20th Parliament · 1st Session
The . President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– After 50 years of federation, Australia has not yet adopted a national anthem. In some parts of Australia The Song of Australia is used for that purpose; iti others the song A dvance Australia Fair is played. “With the object of endeavouring to reach a decision in regard to the adoption of a suitable Australian national anthem I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he will, through the Prime Minister, in this jubilee year, take the necessary steps to declare either The Song of Australia, or Advance Australia Fair as the Australian national anthem ? If neither of these songs is acceptable to the Government, will the Prime Minister, in this jubilee year, invite Australian music and song writers to submit to the Government or to a committee of competent judges established by the Government, music and words suitable for adoption as Australia’s national anthem?
– The point raised by the honorable senator has, I am sure, occurred from time to time to many Australians. It is true that the national sentiment of a country may be very warmly and intimately expressed in its national anthem. From time to time governments have encouraged music composers and song writers to submit songs which they regard as suitable for adoption as a national anthem. The problem raised by the honorable senator is worthy of very earnest consideration, and I shall be happy to discuss it with the Prime Minister.
– I have been informed through very reliable sources that two coal ships, which were originally intended for South Australia, have been diverted to another State, notwithstanding the fact that South Australia urgently requires these shipments of coal in order to continue the operation of its railway services. The transport of coal from Leigh Creek has been seriously interrupted because of .the shortage of coal for railway purposes and I- have been informed that the stock of approximately 130.000 tons of coal that had been built up in South Australia, is now almost completelv exhausted. Can tho Minister representing the Minister for Supply take steps to ensure that the two ships to which I have referred shall be restored to the South Australian service, and that in future the full quota of New South Wales coal is made available to South Australia because of the absolute reliance of that. State on such a quota being made available?
– Two problems are involved: The first is to maintain the supply of coal, whilst the second is to transport that coal. Honorable senators are aware that the over-all supply of coal is insufficient to meet national requirements, and that from time to time crises occur. Either there is not sufficient coal at Newcastle or there is not sufficient shipping available to transport the coal to the places where it is needed. At the present time there happens to be sufficient coal available at Newcastle. The chairman of the Joint Coal Board has informed me that the coal is available, but that the shortage of shipping is ‘preventing its transportation. Last week, one collier, which was bound for South Australia, was diverted to “Victoria, and it has now been proposed that a second collier bound for South Australia should also be diverted to Victoria. The present crisis arises out of this proposal. It is really a question of the various States competing for the available coal. The Victorian authorities point out that they have been subject to gas rationing, whereas there has ‘been no gas rationing in South Australia. The South Australians have their own arguments in support of their case. They say that they made arrangements in the past to obtain a supply of coal, but that their reserves have now been exhausted. It would need a ‘Solomon to adjudicate between the contending parties, and to decide on such short notice where the available coal should go. Atlhough I did not know that this question was going to be asked, just before I came into the chamber, I spoke to the chairman of the Joint Coal Board, and asked him to communicate by telephone with the interests concerned in Victoria and .South Australia. I suggested that the board should try to evaluate the urgency of the demand in the two States so that it might be able co decide justly in regard to the collier which is the subject of the present dispute.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply by pointing out that the allocation of coal to various States was made originally after a thorough investigation of the needs’ of the States and a survey of the coal available to fulfil those requirements. The basis of allocation was embodied in a formal agreement and while Labour was in office that basis of allocation was adhered t.o; except on occasions when weather conditions and shipping considerations required that a change should be made. For instance, it was sometimes found necessary, because of adverse weather conditions, to divert a shipment of coal from, say, South Australia to Victoria while it was in transit. However, it is most important that the original basis of allocation and of priorities should not be altered, because any alteration must inevitably affect industry in some States. I. therefore ask the Minister whether coal is still being distributed on the original basis of allocation and in accordance with the current production?
– It is true that u quota was fixed under which each State was supposed to receive a certain percentage of the total quantity of coal produced or imported to thi3 country. I understand that the allocation is made after adding together the quantity of coal produced locally and that imported. South Australia’s quota is a little more than 7 per cent, of the total quantity, but I am informed that that undertaking has been honoured more in the breach than in the observance because of various difficulties that have arisen from time to time including inadequate shipping, bad weather, and low production. I am not aware of the precise facts, but I have made arrangements for my departmental head to ‘appoint an officer to trace what has happened under the agreement. Both South Australia and Victoria claim that the agreement has not been fulfilled. The Joint Coal Board says that it has done its best but that there has been the greatest difficulty in getting both the coal production and the necessary shipping at the pump t;me
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services bring to the notice of that Minister the fact that the monetary allowances for the wife and one child of an invalid pensioner have not been increased since the 30th June, 1949, when they were fixed at £1 4s. a week for a wife and 9s. for one child? Will he also draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that the permissible weekly earning rate for an invalid pensioner has not been varied since October, 1948, when it was increased from £1 a week to £1 10s. a week? Will the Minister endeavour to ascertain when the Government is likely to consider increasing the rates of pensioners and the allowance for their wives and children in order to bring them into a more equitable relation to the basic wage which in Queensland was £6 3s. a week at the 30th June, 1949, and is now £8 6s. a week, an increase of £2 3s. ?
– The question asked by the honorable senator relates to three separate matters. The first matter is concerned with the rate of allowance paid to the dependent wife and child of an invalid pensioner, which is, as the honorable senator stated, £1 4s. a week for his wife and 9s. a week for his child. I administered the portfolio of Social Services in the previous Government, and during the preparation of its last budget I seriously considered recommending an increase of those rates, brit finally I decided against recommending an increase because I considered that the money available for expenditure on social services could be better expended in certain other directions. However, I am positive that my successor will give serious consideration to this matter when he is reviewing the rates of allowances paid to pensioners. The next matter mentioned by the honorable senator related to the amount that pensioners are permitted to earn without impairing their eligibility to receive a pension. That matter is bound up with the general policy concerning the application of a means test to pensioners. I should think that any alteration that may be made in the application of the means test to a gr pensioners will also apply to invalid pensioners. The third matter raised by thu honorable senator relates to a general increase of pensions, and the answer to the honorable senator’s inquiry is con rained in the Governor-General’s Speech in the course of which His Excellency stated that pension rates would be reviewed when the next budget is introduced.
– A few days ago, I naked a question about the forthcoming peace treaty with Japan and I was told, in. effect, that the Government could be relied upon to do the right thing in connexion with that treaty. I was not satisfied with that reply and I raised the matter again on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. I rise now to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he is aware of the official announcement by the Government of the United Kingdom that the House of Commons will be given an opportunity to debate the draft peace treaty with Japan before it is signed. Is he aware also that a majority of the members of the House of Commons, including a majority of members of the Conservative party, are demanding that substantial reparations be paid by Japan to former British prisoners of war to compensate them in some measure for the atrocities that they suffered at the hands of the Japanese? Will the Senate be given an opportunity to discuss the draft treaty before it is signed? Does the Minister know whether a clause providing for the compensation of former Australian prisoners of war is to be included?
– The AttorneyGeneral will make a statement on foreign affairs in this chamber to-night. If the honorable senator wishes to discourse upon that subject, I suggest that, in the meantime, he could ascertain and cogitate upon the attitude of the Australian Labour party to sending Australian troops to Japan to police that country should the United States forces be withdrawn.
– I object to this. The Minister has evaded my question. The Government intends to remain silent on this matter, and Parliament, will adjourn without giving honorable senators an opportunity to discuss the proposed peace treaty.
– (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner). - Order! The honorable senator will resume his seat.
– Out of deference to you, Mr. President, I shall, but I point out that every time I ask a question in this chamber of the Minister for Trade and Customs he insults me.
– I preface a. question to the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture by pointing out that the growing of flowers in Tasmania is a large industry, as indeed it is in some other States, and that growers naturally are keen to improve the standard of then stock. Bulbs imported from other countries have to be fumigated. In tho fumigation process they are subjected to heat which dries them considerably, with the result that the percentage of failure!in growing is substantial. The bulb1should be planted as soon as possible after fumigation, and, therefore, I ask whether the quarantine regulations could be amended to provide for the fumigation of all plants liable to infection by the narcissus fly to be carried out in this country. This could he done at our own quarantine stations instead of in the country of origin as at present required by the regulations.
– 3 shall have pleasure in referring the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral undertake to impress upon his colleague the urgent need for improvements at the Daylesford Post Office in Victoria? My information, which I believe to be authoritative, is that this post office is not on the list for early attention. In addition to a number of industries being located at Daylesford, it is a popular holiday resort. Therefore its post office should rank high in the postal list in Victoria. I understand, that the amenities and conveniences provided for the staff are totally inadequate and that conditions generally at this post office are unsatisfactory.
– I shall be very pleased to bring the matter raised by the honorable senator to the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport inform the Senate what he proposes to do in order to release Aorangi, which is held up in Sydney, and get it back on the New Zealand-Canadian run? Is the Government being defied by the Communistled Seamen’s Union ? Does the Government need any more power than it now possesses in order to take action against the union? Can the Minister inform the Senate how much longer the nation will have to tolerate this unfortunate ‘position?
– All industrial matters such as that to which the honorable senator has referred come within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service. I assure the Senate that this matter, is receiving very active consideration. However, I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to my colleague and obtain a reply as soon as possible.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs a question about a delicate matter concerning a friend of mine. He is a businessman of good standing and each year for many years has been responsible for a number of immigrants coming to this country. Until recently, when he was refused the right of further nomination, he had not encountered any governmental opposition. I have made inquiries about the reason for the right of nomination, now being refused to him, but as security is involved I have ascertained very little. Would it be possible for my friend to be informed by the security service of the reason ? If that is not possible, surely the security authorities could convey the information to me on my undertaking that no such information would be divulged. I point out to the Minister that one is placed in a delicate situation when a friend with whom one has been associated for many years, and who is a man of business integrity, is treated in this fashion. 1 do not in any way impugn the motives of the security authorities or the justice of the matter, but I suggest that the way is open for injustice to be done. If the man concerned is at fault, surely it is merely British or Australian justice that he be informed of the reason why he is not now permitted to nominate prospective immigrants.
– Matters affecting immigration come within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, whilst security matters come within the jurisdiction of the Attorney-General. If the honorable senator will interview those Ministers I can assure him that whatever information properly can be made available to him will be supplied by them.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
– Pursuant to Standing Order 38, I hereby appoint the following senators to be the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications: - Senator D. C. Hannaford, Senator A. Hendrickson, Senator W. Morrow, Senator E. S. R. Piesse, Senator A. R. Robertson, Senator C. W. Sandford, and Senator R. H. Wordsworth.
-I have received messages of congratulation in connexion with the Jubilee of the Commonwealth of Australia from the following: - The President of the Belgian Senate, the President of the Danish Senate, the Speaker of the Danish House of Commons, the President of the Italian Senate, and the Speakers of the First and Second Chambers of the Swedish Parliament. The messages have been suitably acknowledged.
Motions (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That a Standing Orders Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, the Chairman of Committees, and Senators Brown, Guy, MeKenna, Maher, Nicholls, Piesse and Vincent, with power to act during recess, and to confer with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
That a Library Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, Senators Arnold, Cole, Kendall, McCallum, Robertson and Tangney, withpower to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
That a House Committee be appointed, to consist of the President and Senators Amour, Aylett, Brown, George Rankin, Wedgwood and Wordsworth, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit us a Joint Committee with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
That a Printing Committee bo appointed, to consist of Senators Gorton, Hannaford, Morrow, Nash, Sandford, Scott and Seward, with power to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, the following senators be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, viz., Senators Henty, O’Byrne and Reid.
Debate resumed from the 20th June (vide page 120), on motion by Senator Cormack -
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.
– In a race against the clock last night I discussed the Commonwealth Electoral Act and made suggestions for its improvement in the hope that, before the next general election, they would be taken up by others more competent than I am and that we should be able to avoid “Dame Luck” from entering the election of honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives. I referred to the provisions of the act relating to postal votes and I also suggested that the order in which the names of candidates are printed on the ballot-papers might be varied. 1 now point out that in present circumstances an elector who becomes ill on polling day is unable to record a vote. That disability could be easily overcome, especially in thickly populated electorates, by making arrangements for the sick elector to be visited by an authorized person and his vote recorded. Not many votes would be affected by any amendment of that kind. I hope that these suggestions will be considered by the Government.
In the north-west of Western Australia a vast area of country with great possibilities for development remains comparatively untouched and its residents suffer many disabilities. Those disabilities are not unknown to other honorable senators because they exist also in various parts of the north of Australia. The area to which I refer is very thinly populated, averaging only one person to each 180 square miles. As it is vulnerable to attack in time of war every effort should be made to develop it and thus increase its population. For many months the North-west Development Committee composed of three men who have spent their lives in the area, Mr. F. S. Thompson, Mr. W. G. Leslie and Mr. L. G. Hancock, has given serious consideration to the problems of northern Australia. The committee has considered various schemes for the development of the north-west of Western Australia and has submitted, them to the State Government. They were discussed in Western Australia on a non-party basis, and only last week the Acting Premier of Western Australia and the Leader of the Opposition, accompanied by the three members of the committee, waited on the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in Canberra with the object of obtaining relief from taxation for residents of certain areas in north Australia where the population is now much smaller than it was a few years ago. Not only are people leaving the north but they are also withdrawing their investments and diverting them to the southern parts of Western Australia. The deputation submitted the following alternative proposals : -
That all territory north of the 26th parallel nf latitude in Western Australia, the whole of the Northern Territory, and an area in Queensland to bc defined, shall be declared a tax free area for a period of 20 years for all persons living, and companies operating within that area, and to include non-resident as well as resident owners: with the proviso that 40 per cent, of all profits made within the area must he re-invested within that area, or become subject to taxation - wage earners to be exempt from this proviso.
