. Scullin, because we know that during the depression he was forced by the exigencies of economic circumstances to take certain measures. It is obviously unfair to cast blame on any government for unpopular actions which it is forced to take when emergencies arise. But the fact remains that the only reduction of pensions for the aged was made during the regime of a Labour government. [ would not be so foolish or so unfair as to suggest that, because a Labour government took that action, reduction of pensions is part of the policy of the Australian Labour party. I know that it is not, and I also know that it is not the policy of any decent-minded Australian. I think that even now the amount of the pension is too small.
Senator Sandford referred to the favorable comments on the Government’s administration in regard to ex-servicemen which he said had been made by the president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of
Australia, Mr. Millhouse. K.C., and supporters of the Government leaned back comfortably in their seats and manifested unctuousness and pride at this expression of satisfaction at the treatment meted out to ex-service men and women. But let us look at what they really think of the situation. I propose to quote from the thirty-first annual report and balance sheet for the year ended the 31st December, 1946, of the Federal Executive of the Returned Sailors, ‘Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. This body has a membership of 373,558 ex-service-men and women, and this is what the report states -
One of the real problems of the year for your executive has been the unsatisfactory working of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. Despite repeated assurances on behalf of the Commonwealth Government that the preference clauses are being faithfully observed as far as returned service personnel are concerned, your executive desires to record its disagreement and disappointment with the way this legislation is being enforced. Unfortunately we have found instances in which the Government is not observing its own legislation.
The report goes on to state -
There were a number of glaring examples, with which I will deal in turn, of service personnel being victimized by non-observance of preference, and I was prompted to issue a public statement charging the Government and certain employers with turning the legislation into a pick and shovel act. It appears to your executive that so long as some menial position is offering preference will apply, but in posts of outstanding responsibility requiring diplomacy and qualifications of the highest order the fighting man and woman is overlooked. .
Some honorable senators referred to the “ pick and shovel “ legislation to which ex-servicemen were subjected after the first world war. The report from which I have been quoting further states -
Following the general election this year came the further blow to servicemen’s hopes under the Preference Act when certain defeated politicians were appointed to high posts here and abroad. I refer particularly to the following: - Mr. F. M. Forde, High Commissioner to Canada; Mr. D. Mountjoy, to the Executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; and Mr. J. P. Breen, Trade Commissioner to the Middle East.
Your executive protested against these appointments and was informed that the provisions of the Re-establishment and’ Employment Act were observed in making them.
As far as .your executive can ascertain ex-service personnel were given no opportunity to apply and we feel constrained to remark that the Government showed more regard for political partisanship than for its ex-service personnel. I should add that the three appointees are non-soldiers.
The League’s attitude in this matter can he expressed thus: - The appointments of defeated parliamentarians to important positions constitute a blatant contempt for public opinion and the national obligation to extend preference to ex-servicemen when important and highsalaried posts are being considered.
Senator Harris made the statement that we have full employment. If any one who has given any consideration to the matter at all is satisfied with the employment position to-day. then I am amazed. Official figures show that at the 30th June, 1947, there were 3,298,100 people in employment, as compared with 3,048,600 people in employment in July, 1939. Those figures indicate an increase in employment of 249,500; but of that number, 159,100 have been added to the public pay-roll, either as employees of government departments or of statutory bodies. The shocking increase which we have observed in the number of employees of government departments is most distressing. We want those people to be re-absorbed into productive industry. We have an excellent regular public service, one which is probably second to none in the world, and we are most ably served by it. But it is tragic to observe the number of people who are quite capable of being absorbed in productive industry whose services are being utilized, not in industry, but in Commonwealth departments.
Senator Critchley, in the course of his remarks, said : “ The Opposition walked out on the nation “. It will be remembered that in October, 1941, the Government led by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) did not walk out; it was defeated on the floor of the House by two independents, both of whom have since been well treated by a grateful government, and are now occupying high positions under the Government.
Senator Nash said: “We have been told that workers in industry are going slow, hut no facts in support of that general charge have been presented “.
I propose to quote some figures which may be enlightening to the Senate, and to the honorable senator in particular. I refer to the statistics of the discharge of cargo and the loading and unloading of vessels. Those figures show that during the period from July to December, 1938, an average of 911 tons of cargo was handled per day. During the period from July, 1946, to June, 1947, the comparable average was 353 tons. Do those figures supply evidence of the adoption of “go slow “ tactics ? During the period July to December, 1938, the daily average of cargo loaded was 450 tons, whilst during the period from July, 1946 to June, 1947, the average was 284 tons. A similar situation exists in regard to timber and bricks. In 1934 the cost of erecting a timber-framed dwelling was £730, a brick veneered cottage £864, and a brick dwelling £960. In 1944 the same type* of dwellings cost respectively £1035, £1250, and £1365. In 1934 the cost of erecting an average brick dwelling of five rooms absorbed in labour charges £240; to-day those charges amount to £546.
I think that the recital of these facts is very depressing despite the fact that there is extraordinary monetary buoyancy. Supporters of the Government are wont to say, “ Ben is in the saddle ; all is well with the old horse “. In actual fact, the position could not be more distressing. Unless this poor horse bucks him it will either die of starvation or break its back. Figures showing the amount collected in taxes are most illuminating. They show that the collections are higher now than they were during the peak period of the war. In 1943-44 the total amount received from taxes was £309,000,000, in 1945 £343,000,000, and in 1945-46 £389,000,000, whilst the amount received in 1946-47, two years after the war had ended, was £413,000,000. It should be remembered that the latter figure represents the net amount received after some reduction of tax had been made. Where is the money going? It is said that we are enlarging and expanding our services. There is no doubt that the money is being expended, but with all respect, I say that it is being wasted. The Government’s expenditure of money might be likened to showering .pepper over food in the open air when a westerly wind is blowing. The pepper certainly goes somewhere, but no one knows where it goes. Instead of squandering all this money the Government should spend some of it, at least, in an endeavour to arrest the unfortunate drift of people from the country to the cities. I represent the State of Queensland, which covers a far-flung area, and I have travelled throughout its length and breadth. It is distressing to observe the lack of simple amenities of life, Transport facilities are wretched, and there are huge areas which are denied the advantages of electric energy, water supply and refrigeration. If we are to halt the drift of people to the cities, we must provide inducements of that kind, and we must also provide cultural and recreational facilities. If the drift is not stopped the distribution of population will become even more top-heavy than it is. We all know the adage which begins “ 111 fares the land “, and I do not propose to say any more on that aspect. Sympathetic consideration should be given to the people on the land because, significantly, their birth-rate is the highest in this country. The birth-rate in our capital cities is not sufficient even to maintain our present population.
In discussing the items of expenditure shown in the Estimates I shall deal first with the Attorney-General’s Department. I should like to see a more determined effort on the part of the Government to curb the activities of the Communists in our midst. I do not propose to engage in a heresy hunt against any particular section of the community. If a man wants to be a Communist that is a matter for him to decide, so .long as he takes care not to run the risk of being dealt with as a law-breaker. My complaint against the Government is that Communists have flagrantly violated the law with complete immunity. We have seen what Communists did in Canada under the protection of the Canadian flag. They succeeded in diverting the allegiance of people born in Canada to an alien power. We have seen in the press recently reports of the strong stand taken by the authorities in the United States of America, and the grave concern which has been expressed by well-informed people there regarding the ramifications and activities of the Communists. I do not want to attack any section of the community unfairly, particularly a minority section, but I believe that the Attorney-General’s Department should take ample care to ensure that no avowed, or known Communist shall occupy any position in which he is able to- do any injury to our country.
– Is that the honorable senator’s only charge against the Attorney-General’s Department ?
– I have others. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is also Minister for External Affairs. I suggest that he need not appoint a representative of Australia to every country whose nationals he happens to meet on his numerous trips abroad. The attitude of Australia’s itinerant Minister for External Affairs is, I am sure, not in accordance with the wishes of the Australian people in many instances, but, unfortunately, the people have no opportunity to express their views. Even the Parliament is given little or no opportunity to know in advance what the Minister intends to do, or what foreign policy he will enunciate. That being so, how can the people know what he has in his mind? I am sure that if the people were given an opportunity to do so, they would give a clear instruction to the Minister for External Affairs that in the alinements which he makes he must follow the course which best suits the British Commonwealth of Nations, and not, contrary to its interests, aline Australia with the Latin republics of South America or the satellite States of Central Europe, however worthy they may be. If reports which reach us from time to time be correct, there have been occasions when he has alined himself with third or fourth rat<powers - I speak with all respect - and in conflict with the. attitude of Great Britain and Canada. It is not suggested that Australia should slavishly follow any particular nation, but we must bear in mind that our fate is inevitably linked with that of other members of the British
Commonwealth, of Nations, and that our greatest security, and, indeed the peace of the world, rests on the strict cohesion of the British Commonwealth of Nations and the great republic of the United States of America. I hope that before long the Parliament will he given an opportunity to say clearly what alinements shall be made. One alinement that has been made, not by the Government, or even as a result of the deliberations in this Parliament, is the outcome of the action of a few lawless Communists on the waterfront who have virtually applied sanctions against a former ally, the Dutch. In passing, I say that many gallant Dutch sailors went down with their ships in keeping Japanese raiders away from our shores. Yet, when Dutch ships came here seeking the shelter and succour which they might reasonably have expected from a friendly and not ungrateful ally, a noisy, lawless minority determined that no Dutch ship was to be loaded. And when we consider in whose favour that decision was made, the decision is all the more amazing. It was made in favour of a puppet government established by the Japanese, its personnel being identical with that which favoured Japan. That government still has Japanese arms in its possession. To the eternal shame of Australia, that relationship was determined by a lawless mob on the waterfront, and the Parliament had no say in deciding it. I, therefore, charge the Government with being shamefully derelict to its duties and responsibilities.
Defence is essentially a matter for experts and, therefore, I do not regard myself as competent to express an opinion as to what Australia’s defence policy should be. I urge the Government to consult its experts, and as far as practicable to make available for discussion in this House the reports submitted by them from time to time. In times of peace I suggest that there is no necessity to have a Minister for Defence, a Minister for the Army, a Minister for the Navy, and a Minister for Air. The existence of those four portfolios must mean a great deal of unnecessary over-lapping. It would he sufficient to have a Minister for Defence in charge of all the fighting services. Moreover, we could very well follow the advice of experts in Britain and in other countries and make our Air Force a part of the Army, instead of a separate arm. The existence side by side of several Ministers in charge of separate departments must perpetuate a system of criss-crossing, divided control and overlapping. I suggest that the Government should seriously consider combining the three branches of defence under one Minister. I advocate the complete abolition of the Department of Air and the absorption of the Air Force in the Army as in the United States of America. The Navy could well be controlled by an assistant Minister under the Minister for Defence.
I commend the Government on its effort to obtain suitable immigrants, particularly those of British stock, but also any other people who are prepared to be absorbed into the Australian community, to adopt the Australian- way of life and to conform to our laws. All such people, whatever their origin, should be welcomed by Australia. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) is to be commended on his efforts to obtain suitable immigrants, and I regret that the result has been disappointing from a numerical point of view. In this land of great monetary buoyancy surely something more could be done to encourage our best immigrant, namely, the Australian-horn child. In order to keep our population even stationary, without any increase at all, 365 children under five years of age should exist for every 1,000 women of child-bearing age. In Australian rural districts there are 520 children under five years of age for every 1,000 women of child-bearing age, compared with 4!20 children in provincial towns and 290 children of similar ages in the highly industrialized city of Sydney.
Why should the wealth of Australia be expended in the capital cities to the detriment of country districts? Something must be done to stop the continuous drift of population from the country to the cities, but, as I have said, the most valuable immigrant is our own Australianborn child. I urge the Government to consider the liberalization of the benefits provided for mothers and children. It is useless to urge young women to have families when the only shelter they can provide for their children is that of a tent or a room in someone else’s house. I cannot understand the complacency with which many honorable senators regard the situation of Australia merely because there is, apparently, monetary affluence. There is, on the other side of the ledger, a frightful dearth of the necessities of life. “What is the good of money if there is nothing which it will buy ? Even during the worst period of the war essential goods were more easily obtainable than now. The housing situation is no more satisfactory than it was two years ago. Indeed, building costs have soared beyond all reason. Our apparently buoyant finances are not so real as they may appeal-; we are, in fact, suffering from a measure of inflation. It is sad that, despite the apparent buoyancy of our finances, there is a lack of everything that goes to make a happy, prosperous and contented people. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) recently cited some astonishing figures showing a falling off of primary production in Australia. In practically every primary industry there has been a decline of output. Something must be done to remedy that state of affairs. I do not blame the Government for droughts, shortages of labour and materials, of for many of the other factors which have contributed to that result. We should not indulge in recriminations as to whose fault it is. Let us get together and face the fact that there has been a tragic decline in our primary production. What can we do about it? The Government’s revenues are buoyant. In spite of the paltry reductions of taxes, its revenues are now higher than at the peak of the war period. Instead of filling up the Public Service with people who could be better employed otherwise, instead of the Government frittering away its revenue, let it make a concerted effort in the provision of irrigation, water conservation, soil conservation and re-afforestation. Let it get the experts to work and expend some of the money of which it has plenty to prevent a repetition of the present state of affairs. From the following remarks made by the Leader of the Australian Country party- it will be clear that the figures which I mentioned earlier give no indication of the volume of production, or of unit production -
The official tables which he (the Treasurer) circulated convey the impression that both production and national income are at -a highly satisfactory level. For instance, in terms of money, the national income increased from £803,000,000 in 1938-39 to £1,265,000,000 in 194G-47, while in the same period the gross national .production has risen f;dm £938,000,000 to nearly £1,500,000,000. From these figures it would naturally be assumed that production was higher than ever before in the history of Australia. The unfortunate- fact, however, it that while a satisfactory case may be made out on figures alone, the aggregate volume of production, measured in units of goods, is highly disturbing. In other words, a false and misleading picture is presented, as money value? given for aggregate production are boosted by inflation, the higher cost of goods and services, higher wages and unsatisfactory man-hour output. . . . Throughout Australia, the number of sheep this year was 15,300.000 fewer than in 1939, and 673,000 fewer than a year ago.
That trend is apparent in all phases of primary production. The numbers of dairy cattle, beef cattle and pigs have declined, whilst the area under cultivation for all crops, including sugar cane, disclose an .appalling decrease. There is also a serious decline, as I have already said, in our unit production per manhour. Therefore, we should not be indulging in applause, congratulating ourselves that all is well with Australia, because that is not the case. We can do something in the matter, and I am looking forward with great interest to learning from honorable senators opposite how the Government proposes to use the enormous revenue which it is still extracting from the taxpayers. Our .taxpayers would continue gladly to pay the present high taxes provided they were assured that the money was being expended to promote the welfare of the people and the well-being of the nation.
– I compliment Senator Rankin on her maiden speech. I hope that the lofty ideals to which she has given expression to-day will be achieved. I also compliment Senator O’Sullivan on his maiden speech. However, it took me all my time to contain myself and to remain silent while he was speaking, because he made so many groundless claims and statements.
– What was not untrue was slanderous.
