19th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the unwarranted action of private enterprise speculators and others controlling the production, distribution, and exchange of the basic necessaries of life in continually increasing the prices of these commodities, and the consequent reduction of the purchasing power of wages, pensions and other fixed incomes, will the Commonwealth Government, in view of the failure of the State governments to take appropriate action, consider declaring a state of national emergency and passing legislation to regulate prices ?
– Obviously I am not in a position to give, offhand, a complete answer to the honorable senator’s question. We, on this side of the Senate, are as much concerned as are honorable senators opposite about rising prices. If the honorable senator will put his question on the notice-paper, I shall be happy to provide him with a reply if possible.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether it is true that an order recently issued by the Australian Wheat Board that flour mills should reduce their operating time from 132 hours to SO hours a week has resulted in certain mills working only one shift a week, with a consequent standing down of many employees? Have large sales of wheat overseas been responsible for this situation which is causing serious hardship in the pig, dairying, and poultry industries because of the shortage of bran and pollard? Can the Minister say whether it is possible to annul or amend this order so that more wheat will be gristed in Australia to assist primary producers and maintain employment in the flour-milling industry?
– I have already discussed this matter with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The position is that the wheat-farmers are able to obtain a higher price for wheat sold overseas than they can for wheat sold locally for milling. The Minister is aware of the difficulties that are being experienced in the flour-milling States, and is doing everything possible to rectify the position. I have not received a report
On this matter for some days, and I shall discuss it further with the Minister and inform the honorable senator of the result.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the United Kingdom Government has refused to buy Australian wheat for sterling at the price fixed under the International Wheat Agreement? Has the “ fellow-traveller “ government in that country bought wheat for dollars from North America despite the fact that it claims that dollars are very scarce and that it cannot make any more available to Australia?
– As this is a matter that concerns the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I ask the honorable senator to place his question upon the notice-paper. If he does not desire to do that, I shall obtain the information for which he has asked and report it to the Senate later.
– The reference to the United Kingdom Government as a “ fellow-traveller “ Government is offensive to me, and I request that it be withdrawn.
– I ask Senator George Rankin to withdraw that statement, because it is offensive to the Leader of the Opposition.
– I believe that my statement was a perfectly true one; but, in deference to you, Mr. President, I withdraw it.
– I ask Senator George Rankin to withdraw the statement without reservation.
– In deference to you, Mr. President, I do so.
– Yesterday, Mr. President, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel made a statement by leave incorporating replies to several questions that had been asked in the Senate last week on the subject of petrol. Although the Minister’s statement was not made here until after 3 p.m., its contents were disclosed in yesterday’s morning press in Sydney. I ask that, in future, answers to questions shall be given in this chamber before they are made available to the newspapers.
– I recall one occasion on which the press published a speech by a member of the House of Representatives which, in fact, was ne%7er delivered at all. I do not know whether I have the authority to compel Ministers to refrain from giving statements to the press before making them in the Senate, but undoubtedly such a course would be wise.
– I am speaking of answers to questions.
– When a question is asked in the Senate, the Minister concerned is expected to reply to it forthwith if he can. However, when the answer to a question or perhaps to a series of questions is long, it is customary for a Minister to ask the leave of the Senate to make a statement. Yesterday the Minister for Shipping and Fuel followed that course.
– But the statement had already appeared in the press.
– The Minister was not giving an immediate answer to a question. He was making a statement in reply to a series of questions that had been asked some days previously. In fact, he had been bombarded by questions, and, being unable to answer some of them offhand, had deferred his reply until the next day of sitting when he asked leave to make a statement. I do not think that in these circumstances, I could compel a Minister to refrain from giving the information to the press.
– I have no objection to that, but surely common courtesy demands that questions asked in this chamber should be answered in this chamber before the answers are made available to the newspapers.
– I agree that common courtesy suggests that procedure. I should be interested to hear what the Minister for Shipping and Fuelhas to say on this matter. My recollection of the incident is that, last week, honorable senators asked a series of questions about the general fuel position, and that the Minister replied to some of those questions in his statement made by leave of the Senate yesterday. That, to my mind, is somewhat different from a direct reply to a question asked in this chamber.
– I ask for leave to make a brief statement.
– I request that the Minister for Shipping and Fuel be asked to inform the Senate of the nature of the statement that he desires to make.
– It should be the practice, when a Minister or senator asks for leave to make a statement, for him to inform the Senate of the nature of the statement.
– I wish to make a statement explaining why a copy of my statement dealing with petrol was given to representatives of the press.
– I was asked a question relating to the size of the defence stocks of petrol on the 10th December, 1949, and on the 10th February of this year. One inference to be drawn from the question was that, in order to enable petrol rationing to be abolished, the Government had drawn upon our defence stocks of petrol. When the question was asked, the proceedings of the Senate were being broadcast. The question might have caused great concern to a number of persons. In those circumstances, I thought it proper to make a statement upon the matter and to ensure that it was given publicity at the earliest possible moment in order that stupid people would not indulge in hoarding and panic buying. I am sorry if my action offended the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley). In future, when questions are asked in the normal course of events, I shall follow the usual practice.
I am forced to make another statement owing to a silly suggestion that was made in another place that as soon as the general elections in the States are concluded petrol rationing will be reimposed. Stupid statements of that kind can result only in harm. We have all the petrol that we need in this country. The real problem in relation to petrol is that the countries of the world are suffering from over production of that commodity.
– Excuse our mirth !
– I am sorry if I am speaking to “ dumb Doras “ who do not know the facts.
– Order !
– In view of the fact that I have been unable to penetrate the “ iron curtain “ of the Minister for Trade and Customs, I address my question to the Prime Minister, through his representative in this chamber. Since the 10th December, 1949, have any employees of the Australian Government been relieved of their positions because they are either members of the Communist party or in sympathy with it? If so, how many employees have been removed from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the guided weapons testing range project in South Australia?
– I am very sorry that the honorable senator considers that I am unsympathetic to him in the matter of answering his question. That is not so. This matter affects the Prime Minister. Therefore, I have not the information that is required readily at my hands. If the honorable senator will put his question on the notice-paper, 7 shall ensure that it is answered fully.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer with the statement that representations have been made to me by primary producers about the irksomeness of the obligation that is imposed upon them to collect income tax from their employees. Will the Minister give an assurance that the question of removing that obligation will be referred to the committee that the Government proposes to establish to consider the simplification of our income tax laws?
– It is true that a committee has been established to prepare proposals for the simplification of taxation. I agree that considerable inconvenience is caused to primary producers by their obligation to make collections of income tax on behalf of the Government and that it would be a great improvement if that obligation could be removed from them. I know of my own knowledge how it affects the relations between employers and casual employees in the country districts. I give an undertaking on behalf of my colleague that this question will be referred to the committee.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation -whether approximately 400 beds in Caulfield Military Hospital are unoccupied ? If they are, will the Government, even as a temporary measure, permit the Victorian Government to use that accommodation for the relief of the aged and the infirm ?
– Although I am unable to supply the information sought off-hand, I assure the honorable senator that I shall have inquiries made and furnish her with the result thereof at an early date.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister ‘by reminding the Senate that from time to time during a number of years past serious floods have occurred on the north coast of New South Wales. As a matter of fact, large areas of that district are at present under water. From Murwillumbah south to the lower Clarence there is a large area of valuable dairy country. During the regime of the previous Government a vast amount of propaganda was published in connexion with assistance being given to dairy-farmers in that district who had suffered considerable loss of property and production. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government has decided to make available a sum exceeding £100,000 to help the dairy-farmers in the floodstricken a.rea3 to get into production again ? This is a matter of great national importance.
– Although the subject raised by Senator Amour is essentially a State matter, it tas been the ‘privilege of those of us who have been members of the Senate before, to hear the honorable senator make some interesting comments about the effects of floods in the areas that he has referred to. With respect, I ask him either to see me personally, or to make representations in writing, about how a recurrence of these tragedies may be averted. If it is a matter of making an allocation of money, he might be good enough to suggest a method by which that should be done.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say whether he has any information to impart to me in answer to a question that I asked on the first sitting day of this session relative to superannuated employees who were recalled into the Public Service during the war period and suffered a reduction of pension?
– This matter falls specifically within the jurisdiction of the Treasurer, to whom the matter has been referred. I shall communicate the right honorable gentleman’s answer to the honorable senator as soon as it is available.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the wives of incapacitated ex-servicemen of World War I., and children born to them subsequent to the 30th June, 1938, are ineligible to receive war pensions? If the Minister is aware of this apparent anomaly, will he give it consideration?
– I am aware that wives of incapacitated ex-servicemen of World War I., and children born to them after the 30th June, 1938, are ineligible for war pensions. During the depression period, in 1931, the wives and children of incapacitated ex-servicemen wore disallowed pensions and allowances under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The amending legislation of 193S restored pensions and allowances to them for a period of seven years, that is till the 30th June, 193S. Since that date they have not been so eligible. In his policy speech, the Prime Minister stated that repatriation would be overhauled with a view to rectifying anomalies. The Cabinet subcommittee appointed for the purpose is examining anomalies in repatriation provisions. I shall bring this matter to the notice of that sub-committee.
– I should like to remind the Minister representing the Prime Minister of a proposal that I advanced in this chamber some time ago that arrangements should be made between the Australian Government and the State governments for an annual pilgrimage of school children to Canberra with a view to their cultivating a national outlook. Does the Minister recollect that the then Prime Minister considered that the proposal possessed a good deal of merit, and indicated that he. would place the matter on the agenda of a conference that was pending between Commonwealth and State Ministers? Apparently the matter has not yet received consideration. Will the Minister therefore convey my proposal to the Prime Minister for his early consideration ?
– I remember Senator Nash making that propositi amongst others. It appealed to me as one containing substantial merit. I do not know off-hand what machinery would be necessary to give effect to it, but I consider it to be worth examination and consideration. If the honorable senator would be good enough to place his question on the notice-paper I shall refer the matter to the Prime Minister.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel inform the Senate whether he is prepared to make a statement on the beneficial effects, if any, thai, the change of Government has had on coal stocks in this country ? If not, will he prepare a. statement for the Senatesetting out the stocks of coal available in Australia, and particulars of output, during the last month?
– Unfortunately the coal stocks have not improved. The Senate will be disappointed to learn that in 1949, despite all that the Chifley Government did to help the coal industry, production was the lowest for many years. If the Opposition will assist the Government to prevent a recurrence of rolling strikes I am convinced that output will be increased considerably.
– In view of. the statement that the Government intends tn re-introduce compulsory military training, will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence take steps to exempt from such service - if they wish to be so exempted - employees engaged in the timber industry, on the Collie coal-fields, and on the gold-fields in Western Australia ?
– Legislation to re-introduce universal training in this country has not yet been brought in.
In the preparation of any suck legislation I am sure that every consideration will be extended to vital industries. The Minister for Defence will welcome any suggestion by honorable senators about the incidence upon industry of call-ups for service. I ask the honorable senator to put the particular matters raised on the noticepaper, but at this stage I make this general comment - that if there are particular industries which would be adversely affected by call-ups at certain times or in particular circumstances I am quite sure the Government would be prepared to give consideration to the representations made by honorable senators.
-Will the Minister for Trade and Customs have a statement prepared showing what reparations have been received from former enemy countries, and what has happened to those reparation payments already made in machines and goods?
– That is information to which, the Senate is thoroughly entitled. I do not know how long it would take to prepare such a statement but I shall be happy to have that matter investigated and the information supplied. I ask that the question be placed on the notice-paper.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable Senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What progress has been made in the erection of a relay broadcasting station on the -west coast of Tasmania?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information : -
A site for a national regional broadcasting station to serve the west coast of Tasmania is being acquired near Queenstown. Under the existing frequency allocation plan a suitable operating frequency is not available, and any modification of the plan involves farreaching effects such as interference with existing services. The matter is being investigated by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board with a view to providing a satisfactory solution, but the problem is a complex one and requires careful study. The honorable senator may rest assured that the provision of the proposed station will be undertaken as speedily as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following information : -
Motions (bySenator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That a Standing Orders Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, the Chairman of Committees, Senators Aylett, Guy, Maher, Mattner, Morrow, Piesse and Annabelle Rankin, with power to act during recess, and to conferwith a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
That a Printing Committee be appointed, to consist of Senators Gorton, Hannaford, Nash, Sandford, Scott, Simmonds and Ward, with power to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
That a Library Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, Senators Arnold. Cooke, Kendall, Maher, McCallum and Robertson, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
Debate resumed from the 1st March (vide page 205), on motion by Senator McCallum -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- When I obtained leave to continue my remarks last night I was about to say that the Governor-General’s Speech could be divided into three main sections or sets of proposals. The first set of proposals is aimed at the greater development and expansion of this country in respect of its population, of the area under production, and of production in that area. The second main theme of the Speech concerns proposals to safeguard and buttress that political liberty that we on this side of the Senate believe tobe fundamental. On that belief we recently fought a general election. The third set of proposals concerns efforts to ameliorate some of the anomalies that inevitably arose in the administration of social services legislation. I shall touch briefly upon two of these three points. The problem of housing is inherent in any problem of developing and expanding this country. I believe that the housing problem is the crux of all plans to develop Australia because we cannot go ahead building and enlarging projects like the Hume, the Eildon and the Burdekin Dams unless we canbuild homes for the workers who are engaged on these projects. We cannot decentralize industry, involving the removal of factories from the metropolitan areas to country districts, unless houses can he assured at the new sites for the workers in those industries.. Housing is the bottleneck which is holding up and, I believe, will continue to hold up, all the plans for development and decentralization that we are putting before the people to-day, unless the present position can be remedied.
In addition to its effect on such plans i he present lack of housing is having an incalculable effect upon the future population of this country. Recently in the town of Shepparton, in Victoria, I saw a plan that had been prepared by the municipal authorities on which appeared a small red dot marking every house in which there was a child under the age of five years. The part of the plan covering the older section of the town was marked here and there with a few red dots, but the part covering the new housing commission settlement in the town was practically a completely red blotch. That colouring indicated that young Australians, who had obtained homes in the new housing settlement were raising families which many other young Australians are denied because they cannot find accommodation in which to rear children. Moreover, some means must be found not only of providing houses but of providing them under a scheme that will relieve the drain caused by housing on the carrying out of other public works, such as urgently needed hospitals, homes for the aged and infirm, and other governmental building that is now being held up by lack of material. The Department of Works and Housing has stated that the progress already made in providing housing in this country has been made, so far as it has gone, by restricting the building of other urgently needed works. For these reasons it seems to me that the housing problem is most important.
