18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the’ Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Presentation to the GOVERNORGeneral.
– I have ascertained that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the AddressinReply to his Opening Speech at Government House at 4 p.m. to-day. I invite as many honorable senators as can make it convenient to do so to accompany me.
– Can the Minister for Shipping And Fuel say what steps are being taken to settle the present dispute in Sydney between members of the Waterside Workers Federation and- the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which has involved the tying up ‘of 23 ships, including four carrying 7,700 tons of perishable produce, mostly potatoes from Tasmania!
– A dispute in Sydney between two factions” of the Waterside Workers Federation has resulted in a stoppage of work on the waterfront. There is sometimes an “ opposition “ in trade unions, as there is in the Parliament, but in this instance that “ opposition “ is of much greater numerical strength than is the Opposition in thu chamber. A stop-work meeting was held to-day at the Leichhardt Stadium. I have been informed that there will be a partial resumption of work this afternoon, and a complete resumption to-morrow morning.
– Ab Chairman, I present the sixteenth and seventeenth reports of the Broadcasting Committee on the following subjects: -
Sixteenth Report, relating to the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings to. country and remote areas.
Seventeenth Report, relating to an Australian Music Composers’ Fund, the use of Australian music, and the use of other Australian programme material.
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is the intention of the Government, as reported in the press, to introduce frequency modulation broadcasting in Australia? Is this form of transmission to be confined to stations under the control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission thus. excluding the commercial stations? Will the PostmasterGeneral make a statement to the Senate explaining fully the effects of this change on the present system, and indicating to what degree the general public will be involved financially in altering existing receiving sets or buying new ones ?
– I shall make a full statement on this subject on the next day of sitting, if possible, explaining exactly what the Government intends to do in connexion with frequency modulation broadcasting.
– In view of the reported outbreak of hostilities between Indian and Hyderabad forces, is the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs in a position to say whether any communication has been received from the Minister for External Affairs indicating what action, if any, the United Nations is taking towards a settlement of the trouble?
– I am not aware that any communication on the subject has been received from the Minister for External Affairs. Any such’ message would go direct to the Prime Minister, who is acting for the Minister for External Affairs during his absence abroad. I shall inquire whether such a communication has been received.
-=-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a report that labour troubles at Ocean Island and Nauru Island have again necessitated the importation of a considerable quantity of ph.ospb.atic rock from Egypt for the fertilizer industry.?. The directors of Wallaroo-Mount Lyell Fertilizers Limited have stated that this will result in the use of a lower grade of superphosphate. Is the report correct? If so, can the Minister inform the Senate whether the difficulty can be overcome so that the primary producers will not have to use a low grade of superphosphate for any considerable length of time?
– I have not seen any reports in the press regarding the supply of superphosphate. I shall refer tho honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and will have a reply supplied to him as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction .supply a complete and detailed list of the benefits provided for ex-service men and women, and an estimate of the total annual cost of providing those benefits? Will the Minister also furnish a comparison of the benefits provided by Australia for ex-service men and women with ‘ those provided by the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand?
– The honorable senator’s request covers a very wide field, but I have no doubt that the information sought can be - made available by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, to whom I shall refer the honorable senator’s question.
– In view of the fact that the Minister for Immigration has recently issued an official announcement that the Government now proposes to grant - landing permits - to sons and families of Germans resident in ‘ Australia, can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration inform me whether favorable consideration will be given to the issue of a landing permit to the Australian - born- son of a German pastor who resides at Tanunda,. South Australia? Although this man has made two applications to return to his native land a landing permit has not yet been issued to him.
– In the absence of the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, I have no knowledge of the case mentioned by the honorable Senator. I can only say that if the Minister for Immigration, after reviewing the case on two occasions, declined to authorize the issue of a permit, I am confident that he had good reason for his refusal. However, I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of that Minister, and inform him of the result in due course.
– by leave - The Melbourne Argus of the 14tn and 15th September alleged that the action taken by the Australian Government to control sales of petrol to consumers has resulted in chaos within” the industry, and that that action was taken in order to achieve certain political objectives, which the newspaper then proceeded to outline.
Apart from the statistics contained in the newspaper article, which I have not had checked, there is absolutely no foundation for the allegations made. The claim that the Prime Minister has imposed what the Argus termed a “vow of silence “ on high officials of the oil industry is quite ridiculous, and would not be supported by any responsible official in the industry. To imply that the Department of Trade and Customs has imposed a similar vow of silence in respect of petrol in order to mask the Government’s political objectives is an equally grotesque invention. Customs officials, and presumably officers and employees of oil companies, are not always in possession of the full details of operations in any particular field, and even when they are so informed they are not privileged to disclose business secrets to inquirers. Government officials are certainly instructed that they are not to divulge, except upon proper authority, information which comes to them in the course of their employment.
The Government has found it necessary, for very good reasons, to impose additional restrictions on the consumption of petrol, and whilst the Government regrets that necessity, it is an indisputable fact that supplies of petrol from refineries in the sterling area are insufficient to meet sterling area requirements. In the circumstances, sterling area countries must purchase portion of their requirements from dollar sources, and the necessity for conserving dollars is well known, and should be appreciated by every Australian. Stated in another way, if Australia buys petrol from the sterling area another member of the sterling group is compelled to purchase a similar quantity of petrol from the dollar area. Australian petrol consumption is, therefore, at present a cause of dollar expenditure from the sterling group. This position has been explained on a number of occasions.
Whether or not Australia obtains its petrol from sterling refineries is not of particular significance when the resources of the sterling area generally are concerned. Although Australia obtains most of its petrol from the sterling area, that action is dictated not by the dollar situation, but by Australia’s geographical position in relation to Middle East sources of supply. The fact remains, however, that sterling area petrol resources as a whole must be considered, and every effort must be made by all countries in that area to conserve petrol until such time as their refineries are’ able to meet sterling area requirements. In its efforts in that direction the Australian. Government is acting in full cooperation with the United Kingdom Government.