– Perhaps the honorable member’s speech could be summed up in that way. I shall deal with certain statements which he made. First, he said that, the only occasion when pensions were reduced in this country was during the regime of a Labour government. However, whilst he stressed that point he said nothing at all a-bout the fact that the only increases of pensions of any value have been made hy the present Labour Government. His statement that pensions were reduced by the Scullin Government is correct; hut I remind him that although that Government was in office it was not in power, because the Opposition parties were in a majority in the Senate and were hostile to the Government. All of us know that the Scullin Government was told by the banks what it must do. At that time, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Sir Robert Gibson, addressed a letter to the then Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, in which the following statement appeared : -
Subject to adequate and equitable reduction in all wages, salaries and allowances, pensions, social benefits of all kinds, interest and other factors which affect the cost of living, the Commonwealth Bank Board will actively cooperate with the trading banks and the governments of Australia in sustaining industry and restoring employment.
At that time the Commonwealth Bank Board allied itself with the private banks. For that reason the Scullin Government was obliged to reduce the old-age pension and also the wages of government employees under what came to be known as the Premiers plan. Despite those facts, Senator O’Sullivan, who has just been elected to the Senate, attempted to indict the Scullin Government for reducing pensions. I repeat that that Government was obliged to do as it was directed by the interests which control finance in this country. They are interests outside the Parliament, and they do not represent the people.
Senator Lamp. - Senator O’Sullivan stands up for them. -Senator NASH. - Yes; and that is why it took me all my time to restrain myself from interjecting while he made statements of that kind. Then he told us in a kindly way that the late, revered John Curtin was a very great man but w,as not allowed to do what he would have liked to do, because his party and persons outside the Parliament dictated otherwise. I have never listened to greater tommy-rot in my life. I remind Senator O’Sullivan that Mr.. Curtin was the only man in the publiclife of Australia at the time when he was Prime Minister who was capable of holding the Australian people together. Hehad to fight not only interests which at all times are opposed to Labour leaders,, but also certain people who claimed torepresent the workers. He carried on that fight and won, because he was determined to do his duty by Australia. Senator O’Sullivan can talk until he is black in the face and advance all sorts of excuses in order to support his arguments.;, but the fact remains that it was a Labour government, with the help of the people of this country in the armed forces and munition factories, that enabled Australia to win the war. It was the action of the two ex-members of the House of Representatives, to whom the honorable senator referred, in refusing any longer tokeep the Fadden Government in office,, because it placed the country in jeopardy, that enabled the Curtin Government totake over in October, 1941, and place Australia on a basic war footing.
The honorable senator referred to statements made by certain persons associated with different political parties. All honorable senators could quote statements of that kind from one source or another; but what are such statements worth? We must base our judgments not on mere statements but on results.. The policy and actions of the Curtin Labour Government in 1941, succeeded by the Chifley Government, with the cooperation and whole-hearted help of one-sixth of the population of this country enabled us to win the war. Had we failed to do so, how terrible would have been our fate. I know that the Japanese almost gained a foothold on the shores of Western Australia and would have done so but for the prompt action taken by Labour leaders at that time. Otherwise, conditions to-day would be- very much different. However, I do not propose to go into the history of that period. My main purpose in speaking at this juncture is to correct Senator O’sullivan. He thought that he was making a yen telling point when he said that tie two independent members in the House of Representatives who threw in their lot with the Labour party in 1941 had since been rewarded for that action. They arc fully entitled to any reward whian they may have received, because by their action they helped to save Australia.
The honorable senator also referred to the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) as a peregrinating Minister, and said that the Minister had alined himself with certain nations to the detriment of Great Britain and the United States of America. That is the only inference that can be drawn from the honorable senator’s statements. He said that foreign policy in Australia was determined not by the Parliament but solely by the Minister for Externa! Affairs. I have not the slightest doubt that the Minister enjoys the full support of the Cabinet in any decision that he makes in respect of foreign policy. In view of the constant changes taking place in the international sphere, it is ridiculous to suggest that the Minister could be in. a position to inform the Parliament rom day to day of the pros and cons in respect of external affairs. We must have faith in our leaders overseas.. I nave personal knowledge of the Minister’s work at the inauguration of the United Nations at San Francisco, and I have followed his subsequent activities with the closest, attention. I have no hesitation in saying that this country never had an international outlook until this Labour Government assumed office. Prior to that, it was freely conceded that Australia relied upon the protection of the British Navy, and that the Australian Government adopted whatever attitude was determined at No. 10 Downingstreet, London. During the war, many members of our fighting forces, as well as individuals in the political arena,, went overseas and became acquainted with other countries. The result has been the development of a different outlook iia this country. Whilst 1 do not wish to criticize the United Kingdom, because no country could have been more willing to assist Australia in the darkest days of the war when invasion appeared imminent, the fact remains that circumstances necessitated the appeal that was matte to the United States of America by the late John Curtin in 1942, and honorable senators opposite should not dare besmirch has name and his memory by suggesting that, because he appealed to a country that was not a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, he was a traitor to the Empire. That is the kind of propaganda that one encounters in the highways and by-ways of this country. I throw the criticism back in the teeth of the honorable senator who offered it. If he knew half as much about international affairs as the Minister for External Affairs does, he would indeed be worth heeding. We can have the utmost confidence in the Minister’s work overseas on behalf of this country. It is claimed that the right honorable gentleman alined himself against Great Britain and the United States of America by taking up the cause of the smaller nations. But that action. I submit. was not harmful to Great Britain or the United States of America. Rather was it *a championing of the democratic cause about which we hear so much from certain individuals who do not know the first tenets of democracy.
We have been told that Australia today has a false national income, and that in view of inflationary tendencies, unit production has actually decreased. But the records show that compared with pre-war years the increase of the cost of living in this country is not more than 25 per cent.
– That is a bed-time story.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) will have an opportunity to prove that assertion at a later stage.
– Ask the housewives.
– I admit that the increase of the cost of certain commodities has substantially exceeded 25 per cent., but these articles are not included among those used in computing the cost of living index figures of which F am speaking now. The latest figures available show an increase of approximately 23 per cent., but I believe that the correct figure is now approximately 25 per cent. When I was in the United “States of America, I saw the disastrous effects of inflation in that country. The cost of living in Australia has not skyrocketed as it did in the United States of America when controls were removed. In this country, in spite of the small measure of controlled inflation that exists, the worker and big business man alike, after discharging their tax. obligations, have more than enough to live on. In fact, they have more money than ever before in the history of this country, and I make that statement without equivocation. Members of the Opposition have referred to the days when pensions were reduced in this country. I remember the . days when, not pensioners, but able-bodied workers, had to subsist on a shilling a day or seven shillings a week. Is that the state of affairs to which the Opposition would have this country return? The honorable senator talked -of national income and unit production, and challenged my earlier statement in regard to go-slow tactics-. I suggested that sworn evidence should be obtained “to prove his assertions, but the honorable senator read only one or two extracts indicating that so many man hours were being worked now, compared with so many in a previous period. He did not say, so far as I can recollect, where he -obtained his figures, and whilst they may have been correct in one or two isolated instances, the fact remains that many of the causes of reduced man-hour capacity in this country to-day are not related to go-slowism amongst workers, but to the lack of materials and machinery, or worn or out-of-date machinery. These are things about which my friends opposite prefer not to say anything.
Generally speaking, the national incoane reflects a satisfactory economy and above all, it indicates that production to-day is greater than ever. Many commodities are in short supply because there is insufficient labour to produce them. Whenever before in this country have we had a situation in which there was no unemployment? Yet that is the state of affairs existing to-day. Sufficient labour cannot be procured to provide ‘he services required by the community. Because of that disability, which is largely the result of the long war, we are criticized by the Opposition, and told that the Government has not done this and has not done that. A favorite subject for criticism is housing; but I have not heard any member of the Opposition refer to the fact that when there was an abundance of raw materials for the building industry, and no shortage of labour, thousands of workers in this country were allowed to walk the streets looking for jobs. Apparently that is the economic situation to which honorable senators opposite would have us return. During the war, the Labour regime did a magnificent job and, in the post-war period, despite the criticism that has been offered on minor matters and magnified out of all proportion, Labour administration has been such that the necessity to ensure a continuance of the present system is apparent if economic progress is to be maintained. I warn those individual.’ who cry out that this should be done and that should be done that there i3 a section of the community in this country that will do everything possible to foment dissatisfaction with the Government with the sole object to returning to the “good old days “ when 30 per cent, of our people were out of work in spite of the fact thai the productive capacity of this country lay idle. At that time, too, social servicer were few, and payments were infinitesimal compared with present day rates. We do not want a return of those conditions.
Recently, I asked a question of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) through his representative in thi? chamber in connexion with the standardization of railway gauges. I asked whether the Government of Western Australia had made any further representations to the Minister with a view to that State becoming a party to the standardization agreement, and if not, whether the Minister would endeavour to induce Western Australia to participate in the scheme. The Minister replied that Western Australia had not made any representations in regard to becoming a party to the agreement, but that the Commonwealth would welcome, and give the fullest consideration to, any proposal submitted by the Government of Western Australia in that respect. I am pleased to notice that the Minister has left the door wide open for the Government of Western Australia to negotiate with the Commonwealth in respect of the standardization scheme. I draw attention to this matter particularly, because I understand that the Government of Western Australia proposes to spend £15,000,000 upon a railway rehabilitation programme. I am informed also that a new “ Westland Express “ is to be built for the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge line from Perth to Kalgoorlie, and that this train is to be the last word in railway comfort. Labouring under great disabilities, Western ‘ Australia has endeavoured to make available a first class train to meet the requirements of transAustralian traffic. The point 1 emphasize is that, no matter how fine the new train may be, the running time will not be shortened. The feature of travel to-day is that people want to get from one point to another as quickly as possible. That is why air transport has become so popular. It will never be possible for everybody to travel by air, and it is unlikely that a majority of travellers will be able to use the air services for many years to come. Therefore, we must continue to use our railways. In view of the fact that the Government of Western Australia proposes to expend a sum of £15,000,000 on the rehabilitation of its transport system, the time is appropriate for it to come to an understanding with the Australian Government, particularly as Western Australia, under the standardization agreement, will benefit from works costing about £51,000,000 in return for an expenditure of only £7,000,000. The project is not new. I understand that, at the time of federation, it was intended that a standard gauge railway line should be laid from Fremantle to the eastern States.
I refer now to tuberculosis. In 1946-47, the Government expended £109,000 in combating this disease, and this year it proposes to expend £370,000 for the same purpose. I have always held the view that preventive measures are far more important than cures in fighting diseases. I am firmly of the opinion that the Government of Western Australia should pay more attention to the scourge of tuberculosis than it ha? paid up to the present, particularly as it is responsible for the administration of the health laws in that State and has appointed a committee for that purpose. For the information of the Senate, 1 quote the following facts about tuberculosis which have been supplied to me by a very reliable authority: -
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by the tubercle bacillus. In man it manifest? itself by producing disease of the lungs, .pulmonary tuberculosis (also known as “consumption” or “phthisis”) and of other parts of the body (bones, joints, glands in the neck, abdomen and intestines, kidneys and genital organs and meninges of the brain). In the case of disease in the lungs, over 99 per cent, of cases in this country are caused by the inhalation of the sputum of an infected person: therefore, the infection is spread by per son al contact, particularly in the home, but. also in office, workshop, factory, mine or hospital. . . .
In Western Australia about 173 deaths are caused every year by tuberculosis (average for the years .1941-45), the death-rate being 35 per 100,000. It has been estimated that there are approximately eleven (11) cases of pulmonary tuberculosis in active form requiring treatment in existence at any one time for each annual death. On this estimation, therecould be 11 X 173 = 1,903 active cases requiring treatment in Western Australia, to-day. . . .
The persistence and spread of infection in. the population is therefore ca-used by approximately 1,900 cases in the State, of whom only 300 are being treated in hospital, and therefore isolated, at any one time. . . . That is to say there is a constant reservoir of infection caused by the presence of the other 1,000 cases in the general population, of whom it may be estimated that the great majority are infectious.
The economic loss to the community is considerable. It has been calculated that a human life was worth approximately £2,000- before the war. Without allowing for increased earning capacity in post-war years, the annual loss of real wealth to the Statein its most valuable form, human life, may be put at £346,000. To this must be added the- loss of earning capacity, partial and total, of the surviving sufferers from the disease. If it is assumed that only 500 are basic wage earners, the loss may be estimated at f 125,000 annually. The cost of treating cases in hospital may be estimated at, say, £60,000. To this must be added the following pensions costs: -
The grand total is therefore £647,000.
It is notorious that persons suffering from the disease will’ not present themselves for treatment in its early stages because they know that they will be told to stop work and receive treatment. This immediate loss of earning capacity is more than they can face, and !hey therefore continue at work until they are no longer fit to do so. Their disease is “then so far advanced that .prospects of healing it are almost hopeless. Over one-half of the cases admitted to the sanatoriums are far advanced when first diagnosed. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that tuberculosis is a social and economic disease.
I have made that quotation because I believe that there is a definite need for much more activity in the fight against tuberculosis than has been evident up to date. I know that the Australian Government is anxious to do everything possible to help to eradicate the disease. In Western Australia there is an antituberculosis organization consisting of various individuals who are endeavouring to do something practical to eliminate the disease. I suggest that this Government make representations to the Government of Western Australia for. the appointment of a civilian to the State committee dealing with health. Such a man would be able to maintain contact with the various industrial and other organizations interested in the suppression of tuberculosis and could do much to publicize the benefits of seeking examination and treatment for the disease. The Government should also take action to prevent tuberculosis sufferers from entering Australia under its immigration schemes. AH immigrants should be submitted to a medical examination before entering the country. I am pleased that the Government has already realized the importance of such measures and has sent officers to various countries for the purpose of examining prospective immigrants before they leave for Australia.
I refer now to the apple and pear crop of 1948. I recently asked a question on this subject in the Senate, but I have not yet received an answer. I have received communications from the Fruit Growers Association of Western Australia strongly urging the Government to acquire the 1948 crop. The association passed the f ollowing resolution : -
This association re-affirms the necessity that protection at least equal in effect to that provided for the 1947 acquisition scheme is imperative for 1948 and until exports are resumed, and that the Commonwealth Government be urged to give assurance in this regard.
A majority of the fruit-growers of Western Australia support this move for acquisition of the 1948 crop. The decision was taken by means of ballots that were conducted by the Commonwealth electoral officer, which resulted in a substantial majority voting for the resolution. I trust that the Government will give very serious consideration to the acquisition of the . 1948 apple and pear crop, because, as far as I know, overseas ships are not yet available to build up the export trade. The Commonwealth Public Works Committee recently visited Western Australia to investigate a proposal for a new building for the repatriation offices in Perth. Some people contend that no government buildings should be erected during the present severe housing shortage, but I point out that the repatriation offices in Perth are badly overcrowded, located in a most unsuitable position, and stored with thousands of files which give rise to a severe fire risk. In addition, tie State government has long been anxious to have those offices removed from the A class Crown land on which they are situated. The Commonwealth Taxation offices in Perth are seriously overcrowded and unsuitably situated. I have referred to these matters because I believe that in Western Australia, as elsewhere in the Commonwealth, there is a great need for the centralization of Commonwealth departments. I shall discuss other important matters which I have in mind when the Estimates are being considered in detail.