The Governor-General’s Speech naturally does not contain any details of how the problem will be attacked, but, on a cursory examination, the main lines of attack present themselves. The first is an endeavour to increase the production of basic building materials from sources within this country. It is true that the supply of timber in Australia has increased by 35 per cent., and that the production of cement has increased by 25 per cent. It is also true, however, that the number of bricks produced is now lower than it was before the last war, and of course, due to the lack of coal, it is true that all iron and steel components of houses are in desperately short supply. Therefore, the first line of attack should be to endea vour to increase the output of’ basicmaterials .produced in this country. The second line of attack has already been mentioned to-day by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). It is to increase and facilitate the importation of building materials from overseas. I understand that building materials may now be imported free of tax and excise, provided’ that they come from Great Britain, and are charged only 12J per cent., a rate which the Empire trade agreement demands, if they come from sources other than Britain. That is a good policy which was introduced by the previousGovernment and which is being continued and improved upon by the present Government. I believe that the method of obtaining permits to import these materials has recently been streamlined and made much less cumbersome.
The third line of attack is the most important, and is the only one that offers a chance of really catching up on the lack of housing. I refer to the importation of prefabricated houses which was mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. It will hot be easy to import such houses. It is not simply a question of decidingto import 5,000* or 10,000 of them. That is not the end of the problem, but only the beginning of it. It is useless to expect that this or any other Government could: build 5,000 or 10,000 houses by next Christmas. I mention that point only because I have noticed in certain quarters a tendency to criticize the Government for not having, in its two and a half months of office, checked the upward trend of prices that has been obvious for a number of years, or overcome the coed shortage, which has been increasing over a long period. Criticism of that sort ignores the truth of Shakespeare’s familiar line - “ The evil that men do lives after them,” and takes some time to overcome. After those houses have been imported we shall experience many difficulties in erecting them, and it is as well, first, to tabulate those difficulties in order to find out which will be the hardest to overcome a.nd how to go about overcoming them. The first difficulty will be the preparation of sites.. It will be extremely difficult to effect sewerage and water connexions, supply electricity and build roads and pavements for all the settlements that will be envisaged in a largescale importation plan. Therefore, if the programme is to be carried out expeditiously, it is inevitable that people must be prepared, at least for a time, to occupy houses of this type before they are sewered and to depend upon tanks for their supply of water. Those who are prepared to do that will not be worse off than 90 per cent, of the farmers in this country are at present. The next difficulty will be to get master’ builders’ organizations to erect these houses. Master builders cannot be said to be enthusiastic about erecting prefabricated structures, because when they build a house of the old style they make a profit upon the materials as well as from the erection of the structure, whereas they will not supply the materials for prefabricated houses. It will be necessary to bring pressure to bear in the right quarters to persuade those who have the requisite organization to erect these houses rather than carry on in accordance with the old style of construction.
The next trouble will arise in respect of labour. Just as the master builders for reasons that seem good to them are not keen to build prefabricated houses, so the trade unions for reasons that seem good to them will not be keen to co-operate in such a scheme. In fact, the training of building tradesmen under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme was hampered to such a degree by the building trades unions in Victoria that, whilst it was hoped to train 30,000 building labourers, only 19,000 men completed their courses under that scheme. If we are to carry out the plan envisaged we shall require to reintroduce that scheme on a much wider basis and push forward with it expeditiously. Then, there is the problem which builders and engineers regard as the greatest difficulty. I refer to the provision of trained foremen on building sites who know how to fit the houses together and are capable of taking charge of small teams of men engaged in that operation. That involves the training of such foremen. At present, it is difficult to determine the price of pre-fabricated houses because estimates vary to a great degree, but it is probably true to say that a pre-fabricated timber house of a type comparable with a ten-square timber house constructed in the old style could be erected at present at a cost approximately £300 more than that of the old style of house. If that be so, it is almost certain that when sufficient labour in this country has been trained to fit the parts of pre-fabricated houses together and to do the job at an increasingly greater rate, and when greater numbers of these houses have been erected and the organization generally has been more or less perfected, the price of pre-fabricated houses will come down. In any event, the price factor should not be allowed to stand in the way. I know that the Government is cognisant of all these difficulties and that it is moving already in an endeavour to bring to fruition the proposal outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech. Because I believe that the Government will eventually bring about an amelioration of the housing position, I am certain that the people will welcome the proposal with very great pleasure.
I turn now to the proposal mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech to buttress that political liberty which many of us felt we were in danger of losing. T refer to the Government’s intention to amend the Constitution by providing that in future any ‘attempt by any government to monopolize completely any field of industry and to use its power to prevent all competition in that industry, must first be approved at a referendum of the people. There has always been great difficulty in preventing governments from becoming too powerful. That is why, of course, the functions of government have been divided between those who make the laws, those who interpret them and those who execute them. In the past there has always been a. tendency on the part of governments of every kind to gain more and more power because, I suppose, members of a government believe that they are good men and will not abuse it. But that danger always exists. A future government which may not be so good may abuse such power. Furthermore, until recently, there has been a real danger inherent in the Constitution. It has always been possible for a government to carry out a policy diametrically opposed to that which its candidates put before -the electors or to bring forward propositions of the most far-reaching importance that have never been submitted to the electors. Previously, that danger has not been considered to be very great. The people have always felt that any party would naturally put >an important proposal to the electorate when its candidates were seeking to be entrusted with the responsibility of government. However, the passage of the Banking Act of 1947 proved to the majority of Australians that that is now a real danger that should be guarded against so that it shall never recur in the future.
At this juncture I do not propose to speak about the Government’s proposed legislation in this respect. I believe that it will come before the Senate in duecourse. There are many rumours in the bazaars as to what might happen when it comes before the Senate, but all I shall 6aV now is that the kites that are being flown on that subject practically constitute a menace to civil aviation. Because we believe that that danger is great and real, it is essential to write into the Constitution the provision that in future the people must be consulted directly by way of a referendum before any government can take a step of such vital importance that it will affect the welfare of every citizen. We believe that it is only right to do that because it is in line with the whole of the political philosophy that we professed at the last general election and still profess. We do not believe that it is the function of government to work out the destiny of the individual. It is the function of the people themselves to work out their own destiny and in respect of matters of great importance to retain control of any government they elect. That is thi’ conception of popular government that has been fought for down the years with much bloodshed and suffering. That philosophy has illumined all people of liberal minds throughout the ages; and among liberal minds I include trade unionists who, in the past, -fought exactly the same fight as we are fighting to-day on this issue. I believe also that this proposal will be received with joy by the people and that it will take a great weight off their minds. Because of the_ Government’s determination to cherish that political philosophy that I have described briefly and, perhaps inadequately, and because of its realistic approach to finite problems as evidenced by its housing policy, I agree with the remark made in this chamber yesterday by Senator Katz - I am sure that a majority of the Australian people share the view also - that we can look forward with confidence to the next three years.
– I was delighted to learn from the Governor-General’s Speech that the health of the King had improved and that, although we were all greatly disappointed when the Royal visit was cancelled last year, we could look forward to seeing Their Majesties in the Commonwealth of Australia in the not distant future.
The remainder of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was largely an outline of the legislative accomplishments of the Chifley Government. The Speech contained no concrete proposals for the implementation of the many promises that were made by supporters of the present Government parties, in the daily press, over the air, and from the pulpit. Reference is made to action against the Communist party. This makes amusing reading to those of us who, through our interest in politics over the years, know that if the Liberal party were to ban the Communists, it would have to find some other bogy with which to frighten the electors into withdrawing their support from the Labour party. I have said in this chamber before that I believe that the Communist party in Australia is financed by the very individuals who finance the present Government parties. That statement has never been contradicted. Apparently it is correct. In 1940, I unsuccessfully contested the Senate elections. Honorable senators will recall that, in that year, the Old Country was in a perilous plight. The Germans had walked through Belgium, France had capitulated, and Britain was fighting for its life. It was election year in this country, and the Communist leaders in the coal-mining industry organized a. strike on the coal-fields of New South Wales. At that time, there were thousands of tons of coal at grass in that State - more than industry could use. Later we found that a “ slush, fund “ had been used to bribe the then president of the coal-miners’ federation, Mr. Nelson, and the secretary, Mr. Orr, to stage a strike. The object was, of course to discredit Labour in the eyes of the electors. Last year, which, according to the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator McLeay), was one of the worst in our history for coal production, the Communists formented another strike, once again to prejudice Labour’s chances at the polls. The daily press has always misled the people of Australia into believing that the Communist party is linked with the Labour party, but the Labour party is the only political party in Australia which emphatically bans Communists from membership. The Communists are used by the anti-Labour forces merely to discredit the Labour party. While Mr. Cain was Premier of Victoria, each day Melbourne newspapers carried big headlines such as “ Communist Leader of Railways Union Again Dictates Policy to Cain Government “. This propaganda ceased when the Labour Government was defeated in .1947, and we heard nothing of Communists such as Brown and O’Shea until last week when Mr. Hollway, the Liberal Premier, lost the confidence of the Victorian lower house. Now the newspapers are proclaiming that Mr. O’Shea has organized a tram strike, and Mr. Brown has organized a railway strike. This propaganda will continue until the State elections are over. Senator Gorton referred to the good trade union leaders of days gone by. It is true that some unions have been captured by the Communists, but a large majority of trade unionists still stand by their principles.
– How long is it since Brown was thrown out of his union ?
– He was not thrown out.
– The Trades Hall will not have him now.
– His union has been disaffiliated with the Trades Hall for the past twelve months, but the Trades Hall is not the political Labour movement.
– Was the union not in the political Labour move ment when it was affiliated with the Trades Hall?
– No. TheAustralian Railways Union has not been connected with the Australian Labour party since “ comrade “ Brown,, the Communist leader, opposed Jack Mullens in Footscray ten years ago. TheAustralian Labour party has no jurisdiction over the election of union leaders.. Therefore, we cannot say whether Brown will continue as leader of the Australian Railways Union, but at all times our aim has been to prevent “ commos “ from holding official positions in the trade union movement. If the Government sincerely believes that the Communists should bebanned, it must be insincere when it says that no Communist should hold an official position in a trade union, because if the Communist party is banned, then officially the Communists do not exist, and there is no necessity to insist that they shall not hold official positions in trade unions. We who belong to the trade union movement know that if the Communists are banned, it will not be long before Senator Critchley, - Senator Hendrickson, or perhaps some other honorable senator on this side of the chamber is declared to be a radical and so denied the right to hold an official position in any trade union. That is why we shall use all our powers to defeat legislation which might take away from the great trade union movement the rights for which its members have fought for so many years.
I am not at all satisfied with the attitude of certain Ministers when answering questions asked by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. I remind the Senate that Labour members of this Parliament represent a large number of the Australian electors. Therefore, when we ask questions, we expect responsible Ministers to answer us in a responsible way. At the last general election, Australian Labour party candidates for the House of Representatives polled a total of 1,941,752 votes, compared with 1,659,405 votes and 401,872 votes polled by Liberal party and Country party candidates respectively. In other words, Labour candidates polled 1,941,752 votes compared with the total of 2,061,277 polled by anti-Labour candidates. The
Government parties combined secured only 119,525 votes more than were received by the Labour party. Yet Labour gained only 47 seats compared with 74 won by the Opposition parties. Clearly, therefore, the Government’s majority of 27 members represents only an additional 119,525 electors, or an average of about 4,500 to each. Ministers should bear these facts in mind when answering questions asked by honorable senators on this side of the chamber.We expect treatment at least equal to that given to honorable senators opposite when they occupied the Opposition benches prior to the elections. But perhaps the Ministers are not to blame. They may not have been told their policy yet. They frequently say in reply to questions that Government policy is involved. How do we know that they have been told what the Government’s policy is? Have the chairman of the associated banks, and Sir Keith Murdoch, yet decided the Government’s policy? If not, we cannot blame Ministers for their lack of knowledge of it. We can only hope that when the Government’s policy has been finally determined by Sir Keith Murdoch, and the controllers of the privatebanks, Ministers will give us some idea of what the Government intends to do.
Senator Armstrong yesterday mentioned a possible appreciation of Australian currency. I understand that there are two schools of thought on this subject in the Government’s ranks. My money is on “ Artie “ Fadden, because I think that his party will win. I do not think that the Government will be game to touch the exchange rate because its members know that in doing so they would run a risk of losing the support of those people whom they misled by their election propaganda. An alteration of the exchange rate would mean an election long before the term of office of this Government is due to expire in the normal way. The people of Australia are being told by the press that Labour will not be game to force an election. I remind honorable senators opposite that four Victorian seats were won by members of the Government parties by less than 1,000 votes. Mention of an election to any of those members would be unwise. I heard one of them say : “ This is the hardest place in Australia to get into, but if there is election talk, it may be the easiest place to get out of”. The Labour party realizes its responsibilities. If the Government attempts to secure the passage of legislation that we do not consider to be in the best interests of the people, there may be a general election, but honorable senators opposite may rest assured that until that time arrives we shall go merrily on. This chamber will be used purely as a house of review in the same way as the Legislative Councils in Victoria and Tasmania are used. If the Government acts correctly and properly, we shall allow it to go on, but if it brings in legislation that is not in the best interests of the people, we shall call the tune and we shall say when there is to be a general election. We shall not make use of our numbers to obstruct the Government any more than the members of the Legislative Councils in Victoria and Tasmania use their numbers to doso.
Senator Gorton spoke very feelingly about housing. I believe that he was sincere in what he said, but he is probably too young to realize what occurred in this country during the depression years. At that time we begged the Government to make money available for the erection of houses for homeless people, and thus to provide employment for the workers. The honorable senator has said that we are short of foremen and tradesmen to erect prefabricated houses. We pointed out that possibility first to the Lyons Government and later to the Menzies Government during the depression, but our words fell upon deaf ears and nothing was done. As late as 1939, when I was a trade union leader in Victoria, I approached the then Premier of that State, who is now Sir Albert Dunstan, and asked him to request the Loan Council for a loan of £1,000,000 to be expended upon the construction of homes in Victoria so that homeless persons might be accommodated and work given to tradesmen who were out of employment. The Labour party realized then, as it does now,that building provides employment, not only for men engaged upon the actual construction of the buildings, but also to many other persons. The Premier of Victoria placed our proposals before the then Treasurer, Mr. Casey, and the then Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, but he was told that it was impossible to make £1,000,000 available to Victoria for that purpose. Notwithstanding that refusal, honorable- senators opposite now shed crocodile tears because many people in Australia are without homes. At that time there was ample material and man-power available for house construction. If the present Government parties are sincere now, they should have acted then to provide homes for the persons who were homeless at that time. The members of the Labour party realize only too well that there is a shortage of houses at present, because, in the main, it is our people who are without homes. During the depression, the Government of the day shut its eyes to the fact that four or five families were living in one house, that some persons were living in stables, and that others were camping out in parks and in old brick kilns. I know of one brick kiln in Bendigo in which 300 unemployed men lived for over twelve months. Sonne of them were married men whose wives were living with their mothers. We realize, too, that., there is a hospital shortage. We warned the Government of the day during the depression that these shortages would occur. The Chifley Government was faced with a tremendous task. It was charged with the responsibility of bringing the war to a successful conclusion and afterwards of steering the nation through the period of transition from war to peace when a vast number of servicemen and workers in war industries were being returned to their normal occupations. Naturally, owing to the progressive industrial policy of that Government, and the other, factors to which I have just referred, there was a shortage of manpower. What Senator Gorton has said is true, but he has not informed us of his proposal for remedying the situation. We want to know how lae proposes that the homes that are required shall be built. The Chifley Government, acting in cooperation with the State governments, caused more homes to be built each year than were ever built in any year prior to the war, but there is still a shortage of houses, and that shortage will continue to exist. Thousands of young people are getting married and thousands of New
Australians are coming here. SenatorGorton did not suggest a solution of theproblem. The Labour party says that it has a solution, and that if the people had returned it for another three years it would have alleviated the housing; shortage.