The Australian Government is in accord with the desire of all consumers of petrol to obtain their full requirements without the necessity to rely on rationed supplies and therefore will not continue petrol rationing after sterling area supplies are reasonably assured. As for the puerile and ridiculous political objectives set out in the article in the Argus, whilst I cannot speak for other parties which the Argus normally supports, I can assure the Senate that the Australian Labour party has more sense that to work for such objectives.
Presentation to the Governor-General.
– I desire to inform the Senate that this day, accompanied by honorable senators, I waited on the Governor-General and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of the second session of the Eighteenth Parliament, agreed to on the 9th September. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply: -
I desire to thank you for your AddressinReply, which you have just presented to me.
It will afford me much pleasure to convey to His Most Gracious Majesty The King the message of loyalty from the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia to which the Address gives expression.
Debate resumed from the Sth September (vide page 195), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the following papers be printed: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending the 30th June, 1949.
The Budget 1948-49 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., on the occasion of the Budget of 1948-49.
– The presentation of a budget by any government is the most important and most looked-for item of the legislative programme for the ensuing year. Therein is detailed all of our hopes and a review of the Government’s successes and disappointments in its handling of the financial and economic resources of the country. The budget now before us is based on a wise and farseeing policy which, while ensuring financial stability, makes provision for the maintenance of a high standard of social security and the development of this great country in the interests of the people. The total revenue for 1947-48 was £457,000,000, and the total expenditure £455,600,000, leaving a surplus of £1,400,000. I congratulate the Prime
Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Government on that achievement. Australia is one of the few countries in the world in which financial stability has been maintained and inflation curbed. In less than three years since the end of the war the huge gap between revenue and expenditure has been overcome, but we should not be over-optimistic. Prices and costs have risen at an alarming rate. The “ C “ series index of retail prices for the last quarter of the financial year was 40 per cent. above the level of 1939, and rose nearly 9 per cent. in twelve months. It is to be regretted that the control of such factors has, to a degree, been taken out of the hands of the Australian Government by the defeat of the recent rents and prices referendum. However, it is to be hoped that the State governments will be successful in their efforts to cope with this serious problem. It is in the national interest for every possible assistance to be afforded to the States, and I am sure that Commonwealth co-operation will readily be forthcoming. Already £750,000 has been provided in the Estimates for that purpose. The budget shows that the 1947-48 defence and postwar expenditure was £180,000,000. In 1946-47 we expended £12,000,000 in excess of the estimated expenditure. That was not unexpected. According to the estimates, during the next twelve months the Government proposes to expend £166,000,000. I doubt very much whether that will be sufficient, in view of the rising costs of providing for uniforms, increased rates of pay, and above all, the essential changes that are taking place in the army to-day. With the mechanization of the army, the equipment required by an infantryman has been trebled. No longer is he regarded as a man who emerges from the trenches occasionally to take part in a death-defying charge; to-day he is a specialist who has a knowledge of, not only his own arm of the service, but also every other arm.
The Government is budgeting for expenditure on two aircraft carriers, the first of which is due to arrive on the 1st March next, and has been aptly named H.M.A.S. Sydney. It is hoped that this vessel will carry on the traditions of its famous predecessor, the former H.M.A.S. Sydney, which was sunk during the recent war. Also included in the defence expenditure is provision for two battle class destroyers, which are to be built in Australia. These destroyers conform to the highest standards of naval construction, and are considered to be the last word in our naval defence scheme. I congratulate the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) upon making provision for the essential items of our naval defence.
Our Air Force, too, has been given much consideration. Nevertheless, the Government must seriously consider the provision of aircraft of the latest types. The parliamentary delegation, while in Japan, witnessed a very fine air exercise, which involved the use of two Australian fighter squadrons; it was also given information in regard to the newest type of jet fighters. It is understood that progress is being made in Australia with the development of the Nene jet engine, a development of the Rolls Royce engine, which is being used to very great advantage in the Royal Air Force. The possession of all the latest armaments should be regarded as in the nature of an insurance policy. No one should be so foolish as to ignore the portents of very serious disturbances overseas, in which we may be involved in the near future. It is incumbent on the Australian Government to keep abreast of the times. I trust that the proposed appropriation of £180,000,000 will be expended to the best advantage.
I regard with great gratification the success and the gathering impetus of the Government’s immigration scheme which calls for increased expenditure this year. In my opinion, the money expended on immigration is well spent. Immigration is one of the most important factors in our defence scheme. To the north of Australia there are non-European nations, the aggregate population of which is nearly 1,000,000,000. Their nationalist aspirations are becoming intensified, and with an immigration policy which restricts the inflow of coloured people into this country, it is essential that we people Australia with immigrants of the right type as quickly as possible. The number of migrants who entered Australia from the 1st January to the 30th June, 1948, was 27,441, of whom 18,000 were British - the type that Australia wants. The ratio of British migrants to those of other races is more than two to one. Arrivals in this country include 2,788 Baits, who have been dispersed throughout the Commonwealth to assist in essential production. In Tasmania, many of them were employed in the fruit industry, wrapping and packing the export crop. Arrivals also include a large number of Poles, the majority of whom served in the Polish armed forces. Many of them fought alongside the Australians at Tobruk. I am glad to note that they have been welcomed by Australians generally, particularly by returned servicemen’s organizations. I note with pleasure that the Rats of Tobruk Association has admitted them into that organization. Polish migrants are doing an excellent job. I direct particular attention to a fact which is generally overlooked, namely, that 882 Americans have come to Australia, having migrated from “ God’s own country “ to a better country. During my recent visit to Japan, I was questioned by senior officers of the American forces regarding opportunities in Australia, and I assure honorable’ senators that I gave them every assist- ance in that respect. I advised them how to pursue their inquiries. Many of those men have already approached the Australian authorities at Tokyo with a view to obtaining their discharge in Japan in order that they can come direct to Australia and start life anew in this country.