– I congratulate you, Mr. President, upon your elevation once again to the presidential chair in the Senate, a post which you occupy with credit to yourself. Tour handling of the business of the Senate has succeeded in maintaining the dignity of this chamber. I congratulate Senator Cooper upon being elected to the position of Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. This appointment is well deserved by the honorable gentleman, not only because of his ability, but also because of his knowledge of the problems which confront the nation to-day. I also congratulate my colleague from South Australia, Senator Nicholls, upon his re-appointment as Chairman of Committees. South Australians regard it as an honour that Senator Nicholls should occupy this position. I am sure that hi3 wide knowledge of the Standing Orders has been of great assistance to members of the Senate. I extend my sincere sympathy to the relatives of the late exSenator Leckie and the late ex-Senator Collett, both of whom graced this chamber with their presence for many years and earned, the respect and friendship of all with whom they came in contact.
T congratulate Senator Rankin on her very sincere speech, and I think that it is one df the best we have heard in this chamber for some time. I also extend my congratulations to Senator O’sullivan on his maiden speech, but I believe that as time goes on the honorable senator will regret that he resorted to muck-raking in the course of that speech. I agree with the remarks of Senator Critchley as to the seriousness of soil erosion, particularly in view of the damage that has been done to the pastoral leases of this country. The problem of overcoming soil erosion is one of the paramount ones which confronts the Government to-day. I have had some experience of pastoral leases- in the back country and I can visualize the damage done in the northwestern and north-eastern parts of South Australia. In former years, some of those leases carried 35 sheep to the square mile, but to-day they carry only one-third of that number, and in many cases the v. leases have been abandoned altogether. In considering the value to Australia of the merino wool clip, one should take
into account the parlous condition of the wool industry in some parts of Australia and the urgent necessity for the Government to do something to help it. It is well known that in the boom years which followed World War I., a great deal of money was loaned by banks and other institutions to pastoralists, but when the price of wool fell, overdrafts were called up peremptorily and high rates of interest had to be paid by leaseholders who were able to obtain a renewal of their overdrafts. Because of the action of the financial institutions, great numbers of salt bush and blue bush leases were abandoned altogether, and, in my opinion, that is one of the primary causes of the erosion which has occurred throughout Australia. As I said, it is the duty of the Government to take effective action to combat soil erosion, the consequences of which cannot be exaggerated.
As one who had 36 years’ railway service, I feel that I can speak with authority on the subject of the standardization of railway gauges, and I urge the Government to press on with this work as soon as possible. The development and the defence of this country depend primarily on rail transportation, and it is seriously hampered at present, because of the break of gauge which occurs so often in our railway systems. This is particularly noticeable in South Australia. A most glaring example is provided at Port Pirie, where the railway tracks in one marshalling yard are of three different gauges. During the war this situation led to the .creation of one of the greatest bottle-necks in transportation in this country. Apart from considerations of national defence, however, the unification of railway gauges will be of great assistance to primary producers, because it will facilitate the rapid transport of stock and perishable commodities. In my opinion, the. first task which should be undertaken in standardizing, railway gauges is to widen the gauge of the line from Port Pirie to Broken Hill. The gauge of the present line is only 3 ft. 6 in., but when it is replaced with one of 4 ft. 8-J in., we shall have a standard gauge from Kalgoorlie to Brisbane. I am not unmindful of the present shortage of labour and material, and I realize that we cannot hope to complete this national work as soon as some of us wish, but I believe that when the work is commenced it will receive the approval of the entire community.
It is just over six years since the Australian Labour party assumed the reins of government. It took control of the nation’s destiny at a time of peril unparalleled in the history of this country. The Government, supported by members of the parties at present in opposition, failed to govern Australia in its gravest crisis. People will not soon forget that Mr. Menzies resigned his commission, nor will they forget that Mr. Fadden failed to govern, and that the burden of governing a nation at war fell on the shoulders of the late Mr. Curtin. The manner in which Mr. Curtin carried out his duties will be appreciated by a grateful nation for many years. When he was removed from the scene by death his place was very, ably filled by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). A Labour government, which alone proved capable of governing this country at the time of its greatest crisis, should be more than capable of governing it in time of peace. But the present Government is not only administering the country efficiently; it has also conferred on the Australian people economic security and made possible a standard of living as high as any in the world. .
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– It would appear that when an honorable senator gets on his feet to speak in this chamber he is expected to congratulate somebody on some achievement. That being so, I add my congratulations to those which have already been expressed. I shall not mention by name those to whom I refer, but shall content myself with congratulating those who have already been named, and lest any one has been forgotten, I congratulate him also.
In a recent speech notifying the Senate of the appointment of Opposition senators to various offices the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) said that there had been a reversal of the strength of the opposing parties, and he expressed the pious hope that some measure of reform in regard to Senate elections would take place. Those who believe in federation with a bicameral system -of parliamentary control will not agree to the abolition of the Senate, whereas those who believe in unification, with only one legislative chamber in the federal sphere, with provincial councils throughout Australia, may be willing to abolish the Senate, and possibly also the legislative councils of the various States. With unification, however, the position would be vastly different from what it is now, ‘because there would then be no State parliaments as we know them to-day, whilst the provincial councils would not have nearly the same powers as are possessed by the existing State parliaments. I do not know whether the people of Australia believe in unification. To decide that another convention would probably be necessary, and the Australian Constitution would have to be put into the melting-pot. During recent years the people have been asked to express their opinions on various subjects and the result has not been altogether satisfactory. It would not be possible, at this stage, to submit to the people a referendum for the abolition of the Senate, or to obtain their views regarding unification. The only alternative is to decide whether this Parliament is sufficiently large to serve the electors, particularly as the population of Australia has grown by nearly 300 per cent, since federation. I believe that in the near future it will be necessary to increase the number of members of this Parliament. According to the Constitution, any increase of the number of members of the House of Representatives involves an increase of the number of senators also.
I believe that it is possible to alter the system of voting for the Senate. The present system was designed to help the parties in power at the inception of federation. If the Government were to introduce a system of proportional representation with increased representation of the States in the Senate, it would, if we can judge by the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and of another honorable senator whose surname commences with an “ O “ and an apostrophe, be charged with having done so with ulterior motives. The only thing that I can see is to introduce a system of proportional representation in the election of senators to represent the several States. There has been no suggestion by the Opposition as to the method of reform that should be adopted. In my opinion the only practical way to alter the representation in the Senate is by a system of proportional representation. I should, be pleased to hear from members of the Opposition whether they agree with me. I realize that if the electors were approached, the achievements of the present Government are such that the Labour party would still have a majority in the Senate and probably also in the House of Representatives. Regardless of the result of the next general elections, I should like to see proportional representation introduced simply because it would prevent any recurrence of the existing state of affairs in the Senate, a state of affairs which existed some years ago as well. Indeed, there was an occasion when the Labour party had only one representative in this chamber. That representative did a magnificent job. He was Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Opposition Whip. The present Opposition has a slightly better representation in the Senate than the Labour party had then.
– Not better, but larger.
– When Labour was in a minority in the Senate there was no complaint from the parties then in great numerical strength as to the inequity of the voting system; nevertheless,’ I hope that the cry of those now in the political wilderness will be heard and acted on in the near future.
This afternoon the Senate listened to the maiden speech of Senator O’Sullivan. As Senator Beerworth has said, it is a pity that the honorable senator used the muck rake. I am the more sorry that he did so because his name begins with an “ 0 “ and an apostrophe. I regret that a. man with such, a name should have stooped to the depths that Senator O’Sullivan stooped this afternoon. He tried to traduce a man who has been gathered to his fathers; I refer to a former Prime Minister of Australia, the late John Curtin. Usually only a man’s merits are mentioned after he dies. Fortunately, it is rare to find an honorable senator drawing attention to the defects of a man who is dead, but that is what happened here this afternoon.
– Alleged defects.
– Yes. But Senator O’sullivan made it clear that, in his opinion, the defects were real. He quoted man after man who had made certain statements - one in the Army, another in the Air Force, and so on. The honorable senator attempted to defame a man who played a magnificent part in the defence of Australia.
– Mr. Curtin gave hia life for his country.
– Senator O’Sullivan should have a good look at himself. No man in the history of. Australia, in either the Federal or the State sphere, was so vilified as was the late John Curtin. The things that were said of him to-day were said of him when he was struggling to save Australia; and they were said by members of the party to which Senator O’Sullivan belongs. The things that were said about John Curtin helped to kill him. He was vilified fore and aft, in the press and over the air. He was blamed for everything that occurred. But I have yet to learn of any one who did what Senator O’Sullivan did this afternoon, namely, vilify him after he was dead. The honorable senator made certain statements about some individuals associated with the Labour movement, and he quoted a resolution passed by the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party in 1940. He referred also to the financial policy which that resolution described as a financial monopoly. He construed statements to give the impression that the Labour party was opposed to the defence of Australia. Nothing of the kind ! The resolution was specifically aimed at the financial monopoly in this country, which at that time was demanding more interest when loans to fight the war were being floated. I tell the honorable senator that, in the near future, the financial monopoly that he mentioned today, and which was referred to in the resolution of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party, will be wiped out and a new system altogether - a system owned and controlled by the people - will be substituted for it. In recent times, there has been an attempt on the part of those who were the industrial and financial controllers before the war to get back to conditions that existed in pre-war days. The struggle has resulted in upheavals of all kinds throughout Australia. Part of the industrial turmoil that now exists is the result of that struggle, because certain sections of the community want to revert to the old system which operated prior to the war. That system was not confined to financial circles; it applied also in those huge monopolistic institutions which existed in the industrial sphere and even in the distribution field. All these things were foreseen by the Labour patty and have been taken into consideration by it.
The honorable senator also referred to the organizations of ex-service personnel and certain resolutions carried by them. He said that those associations represented 249,500 members and that they carried certain resolutions about preference in employment to ex-service personnel. Recently, I read a large advertisement in the press in which a financial institution claimed that it represented 1,500,000 persons who were its customers. Neither of those claims can be substantiated. The persons in respect of whom those numbers were given may have been members in the case of the service organizations and customers in the case of the financial institution ; but that does not mean that those bodies represent those persons. Indeed, there is a cave in the returned soldiers associations, the members of which are anything but Labour supporters. At the same time, they are particularly politically minded, and, as a rule, they use their positions -in such organizations for the purpose of traducing the Labour movement and any one connected with it. In respect of resolutions which are carried at meetings of such associations, as is the case with many other bodies, the rank and file members as a whole are not told the facts. Very often, the truth is withheld from members who actually attend the conferences at which resolutions of that kind are carried. Consequently, such resolutions cannot be taken to represent the opinions of the members of such associations as a whole. Eoi- example, I shall deal with preference in employment for ex-servicemen. -Senator O’Sullivan mentioned several ex-members of Parliament in this respect, hut the only thing with which the interests on whose behalf he spoke are concerned is preference for some particular individuals and not preference for the great mass of returned soldiers. If the position were- otherwise, why did not anti-Labour governmentssince “World War I. up to 1941 apply the preference clause in the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act? Apparently, every honorable senator with the exception of Senator O’Sullivan knows that returned soldiers were not given the benefit of preference in any way by those governments. Preference for them was just a figure of speech. The only persons who were then given preference were the “ brass hats “ who now, as in the past, keep alive this issue for their own private mercenary gain. Nobody else received preference under anti-Labour governments from 1929 to 1939. In this matter, we can exclude the Scullin Government, because, although Senator O’Sullivan declared that that Government was in power, it was merely in office because it was confronted with a hostile majority in the Senate. The honorable senator’s argument on that point was ably answered by Senator Nash. The Opposition majority in the Senate at that time was a ruthless majority, and caused all of the difficulties which confronted the Scullin Government.
What happened during that period.? Senator O’Sullivan mentioned housing. The Scullin Government endeavoured to obtain money from the banking institutions to finance a housing programme in order to make good the deficiency of houses and, at the same time, give work to the large numbers of unemployed who would thus be enabled to earn wages and pay their own way. But the private financial monopoly said “ No “. The financial interests -were the dictators of government policy in those days, and they dictated to the Scullin Government until they forced it out of office. That is what happened. Anti-Labour governments in those years did not undertake housing programmes. Homes were not built. Neither oan it be ‘said that during She -period up to 1929 bouses were built on a large scale. From 1929 to 1939, anti-Labour governments did not implement any bousing schemes at all. ‘I recall ‘(toft when ‘Mr. Thorby, -who was then .the mem’ber for Calare, was in charge of war service homes, many returned soldiers were evicted because they could not pay their rent. They could not do so ‘because the government of the day would not provide the funds necessary to give them work. The government of the day even -evicted the -widows of returned soldiers, and many of these women gave birth to children shortly after being kicked out of their homes. Yet .Senator O’Sullivan had much to say to-day about morality .and the birth-rate. Those things happened -under ,a Liberal-Country party administration. How can the honorable senator talk about preference to ex-service personnel in employment? The present Labour Government is the only government which has really .attempted to give preference in employment to .ex-<service personnel. It is the .only government which has attempted ,to apply the .letter of -the law with respect to preference. Of course, there may. have been a few individuals who did not get preference over other persons, and thereby missed some cushy jobs. They are the kind of people who do -all the squealing on this subject ito-day, and raise extraneous matters, such as the appointment of exmembers of Parliament to certain positions.
Senator O’Sullivan also had much to 3ay .about the drift from the land. .Good heavens! The honorable senator must have been .asleep. Like some other people he talks with “ tears in his voice “ about the drift from the land. Every one knows that in .recent years -this country has ;experienced heavy losses through drought. A. study of rainfall records .shows that recent droughts have been among the most severe experienced in this country. Despite that fact, however, our farmers are now producing more than was produced during any other similar period. In the near future our wheat-farmers will gather in a bounteous harvest. Indeed, it will be a record harvest ; and corresponding results will be achieved by other sections of pri mary producers. We shall then be told, of course, ,that the Labour Government has not contributed anything to ‘that result, that our record ‘harvests are due to ‘nature. But were it not for the action taken by this Government in keeping men on ‘ the land and doing all it possibly could to -assist them through the difficult periods -experienced in this -country during -recent -years, we should not now be anticipating a record harvest. For -years, anti-Labour governments -talked about decentralization of industries, but they did nothing in that direction. Again, they merely -gave voice to -shibboleths, indulging in party political -window dressing. But -this ‘Government is decentralizing industry. It is establishing industries in country towns with a view to keeping the boys -and girls of Australia in rural communities in order to promote primary production. No anti-Labour government has implemented a policy of that kind. Yet Senator O’Sullivan and his supporters weep and cry that the Government should stop the drift from the land. This Government is making it possible for more people to settle on the land, and in this respect it is giving preference to exservice personnel. It is making sure that ex-service personnel are properly trained for the tasks of primary production and that .suitable land is made available to them for the growing of particular crops. In that way, new settlers will be assured of success. It is also guaranteeing to producers the economic value of their products. ‘Consequently, we shall not repeat the blunders that were made in soldier land settlement following World War I., when many soldiers were crippled under heavy financial burdens. The Government is stabilizing the prices of primary products through the medium of subsidies. Senator O’Sullivan said that the Government was receiving record revenues, and with smug complacency he added that he did not mind how the Government expended money so long as it put people into production. He declared that more than half of the additional number now in employment compared with our total labour force in 1939 were employed by governments, and that these people were producing nothing. That is not true. The -Commonwealth Government employs only about 25 per cent, of the total number of persons employed by governments in Australia. The jobs of many persons in the employ, of .State governments are not sinecures, as the honorable senator would have, us believe. Many are engaged in production. For instance, in South Australia ex-service personnel are entering employment in forests and timber mills which are owned and controlled by the government of that State. That industry was established by a Labour government in South Australia. To-day, of course, the Government of South Australia is not a Labour Government. I was a member of the State Parliament in the days when Labour attempted to establish plantations to provide timber in the future; but now the Premier, Mr. Playford, is claiming credit for the valuable timber, including pinus radiata and pinus insignis, that are being cut in that State. However, that is beside the question. The point I am making is that the men employed in the South Australian forests are government employees, and are some of the 100,000 mentioned by Senator O’Sullivan. Again I say that any one who presumes to tell others that they are not speaking the truth should be careful himself at least not to avoid the truth.