The honorable senator complained of the increasing cost of living. The Labourparty realized, at the end of the war that if we were not careful the cost of living in Australia would increase in the sameway as it was increasing in other countries. Therefore, we asked the electorate give the Commonwealth authority tocontrol prices during the period of transition from war to peace. A referendum was held. During the referendum campaign, the members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party opposed the granting of the authority tothe Commonwealth for which the Chifley Government asked and said that pricesControl was a job for the State governments. If the States could administer prices control during a period when men were being transferred from war work tonormal peace-time activities, why could they not have administered it during the war? The wily old gentlemen who wrote the Constitution which the people of Australia accepted had their heads screwed on the right way. They knew how to protect their own interests. They took the view that during a war, when their assets, homes and families were in danger, there was nothing better than to have control by the Commonwealth. They realized that unity is strength. However, when their heads were safe and their assets were not in danger, they wanted to be free to engage in exploitation. The Labour party told the people that if prices control was administered by the States the cost of living would increase. That is what has happened. This Government can do nothing to prevent the cost of living in Australia from increasing. The reason for that is that the present Government p parties were not prepared to accept the long-sighted policy of the Chifley Government and to invest the Commonwealth with power to control prices until conditions returned to normal and the supply of goods was adequate to meet the demand for them. Because of the defeat of the referendum -on rents and prices control, and owing to the shortage of commodities and of :man-power, we are confronted with rising ; prices.
The honorable senator also referred to the proposal of the Government to ask the people to accept a proposal to amend the Constitution to provide that no activity in Australia shall be nationalized until the nationalization has been approved by the people at a referendum. That proposal may be right or it may be wrong ; I am not prepared to discuss its merits at the moment. All that I desire to say is that the 1.945 banking legislation was accepted by the people at a general -election, and I shall oppose any interference with it for as long as I have :breath to do so. It may be said that although the people endorsed the programme of the Chifley Government at the 1946 genera] election, they were not fully conversant with the provisions of the banking legislation that was placed upon the statute-book by that . Government. That may be so, but I ask whether the majority of the electors of Australia were fully conversant with the provisions of the Constitution when they accepted it in 1900. I venture to say that not 2 :Der cent, of the people who voted then could tell us what the Constitution contained. I have heard men who have -spent their lives is politics say that they believed that the acceptance of the Constitution would mean the abolition of the State parliaments. I repeat that the 1945 banking legislation will not be interfered with while I have breath to oppose it. The people of Australia accepted that legislation, and it will remain upon, the statute-book until the Australian Government holds a referendum to determine whether it shall be repealed.
I know the people who are at present pressing the Government, and I know why they are pressing it. The associated banks bled the producers of this country white from 1924 to 1945. The persons who control them desire to see a return to the old days of exploitation. When the Commonwealth Bank was established :in 1912, the people were told to beware of the bolshevists and to beware of King O’Malley, with his big club and his -whiskers, who would take their savings.
In 1914, at the general election following a double dissolution, the people endorsed the banking policy of the Fisher Labour government. Then, in 1924, Stanley Melbourne Bruce and Dr. Earle Page, at the direction and dictation of the associated banks, placed the Commonwealth Bank under the control of a bank board. From then until 1945 the bank functioned as a savings bank and not as a trading bank. Between 1912 and 1924 and between 1945 and the present time the Commonwealth Bank made a profit of approximately £80,000,000. In the years between 1924 and 1945 the associated banks took the profits that would otherwise have been made by the Commonwealth Bank and which would have gone into the people’s purse, that is, the Treasury of the Commonwealth of Australia. The persons who now control the associated banks are again pressing the Government to place the Commonwealth Bank under the control of a bank board. It has been said that no representatives of the private banks will be members of the bank board, and that may well be so for a time, but if we are foolish enough to approve of legislation amending the 1945 legislation, the membership of the bank board could be changed overnight and we might be faced with the spectacle which confronted us in 1924 when Stanley Melbourne Bruce and Dr. Earle Page, at the behest of the interests that put them into power, filched from the people the authority of the Commonwealth Bank. The Labour party will oppose to the bitter end any legislation that is designed to detract from the authority that the Commonwealth Bank has to-day.
We have been told by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator McLeay) that the position relating to petrol is better now than it was when the Chifley Government relinquished office in December, 1949. The Minister also said that no further import licences had been granted. How can there be more petrol in Australia now than there was in December, 1949, if the oil companies are not importing more petrol at the present time than they were when the Chifley Government was in office? The persons who control the oil-fields and the private banking systems of the world conspired to cause the defeat of the Ohifley Government when in June of last year the High Court declared petrol rationing to be invalid. I know for a fact that patrol was sent to people who did not. want it. They had to take it. In th? Corowa district I saw hundreds of 44- gallon drums of petrol lying about on farms. That was done to discredit the Labour Government. At that time, motorists, doctors and ambulances were not able to get adequate supplies of petrol in the capital cities. The opponents of Labour did not worry about the health of the people so long as the Labour administration was discredited. As a result Labour was forced to re-introduce petrol rationing, and the people again obtained their legitimate supplies of petrol. They are still getting sufficient petrol. Only this afternoon the Minister for Shipping and Fuel said that there was adequate petrol in this country. I point out that there was adequate petrol here in June, 1949, and in the months following, but, because of various organizations working against the interests of the Labour Government, chaos developed in connexion with petrol supplies. Probably that was one of the factors that contributed to the defeat of the Labour Government. Those things will probably not embarrass the present Government because they may never recur, but there are certain other things that I do not consider it will be able to get over. I do not know how the new Government will fulfil its promises. I am eagerly awaiting the time when legislation that was forecast in the Prime Minister’s policy speech is brought in. Promises were made to reduce taxation, increase war pensions and the pensions of war widows, and endow the first child under 16 years of age in every family 5s. a week. If a Liberal Government can pull a rabbit out of a hat and produce money from nowhere to do all of these things, the time of wonders has not passed. I hope that the Government will he able to fulfil all of the promises that it has made to the people, and give them the things to which they are entitled. I venture to say, however, that the people will be sadly disappointed. The Government will not be able to squirm, out of it because the position in relation to these matters is somewhat different from the state of affairs that existed in relation to petrol. I am convinced that before long the day will draw nigh when a Labour government will again occupy the treasury bench.
Senator Reid referred to the primary producers and said that he disagreed with the manner in which the Government had handled the wheat crops and othercrops. Senator Gorton probably remembers the distress of many wheat-farmers when they were in pawn to the associated hanks at the outbreak of World War II. However, he is= not concerned about the primaryproducers. When world affairs return tonormal the wheat-growers of Australia will come back to taws. If this Government has its way there will be a reversion to the conditions that obtained in the old’ days when the farmers received only ls. 7d. a bushel for their produce. In those days private enterprise did not control the sale of wheat. It was controlled’ by big combines such as John Darling and Son, Younghusband Limited, and Dalgety and Company Limited, whose representatives used to meet in Melbourne every morning in the wheat season about 11 o’clock. At about 12 noon they sent telegrams to their buyers advising them what price should be paid for wheat that day. The buyers could not pay more than that price. The wheat was then held at sidings by the combines until the price rose. The people who made thosedecisions were known as the Collinsstreet farmers. During the months prior to the 10th December, 1949, they made huge sums of money available for the dissemination of propaganda against the Australian Labour party because they knew that if an anti-Labour government was elected to office they would again have an opportunity to exploit the wheatfarmers and the wool-growers. This country is faced with a grave problem.. The two divorcees, “ Uncle Bob “ and “ Artful Artie “ have been remarried. As honorable senators know, they havebeen divorced on two separate occasions. It will be interesting to see how long thepresent marriage will continue, that is,, how long the present Government will remain in office. I venture to say that the anti-Labour parties will be more- afraid of a general election, probably in the near future, than the Australian Labour party will be. Just as the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) wrecked themselves in 1941 on the political rocks of this country, so they will be wrecked again. All I pray for is that in the interim we shall not be faced with another world war, because I well remember the state of affairs that existed in 1941, when Australian troops were in the Middle East. They were sent there untrained and un-equipped, without munitions, to meet the greatest organized army in the world. No honorable senator could deny that that was so.
– The Chifley Government sent troops to Malaya.
– The honorable senator who has interjected is obviously not conversant with the facts, otherwise he would not interject in that manner. When Labour succeeded to office in 1941 the Eighth Division and other divisions were in Egypt in the Middle East.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that untrained reinforcements had been sent to Egypt.
– I did not say that. I said that when Labour assumed office in 1941 Australian troops were in the Middle East. They were ill-trained, ill-equipped - and had no munitions to meet the greatest mechanized army the world had ever seen. I refer to the army of Nazi Germany. That was the position in 1941 when “ Bob “ and “ Artie “ were playing politics in the cabinet room. Subsequently, the former right honorable member went to Queensland and said that he had been once again stabbed in the back by the other, and that he would not tolerate such a state of affairs any longer. I hope that the present Government does not wait until the eve, probably, of a third world war before handing hack the reins of government to the only political party in Australia that is capable of controlling efficiently the affairs of this nation. That was proved conclusively during the war years from 1941 to 1945. Although Senator Gorton smirks at that statement,
I remind the Senate that I was employed during that period by a Minister of the Crown. I was present on many occasions when the big bosses of business came into the Minister’s office and said, “ Well done, dig. We do not care what you spend so long as you protect our women and children “. That was when the Japanese were knocking at our door. However, following the successful termination of hostilities in 1945, those same big bosses of finance immediately wanted a return to the old days of exploitation. Although I have digressed somewhat, 1 sincerely trust that we shall not be faced with political intrigue by the supporters of the Government, as in 1.941. In those days they thought that because the war would develop into a global conflict the Labour Government would have to do certain things that would bring it into disfavour with the trade union movement, and in the eyes of the supporters of Labour generally. It is true that the Labour Government had to conscript men for the Allied Works Council undertakings, and for other works in the north. Furthermore, it became necessary 1.0 conscript soldiers to be sent to the islands. .1 remind the Senate, however, that the soldiers that were sent to the islands were better equipped than were the troops that were sent to the Middle East by an anti-Labour government.
– We have only the honorable senator’s word for that.
– My own friends were there. I could bring them litre to disclose those facts to the Senate. In place of guns they had broom-handles with which to train, and pick-handles with which to fight. They were brave men. Honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber have referred to the conscription of man-power-
– It is a wonder that the honorable senator does not burst into tears.
– -Many of the troops that comprised the First Australian Imperial Force, of which I was a member, as well as those of the Second Australian Imperial Force, did not know what it was to have a job in the country for which they were going to fight. In many instances the first pay they ever drew was their military pay.
– The honorable senator has made these statements so often that he really believes that they are true.
– We are forced to try to tell the people the facts of the case, as often as we oan, per medium of broadcasting. I venture to say that the people who elected Senator Cooper to office instruct him about his attitude in this chamber. I hope that I shall never be in such a position that I must accept directions from the associated banks or petrol interests in this country. I always say in this chamber what I believe to be 100 per cent, correct. It is obvious that honorable senators opposite are smarting under the truth. However, this is the only opportunity that honorable senators sitting in opposition have to tell the people of Australia how they have been misled over the last few months and prior to the 10th December, 1949, by the insidious propaganda disseminated through the press and over the broadcasting systems. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) is very touchy because he is still smarting under the lashes of the bosses’ whip. That will never happen to me. There will be many bitter discussions in this chamber in the near future because, as I have said before, the Australian Labour party will fight tooth and nail to preserve legislation that was placed on the statute-book by the Chifley Administration. But we will deal with all legislation on its merits. There will be no more recourse to party politics by honorable senators on this side of the chamber than is evident in the Legislative Council in Victoria or the Legislative Council in Tasmania. We will be purely a party of review, and we will endorse any legislation that we consider to be in the interests of the nation. All these proposals are foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech, but I venture to say that many will not come to fruition. They have been announced to the public but we will have to wait until legislation to give effect to them is introduced. We shall then treat that legislation as it deserves. I am certain that the electors of Australia said, in effect, “ All right, we will let these people into the lower house, but we always have those sane gentlemen belonging to the Labour party in the upper house to see that no reckless legislation goes-, through “. I believe that they know that, we will stem the tide of any bad legislation that comes before us. When legislation is brought forward we shall give toit the same consideration as is given by the Legislative Councils in Victoria and’ Tasmania- to the measures that reach, them.
Senator HANNAFORD (South Australia) [4.48J. - I arn afraid that I cannot emulate Senator Hendrickson, whohas just resumed his seat, because this is my first experience in this chamber and! f have not had an opportunity to learn my speech off by heart. I feel privileged to associate myself with previous speakersin their expressions of loyalty to the King and Queen. I heartily endorse their sentiments. His Majesty the King, as we all know, is the constitutional monarch of an Empire that is unique in history, and the head of” a number of democratic nationswhich have their separate parliamentary systems. I express my pleasure at the prospective visit of Their Majesties toAustralia in 1952. I am. sure nothing but goodwill will accrue from such a visit and in common with other members of this chamber, I look forward to theircoming. I have the honour to represent the State of South Australia which hasmade extraordinary progress in the last two decades. Incidentally, that progress,, both in secondary and primary industries, has been made under a Liberal-Country party Government. South Australia has not the natural resources of theother States, but the quality of itspeople and its government is such that it can be proud of its position-, in the Commonwealth as a whole. It has a limited area of agricultural land, but under the Government that has been in power it has made great progress of which we on this side of thechamber are naturally proud. I am; particularly impressed with the industrial’ harmony that exists in South Australia j it can truthfully be said that there is asplendid relationship between the workersin industry and the executives of industry. I go further, and say that the political relationships existing there are on am extremely cordial basis. From my knowledge of the representatives of that
State on both sides of this chamber, I can say we have in them men of good calibre and moderate views. “With due deference to you, Mr. Deputy President, I do not expect any of your colleagues from South Australia to set the Thames on fire, but I know r.hem to be honest men; and if they carry out their duties with integrity and honesty they will be representing their constituents worthily.