Alternatively, that a tax-free area, as outlined above, be declared for all residents within the area.
Naturally, the Treasurer does not like to forgo taxes and although he received the deputation sympathetically its members felt that they had not succeeded in their mission. They hope that further efforts will be made to keep this matter under the notice of theTreasurer and of the Taxation Branch. An all-party committee consisting of tworepresentatives of each of the three political parties represented in this Parliament has been established to work in conjunction with the members of the North-west Development Committee with a view to the adoption of the proposals submitted to the Government. I trust that success will attend the efforts of these bodies. The members of the North-west Development Committee have spent a lifetime in the area and they are well aware of its possibilities for settlement. A long range view should te taken of their suggestions. Any loss of revenue involved in the adoption of their recommendations would be more than offset by the opening up of a sparsely settled area which if given the proper facilities is capable of development for productive and defence purposes. I hope that action will be taken to establish similar committees in the Northern Territory and Queensland.
I realize that if the huge defence programme that has been outlined is to be carried out the Treasurer will have to find money, and that much of it will have to be raised by taxation. However, there is a limit beyond which taxation should not go. If taxes are too high the incentive to work and to produce is destroyed, and tax dodging becomes rampant. I know that some people will not agree with me, but I believe that money earned by working overtime should be tax free. If the law were amended to ensure this, people would be encouraged to produce more, and in the long run the community as a whole would benefit. Senator Seward mentioned gift duty, which in some cases is excessive. I have in mind two farmers in Western Australia who retired and made over their farms to their sons. They found that when they were assessed for gift duty practically everything they had was to be taken from them. Section 36 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Act is the operative provision in this connexion and only during, the last few years has it been interpreted in the manner of which I complain. I suggest that the Government should consider the matter with a view to giving some relief. 1 do not agree with Senator Benn who suggested that immigration should be suspended. We need as many immigrants as we can get, particularly rural workers. In former years, a large percentage of immigrants went to work on the land, and many of them now own their own farms. There is still room for immigrants to take up land after they have learned something of farming conditions in Australia. Thus they would eventually become good citizens, assisting in the development of this country of which we are so proud.
During the last week, members of the Parliament have been privileged to take part in the jubilee celebrations in Canberra. We enjoyed them very much, and I congratulate all those who planned and worked to make them such an outstanding success. Never before have I seen functions of the kind run so efficiently.
I congratulate all those new senators who have spoken to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I do not claim to be a competent judge, but I believe that among the new senators wo have some excellent speakers who will make their weight felt in this assembly. They have made sound and thoughtful speeches, far better, indeed, than anything I could ever hope to make. Australia will benefit from their presence in the Senate, and I hope that their stay here will be long.
Several honorable senators have suggested that a convention should be held in this jubilee year to review the Constitution, and I believe that the suggestion is an excellent one. The Commonwealth Constitution was drawn up 50 years ago, and conditions have changed radically since then. None of us would care to use to-day a motor car that was 50 years old. Better cars, more suitable for present conditions, have been made since. It is time that we brought our Constitution up to date, also. The world has moved on since 1900, and the Constitution should be revised in order to remove existing anomalies, and to provide, so far as we can judge, for future needs. I support the proposal for the holding of a convention.
In this jubilee year we in the Commonwealth Parliament should try to give a lead to the community by being more tolerant. The future of Australia depends upon the hands that work, the brains that think and the hearts that love. We should all try to work together for the benefit of the nation as a whole. During recent years, there has been much sectional strife in Australia, whereas unity is needed if the nation is to progress. If we in this Parliament give a lead, perhaps others will follow. Australia can be developed only if we are prepared to work. Nothing worth while can be obtained without effort. Only by working together can we make Australia what we hope it will become - the best country in the world.
– I regret very much that the Speech of the Governor-General contained no reference to the problem of inflation, which is a matter of major importance. In view of the fact that the present Government has repeatedly promised to restore value to the £1, and that a considerable time has elapsed since the promise was first made, I had hoped that the Government’s legislative programme would include some proposals for dealing with the evil of inflation. Nothing has been done, and the position is going from bad to worse. That is the opinion, not only of myself, but also of almost every economist who has given any thought to the subject. Many representatives of large financial institutions have become seriously alarmed at the recent trend of economic events. Nevertheless, the Government seems to be going on its way unperturbed. From the course of events, and because of the Government’s inaction, we must expect a repetition of the tragic happenings of the depression. Apparently -the Government is unwilling or unable to take effective action to check the current inflation, and the situation will continue to drift until a crisis occurs. As evidence of the very serious concern for >the welfare of our economy exhibited by financial authorities, I shall quote from some very pertinent remarks made by Sir Harry Lawson on the 31st May in his capacity of chairman of the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Limited in the course of an address to the shareholders of that society. I particularly direct the attention of all honorable sena. tors to the following passage which appears in the report of his speech in the Melbourne Age of the 1st June -
The purchasing power of the pound has declined at an ever-increasing rate. It is certain that if this process continues for much longer the present rapid progress which Australia is making will bc halted and we shall lie faced with the extremely difficult task of dealing with an economic crisis of great magnitude. This can occur at the stage when our costs of production have risen so high that our goods cannot bc freely sold overseas. There is no doubt that appropriate steps can oe devised to put a stop to the rise of the price level. Inflation has been checked in many countries, in even more difficult circumstances, during recent years. The technical steps required are well understood, but the complex political difficulties must bo overcome. These political difficulties arise from the fact that any particular action proposed inevitably affects the interests of a particular section of the community, and, not unnaturally, strenuous objections come from the affected sections. But it is the maintenance of the national economy on a sound basis which is of paramount importance to Australia.
I quite agree with those statements and I fully subscribe to Sir Harry Lawson’s view. Unless effective action is taken now to counter the present alarming trend we shall be confronted by a situation that may be even worse than that which characterized our economy during the ‘thirties. Sir Harry Lawson went on to suggest that a conference of representatives of all major organizations in Australia, including the trade unions, should be summoned to consider means to overcome the present unsatisfactory and alarming situation. However, in my opinion, such a conference would not achieve anything worth while, but would, in fact, merely prolong the agony. The cure of our economic ills is a matter that should be dealt with by the Government, which has at its disposal the expert advice of competent economist? and others. If I were asked to suggest the reason for the Government’s inactivity I would say that it is related to its fear of antagonizing its wealthy supporters. Members of the Government know very well that any effective action would inevitably affect adversely the interests of the wealthy sections of the community. Ft would have to impose a levy on capital, re-institute an effective system of prices control, and regulate very carefully the issue of credit, particularly in connexion with the production of non-essential goods and services. The Government would also, of course, have to give special attention to the incidence of indirect taxes. The imposition of such taxes is, incidentally, the most unfair method of raising revenue that has ever been devised, because even the poorest member of the community pays at the same rate as the wealthiest member, and that is an obvious social injustice.
Does the present Government intend to allow the present unhealthy trend to continue unchecked until it precipitates a crisis? When that occurs I suppose the Government will revalue the £1. However, some time must necessarily elapse before the crisis overtakes us, and it is possible that members of the Government are deliberately refraining from taking action now because they hope, by doing so, that the accumulated savings of the workers will have been expended when the crash comes. The workers would not then be able to make any effective resistance to the drastic changes that the Government would like to make. At present deposits in savings bank accounts throughout Australia aggregate approximately £880,000,000. The withdrawal of that money from the banks for expenditure to meet the increasing cost of living must inevitably aggravate the current inflationary trend. Appreciating, as I do, the political motives of members of the Government, I am not surprised therefore that it is not taking any effective action at present. In the course of his very sound address, Sir Harry Lawson went on to say -
The time is short, and further delay might well produce a situation where the remedies will be so severe that they could be almost as upsetting as the inevitable consequences of taking no action whatever.
That is perfectly true. If a financial crisis occurred markets would collapse and prices would fall. Thousands of small businesses would be ruined, factories would be closed, and hundreds of thousands of workers would find themselves unemployed. What would the Government do then? During the tragic depression of the ‘thirties all that the anti-Labour administrations of that time could think of was to make available a comparatively small sum of money to enable unemployed men to be given work at “ dole “ rates. The consequence was, as we all know, that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were reduced to living under conditions of semi-starvation. Tens of thousands of people who were purchasing their homes were unable to continue to pay the regular instalments on their homes, and the banks and financial institutions foreclosed on them. The consequence was that thousands of people became homeless as well as workless. That is the awful picture that we must keep before our eyes now if we are to avoid a recurrence of those dreadful happenings. Two courses are open to the Government; it can either allow the financial drift to continue until a crisis occurs that will precipitate corrective action of some kind or another, or it can intervene now and take effective action along the lines I indicated earlier in by speech. I can quite imagine the Government hesitating to follow the latter course because, as Sir Harry Lawson well knows, although he did not say so, it would arouse intense antagonism among the private banks and other financial institutions. Sir Harry referred to technical steps that could be taken, but he did not say what those steps were because the private financial institutions are competing against one another for business and they do not want to suggest anything that might react against themselves. In the past, the’ private banks and allied institutions have controlled the economy of this country through the medium of anti-Labour governments. They would much rather have another Premiers’ plan if it could be arranged, or have the trade unions agree to a reduction of wages and an increase of working hours, than attack the wealthy interests in this country. So, the Government hesitates because if it moves one way or the other it will encounter considerable trouble. Governments, of course, depend on votes and financial support, and the present Administration does not wish to cause any more trouble than is absolutely necessary, but trouble will come in any case if it does not take the steps that I have indicated.
We constantly hear pleas for increased production. On many occasions the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has suggested that as a cure for our economic ills. Senator Cormack too offered that solution, but neither he nor the Prime Minister specified whether the increased production should be of essential commodities or of non-essential commodities. Production and services can be divided into two categories, essential and nonessential. However, increased production would not assist the Government in the slightest. As a representative of the Labour movement I would be the last to advocate increased production unless some assurance were given that the workers who were to be called upon to produce more, were also to receive a fair share of the return from that increased production. Under existing conditions, the worker receives a proportionately decreasing return as production increases because, to the degree that production is increased, his purchasing power is reduced. Labour power is a diminishing factor in production. While wages are based on costs, obviously to the degree to which workers increase production beyond what they receive in the form of real wages as distinct from money wages, they are penalized by that increased production. That was proved right up to the hilt in the late 1920’s. We were told in those days that production had to be increased, and it was increased. The farmers grew more wheat and produced more wool, and when the crisis eventually came there were mountains of wheat and wool throughout Australia that could not be sold while, at the same time, hundreds of thousands of workers and their dependants were hungry. The result of increased production was the glutting of the markets, which in turn precipitated the economic crisis. That will happen again unless there is a third world war. In war-time, of course, there is an unlimited demand for man-power and material; but let us assume that the war in Korea will end shortly and that peace will he restored and maintained. There will immediately be a return to conditions that existed just prior to the outbreak of the Korean war when there was considerable unemployment overseas, particularly in highly industrialized countries such as the United States of America. In the early part of last year, there were approximately 6,000,000 people unemployed in that country. Stocks of consumable goods of all kinds were accumulating, and could not be sold. Had the Korean war not occurred there would have been an economic crisis in America ere now. Neither this Government nor any other government can escape the consequences of inaction. What is required, in general terms, is a reorganization of our internal economy. That must be done. The fundamental anomaly is that, in the past, millions of people have starved amidst plenty simply because the economy of most countries has been allowed to continue the drift that became apparent at the beginning of the 20th century.
References have been made in the course of this debate to the need to revise our Constitution, but the mere amending of the Constitution will be of no avail unless there is also a reorganization of our economy. For instance, neither Great Britain nor New Zealand has a written constitution, but economic conditions in those countries are very much the same as they are in Australia. If we reorganize our economy we need not worry very much about amending our Constitution provided that our governments are courageous and intelligent enough to take the action necessary for that purpose.