I could mention other industries in which government employees are engaged on productive work. For instance, in South Australia there are also experimental farms on which certain crops are produced. These include wheat, and to the people engaged on those experiments credit is due for some of the improvements obtained. That scientific production is necessary, particularly in a country like Australia, some part of which is affected by drought nearly every year. The allegation that the Commonwealth Government is the only employer of governmental labour in the Commonwealth is untrue and is made for the sole purpose of maligning the Labour Government. The honorable senator quoted a passage from the American Declaration of Independence, and said that all men were equal and had an equal right to life, liberty and happiness. He claimed that the Labour Government had done certain things for which it had no mandate from the people. I draw his attention to the fact that when the Curtin Government assumed office, in 1941, it was confronted with a hostile Senate. However, it carried on, and, undoubtedly, did certain things for which it had no specific mandate from the people. But, at the subsequent elections, Labour was returned to office, not only with a majority in the House of Representatives, but also in this chamber, although the new senators did not take their seats until June, 1944. Labour’s success at the polls reflected the people’s support of the Labour Government’s actions.
Senator O’Sullivan said also that the Menzies Government had set up the Advisory War Council. That is true, but the council was set up on the advice of the Labour party, then in Opposition. The Opposition was invited, to join a composite ministry, but Mr. Curtin refused the invitation. The obvious intention of the anti-Labour forces was to suborn some members of the Labour party, or to wean them from the Labour movement. The Advisory War Council was the outcome of the negotiations that took place. The Liberal party - then the United Australia party - and the Australian Country party could not agree upon a uniform policy for the prosecution of the war. That is proved by the conflicting statements made by members of these parties at the elections. The result was that the electors supported the Labour party. A similar state of affairs prevailed during the last elections. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party singled out certain individuals and “ slam-whanged “ them. The Opposition party leaders announced to the electors that they had agreed upon a broad policy, although- they were at variance on some minor details. The result was a further defeat for the anti-Labour forces. To-day, members of these parties, running true to form, are picking on the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in an endeavour to drag him down politically. Almost every day scurrilous attacks on the right honorable gentleman are published in the press or broadcast over the radio. But the people of this country are more astute, politically, than’ they were in days gone by, largely because of the political agitation that has gone on in recent times, and notwithstanding the amount of money that has been expended by the Opposition parties on propaganda, the people know where the truth, lies. Earlier to-day, we were confronted with the sorry spectacle of a member of the Opposition attacking a man who is now dead. This attack followed the now well-known pattern of singling out individuals with the object of destroying their reputations.
I wish to refer now to a matter concerning the Department of Supply and Shipping. Some months ago, representations were made to Commonwealth authorities with the object of getting advances to assist certain firms in South Australia to undertake the production of certain minerals, one of which is ilmenite. The authority concerned is the Bureau of Mineral Resources. but few applications get past the South Australian Department of Mines which it consults, as it is a most conservative instrumentality, and is ruled by one of the State’s most astute politicians, the Premier, Mr. Playford. Unless a person is “ O.K. “ with the Premier he has little hope of success. I should like to know whether the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) could find a way to circumvent the South Australian Mines Department. My informant on this matter says that after months of negotiations nothing further had been done by the Department of Mines in regard to his application for a loan from the Bureau of Mineral Resources. He add9 -
We are still in a position similar to that when I last spoke to you in Adelaide except that. . . . has been supplied with details of the markets, held and in prospect, of the company. He advised that his department intended conducting a survey of same. Maybe it is now the opinion of the Mines Department that production from our deposit, being the main source of ceramic material in this State, should be restricted until this to-be-established laboratory is established, conducts its research and issues its report. Five years is the estimated period of investigation.
I hope that some way can be found of by-passing the Department of Mines so that assistance given by the Commonwealth can be used for the development of the State’s mineral resources.
– In making my first speech in this chamber, I should like to make my position quite clear. I am a product of the trade union movement of this country. I have been elected by the people to en deavour to implement Labour’s policy, and I intend to do that if possible, with the assistance of my colleagues. I do not pretend to represent the whole of the people of Tasmania. I shall be quite honest about that. I represent only those individuals who make up the great working class in this country. That class consists of trade unionists, small business men, and small farmers. These people constitute about 95 per cent, of the population. The other 5 per cent, consists of those interested in monopolies and combines, and they can be represented by the Opposition. The reason I make this clear is that during the last two weeks I have received telegrams from many electors in Tasmania, some congratulating the Government on its stand and others from big employers of labour stating that, because they regard me as their representative, they expect me to do certain things. I tell these people now that I do not represent their interests. I make my position clear.
Some of the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) called for a reply. He said that the Government was to blame for the loss of 15,000,000 sheep due to the fact that farmers and squatters cannot obtain supplies of wire, wire netting and other commodities. It is remarkable that the honorable gentleman should castigate the Government on this ground because, when the Government asked the people to alter the Constitution in order that it might compete with private enterprise in the production of necessary commodities, the parties which the honorable senator represents and the newspapers vilified it. They said to the people, “ Don’t give this Government any more power than it has “, and, unfortunately, the people rejected the Government’s request. Now, after that performance, the honorable senator blames the Government for the lack of consumable goods, knowing full well that the Constitution prevents it from entering into the field of production in order to overcome these shortages. I believe that the Australian people do not understand the Constitution as clearly as it should be understood. Many of them believe that when we are elected to Parliament we can enact and enforce such legislation as we wish. They do not realize that we have a Constitution and must work within its four corners. I believe that the only way in which we can surmount this obstacle is to educate the people by including in the curriculums of primary and secondary schools courses of instruction dealing with the Constitution and the National Parliament. Then, the pupils would be able to tell their families how the powers of the Australian Parliament are limited. Our powers are limited because the Constitution was not made in the interests of the working people. It was made in the interests of the employers, the exploiting class. There are two classes in this country - the exploiters and the exploited. « The exploited are the working people; the exploiters are the ones for whom the Constitution was framed. The people are seeking an alteration of this state of affairs’.
At the last Senate elections, they increased the number of representatives of the Labour party to 33 of a* total of 36, a fact which indicates that they are sick and tired of the old order and are anxious for a change. We are moving towards an improved state of society much more quickly than the Opposition parties realize; but unfortunately this movement is retarded by the restrict tions imposed upon the Government by the Constitution. The High Court has ruled that the Australian. Government cannot enter into competition with private enterprise in the production of essential goods, such as wire netting. During the war,, a total of about £100,000;000 of the people’s money was invested in workshops and factories, but when the war ended, the Government lacked power to take advantage of those establishments for the purpose of producing consumable goods needed by the people. It was forced to hand- them over to private enterprise.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the housing situation. This seems to be- one of his “ hobby-horses Unfortunately, the Opposition’s outcry about the housing shortage has been received with a certain amount of sympathy because many people need homes. All that we need in this’ world is security - food, clothing and shelter. We are entitled to- that. What did the Opposition parties do in 1939, when they were- in power, for the men who later fought for this country and for whom they now shed crocodile tears?’ There were 250,000 unemployed people in Australia in 1939. Those workers made up the first contingents of our war-time army. To-day, the Opposition parties claim that they are championing the cause of those men. In 1939’, they did not care whether they had sufficient food or shelter from the- snow or the- rain. Let us examine the record of government enterprise in New South Wales. A Labour government in that State established a brick factory, a pipe factory, and timber mills for the purpose of laying the foundations- for a home-building scheme; Senator Rankin said this afternoon that government enterprise was unprofitable, that it charged as much- as possible and gave- as little as possible in return. That is not correct. Government enterprise does pay. It has paid- in New South Wales. In fact, the State brick works, pipe works and timber mills paid handsomely. The brick factory was so efficient that it forced down the price of bricks until the private manufacturers complained to the government of the day that it was competing unfairly with them. When an anti-Labour government came into power under Mr. - subsequently Sir Bertram- - Stevens, it imposed restrictions on those State-controlled industries, but they still operated efficiently and profitably. .They continued to do so through the depression until, in 1934, the anti-Labour Government found ways and means of selling them. Since then the price of bricks in New South Wales has risen sky-high. That Government clipped the wings of the fledgling Statecontrolled building industry so that to-day we are unable to obtain materials which are badly needed for homes. In spite of this, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party tell the people that this Government is responsible for shortages of building materials !
Before I became a member of the Senate, I read a great deal in the newspapers about the way in which the Government was treating the widows of men who died fighting to protect our country. Indeed, I was almost convinced that the Government was not giving these women a fair deal. Therefore, as soon as I came to Canberra, I asked the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) to supply me with a statement showing what payments are made to war widows, including allowances for dependants. I was surprised to learn that much of the information published in the newspapers was incorrect. It was based upon misrepresentation of the facts. I learned that weekly payments are made according to the following scale : -
In addition to these payments, widows with children are granted an education allowance. For instance, a woman with four children is paid 15s. 6d. a week education allowance. This covers the costs of schoolbooks, other requisites and fares. Provision is also made for the payment of medical expenses. A widow’s pension is not subject to income tax. A widow with dependants who wishes to work may do so, but her pension still remains exempt from income tax. Only the amount which she earns by working is taxable. The means test is not applied to the pension. These facts show that the Government is not by any means treating war widows inconsiderately. I mention these figures in order to enlighten people who believe, as I did, that the Government is not dealing fairly with war widows. I am pleased to notice also that the Government has increased the provision made in the Estimates this year for the assistance of war widows. Probably it will be able to increase the pension in the near future. I hope so. After all, the pension cannot compensate a woman for the loss of her husband. No monetary payment could ever do that. The pension is merely a substitute for the earnings of her breadwinner to enable her and her children to live in .comfort. I believe that this Government will provide further benefits for these unfortunate women in future.
This topic leads me to point out that the Opposition parties are not sincere in their talk about women’s wages. I remember clearly when the Curtin Government decided to mobilize the whole nation to combat the enemy and to employ women in factories. The late Mr. Curtin said, “ “We will put women in the factories and they will receive equal pay for equal work”. The Government passed a regulation establishing a Women’s Employment Board, but it was disallowed by the Senate. Why was this done? Because the hostile Opposition in the Senate hoped that its supporters would be able to exploit women by paying them 54 per cent< of the male basic rate and so make greater profits. It also hoped that, after the war, women would remain in industry at the lower rates of pay to the exclusion of men who would be forced to walk the streets without employment. Mr. Curtin said, “ We will not allow this to happen ; I shall introduce a bill to create a Women’s “Employment Board “. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives, and Mr. Curtin challenged the Opposition in tie Senate and said, “If you defeat this bill, we will go .to the country”. When Opposition senators realized -the danger of losing their seats at an election - because nobody could justify “ a dissolution of the Parliament on such an issue - they ,gave in and the bill became law. Nobody can measure the full benefit .of .that act to the Australian people. Tt kept the standard of the workers on the same level as if the war had brought about no change in industry. Therefore, it saved millions of pounds f or the working people. In spite of all this, the Opposition parties now claim to be representing the interests of the women of Australia, including the war widows!
I shall now venture to take a peep into the future. We are passing through the most troublous time in the history of civilization. The old capitalist system based upon. production for profit is dying. It does not matter how urgent or necessary production may be; if it cannot slow a profit it cannot go on, because the capitalistic system is based upon “surplus values “. Take, for instance, the case of a tradesman who produces eight units. Those units have a certain monetary value, and he receives, in return for his labour, the monetary equivalent of two units. That means that the monetary value of the remaining six units is withheld from him. Some of those remaining units are absorbed in waste, in rent, interest and profits, but there is still a surplus, which goes into stock. Since the workers can purchase only about a quarter of the total value of their production, it is obvious that they lose the remaining three-quarters of it. That continues until, eventually, the warehouses become full. When that situation arises there is no sale for the goods because the community has not the necessary purchasing power, and we have a depression Then the employers will not continue to produce because they cannot sell their products. We find one factory after another closing, and we have the spectacle of starvation in the midst of plenty. Of course, the system which permits this sort of thing to happen is dying. Some people contend that the capitalist system has always existed and must always do so. That is not so, and it is not historically correct. Mankind has employed and discarded at least five different economic systems. Capitalism is now decadent, and is on its last legs. The only way to secure the well-being and happiness of the community is to socialize completely the ownership of the means of production. The sooner we recognize that the better for every one.
The economic position overseas is most difficult to-day. We have not the dollars to buy the goods which we require from America. We find that the United Kingdom is in even greater difficulty. The present situation, as I view it, is most dangerous. The Americans are using considerable -pressure to break up the system of Empire preference. However, I trust that the Government will not allow the American monopolists and millionaires to achieve that, because, if they do. it must result in the subjugation of this country by American interests. I notice that the United Kingdom is producing to-day the maximum quantity of goods for export, in an attempt to obtain the dollars which it needs so sorely. The newspapers are endeavouring to inculcate in the people of this country the idea that American domination of world finance is necessary if war is to be averted. But, the great military leaders of the world tell us that there is no immediate prospect of war. The British Government has already decided to dispense with 50,000 of its naval personnel, and Viscount Montgomery has said that there will not be war. Russia also says that there will not be war. That leads us to inquire, who wants war?
– The profiteers.
– That is the position. The profiteers are building up armaments, and they are endeavouring to inculcate in the minds of the people a prejudice against European countries. Do not be misled by it. Their propaganda is cheap, and it is certainly not in the interests of the people of the world. If we can retain Empire preference we should do so by all means, but if the United Kingdom is in the unfortunate position that it cannot sell to us the goods which we require, then we should explore the possibility of obtaining them from nations other than the United States of America. There are markets open to us in Europe. Czechoslovakia, for instance, is anxious to obtain from us meat, wheat, wool, lead and other commodities. In return, it can supply us with a great many things which we need. An international trade fair was held in that country in September, and the Czechoslovakian authorities published a list of the goods which they are anxious to export. It is a lengthy list, but one has only to glance at it to see that it contains many of the articles which we require so badly in this country. The list reads a-s follows : -
Heavy metal industry, exhibiting heavy machine tools, factory equipment, presses, rams, compressors, generators, turbines.
Light metal industry with pressings and forgings, iron sheets, plates, wire and goods made of these materials.
Engineering brings all types of machine tools, specialized machines for the manufacture of most variegated types of articles, such as textile, graphic, washing, welding, agricultural and colonial-produce working machinery.
Hardware, represented by nails, rivets, screws, fittings, vessels, mountings, cutlery, enamelled and aluminium ware, saws and shop tools of every kind.
Transport equipment, such as vehicles, tractors, aeroplanes, lifts, trailers, locomotives, cranes, pulleys, conveyors, lifting and loading devices.
Glass industry will bring household, technical, lighting and de luxe glass, either plain or cut,’ painted, etched and engraved.
Textile group includes linen and linen goods of all kinds, cloths, ready-made clothing, hosiery, knitted goods, laces, embroidery, curtains, trimmings, braid, hats, furs and feather ware.