The sum of £1,000,000 is to be provided for the fitting out of ships to be used exclusively in the transportation of migrants to Australia. Empire Brent and Asturias and many other vessels have already been fitted out for that purpose. With an ever-increasing number of migrants flowing into this country by sea and air, the nation generally will benefit from the infusion of new blood from British and European countries. This will help us to meet our problems in the future, particularly the problem of defence. Whilst the total expenditure on immigration- in 1947-48 amounted to £1,428,505, it is proposed to expend £5,987,100 under that heading during 1949. Not all of that sum will be expended in the fitting out of ships for the transportation of migrants. The sum of £1,500,000 is to be earmarked for the erection of hostels and the provision of accommodation for migrants, as well as for the purpose of educating migrants in the Australian way of life. Obviously, it would be unwise merely to bring people to this country and dump them in any community leaving them to fend for themselves. At various centres migrants are undergoing courses of education and technical training to fit them to take their places in Australian communities and industries. This training at transit camps is essential before migrants are directed to various industries throughout -.the Commonwealth.
I note with satisfaction the activities of organizations which are sponsoring “migrants to Australia. A Migration Advisory Committee has ‘been set up in each of the States, whilst other organizations, such as that which controls the Fairbridge Homes and the Salvation Army, are engaged in this work. It is pleasing to note that returned servicemen’s organizations also have taken up this work. Guided by Mr. Neagle, the federal secretary of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and Mr. Eva, the chairman of that organization’s migration committee, the league has already nominated 300 migrants. In view of this splendid effort, the Minister for Immigration has promised that, should the league nominate a sufficient number, he will endeavour to arrange for a special ship to bring its nominees to this country. In order to increase the flow of migrants, the Government is now investigating the possibility of using air transport for that purpose. Although a large number of aircraft would be required to transport 40,000 migrants a year to this country, such a task is not beyond the bounds of possibility, particularly when we realize that Canada is already transporting the majority of British migrants to that country by air.
Generous provision is also made in the budget in respect of the administration and development of the territories of Papua and New Guinea. Formerly, those territories were administered by separate councils, but, to-day, ,both territories are controlled by one council on which the native population has been given representation. That is a step in the right direction. If we are to develop those territories, we must co-ordinate their administration. I commend the Government for giving to the native populations a direct say in the government of the territories. Such action is in keeping with the- principle of selfgovernment. We have a great obligation to the native people of New Guinea and Papua. During the recent war I served in that area for some time. I do not pose as an expert on New Guinea affairs, but I had the opportunity to see. at first hand what had been clone to rehabilitate the native peoples. The Japanese, during their occupation of the territories, devastated the natives’ gardens and plantations, the natives being forced to eke out a bare existence. They were obliged practically to subsist on meagre army rations, or on what food they were able to gather for themselves. Their pigs and chickens were commandeered by the Japanese. At the end of the war the unit to which I was attached was charged with helping with the restoration of native plantations and gardens in New Guinea. I pay tribute to the work that is now being done by the New Guinea Administration in that direction as well as in looking after the health of the natives. When I was on my way recently to Japan I had an opportunity to inspect native establishments, hospitals, gardens and schools, and I was pleased to note the degree to which the natives had been rehabilitated within the last three years. Formerly, they were obliged to hang around military camps, seeking employment by the army authorities, and they had no opportunity to engage in agricultural pursuits. To-day, however, under the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit the. natives throughout the length and breadth of New Guinea are being looked after, and results already obtained are a tribute to the administration and the wisdom of its policy.
The native peoples have been encouraged to engage in the production of copra, whilst many of their number are assisting in the production of gold. In addition, the trochus shell fishing industry has been re-established, and cocoa plantations are again in production on the coast north of Madang. The cocoa produced in that area is far superior to the Gold Coast cocoa -which is mainly used by Australian confectionery manufacturers. Given adequate encouragement, the native population . in that area could produce our total requirements of cocoa. Remarkable progress has also been made in the restoration of rubber plantations in New Guinea, the rubber produced there being of different classification from that grown in Malaya. In view of the present unsettled conditions in Malaya, the Government would be well advised to consider the potentialities of New Guinea as a producer of rubber. In addition, New Guinea has a great deal of timber which is readily available. One important fact that is generally overlooked is that New Guinea is within the world’s oil-bearing belt and, possibly, will become as great an oil producer as Borneo, Sumatra and the Netherlands East Indies. Geological research has revealed oil-bearing strata in the territory. We should not overlook that fact when we assess the economic value of New Guinea. Should we fail to find oil in Australia, we should be well advised to turn our eyes to New Guinea.
Suggestions have been made recently that the Japanese should be allowed to undertake large-scale migration to New Guinea. Members of the delegation which visited Tokyo recently were questioned regarding Australia’s attitude towards that proposal. Our reaction was definitely hostile. However, the Japanese Prime Minister, when dealing with this subject, pointed out that certain areas in Africa, Indo-Ohina, Argentina and New Guinea could absorb large numbers of Japanese. [ believe that our first obligation is to the native people of New Guinea who were our allies in the recent war. We should now assist them to develop their country. I shall oppose Japanese migration to New Guinea. I could imagine the reception Japanese migrants would receive from ex-members of the New Guinea Infantry Battalion and the native troops who fought so gallantly with our troops in the Owen Stanley Ranges and elsewhere in New Guinea. They will be “picked off “ like rabbits. We should bear such considerations- in mind when dealing with the peoples of these territories and the Pacific islands generally. It is not generally known that three-fifths of New Guinea, despite itf area, is rain forest. Such land is useless. Those areas are a land of gloom, moss, humidity, mud and malaria. In spite of the great opportunities which exist in New Guinea for the production of the vital commodities which I have indicated, the country cannot absorb a very great number of people except native peoples who were inured to life in that class pf country.