One of the primary duties of senators is to represent State interests adequately. This is a matter that has been lost to sight somewhat over the years. We on this side of the chamber, at any rate, are committed to the view that one of our primary duties is to represent our States in this Parliament. Equal representation is given to the States, and it is our responsibility to see that the present federal system is maintained and that the powers of the States are not further whittled away. In direct contrast with the Labour party’s attitude we on this side are opposed to centralized government. I know that Opposition members in this chamber are committed to the abolition of the Senate. That is definitely in their platform, but I suggest that they pay only lip service to that ideal. I know that at the present time they are only too glad to accept the protection that their majority in this chamber affords them.
I notice with great satisfaction from cbe Governor-General’s Speech that provision is made by the Government for the creation of an independent costfinding tribunal for our primary industries. I say quite definitely that I believe in stabilization. This tribunal will have the responsibility of arriving at cost of production figures for our various primary industries. It’ will also determine a reasonable profit margin based on efficient production; and I use the term “ efficient production “ advisedly. All my life I have been interested in farming, including wheat, wool, dairy and fat lamb production, and I claim to know something of the problems associated with our primary industries, particularly as they apply to South Australia. I say to honorable senators that the present Government has a complete realization of the im portance of our primary industries, and will carry out its responsibility to them. If those industries are not prosperous the country as a whole cannot be prosperous. Nothing detrimental to those engaged in agriculture in a general sense will receive support from me. In regard to the stabilization of our primary industries, I suggest that a ballot of growers should be taken to decide whether an industry is to !be stabilized or not. That is only fair, but I submit that it is not right for a decision to be made on the basis of a simple majority. Should a ballot be taken to decide whether an industry should adopt a stabilization scheme, it would hardly be fair for a simple majority of 51 per cent, to have the right to bring a stabilization scheme into operation. There should be a majority of at least from 60 to 65 per cent. I think that other members on this side of the House will take a similar view. I shall not attempt to discredit the previous Government for its wheat stabilization scheme. In the main, that scheme has proved effective. It has certain shortcomings, but I believe that we on this side of the chamber can improve it. Under modern conditions there must be some type of stabilization if our primary industries are to survive and play their part in the development of the country.
– I shall give the honorable senator an answer next time I speak.
– I shall be glad to hear it. I expect great things from the proposed Ministry for National Development that was outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech. I believe, in the first place, that it will be under the control of the right man for the job, the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey). He is a man of vision and experience.
– He knows when to duck, does he not?
– I know that las integrity is above reproach. The Government will raise a very large sum of money in connexion with the scheme for national development. I believe that in the course of time the ministry’s operations will lead to a tremendous development in Australia. “We know that, as yet, we have -only scratched the surface cf Australia’s potentialities. We need more and better roads. Money spent on water reticulation is, in this country, money well spent, because as honorable senators are aware the greater part of Australia has a low rainfall. The increased provision of electricity will also have the attention of the Government, according to the Governor-General’s Speech. “We in South Australia have done much in the provision of electricity, and we hope to do more through this scheme for national development. 1 shall not go at any great length into the matter’ of housing because I know that that subject has been amply covered by other honorable senators in the course of this debate. It is vital that we provide housing for our people. I believe that we are taking the right steps to do so at the moment.
The great problem of soil conservation is apt to be ignored when wo have a series of good years. I live in South Australia and I have not had a great deal of experience of the other States, but I know how serious soil erosion is. As far as I can gather it is a very serious matter all over the Commonwealth and is therefore a national problem that can be dealt with only on a national basis. “With the establishment of the proposed Ministry for National Development this insidious enemy, which is destroying valuable agricultural and pastoral land throughout Australia, will receive the effective attention of the Government. National development will make more immigration possible, which, in turn, will lead to greater production. Immigration is essential from the point of view of defence because the efficient defence of this country depends upon greater development, which can be achieved only if our population is increased. I have no criticism to offer of the previous Go vernment’s work in connexion with immigration, because I consider that it did an effective job in that respect.. Increased decentralization will also accrue from national development. All those matters that I have mentioned are linked vitally with one another, and I am sure that I shall not be disappointed in expecting great results from the proposed ministry.
I was interested to hear the remarks of Senator Ryan about rising prices. I can assure him and the Senate that he is not the only person concerned about them. “We on this side of the chamber are just as concerned with rising prices as the Opposition is. In the course of his remarks, Senator Ryan relied somewhat slavishly on the Labour party conception of prices control. It can be honestly said that even under the Labour party’s administration there was a steady increase of prices. I admit that when the States took over prices control there was a further acceleration of the upward movement, but I have no reason to believe that had the Commonwealth retained control of prices or such modicum of control as it desired, prices would not have increased at the same rate. This is not a simple matter that can be disposed of by asserting that the only remedy if- prices control. It is a serious problem, and I am perfectly honest when I say that I have no simple remedy for it. Nor do I believe that the Government has found one, although it is making a very close, sincere and honest investigation of it. The previous Government could have ameliorated the position by continuing to pay price subsidies. However, it cut the ground from under the feet of the States, and for that reason did not give the States an opportunity to deal thoroughly with the problem. Having done that the Labour party now tells the people that if prices control had been left in its hands when it was in office, everything would have been all right. The people do not believe that, nor do I. We on this side of the chamber hold that one of the ways to control prices is to achieve greater production, which will result in a greater supply of goods for purchase with the money that is available to the community. How is that greater production to be achieved? We say that it can be achieved under free enterprise.
Neither I nor any other honorable senator on this side of the chamber believes in unbridled private enterprise. We do not believe in certain sections of the community having the power to exploit others, and we would legislate to protect the people against exploitation.
– That will be the day !
– We are perfectly honest when we say that we, as a party, are not opposed to a certain amount of State control. That has been made evident by the Liberal Government in my own State, and also in this Parliament. We believe, however, that the only way to increase production so as to get ourselves out of the difficulties that are caused by a limited supply of goods and a plentiful supply of money, leading to an ever-rising price spiral, is by reverting to the type of government that gives free enterprise an opportunity to do things for itself. In other words, we are opposed to the system of socialism to which honorable senators opposite are committed.
– What is socialism? The honorable senator does not know.
– Under the free enterprise system that we advocate, we have a much better chance of achieving the increased production that is so necessary and that will have a very material effect in checking rising prices. I believe that the people of Australia made a wise decision at the last general election when they changed the Government.
– They will be sorry for it.
– A friend of mine expressed to me the opinion, with which I agree, that the Chifley Government had reached a stage at which it was a nightmare to the progressive element of our community. Under the present Government, which I have the honour to support, Australia is on the threshold of an epoch of great development and progress. While I am a member of this Senate it will always be my sincere desire to do all I can to further the interests of all sections of the community, and not of one section alone. I have friends and acquaintances who belong to th6 section of the people whom honorable senators opposite claim to represent. Many of them voted for me. Honorable senators on this side are sincere in their desire to advance the welfare of the whole community rather than that of one particular section that we are alleged to represent. I appeal to honorable senators on ‘both sides of the chamber to regard the important national matters to which I have referred from a national point of view. I am sure that the welfare of the community “will be served thereby, and that Australia will, in the immediate years to come, make great strides along the path to progress and development.
Senator NASH (Western Australia) 5. 15]. - I congratulate Senator Hannaford upon his interesting speech. He gave me the impression that he devotes considerable thought to what he intends to say. I was particularly interested in his prediction that, as the result of the change of government at the recent election, Australia is now about to enter upon an epoch of great development and progress. I certainly hope that that prophecy will be borne out. However, the political history of this country since federation reveals that whenever anti-Labour governments have assumed office the reverse has been the case. I am somewhat amazed at the frequency with which honorable senators opposite use the term “ free “ enterprise, because, until recently, they usually referred to “ private “ enterprise. I do not know whether there is a distinction without a difference between the two terms. I do not believe that honorable senators opposite can define free enterprise. We know that private enterprise means engagement in industry for profit. I have no doubt that they merely use the term free enterprise as a different name for private enterprise. I can only surmise that it is just another of the clever catch-cries that the Opposition parties used to defeat the Chifley Labour Government, which was the best government yet to hold office in the Commonwealth sphere.
I congratulate those honora’ble senators who have made their maiden speeches in this debate. Senator Ryan and Senator Willesee made thoughtful and constructive contributions. Senator Ryan placed before the Senate several matters that are of profound importance to the community and from his remarks will develop many speeches that will be made in this chamber when certain legislation that the Government proposes to introduce comes before the Senate. Although I was interested in the remarks of Senator McCallum, I gained the impression that he was rather pedantic and thought that he was addressing a number of schoolboys. He gave us a dissertation on matters about which honorable senators on this side of the chamber, at least, have complete knowledge. However, we are always ready to welcome advice. He could not get away from the slogan that his colleagues are using so disastrously from the point of view of the future welfare of this country. He referred to the socialist’s love of controls. It is easy to bandy words about. But what do those words mean? During the recent election campaign the press took up the slogan of socialization, with the result that the election was not fought on the merits of the accomplishments of the Chifley Labour Government since 1941. No consideration was given to those achievements. Our present prosperous economic condition was ignored. Instead, with financial assistance from the private banking interests and the assistance given to them by the capitalist press, our opponents misrepresented the facts to such a degree that they defeated the only party that has ever done anything worth while in the interests of the people as a whole. They placed a stigma upon the Labour party.
The Labour party is not of recent origin. It was formed over 50 years ago in order to combat the exploitation and oppression of the working classes. It has never changed its name and it has never failed, when the opportunity offered, to implement its policy in the interests of the people. The same observation cannot be made of the Government parties because they have changed their name so frequently that one is obliged to search the records to keep tab of the alterations. At one time the present Liberal party was known as the United Australia party and, later, as the Nationalist party. Whilst honorable senators opposite have made a jibe at the British Labour Government, they have not referred to the fact that the Liberal party in Great Britain has been practically wiped out. Perhaps that fact can be taken a9 an indication of what is in store for the Liberal party in this country. However, the Liberal party in Great Britain at least proved worthy of its name. Prior to the formation of the Labour party in that country it paved the way for most of the social and economic reforms that have been brought about in the British Isles. The Liberal party in this country has found it politic to change its name on several occasions. As the Australian Labour party is generally referred to as the “ A.L.P. “, I have no doubt that our opponents realized the value of naming their party the Australian Liberal party which also is often referred to now as the “ A.L.P. “. Thus, confusion is being caused in the minds of many people who rely for their information principally upon the capitalist press which, no doubt, will soon demand from the Government payment for the services it rendered to our opponents at the recent election.
Senator McCallum referred to the socialist’s love of controls when he was’ dealing with the subject of petrol rationing. So much has been said about that matter since the Parliament reassembled that I am inclining to the belief that oceans of petrol are available in this country owing to large quantities having been kept in secret storage of which the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) when he was Prime Minister had no knowledge. To-day we are told that petrol is flowing into the country and that everything is all right. However, persons who should be in a position to know the facts have expressed the view that the campaign against the Government in respect of petrol rationing was absolutely unscrupulous and irresponsible. Perhaps time alone will provide the true explanation. In the interests of the people I sincerely trust, that there will be no diminution of supplies of petrol in this country. I hope that they will be maintained for the benefit of industry and private consumers. However, should a shortage of petrol recur, those interests that misled the people at the recent election will have much for which to account to the nation. Why did the ex-Prime Minister tell the people at the recent election that it was necessary to retain petrol rationing? Such a proposition was political dynamite and obviously could prejudice the chances of re-election of its advocates. I know that during the recent election campaign our opponents seized every opportunity to woo the votes of petrol consumers. They even told youngsters who possessed motor cycles that they would be able to get more petrol if the Chifley Government were defeated. Our opponents used the slogan “ Turn out the Government and fill the bowsers “. Unless he was completely justified in doing so, it was suicidal for the ex-Prime Minister to say to the people “Well, petrol rationing will continue; we cannot abolish it unless . . .” Unless what? It cannot be denied that all that the Chifley Government endeavoured to do by deciding to retain petrol rationing was to help a country that had helped Australia. No one mil deny that our economic welfare depends largely upon Great Britain, which is our best customer. The ex-Prime Minister said that no matter what political odium might attach to such a course he would be failing in his duty as leader of the Government if he hesitated to advocate the re-introduction of petrol rationing. Either he was misled, or he made a very bad mistake; but he did not make many bad mistakes as leader of the previous Government. Speaking on this issue, he said -
Some time ago it was agreed that there should bc a 25 per cent, cut in dollar expenditure by countries of the British Commonwealth.
I ask honorable senators opposite whether the Government is honouring that undertaking. We have been given to understand that all members of the British Commonwealth draw their dollar requirements from a common pool. What is the alternative? If more petrol is to be imported more dollars must be allocated for the purchase of petrol. If more dollars are used to buy petrol, then fewer dollars will be available to buy other essential requirements from dollar countries. We have been told that there are unlimited supplies of petrol in the sterling areas; but that petrol has to be carried in dollar ships. I am confident that no government could increase our petrol imports without placing an additional drain on our dollar resources. The former Prime Minister made an honest policy speech to the electors. He did not make promises which he knew could not be fulfilled. He explained the dollar position fully, and said that Australia must not betray its trust as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Other people, unfortunately, were not so concerned with considerations of that kind, and immediately seized upon the petrol issue as a means of defeating the Labour Government. Cupidity is a human failing, and so the Labour Government was defeated. The right honorable member for Macquarie further said -
Whatever the political difficulties might be, we make no apology for the fact that we are prepared to accept this responsibility so that we can help those who help us.
The right honorable member told the true story to the people of the Commonwealth and to members of his party who had expressed their confidence in him as their leader. I sincerely hope that the present Government will be able to fulfil its promise to obtain adequate supplies of petrol from sterling sources and that there will not be any necessity to reduce dangerously stocks of petrol held for defence purposes.