Glass is in very short supply in Australia, and is holding up the production of other goods. Obviously Czechoslovakia has plenty of glass for export. “We have been told that the quantity of textiles available in Australia next year will be very restricted. Why should there be a limit when textiles are available overseas? Why can we not purchase the textiles and other goods which we need from Czechoslovakia? In saying this I do so with the reservation that we should obtain all the exports which we can from the United Kingdom or within the British Empire. We have been told that petrol consumption is again to be restricted. However, Roumania produces great quantities of petrol. We could exchange our primary products for Roumanian oil, and we could export our wheat and wool to Russia in return for timber from that country. Timber is very badly’ needed in this country. Why should we go without it when Russia can supply our needs? We have been told that there is to be a restriction on the importation of American tobacco. Why should we not import tobacco from Bulgaria, which produces it in great quantities ? Markets for our products are available in these countries in return for their goods. All we have to do is to abandon our present stupid, hypocritical policy of bigoted sectarianism and to take a broadminded view of the situation. We must face up to realities. If we do that we can benefit our own economy immensely and at the same time improve world trade and international relations. We expect to have a bumper wheat harvest shortly and vast quantities of wheat will be available for export. I suggest that we should export some of that wheat to the countries I have mentioned in exchange for some of their products.
I recently read in the Melbourne Herald some enlightening information concerning building materials. The report stated -
Production of building materials throughout Australia has climbed steadily in the past year and, while still well below housing programme needs, has reached pre-war output in some instances and surpassed it in others.
Prices are rising at a rate little less steady than production of the materials.
Commonwealth Department of Works and Housing figures, published in the department’s bulletin “ Australian Housing “, shows that main production increase have been in roofing tiles, cement building sheets and timber.
Present production of roofing tiles is 4,200,000 a month, compared with the 1939 average of 3,000,000 a month, but roofing still remains a bottleneck.
Of course, the manufacture of roofing materials is controlled by private enterprise, and private enterprise is responsible for the present disastrous situation. The report continues -
In April production of cement building sheets was 1,590,000 square yards, double the 1938-39 monthly output.
Sawn native timber is about one-third greater in volume than pre-war, but because of reduced imports, this remains one of the materials in snort supply.
As I said, ample timber is available from Russia, and we should avail ourselves of it. The report also stated -
In 1938-39 Australian sawn timber production was about 001,000,000 super, ft. states the bulletin. Imports added 325,000,000 feet and exports totalled 37,000,000. Timber available for local consumption was thus about 950,000,000 super, feet.
This year about 940 million super, feet will be cut out of Australian forests, but with imports reduced by nearly two-thirds the total available will be far short of demands.
Bricks, galvanized iron and paint are basic building needs in shortest supply.
It goes on to state something which is even more important, namely -
Prices of building material at the 31st March this year - the latest figures available from the department - show increases in many items compared with those in December last year.
In Melbourne, screenings rose by ls. a cubic yard, bricks by 4s. a thousand, scantling timber ls. 3Jd. a hundred super, feet, hardwood flooring ls. lOd. a hundred super, feet, galvanized roofing iron by £3 17s. a ton, roofing tiles ls. 8d. a hundred square feet fixed, and paint by ls. 5d. a gallon (since increased by nearly 40 per cent.).
No doubt the Government will be blamed for the increases of prices. I beard Senator O’Sullivan complaining of the increased costs of house construction. He said that a dwelling which cost £750 to erect in 1939 now costs approximately £1,200. That is so, but who is responsible for the increased cost? Honorable senators’ opposite- say that 1ihe Government fixes the prices; How does the Government fix prices? It says to the builders, in effect, “ We- must examine your costs, and we- ask. you to produce all. relevant figures “. Those figures are examined bythe Prices Commissioner; who fixes a price, which will return a profit to the builders. The builders, however,, can include anything they like in the figures which they submit, because it all helps to keep up their prices. Therefore, I say that it is not the Government but private enterprise which is to blame.
To-day we are buying china plates from Czechoslovakia at ls. each. The importers of that china pass on to the purchasing public freight, customs duty, and other incidental expenses. The trouble is that they do not simply pass on merely their actual expenditure ; they add a percentage of profit to each one of those items, so that in the result they make a profit of from 66 per cent, to 100’ per cent. If they pay ls, customs duty they charge the retailer ls. 6d. There is- something wrong when private enterprise can do such things, but there is. no power to stop it. If this Parliament had the. power to deal with, such exploiters, it should start in. opposition to them and sell at, prices1 which are fair. If we’ can not get goods from Britain, let us trade with European, countries. We. have the money to buy the goods that they can make. It is our’ duty to consider the welfare of all the people;
i.: - I had prepared before to-day the speech which I intended’ to make in connexion with the budget proposals, but I shall not now attempt to deliver it. My reason for making the change is. that recently I was honoured by the Government and’ sent to the other side of the world as leader of a delegation.. During nay tour of the different- countries that I visited I was more than ever confirmed in my faith in Australia, and my belief that the; British way of life is the best way that we know. I was also more than ever convinced that the British parliamentary institution is! the best form of parliamentary government that the world has: experienced’. Because- of those facts, and! also- because of my long- experience im this chamber, I am most’ jealous’ of the dignity, of the’ Senate. I believe that only we ourselves can injure the profession to which, we belong, namely,, that of representing the people in the National Parliament. And so in. the- time, at my disposal, I. feel inclined to say to one honorable senator who spoke this, afternoon several things which I think, ought to !be said, not only in his interests but- also- in the interests, of all who are. privileged, to represent the people’ in this Parliament. If you could see- my notes, Mr. President - and I am prepared to show them to you after I have, finished speaking” - you would see that, my first line was- intended to remind me: to express my sympathy with the Leader of the- Opposition (Senator Cooper).. The reason for that intention waa that; w& know Senator. Cooper to be ai courteous critic, a man with a kindly heart; - a gentleman.. I thought that 1 should, sympathize- with him because ofthe tremendous task which lies ahead of him) as Leader of the Opposition in’ a chamber in which he and two supportersare confronted by 33 Labour representatives. However, as the discussion progressed this afternoon, and Senator Rankin made her maiden speech, 1 thought that there was not’ much need for me to sympathize with the Leader of the Opposition, because it was evident that at least one of his followers would bc a credit to the Senate. Later, however. Senator O’Sullivan spoke; and when he had finished his address I felt more than ever sorry for the Leader of the Opposition, and thought that he deserved a great deal of sympathy: Those- who know me have heard me express’ on other occasions’ in this chamber my great pride in the Labour party to which I belong, and also my pride in the fact that f.oT fifteen years I have occupied a seat in the Senate. But, during my long association with the Labour movement, I was never so proud of Labour senators as I was this afternoon, when they restrained themselves and behaved like gentlemen, notwithstanding the provocation offered to them to act otherwise’ by the- regrettable’ speech of Senator O’Sullivan. I know just how other honorable’ senators felt, because I know how I felt. When Senator O’Sullivan proceeded t’o- talk of our late beloved leader,,. John. Curtin, in fine way tha* he did; when he quoted’ unkind and unfair remarks made by other people about Mr. Curtin, I thought that in some way or another it ought to have been possible for us to express our disapproval. But we did not do so; we allowed his untrue statements, his cowardly innuendoes, his slanderous references to Mr. Curtin to go unchallenged, because it was his maiden speech.
– cornmended Mr. Curtin.
– Many of us sitting in this chamber thought that we ought to have leaped to our feet and pleaded that the memory of a great Australian who lies in the eloquent silence of that grave in far away “Western Australia should have been treated with respect. I fear that Senator O’Sullivan will never know the joy of being beloved because of his political activities; that he will never experience’ the devotion and loyalty of his political comrades, with both of whom I sympathized sincerely this afternoon. John Curtin was a war casualty. He brought all that he was to the altar of his beloved Australia, and laid it down. In this Parliament and in other places he gave of his best that his fellow Australians might be saved from the ruthless tyranny of the Japanese oppressor. Senator O’Sullivan has had advantages which have been denied to most of us in this chamber in that he has had a good education and the benefit of a legal training. Yet he comes here, and in his maiden speech so forgets the respect that is due to his lienor able profession and to his political party that he descends to the despicable method’s adopted, by him this afternoon. With; no desire to be unfair to any one, I say that Senator O’Sullivan is a political accident. He comes from the State to which I belong, that State in which I have resided for 64 years - ‘longer than he has lived. He comes from a State on behalf of which I can speak; and I say that there is no Queenslander from one end of the State to the other who will endorse or condone his utterances. He comes into this chamber in 1947, having been defeated in his own State in every sphere of public activity. He tried to enter the municipal life of Queeusland, but the people would not have him ; he strove to get into the State
Parliament, but again the people of Queensland turned him down ; he sought to enter this Parliament as a member of the House of Representatives and opposed the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), but again the people rejected him-. Yet this afternoon, having at last entered this Parliament, he sees fit in his maiden speech to traduce the dead and besmirch the living. He slandered the Labour Government which steered Australia through its greatest crisis and brought its people triumphantly through the war, and has guided the nation through two difficult years of peace. I speak with a good deal of feeling. I do npt however, speak on my own behalf. I have lived long enough in the political arena to have experienced slanderous statements made about me, but I say to Senator O’Sullivan that at least in his maiden speech he should have realized that it was proper, if not essential - in my opinion, it was both proper and essential - that he should have some respect for the electors of Queensland who sent him here. “We are not used to the kind of language that we heard from him this afternoon.
In this chamber the swing- of the political pendulum has put members of various political parties on the Opposition benches. There was a time when I was the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber. In those days the Labour Opposition was proud of itself. Then came the time when, with the turn of the political wheel, we transferred to the government benches. It has been a pleasure to work with the Opposition which has contained men of the calibre of my fellow Queenslander, Senator Walter Cooper;, exSenator George McLeay of South Australia; the late ex-Senator Leckie from Victoria; ex-Senator J. B. Hayes, a former President, who came from Tasmania, as well as others. It was not that those men were ashamed of the political faith that they espoused, or that they feared to state their views on. the floor of the Senate. They spoke fearlessly and with courage, and- with proper regard to the respect due to those sitting on the other side of the chamber who disagreed with them. In other words they were always gentlemen. But thi? afternoon, in this National Parliament which has endeavoured to uphold the traditions of the great Mother of Parliaments which sits in London, those traditions have been lowered by a man who comes into this chamber with all the deplorable arrogance of the mentally deficient, who obviously knows nothing of the niceties of political behaviour or the methods which civilized politicians choose to follow. This afternoon Senator Rankin said that she asked for no mercy in debate from honorable members on this side of the chamber because she wasa woman. She said that she did not desire that; and she added, “Although I know politics are politics “. I was not quite sure what she meant; but if she had in mind the kind of politics of which her colleague was guilty this afternoon, if she had an idea, when she made that remark, that she had come into a chamber in which she had to be prepared to sink to the depths to which he sank, then I can understand her remark. But she need have no fear, because never again will this Senate sit in silence, while constituted as it is, and allow this institution, of which we are so proud, this symbol of our parliamentary way of life, for which the British race stands, to be traduced and slandered as it was to-day on the floor of this chamber. I remind Senator O’sullivan that he is not in the Brisbane police court when he stands in this chamber, that we on this side are not witnesses to be brow-beaten by his cowardly attacks. If he does not soon learn that, I promise him that he is in for a good time. I conclude this portion of my remarks by reciting the following verse for his special benefit: -
Boys flying kites haul in their white winged birds.
You can’t do that when you’re flying words. “ Careful with fire “ is good advice, we know ; “ Careful with words “, is ten times doubly so.
Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead;
But God Himself can’t kill them when they’re said.
In the short time still at my disposal, I wish to deal with some of the statements which have been made during this debate. I have the greatest sympathy with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), because, having once been the Leader of an opposition which consisted of only three Queenslanders, I know something of the tasks which lie ahead of him. Last week he said that he looked upon this appropriation measure as the report and balance-sheet of a board of directors to the shareholders of their company. That means to say that all he brought to bear in his consideration of this subject was the sordid outlook of the chartered accountant; and as he proceeded he made that fact perfectly clear. In those things which did not show a profit he claimed, of course, that there was something wrong. That is the theme of the political party which the Opposition represents. It wants to see the accountant’s profit. But the real profit resulting to the community from any undertaking by either private enterprise, or governments, does not consist in the difference between expenditure and receipts;; it really exists in how much benefit it confers upon the men, women and children of this country. The Labour party does not put appropriation bills before the Senate by which it proposes to show a profit. Many years ago, thepeople of the United States of America gave themselves a constitution, and the preamble to that constitution suits my argument particularly well to-night. It states -
We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
There is nothing whatever of the chartered accountant’s outlook in that utterance. These appropriations which we are asking for are sought in order to enable the Government to do exactly what that preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America sets out, and the estimates in respect of the different departments disclose our objectives and our methods. We shall have an opportunity later to deal with those Estimates in detail, but, generally, they deal with wages, hours, conditions of employment, health and physical fitness, profits and interest rates, and finally, the defence of the nation. The Labour party, and this Labour Government, propose to deal with those objectives by those methods for the express purpose of adding to the health, wealth, happiness and prosperity of all the people of this nation. In other words, to sum up this particular thought, we approach this question with noble ideals in our hearts, the Opposition responds with commonplace ideas. Their ideas have already been tried down through the ages and been found wanting. They have brought to the world within the short period of a short life two wars and a depression. That is the competitive capitalist system in which the Opposition parties believe, and the only result we have got out of it is the fact that to-day, again, after the frightful and disastrous years of the war from which we are just emerging, we are not quite sure whether we are not heading for another war. The programme of the Opposition parties has brought us to (hat position. They plead for a continuation of their policy, and slander the people who are determined finally to wipe out those ideas. The Opposition stands for private enterprise and competitive capitalism; we stand for public benefit and equality of opportunity for every one in the community. They stand for the profit motive for the employer, and the starvation urge for the employee. These are the prominent features of the capitalist order of society; and every honorable senator on this side of the chamber is pledged to bring that system to a disastrous finality so soon as we can do so. If the people do not like our policy, they have the opportunity once every three years to say so, and can turn us out again and go back to the flesh-pots to which they have been accustomed. I suggest that if there is one thing that we thought had emerged from the recent war it was the much talked of Four Freedoms. We of the Labour party believe in the Four Freedoms ; but, quite obviously, they make no appeal to the Opposition. We stand for a future which provides freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech and freedom of thought. In other words, we agree with the words of Buskin, the great English writer, who said -
Competition is in all things anarchy and death; co-operation is in all things harmony and life.
There we have the difference between the two competing forms of society, that for which we stand and that for which the
Opposition stands. For our part the Opposition can have their competition and private, enterprise, and the country riddled with bankruptcy. To the degree to which a trader is honest and refuses to descend to “ all the tricks of the trade “ under that system, just so soon will he find himself in the bankruptcy court. Under that system, the best go to the wall. The controllers of private enterprise, the people about whom the Opposition never tires of boasting, have wrecked society and strewn the years of the past with the wreckage of their alleged civilization, and they threaten to-day to undermine everything which makes life - real life - worth living. We do not stand for that form of society.