Prices are increasing daily, but nothing is being done to prevent them from rising further. According to press reports, some of the States are taking certain action in this direction, but so far there has been no noticeable result of any consequence. As I have pointed out previously in this chamber, the purchasing power of wages decreases as prices increase. That is why the workers have resorted to strike action; and when they do the Government accuses them of being Communists or “ fellow travellers “. Apparently the supporters of the Government fail to appreciate the economic background that is responsible for strikes. We cannot expect intelligent working men to continue to tolerate the progressive reduction of their purchasing power without authority. In many instances they have appealed to the court
Senator Cameron. for increases of wage rates, and when these have not been granted they have resorted to strike action, which is the only remaining course open to them. Unless active steps are taken to check the position a stage will be reached when the Government will have more trouble on its hands. We must remember that wages are controlled. Recently the Commonwealth Arbitration Court increased the basic wage, and quarterly adjustments are effected in the light of figures prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician. Nevertheless, increases of wages are disproportionate to increases of prices. Although skilled workers, who are indispensable, can command their own terms more or less, workers in the lower income groups, particularly pensioners, superannuants and people who derive modest incomes from small investments, have no redress and suffer the most. History proves that in time quantitative differences force qualitative changes into existence. Apparently, however, this will not be brought about in Australia until a crisis has been precipitated. I am sure that 90 per cent, of our community would agree that this subject is of paramount importance, although they may not agree with what I suggest should be done. I stress the urgent necessity for Government attention to this matter. Although the supporters of the. Government claimed prior to December, 1949, that if returned to office they would legislate in the interests of all people, so far the Government has legislated only in the interests of a section of the people, and the lowerpaid workers have suffered in consequence.
When referring to immigration, Senator Piesse contended that we should do our utmost to encourage continued immigration tq this country, to relieve the vast shortage of labour in the rural areas. But of what use is it to bring people here if housing accommodation is not available for them, foodstuffs are in short supply, and prices are prohibitive? In effect, we are bringing them here under false pretences. Many immigrants were told before leaving their native countries that Australia was a land of sunshine, where many opportunities for advancement in life were available. But what is happening? These people are being herded into housing settlements, which are becoming just as bad as the places that they have left, and there has been a noticeable increase of crime in those areas. If a genuine attempt had been made to provide them with adequate housing, and they had been placed in essential constructive work, they would become valuable citizens, and would help to develop the national wealth of this country. We are merely repeating what was done in the ‘thirties. Probably 50 per cent, of the unemployed in this country during the depression were people who had migrated to Australia because they had been promised good wages, plenty of work, and good conditions.
I understand that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) intends to read to the Senate a statement on foreign affairs. I shall look forward to it with very great interest. Possibly we may be privileged to hear something about the proposed rearming of Japan and what is happening in Korea. With Senator Grant, I shall have something to say in the light of what the Minister tells us. I trust that he will present an informative statement, not merely a statement of generalities like the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, although His Excellency’s words contained certain implications. I emphasize the danger of inflation. As Sir Harry Lawson has stated, undoubtedly the purchasing power of the £1 is going down and down. If we take gold or other commodities as the measure of. value, it is apparent that the present purchasing power of the £1 is approximately 5s. compared with what it was before the 1914-18 war, when it was equal to that of the sovereign. Today one would require at least five £1 notes to purchase a sovereign, but I doubt if the owner of a sovereign would be prepared to part with it for a £5 note in view of the rapid manner in which the purchasing power of the currency is being reduced. I emphasize the great dangers with which we are faced because of uncontrolled inflation, and I regret that nothing has been said about this matter by honorable senators opposite. The Government has not submitted one constructive proposal to give relief. Since the 10th December, 1949, it has promised repeatedly that action would be taken in that direction, but nothing has been done. I ask honorable senators opposite who have yet to speak in this chamber whether any of them has a suggestion to make that would be helpful. I point out that merely to say “ increase production “ is of no use, because in my judgment while there is peace among the nations increased production would make the position even worse than it is. Honorable senators opposite are at liberty to examine the position in Italy and Germany in order to ascertain what has been the result of increased production without provision for increased consumption or increased purchasing power on the part of the working population. When there is constantly increasing production without increased purchasing power, it is inevitable that a glut of markets will follow and there will ultimately be a crisis. I again ask those honorable senators to state what they think should be done towards giving relief to people who are suffering because of inflation or, as T term it, legal robbery. When prices are raised for the purpose of increasing profits, no remedy is available in courts of law or authoritative tribunals, but if the workers attempt to take similar action and endeavour to increase the price of their labour, the Government speaks of taking drastic action. Let us have a sincere approach to this all-important matter.
– I rise to speak in support of the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, delivered on the occasion of the opening of the Twentieth Federal Parliament. I cannot say with what pleasure we heard of the proposed visit of Their Majesties the King and Queen and of Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret. I am sure that all honorable senators will support mo when I say that it is the sincere wish of every Australian, and indeed of every one of British blood, that His Majesty’s health will be restored and that when he comes to these shores he will be well and able to enjoy his visit. I convey my congratulations to the President and to you, Mr. Deputy President, on your appointment to high and responsible positions in the Senate. We look forward to working in this new Parliament for the welfare of the people of this country.
I now speak with feelings of real concern of a matter which affects deeply the welfare of the people of Queensland and, indeed, those of other States also. I refer to the serious shortage of basic food supplies. In this our Jubilee year, while we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Commonwealth, we are confronted with short supplies of basic foods in at least one State and with a threat to our valued Australian way of life. Each day the women of Queensland become more acutely aware that this is not a land of abundant food supplies but rather a land in which there are everincreasing shortages of essential foods. The State Government of Queensland is apparently unable or unwilling to cope with the serious and rapidly deteriorating supply position. Accordingly, I address myself to this Senate in the belief that what I have to say should be heard by the Federal Ministry and by the people in order that a body of opinion on this matter may be formed with which to force the State Government into action. Such, notion would be belated because it should 1 1 ave been taken many years ago, but at least it would assist the harassed housewives of Queensland out of the morass of difficulties into which they have been Hung because of the inaction of the State Government. There are not, of course, the same shortages in every State of the Commonwealth, but throughout Australia to-day grave shortages of essential foodstuffs exist. In Queensland there are shortages of potatoes, onions, eggs, milk, butter, baby foods, and meat. Those shortages are not only causing great anxiety to all Australians, but they are also indicative of possibly even worse shortages in the future.
– The honorable senator has nothing to hope for until there is a change of government.
– That interjection is unworthy of the honorable senator. On the 22nd May, the Brisbane Courier-Mail published an editorial under the headline, printed in heavy black type, “ Who will feed us ? “ Surely that is a strange question to ask in a country which is reputed to have ample resources to feed not only its own people but ah”) the peoples of other countries and was regarded as the granary of the SouthWest Pacific during the war years. The editorial reads as follows: -
Eggs in Brisbane are now moTe than threepence each, and supplies have been cut to half normal requirements. Milk is being rationed by distributors. Queensland-grown potatoes are smuggled out of the State to supply a black market in Sydney. Onions arc hardly procurable. Export of butter has been temporarily suspended. The amount of beef available for export is steadily declining. Some of these shortages arc due to seasonal decline of production. But local seasonal scarcity of basic foodstuffs is becoming more marked every year.
Honorable senators on both sides of thichamber will agree that these shortages of basic foodstuffs must make us pause and think. Commodities in short supply vary in different States and some States are more fortunate than others. At present, New South Wales is facing a grave shortage of butter and other commodities. We should have ample suiplies of food not only for our own requirements but also for export overseas. On the 2nd June a somewhat similar editorial was published in the Courier-Mail under the heading “New era in food”. It reads as follows : -
Every day this week there has ‘been news about food, mostly bad news. Butter, eggs and milk are scarce. This scarcity and the clamour by producers for higher prices for all foods have shocked Queenslanders used to plenty of cheap food.
The shock is worse because Queenslanders, like all Australians, had taken for granted that this was a land of plenty and that wialways would have abundant and cheap food.
The milk shortage, which is typical of the Australian food position, has made it very clear that food is no longer abundant, and in future will not be cheap.
Milk figures are worth detailed study, hecause they reveal some of the fundamental faults of the Australian attitude toward.food. Queensland actually has the most cows of any State in the Commonwealth, just under 1,000,000; but Queensland’s production is the lowest per cow. On the latest official figures. Queensland production of milk is 2S8 gallons a year per cow, compared with the Australian average of 383, and these figures are low on world figures. Inquiry made by Australian experts since the war puts the average production in dairying countries elsewhere at from 500 to 750 gallons a cow each year.
These figures and their effect, shortages and rationing, should jolt us all into a complete review of food production.
The State governments are either indifferent to the problem or they are unwilling to deal with it. They must be roused into action to alleviate this very serious situation. Another commodity the scarcity of which is gravely felt in Queensland is the humble potato. A Brisbane newspaper, dealing with the subject of potatoes under the heading They’ll be right off your table soon, All State’s potatoes to go south “ published the following statement: -
The Potato Marketing Board will send all this season’s crop to New South Wales. If the board oau find transport to shift the c/op no potatoes will be sold in Queensland.
Queensland then would have to rely on small and irregular shipments from Victoria and Tasmania.
The Potato Board is taking this action because the Prices Commissioner (Mr. A. T. Fullagar), has refused its application for a maximum selling price of ?35 a ton. The present price is ?30, which means 4d. per lb. retail.
An increase to ?35 a ton would bring the retail price to 4)d. per lb., the same as in New South Wales.
I have been informed that thousands ot
Hons of potatoes are available in New Zealand ; yet Queenslanders have to contend with a grave shortage of this basic commodity.
I remind honorable senators of the very serious problem which is affecting the people of Sydney and Brisbane as the result of the shortage of milk and the rationing of that commodity. Milk is one of the basic foods upon which the maintenance of health of infants and children in the schools throughout Australia so much depends, and upon which the production of butter and cheese for Australia’s requirements and for export to Britain also depends. These shortages are giving rise to serious problems. It must have come as a shock to many people, as it did to me, to learn recently that exports of butter to Great Britain had been suspended. In Brisbane milk is being rationed and thousands of children are receiving less than their usual supplies of that essential food. I understand that milk is also rationed in Sydney and in other parts of New South Wales. The problem of increasing milk production must be attacked. An editorial on this subject which was published in the Courier Mail reads -
The very serious curtailment of Brisbane’s milk supply ought to be receiving immediate attention from the government.. Milk is an essential food for children and for many in valids. Any measures for rationing deliveries of milk should give first consideration to households with children or invalids. Household consumers should have priority over all other users of milk so long as producers are unable to send to the city sufficient to supply all demands.
The causes of this shortage should also be thoroughly investigated with a view to determining whether anything can be done to prevent its recurrence.
Mr. Colin Clark, the wellknown economist, predicts that butter may he even scarcer than it is now. Apparently the shortage is likely to become worse rather than better. Mr. Clark is reported to have said -
Apart from seasonal fluctuations in butter supplies, the shortage would be aggravated by economic factors. We are beginning to pay for blunders made in our post-war policy. We thought we could guarantee cheap food for Australia’s city population and at the same time, build up manufacturing production in the city. This meant taking labour and materials from primary production. And introduction of the 40-hour week did much to deprive primary industries of materials and labour. Some optimists thought Australia. was goin>: to produce manufactures for export, and to import food and raw materials. Now they will discover just how scarce food really is through out the world.
A similar story can be told about other commodities, including eggs. Parents with young children tramp f rom one shop to another in an endeavour to obtain eggs for their families. All these things are happening in post-war Australia, which should have abundant food supplies. It is obvious that the State governments are either incompetent or unwilling, or both, to deal with this situation.
– Is this a matter for the Australian Government?
Senator ANNABELLE RANKIN.The gravity of the situation must be made known in this Parliament in the hope that the State governments will be forced to take action which is so necessary and so long overdue.
The position in regard to meat production is equally serious. A press message from Sydney which was published in- the Brisbane Telegraph on the 6th June under the heading “ Meat reserve plan to beat shortages “, reads as follows : -
The purchase of meat in flush seasons to create a reserve supply for the public in lean periods will be one of the principal matters discussed at the conference of Prices Ministers in Brisbane on Friday. Already the Commonwealth Government has been urged to adopt this scheme and Ministers on Friday will press for immediate action in view of the recurring price crises in the meat industry.
Here again is clear evidence of the shortages of a commodity which we had thought to be plentiful. We must plan for the continued and constant supply of these commodities and action should bc taken without delay. On the 7th June the Brisbane Telegraph published an article under the heading “Big beef cut is go-slow result which reads as follows : -
Heavy cancellations of listed cuttle at the Cannon Hill saleyards to-day as the result of the go-slow tactics throughout Queensland meatworks resulted in a yarding drop of almost 50 per cent. On Tuesday a total of about 2,700 head of cattle was listed for sale to-day; but the yarding this morning was about 1,400.
Local buying agents in country areas would not take the risk of sending forward large numbers of stock for slaughter because of the dislocation feared throughout the industry by the observance of minimum kills.
This trend will very seriously affect the people of Queensland. Honorable senators cannot regard it lightly. Under the heading “Meatworks to close to-night; 4,000 to lose jobs” the Brisbane Telegraph published the following statement on the 8th June last : -
A complete shut-down of the meatworks of mx export companies in Queensland will throw nearly 4,000 employees out of work from to-night. This follows warning notices issued by companies to employees that such action would be taken if the go-slow tactics introduced earlier in the week were persisted in.
Here, too, is a serious situation as the result of which men may lose their occupations. In the last few months, the State governments have shown themselves so indifferent to their obligations to the people at a time when action and not evasion was needed, that it is incumbent on the Commonwealth to take a lead in this matter, and endeavour to secure action by the State governments to remedy the sorry state of affairs that exists. An entirely new approach to the problem of production is necessary. Airy talk about increasing production some day, some time, is useless. Such talk can be likened to the Spanish word manana, -which means to-morrow. Action to-morrow is not good enough; it must be taken at once.