An amount of £5,500,000 is also to be provided for the development of air routes and aerodromes. I take this opportunity te express my regret at the Lutana disaster. Civil aviation in Australia has established a flying record, having covered one thousand million miles during the last two and a half years without accident. My regret at the loss of the Lutana is increased because one of the victims was Mrs. Margaret Mclntyre, who was the first woman member to be elected to the Legislative Council in Tasmania. She was to have moved the Address-in-Reply to the Governor’s Speech at the recent opening of the Tasmanian Parliament. To her relatives and to the relatives of the others who lost their lives in that disaster, I extend my deepest sympathy. The people of Australia are very air-minded, and these mishaps are most regrettable; but we fly on. On the day following the Lutana crash, passenger aircraft were just as full as ever. By a coincidence, I happened to be at Essendon aerodrome. Melbourne, when the first Convair aircraft arrived from overseas. I was privileged to have a trial flight in it and I understand that in Canberra to-morrow n similar opportunity will be given to members of the Parliament. I assure the Senate that a flight in a Convair is a ‘ worth-while experience. This is the aeroplane about which we heard so much adverse and ill-informed criticism from Opposition members in the House of Representatives, most of whom have shown strong prejudice against the operations of Trans-Australia Airlines. The performance of the Convair is magnificent. Its take-off with a full load of 40 passengers, plus a large weight of spare parts, is spectacular for a commercial aircraft. As the main criticism of the Convair has been that it has a range of only 240 miles I shall illustrate its capabilities by indicating to the Senate the route that it followed on its way to this country from the United States of America. From Sandiago, California, it flew direct to Tulsa, Oklahoma, a distance of 1,240 miles, in five and a half hours. That flight makes the statement that it has a range of only 240 miles look extremely foolish. From Tulsa it flew to Chicago, and thence to Montreal, Goose Bay in Labrador, Kefeflevik in Iceland, Prestwick, in Scotland, London, Marseilles, Castle Benito in Tripoli, Cairo, Basra, Karachi, New Delhi, Calcutta, Rangoon, Singapore, Macassar, Darwin, and finally Melbourne. The purchase of Convair aircraft has been criticized by opponents of the Government policy as extravagance, but, in my opinion, the choice was wise. The Convair provides passengers with the most modern comforts, including pressurized cabins. Under the command of Captain Chapman, with whom I was once associated in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, the first Convair has pioneered the “sterling” route. Its performance in making this journey has been remarkable, and the Government and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) are to be congratulated upon their decision to put this up-to-date and efficient aircraft into service with Trans-Australia Airlines.
Provision is made in the budget for the development of the ship-building industry. Shipping is most important for our defence, particularly as Australia is an island continent. During “World “War II., Australia’s sea lines of communication with allied countries were all but severed, and we had to establish our own ship-building industry. A remarkable feat was accomplished at Whyalla, which the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has transformed from a small seaside town into a thriving ship-building city. Australia is a maritime nation. Too long have we been dependent upon ships built overseas. The Government has made provision for the operation of seven shipyards, capable of producing 30,000 tons of shipping annually. 1 know something about ships. I have served at sea, and was, at one time, a foreman stevedore. I know the quality of ships and their gear. The design and quality of Australian-built vessels are equal to anything in the world. Generous provision is made for crews and only- the best gear is installed. Nothing better will be seen in the ship-building yards of Belfast, Glasgow or Newcastle-on-Tyne. It is true that Australian-built ships have been costly tonnage to build, but remind the Senate that the industry had to be developed from the very foundation, and that, in almost all business enterprises, costs decreased as the undertaking became established. I have no doubt that, as shipbuilding in this country expands, better and cheaper vessels will he built. Already 24 ships have been built to the order of the Australian Shipping Board for the Australian Government. These vessels aggregate 150,000 tons and range from “ E “ class steamers of 500 tons, to “ River “ class ships of 9,000 tons such as River Mitta and River Murray. They are a credit to those who built them and to those who man them. Gone are the days of stinking forecastles when men lived under sub-human conditions. To-day living accommodation is of a good standard, and meals are taken in comfort. The seamen have two-berth cabins fitted with clothing lockers. Australian-built vessels comply with the highest standards of maritime nations throughout the world. In the near future legislation will be introduced to set up a permanent authority to manage the Australian fleet, and stabilize the shipbuilding industry. The history of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers is known to all of us. The story of the sale of the famous “Bay” liners and the “ Dale “ cargo vessels to overseas interests is a sorry tale and I shall not dwell upon it. I hope that when the legislation to which I have referred is introduced, it will provide for the operation of the Australian-owned ships by an organization similar to the Australian National Airlines Commission which operates Trans-Australia Airlines. Such a venture must be headed by competent men who know the shipping industry from A to Z. One factor that contributed to the failure of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was inefficiency at the top of the administration. Some of the agents for the line were private companies which also held agencies for other shipping lines competing with the government vessels. These agents were getting a ‘ rake-off “ of 10 per cent, on all the business they transacted. That was not right. Shipping is a specialized business and cannot be administered by just any one. Incompetence, political interference, and the underhand actions of the overseas shipping combine brought about the downfall of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, ultimately leading to the sale of its vessels contrary to the best interests of Australia.
The budget also provides £10,000,000 for financial assistance to the United Kingdom. I notice also that there is an estimated increase of expenditure on international relief and rehabilitation during 1948-49 amounting to £1,400,000. In addition, £1,000,000 is to be paid to the International Children’s Emergency Organization, £800,000 to the International Refugee Organization, and £1,800,000 to post-war Unrra relief. These gifts totalling £13,600,000 to other countries are a fine gesture, and honorable senators who saw the film shown in the Senate clubroom earlier this evening, will appreciate just what this assistance will mean. However, there does not seem to be sufficient provision to ensure that relief payments to United Nations organizations will find their way to those who need them most. I have in mind mainly Asiatic countries, particularly China. Money is being poured into China for the assistance of starving and destitute people, but is it reaching them? Prom what I saw and heard as a member of the parliamentary delegation which visited Japan, conditions in China are deplorable. The Chinese people are in a deplorable condition, ill-clad and homeless ; yet millions of dollars and thousands of tons of foodstuffs and clothing have been sent to that country. These obviously are not reaching the people for whom they are intended. They are going into black-markets and to armies that have been waging war amongst themselves for the last decade.