I was going to quote at some length from an article published recently in a journal in Queensland, The Producers’ Review, with which the Leader of the Opposition is quite well acquainted. I shall refer briefly to it for this reason: A good deal has been said during this debate about the conditions of the primary producers. Briefly, and without repeating what this Government has done for them, I point out that in the State from which I and the Leader of the Opposition come, the people who farm the farmers, the private enterprise business men, were so dishonest in their dealings with the primary producers that the Labour Government of that State had to pass a law making it compulsory to label all goods conveyed by train to the Brisbane markets from the different country centres. The name of the owner must be placed on all trucks so that every item can be traced. That was done because many of the people who farm the farmer used to sell his produce in the Brisbane markets, but send receipts for only portion of the goods received at’ the markets, and the farmer had no means of tracing the remainder of his goods. Consequently, some farmers determined to end the swindle. They travelled by train to keep an eye on their goods, until finally they were sold at the markets. Farmers who did that saw all sorts of things happen; and the facts are recorded in the archives of the Parliament of Queensland. For example, a man who sent 50 turkeys to market was told that only 30 had arrived alive. The agent did not know that that man had supervised the turkeys in transit until they reached the markets where he saw every one of the 50 turkeys sold. That is private enterprise. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the Producers Review, which is published in Queensland is the official journal of the Queensland Canegrowers Council. In a recent article it said a good deal about what ought to be done in respect of the subject with which I am dealing. This article is in terms quite contrary to those used by the Opposition. It is not a Labour journal. It draws much of its revenue from advertisements inserted by organizations connected with primary production. It says - _ For many years the heart disease of our civilization has been the privilege allowed a few to take all the profits that they could squeeze from the people. Greater production alone cannot solve the real problems .that must be faced. In -the years preceding the nineteen-thirties, the mass production machinery of the world was producing commodities at a greater pace than the world had ever known. Commodities were being poured out at such a pace that many people had almost begun to celebrate the death of poverty. Then came the crash. Depression and chaos settled down over the nations that were producing at a deliriously increasing pace, and what had been thought to be the New Era of Plenty suddenly became the New Babel of Confusion and Want. Unemployment reached record figures. Only two nations, Germany and Russia, found something for their people to do. They were manufacturing arms, and were doing it by systems of .forced labour. Then came the world war, and suddenly the spectre of unemployment disappeared, foi- war is the only market that never “experiences a glut. As fast as materials can be produced war breaks them, ‘burns them, blows them to pieces, or sinks them to the bottom of the sea. War’s acceleration of production led to greater profits, greater accumulations by .the few, with a greater sense of insecurity and .frustration for the many.
I .warn the people of this .country that history will repeat itself as it has a .habit of doing, unless Labour’s policy is kept operative over the years by the continuing support of the electors. We must realize that to-day there is a great struggle for existence. We are told with smug complacency that .the money that people earn to-day has not nearly the purchasing power of similar amounts a few years ago; ‘but the struggle in which the common people are engaged - T .refer not only -to manual workers .but to toilers in all walks of life, in the cities and in the country - is not the struggle that I went through or my parents went through. That, was a struggle for mere existence. To-day, the struggle is for a higher standard of living and a greater degree of comfort, and the majority of people in the - community are enjoying these things to-day because of Labour’s policy, although only a small portion of that policy has yet become operative. The struggle to-day is not merely for some material benefit for one particular section of the community, it has a much wider bearing. It is a struggle all over the world for the breaking down of the barriers between “East and West”, and one that is making all mankind soldiers in .a coming battle .against want and deprivation.
Much more could be said about governmental trading activities, which the Opposition declares are always failures, but other speakers on this side have dealt fully, fairly and properly with that subject. However, I remember that quite recently the Government took a step in the direction of nationalizing airlines. The first result of that action was an immediate reduction of the cost of air travel. And what happened ? The private companies immediately brought their fares down to the same level. While I was a Minister during five of the most difficult war years, I drew the attention of the Government to the .fact that the private airline operators were paying the Commonwealth nothing more than the rental for the space upon which their hangars were erected at the various airports throughout the Commonwealth, although this Government., as “well -as past administrations, had spent many millions .of pounds on the -construction of aerodromes, landing strips, navigational aids, and landing facilities, all of which were being utilized by the private airline operators. I pointed out to the Government that it was not receiving a fair deal in this matter, .and now .action is being taken to remedy that position. Members of the .Opposition talk of private .enterprise; lb.ut private .enterprise could not have lived had it not been for the subsidies that have been .paid by this Government in respect of many services and commodities.
We have been twitted with communism. There is not a vestige of truth in any of the remarks that our opponents make about a connexion between the Communists and the Labour party or the Labour Government. Every Labour member of Parliament has to sign a declaration, before he can become a candidate, that he is not a .member of the Communist organization or any other organization having a political policy different from that of the Labour party. But, Senator O’Sullivan will ask, “ Why don’t you tell the whole story? Why don’t you say that all the industrial unions are affiliated with the Labour party, and that some of these unions are dominated by Communists”? That isanother falsehood. It is true that most of the industrial unions are affiliated with the Labour party, but it is also true that the trade union movement exists primarily for the sole protection of the industrial interests of its members. I know that there are some members of the trade union movement who do not believe in the Labour .party. From their ranks have come candidates who have opposed Labour members at elections. It is also true that in some unions there are Communists, but every time a Communist .candidate stands for election to Parliament anywhere in Australia - with the exception of one in Queensland - he loses his deposit. The only reason why Communists are given any opportunity to come to the forefront in industrial organizations is that because their method of propaganda is often so despicable, self-respecting unionists unfortunately either do not attend their union meetings or leave the meetings before these people begin their real business. I have no objection to the Communist. He has as much right to ‘be a Communist as I have to be a Labour’ man; hut what I object to is that ‘he objects to us. And why does he object to us? I have made some study of this matter and I know. The Communist sees in the Labour party his worst enemy, because that party is making the present economic system tolerable to the workers. So, the Communis U do not fight the capitalists; they fight us. There is a fundamental difference between the methods of the Communists and our methods. The Communists believe that with the increasing economic degradation of the masses they will get the revolution; we believe that by the increasing economic elevation of the masses, we shall get the revolution. The Communist revolution means the revolution of the guts. The Labour movement’s revolution means the revolution of the mind, and we believe that if Labour continues its present policy, and if the people keep us in power, we shall be able to prove as the years pass that there is no need for any other party, because the Labour party is the only one that can bring economic salvation to the workers and toilers. In that belief, we shall go on until victory is won or we shall go down with our flag flying.
– I have listened with a great deal of attention to the remarks of various honorable senators, not only those who have been in this chamber for some time, but also those recently elected members who have made their maiden speeches. As one who has been privileged to listen to no fewer than three batches of new senators in this chamber, I must compliment the newcomers on this occasion upon the manner in which they have presented their facts to the Senate. This afternoon, when the two remaining members of the Opposition spoke, I felt that I was listening to a repetition of articles that have appeared in various newspapers in criticism of the Labour movement. Possibly I misunderstood Senator O’Sullivan, but I thought that he resorted to the device that has been used frequently, of praising former leaders of the Labour party and condemning the present leader. We know that in the opinion of many members of the Opposition parties in this Parliament, the only good Labourites are those who have departed from this world.
Recently there has been an influx of members of the ‘Commonwealth Parliament, including the Leader of the ‘Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies’) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden”!) to the State of Victoria, -where a federal election is : being fought on State premises. I say that because a Commonwealth matter has been brought to the forefront by the opponents of Labour in Victoria. We fina that the only objection that can be taken to the Labour government in Victoria is that the Communists are rampant in that State. We have not heard one constructive idea expressed by anti-Labour speakers.
As another honorable senator has pointed out, the budget is the balancesheet of the nation. The speech made by the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on the budget, and that of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) on the measure now under discussion, have disclosed that the Australian economy is sound. Two years after the war, this Government has been able to present to the people a record of achievement that stands unparalleled in the history of responsible government. When we realize the vast expenditure to which the nation was committed during the war and the gigantic nature of the task of dispersing the machinery of war, we must give full marks to the Government for the budget which it has presented. Employment was never at a higher level, and industry is flourishing.
Honorable senators opposite have spoken of the numbers of men and women who are engaged in governmental works. Is not that an indication of the Government’s efforts to satisfy the many requirements of the people? Senator Morrow mentioned in his excellent speech the disabilities suffered by the Government by reason of the limitations imposed on it by the Constitution, which restricts the scope of its activities in trade and commerce. The fact that the Government is engaging in industry, subject to those limitations, and thereby expanding its services to the people, is a matter not for criticism but for high praise. Senator Rankin this afternoon deplored the fact that the Postmaster-General’s Department is not able to provide the postal and telephonic facilities that the people want, particularly in the outlying parts of the continent. The fact that the department is doing everything possible to make up the lee-way lost during the war by employing additional labour naturally adds to the size of the Government’s payroll. We cannot have it both ways. If we demand extra services from the Government in the interests of the people, then we must pay for the employment of the extra labour required) to satisfy that demand. Other departments have been obliged to extend the scope of their activities in order to meet unprecedented demands. New departments have been created since I became a member of the Parliament. One of these is the very important Department of Works and Housing. It is true that, since federation, there has always been an instrumentality in charge of works, but a Department of Housing is a new feature. Tie creation of this department entails the employment of additional labour and clerical staff in order to deal with important problems. The Opposition criticizes the Government for allegedly failing to do anything to provide houses. Again I say that we cannot have it both ways. If we want the Government to do everything possible to overcome the housing shortage, we must employ adequate staffs. One feature of the Australiawide shortage of houses has a pleasing aspect. The fact that there is such a shortage is due to the unprecedented demand for homes arising from widespread prosperity. I well remember when Labour senators in this chamber had to fight to induce a non-Labour Government to provide a miserable pittance to enable many thousands of people merely to keep body and soul together. Those people were not able to buy houses, nor were they able to rent houses. They lived in hovels. Because of the economic conditions of those days, they were not able to enjoy the amenities of life which they can enjoy to-day. Because of the full employment policy of this Government, people who formerly lived in poverty are now clamouring for houses. This should not be a matter for Criticism. It gives cause for congratulating the Government upon the achievement of such good results.
At the outset of my speech I referred to the fact that an election is in progress in Victoria on a federal issue and that Commonwealth members of Parliament are engaging in the contest. During the campaign, reference has been made to the composition and powers of this Senate. It has been said that the Senate has power to refuse supply to the Australian Government and to do all sorts of other things. We all know that, under the Constitution, the Senate has great powers. Why Ls this matter being brought to the attention of the electors of Victoria by the Leader of the Liberal party, (Mr. Menzies), and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) ? Is it because those gentlemen fear that this Senate may refuse to grant supply to the Government and cause an upset similar to that which has occurred in Victoria through the action of the Legislative Council? Certainly not! The abject of those statements is to divert the attention of the people of Victoria from the action taken by the second legislative chamber in that State. We know that the Victorian election was precipitated because the Legislative Council refused to grant supply to the State Government. All of us who have taken some pains to understand the working of the British system of government, which was praised by Senator Collings to-night, are amazed that an upper house should be able to destroy a democratically elected government which possessed the confidence of the popular assembly. We had always believed that, under the British system of government, only the popular house of a legislature had the power to make or unmake governments. However, we have learned something. As I have said, the leaders of the anti-Labour parties are drawing attention in Victoria to what might be done by the Senate in this Parliament. But we all know that there is a vast difference between . the composition of the Senate and that of the Victorian Legislative Council.
Assuming that the statements made by the anti-Labour party leaders in Victoria are correct, I believe that the Senate could justifiably claim the right to exercise such powers. It could do so on the ground that it is one of the true democratically elected institutions in the world. I believe that it is the only legislative chamber whose members are elected on the principle of “ one vote one value “. The vote of every elector at a Senate election has the same value. That does not apply to other upper houses, particularly the Legislative Council of Victoria. The Senate is elected upon the adult franchise, which provides every good citizen above the age of 21 years with the right to vote. That privilege does not apply in respect of the Victorian Legislative Council. In order to vote for that body, an elector must possess property and must be enrolled on the ratepayers’ roll. It is possible for a resident of Victoria to be wealthy but ineligible to vote at Legislative Council elections. The amount of money possessed by a citizen is of no account. The qualification is based upon the possession of property. An elector must either own or be in occupation of property. If a man has a vote for the Victorian Legislative Council, his wife is not entitled to vote. If he has adult sons and daughters living with him they too are disfranchised. In fact, the Legislative Council in Victoria is elected by about one-third of the total number of electors in that State. Members of that body are not subject to the same disabilities as apply to honorable senators. They can force a government which has control of the lower house to go to the electors. They sit in a coward’s castle, because their chamber cannot bc dissolved on such an occasion. They are not obliged to face the anger of the thousands of public servants to whom they denied payment for the services which they had given to the people of their State. They are not obliged to face the anger of the contractors and other people who rendered service to the State, but who found that payment for their services was withheld because of the action of the Legislative Council. They are not subject to a double dissolution as are honorable senators. In fact, they represent the last rampart of the privileged classes of this country.
As I have said, the voting for the Legislative Council is based on property qualifications. There is also a property qualification for membership of that chamber. It was pointed out recently that a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly who had won the highest military honour for valour on the field of battle - the Victoria Cross - is not eligible to vote at Legislative Council elections, or to ‘become a member of that House. The Legislative Councillors of Victoria are the people who, while remaining safe in their own positions, can make and unmake governments. There we see privilege enthroned behind an almost impenetrable barrier.
These men have refused to give to the people of Victoria an opportunity to decide whether there should be a reform of that chamber, yet they clamoured for the dismissal of the Government and for a referendum on a proposal which will be submitted to this Parliament in the near future. Of course, we know that the introduction of a subject of national political importance into the domestic affairs of the State of Victoria is merely a pretext. The people to whom I refer deplore the growth of the Labour movement. They recall to my mind a remark passed concerning the Senate when the Constitution was framed, that “ into the Senate chamber the hobnail boots of Labour will never enter “. At that time the opponents of the Labour movement believed that tha establishment of the Senate would deny to the great democracy of Australia the right to progress, because they thought that this chamber would comprise only representatives of the conservative elements. They suggested speciously that it was to be a “house of review”, and to-day they make the same suggestion, in their attempts to justify the continued existence of the Victorian Legislative Council. I have yet to meet a man or woman in this country who takes no interest in political affairs. There may be such people, but I suggest that they exist only in the imagination of those who favour the existence of second chambers. It is suggested that those imaginary people are the ones who should review legislation passed by the popular house before it becomes law, and that, in making this detached review, they would not be influenced by mundane considerations.
But who are the remarkable people in Victoria who claim to possess this impartial attribute? We know very well that they are the representatives of the banks, the pastoralists and the institutions which comprise the financial coterie- which dominates the activities of the community. In the past, these people have been able to hold Parliaments in the palms of their hands. They have- decided where funds should be invested, and where they should not. During the terrible years of the depression, when the Scullin- Government was attempting toassist the primary producers and the workers of this country in their time of greatest need, their representatives in this chamber frustrated the efforts of that Government. The anti-Labour forces in Victoria have decreed that Labour government must be destroyed in Australia, not because of anything it has done, or because of any omission on the part of the Labour Government of Victoria, but because they fear that if the Cain Government remains in office in Victoria for its full term they cannot hope to prevent it3 re-election. Accordingly, their representatives in this Parliament have pur. forward the specious argument that, because the Senate has not taken certain action, their friends are entitled to adopt the dastardly tactics to which they have resorted in Victoria. The anti-Labour forces in Victoria have introduced the banking issue into domestic politic5., although they know that it has nothing to do with Victorian politics. They have attempted to intimidate the people, just as their representatives do in this chamber, from time to time, by playing on the fears of the community.. They hope to catch the unwary and. to frighten them with the same old bogies which they used in the early political life of this country. I take very little notice of the bogy of communism, because the Australian Labour party has always had to contend with the “ socialistic tiger “. Because of the speeches made by those who were endeavouring to frustrate the growth of the Labour movement, I imagined in my youth that the Labour movement was like some foul fiend, wandering abroad, seeking whom it could destroy. We find the same type of propaganda in use to-day. On” of the charges made against the Cain Government of Victoria is that it has adopted a socialistic attitude. The alleged foundation for that charge is that the Cain Government is supporting the intention of the Chifley Government to socialize the credit system of this country. That is but another form of the propaganda used many years ago. However, its effectiveness has long since disappeared.