I understand that Senator McCallum was at one time a member of the Australian Labour party and that he held a responsible position in that organization. Senator Maher has come to thi3 Parliament from the Parliament of Queensland. Yesterday, he made a most provocative speech. Candidly, I found some difficulty in refraining from interjecting, because he was talking some of the most arrant rot that I have ever heard in this chamber. He did pay a tribute, however, to the part that the railways had played in the development of Queensland, and agreed that losses on railways did not matter so long as the areas that they served were being developed. Is that not an example of practical socialism? Apparently the honorable senator supports that form of socialism because he said that there was not enough of it. The people of this country were completely misled about socialization by the propaganda that was fed to them, by supporters of the then Opposition parties from the hustings, in the press, and over the air. Bank officials made a door to door canvass of various electorates. What is involved in the socialism of the Australian Labour party ? What has any Labour government in this country ever done that has harmed the people as a whole? Even the most ardent critics of Labour’s policy must admit that all Labour legislation has been in the interest of the community generally. To-day, we have practical socialism in many forms. We can see it in our local governing authorities, including municipal councils and roads boards, and we can see it in both the State and Commonwealth Parliaments. The Government of South Australia, for instance, led by a powerful Liberal Premier, has turned to socialism. It has socialized the Adelaide electricity undertaking which apparently had not been operating in the interests of the people as a whole. In Western Australia, too, an anti-Labour Government has set up a State electricity commission, which ultimately will control the supply of electric power throughout that .State. In both the. State and Commonwealth spheres socialism in various guises has been part of our way of life for many years. Could this continent ever have been developed by private enterprise?
– It has been.
– It certainly has not. Would the railway line from Western Australia to the eastern States ever have been constructed by private enterprise? I invite the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) to answer that question. He knows very well that no private organization would have built that railway.
– It has been done in Canada.
– Canada is quite a different country from Australia, as the Attorney-General will know if he has ever been there. Canada is a country of vast resources, including forests and water-ways. Crossing Canada is quite different from crossing the Nullabor Plain and the sandhills of South Australia. What prospect was there of that line ever being constructed privately?
Socialism had to do the job. Socialism, too, was responsible for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, the greatest institution of its kind in the world. The people of this country generally have no real conception of the value that the bank has been to this country. As another honorable senator has already said, the Commonwealth Bank was sabotaged by anti-Labour governments because it was operating so efficiently in the interests of the people generally that the private banking institutions saw the writing on the wall. I have not the slightest doubt that if the Commonwealth Bank were permitted to function as it was intended to function when it was founded by the Fisher Government in 1912, it would ultimately be the only bank in this country. Honorable senators opposite talk now of “ free “ enterprise - previously it was “ private “ enterprise. I ask them is it not a fact that there is under consideration at present a proposal to amalgamate two of the’ few private banks that remain in this country? Prior to the bank crash of the 1890’s banking in this country was a highly competitive industry. But in that great depression many banks failed and never re-opened their doors. Since that time, by absorption or amalgamation, the number of banks in this country has been reduced from 25 or 30 to 8, and, as I have said, their number is still diminishing. Apparently honorable senators opposite are quite prepared to see the private trading banks combined in one single organization which will be able to dictate its terms to governments. Such a bank could foment wars, but apparently members of the Government parties see no danger in that possibility. The only organization that can stand up to this growing banking monopoly is a bank controlled by the people of this country through their Government. Therefore, let us examine Labour’s socialization proposals fairly and squarely. The Labour party has never at any time sought aggrandizement at the expense of the people of the Commonwealth. I challenge honorable senators opposite to point to any action by a Labour government that has been detrimental to the welfare of the Australian people. The postmen who walk our streets to-day are employees of a socialistic undertaking. One honor. able senator is an eminent member of the teaching profession. When she was em ployed as a school teacher by a State ed ucation department, was she not ‘working for a socialistic enterprise? According to honorable senators opposite, socialism is something that is wrong and to the detriment of the Australian people. They believe that it should be stamped out and that for it there should be substituted a vague and crude thing called free enterprise. The United States of America is said to be a land of free enterprise. There are many monopolistic enterprises and cartels there. Let us compare conditions in the United States of America with conditions in Australia. Despite the criticism that was levelled at the Chifley Government, while it was in office there was full employment in this country, but in the United States of America, where the creed of the survival of the fittest is accepted, approximately 6,000,000 persons of the total population of between 144,000,000 and 150,000,000 persons are unemployed at present.
– Included in that 6,000,000 persons are many who are aged and infirm.
– Senator Robertson is trying to make excuses for free enterprise. Unemployment in the United States of America is increasing rapidly, because the Americans are unable to export a sufficiently large quantity of goods to enable full employment to be maintained there. The time may well arrive when the degree of that unemployment there will be so great that it will have re percussions upon this country.
I feel safe in saying that honorable senators opposite believe in a pool of unemployed. I say that in all sincerity. It has been said that to make the workers do what the employers want them to do it is necessary to have a number of men outside the factory gates waiting to take the jobs of the men who are inside.
– Including our own mates?
– Yes. There is no mateship under capitalism. What the exponents of capitalism wish to do is deliberately and scientifically to establish a pool of unemployed persons to act as a brake upon those who are in employ ment. I know what I am talking about, because on some occasions men have waited outside a factory gate in the hope of getting my job. The reason why they hoped to get it was that they wanted to feed their children.. The cry of the Government parties to-day is that increased production is necessary. At the same time they say that people in employment are not doing a full day’s work. Do honorable senators see the significance of those two statements?
– I do not follow the honorable senator.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) must have a very weak intellect. Honorable senators opposite say that they wish to see full employment in this country. Full employment exists at the present time as a result of the economic policies that were applied in this country during and since the last Avar. There are not sufficient persons available now to fill all of the 100,000 jobs that are vacant, but between 1929 and 1932 there were 300,000 Australians seeking work. I ask the Senate to remember that during that period there was plenty of labour, materials and money available, but the flow of money was deliberately restricted by those who controlled it.
– The Labour party was in power during that period.
– It was in office, but not in power. The Scullin Government was continually frustrated ,by a hostile Senate. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber know the history of this country. We have not just “ blown in “ from the outside. We have not been trained as politicians by some political school; we have passed through the hard school of experience. We have worked our way up from the ranks of industry. We know the requirements of the working class, and we know how to satisfy them. We know that many supporters of the Government parties are not sincere when they profess their desire to help the ordinary people of this country. The interests that have helped to put honorable senators opposite where they are to-day will ensure that the Government does what they tell it to do. I am convinced that during the course of this session we shall see abundant evidence of the fact that members of the Government parties will, whether they like it or not, have to obey those interests in return for the services that those interests rendered to them in securing their election to the Parliament.
– That is a very unworthy suggestion.
– It is not. I am stating facts. Honorable senators owe their positions in the Parliament to the power of money, false propaganda by a ‘biased press and the activities of the banks and the medical profession. During the last general election campaign employees of private banks in every part of Australia were engaged in going from house to house and telling the people of Australia deliberate lies about the Labour party and what it stood for. The banks even wanted to conscript the womenfolk of their employees to help them. We know that if the general election had been fought on a fair and square basis, the, Government parties would have been defeated soundly.
Senator Wordsworth, who seems to be a military strategist, spoke of the requirements and conditions of our armed forces. Having listened to his speech, a person who did not know the facts might well ‘believe that there are no defence forces in Australia, that the Royal Australian Air Force is useless and that the Royal Australian Navy is obsolete. The truth is that it was not until the Chifley Government came into power that the defence forces of Australia were given a chance to develop. That government prepared a five-year defence programme and made hundreds of thousands of pounds available to the forces. The record of anti-Labour governments in connexion with defence does not bear comparison with that of the Chifley Government. Just prior to the outbreak of the last war, the present Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) said that the government of that day was imposing a very heavy burden on the Australian taxpayers by appropriating £11,000,000 for defence purposes. I had a son who, unfortunately, did not return from the war. He made the supreme sacrifice. I know that that lad was trained with a broomstick instead of a rifle. I know that although he had a rifle when he arrived in Singapore, he had no ammunition for it. That was not the fault of the Labour party. Why did the Tate Mr. Curtin have to assume the Prime Ministership of this country in October, 1941?
– Because of the action of two “ rats “.
– That statement is unworthy of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). The two gentlemen to whom he has referred put the interests of Australia first. They were 100 per cent, better than any members of the present Government parties who were then in the Parliament. They decided to support the Labour party. At that time the Liberal party and the Australian Country party could .not govern the country owing to internecine strife, and the greed for power of some of their members. When the bombs began to drop on the north of Australia, this country was unprepared for war. The Labour party was then called upon to re-organize the country and to ensure that certain people did certain jobs. The people were dissatisfied with the Liberal-Country party Government. Its slogan was, as the gentleman who was Prime Minister said at a time when bombs were dropping on Australia, “ Business as usual “.
– The honorable senator knows that that is untrue.
– It is not untrue. I do not make untrue statements.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Like other honorable senators, I welcome the proposal of Their Majesties the King and Queen to visit Australia in 1952. I consider that the visit will be very worth while, and I am quite sure that the people of Australia will be pleased and proud to pay homage to Their Majesties when they come to Australia.
His Excellency the Governor-General stated in his Speech that it is proposed to create a Standing Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs. However, the Speech was somewhat vague about this proposal. His Excellency merely stated that the object of this committee would be to give opportunities for full study and to serve as a. source of inf ormation to the Parliament. That sounds all right, but how is full study to be achieved ? Is the committee to have access to secret or semisecret documents ? That is a very important aspect of the matter, because we know that in the past, prior to the regime of the Labour Government, Australia had no- foreign policy of its own, but merely adopted whatever the statesmen at No. 10 Downing Street, London, decided should be done. Under Labour Governments and since the establishment of the United Nations, Australia has had a definite foreign policy. Splendid work was performed by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who was Minister for External Affairs in the last Government. This country, through its representatives, has played a very important part in world affairs. At least we have had a line of action, which previously was very sadly lacking. I do not know what will be placed before this committee when it is established, but if we have to rely upon press reports to learn of its recommendations it will not be much good. However, I am not opposed to the creation of the committee. I have always agreed with the Minister for Repatriation that there was a necessity for such a body, although X should not be agreeable to its establishment unless the government submits a far more tangible proposal than is set out on the Governor-General’s Speech.
His Excellency also indicated that a Ministry of National Development was to be created to develop the vast resources of this country, and that major programmes of national importance were te be fostered. I hope that that is not just wishful thinking, but that it will mean the development of the large areas in the north-west of “Western Australia. 3 do not think that anybody knows fully its, agricultural or mineral potentialities. It is quite a sound proposition to establish closer settlement in the Ord River district, which is sparsely populated. Water is a very great problem there, but as far as I know there are no engineering difficulties present which could not be overcome. The only requirements remaining are finance and labour. Of course, we know that “ Labour “ will be most difficult for some time to come; at least we hope so. I have always held the view that this National Parliament is a. separate entity,, although there are six separate StatesWe must look at things from a. national’ point of view rather than from, the point of view of six separate States divided by fences and clouded in parochialism. This Parliament will’ be able, as in the past, to announce many projects of a national character. Western Australia has very urgent and real claims.
In view of the Government’s professed policy of decentralization, urgent attention should be paid to the necessity for better shipping facilities at the outer ports of Western Australia. Esperance is a natural entrance to the eastern goldfields district, which has a large population. Up to the present most of its merchandise and goods have passed through Fremantle, involving long rail haulage. It’ is true that conditions have improved since the Australian Shipping Board arranged for its ships to call at Esperance once every three months, but the port and district warrant a much better maritime service. I hope that the Government will give very special consideration to the matter of ensuring a better shipping service to the ports of Esperance, Albany and Bunbury.
According to a recent article in the press this Government - I believe on the recommendation of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Beale) - has decided to postpone the rail gauge standardization plan. I understand that a sub-committee of the Cabinet has been appointed to review the scheme. I have for long stressed the necessity for the construction of a railway line of standard gauge from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie to connect up with the east-west line, in order to provide the people of Western Australia with a quicker rail transport service than is now provided. Sir Harold Clapp, in his report in 1945 on rail standardization, which was a very comprehensive document that entailed a. tremendous amount of expenditure and work, pointed out that a standard gauge line from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie should be the first line to be constructed in Western Australia. That opinion is of special significance. Appendix No. 6 of that report contains a reference to the military opinion. In his letter of the 22nd April, 1944, to the
Acting Prime Minister and Acting Minister for Defence, the Eight Honorable F. M. Forde, M.P., the then Acting Minister for the Army stated, inter alia -
The defence aspect of this problem is of vital importance if indeed it does not of itself present a real justification for an undertaking of such magnitude in the field of post-war construction.
I desire, therefore, to submit the views of the Department of the Army, and, subject to your approval, request that these viewpoints be brought early to the notice of the Minister of State for Transport for consideration at the appropriate time by Sir Harold Clapp’s investigating committee.
My department proposes that strategic requirements would be met by adoption of the following plan: -
The Commander-in-Chief in endorsing the above proposals stated, inter alia, that the principle to be observed in planning standardization of the railway gauges should be such that would give the maximum freedom of movement through strategic areas of the Commonwealth. The linking of the western State with the remainder of the Commonwealth through proposals under(a) and (b) above is designed to give effect to this principle and can only be achieved by giving access of the transcontinental 4-ft. 8½-in. system and ultimately, by conversion of the Victorian and South Australian 5-ft. 3-in. systems.
The proposals under Stage I. represent an undertaking of very considerable magnitude in regard to finance, man-power, materials, locomotive and rolling-stock construction. It is the view, therefore, of my department that Stage I. should be committed in toto before further progress towards standardization is attempted or, alternatively, before other strategic lines of developmental importance are undertaken.
We all know that during the period of the recent war tremendous additional cost was involved by the Commonwealth because of the necessity to load and unload trains at Kalgoorlie, and again at Port Pirie, Adelaide, Melbourne, Albury, Sydney, and at various points north before the troops reached their destination. When we knew active work of a defence character was proceeding in Queensland, and that troops were being transported from Western Australia to the great northern State, it was realized that there would be a tremendous time lag. That could have involved the safety of this country. From the point of view of military strategy alone I am of the opinion that the time is long overdue when a railway of standard gauge should have been constructed between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle. I know that negotiations have taken place between the Commonwealth and Western Australia, not only under the present anti-Labour Government, but also under the previous Labour Government with unsatisfactory results so far-
– We are not anti-Labour, but non-Labour.
– I do not think that the Government is favorable to Labour; therefore it is an anti-Labour Government.
– But we want a lot of labour.