Outside the city of Shanghai there was an allegedly Nationalist army which was supposed to be fighting the Communists hundreds of miles away. That army, under its war lord, had been squatting outside Shanghai for many months, and apparently did not have any intention to fight anybody. When the delegation asked why they were not engaging the enemy, the reply was that unless the people of Shanghai provided them with food they would ransack the city and hold its authorities up to ransom. If Australia is to help other countries with gifts of money and food we should also provide’ effective supervision to ensure that the gifts shall reach their proper destinations, and be used for the relief of those who are most in need. I should much prefer money expended in this way to be used to finance increases of age,’ invalid and ex-service pensions. If we are to give money away, we should give it to our own people. I notice that provision has been made in the budget for an increase of 5s. a week in the rate of age and invalid pensions and for an easing of the means test, which will cost the Government £7,600,000 in the current year. A similar increase in the rate of widows’ pensions will add £700,000 to the Government’s commitments this year, and the increase of 2s. 6d. a week in the rate of child endowment will also cost a considerable sum. The total cost of these concessions will be approximately £15,000,000 per annum. With the sum of £13,600,000 at its disposal for gifts to other countries the Government could well have doubled those pension increases. For instance, the 10 per cent, increase applied to exservice pensions is inadequate in the light of cost-of-living increases. These observations are my own comments and are not intended in any way to be a criticism of the Government or of the object of foreign relief.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) re- ferred in his budget speech to the difficulties of international finance and the “battle for dollars”. The recovery of the United Kingdom from its present unfavorable economic situation can be brought about only with the wholehearted co-operation of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and all other countries which .belong to the British Commonwealth of Nations. In the matter of prestige and influence alone, it is necessary for us to sustain the United Kingdom and to maintain the purchasing power of sterling. The importance of sterling is so greatly emphasized to-day that, when I visited Japan with the Australian parliamentary delegation, I found that Australian funds could he converted to sterling only in terms of British armed forces vouchers, known as “ Baf v’s “. The object of this restriction is to prevent Australian money from falling into the hands of the Japanese and being converted to dollars, which could be sent to the United States of America for the purchase of American goods. Anybody who leaves Australia to-day has great difficulty in obtaining dollar credits. I realize that this regulation of currency creates a great deal of heart-burning amongst business men and others who wish to buy American goods, but it is essential to our effort to aid Great Britain. Our dollar earnings are diverted to a dollar pool for the use of Great Britain, which needs them badly. The influence of British sterling abroad is still very high, but we have to counter strong pressure which is being brought to bear with the object of removing control of the world’s finances from London to Wall-street. New York. American and Japanese business men who talked with me while I was abroad complained, not of the difficulty of obtaining goods, but of the difficulty of securing dollar credits. The dollar is the key to the whole economic situation. By restricting dollar expenditure, Australia is doing a great deal, both directly and indirectly, to help the United Kingdom. It is the most effective way in which we can help the Mother Country to-day- In the. past, British financial interests invested enormous sums in foreign countries. We have witnessed their downfall in recent years. British firms poured money into investments in China, Japan, India, Hong Kong and Argentina in days when opportunities’ for the exploitation of coloured labour to make enormous profits were greater than they are to-day. Those funds could have been diverted to Australia to the great advantage of this nation. Had the money been invested wisely here, Australia would have been an even greater nation that it is now. British investments would have prevented unemployment and stimulated immigration during the economic depression of the early ‘thirties. It is difficult to envisage the remarkable development that would have resulted. The expansion and progress evident to-day, when overseas firms are anxious to invest capital in this country, would have been insignificant by comparison.
This budget, like all other budgets, does not please everybody. Nevertheless it represents a great record of achievement. Once again the Government has reduced taxes, whilst maintaining a high level of employment and living conditions which contrast very favorably with those in other countries. When we see documentary films of conditions in other parts of the world we cannot fail to realize how fortunate we are to be living in Australia. None of our sufferings can compare even in a minor degree with, the sufferings of people in Great Britain and iii Europe generally. This Government has to bear the great responsibility of maintaining our high standards. The budget provides encouragement for the people and promises them security for the future. It offers incentives, without which there can be no progress, and encourages increased production and the growth of loyalty to the nation. A government can assist and guide the affairs of the country but without the co-operation of the people it can achieve very little. The mere making of laws does not make a country prosperous. There must be co-operation and a re-awakening of our national conscience.
– I congratulate Senator Murray upon his speech. It was most interesting, and his remarks were well worthy of serious and prolonged consideration. This budget is so voluminous that no honorable senator could hope to dissect it thoroughly and refer to all of its details in one speech. I am impressed chiefly by the fact that it represents another development of the master plan which this Government is implementing. I have been privileged to witness the presentation of SuccessIve budgets in this Parliament since 1943, and in ‘ that period I have watched the extension of a plan which lias been designed in the interests of the Australian people. The Government was faced with tremendous difficulties during the war when national expenditure, and therefore taxes, reached their highest levels. It promised the people that its policy would be to reduce taxes as circumstances permitted. Immediately upon the cessation of active hostilities, it gave effect to that promise and has pursued the policy consistently. An examination of the almost astronomical figures of expenditure in the 1943 budget and those in ensuing budgets reveals a steady lightening of the burden imposed upon the people. This is a highly creditable achievement because, although we are no longer faced with the great financial commitments entailed by war, there is a tendency to increase expenditure in relation to national and civil requirements. The steady reduction of the tax burden shows that the Government has kept faith with the people by honoring its promise to reduce charges upon the community as circumstances warrant such action.
The budget shows that revenue for the year 1947-48 amounted to £457,00,000, compared with an income estimated at £397,000,000 at the beginning of the year. Lt is interesting to note how the additional £60,000,000 was received. Income tax and social service contributions amounted to £37,000,000. Receipts from customs and excise duties exceeded the estimate by £13,000,000, sales tax income exceeded the estimate by £6,000,000, and pay-roll tax amounted to £1,600,000 more than was anticipated. The high income tax and social services revenue was due partly to the increased earnings of the people over the past twelve months and partly to the collection of arrears of taxes. I recall reading some time ago that a member of this Parliament had made very pointed references to “ hidden millions “ which, according to him, were stowed away somewhere and could be used to put everything right in Australia. Because of the increased activities of the Taxation Branch, due to improvements of the staff position, the Government has been able to recover a large amount of outstanding taxes. Of course, the excess of revenue actually received over that estimated was due mainly to the increased income of the people generally. The total value of imports was £130,000,000 more than during the previous year. It is obvious that most of the increased receipts from sales tax have been due to the higher prices paid for goods that are subject to that tax. However, I believe that the elimination of sales tax from all goods would confer a great benefit on the community, and would do more than anything else to improve the purchasing power of the wages of the workers. During recent years Labour has given every consideration to reducing the number of good3 on which sales tax has to be paid.. The increased amount received from the pay-roll tax was caused by increased employment, and higher wages and salaries that are now being paid. Although the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has been criticized because £60,000,000 more revenue was received than he estimated, the statistics which I have mentioned furnish a clear indication that the extreme buoyancy of the revenue has been due to the unequalled prosperity which we have experienced during the last two years.