– Action should be taken to bring about an immediate increase of production, and to ensure that such increase will be. sustained in the future. Already many items of food are subject to unofficial rationing by s retailers, and if the present trend continues it will not be long, apparently, before the official rationing of butter will become necessary. Something should be done to awaken the Governments of NewSouth Wales and Queensland to a sense of their responsibility.
– What about the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia?
Senator ANNABELLE RANKIN If the honorable senator were to visit Queensland he would be able to judge for himself the unfortunate situation which prevails there. Governments should try to reach a better understanding of the problems that are facing primary producers, and every effort should be made to increase the production of basic foodstuffs.
– I congratulate you, Mr. Deputy President, upon your appointment to the position of Chairman of Committees. I also congratulate the President upon his elevation to his high office. I am sure that honorable senators on this side of the chamber will give full support to both the President and the Chairman of Committees in their efforts to maintain the dignity of proceedings in this chamber. I also congratulate those honorable senators who have made their maiden speeches during this debate. They gave a very good account of themselves, and there is every indication that the level of debate will in future be .high. I particularly appreciate the speech made by Senator Byrne. It was a reasoned and constructive effort, and indicated that there are in him latent possibilities.
It was most refreshing to hear Senator Nicholls speak in defence of the waterside workers. He gave an explicit account, illustrated by specific instances, of what has been occurring at Port Adelaide and Outer Harbour in South Australia, and it would be very hard to controvert the statements that he made. His speech was timely in view of the deliberate and planned attacks that have been made on the waterside workers throughout Australia. It is not always the fault of the waterside workers that there is a slow turn-round of ships, or that delays occur in the handling of cargo.
Like other honorable senators, I was glad to learn that Their Majesties, the King and Queen, and Princess Margaret, will visit Australia next year. I am sure that the people of Australia will be delighted to welcome them. There can be no doubt of the loyalty of Australians to the British Crown and to the British Commonwealth of Nations.
I am glad that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has recognized the claims of Western Australia by appointing a Western Australian to the Cabinet. I congratulate Mr. Hasluck on his appointment as the Minister for Territories, hut I cannot quite understand why the Government thought it necessary to create a new department in order to place Mr. Hasluck in charge of it. The Chifley Government was criticized for allegedly com’plicating administration, but the present Government has rearranged departments and added one more, so that the Cabinet, instead of consisting of nineteen Ministers as in the past, now numbers twenty. The Chifley Government was also charged with overloading the Public Service, but the fact is that there are more Commonwealth public servants now than when the Menzies Government took office. That is a strange way in which to practise economy ! I believe that if there is work to be done a sufficient number of persons should be employed to do it, but the community should not be put to the expense of employing more public servants than are needed.
The Government claims that it has an express mandate to conduct a relentless campaign against the menace of communism in Australia. We all agree that it is necessary to do so, but I fear that many of those associated with the Government are disposed to go further than just to combat the menace of communism. The workers are forever being warned of the danger of associating with Communists, but I notice that business men have little hesitation about trading with countries behind the Iron Curtain. Militant trade unionists who make statements that are displeasing to certain sections of the community are forthwith dubbed Communists - a practice which is greatly to be deplored. When a government condemns persons or groups merely because of the opinions they hold it is already on the way towards the establishment of a police state. During the last two years imports from Czechoslovakia have greatly increased. Recently, I saw in an establishment in Perth motor cycles which had been imported from Czechoslovakia, and the salesman did not hesitate to tell’ me that they were better than British motor cycles. Thus, although the workers are forbidden to associate with Communists, it is a different matter when it comes to a question of the almighty dollar. Czechoslovakia, whether or not it may be regarded as being behind the Iron Curtain, certainly has a Communist government.
– It was a Labour Government which made Australia a party to the general agreement on trade and tariffs.
– I am not concerned with what led up to the present situation. I am merely discussing the different attitudes which the workers and business people are expected to take towards communism and Communist countries. I repeat what I have said previously, namely, that the proper time to deal with the Communists is when they are actually engaged in subversive or harmful activities. Our existing laws provide substantial penalties for such activities, a.nd there is no reason why the Government should not apply those laws to the Communists. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech admits that the legislation introduced by the Menzies Government to deal with the Communists proved to be unconstitutional and was, therefore, ineffectual. ‘We all recollect the protracted debate on that measure that took place in this chamber. Labour warned the Government again and again that its proposals would be declared unconstitutional, and that is exactly . what happened. The High Court decided, almost unanimously, that the act exceeded the legislative powers of the Commonwealth. Having failed at its first attempt, what does the Government propose to do now? It proposes to implement, by a subterfuge, the unconstitutional legislation that it introduced to the Parliament. It is. asking the governments of the .States to cede to it power to implement that legislation, notwithstanding that that legislation has already been declared unconstitutional by the High Court, which is the highest tribunal in the land.
– The Government is seeking to make the act constitutional. What is wrong with that?
– That is all very well, but the Government should not attempt to circumvent the High Court and the Commonwealth Constitution. If the Government sincerely believes that the Constitution should be amended it should seek to amend it in the proper manner, a necessary preliminary to which would be the summoning of a constitution convention. I consider that the people should confer extended authority on the National Parliament to legislate in certain fields.
– Does the honorable senator intend to support the proposed referendum when it is taken?
– As I proceed with my remarks I shall tell the honorable senator the attitude that I shall adopt. Although I believe that the Constitution should be amended in order to confer greater powers on the Australian Parliament to deal with matters of a national character, I do not believe that the people should he asked to give the Parliament carte blanche authority to implement every proposal of the government of the day. For instance, I think that the people should not be asked to empower the Parliament to pass legislation of an unspecified character for the suppression of communism. The people were grossly misled by the propaganda disseminated by the anti-Labour forces prior to and during the recent election, and they have not been given a fair opportunity to decide what is the best course to follow in dealing with subversive influences.
– Does the honorable senator believe that the Commonwealth authorities should be empowered to deal with treason?
– The Crimes Act confers ample power on the authorities to deal with treasonable offences, and it is interesting to note that the penalty provided for such offences is death. I remind honorable senators that as long ago as 1924 a former anti-Labour Prime Minister, Mr. S. M. Bruce, stumped the country, declaring that communism was a frightful menace and seeking legislative authority to suppress it. We know the s>ad fate that befell his Government and its proposals. What have the anti-Labour parties actually done to suppress communism during the years that have elapsed since then? No effective action to deal with the alleged menace has been taken by any anti-Labour administration, and that is a fact which the people of Australia should bear in mind when considering any proposals which this Government may place before them. Furthermore, I take this opportunity to warn the people that if they want to retain their democratic freedom they should scrutinize very closely the actual terms of any proposal that the Government may place before them by way of referendum. If they do not do so they may find themselves in a similar position to that of the unhappy peoples of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and other countries that are now behind the “ Iron Curtain “. Having sounded that note of warning, I cannot emphasize too strongly that members of the Opposition are just as opposed to communism as are honorable senators opposite. In fact, we know more about it than they do, and we know from our experience how to deal with the Communists. Although no one is more convinced than are members of the Australian Labour party that effective action should be taken against Communists, we are opposed to any proposal that may infringe the democratic rights of the Australian people. That is why we object to the Government’s attempt to obtain for itself, by a back-door method, complete and absolute power to proscribe any individual or any political movement. Although the Government’s spokesmen have said a great deal about the priceless freedoms of democracy, and have frequently invoked the democratic guarantees contained in the Atlantic Charter, how many of them realize the actual importance to Australia of these freedoms? Do any of them realize what may happen to us if our liberties are abrogated, even in the guise of suppressing a subversive movement? The democratic rights that we enjoy to-day are the fruit of centuries of struggle by the common people, and it is only now that life has really become worth living for the ordinary man and woman. Are their liberties to be filched from them under the pretext of coping with an emergency? The present Government is seeking power to implement a scheme of suppression which would encourage and incite every man to suspect his neighbour, and, under such conditions, no one could be sure of his freedom.
I believe that the parliaments of the States should be left to deal with communism, because those parliaments possess sovereign powers in respect of their territory. The Commonwealth Government is empowered to deal with treasonable offences, hut I believe that the suppression of activities directed towards the dislocation of industry is properly the concern of State parliaments and governments. The Government’s scheme to deal with communism reminds me of its proposal that the taking of secret ballots amongst union members who are contemplating a strike should be compulsory. Although those proposals seem plausible on their face, a little reflection will demonstrate that they are futile and dangerous. “What would happen, for instance, if the members of a trade union in Western Australia, who decided to hold a. secret ballot before going on strike, voted in favour of a strike? Under the law of that State any strike is illegal, and it is apparent that in such circumstances the laws of the Commonwealth and of the State would be in conflict.
In common with many other honorable senators, I think that the present is an opportune time for the summoning of a constitution convention. We all know that much of the legislation that has been passed by the Parliament from time to time would be declared invalid if it were challenged in the High Court. We are skating on thin ice, and we cannot go on passing legislation about the validity of which we are in doubt. For some time past successive governments have attempted to by- pass State governments and their legislatures by using various means to usurp powers and functions of the States. If it is the wish of the people that the central government should obtain more constitutional power at the expense of State governments, the people should be given an opportunity, through their representatives to approve of any such alteration of the distribution of constitutional powers. Adverting to the actual difficulties that confront the present Government, I express the hope that it will display sufficient courage to implement the existing laws. If we are to help the Government to do so I think that it is essential that in our utterances in the Parliament we should disregard our emotions and apply our minds to the problems that beset the ‘Government. Notwithstanding all the vilifications of Labour by our opponents when they were in Opposition, they must admit that the Chifley Government did introduce effective legislation to deal with the subversive element in our midst.
In the domain of external affairs, I agree with the Government that the making of an agreement between the United States of America, New Zealand and Australia with a view to safeguarding our security and ensuring peace in the Pacific is an important step forward. Australia can no longer rely on the power of the Mother Country to defend it, as it did until the occurrence of the recent war. It is obvious that in our own interests, we must build up our defences. However, it is equally obvious that 9,000,000 people cannot hope, by themselves, to defend a continent with such an extended coastline as Australia has. We must have loyal allies, and I believe that the only hope for our safety lies in continued co-operation with the British ‘Commonwealth and the United States of America. With the help of those two great powers any dominion should be able to defend itself.
I also noticed that the GovernorGeneral expressed the hope of his Government that in the near future a treaty of peace would be concluded with Japan, and that Japan would be restored as soon as possible to the comity of nations. That might be all right. It sounds very nice; but I am not happy about it at all. One reason for my lack of enthusiasm is that, time after time, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), who is the Leader of the Government in this chamber, has evaded questions put to him by Senator Grant about the Japanese peace treaty. The honorable senator quite rightly wants to know whether the Parliament is to have an opportunity to discuss the treaty before it is signed, and, if necessary, to advise or direct the Government. We are all still keenly aware that many thousands of our best citizens were the victims of Japanese atrocities. I do not say that the Japanese are more atrocious than are the people of some other nations. In certain circumstances, indulgence in atrocities seems to be a trait of human nature. We must endeavour to avoid such circumstances in future. We all hope that Japan will never again be permitted to become a menace to this country.
The Parliament should be taken into the Government’s confidence on the proposed Japanese peace treaty. That has not been done so far. What has the Government in mind in regard to the payment of reparations by the Japanese? I realize, of course, that all the money in the world could not compensate the relatives of servicemen who died in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, or restore to health and vigour those men who were mutilated or suffered hardships and deprivations while in the hands of the Japanese, but the payment of reparations by Japan is a matter that should be considered. We are the elected representatives of the people, but apparently we are expected to remain silent on this matter only to be told eventually that a treaty with Japan, making provision for this and that, has been signed. The Senate, I submit, is entitled to all available information before the treaty is signed, and I hope sincerely that the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) will, in his speech on foreign affairs to-night, tell us something about this vital matter. After all, Australian forces played a vital part in the Pacific campaign, and we have a right to expect a recognition of the sacrifices that our people made. It is unthinkable that the terms of the treaty should be deter- “ mined by the Government, or by the
Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) alone, without the sanction of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and I hope that that situation will not arise. The people of the United Kingdom and of the United States of America and other countries that participated in the war seem to know all about the proposed treaty. We gather from newspaper reports that the treaty is practically ready for signing, but what do we know about it? Apparently we are to be presented with a fait accompli. The Australian people have a right to know what is being done on their behalf.
The Government has failed to provide this Parliament with adequate information on foreign affairs generally. We had a succession of long statements from the former Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Spender, and from his representative in this chamber. I do not deny thatsimilar statements were made when the Labour Government was in office, but the fact remains that members of this Parliament are being told only what has been done and not what will be done. The Government’s policy on foreign affairs, and its proposed actions in relation to specific matters, should be announced in the Parliament, so that the elected representatives of the people may have an opportunity to express their views. The present system of notifying the Parliament only after action has been taken should be reviewed at an early date.