– The people of Western Australia are just as entitled to good rail transport facilities as are the people anywhere else in this country. Western Australia is now proposing to recondition its existing railway system of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, at a cost of approximately £30,000,000. People in Melbourne can board a train running on a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway and reach Albury, a distance of approximately 200 miles, in less than four hours. Yet from Perth to Kalgoorlie, a distance pf 380 miles, the journey occupies up to sixteen hours, and if the train is delayed at any point the journey may take two or three hours longer. Apart from the defence point of view the aspect of the rights of the citizens of Western Australia is long overdue for consideration. I know that it is difficult for the Commonwealth to intervene in regard to intra-state systems unless under an agreement with the States concerned, but I consider that this line is of such importance to the people of Australia, particularly from a defence point of view, that if no progress can be made with the State Government in Western Australia to have the construction of that line commenced by the State, the Government should give consideration to its constitutional rights, with a view to the line being constructed by the Commonwealth. Honorable senators will notice that it is proposed that it should be an independent line, not a conversion of the existing line.
– An independent line has already been surveyed from Fremantle to Northam.
– That is so. So if the Commonwealth Government cannot reach some agreement with the State I hope that in the interests of the people of Western Australia, the Government will explore the suggestion I am making.
I understand that the Government proposes to expend a lot of capital on developmental plans. According to the Governor-General’s Speech it is preparing a. great loan scheme for this purpose, but His Excellency did not indicate how it proposed to raise the money. I should be very much averse to the Government going to the United States for dollar accommodation. In my opinion we would get ourselves in a mess if we did that.
– Mr. Theodore did it.
– Never mind what Mr. Theodore did. After, the Labour Government took over in 1941 it proved conclusively something that no other government had previously attempted - that the Government could raise loans of £100,000,000 and £150,000,000 from the Australian people by making multiple £10 bonds available to them. Those loans were over-subscribed ; and if the Australian people over-subscribed loans during ‘the war, they can do so in peace. There is no necessity for any government in this country to go elsewhere to raise loans irrespective of the purpose for which the money is required. If we go overseas, we shall simply burden 011:people with heavy interest payments that are not justified. Through the instrumentality of the Commonwealth Bank we could raise loans at a rate of interest not exceeding 3$ per cent. That is different from what obtained after the first world war when loans were arranged through the private banks at from 6 to 8 per cent. I hope that the Government will give consideration to the suggestion I am making.
Much has been said during this debate about the cost of living, and appreciation of the Australian £1. A few days ago I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (.Senator O’Sullivan) a question in respect of the increased cost of living and the prices of food and groceries in Wes-, tern Australia during the last twelve months compared with the prices in 1939. The Minister rather facetiously brushed aside my question. He simply indicated that the previous Labour Government had the responsibility for this matter. He added that he was very concerned with it and that the best effort possible would be made by this Government. It was not a ‘very satisfactory reply. I notice that the Governor-General in his Speech said -
An intensive review is being made of the cause of the present price trends with a view to determining the most effective measures which can be taken to remedy the current inflationary situation.
That is rather a remarkable statement. We know that we have inflation, but nobody seems to be inclined to admit why it exists. We know that to some degree it is brought about by the supply of goods being insufficient to meet the demand. That situation is being overtaken, although not so rapidly as we would like. I place much of the blame for the present situation on the political parties opposed to Labour when it was in office. Honorable senators will recollect that we asked the people of Australia by way of a referendum to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to control prices, rents, and other charges. Unfortunately, a majority of the people of Australia followed the advice given in the propaganda of those opposed to Labour that the State governments could do the job just as well. The referendum was defeated, and consequently the Commonwealth Government was not able to maintain the controls it had exercised to that time. Honorable senators will recall that under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act the Commonwealth could extend wartime legislation from time to time, but the High Court of Australia ruled that a continuance of that legislation had to be related to an active state of war and must be necessary in the defence of this country. As a result of that ruling it was known that anybody who challenged the continuance of such controls in the High Court of Australia must of necessity receive a favorable decision. That is what occurred in connexion with the rationing of petrol. It was realized that the Commonwealth power in respect of controls would have been declared ultra vires the Constitution. It is interesting to note that up to 1945 prices in the Commonwealth had not risen beyond approximately 23 per cent, above prewar levels.
– Wages were pegged until then.
– I know that they, as well as many other things, were pegged, and it is most unfortunate for the Australian people that many prices are riot pegged now. If they were pegged we would not have this inflationary spiral. As I have said, prices had been kept within a range of about 23 per cent, of the pre-war level until 1945. Between 1946 and 1950 they went up to more than 50 per cent, above pre-war levels.
– are highest in Canberra, where there is Commonwealth control.
– That may be, but I do not think that is an argument. Prior to the loss of the referendum prices were not so high in Canberra. The Prices Commissioner is not operating in this Territory.
– That is where the honorable senator is wrong. There is price control in Canberra.
– I am speaking not of Canberra, but of the over-all position in the six States. I know that within the last two years wages in Western Australia associated with the basic wage rate have increased tremendously. On one occasion the increase approximated 3s. 4d. a week and at another time it was about 6s. a week. In Western Australia it is incumbent on the Arbitration Court to declare a variation of the basic wage as soon as the cost of living indices indicate that the cost of living has increased more than ls. a. week. Since the loss of the referendum wages in Western Australia have increased by 17s. a week, which represents a large sum each year. It was said that the States could control prices effectively, but all that the State governments have done is to take away control over as many commodities as they can. The various Ministers in charge of prices go from State to State, have a talk, think it over, and go away again. The people generally suffer in the meantime. The Government of Victoria would like to get away from price control altogether. There may be some ulterior motive underlying that desire. It may wish that its friends shall be unhampered in respect of profits. The problem of inflation is getting worse and people are beginning to wonder when it will stop. We are told the only way to stop it is by some -method of stabilization whereby we can prevent goods from being sold at high prices.
production would help.
– There is already more production. In one or two instances there may be a falling off, but in the main, the Australian is a good worker and does a good job. Generally speaking, if one looks at the export figures, particularly the figures relating to building materials, it will be found that there has been a great speeding up in the last few years. I do not hold with the propaganda now being spread throughout the community that the Australian worker is not doing a good job. I have seen people working in other countries, and have heard people who have come to this country say that they never worked hard until they came to Australia. . Another remarkable feature of the situation concerns the purchase of property. Under the capital issues provisions of war-time legislation, nobody could buy a house or sell a house without the approval of- a Commonwealth authority. Transfers of property were arranged through the Commonwealth Sub-Treasury, and sales were based con 1 939 values. After making an allowance for depreciation, the price was determined by the Minister or the Government through a special board of valuers appointed in each of the various States. All that has been thrown overboard and we find that a man who wants to buy a house which was worth £1,000 before the war now has to pay from £3,000 to £4,000 for it. There is no justice in the present arrangement. It is pure avarice and profiteering; the people are at the mercy of those who sell. What are the State governments doing about it? In Western Australia a property which is available for purchase wi th vacant possession is worth an additional £1,000. That state of affairs exists because we have governments that are afraid of somebody. They will not do the job. They have said that the Commonwealth shall not have power to control prices but that the States will do the job and protect the people. Well, they ure protecting the people to the degree that I have indicated.. If I desired to sell my house; for which I paid £1,000, I would be able to make a profit of £3,000 or £4,000.
– Not in Queensland.
– Of course, Queenslurid is a virtuous State because the Minister hails from it! I shall not pass aspersions on Queensland because I do not know what applies there in respect of this matter, but the people of Queensland have a Labour Government that may have a different method of dealing with the problem from the methods followed by the governments of other States. Western Australia has an anti-Labour Government that is satisfied to allow the people of that State to be mulcted to the degree that I have indicated. This is a matter which I wish were treated on a non-political basis.
– Then why does not the honorable senator so treat it?
– Because the Government parties will not allow us to do so. Unless we try to do something about the problem, we shall simply go from bad to worse. I agree that the man who is running a business and has to pay constantly rising wage rates - because wages are following the increasing cost of living has almost reached a state where he cannot conduct his business at a profit. That ls surely an economic problem to which this Government must give more’ than lip-service. I hope that as time goes on. the Government will make some constructive and positive efforts to overcome, this alarming situation. I have already said sufficient about this matter, and perhaps more than some honorable senators like. There is more that I could say but I shall conclude with the observation that, after all, in the main, the Governor-General’s Speech shows that the Government has more or less adopted the ideals and aspirations brought forward by Labour governments, and has endeavoured to embellish them.
– To improve them.
– The Government has endeavoured to embellish them to make them more attractive to the electors. A close examination of the Speech will reveal that it was written with great care. It starts off by indicating what the Government intends to do and then suddenly it explains that the Government does not intend to do anything at all. Any one with ordinary intelligence would quickly come to that decision upon reading the speech carefully. I shall consider the various matters mentioned in the speech on their merits when the implementing legislation comes before this chamber.
– I rise to support the Address-in-Reply to the message of His Excellency. In doing so I make my first speech to this Senate, in the hope that it marks the commencement of a period of useful service in this Parliament. In common, with all other honorable senators I subscribe to the expressions of loyalty that are contained in the Address-in-Reply. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech outlines the legislative programme for this session, of the Parliament and, in contradistinction to the views expressed by Senator Nash, I believe that it presents a well-balanced programme that will benefit all sections of the community, those who live in the rural areas no less than those who live in the cities. It is a practical expression of the first statement that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made after his cabinet was sworn in, when he said, as honorable senators may remember, that he accepted the position of Prime Minister with the intention to legislate for the benefit of all, both those who voted against him and those who voted for him.
– That will be a change.
– I subscribe personally to the sentiment expressed by the
Prime ‘Minister on that occasion. That sentiment is a recurrent theme throughout the whole of the Governor-General’s message. The Government has made a good start in the direction of governing for all the people. ‘ Petrol rationing is now abolished, as promised. I hope to have the great honour of introducing into this Senate, at the conclusion of this debate, legislation that will provide for the payment of endowment for the first child in every family. 1 am aware that my confreres in the Ministry are well advanced with their legislation to carry through to completion the other measures outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech and in the joint policy speech upon which the parties composing the Government were elected to office. I may say with justice that a great deal of spade-work has been done during the short period since the Ministry assumed office. The rate of progress which will be made from this stage forward, however, ,vill he determined largely by the proceedings in this chamber. That is so because, despite the fact that the Government has a majority in another place, it has not a majority in this chamber. I propose, with some hesitation, to examine that situation. I trust that when I do so I shall employ a temperate tone so that even those who may not agree with my views will at least not disagree with the manner in which I express them.
I start upon the basis that I believe there can be no doubt that there is a general acceptance of the fact that the joint policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister before the general election was delivered upon a high level and was in clear and simple terms. As a result there was, during the course of the election campaign, no doubt upon the principles and policy for which the Liberal and Australian Country parties stood; and that the verdict of the people meant more than the defeat of the Labour party and a popular denial of socialism or even an affirmation of the Liberal party’s principles of equality of opportunity and encouragement of individuality and initiative. That verdict constituted also a mandate to the present Government to take certain action. It was an authority for the Liberal and Australian Country parties, when elected to office, to ban communism, to endow the first child in each family, to reconstruct the banking system, and to do all those other things that were mentioned in the joint policy speech. There was no room for confusion of thought on the part of the people about the principles for which we stood or, indeed, about the legislation that we intended to introduce if we were elected to office. “We were elected to power in the only House in this Parliament in which the verdict of the people could prevail. As I have said, the Government has not a majority in this chamber because the method of election, and the number of seats that, were available, made it impossible to obtain a majority. To test that argument in reverse, I put it to honorable senators that had this Senate been elected upon the old method of election that was used in 1946, the Government would undoubtedly have a majority in the Senate just as it has in the other House of this Parliament.
– Not on your life ! The result would have been eighteen to eighteen.
– The Government has a mandate to do certain things. It fought the election upon the basis that it would do those things if the people put it in office. Therefore, it has a clear and definite duty to carry through to completion the programme that its candidates presented to the electors. I repeat, however, that the people were prevented from giving this Government a majority in this chamber. They can rectify that situation if the circumstances necessitate another appeal to them. I believe that most problems can be reduced to simple terms and the problem as I see it is contained in the question - “What is the duty of the Government if, having fought an election successfully, it finds itself unable to carry through to completion the legislation that it promised to give to the people? I answer that question directly and simply by saying that there is no room for doubt or confusion of thought. It is clear and simple that it is the duty of the Government, in 1hose circumstances, to go back to the people.
I point out that there is no single measure mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that was not set out in the joint policy speech upon which we fought the general election. All these matters were argued at length during the election campaign, and after hearing the arguments the people elected a new government. The people reached their decision after hearing the cases put forward by the Liberal party and the Australian Country party and their opponents. They heard the arguments and they elected our parties to office. The present majority of the Opposition in the Senate did not result from a hostile decision by the people against the Government parties at the recent election. That majority in this chamber is three years old and it relates to issues that are -gone and past. That fact adds further point to my claim that, if the Government finds that it is unable to give effect to the promises that its candidates made at the recent election, only one course remains for it to follow and that is to consult the people again. I believe that that is all the more necessary because the result of another appeal to the country would present ‘ stable government, which is so necessary to-day when we are entering upon the most interesting period in the development of Australia.
Both the Government and the Opposition parties agree that if we are to hold this country against aggression we need to increase our population. All of us agree also that we require additional population if we are to develop Australia to the degree that it should be developed. Plans have been well laid with a view to increasing Australia’s population from 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 during the nextfew years. I confess that I always feel interested in trying to envisage what is likely to happen to Australia during the period immediately ahead of us. I derive great interest in trying to envisage the expansion that will be necessary in the construction of homes, roads, bridges and schools, the provision of water supplies and in the other important avenues in which development will be necessary if we are to assimilate such a marked increase of population. Australia is a fortunate country in that this development seems likely to occur during a period of great national prosperity when we shall be hotter equipped to deal with the problems which must, undoubtedly, be involved in such expansion.
The position in regard to one aspect of development is not so clear. Many of our plans depend upon our obtaining adequate supplies of coal. In that respect the situation still remains somewhat confused. For instance, we. are assured that in New South Wales alone coal deposits, readily accessible and of first-class quality, are sufficient to fulfil our needs for no less than 1,000 years, yet we are facing the social and industrial problem of mining that coal. I said earlier that the policy upon which the Government was elected was clear, simple and direct in all its aspects. That observation applies to the Government’s policy with respect to the coal-mining industry. The present Prime Minister, in his policy speech, promised that if his party were returned to power his Government would develop open-cut mines, give priority to plant required for the further mechanization of the coal mines, create reserve stocks of coal, and that it would purchase and import coal to be used as reserves to tide us over the period until we could fully develop our own deposits and also tide us over a situation that might arise as the result of loss of production due to industrial disputes. But the most interesting of the Government’s proposals with respect to the industry was that it would establish a quota of production for the various coal-mine3 and would guarantee to purchase such quotas.