As an indication of the present prosperous condition of our economy I propose to quote some statistics relating to the national income during the last ten years. I select the financial year 1938-39 as the base year for my comparisons, because that was the last complete financial year before the outbreak of war. The national income during. the base year amounted to £814,000,000. By 1945-46 that income had increased to £1,284,000,000, by 1946- 47 to £1,359,000,000, and bv 1947-48 to £1,635,000,000. The aggregate personal income of residents in the financial year 1938-39 was £748,000,000. In 1945-46 it increased to £1,297,000,000, in 1946-47 to £1,313,000,000, and in 1947-48 to £1,589,000,000. Those statistics, which indicate’ the extent of the appreciation of the personal incomes of members of the community, are another indication of the prevailing prosperity. Aggregate personal savings amounted to £48,000,000 in 1938-39. They increased in 1945-46 to £264,000,000, in 1946-47 to £148,000,000, and in 1947-48 to £204,000,000. It is noticeable that some decline of the total personal savings has occurred since 1945-46, but that decline is probably attributable to increased opportunities for investment of savings. In any event, the total for 1947-48, £204,000,000, is a large one. The prosperity reflected by those huge sums contrasts with the time when people did not have 2s. in their pockets, and many of them had to rely on the community’s generosity to provide them with a bowl of soup. Gross private investments in 1938-39 amounted to £140,000,000, in 1945-46 to £175,000,000, in 1946-47 to £330,000,000, and in 1947-48 to £355,000,000. From the substantial increase of gross private investments it it evident that they must have absorbed a good deal of personal savings. From 1938-39 to 1943-44 the national income increased by approximately 60 per cent., and remained static until 1946-47, since when it has increased by approximately 20 per cent. The present national income is more than double that of the prewar period. I agree with the explanation offered by some people that the increase for 1947-48 has been due to higher prices, better seasons and increased employment. In 1938-39 personal savings represented only 6 per cent, of the national income, but in 1945-46 they comprised 20 per cent, of the national income. In 1946-47 the proportion declined to 11 per cent., and -in 1947-48 personal savings comprised 13 per cent, of the national income. Although the proportion of personal savings to national income during the last financial year is much less than it was in 1945-46, the fact remains that it is more than twice that of the base year.
The report and balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Savings Bank for the year ended the 30th June, 1948, furnish further evidence of the prosperous state of the community. In 1938-39 notes in circulation amounted to £33,000,000. In 1946-47 notes in” circulation amounted to £182,000,000, and although they declined to £173,000,000 in 1948 they represent a tremendous increase over the base year. Deposits in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and in the private trading banks in 1939 aggregated £334,000,000. In 1946 the total deposits were £671,000,000; in 1947, £698,000,000; and in 1948 the total increased to £772,000,000. The present total is more than double that of 1939. Savings Bank deposits in all banks amounted to £246,000,000 in 1939. to £663,000,000 in 1946, to £661,000,000 in 1947, and to £631,000,000 in 1948. The aggregate deposits in trading and savings banks in 1939 amounted to £613,000,000, but the aggregate in 194S was £1,626,000,000, which represents an increase of £1,013,000,000. The increase of liquid funds last year amounted to £85,000,000. Those statistics indicate that the country is enjoying buoyant conditions which the country has never known previously, and I think that the people should realize their importance.
The Government expended on defence and post-war charges in the last financial year £180,000,000, which was £12,000,000 more than it had estimated. In 1943-44, £167,000,000 was expended; in 1944-45, £194,000,000; in 1945-46, £225,000,000; and in 1946-47. £194,000,000. The expenditure from the Loan Fund on those charges in 1943-44 was £377,000,000; in 1944-45. £266,000,000; in 1945-46, £153,000,000; and in 1946-47, £38,000,000. Defence and post-war charges against Loan Fund in respect of World War I. are becoming progressively less. Repatriation services charges in respect of World War I. remain practically stationary at an approximate annual amount of £19,000,000. Criticism has been made of the amount proposed to be provided for war and service pensions and also in regard to the sum allocated for age and invalid pensioners. I suppose that it could be contended that the proposed increases are not sufficient! I could say the same with respect to waT and service pensions but we have to remember that when the Government set out to improve the conditions of pensioners, it had in mind that when the finances of the country permitted it, either increased pensions would be paid or the means test would be liberalized. The budget indicates that war pensions have increased by about 10 per cent, and it provides for an increase of 5s. a week to totally incapacitated war and service pensioners. The increase of 5s. a week in the special rate pension will apply to totally and permanently incapacitated persons, whilst the increase of 5s. a week to widows will apply also to a dependent parent, brother or sister of a deceased member of the forces. Some classes of dependants of deceased members will re ceive an increase greater than 5s. a week. For example, certain widowed mothers will receive from £2 10s. a week to £3 a week; the maximum service pension will be increased to £2 2s. 6d. a week; whilst the value of property which a pensioner may own without affecting his pension will be raised to £750. That means that a man end, wife both of whom are pensioners maj own property valued at £1,500 and still receive £7 5s. a week as pensions.