The anti-Labour forces hope that if they can succeed in dislodging a Labour government in one of the States they may eventually bring about the downfall of the Australian Government, despite its fine record. However, as other honorable senators pointed out this afternoon-, that effort is not likely to succeed: For one thing members of the Australian Country party and. the Liberal party are unable to agree on anything’ for more than ten1 minutes. We had a clear demonstration’ on the lack of unanimity which exists-‘ between them during the election campaign in September, 1946; To-day, we witness1 the occurrence of a similar- conflict between members of those parties in: Victoria. Frantic efforts- are being made to- induce Australian Country party candidates te withdraw their candidature in favour of Liberal” party candidates, and1 vice versa. However, in spite of their machinations-, independent candidates will probably be elected! as has happened1 so often in the past. An appeal is being made to the newly-elected leader of the Liberal party, who is not a member of any parliament,, to come to Victoria and take charge of its campaign. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies), and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden)’ have visited’ Victoria, and the leader of the Victorian branch of the Liberal party, Mr. Hollway, and the leader of the Victorian branch of the Australian Country party, Mr; McDonald, have made most strenuous efforts to influence the electors. But the only man who the anti-Labour forces believe can save the situation, is Mr.. R. G. Casey, the “ Bengal tiger “. He must come- to- the aid of his colleagues, because they know that the case, which they have put- before- the electors, is- not sufficiently attractive to enhance their, electoral, prospects. I. have no. doubt that the? result of. the election will be that the present Government of Victoria will1 he returned with a. substantial majority, because the case presented by the Australian Labour party is unanswerable: Furthermore, the people of Australia, irrespective of the State: in. which they reside, are not unmindful of the valuable work pertformed by the Australian Government, with the co-operation, of Labour governments in most of the States, to develop primary industries. This Government has done the- fair thing by the primary producers in every way, with the result that we have an economic condition unparalleled in any part of the wor 121. Supporters of this- Government point te its achievements with pride. When we survey the plight of other nations we- see a world falling to pieces. Governments’ of nations which were once powerful are uncertain of their future. Poverty and misery has manifested itself in almost every country except Australia. Admittedly the American and Canadian way of life is similar to ours, but thi1 older nations are- despairing of their survival. The programme propounded by the Australian Labour party and implemented by the- Government guarantees to the people of this’ country that whatever befalls other nations, Australia shall weather the storm and preserve its independence. We may even be able to come to- the aid of some of the distressed’ countries to- assist them- to regain their stability:
The budget, should commend itself to all honorable senators. It represents an. earnest attempt to place the economy of Australia on. a basis.- which, will enable us to- look to- the future with confidence.. Aspart of its progressive policy the Government is bringing immigrants to thiscountry. Our. political opponents^ com:plain of inadequate production, but. the influx of numbers of people from overseas; will enable: us to catch up any leeway of production’ that may exist. For that reason, I was pleased to hear Sena- , tor O’Sullivan pay tribute to the achieve1 ments of the Department of Immigrationin attracting so- many immigrant’s to thiscountry. That is most important. This country must be developed in the expansionist period that lies ahead. Other matters with which I could deal I shall leave until the- Estimates of the- various departments are -under consideration. 1 conclude By commending the Government on- the excellent statement that has- been presented to the Senate.
.. - It is- with some pride: that 1 speak in a House of review which hasbeen elected on- an adult franchise.. In a democracy there should not be- any legislative chamber elected on any other franchise. The- policy of the- Labour party has been criticized by the Opposition, and in. the speeches of Opposition members the word. “ freedom “ occurred from time to time. It appears to-me that the Labour party has a different conception of the meaning of freedom from that of the Opposition. Labour believes that freedom should exist for every citizen; he should be free to vote for whomsoever he will; and the only limitation should be that that freedom should not be used to exploit others. When that stage is reached “ exploitation not “ freedom “ is the right word to use. Labour believes that no individual or section of the community has the right to exploit others. During its term of office the Labour Government has progressively and successfully worked to prevent the exploitation of the people of Australia.
When we remember that hostilities in a terrible war ceased only a little over two years ago, this budget must be regarded as a highly satisfactory document. That result has ‘ been brought about by the application of a sound economic policy to the nation’s problems. No reasonable person can do other than congratulate the Government on the efficient conduct of the nation’s affairs since it has been in office. It was pleasing to notice the comments of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) on the budget. One would expect him to be critical, but his criticism was of such a nature that it really amounted to a commendation of the Government. The Labour Government can proudly say to the world that not only did it play an important part in the war, but that it has brought the nation through difficult post-war times, and that the country is now in a sound economic condition. Some Opposition speakers have endeavoured to create the impression that when Labour came into office conditions were entirely satisfactory, but if we are to get a true perspective we must review in retrospect the events prior to October, 1941, when Labour took control of the treasury bench. Considering the magnitude of the task which confronted the Government, the manner in which it overcame difficulties by the application of efficient and sound economic measures is a good reason why we on this side are proud that the Government has been able to present to the country a budget which gives evidence that the lot of the people generally, and of the workers in particular, has been greatly improved.
It was not my intention to trace the unhappy history of the coalition parties in this Parliament, but few will forget” that when liberalism was put to the test it failed, with the result that a sense of frustration amounting to despair was created among the people. As quotations have been given in this chamber to indicate that that was not the position, 1 propose to quote from a number of publications before Labour assumed office, in order to show what people thought at that time. My first quotation is from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 23rd May, 1940-
There has been bungling, inefficiency, temporizing and confusion. It is now on the Government’s own head to get us out of the mess.
The Sydney Morning Herald of the 29th J July, 1940, stated -
Through political timidity the Government drifted on inactive for month after month.
In its issue of the 30th July, 1940, the ‘ Sydney Daily Telegraph contained the following paragraph : -
No one can be satisfied with the present Government. The people are united but the leaders are not.
In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 30th July, 1940, the following statement appeared : -
Administrative weakness and internal disharmony resulting in indecision in policy are not unnaturally being reflected in loss of public confidence. Wherever the fault lies . . the results are deplorable.
Even as late as the 30th April, 1946, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) confessed -
It is a sad, but plain, truth that the party devoted 40 per cent, of its energies in defending itself.
Prom the time it took office the Labour Government realized that individualism and egoism cannot lead to social prosperity, and that to expect them to do so is to contradict history. History’s indictment of economic liberalism is overwhelming because its purpose is to create wealth for individuals, to grant privileges to the collectors of wealth rather than to those who create wealth. Labour’s aim is to promote the good of all the people. To that end it has been necessary to enact laws to provide progressively for a just distribution of wealth in order to relieve the economic burden on the real producers - the family man, the worker and the farmer. These people represent 85 per cent of the Australian community.
By the distribution of revenue in the form of social services, the present Government has been able to provide healthy economic conditions and promote the well-being of the whole of the community. One of the most notable social improvements is revealed by the employment figures as at the 30th June, 1947. They show that 3,212,000 persons were then employed, an improvement of 200,000 compared with June, 1946, and 480,000 more than in June, 1939. Provision has also been made by the present Government for sick and unemployment benefits. During the year 1946-47, £1,650,125 was expended from the National Welfare Fund, thereby granting relief to that section of the community which suffered losses of earnings because of sickness. That statutory right is the direct result of the application of Labour’s policy and principles to the life of the community. There are some people in the community who fear a state of affairs in which there is full employment for the people. They desire a pool of unemployed persons because under such conditions the private employer can force the workers to accept lower standards of remuneration for the labour which they have to exchange for the right to live. Labour has endeavoured successfully to remove that fear. Despite the criticism of the Opposition, Labour has more faith in the workers of this country than to think that they would prefer to accept social services rather than engage in honest work. Labour also says that it is the right of every worker to be properly sustained when, as the result of economic policy or of seasonal fluctuations, he is temporarily thrown out of work. The high degree of employment which now exists shows that the social service policy of the Government is achieving good results.
Opposition senators have complained that taxes are high when government finance is buoyant. It is true that the country is in a sound financial position, but that is because of the wise administration of its affairs by the Government. It is also alleged that production in Australia is not so high as it should be, but the budget figures do not support that contention. ‘ The country is returning to a state of economic stability, and production is increasing to the point that many shortages arising out of lack of man-power and materials during the’ war are being overtaken. Labour’s taxation policy provides for the levying of taxes in accordance with the ability of the taxpayer to pay. Reductions of taxes have been made primarily to ease the burden on those persons, who, during the war, paid taxes but, in the opinion of Labour, should he freed of that obligation as early as possible. Since hostilities ceased the yield from taxes on individual incomes has been reduced by £70,000,000, and the present budget makes provision for relief amounting to £34,000,000. One of the great achievements of the Government has been in the direction of removing the fears of the people regarding their economic and social conditions. The figures are interesting. In 1938, invalid and old-age pensions totalled £15,798,687 and maternity allowances £400,004. Those benefits have since been progressively increased. Last financial year an amount of £1,660,125 was disbursed in unemployment benefit, whilst funeral benefit, which, the present Government was the first to provide, amounted to £209,349. It is estimated that in the current financial year the sum of £39,500,000 will be disbursed in invalid and old-age pensions alone, while total estimated expenditure on social services for the financial year 1947-48 is £77,500,000. Compare this with the expenditure of .£16,198,681 in 1938 and it will be seen that the people entitled to these payments will receive £61,000,000 per annum more as a result of the Labour Government’s persistent efforts to improve the social conditions of the people. In addition to increasing the rates of benefits, the Government has also liberalized them in other respects. The means test has been eliminated in respect of the maternity allowance, whilst the rate of allowance has been considerably increased. An examination of receipts for the last financial year reveals that the earning capacity of the people as a whole has greatly increased. It is also clear that, many persons who hitherto evaded payment of income tax are <now compelled to make their just contribution towards the cost of governing the country, and lower income groups have been relieved of the payment of income tax. I again commend the Government upon the proposals embodied in the measure.
– I extend a personal welcome to my fellow woman senator, Senator Rankin, who to-day made her debut in the Senate. When the people of the Commonwealth conferred on me the unique distinction of election as the first woman member of the Senate in the history of Australia, 1 felt they then placed me on trial, and that it would depend largely upon my record as a member of this chamber whether they would elect other women to the Parliament. Therefore, with all due humility, I accept the election of Senator Rankin as an indication that the people of the Commonwealth have been satisfied with my efforts ; that as a woman I have been able to make a contribution to the national life in this chamber. I welcome Senator Rankin as a fellow woman, and I trust that her stay in the Senate will be as happy as mine has been. During the past four years, I have received the full co-operation of all honorable senators. My task here has been made easier by the fact that all other honorable senators received me as one of themselves, not in any patronizing way but as an equal as a fellow legislator ; and they extended to me all the courtesies due to a woman without in any way detracting from the high office of senator to which the people elected me. My stay here has been particularly happy. Honorable senators of all parties united in their effort to give to me every opportunity to prove my worth and help me to do what I could for all sections of the community in their fight for better conditions. I hope that Senator Rankin’s experience in the Senate will be as pleasant and as profitable as mine has been, and that she will receive, as I have, the utmost courtesy and consideration from all fellow senators. If that be so, she will in years to come look back upon .these days with the utmost pleasure and satisfaction, -as I now look back upon my experiences in the Senate during the last four years.
I should, not be human if I did not rejoice in the fact that at the last general elections the people of Australia doubled the representation of women in this National Parliament. That fact was a tribute to my hard endeavours,, and those of Dame Enid Lyons in the House of Representatives, and proved that during our testing time we have shown the good that women can do as members of the National Parliament. The people endorsed our endeavours insofar as they doubled the direct representation of women in this Parliament at the first general elections following those at which Dame Enid and I were elected to these legislative halls. That is an indication that the people are quite content with representation by women in the National Parliament, not as women, but as units in the community. At the last general elections, it was also my proud privilege to be the first woman in Australia’s political ‘history to lead a Senate team to victory. The Labour party in Western Australia recognized the value of my services, aided as they were by the courtesies extended to me by my fellow senators during the preceding three years, by giving to me the leadership of the party’s Senate team; and I am happy to say that the electors of Western Australia endorsed that choice. Not only was it the first time that a woman had been chosen to lead a Senate team to victory; it was also the first occasion on which the leader of a Senate team in Western Australia had received an absolute majority of primary votes. I mention these facts not with boastfulness and pride, but with all humility, because I believe that that vote at the last general elections, a, record in Western Australia, places upon me as a representative of that State a great responsibility to not only the 137,000 electors who voted for me but also all sections of the community in that State and throughout the Commonwealth. By their vote they indicated the high sense of responsibility which they expect me to exhibit in return for the confidence that they have placed in me. I thank the electors of Western
Australia very sincerely for the opportunities which they have given to me in 1943- and 194’6: to be their representative in this the highest legislative assembly in Australia to put on the statute-book of’ the nation legislation which will benefit every man, woman and child in the community, and the power to aid in giving to all’ sections a greater sense of social security. I again extend to my fellow woman senator, a cordial welcome to the Senate and ask her to remember, as I have tried to do during the last four years, that we are here not as women but as members of the community entrusted with our very high office by the Australian public. I am certain that the high ideals of the Senate will not suffer in any way because of the fact that its membership now includes two’ women to help in its deliberations and decisions.
Much has been said in this chamber and the House of Representatives regarding the necessity for a sound migration policy to assist Australia in the post-war period. Recently, I had the privilege of representing the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) in. welcoming 1,600 immigrants who arrived at. Fremantle on Asturias. Those migrants came from the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. Included in their number were 350 children who will be taken care of in various institutions: Some, of them were returning here to take up again the life that they led in this country during the war when they were evacuated from Great Britain. Of all the migrants we can encourage in this country none could’ be better suited to our conditions than these children, particularly those who come from the blitzed areas of Great Britain and Allied countries, where their parents and homes were wiped out during the war. When welcoming these migrants, I had a conversation with a seven-year old boy. The children were brought out in family groups, keeping together in parties of three or four, until they reached Fremantle. I asked this boy whether he had any sisters or brothers, and he replied, “ No, I once had a father and mother and a bomb copped the lot “. Coming from a child of seven that remark revealed a terrible tragedy. That lad now has no blood relations. He has come to a new country; and I have no doubt that he will grow up imbued with Australian traditions. He has a better chance of. being moulded in the Australian way of life than any adult whom we could bring here. Moreover, we in. Australia have a duty to these children who are now bereft of relatives as the result of enemy action. As I met those 350 children, I felt that although the tragedy of war had brought them to Australian shores their coming is of great benefit to. this, nation.