What has become of the proposal to appoint a Senate foreign affairs committee? I recall having heard the Governor-General on a previous occasion say that the Government proposed to establish such a committee so that this chamber would at least have an opportunity to express itself on foreign policy instead of being merely an echo of the House of Representatives. The proposal was, as I recall it, that the Senate foreign affairs committee would be empowered to take evidence and to report to the Parliament on various matters of foreign policy. What has happened to that proposal ? Apparently, like the 1949 election promise by the present Government parties to put value back into the £1, it has been forgotten. Surely when a specific undertaking is given, it should he honoured and not lightly cast aside.
The Governor-General’s Speech dealt mainly with war preparations. The Government is seeking to build up our defence forces in anticipation of another war. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) returned from overseas a few months ago, he told us that there would be a war within three years.
– He said nothing of the sort.
– I read it in the press. Subsequently, when the present Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr, Eric J. Harrison) returned from London, he reduced the period to two years. As I have said, the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was primarily a defence speech dealing with a forthcoming war. Where is this war to be fought? Whom are we going to fight?
– Is the honorable senator against defence preparations?
– No. The honorable senator should not be so foolish. I should like to know, however, whether it is expected that we shall be involved in a war with a nation which was our ally in the last conflict. Are we to go to war because of the dispute over the nationalization of the Persian oilfields? What tangible evidence has the Prime Minister or the Vice-President of the Executive Council that there will be a war within two or three years? As one who was associated with the foundation of the United Nations, my fear is that throughout the world to-day an atmosphere is being fostered which is the very antithesis of the spirit of the United Nations.
– So is the action in Korea.
– No; it was authorized by the United Nations. The action of the North Koreans was considered to be unprovoked aggression. I cannot help it if honorable senators opposite do not like what I am saying ; I am endeavouring to be honest about the matter. With whom are we seeking a war? I concede that every preparation must be made to defend this country, and that we must co-operate with the United Nations and the British Commonwealth of Nations; but, to-day, too much emphasis is being placed upon the
United States of America and too little on the United Nations. We seem to be slipping away from the ideals of the United Nations. Why are the people of this country continually being told that they must expect a war within a short period? Admittedly, our defences must be adequate, but when there is talk of war there will be war ; when there is talk of peace there will be peace. To me, the olive branch of peace is more important than all this talk of war.
– The honorable senator will be called a Communist if he talks like that.
– I suppose some honorable senators opposite already believe that I am a Communist. I try to speak my mind as a “ dinkum “ Australian who has the interests of Australia at heart, and not the interests of any particular party or “ ism “. We are told that we must be ready for war by the end of 1953 - a little more than two years hence - but no one will say with whom we are expected to be at war.
– Does the honorable senator believe that we have an enemy ?
– We may have many enemies. We have some in this country, and I have no doubt that we have some elsewhere; but until we know our enemy we should not accuse him.
– The signs aro plain.
– I invite the honorable senator to explain that remark when she speaks in this debate.
– The honorable senator knows what I mean as well as I do.
– I am asking the honorable senator to explain her meaning. I have read a lot of press reports, and I have heard statements by responsible Ministers, hut beyond that I know nothing except that a war psychology is being fostered among the people of this country.
– Whom are we fighting in- Korea ?
– We are fighting for the preservation of human justice.
– Against whom?
– Against the North Koreans. Honorable senators may laugh at that answer if they like, I do not mind. But it must be remembered that the North Koreans endeavoured to interfere with the South Koreans, after self-government had been established in South Korea. Australian troops were sent to fight the aggressors, following the decision of the Parliament. Since then other things have happened and it is now alleged that other nations have come into the struggle. That may be so. I do not doubt that they have supplied armaments and materials in connexion with the war. However, it must be remembered that the manufacturers of implements of war do not pay allegiance to any one country. They do not care to whom they sell their products so long as they are able to continue their businesses. But when Labour contends that implements of war should be manufactured not by private enterprise but as a national production honorable senators opposite regard the Labour movement as anathema.
– Does the honorable senator approve of the British Socialist Government selling arms to Russia ?
– The British Government, whether socialist or anti-socialist, bad the means to enable the Russians to come in on the side of the Allies during World War II. Now, overnight, the opponents of Labour would have us believe that they are our enemies, without a declaration of war. Has any honorable senator heard of any announcement by Russia that it expects another war within two years?
– Is not Russia making preparation?
– Russia may be making preparation. However, I contend that that country is as entitled as any other country to make preparation for a possible event. I am not defending the Soviet Union. I am merely trying to look at things as I know them and in the light of facts that have revealed themselves over the years. Although the Soviet Union was our ally in World War II., apparently that country is now our suspected enemy. Why? Is it be cause the Soviet Union is a democratic socialist State ? Is it merely because there is a government of that type in Russia thar it is suggested that that country will challenge the world in the near future? Should we be guided by the political colour of governments in determining our actions, or should we decide issues on facts? Although there may be war in the near future it is not a right psychology to tell the people of this country, and to proclaim throughout the world, as some countries are doing, that it seems to be inevitable that we shall be at war with a certain country in the not-far-distant future. When responsible people state that we shall be involved in another war within a certain specified period they should furnish their reasons. In His Excellency’s Speech it is emphasized that a state of war will develop in the near future, and apparently the Government is building its legislative programme on that assumption. We have been told that the impact upon Australia’s normal economy will be severe. Let us consider that aspect of the matter. Is it the Government’s intention to bring about a state of affairs in which the people of this country will be subjected to controls ? Are we again to have rationing in its various phases? Without any declaration of war, and with no idea of it as far as I know, are we to endeavour in peace-time to establish a war-time economy?
Senator Annabelle Rankin delivered a very good and accurate speech. It was a terrific indictment of the Government that she supports. With all due deference to the honorable senator, I suggest that her remarks about, the scarcity of basic foodstuffs amounted to a political attack on the Queensland Government. Did she make that attack because Labour is in office in that State? Is the position any different in Western Australia ?
– There is a lot of difference. Go-slow methods have not been introduced in the meatworks in Western Australia.
– We are not concerned about that aspect. From Senator Annabelle Rankin’s speech I assume that there must be a lot of Communists amongst the cows in Queensland, because she told us that they are not producing nearly the quantity of milk that they did formerly. Apparently they are going slow. While the opponents of Labour are always ready to traduce the workers of this country they are not so much concerned about the primary producers, who are not maintaining maximum production. Senator Scott knows as well as I know that in the south-western portion of Western Australia many dairy-farmers are trying to get out of the industry. One reason is that wool is now more profitable than dairying. Many dairy-farmers in that area have already disposed of their dairying live-stock and announced their intention to run sheep instead.
– The paramount ‘ reason is the labour problem.
– They hope that the present fabulous prices being paid for wool will continue for some time to come. In my opinion the current shortage of dairy produce in this country is attributable to the shortcomings of the Government. The dairy-farmers in Western Australia are unable to carry on in many instances because of the cost of production. In this connexion, it is interesting to recall that not long ago Labour endeavoured to persuade the Government to re-introduce prices control in this country on a Commonwealth-wide basis, but the Government refused to accept the suggestion. Let us consider .why costs are so high to-day. Senator Annabelle Rankin contended that the introduction of the 40-hour week in industry had been responsible for increased costs. Is it not a fact that the decision to introduce the 40-hour week was made by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, not by the Government? A properly constituted authority determined that the financial structure of Australia was sufficiently sound to stand a shortening of the working week, and gave its judgment accordingly. I shall now bring to the notice of honorable senators figures that have been published in the Monthly Review of Business Statistics issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics in April this year, relative to the retail prices in the six capital cities, known as the “ C “ series index. They are based on a figure of 1,000 for 1939. In 1943-44, after Labour had been in office for a lengthy period, and following the 1943 general election, the figure was 1,270. It was again 1,270 in 1944-45. In 1945-46 it increased to 1,278. In 1946-47 a further increase brought the figure to 1,309. What was the reason for that big increase ? We had had to scrap prices control in this country because the opponents of Labour told the people that the far-away government in Canberra should not interfere with the domestic rights of the States, and that the States could do the job- better than the Commonwealth. How effectively the States have controlled prices is revealed by the statistics. In 1947-48 the figure rose to 1,393; in 1948-49 it was 1,528; and in 1949-50, 1,669. Honorable senators will therefore see that during the first four years of prices control in this country the figure remained practically stationary, after which, it jumped by leaps and hounds until, in February, 1951, it had risen to 1,932. Yet the Government now has the temerity to state that the war preparations to be undertaken will have a tremendous impact on out economy. My- word they will! As one of my colleagues remarked recently, the Australian pound note will be worth not even the few shillings that it is worth to-day, when bananas are being sold at fivepence each in Sydney. These are the facts that we must face. The purchasing power of our currency has dwindled gradually since the Liberal-Country party coalition Government gained office at the end of 1949. All that the Government appears capable of doing now is to announce that there will be another war within two years. Honorable senators opposite appear to be obsessed by war thoughts. In the recent general election every Communist candidate lost his deposit, as Labour had confidently expected. More is done in the trade union movement to combat communism than honorable senators opposite would believe. Yet the Government now intends to introduce legislation to repress the trade union movement. I point out that had it not been for the action that has been taken by the trade union movement against Communists, the Communist menace now would be far greater in this country than it is to-day. We should get around the table, review facts, investigate things thoroughly, and not be always ready to traduce somebody. Despite all the prices control that has been exercised in the States, it is interesting to note that in October, 1949, which was just before the previous Government came into power, the basic wage in the metropolitan area of Western Australia, for a male worker was £6 15s. lid. a week. As from the 26th January of this year the figure is £8 12s. lid., so that there has been an increase of £1 17s. a week in the cost of living since the Government parties took office. It is obvious that the promise to give real purchasing power to wages was nothing more than a glib subterfuge for the purpose of winning votes. The Government has made no effort to remedy the economic situation of the country. It will be recalled that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a statement during the 1949 general election campaign that the Chifley £1 was worth only 10s. I do not know what the value of the Menzies £1 is at the moment, but it is certainly considerably less than that.
His Excellency’s Speech refers to the intention to reconstitute the Public Accounts Committee. Such action is long overdue and I hope that the legislation will be passed with the utmost expedition, because I consider that public expenditure in Australia to-day has gone beyond the bounds of reason. There is ample room for a thorough investigation of public expenditure. During the darkest days of the war there was necessarily heavy government expenditure, but the present-day expenditure is exceeding even that. When the committee is formed I trust that the members of it, irrespective of their party affiliations, will do their duty fearlessly in the interests of the taxpayers of the country.
The previous Government treated this Senate with contempt when a request was made for a referendum to be held on prices control. This Government now wishes to hold referendums on other matters and by force of numbers it will succeed in its objective. The Opposition in this chamber had its numbers reduced because the allegation was made during the last general election campaign that it obstructed the passage of Government legislation. That allegation was not correct. If honorable senators opposite wish the Senate to be1 an echo of the House of Representatives, this chamber might just as well be abolished because it would be useless. The States of Australia federated on the fundamental principle that there should be a Senate comprised of an equal number of .representatives from each State. The Senate has the power to review legislation and to refuse to pass it. During the last Parliament the Senate refused to pass only one measure which had been sent to it by the House of Representatives. The Commonwealth Bank Bill, on which the double dissolution allegedly was obtained, never reached finality in this chamber because when the first bill was introduced the message that accompanied it back to the House of Representatives was not replied to. When the second bill of a similar character was presented the Senate decided that it should be referred to a select committee. Despite that, the people were told that the Opposition in the Senate had frustrated the Government in the performance of its work.
I conclude my remarks by referring to social services. It is notable that the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral contains remarkably little about improvement of the lot of the common people of this country. It simply states that benefits are being kept under constant review. That is easy to do, but what does it mean? Does it mean that any action will be taken? According to the Speech, a close study is being made of the means test with a view to encouraging thrift instead of penalizing it. I do not know exactly what is meant by that, but I do know that because of the depreciated purchasing power of the £1 age and invalid pensioners and those on fixed incomes are suffering great hardships to-day. If the Government intends to eliminate the means test in respect of social services benefits, I hope that it will seriously consider the plight of those who have no other source of income, such as age and invalid pensioners who have no more than the £2 10s. a week pension that they receive. It is true that they are entitled to earn an additional £1 10s. a week, but a great percentage of them cannot earn that money because of their physical incapacity and because people will not employ them. With the present day prices of commodities and the high rents that are being charged, it is a mystery how those people manage to live. It seems that we have a scientific method of getting rid of them slowly but surely by a process of malnutrition. The first task of the Government under existing circumstances is to endeavour to assist those unfortunate people.
– I commence my speech by congratulating the President on his election to office. I am sure that he will look after honorable senators on this side of the chamber as well, if not better, than did the previous President. I do not wish to complain about the previous occupant of the President’s chair, because I believe that Senator Brown was very fair during his term of office, despite the fact that he was a nominee from the other side of the chamber. I offer you also, Mr. Deputy President, my congratulations. I am pleased that you are here to look after me to-day because I am certain that some members of the Opposition are eager to -attack honorable senators on this side of the chamber. However, with you in the chair I am sure that we shall be fully protected.
The proposed visit to Australia in 1952 of Their Majesties the King and Queen and Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret should strengthen our ties with the Mother Country. The people of Western Australia will be particularly delighted to have Their Majesties visit their State, because Western Australians, 1. believe, are far more mindful of the necessity for the existence of the British Empire than are the people of any other State of the Commonwealth. I remind honorable senators that during the first and second world wars on a per capita basis there were more Western Australians in the armed forces than members of any other State.