The Government’s policy in respect of an casing of the means test and making increased benefits available to all classes of pensioners is sound’. Different rates of payment to various classes of pensioners would provide grounds for legitimate complaint on the part of those who are looking forward to getting all the assistance possible to help them meet the high costs that are obtaining at present and which, I am afraid, are likely to become higher as time goes on. Other proposals in respect of service personnel are free medical attention, including in-patient treatment, to widows and children and certain classes of widowed mothers of deceased members, and a further extension of the educational and training Allowances under the soldiers’ children educational scheme. “When the parties now in Opposition were in office, they had a chance to do more for the soldiers and their dependants than was done for them.
In 1939, £7,819,000 was paid in respect of war pensions, whilst in 1946 £13,258,000 was paid. This Government can therefore claim some credit for that. Service pensions cost £407,000 in 1939, whilst in 1946, the payments aggragated £805,000. .
The total estimated war gratuity liability is £80,000,000, the major portion of which will become due in the financial year 1950-51. This Government proposes to establish a war gratuity reserve, into which will be paid the revenue surplus of £1,400,000 in respect of the financial year just closed. In addition it is proposed to appropriate for this purpose £5,000,000 from the current year’s revenue, and £17,000,000, representing part of certain trust balances, will be transferred to the proposed reserve. It is sound finance for the Government to make such preparation to meet the tremendous liability which will accrue in 1950-51. I particularly draw the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the £17,000,000 mentioned is the credit balance remaining after war damage to property, and marine war risk claims so far lodged have been paid.
We have heard many references ro socialization and bureaucracy in this country, but it is interesting to note that during the war years there was, apparently, no private enterprise in Australia prepared to undertake the responsibility of meeting claims for war damage to property, and insurance companies in Australia were not prepared to accept liability for marine war risks. This Government took over all insurance risks associated with the maintenance of sea transport in dangerous waters during the war. Those aspects of private enterprise must be very lucrative, because it is from these balances that the £17,000,000 which it is proposed to appropriate to the war gratuity reserve will be transferred. Sufficient funds will remain in the accounts to cover any further liabilities likely to arise. I mention that because we are frequently told that any business enterprise conducted by a government is bound to go wrong. In the circumstances mentioned the Government had to establish its own administration, and take all the risks which were very real indeed.
– It shows that the premiums were too high.
– I understand that the premiums were normal. Senator O’sullivan may be an expert in respect to what premiums should be charged, but I am dealing with the matter factually. It is most interesting to note that estimated payments in respect of social services for the coming year will amount to £95,000,000. Of that amount, it is expected that £77,000,000 will be provided by social services contribution, and £18,000,000 from the payroll tax. The sum of £88,000,000 was expended during the year just closed, under heading of social services. Three years ago it was anticipated that within five years the expenditure by the Commonwealth on social services would be approximately £100,000,000. This budget has almost reached that figure. There are people who argue that our system of social services is breeding a class of people who want to depend on somebody else rather than upon their own efforts. There may be some ground for that criticism but there is another way in which we must regard this expenditure. Money expended on social services is distributed amongst a section of the people of Australia. Many of them con tribute towards the benefits they receive, but under our system of taxation which is based on ability to pay, some people will never contribute anything. There is an obligation on the remainder of the community to ensure that those who are less fortunate will be able to get some portion of the economic loaf, which should be divided amongst the whole of the people. This expenditure goes into circulation and creates employment. If perchance this expenditure were to cease suddenly, what would be the position in Australia? There would be a tremendous increase of unemployment and the money now being extracted from those liable for such contributions would be used by them for the purchase of luxuries or be put away to become frozen assets. Therefore, however great that sum may be, the money is readily put into circulation, and is a factor in the maintenance, of employment. On the other hand, when money is not so freely circulated, what is the result? Prior to the resumption of the sitting this evening, honorable senators witnessed a -motion picture which showed conditions in various countries. It depicted small minorities of people who had plenty to eat and had made fortunes in selling foodstuffs to people who could afford to pay black-market prices. In contrast, we also saw depicted large sections of communities dying of starvation. The point I make is that the free circulation of money is as important to a community as is the adequate distribution of foodstuffs, and that it is equally wrong for one section of the community to exploit other sections by restricting the circulation of money as by holding up the distribution of foodstuffs. In either event, the victims are reduced to a state of serfdom, or through malnutrition arc condemned to ill health. In that way, the virility of peoples has been destroyed in the past. I recall that the malnutrition caused by conditions during the depression, which occurred between the two world wars, was reflected to such a degree in the physical standard of our manpower during the recent war, that Australia was rated as a “ O “ class nation. Whatever criticism in respect of its social services programme, “the fact remains that under that programme in conjunction with its taxation policy it is rapidly improving the health and standard of living of our people. That fact is reflected in the physique of our rising generation. Today, our youth is remarkable for its energy and outstanding prowess in sport. Young people are now able to enjoy cultural pursuits which were not available in the past. All this has been made possible by the development of social services implemented by the Curtin Labour Government when it assumed office in 1941.