The adult migrants whom I welcomed were of the best types and were all anxious to go on the land. I am impelled to mention an incident which occurred when I made their acquaintance. They were invited to luncheon at three landing camps. I pay tribute to the Department of Immigration and the Department of the Army for the arrangements which they made for the reception of those migrants. I visited them at the three camps. Following the luncheon at one camp I was speaking to a young woman who intended to work iii a country hospital. She said to me, “‘Now that we have finished our luncheon, madam, can you tell me where I can get a bus to Melbourne “. ,She thought that Melbourne was a suburb of Perth. Included in the party was a group of twenty nurses who will work in country hospitals, and thus relieve our present serious shortage in that form of service. One of. them said that she was going to Three Springs, a small country town about 200 miles from Perth. It is so small that if one went there by car,, one would probably pass through the town without hardly noticing it. When I asked hex: why she was going to Three Springs she said, “ I did not know where it was, so long as it was a suburb of Perth “. My talks with those migrants conveyed to me the need to give to prospective migrants a more accurate impression of Australia and its great distances. It is obvious that those two migrants had no idea of conditions in this country. I can just imagine the sense of loss and bewilderment that beset them when they came to look for Three Springs and Melbourne. In the light of my experience, I recommend to the Department of Immigration that on all future immigration ships leaving Great Britain there should be somebody qualified to tell migrants of the various problems that will confront them in this new land. In talking with family groups and others whom I met, and with whom I kept contact for at least a fortnight before they dispersed to country centres, I found in each and every one of them a feeling of thankfulness that they had come to Australia. There was a general appreciation of Australia’s war effort, and of the opportunity that this country was offering to them to start life anew, [f our migration policy results in bringing to this country migrants of the calibre of those whom I met on Asturias it cannot fail. It is vastly different from that in vogue after the last war, when thousands of immigrants were put on unproductive land in Western Australia. In areas of which I have personal knowledge, some of these people have been striving for the last 20 or 25 years to get a bare living. I believe that the policy of bringing to this country migrants nominated by Australian citizens who can provide them with work and accommodation, and also young children who can be educated in the Australian way of life and grow up as good citizens, is sound. That is the type of migration scheme that will succeed.
Before leaving this matter, I wish to commend the Government for having brought to these shores a group of 200 Polish soldiers who served under General Anders in Europe, and who have come to this country to work for the Electricity Commission of Tasmania. They are men of a particularly fine type. Many of them held high ranks in the Polish Army. They are all very pleased to be in a land of freedom. I met them shortly after they arrived here, and, in the course of conversation with them, I asked what they thought of Australia, and what features of this country they liked best. They all said that what they liked best was that they could talk to people without feeling that they were under suspicion and might be arrested at any moment for something that they had said. If succeeding groups of immigrants are of the calibre of these young Poles, this country will benefit greatly from their presence.
I commend the Minister for Immigration for what has already been done in this regard, and I look forward with hope and pride to seeing the succeeding batches of immigrants who come here. As I have said, the arrangements at Fremantle for the reception of immigrants were admirable. I stress this particularly, because a great deal of criticism was offered last year and early this year with regard to the arrival of immigrants from southern Europe on a vessel of Egyptian origin and under Egyptian command. All the Commonwealth authorities, including the Army and the Department of Immigration, co-operated very well with the StateDepartment of Immigration, and the arrangements for the reception of theseimmigrants and for their dispersal to country centres, left nothing to be desired. I visited the Army camps on the day before the arrival of Asturias and again on the day of arrival. I was on thewharf at 7.40 a.m. on the day that Asturias berthed, and I did not finish any inspections until 11.40 p.m. I spoke’ with many of the immigrants at the various reception centres before they were distributed to country areas, and I assure the Senate that every arrangement that could possibly have been made for the comfort and happiness of these people in this, their new land, was made by the various governmental authorities involved, and to them I pay a sincere tribute for what was done.
This afternoon, Senator Nash mentioned a very great problem in the Australian community namely, tuberculosis. I was pleased that this matter was raised in the Senate, because its importance to the Australian, community cannot be overrated. I am vice-president of the Anti-Tuberculosis Association which the honorable senator mentioned, although I am afraid that I have not been able to do as much for it as I should have liked. Contrary to the opinion held by Senator Nash, it is not a government organization. It is a voluntary organization of people interested in the problem of tuberculosis, and the committee is composed of representatives of various sections of the community. It is indeed a privilege and an honour to be elected vice-president of the association.
– I said that the committee controlling the association was a government committee.
– That is true, and I regret that I misunderstood the honorable senator. During the Royal Agricultural Show held in Perth a fortnight ago, the committee gave a demonstration of the methods of detecting and preventing tuberculosis. The exhibition also showed what was being done by the Commonwealth and State authorities to assist in the eradication of this disease and the public interest aroused in the display augers well f or the public conscience on the tuberculosis question. It is a problem that cannot be regarded lightly because in the years between the two world wars - 1919 to 1939 - more people died of tuberculosis than were killed by enemy action in the first world war or in the second world war. These facts cannot be escaped. Not only can tuberculosis be prevented, but also the disease could be eradicated completely in fifteen or twenty years if it were tackled on a national scale. Therefore, I am pleased that attention has been drawn to this matter by Senator Nash. I regret very much that the Social Security Committee is not now functioning because of the decision of the Opposition not to participate in its activities. I was a member of that committee, and we had an opportunity to investigate social problems in a non-party atmosphere. The problem of tuberculosis is of such a magnitude that it must be tackled at its source. That can only be done if we in this Parliament are fully alive to the implications of this dread disease which is the No. 1 scourge of mankind throughout the world. It can only be dealt with on a national scale, and it is, therefore, a national problem, and I hope that the newly elected Opposition in this chamber will decide that the Social Security Committee should be revived. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), whom I congratulate upon his elevation to th high office that he now holds, was a member of the committee for some years, and he can testify to the worth of the work carried out. I feel certain that he will do something to ensure that the committee shall .be reconstituted so that it can carry out an investigation into both the economic and social aspects of tubercu losis, apart altogether from the health aspect, which shows that we are definitely obliged to proceed with a scheme to tackle this problem on a national scale for the good of the whole community.
There is to-day in the Senate something akin to a feeling of frustration. The wheel of time has completed a full revolution, and the state of the political parties in this chamber is exactly the opposite of that existing some years ago. There are now 33 Government supporters in the Senate and only three members of the Opposition. Whilst to the Labour party this gives rise to some sense of satisfaction, in view of the fact that the people of this country have endorsed its action and its policy, I do hope that the presence of this overwhelming Government majority will not lead to any lowering of the prestige of the Senate. This is a problem to which I have given much consideration during the last few weeks. There is a possibility that because we shall be meeting here perhaps at long intervals ,and then only for short periods, the prestige of the Senate may be lowered in the eyes of the community. I voice these remarks with all due deference and very mixed feelings. But after all, we are the senior House of the National Parliament. The Senate is the most democratic of all upper houses throughout the Commonwealth. Not only are its members elected by universal franchise - a state of affairs that does not apply to any other upper house - ‘but also all the States have equal representation in the Senate. The State of Western Australia, which I represent, has only 500,000 people, but it has the same representation here as New South Wales or Victoria, each of which has approximately 1,500,000 people. Therefore, I submit that not only are we democratically elected so far as the individual is concerned, but also we are democratically elected so far as the States of Australia are concerned. In view of this democratic character, and because we are the superior house in the legislative halls of the Commonwealth, we should have a standing in the community commensurate with our responsibility and dignity. But that dignity is not likely to be maintained if we meet only at infrequent intervals and then only for short periods. In this chamber there are five responsible Ministers. Some portfolios held by Senate Ministers transcend in importance others held by members of the House of Representatives. Therefore I feel that more legislation should be initiated in this .chamber than is the present practice. At present nothing affects the community more than social security.
We have in this chamber a very fine Minister for Health and ‘Minister for Social Services (Senator M’cKenna”). We have before us the prospect of bringing to the community a form of legislation that will be of great and lasting benefit to every Australian. We are looking forward to the introduction of a national health scheme which will distribute more equitably the benefits of medical science throughout the community. I hope that the time is not far distant when we shall see the introduction of this legislation into the Senate. We also have other senior Ministers in the Cabinet. There is, for instance, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), of whose department ray colleague, Senator Rankin, was somewhat critical this afternoon. I was pleased, to hear that department brought under fire, because during the recess I spent some time investigating problems associated with it. A few weeks ago, a conference of the Telephone Operators Association of Australia was held in Perth, and I was asked by the executive of that organization to address its members and to give an account of federal affairs in general. 1 was also asked to listen to certain grievances. Of all Commonwealth public servants, probably the ones most deserving of praise are those employed by the Postmaster-General’s Department, particularly telephone operators. I remind honorable senators that every time they pick up a telephone and make a call to a distant part of the Commonwealth, they are calling upon the services of some young woman or occasionally a young man. Those services are provided with, the minimum of inconvenience and the minimum of wasted time.
Last Monday I visited Canberra telephone operators on the job. These girls are marvellously well disciplined. I do not know how the department manages to keep them at their jobs, particularly in these days when employment is easy to obtain, and when many more pleasurable vocations are available to young people. When one hears ‘so much about youth seeking pleasure, one is surprised that these girls .stay at their work. I publicly express my admiration of the young women who .serve as telephone operators. Some young men are engaged in this work, too, but they are not numerous, because many more profitable jobs offering better prospects of advancement ‘arn obtainable. Out young telephone operators work ito a consistently high standard, as the Minister for Supply and Shipping (.Senator Ashley), a former PostmasterGeneral, knows. i[ am .sure that he will endorse my statements. These girls work continuously for periods of three hours. During that time they have not one minute off the job. Then they have a ten-minute rest -period, and return to the job again. They are kept .so busy that they do not even have time to stop io sharpen their pencils, as do girls in other jobs. In addition, they frequently have :to deal with “ crusty “ customers. Nevertheless, they seldom give any cause for complaint. They are very appreciative of what the Postmaster-General has done t© improve their amenities. However., a great deal still remains to be done for them. In this ‘Connexion, I offer a hint to the Postmaster-General, particularly in the interests of girls who are employed by the department at Canberra. They work shifts on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as on week days, and they live in hostels which make no special provision for .girls employed on shiftwork. I stress this fact. .Many of the girls -are only sixteen or seventeen years of age, and more than .50 per cent, of those who work in Canberra live away from their homes. This matter should concern every honorable senator, because Canberra is our capital city. These girls- come from all States. They have to obtain their meals at odd hours, if they can get meals at all in such circumstances, and they sleep when they can. Because no .special provision i3 made for them, they have to try to sleep amidst the noise and hurly-burly of other >girls who work during ordinary office hours.
T ask the Postmaster-General to consult the Minister for the Interior with a view to improving their living conditions, so that -they may obtain good meals and satisfactory conditions for rest. Many of them are still adolescent, and lack of proper food and res* may have serious permanent effects upon their constitutions. Apart from this matter, I have- little criticism of the Postmaster-General’s Department, which has consistently done a difficult job well, particularly during the war. In the service of the department, many girls were called upon to carry the burden of extra war-time duties without extra remuneration. Girls of the tele- . phone service lost their lives because of their devotion to duty. Almost the first civilians to be killed on. Australian soil as the result of enemy action were girls employed at the Darwin Telephone Exchange, -who refused to leave their posts iti the face of danger because they realized the ‘vital importance of ‘keeping Australia’s lines of communication open. Therefore, telephone operators have a special claim to out consideration. I know ‘that the present Postmaster-General and his secretary are fully alive to the needs *of these public servants, as is the former Minister. I can leave this matter in their hands,, knowing that justice will be done to , these faithful servants of the people.
Members <of this Senate are in -a pOSttion ito perform valuable services for Australia, particularly during the long periods between sittings of the Parlia-ment, when they could devote their energies to the assistance of ‘the Government. Out services could be put to better use in the national interest, than at present seems likely. I have in mind particularly the work ‘of the Department of External Affairs. This afternoon we beard :a -diatribe in this -chamber against the Minister for .External Affairs. T consider ‘that anybody who is not absolutely an’ti -Australian must he proud of the work thai; -he nas don’e and of ‘the prestige which ‘he ‘has won, not only for “himself, but also ‘for Australia at international, conferences. His name is held in very high ‘esteem ‘ in the United States of America, Great Britain and Europe.
Australia has reached -a stage in its history .«:t which, through the achievements of tits (Statesmen and the deeds nf .its ex-service men :and -women, it .has earned .the right ito take its place in the field of international affairs as a fully-fledged nation. Therefore, I believe that, during the enforced absence from our capital city of the Minister for External Affairs, there should he some authority to act on .his behalf which should be held directly responsible to the Government. Our foreign policy should not be left solely in the hands of departmental officers, but should he considered by a body composed of senators or members’ of the House of Representatives which could make decisions -on international affairs. I do not know whether the present practice is to leave such matters entirely to the judgment of departmental officers, hut I know that we have frequently been presented with a fait accompli during the absence abroad on urgent public business of the Minister for External Affairs. I suggest to the Leader of the Senate, (Senator Ashley) that an approach be made to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) offering the services of honorable senators to assist in anyway possible any Minister whose work becomes so arduous and voluminous as to call for more than the efforts of one .man. I make that suggestion with the .greatest respect and -with all due deference to the Minister for External Affairs and his department. The direction of -our foreign -policy is a matter of vital .concern ‘.to the nation. In this chamber we have 36 citizens who have been elected to represent the 7,000,000 Australians. We are responsible to those’ people for. Australia’s part in world affairs.
Recently I had the honour to be appointed .by the Minister for External Affairs to a committee which dealt with the Japanese peace settlement. It was a very important committee. 1 do not know why I was .chosen, hut. I was proud of the fact. I still wonder where the work of that committee has led. -I -realize that its members received valuable information and met’ men of great experience in many fields of human endeavour,, and I believe that what we learned at that conference was worthwhile to the nation. However, I am still .not sure what was the ultimate outcome -of the committee’s deliberations. Why could not all of the information that was made .available to the committee be supplied to every member of Parliament? After all, Parliament is responsible for giving effect to any decisions made at peace conferences. In Pacific affairs, Australia represents the bastion of British freedom. During thelast eight years it has had the task of keeping unsullied the flag of British freedom in the Pacific area. With the United States of America, it has had. the bulk of the respbnsibility for keeping this part of the world free from Asiatic oppression. What was done during the war must be continued during the years of peace. Therefore, it is of vital importance that the people of Australia should have a definite influence on any peace settlement with Japan and that, for this purpose, they should receive wise guidance from their Parliament. I hope’ that, before the commencement of the Christmas recess, the Government will take definite action to issue directives to the representatives who will attend the Japanese peace conference. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date. Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - Addendum to Determination No. 72 of 1947 - Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen of Australia, and others.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation- M. J. O’Brien.
Health - R. J. Preiss.
Works and Housing - B. E. C. Brinkley, P. W. Cann, B. Clegg, D. M. Collie, J. A. Corbet, M. J. Dabourne, E. K. Denton, J. B. Donaldson, L.Fenton, G. A. Morrison, M. S. G. Newton, T. E. Robinson, C. L. Sommer, J. C. Thomas, M. A.Utting.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 138.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Defence purposes - Woolloomooloo, New South Wales.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Mascot, New South Wales.
Postal purposes - Hastings, Victoria.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances - 1 947 -
No. 8 - Industrial Board.
No. 9 - Police.
Senate adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 October 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1947/19471022_senate_18_193/>.