I wish to comment on the speeches that have been made by members of the Opposition, and I commence with that made by Senator Nash. In the course of his speech the honorable senator stated that :il though the Communist Party Dissolution Act had been invalidated by the High Court, this Government apparently intends to continue its endeavours to dissolve the Communist party in this country. I know that the honorabe senator is not a Communist, but from the way in which he spoke this afternoon he appeared to be very much on their side inasmuch k3 he was trying to champion the belief that we must leave the Communists alone. That is not what we should do if we wish to defend this country.
– That is misrepresentation.
– If communism is not stopped it will continue to grow and will eventually overthrow the Government. One has only to consider how communism has spread from Russia to realize how dangerous it is to us. Russia now controls Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, East Germany, Rumania, Bulgaria, China and Indo-Ohina, and its forces are working down towards Malaya and are gradually approaching the shores of Australia. The Communists have planned the disruption of industries in those countries which they hope to overrun. The working of that plan is quite evident in this country. The Communists know that if they can stop production in a country, a state of affairs will be brought about very rapidly which will provide fertile ground for the spread of their pernicious doctrine and that eventually the country will resort to communism. They do not regard the conquest of a country as necessarily involving the utilization of armed forces. They hope so to condition it by interruptions of production that, at the appropriate time, they will be able to take control.
I was astonished to-day to hear Senator Nash champion the cause of the Communists. I had hoped that such sentiments would never be expressed in this Parliament. If the States refer to the Commonwealth power to ban the Communist party, we may look forward to industrial peace for many years to come. Dealing with the defence of this country, Senator Nash asked whom we were preparing to fight. It is essential that we should be prepared to resist an aggressor, whoever he may be. The honorable senator alleged that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had said that we had only three years in which to prepare for war. Such a statement was never made by the Prime Minister.
– What did the right honorable gentleman say?
– He said that we had approximately three years in which to prepare the defences of this country and that if we did not take advantage of the opportunity to do so within that period another country may declare war on us. He said that if we were unprepared the possibility of an enemy declaring war against us was more likely. He urged the people to do everything possible to hasten defence preparations so that the possibility of war might be minimized. 3 invite honorable senators opposite to compare the per capita expenditure on defence in Australia with that of other countries. During the last twelve months Australia expended - less than £15 per capita on defence compared with more than £35 in Great Britain and £A.100 in the United States of America. Do honorable senators opposite suggest that we should do nothing to strengthen our defences? Do they believe that, as was the case in 1914 and 1939, we should be unprepared to defend this country? It is our duty to prepare for war so that, should war come, we shall be able to play our part in it. If we are caught in a state of unpreparedness, as we were at the commencement of the two world wars, we may well be overrun before we have had time to marshal our resources.
– Who will overrun us ? Will it be the Japanese ?
– No, it will be the Communist friends of the honorable senator. After war had been declared in 1914 almost two years passed before we were ready fully to play our part in it, and in 1939 more than twelve months elapsed after the declaration of war before we had completed our defence preparations. The mechanization of war weapons in the last few years has been so great that it is now possible for a strong nation to overrun a weaker opponent in six months or less. We propose to take our place among the other nations of the free world and if an enemy seeks to overrun our country we shall be in a position to defend ourselves. I have supported, and I shall continue to support, every measure introduced by the Government to strengthen the defences of thi’ country. If the views expressed by Senator Nash were allowed to prevail w should not be in a position to resist an aggressor, who would have a free rein to invade our shores and to ill-treat and mutilate our women and children.
– Senator Nash did not express views of that kind.
– I disagree with k< views and those of Opposition senator.* generally on the subject of defence. 3 shall support the Government’s defence plan even though it involves the expenditure on defence of every penny we have. If we are unprepared we may soon have no country to defend.
I congratulate Senator Piesse upon having made a plea for an amendment of the Commonwealth Electoral Act to enable a fairer system to be devised for allotting the positions of political parties on the ballot-papers. As honorable senators are aware, in the last general election the Liberal and Australian Country parties drew first position in four States. It is accepted that the allotment of first position on the ballot-paper gives to the successful party an advantage equal to li or 2 per cent, of the votes polled. I suggest that in a State such as Western Australia, which elects eight members to the House of Representatives. the Senate ballot-papers should be arranged in a different order in each House of Representatives electorate. That would be much fairer than balloting for positions on the ballot-paper.
– Senator Nicholls hai already made a similar suggestion in respect of South Australia.
– If that is so, I did not hear it. In the larger States Senate ballot-papers could be arranged in a different order in groups of electorates. When the Liberal and Australian Country parties in Western Australia won first position on the ballot-paper, I was naturally very pleased, although I did not want to defeat my political enemies as a result of the mere drawing of a ballot for position out of a hat. As honorable senators know, under the present system, elections are won or lost by a margin of not more than 1 per cent, or 1-J per cent, of the votes polled. Unless the act is amended that position may continue. 1 am sure that all honorable senators agree that a new method could be devised which would be fairer than that used at present and would not leave so much to chance.
Yesterday, Senator Brown said that the Menzies Government had been returned to office as a result of a lot of bally-hoo and the use of vote-catching slogans. I, and other Government supporters in Western Australia, did not have to rely on. bally-hoo or slogans ; we simply told the truth. We told the electors of Western Australia that the hostile Labour majority in the Senate had held up tho legislation of the Menzies Government for fifteen months and the electors decided to return the Menzies Government to office with a sufficient majority to ensure that, it should have a fair go. Opposition senators are well aware that they did not give us a go during the last fifteen months. I say in passing that if I were a member of an Opposition which had a majority in the Senate, I should not have given the Government a fair go, either. When the Labour party opposed the Commonwealth Bank Bill and decided to refer it to a select committee it was under the impression that the Governor-General would not grant a double dissolution on that issue. Its supporters were wrong and we had to drag them before the electors by the scruff of the neck and ask the electors to pass judgment on them. So effectively did the people do so that in Western Australia the Liberal and Australian Country parties won six Senate seats out of ten.
– The honorable senator himself did not think that the Governor-General would grant a double dissolution.
– The election was won without ballyhoo and without slogans. All that was needed to win it was a simple truthful statement to the electors. The Australian Labour party today is a very different organization from what it was last year. That its members are subdued is evidenced by their demeanour in this chamber. However, I was able to get a bit of a kick out of Senator Nash, because he showed a little fight. That spirit is not manifested by his colleagues. If Opposition senators would fight us now as they did in 1950 we should be glad to drag them back to the electors so that the people could again pass judgment upon them.
Senator Benn urged that immigration be suspended for twelve months.
– Hear hear !
– Senator Benn’s statement evoked a lot of “ Hear, hears ! “ from his Labour colleagues. The Government intends to continue the immigration policy that was initiated by the Labour Government. The continuance of that policy is imperative because unless we increase the population of this country we shall perish. He said that 126,000 jobs were available to-day, and that the bringing in of 200,000 immigrants would aggravate the inflationary trend. That is admitted, but we must balance the danger of inflation against the need for defence, and decide accordingly.
– But the bringing of immigrants to Australia will not help.
– The bringing of immigrants to Australia will make it easier for us to defend our country. We cannot defend ourselves if there is no one to fight for us.
– So the immigrants are wanted as cannon fodder.
– There will be no war.
– There would certainly be no war if the Labour party had its way because the enemy would just come here and take over the country. Senator Benn said that he was opposed to the Government’s immigration policy, but in the next breath he deplored our declining production. He pointed out that, whereas in 193S-39 15,000,000 acres were sown to wheat, only 12,000,000 were sown in 1950. The real reason for the decline of wheat production is that farmers cannot get labour to work their properties. I am a farmer, and I am familiar with conditions in Western Australia. Many farmers have ceased to grow wheat because they cannot get labour. Others are going out of dairying for the same reason. If the Government suspends immigration more farms will cease to produce wheat and butter. There is a close link between immigration and production. The Government should encourage people to go out into rural areas to produce foodstuffs, and one of the best ways to do that is to apply a vigorous immigration policy. The honorable senator also said that the production of butter had declined by about 50,000 tons since 1938. That is serious, and the reason is that dairy-farmers are not getting enough money for their product. In 1946 the Labour Government appointed the Joint Dairy Advisory Committee upon which there were four Government nominees, four representatives of the dairying industry, and an independent chairman selected by the Government. It3 function was to inquire into production costs, and to advise the Government on matters connected with the industry with a view to achieving stability. The first meeting of the committee was held on the 18th December, 1946, when it was decided to conduct an Australia-wide survey covering 1,015 farms in order to learn the cost of producing one pound of butter-fat. The investigation was to cover a fiveyear period, and approximately 2 per cent, of the total number of dairy farms. The committee appointed eighteen teams of investigators to travel the Commonwealth and interview farmers and the managers of butter factories; then to collate the information obtained, and to submit their findings to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in Canberra. Before the men were sent into the field they were called together and instructed on the method of conducting their investigation. The survey was begun on the 17th February, 1947, and was completed by the end of June of that year, when the information collected was sent to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in Canberra for analysis. It was found necessary to work out -a system for valuing each property, including buildings, fencing and water supplies, which were entered at the figure furnished to the Taxation Branch by the farmers themselves. The investigators worked out a standard value for stock as follows: - Cows, £12; heifers, £10; bulls, £25; pigs,’ £6; and horses £20. I cite those figures because honorable senators will realize that they are already very much out of date. For instance, the price of dairy cows is now two to three times as much as it was in 1947. Thus, the capital value of the average dairy farm is much higher now than it was then. The investigators fixed depreciation at the standard income tax rate. The farm owner and working members of his family were allowed remuneration at the rates prescribed in the dairying industry award, which provides for a working week of 56 hours, and no penalty rates. Overtime is paid for at ordinary rates, and many farmers, particularly those who employ no outside labour, work from 70 to SO hours a week. Thus, they work nearly twice as long in a week as do wharf labourers or persons engaged in industry, but no penalty rate is allowed for the hours worked in excess of 56 in one week. The committee recommended that . a farmer should be allowed 25s. a week, over and above the award rate, for performing managerial duties, which is only equal to the margin allowed a leading hand employed in any dairy. Such an allowance is seen to be absurdly low when we consider that the capital value of many of the dairy farms is between £5,000 and £10,000. In assessing costs, the interest paid on borrowed money was taken into account, and 4£ per cent, was allowed on the equity which the farmer had in his property.
The committee found that the cost of producing 1 lb. of commercial butter varied widely as between one State and another. Its findings are set out in the following table : -
Thus, the average cost of production worked out at 2s. 1-Jd. A majority of the committee, five in number, recommended to the Government that the figure of 2s. l½d. be accepted. The remaining four members of the committee recommended 2s. per lb., and the Government accepted the recommendation of the minority. The minority recommendation should not have been accepted by the Government, which was morally bound *;o accept the recommendation of the majority of the members of the committee.
– The honorable senator should tell the full story.
– The honorable senator is telling all he knows of the story.
– The honorable senator is quite right ; I am telling honorable senators all I know of the matter. The fact is that the production of butter fat has declined alarmingly, and it is our duty to impress upon the Government the need to arrest that decline. The price paid for butter fat has obviously a great deal to do with the quantity produced. The price paid in 1947 was 2s. per lb. ; in 1948, 2s. 2d. ; in 1949, 2s. 4£d. ; in 1950, 2s. 6d.; and in April, 1951, it was increased to 2s. 8£d. per lb. plus 3. lSd. to cover factory charges. In other words the price was approximately 3s. per lb. To-day the price of butter fat sold to the United Kingdom is also approximately 3s. per lb., and I understand that the amount paid by the Commonwealth Government in subsidy approximates £15,000,000. I think that all sections of the community and all honorable senators will realize the need for a thorough and fair review of the dairying industry with a view to ensuring that dairy-farmers shall receive a reasonable return for butter fat. If we do not provide them with a reasonable return not only will the quantity of butter fat decline but the number of dairy-farmers will also continue to decrease. Before very long our export trade will have ceased and we may not be able to obtain even our home requirements of butter.
One of the many inequalities in the industry to which I direct attention is the disparity in the costs of production in the various States. For example, in Western Australia it costs a dairy-farmer approximately 3s. per lb. to produce butter fat, whereas in some eastern States the cost is only ls. per lb. One reason for the disparity is that in Western Australia the dairying season is restricted by weather conditions to only five months, whereas in Victoria it extends over eight months. Notwithstanding the big disparity in the cost of production, all money received from the sale of butter is pooled and is paid out to the producers regardless of their costs of production. Obviously that is not an equitable scheme.
I submit that the present Government should adopt the report of the majority of the committee that was appointed to inquire into this matter. I also suggest that it should alter the rate of allowance calculated in respect of leading hands to make that rate correspond with the rate payable to a manager ; that in fixing the new price of butter it should have regard to the tremendous increases of the prices of wool, wheat and meat; and that the Government should at an early date announce a substantial increase of the price of butter.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the increased price should be met by the payment of an increased subsidy?