At the commencement of my speech, I said that we had been elected to govern Australia in the interests of all Australians. The Government will apply that principle in respect of the winning of coal. It is an impartial approach to our great national problems. It does justice to the coal-owner in that it provides him with the means to improve his mining asset. It does justice to the coalminer in that it removes the fear of unemployment by guaranteeing the purchase of a specified quota of production of the mine with which he is associated. More important still, it does justice to the community as a whole because it promises that until this problem is solved the Government will protect the position of all citizens by guaranteeing that they should not be inconvenienced and shall not lose their employment because under its plan the Government will impart reserves of coal to meet all contingencies. I do not wish to say any more except that, having placed the problem in such terms before the people and having been elected to office as the result of such promises, the Government is entitled to the co-operation of every Australian until it has proved itself in relation to this important matter. I, personally, have great faith and confidence in the ability of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I know the lead that he has given to the Australian people and I know that on all these matters it is his sincere desire to implement effectively all of the proposals that he submitted to the people.
I turn now to another matter that is exercising the minds of the Australian people even more than coal does. I refer, of course, to the high cost of living. That subject is related to the problem of winning increased supplies of coal, but it naturally occupies a more prominent place in the mind of the average Australian. I repeat that I have great confidence in the Prime Minister. I believe that in dealing with the difficult problem of reducing living costs in this country he will eventually succeed.
All parties in the Parliament agree that immigration offers one of the best means of defending this country against aggression. Similarly, there is agreement in economic and political thought that probably the best defence against inflation is to increase production. To put the matter in more homely terms, the best way to check rising prices is to produce more goods. Honorable senators have dealt with this problem from the viewpoints which appeal most to them, but, strangely, I cannot recollect that mention has been made previously in this debate of the effect of industrial stoppages upon the cost of living. I am of opinion that despite all that has been said and all the publicity that the topic has attracted, a great proportion of the people are content in industrial matters to be led by evil counsellors and irresponsible persons, particularly Communists who do not share the aspiration of the rest of the community of constantly raising our standard of living, and do not want prosperity but prefer to see discontent and lower living standards because such conditions provide more fertile soil in which to sow the seeds of disruption. I believe that at no previous period in our history has a greater need existed for plain common sense on the part of not only employers and employees, but also the great mass of the people, because in the last analysis public opinion determines the course of action that any government must eventually take. If we could effectively propagate lie knowledge that continual industrial disputes contribute most significantly to the spiralling of costs that is now occurring in this country; if we could get that message effectively across to the people, we should do well. Too small a proportion off Australians realize that industrial disputes do injustice to the community as a whole and in particular to that section of the community comprised of parents of growing families and pensioners on small incomes who are least equipped to face increasing living costs. We do not sufficiently realize that we are, indeed, a fortunate people living in a fortunate country and that we are now, in truth, entering upon a period of great opportunity provided that all sections of the community co-operate and work together more amicably than they have done during the last few years.
As a newcomer to the Senate, I appreciate the courtesy and assistance that I have received from you, Mr. President, and honorable senators on both sides of the chamber in the initial stages of my membership. I hope that, as time goes on, I shall gain the respect of honorable senators, which I realize is a condition precedent to making the best contribution of which I am capable to the proceedings of this legislature.
– I should like first to congratulate the Governor-General upon the splendid manner in which he delivered the policy speech of the new Government in this chamber. His enunciation and emphasis were excellent, and every one in the chamber heard him clearly. It is indeed a treat to hear an opening speech made in such a. forthright manner.
I! think that, at some time or other, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Spooner) must have visited Ireland and kissed the Blarney Stone. He spoke beautifully of the things that his Government intended to do now that it was in power. His use of the word “ power “ was unfortunate. The Government is not in power ; it is in office just as the .Scullin Government was in office in the early J.930’s, when members of the present Government parties formed a majority opposition in this chamber and sought by every possible means, including obstruction and delay, to discredit the Labour Government. I say, therefore, that the present Government is in office and not in power.
– not growling.
– The Minister for Social Services was growling. He complained because Labour’s Senate majority is three years old. I remind him that the anti-Labour majority in the Senate during the Scullin Government’s administration was three years old. The presence of so many .South Australian Labour senators in this chamber to-day indicates that the Government parties do not have very substantial support in that State. I have always preached the gospel of socialism in South Australia and I shall continue to do so. If members of the Government really meant the things that they said about socialism during the election campaign, they would wipe out every government-controlled institution, throughout the Commonwealth. Honorable senators opposite speak of socialism as if it were the creature of Labour governments alone. That is not so. I have before me an advertisement which was published throughout the length and breadth of Australia at the instigation of the banking institutions of this country during the election campaign. It purports to tell the people of Australia what Labour .stands for. Dealing with “ public utilities “, it states that Labour is determined to nationalize the banking system - apparently the private banks do regard themselves as public utilities - and adds that if the banks are nationalized, then why not the insurance companies, general stores, grocery stores, butcheries, and so on. It concludes by stating that the policy of the Liberal party is anti-socialist. If honorable senators opposite really believe that propaganda, they should be prepared to sell every socialistic undertaking.
– L suppose the honorable senator believes in national insurance?
Senator O’FLAHERTY. I have preached socialization all my life, and I shall not “ ditch “ it now. The important point is not what I believe. The antiLabour parties have declared themselves to be against socialization, and, to be consistent, they must abandon all socialistic enterprises. I challenge them to do that ; they are not game to do it. Would they suggest, for instance, that our State education systems throughout the ‘Commonwealth should be abandoned? The Liberal party of to-day is the United Australia party of yesterday, and the Nationalist party of earlier years. Its conception of what it terms free enterprise has remained unaltered. The party has changed its name, but not its beliefs. It still stands for private enterprise. The Minister for Social Services said that the Government had secured from the people a mandate to do certain things, but the Government’s policy, as outlined by the Governor-General, is mostly a eulogy pf the work of the Chifley Government. This Government has a mandate only to carry on from where the Chifley Government left off. The Minister for Social Services said that the Communists are to be abolished.
-The Labour party apparently is a bit worried about that.
– No.. That is the Government’s worry now. I am concerned only with the legality of the proposal. Where does the Government expect to get authority to abolish the Communists? Is it going to behead them, pitch them into the sea, or deport them? Fortunately, that is the Government’s problem and not mine. The Government made the promise. But how can the Communists be abolished’?
– I said that they would be banned.
-I made a no,ite .of what the Minister said, and J wondered at the time how the proposal would be carried out. Even if the honorable senator meant only that” the Communists would be banned, what authority has the Government for such action?
– They have been banned from the Labour party.
– “We already have authority to do that. I should like to know also how the Government proposes to secure authority to carry out, through the organization that is to replace the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction, the vast water conservation schemes that it has in mind, including the damming of New South Wales rivers to provide water for other States. What i3 the use of talking about these things? The Government has not the power to carry .them out, just as it has not the power to ban the Communists. I do not care what the- Government does so long as it acts legally. Labour believes in constitutional methods. It is true that an approach could be made to the electors for an alteration of the Constitution, but that was not mentioned in the Government’s policy speech. I should be prepared at any time to assist any government to secure a liberalization of the Constitution, but I should not support any proposal to narrow the Constitution. Surely the suggestion that the Constitution should be altered to prevent socialization was intended as a joke.
The Minister for Social Services said also that the Government had secured a mandate to increase child endowment payments. The election promise to endow the first child of each family may have secured a few additional votes for antiLabour candidates. I agree with the principle of endowing the first child, but I think that the payment should be 10s., not 5s.
– Then why did the honorable senator not do something about it?
– I did not make any promises. Honorable senators opposite made the promises. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that if the basic wage were fixed in future on the needs of a man and his wife only, instead of a man, his wife, and one child, the Government would make the child endowment payment in respect of the first child 10s., but that, in any case, a payment of 5s. a week would be made immediately. I am not satisfied with the proposal to pay only 5s. I should not like to see a repetition of what happened when the child endowment scheme was introduced originally. At that time the Arbitration Court was considering a claim for an increase of the basic wage. It came to the conclusion that the basic wage that was in force then was sufficient for a man with a wife and one child only, but it would not consider granting an increase until the Government had announced its intentions in relation to child endowment payments. The Government decided to pay child endowment in respect of the second child and subsequent children in a family and industry was not called upon to pay an increased basic wage because from that day to this the Arbitration Court has not increased it. I do not want that to occur again. If it is the intention of the Government that the child endowment payment in respect of the first child shall be taken into consideration in assessing the basic wage, I shall oppose the legislation vigorously. Let there be no mistake about that. I suggest for the consideration of the Government that the legislation should contain a provision that will prevent the Arbitration Court from taking that payment into account in determining the basic wage. If that is done, the measure will receive my wholehearted support.
The Minister for Social Services said that the Government had a mandate to amend the 1945 banking legislation. I maintain that it has not. Nine out of ten of its candidates did not mention banking. The hankers sent out their emissaries to talk Liberalism. Generally speaking, the members of the Government parties could not talk about banking because they do not know the first thing about it. The banks sent their employees out into the highways and byways. In some instances, those men were employed in that way for seven weeks prior to the polling date, and during that time they received expenses and their normal salaries. They did not talk about banking either, but they whispered into the ears of the individuals with whom they came in contact that the members of the Labour party were terrible people who were going to nationalize their farms or shops and take them away from their owners. The Government did not receive a mandate to amend existing banking legislation.
– Apparently the honorable senator is suggesting that the Australian electors are fools.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (.Senator O’Sullivan) not to put words into my mouth. There are some members of the present Government who, as Ministers in Commonwealth governments, have experience of the financial difficulties of the Commonwealth, and there are others who have experience of the financial difficulties of States. Surely they must have learned that it is necessary that the people, through their Government, should determine the financial policy of the country, and that no other body should be allowed to do so. “We have taken certain power from the private financiers and placed it in the hands of the Australian Government, which is answerable to the Parliament, and it in turn, is answerable to the people. That is all that we have done. We have provided that the Treasurer shall be responsible for framing financial policy. From 1939 until 1941, just prior to the time when the Curtin Government took office, there was a continual feud between the financiers and the Government of this country. Some of the members of the Government that was in office then are members of the present Government. They know what occurred then, and I am confident that they will not allow the financiers again to control the country’s financial policy. I repeat that the Government has no mandate in relation to banking. I desire it to be clearly understood that, if the Government makes an attempt to restore the authority that was previously possessed by private individuals who dictated our financial policy and on occasions made and unmade Governments, I shall oppose it with all the force of which I am capable.
The Minister referred to coal. Mr. W. G. Spence, in the foreword to one of his books, said, in effect, that when a seed is planted it lies dormant until the time arrives for it to germinate and for the plant to grow. The seed that is causing the present trouble in the coal-mining industry was planted many years ago. There is no doubt that it has germinated and that the plant has flourished. It will take a long time to kill the plant. It will be very difficult to remove the hatreds that exist in the coal-mining industry. They are not confined to one side. Let there be no mistake about that. One camp has a tremendous hatred for the other and vice versa. The Curtin Government and the Chifley Government, in an attempt to solve the coal problem, sought advice from every source from which they could get it. The culmination of their efforts was the establishment of the Joint Coal Board. I desire to say in connexion with that organization that if the New South Wales Government does not wish to co-operate with the Commonwealth in such a way as to enable it to function successfully, the Commonwealth can do nothing about it. It will be necessary for the Australian Government to secure the goodwill and co-operation of the New South Wales Government before it can do anything that will result in the production of greater quantities of coal. Perhaps I may be permitted to say in passing that recently I asked the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator McLeay) a question based upon a statement that he had made to the press. I notice that the Minister is prone to make statements to the press. .In fact, he receives more publicity in one day than I receive in ten years. He had stated that he was going to make a real attempt to obtain more coal. I asked what he had done to achieve that objective, and in reply he informed me of the quantity of coal that was produced in 1949 and said that it was less than the quantity that was produced in 1947 or some other year. The year does not matter, because the Minister did not answer my question. I do not like evasions of that kind. I asked him to tell me what he had done, but he did not do so. I am still anxious to know what work has been done, in addition to that which was commenced by the present Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley), that is likely to result in the production of more coal. I know that industrial disputes in the coal mines are interfering with production, but in order to obviate those disputes, it is necessary to resolve the hatreds that exist in the industry. The man who can do that will earn the thanks not only of every member of the Parliament but also of the whole of the community. I have an idea that the only way in which to solve this problem is to socialize the mines, but on that point honorable senators opposite differ from me.
The Minister referred to the increasing cost of living. He said that stoppages of work have an effect upon production costs. That is admitted by everybody who has studied the problem. The Minister made some statements that were not accurate. There are other persons, just as eminent as the Minister, who have spoken or written upon this subject. I have in my hand a publication issued by the Institute of Public Affairs of Victoria. That organization certainly does not support the Labour party. The Institute of Public Affairs in New South Wales sent copies of its publications to me until I quoted from one of them in this chamber. Since then I have not received them. One thing in favour of the Victorian organization is that it has sent its publications to me regularly. In one of them there is an article upon the high cost of living. This is said to be an increasing menace, and I admit that it is. I shall not read the whole of that portion of. the publication. It is apparently an editorial, although it is not signed. Portion of it reads -
The high cost of living in Australia to-day is, of course, a direct consequence of monetary inflation; of the simple fact that the “ money “ factor in the economic equation is increasing at a vastly greater rate than tin: “ goods “ factor. So long as the rate nf input of money into the economic system continues to outstrip the rate of output of goods .ind services - the rate of production - so long will prices and living costs continue to rise.
The article also suggests where we get the money that is put into the system. Much has been said about low production. The article stresses that with the removal of certain controls the managers of industry are failing, because they are not taking into consideration the best course of action for the benefit of Australia. The article continues -
Many businessmen, so long as they are not ton hard hit by shortages of labour and materials, which are a concomitant of inflation, might be quite ‘content for inflation to go on indefinitely. More than most sections, they are in a position to benefit from it; and, while it creates certain difficulties in the form of government restrictions and controls, it relieves them of many harassing worries. Moreover, severe inflation, which implies a labour shortage, affects production adversely through its effect on the attitude of mind of the employee. Since he is at liberty to walk out of one joh into another, he can make his own pace.
Until recent times, of course, the employees were not able to do that-
He would be more than human if he didn’t. The great majority of decent workers, of course, take no untrue conscious advantage of this situation; but they cannot help being subconsciously affected by it.
I particularly ask honorable senators to pay special attention to the following passage : -
Also, there is an irresponsible fringe - an irresponsible 5 or 10 per cent, (just as there is an irresponsible fringe of employers) who arc fully and openly prepared to make hay while the sun shines.