The Government now proposes to increase the rate of age and invalid pensions by 5s. a week making the pension £2 2s. 6d. a week, and, at the same time, to modify the means test by permitting pensioners to earn up to 30s. a week instead of £1 from other sources. This will mean that aged married couples will receive a joint pension of £4 5s. a week, and will be permitted to earn income up to £3 a. week from other sources, making their total income £7 5s. a week. No one will say that that is a poor income for an aged married couple. However, the Government should view such benefits in their proper perspective in relation to the basic wage. In Western Australia, the basic wage at present is £5 17s. 5d. a week. On that income a worker is expected to maintain himself, his wife and his children. 1 admit, of course, that child endowment may he payable in respect of many families; but we must face up to the fact that whilst a man is expected to provide for his wife and children on a basic wage of less than £6, we are now making available a joint income of £7 5s. to aged married ‘couples. In making that comparison, I do not want to be misunderstood; but the Government would be well advised to give attention to the points inherent in that comparison. Pensioners will be allowed to possess -property of a value of £750, instead of £650, or property to the value of £1,500 in the case of a married couple. It is also interesting to note that when the Curtin Government assumed office in 1941, the rate of old-age pension, as it was then known, was £1 ls. a week whereas to-day the rate is £2 2s. 6d. a week or an increase of 100 per cent. Whereas in 1939 the total expenditure on age and invalid pensions was £15,992,000, the expenditure under that beading in 1946 amounted to nearly £27,000,000 and in 1947 to £29,416,000. This Government has been generous, indeed, in liberalizing benefits made available to the aged members of the community. It is also proposed to increase the widows’ pension by 5s. a week. A widow with a dependent child will be entitled to a pension of £2 7s. 6d. a week and will be permitted to earn income up to £1 10s. a week from other sources. The total expenditure on widows’ pensions which were established in 1942 amounted to £2,801,000 in 1944. £2,965,000 in 1945, £3,247,000 in 1946 ‘ and £3,366,000 in 1947; and expenditure under that heading is continuing to increase. The Government also proposes to increase the rate of child endowment by 2s. 6d. a week, bringing the rate of endowment to 10s. a week for each child in respect of which endowment is payable. The total revenue from income tax will be reduced by £22,300,000 for the remainder of the current financial year, which is equivalent to a reduction of about £26,000,000 for a full financial year. The Government intends to reduce taxes further as circumstances permit. However, it has already made generous remissions of income tax and social service contribution in respect of incomes from personal exertion. These reductions are shown in the following table: -
A taxpayer with a wife and two children, having an income of £350, will be required to pay income tax amounting to £3 15s., but, at the same time, will receive in child endowment, £26, thus being £22 better off ; whilst a married taxpayer with two children, having an income of £400, will pay income tax amounting to £8 lis., but will receive child endowment of £26, and will thus be £17 9s. better off. I have restricted comparisons to the lower and middle income groups because at this stage the Government is catering mainly for people in those groups. I point out, however, that on high incomes, ranging from £1,000 to £15,000 a year, substantial tax reductions ranging from approximately 19 per cent, to 3 per cent, are being effected. I believe that the Government has done everything possible to reduce its administration costs and to give to the people of this country the greatest tax reductions possible.
It is proposed to increase the Commonwealth hospital benefit from’ 6s. to 8s. a day. This is payable in respect of every occupied bed in. public wards of public hospitals, provided that no accommodation charge is made to patients. This plan was agreed upon by the States and the Commonwealth, and already many thousands of people in this country have received the benefit of the 6s. a day allowance. Although the scheme has not been long in operation, in 1947-48 it cost the Commonwealth £4,448,000, and the estimate for the current year is £5,800,000. This is another indication that the Australian Government is endeavouring to give practical help to the people of the Commonwealth. I point out too that the hospital benefit is payable regardless of the means of the patient.
In recent years much has been said about the scourge of tuberculosis in this country. That this disease arises mainly out of malnutrition is evidenced by the fact that a large number of patients in various institutions throughout the Commonwealth to-day were children in the depression years. This brings home forcibly to us the fact that, unless people are well fed, diseases cannot be stamped out. The Australian Government is planning a campaign to reduce the incidence of tuberculosis. Already it has enacted legislation embodying an agreement with the States to provide diagnostic facilities, treatment, and certain after-care payments; now it is proposed to go a step further. The Government is offering to meet all approved additional maintenance costs incurred by the States, and to provide all approved new capital required. Once again, the Australian Government is working on practical lines. It is trying to help people to help themselves. The Tuberculosis Act commenced to operate in January, 1946, and in the year 1947-48 £20,000 was paid under its provisions. The estimate for 1948-49 is £600,000. The low expenditure in 1947-48 was probably due to the fact that many people did not know very much about the scheme, and possibly some of the States had not brought the scheme fully into operation.
The Government proposes also to make free treatment available for patients in public mental institutions, and legislation to that effect will be introduced soon.
This is a wise step because maintenance of patients in mental institutions often places a heavy burden upon relatives. I am confident that the Australian Government, in co-operation with the States will make a success of this venture.
There are many aspects of the budget about which one could speak, but I shall leave them to other honorable senators. I shall content myself with expressing the view that this is the best budget ever brought before the Australian Parliament. It shows a healthy economy with no unemployment. It indicates increasing industrial activity and higher profits in business enterprises. It shows that the people generally throughout the Commonwealth are better off to-day than they have ever been. However, we should bear in mind the fate that might overtake this country should there be a substantial decline in the prices of our primary products. The stability of our economy depends to a large degree upon our primary production. I strike that warning note because I believe that it is the strongest possible case for control of the national credit by the national Government, the elected representatives of the people of this country.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley) adjourned.
Motion (hy Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- To assist the motion picture industry of Australia, I suggest that a competition be held for a film built around either of the two greatest sports in this country, Australian rules football and the great game of cricket. The picture could show what a wonderful game Australian rules football is with ita spectacular high-marking, longkicking, swift-passing, the great work of. the “goal sneak”, and the magnificent play of the big men in the ruck. There is no -finer or more thrilling spectacle than a game of Australian rules football and a picture featuring this game would show what type of sportsmen Australia has.
– Why not horseracing ?
– Senator Large asks, “Why not horse-racing? “ Horseracing is the sport of kings, but cricket is the king of sports. Cricket builds good fellowship and good citizens and I need hardly remind the Senate that cricket is a game about which Australia really knows something. Why not have a motion pic. ture built around this great game? A prize could be offered for the script, and if necessary the filming could be done by the Government. Such a picture would be a great advertisement for Australia. We have the technicians, and we have the sportsmen. I ask that the Government give serious consideration to my suggestion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : - -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1948-
No.62 - Fourth DivisionOfficers’ Association of’ the Department of Trade and Customs.
No. 63 - Australian Journalists’ Association.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
External Affairs - K. R. Douglas-Scott, J. C. Ingram, H.G. Marshall, C. Kelson, P. H. O’Connor, J. E. Thomson.
Interior - J. G. Cocks,G. C. Dalton, D. A. Hamilton.
Social Services - J. A. Thwaites.
Works and Housing - E. C. Gardiner.
Customs Act - Customs Proclamation - No. 723.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (30).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Kingscote, South Australia.
Postal purposes - Arthur’s Seat, Victoria.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of certain lands known as the Bagot Aboriginal Reserve:
Senate adjourned at 9.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 September 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19480915_senate_18_198/>.