– I do not favour the payment of subsidies on butter production for consumption in Australia. Indeed, I believe that the whole scheme of subsidization of butter should be critically reviewed. An agreement should be made by the Commonwealth Government with the governments of the various States to provide for a substantial increase of the price of butter fat in order to recompense dairyfarmers for their increased costs of production. The dairy-farmers are entitled to receive an additional lOd. per lb. for their commodity, but the payment of a subsidy to cover such an increase of the price of retail butter would cost the taxpayers of this country millions of pounds. Already the payment of a subsidy on the present price of 3s. per lb. costs the nation £15,000,000 per annum. If th« subsidy were increased to cover the proposed increase of the price of butter fat by lOd. per lb., it w.ould cost the taxpayers approximately £25,000,000. In any event, I do not think that it is right in principle that the taxpayers of this country should be called upon to subsidize the consumers of such a commodity as butter. Whilst it is necessary to increase the price of butter fat in order that the dairyfarmers may continue to produce it, I cannot see any valid reason why the Treasury should be called upon to pay the amount involved in the increased price.
I repeat that the cost of the removal of the subsidy and the granting of a fair price to the producers of butter should be borne, not by the taxpayers, but by the consumers. While honouring the agreement entered into with the United Kingdom Government, the Australian Government should pay to the producers the difference between the homeconsumption price and the price received for butter sold in the United Kingdom. I believe that if this were done we should be well on the way to solving the problems associated with this important industry.
It has been said that the number of dairy cattle in the State of Western Australia, which I represent, has not declined below the number of cattle in 1938. That statement leaves out of account, of course, the fact that since 1938 the population of Western Australia has increased very considerably. However, quite apart from that observation, it is important to realize that although the number of dairy cows may not have declined, the number of dairy farms has declined considerable’. On many dairy farms that have been operating for periods of from 50 to 100 years there are now no cattle, and it is significant that the number of large dairy farms has dwindled. The cows at the former dairies have been purchased by ex-servicemen who have settled on the land. The production of butter fat in this country last year totalled 165,000 tons, and the quantity consumed in Australia was 115,000 tons, leaving a balance of only 50,000 tons for export. That comparatively small quantity was exported to the United Kingdom at a price of 3s. per lb., and the Common- wealth Government had to pay considerable sums to subsidize the dairy-farmers concerned. That is not fair to the taxpayers. An agreement should be made between the Commonwealth Government and the governments of the States to telminate the payment of a subsidy, and the whole price should be paid by the «nsumers. In the long run the consumers o ‘’ butter in this country would be much better off financially. It has been estimated that the payment of a subsidy during the current financial year will cost the taxpayers £25,000,000. The termination of the subsidy and the payment of the full price by butter consumers in this country would cost them only £6,000,000. I point out, also, that the discontinuance of the subsidy would not penalize the workers of this country, because the increased price of butter, which is an essential commodity, would be reflected in the “ C “ series ‘ index, on which the federal basic wage is founded. . In conclusion, I express my appreciation of the efforts that are being made by all governments in this country to-day, regardless of their political complexion, to meet the situation. The importance of the da i ing industry to the nation is such that on r governmental authorities cannot afford to let the present decline of the industry col tinue. I have addressed myself to this matter at some length because I fear that unless some effective action is taken as the outcome of the present discussions the export of Australian butter to the Mother Country will cease and that, before very long, Australia may even be compelled to import its own requirements of butter That, of course, would be a disgrace to us all; and I sincerely hope that the Government will take prompt and effective action to restore this great industry to its former importance in our economy.
– In common with other honorable senators, I am more than gratified that Their Majesties the King and Queen and Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret have consented to visit Australia next year. I also take the opportunity to congratulate you, Mr. President, and the Chairman of Committees (Senator George Rankin) on the high honour that has been bestowed upon you by your election to your respective offices. However, I commiserate with the Chairman of Committees and yourself because we all know that, because of the change in the strengths of the respective political parties in this chamber that will assuredly occur, neither of you will occupy those offices for very long. Nevertheless, I trust that Y01 short terms of office will be pleasant. I also pay tribute to our former leader, the late Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, who was, of course, more popularly known r “Ben” Chifley. I have no doubt that every one in Australia feels sorrow at the passing of such a great Australian, and we can only console ourselves with the knowledge that, fortunately, he could not have suffered a great deal of physical pain after the final attack of heart disease which caused his death. I also congratulate those honorable senators who have delivered their maiden speeches in this chamber, and I think that my colleague Senator Byrne is deserving of special commendation.
Senator Cormack and Senator Seward, who were, respectively, the mover and the seconder of the Address-in-Reply, laid great stress on the need for more cooperation between employers and employees, and I agree that there is a very real need of increased co-operation in industry. Unfortunately, neither the present noi1 the preceding anti-Labour Administration has given any tangible sign of its desire to foster such co-operation. On the contrary, members of the present Government have invariably adopted the attitude that the employees were wrong in every industrial dispute that has occurred. That attitude is unreasonable because even under the law of averages some strikes must have justification, but T have yet to hear any anti-Labour member of this Parliament or of the State parliaments admit that the workers have ever had a legitimate grievance. The co-operation between employer and employee to which reference has been made by some honorable senators opposite in this debate, cannot possibly be obtained unless something tangible is done to foster it.
I was most disappointed by the complete absence from the Governor-General’s
Speech of any reference to the most important problem now confronting the people of this country. I refer, of course, to the rising cost of living. No hint was given in His Excellency’s Speech of any action contemplated by the Government to halt inflation. Discussing this matter to-day, Senator Annabelle Rankin painted a gloomy picture of conditions in Queensland, and advanced an excellent case for the restoration of Commonwealth prices control. Her remarks were rather ill-timed because this is the period of the year when many people from the southern States visit Queensland on holiday. Any potential visitor who heard the honorable senator’s speech would be quite justified in making other plans. Yesterday, a South Australian senator made a caustic denunciation of everything socialistic; yet the most notable feature of Senator Annabelle Rankin’s speech to-day was her advocacy of socialism. She appealed, for instance, to the Queensland Government to do something to increase production in that State. Surely such an appeal can only be construed as a condemnation of the private enterprise which most honorable senators opposite so valiantly defend. The honorable senator referred particularly to the production of foodstuffs in Queensland which she referred to as “ my State “. I found her remarks so depressing that I could not help feeling that when she spoke of “my State” she was referring to her own state of despair. I can assure Senator Annabelle Rankin that Queensland is not the only State in which prices are rising. The honorable senator’s reference to the decline in the production of milk made me wonder whether some Queensland cows had gone “ red “. Perhaps the Government will be tempted, should the Communist Party Dissolution Act ever become law, to “ declare “ some Queensland cows under that legislation.
According to a Melbourne press report published a few days ago, the Menzies
Government is considering the reimposition of some economic controls. That is most ironical in view of the promise by the present Government parties at the 1949 election that as many controls as possible would be abolished. Possibly it was the threatened reimposition of controls which prompted a bewildered elector to write to the Government in the following terms: -
My Most Honorable Representatives,
In reply to your request to send a cheque for Income Tax, I inform you that the Wolf is at my door, and the present condition of my Bank account makes it almost impossible. My shattered financial condition is due to Federal Laws, State Laws, County Laws, Corporation Laws, Liquor Laws, Mothersinlaw, Brothers-in-law, Sisters-in-law and Outlaws.
Through these laws, I am compelled to pay a business tax, amusement tax, gas tax, head tax, school tax, light tax, car tax, water tax, sales tax, liquor tax, carpet tax, income tax, food tax, furniture tax, and excise tax. Even my brain is taxed. I am required to get a business license, car license, truck license, liquor license, not to mention a marriage license and a dog license.
I am also required to contribute to women’s relief, unemployment relief, and the gold diggers relief. Also to every hospital and charitable institution in the city, including the Red Cross, the Black Cross, the Blue Cross, the Purpose Cross and the Double Cross. For my own safety, I am required to carry life . insurance, property insurance, liability insurance, burglary insurance, accident insurance, business insurance, earthquake insurance, fire insurance, unemployment insurance, old age insurance, flood insurance. My business is so governed that it is no easy matter for me to find out who owns it. I am expected, inspected, suspected, disrespected, rejected, dejected, ejected, examined, reexamined, informed, required, summoned, fined, commanded and compelled until I provide an inexhaustible supply of money for every known need, desire or hope of the human race. The few shillings I used to save is now stopped, for I am controlled by the Egg Board, Pear Board, Potato Board, Onion Board, Milk Board, Government Boards, Civil Boards, Bare Boards. In fact, the whole thing makes me bored. Simply because I refuse to donate to something or other, I am boycotted, talked about, lied about, turned about, held up and held down, and robbed until I am almost ruined. I can tell you honestly that except for the miracle that happened, I would not enclose this cheque. The wolf that comes to many doors nowadays just had pups in my kitchen. T sold them, and here is the money.
That letter, although couched in humorous terms, does convey the predicament that many people are in at present. The Menzies Government was granted a double dissolution because of the Senate’s failure to pass the Commonwealth Bank Bill. Throughout the succeeding election campaign, however, I did not hear one reference to that legislation by a member or supporter of the Government. AntiLabour candidates concentrated their attention on communism, but I suggest that in relation to communism the Government is in the same position to-day as it was in prior to the double dissolution. The Communist Party Dissolution Act is inoperative not because of the efforts of the Labour party but because the High Court declared it to be invalid. Therefore, the Government is no better off now than it was before the election. It has had to ask the State governments to agree to transfer to the Commonwealth powers to deal with the Communists, and as everybody knows, it will be virtually impossible to get unanimity among the States on that or any other matter. “We have before us now the sorry spectacle of State prices control. I entirely agree with Senator Brown that honorable senators opposite won the 1949 election by “ bally-hoo “ and slogans. The prices referendum of 1948 was defeated in the same way because the anti-Labour forces were able to induce the people to believe that prices control could be more effectively administered by six separate States than by the Commonwealth.
– We do not. argue about that, but as I have said the Governor-General made no reference at all to any proposals to curb rising prices. Even honorable senators opposite will admit that inflation is a serious problem to-day. Onions are 2s. 6d. per lb. in some centres and the Senate has already been told that bananas are selling in Sydney at 5d. each. What does this Government propose to do about the matter? When painting a gloomy picture of conditions in Queensland, Senator Annabelle Rankin laid the blame at the door of the Government of that State. The only other State that she mentioned was New South Wales. Is it only a coincidence that those are the States in which Labour governments hold office? What about South Australia and Western Australia? Are conditions better in those states than they are in Queensland? It is strange indeed that although honorable senators opposite continually denounce socialism, as soon as anything goes wrong with the economy they appeal for socialistic measures to put it right. Senator Annabelle Rankin did that to-day when she blamed the Queensland Government for not making the cows in that State give more milk, and not reducing the price of onions. In the absence of Commonwealth prices control, there is nothing to prevent one State from sending its products to another State in which the fixed prices are more attractive. No individual State can control prices effectively. The serious plight in which we find ourselves to-day is shown clearly by figures published in the monthly summary issued by the National Bank of Australasia Ltd. They show that the cost of living during the March quarter of 1950 increased by 4.3 per cent. and in the following quarter there was a further increase of 4,5 per cent. During the March quarter the basic wage was increased by 7s. a week and in the second quarter of last year by a further8s. a week, making a total rise of almost 10 per cent. Yet the Government continues to do nothing to check rising costs. Honorable senators and the people of Australia generally know very well that this Government promised unconditionally to restore value to the £1. When speaking in this chamber on the 23rd February, 1950, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) said, “… the Government will . . . prevent the cost of living rising.” On the 8th March, 1950, he said, “ The Government is taking action to prevent increases of the cost of living.” And on the19th April, 1950, the Minister made this humorous comment, “ I am happy to say that considerable progress has been made in restoring the purchasing value of the £1.” On the 5th August, 1950, the then federal president of the Liberal party, Mr. Ritchie, whom Senator Cormack knows very well, suggested, “ If we attack the position with the realism it deserves, we would immediately revert to conditions of the 56-hour week “. Would honorable senators opposite approve of that course? I suppose that they would, although they are afraid to admit it. That suggestion was offered by the mouth-piece of the interests that dictate their policy in the Parliament.
– Rubbish !
– I assume that the honorable senator is referring; to the political party that he supports. The honorable senator always reminds me of a man with the body of a Goliath and the brain of a gnat. I remind him that during the general election campaign in 1949 the opponents of Labour told the people that they would reduce the rates of both direct and indirect taxation if returned to power. Now, however, it appears that it is the intention of the Government to increase taxes very considerably. The following report appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the 16th June: -
Even Compulsory Loan as Last Resort. Canberra, Saturday. - So cold is the financial draught blowing upon governments that Federal Cabinet may be forced to consider, as a last resort, compelling taxpayers to buy Commonwealth Bonds.
Yet honorable senators opposite continue to talk glibly and vociferously about freedom. It was stated by the leaders of the Government parties that their main consideration upon election was to reduce taxation where and when possible. But all of the indications to date are that the present Government intends to increase taxation of all descriptions very sharply indeed.