Of course, that applies on both sides -
Maximum productivity and severe inflation simply do not march together.
The article then deals with the types of articles being produced. Because of the inflationary spiral manufacturers are tending to make light luxury goods rather than heavy goods. The writer claims that this is the reason for shortages in heavy industries and primary production. I have mentioned this matter before, as the “ three musketeers “ from Queensland will remember. I refer to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) and Senator Annabelle Rankin. This article shows why and how it is done, and puts the blame upon business management for that sort of thing.
– Why does not the honorable senator read the entire article to the Senate?
– I do not wish to encroach upon the time of the Senate to that extent. However, I advise the honorable senator who has just interjected to obtain a copy of this review and study its contents. I am merely emphasizing the various points brought out without twisting them in any way.
The article then explains how the inflationary period is occurring. It stresses that prior to World War II. we were all prone to blame the banking institutions particularly, and governments generally, for injecting borrowed money into the money stream, and using it for the purpose of establishing credits. This paragraph is interesting; -
Pre-war theories of inflation concentrated largely on the effects of government fiscal policy and of hanking action in expanding credit at too fast a rate - the conception of more and more money being pumped into the economic system when the supply of goods coming forward was inadequate to balance the expanding volume of purchasing power. That conception has little, if any, application to the present situation. The Commonwealth Government has not been borrowing from the banking system and then spending the proceeds. On the contrary, it has been paying off money lent to it during the war by reducing its short-term debt. Over the last three years the Government has been redeeming treasury billa at the rate of £60,000,000 to £70,000,000 per year. And while bank advances have been increasing, they have not been increasing at anything like a rate sufficient to account for thu expansion taking place in the community’s spending power.
The money injected into the stream must come from somewhere. Subsequently in the article, this appears -
The fundamental causes, however, are to be found in export and wage incomes.
Upon, analysis it is found that the income received from exports increased from £123,000,000 in the last pre-war year, to £547,000,000 in 1948-49. That is a tremendous increase of the amount of money that we are receiving for the goods that, we export. Our principal export is wool, followed by wheat. Particulars in relation to those two commodities are enumerated in the review. They differ very materially from the particulars furnished by the Minister. Senator Gorton led the Senate to believe that the most important factors in this country were the production of goods and stoppages in industry. He implied that the workers were not working hard enough.
– I was careful to say that many matters relating to this problem had been dealt with by other honorable senators, and that. I was addressing myself only to the industrial problem.
– I am very pleased to receive that assurance. How ever, the honorable senator implied that the fault lay with the people who were producing goods in this country - the working people. I point out that the great bulk of production is achieved by the wage-earners. The I.P.A. Review is invaluable for countering statements that are made in this chamber from time to time.
For the benefit of honorable senators who have attacked the Opposition for its attitude towards socialization, I point out that merely because they have control of the administration of this country for the time being they have not heard the last of socialism, because I am not the only one who believes in it. The editorial in the review to which I am referring contains a warning to some honorable senators who have let their heads swell somewhat. It contains these words -
An excess of jubilation or confidence on the part of the opponents of socialism, would at this stage, not merely be in the worst of bad taste but would be the height of unwisdom. It is well to bear in mind that, despite the great swing in the allocation of seats between the parties, the margin between the aggregate votes cast for the victors, and those cast for the defeated, was thin indeed.
A footnote reads -
Of the Liberal and Country parties’ majority of 27 seats, twenty were won by less than 1,000 votes.
The article continues -
The campaign against the spread of socialist influence and ideas must not be relaxed for a moment.
However, I shall leave that matter for the consideration of the .Senate. Honorable senators opposite have no hope of staying the march of progress for more than a little while. In the early days in Australia many people thought that they could stop the progress of this country, or at least the progress of the human factor. They discovered, however, that they could not do so. In those days we had to fight on the street corners, frequently resorting to fisticuffs, in order to establish the right of the workers to join trade unions. To-day, however, the unions are recognized even by political parties opposed to Labour. Those parties even consult with the trade unions’ representatives occasionally, although I do not trust those consultations. In South Australia to-day the anti-Labour parties are endeavouring to restrict free speech. I know that the Minister for Social Services, is a New South Wales senator. In that State political candidates may talk to the people on the street corners without restriction, I recollect an occasion when I addressed a meeting of Labour supporters on one corner whilst a Liberal party candidate addressed supporters of his party on the opposite corner. We both used amplifiers. Earlier to-day Senator Hannaford lauded the Liberal Government of South Australia. I point out, however, that that government prohibited Australian Labour party candidates addressing meetings of workers outside the factory gates,. a practice that has been permitted in this country for as long as I can remember. In some parts of South Australia from 18,000 to 20,000 constituents elect one representative, whilst, in other parts between 4,000 and 5,000 constituents elect one member. Although a candidate may not stand for election to the Legislative Council until he is 30 years of age, the Liberal Government in South Australia maintains that it stands for freedom. Whilst on the one hand the Australian Government claims that it will ban the Communists, if any one else wants to bring about a reform he is accused of being a “ fellow traveller “. That is the sort of thing one has has to put up with. We heard some rather mournful sounds from Senator Gorton. George Edwards of radio fame should abolish Dave and put the honorable senator in his place. He challenged Senator Ryan on the question of compulsory military service and said he hoped that we would not forget the men who fought overseas. They have not been forgotten. Thirty years ago T said in another Parliament that in the fina] analysis it would be the rank and file of the great industrial movement that would have to stand by to protect the men who defended this country. That has actually happened. When a person speaks of the shadow that is creeping down over China, as one honorable senator did to-day, I think he must have been listening to the radio. What is happening in China? There is a spate of propaganda every day in the press about the Communists creeping down over China.
The same press never mentions the name of O’Flaherty, but it prints splash head-lines about Communists, and that is where the honorable senator gets his idea about the shadow. China is going through a stage of revolution because the serfs and the peons of China have turned on the people who were controlling them for years.
– Why does the honorable senator not tell Dr. Evatt that?
– One has to go hack further than Dr. Evatt to the establishment of the Kuomintang and Dr. Sun Yat Sen representing the great masses of the working people of China. They ex-communicated him. Then came Chiang Kai-shek. He stood .by the feudal lords of China, who exploited and robbed the working people all the time. They are still similar to the feudal barons of old, and the Chinese are turning on them so that they can get the crust of bread they .produce in China. It is really a nationalist concern. They did not want anything to do with foreigners and so they emptied the foreigners out. When that happened, the foreigners who could no longer exploit the Chinese through the old barons began to talk about Communists and how they were spreading everywhere. One finds the same thing in relation to Indonesia. Honorable senators opposite condemned the Labour Government for supporting the movement in Indonesia. To-day, of course, they regard Indonesians as the best people in the world. A revolution has taken place and the people themselves have formed a government. We were told that they were Communists fighting for this, that and the other when they were fighting for the right to govern themselves. They now have the right to solve their own problems and to be masters of their destiny. Peaceful trade between countries should be our aim. We should not concern ourselves about the ideologies of other nations and such things as shadows and the Iron Curtain. It is a remarkable thing that the greater the publicity in a super.capitalist country about the Communists and the Iron Curtain, the more extensive is the trade between those countries. That is what has happened in Russia. It is trading with other countries. I have nothing to say against peaceful trade with any country, no matter what its ideology. So long as some of the goods we cannot produce can be obtained from that country in exchange for our own products, it should be our job to engage in peaceful trade without having to send people to that country to exploit it. Throughout the length and breadth of the world, particularly in Asia, the little man is coming into his own, and there is no chance of stopping him. His opponents may destroy as many human beings as they like with atom bombs or H bombs but the little man will eventually come to the top because nobody can do without him. He is learning that he is necessary in the world ; and the moment he comes to a full understanding of his place in. the world there will be a greater revolution. Those who have been condemned as Communists are nationalists.
– They admit that they are Communists.
– I am talking about the people of China. The rulers of China do not admit that they are Communists. They are now in America getting money to shoot down the ordinary people of China. Senator McCallum. has academic knowledge, but he will have to get down to tin-tacks. The working people of the world are awakening to the fact that they can rule nations. We have proved in Australia that representatives of the workers can govern the country better than it was ever governed before.
It is unfortunate that the Minister foi Repatriation (Senator Cooper) is not here. During the five years that I have been in the Senate I have constantly heard from him about the pests in Queensland, particularly the dingoes. It seemed at times that they were here in packs, with their eyes staring out of their heads, and howling. Now that the honorable senator is a Minister he will be able to settle that problem. But he has a rival in Senator Piesse, from Western Australia, who asks this Government to take action to deal with the rabbit menace. I do not know how the senator from Queensland will get on when, with his dingoes, he meets the senator for Western Australia with his rabbits, but a tremendous lot of talk goes on in this chamber about things over which this Parliament has no jurisdiction, although it can act in co-operation with the States in some matters. It may be possible to get some assistance from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, but even then it will be necessary to have the co-operation of the States. One cannot spray poison around indiscriminately.
– The Labour Government would not let us bring in cyanogas.
– We get back to the question of whether we are sticking to Great Britain or professing a loyalty that is mere lip-service. To-day, Great Britain stands as the head of the British Commonwealth of Nations. There was a period when Great Britain was standing alone.
– And the honorable senator was against helping Great Britain.
– The honorable senator’s interjection reminds ‘me of another gentleman who said that the Australians who went overseas were volunteers and that we were opposed, to volunteers.
– That is true.
– It is not true. We never at any time opposed voluntary enlistment. I defy the honorable senator or anybody else to produce one man in Australia who stood on any platform anywhere on behalf of the great Labour party and opposed voluntary enlistment.
– The Labour party opposed sending our troops overseas.
– That is an entirely different matter. The question whether they should go to some particular place did not occur till 1940. Long before that the late John Curtin put forward a defence scheme for this country which provided for an efficient fighting machine to operate throughout the length and breadth of Australia. In 1937, Mr. Curtin declared that any attack on Australia would come from the immediate north, and not from Europe. That was where the difference of opinion occurred. It was a question of whether all our men should be sent to the Middle East or whether some should be sent to the northern parts of Australia because of the danger of enemy action there. If there was an honest difference of opinion as to whether it -was necessary to , bring those men back, Senator George Rankin should realize that there must have been some ground for that difference of opinion.
We have been told that the soldiers had only broomhandles or something of that kind as equipment. The present Government parties were in power just prior to that time. There was a difference between the two parties on methods only, and we know the difficulties Australia was then in. I remind honorable senators opposite that the late John Curtin paid a tribute to their leader, the present Prime Minister, for the work that he did prior to Mr. Curtin taking up office. What could be fairer than that? Why quibble and squabble about little things?
– The honorable senator should say that to some of his colleagues.
– I desire to correct that impression and also another statement made by way of interjection by the Minister for Trade and Customs when Senator Katz was speaking in this debate. The Minister said that the Chifley Labour Government arranged the redistribution of the electorates prior to the last general election.
– And it did it rather well too, did it not?
– No. It did not do anything of the kind. I desire to correct the impression that it fixed the boundaries of the electorates. The Labour Government legislated for the enlargement of the Parliament, but it is carefully laid down that no government can arrange the distribution of electorates. That task is the responsibility of a statutory commission that is composed, if I remember aright, of the Chief Electoral Officer, the SurveyorGeneral of the State, and one other person appointed by the Government.
– I did not intend to suggest, when I made my interjection on the occasion to which the honorable senator refers, that any impropriety had occurred.
– Nevertheless, the Minister made the statement.
– That is correct. I did make it.
– I wish the people to understand that there was no arrangement of electorates by the Labour Government. When the Minister made the interjection, Senator Katz was speaking about the number of Labour representatives elected compared with the number of Liberal party and Australian Country party representatives elected. The Minister said that the Labour Government had arranged the electorates. Senator Katz may not have explained fully the figures that he cited, but they were accurate. Some electorates register larger majorities than others, which means that the party with the greatest aggregate vote may not win the greatest number of seats. I saw a statement in a newspaper yesterday regarding the percentage of voters for each party. I do not know ‘ whether the statement is correct, but I consider that it would be worth while for the Minister for Trade and Customs to let the Senate have the official figures if they are available. The figures that I saw yesterday were to the effect that, despite the majority that the Government parties have in another place, they received only 50.25 per cent, of the aggregate votes.
– I do not think that figure is correct. We obtained a majority in all States except South Australia.
– I do not know whether that figure is correct, but it might be wise to have some tabulation of the official figures.
– That will be done as soon as they are ready.
– I shall be pleased to learn that the figures published in the newspaper to which I have referred are not accurate, because it will be another slap at the press. The newspapers are always giving the wrong information and printing stuff from people who will give them advertisements and guarantee them against any legal action, as they did in the last election, when they also .refused .the Labour party’s advertisements because we would not give the same guarantee as the banks had given in relation to the advertisements inserted on their behalf.
I have said enough in this debate, and I hope that honorable’ senators, have enjoyed it as much as 1 have. I trust that some note will be taken of the article that appears in the I.P.A. Review in answer to the statements that the Minister for Social Services made, particularly in relation to the cost-of-living spiral. There are suggestions that the Government should appreciate the Australian £1 by 25 per cent. I do not advise it to do so, because whenever such steps are taken political repercussions follow. From my point of view it would be a good thing if the Government appreciated the £1 because there would be repercussions against it in the political sphere. But there would also be repercussions in the economic sphere that would affect the economy of the country. This kind of problem has to be dealt with piecemeal over a long period because, as Senator Armstrong explained to th« Senate during this debate, there are drawbacks to spreading such action over a period of years. The fact that the action is projected or in progress causes an influx of “ not mona “. Then a reduction in the exchange rate might follow, and that money leaves the country again, perhaps to return later on when there is something in the air concerning revaluation. Such a matter must be considered carefully, indeed. Some degree of currency appreciation may be of value, but the Government must be careful not to give anything away to those press fellows who think that they are going to receive some reward for the services that they rendered to the Government parties by getting them back into power in the other chamber. I leave the matter there with the remark that I shall do anything that it is possible for me to do for the benefit of the people of Australia, particularly the working people.
Debate (on motion by Senator Simmonds) adjourned.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 28a, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senator S. K. Amour, Senator J. J. Arnold, Senator W. E. Aylett, Senator E. B. Maher, Senator R. H. Nash, Senator J. H. O’Byrne, and Senator J. ‘P. Tate, a panel to act . as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
Motion (by Senator O’SULLIVAN) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, ftc. - 1950 -
No. I - Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union.
No. 2 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia, and others.
No. 3 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 4 - Australian Journalists’ Association.
Senate adjourned at 10.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 March 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1950/19500302_senate_19_206/>.