Although inflation is recognized tobe one of the greatest ills confronting this country, His Excellency made no reference to the proposed introduction of measures to combat this menace. It is a matter of the gravest concern to every housewife. One has only to go around the various shopping centres and see the harassed expressions on the faces of housewives to realize the worry that the terrific rise of prices of necessities has entailed. Prices are still rising alarmingly. Businessmen in this country are unable to plan ahead because of the instability of prices. ‘ This is in marked contrast to announcements that were made early in 1950 by the leaders of the Government. In its issue of the 6th March, 1950, the Melbourne Herald published an article under the following heading in bold type on its front page : -
“Trade Curbs Must Go”.
The FederalGovrnment is determined to put real value back into the pound note . . .
That undertaking has not been honoured since the present Government came to office in 1949. Now that the Government has a majority in both Houses of the Parliament one would have thought that something tangible would . be offered as- a cure for the present inflationary trend. Supporters of the Government have stated that the remedy lies in increased production. . Admittedly we could do with more production. However, the main reason for the inflationary trend is that many more people are making demands on the supply of basic foodstuffs and luxury goods, both of Australian manufacture and imported. However, if production is a sure remedy, why has not the United States of America got out of its financial, industrial and economic difficulties? In that country inflation is rampant. Production has been increased and to-day, about 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 workers are unemployed in the United States of America. Therefore increased production is not the answer. Something tangible and definite must be done on a Commonwealth-wide basis.
The Government has asked the States to refer power to it to enable the Communist Party Dissolution Act to be implemented. I suggest that the Commonwealth should also ask the States to refer to it power to control prices. Some honorable senators opposite have claimed that the re-institution of prices control would be futile unless it were accompanied by wage-pegging. Of course, as has been stated from the public platforms, wages are already pegged.
– I had thought that the .Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) would readily admit the truth of that assertion. Wages are revised periodically by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and State tribunals. ls not that wage-pegging? There is no comparable restriction of profits. I assume that honorable senators opposite admit that that is so.
– No, we do not!
– Apparently they are not prepared to admit the truth of that assertion either. However, it cannot be denied that the effect of arbitra tion court decisions is wage-pegging. In order to impress the people of this country with its earnestness and its desire to do something in the interests of the people, I consider that it would be a fine gesture for the Commonwealth to ask the States for the additional powers that I have mentioned. There is no doubt that prices control is a big factor in maintaining the economic stability of the country. I am sure that even supporters of the Government will admit that during the period that prices were controlled in this country we were more stable economically than any other country in the world.
– That was when wagepegging was in force.
– Evan afterwards Australia was economically more stable than other countries while prices were controlled.
– Apparently Labour desires that wages should be controlled.
– I repeat, that the effect of the judgments of the Commonwealth and State Arbitration Courts is to peg wages, because wages cannot rise without the sanction of the appropriate tribunals. I suggest that in addition to reintroducing prices control serious consideration should also be given to imposing profits control. As Senator Cameron pointed out this morning, there is no limit to prices. It is well known that many of the shortages to-day are due to the fact that manufacturers and merchants are hoarding goods waiting for increased prices. I know from personal experience that not long ago sheets were not available for purchase in Melbourne. I have learned on good authority that at that time most of the warehouses in Melbourne were hoarding large stocks of sheets awaiting a price rise. It was no mere coincidence that shortly after a rise of price had been granted, sheets were again available in the city stoves. I stress that in order to give the people of this country some heart and some hope the Government should do something tangible to endeavour to halt the inflation that is ruining our economy. We do not know where it is going to end, and unless action is taken quickly to prevent prices from continuing to rise many people will lose their life’s savings eventually.
As I have already mentioned, the antiLabour Government obtained a double dissolution of the Parliament on the banking issue. Yet banking was not mentioned during the campaign that preceded the recent general election. The Government was more concerned with repressive legislation. During the 1949 general election campaign, as Senator Brown has already mentioned, large advertisements about the banking issue were published throughout Queensland by the Government parties. Of course now that the Government has a majority in this chamber its banking legislation will be passed. effect, this will be a sell-out by the present Government to the private banks for the financial assistance that those institutions rendered to the opponents of Labour during the 1949 general election. It will be a hand-over of the monetary system of this country to the private banks, similar to the hand-over by a previous antiLabour administration in 1924. However it is to be hoped that the Government will do something tangible to endeavour to restore to this country the economic stability that was enjoyed during the regime of the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments.
Last week in Canberra we celebrated 50 years of federation and we are all justifiably proud of those 50 years. During that time Australia has been faced with three major crises. The first was “World War I., the second was the world-wide depression, and the third, World War II. It is significant that on each occasion the responsibility to guide the country through the crisis devolved upon a Labour government. The Fisher Government was in office at the beginning of World War I., the Scullin Government during the depression- frustrated by a hostile Senate, I remind honorable senators opposite - and the Curtin Government, which took office after the inglorious failure of the Menzies and
Senator Paltridge, who made a very good maiden speech yesterday, dealt nt some length with the defence of this country and the necessity for preparedness. Listening to his remarks, the thought ran through my mind that had the anti-Labour governments of the day taken the advice of the Opposition, even as far back as 1937, this country would have been in a better position to defend itself than it was when the Curtin Government assumed office. When the late John Curtin was the leader of the Australian Labour party he advocated an up-to-date and effective air force as the first line of defence for Australia.
– Mr. Ward stated that he would not spend 3d. on it!
– The honorable senator who has just interjected was not in Australia then. Mr. Curtin’s suggestion was ridiculed at the time, but people have lived to learn the wisdom of that advice. I appeal to the Government to pay the utmost attention to the defence of Australia, but I suggest that it should view the matter in the proper light. It is not sufficient to put eighteen-year-old youths into camp and train them to form threes and to slope arms with broomsticks, as they were required to do in the early days of the last war. I suggest that it is necessary for the whole economy of the country to be taken into consideration. It must be remembered that we are not now in the horse-and-buggy days, and that it is necessary to keep abreast of the times. Every expert on general defence strategy will support me when I say that conditions are constantly changing and that we must keep up with modern trends.
When compulsory military service was being discussed in this chamber during the last Parliament, members of the Opposition expressed certain fears concerning the plans of the Government. Those fears have been borne out by a report which appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the 13th June, 1951. The report stated -
A nucleus of officers and staff at Puckapunyal is enthusiastically working on a plan to “ Sell “ the Army to the first national service trainees, who start their fourteen weeks’ basic training in August. Recruiting officers will be available during the course, and it is hoped that a “good percentage” of the 1,500 trainees will enlist in the Australian Regular Army. . . “ If they play the game and do their best to become good soldiers we will do everything we can for them “, Colonel Warfe said to-day. “ But we expect discipline and hard work, and we will crack down tough if we don’t get it.”
That indicates that what members of the Opposition feared during previous debates on compulsory military service has been borne out. I personally expressed the fear that this compulsory training scheme would constitute a recruiting source for military careerists. I also expressed the view that pressure would be brought to bear on those youths who are at a very impressionable age. We all know how difficult it is for a young man of eighteen to refuse to enlist for service anywhere in the world if he is exhorted to do so by recruiting officers under the conditions that obtain. I ask the Government to consider the industrial potential of this country and also to build up mechanized and technical units, which are of much more importance than units consisting of troops merely trained in drill.
The Government should appreciate the seriousness of the inflationary trend and endeavour to do something to correct it. Now that it has a majority in both Houses of the Parliament it no longer has the excuse that the Opposition majority in the Senate is holding up the business of government. Like the man with the wheelbarrow, the Government now has the job in front of it. I hope that the Government will grapple with first things first and endeavour to restore the country to the proud position it held under the Curtin and Chifley Governments.
– The father of our present King opened the first Commonwealth Parliament in Melbourne 50 years ago. In joining in the affirmations of loyalty that have been expressed in the Senate I do so with the reflection that in those 50 years our loyalty to and affection for our Sovereign have not diminished. Like other honorable senators, il am very happy to know that we can expect a visit next year from Their Majesties the King and Queen and Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret.
I too wish to join in the congratulations to you, Mr. President, on the assumption of your high office and to wish you a happy term. I also congratulate Senator George Rankin on his appointment as Chairman of Committees.
I do not propose to canvass all the remarks of those on the other side of the chamber, but I think that it would be wrong if I did not refer to a patently incorrect statement that was mads by Senator Sandford. The statement dealt with unemployment in the United States of America and I have heard it expressed on many occasions. The honorable senator said that there are 5,000,000 unemployed in the United States of America. If that is translated into Australian terms, and remembering that we have a population of only S, 250,000 people, it sounds an imposing figure. The fact is, however, that under no political regime in Australia has unemployment been less than 2-J per cent, of the population. That is an irreducible figure. Proportionately, the comparable figures for the United States of America would therefore be 7,000,000 or 8,000,000. It is a pity that such figures are used so loosely.
I hope that the Government will lose no time in putting into effect the legislation which it had prepared hut could not pass during the Nineteenth Parliament. I believe that because the Government parties have been returned to office they have a mandate to pass with the utmost expedition all those measures that are now before the House of Representatives.
Reviewing events in Australia during the period since federation, and going back even further to the 120 years prior to federation, we come to the time when a landing took place at Farm Cove, Sydney. The only real occupation available to those who landed was that of farming. Their only choice, in other words, was to till the soil. They therefore spread out, gradually covered New South Wales and later went to other parts of the continent. Just prior to federation the industrial age arrived and the growth of cities commenced, both in the Old World and in Australia, on a scale never before experienced. The major effect of the industrial age was felt in Australia at the beginning of this century when a halt occurred in the movement to the country. That great pioneering spirit, particularly in New South Wales, which impelled the building of roads and government installations showed that the early settlers believed that the whole of the continent would be developed and not only those areas close to the capital cities.
I am happy to see that there is now a Minister for Territories. The Northern Territory is perhaps the most neglected part of this wonderful continent of ours. 1 hope that in giving effect to the Government’s policy we shall not start off on a fresh series of investigations and reports. Great volumes of sound information, properly collated in various categories, is now available to the Government and can be acted upon immediately. I see in the Northern Territory two major and urgent needs for action. The first is for strategic action. There is an Asiatic population exceeding 1,200,000,000 people on the north, a great number of them communistic or quasi-communistic, who represent a continual threat to Australia. The second, and more important, need concerns the economic position of the territory. The latest figures available from the Administra tor’s report for 1949 show that the revenue was £219,389 and that expenditure was £777,773. There was, in addition, more than £500,000 of capital expenditure, so that the territory at the present time shows a loss. That area could become one of the major food-producing areas of the Commonwealth. Instead of advancing, we are regressing in food production. In my maiden speech in this cb amber I expressed the view that we should see the day when, due to the loss of population in country areas, we would have great food shortages. If we can develop the Northern Territory, production from that area will quickly help us to overcome food shortages and to export food to countries to our north. The production of beef cattle should be greatly intensified in North Australia. Any one who has been in the northern part of Western Australia or in the Northern Territory knows that the holdings there are so extensive that the full productive capacity of the country has, perforce, remained almost untouched. Communications and transport facilities are practically non-existent in the Northern Territory. I trust that the new Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) will give close attention to that aspect of his duties. Air transport is practically the only means of transport available there, and it touches only Darwin and a few major centres. Water transport is virtually non-existent and has not progressed in any way during the terms of office of the preceding five governments. I have been in the Northern Territory and I know how inadequate transport facilities are there. The most important task that faces the new Minister for Territories is to detach himself from the restrictions of Canberra control. Those who have developed the territory and have lived all their lives there complain that they have never been able to get the territory view expressed in this city which is the centre of executive decision. Men who have worked hard to develop the territory, and women who have lived there all their lives and want to continue living there, could give us reams of factual information to prove that their representations are usually ignored. It does not redound to the credit of this Parliament, or of the Parliament of South Australia, which is not altogether blameless in the matter, that it has taken us so long to realize the marvellous rice-growing possibilities of the Northern Territory. On the Adelaide River alone it is estimated that 1,500 rice farms, each of 300 acres, could be developed to produce rice equal to that grown in the irrigation areas of New South Wales, or at Saigon, in Indo-China. Rice has been successfully grown in the territory for more than a century. I hope that the possibilities of increasing .rice production there will be fully exploited by the new Minister. In our dealings with the peoples to the north of Australia the value of rice as a diplomatic weapon cannot be over-estimated. To the peoples of those countries food will always be of greater importance than guns.
A lot of loose talk has been indulged in for many years about the Northern Territory being unsuitable for settlement by whites. Sir Raphael Cilento. in his book White Man in the Tropics, has thrust all that talk aside and has said unequivocally that white mien and women can live comfortably and healthily there. That is the experience of those who have lived there. The Minister should take steps to refute for all time the misleading statement that the Northern Territory is not suitable for settlement by white people. The possibility of the provision of hydro-electric power in the Northern Territory by the construction of appropriate water storage systems is a matter for earnest consideration. Perhaps the most important advice that I should like to tender to ‘ the Minister is that before he reaches any policy decision, and before he listens to the advice of members of his staff, he should spend two or three months in the territory, noting what the residents tell him and examining conditions for himself, so that when his officers submit proposals to him which affect the future of the territory his first-hand knowledge and experience will enable him to evaluate them at their true worth. It is a regrettable fact that in many instances those who have administered the Northern Territory have never visited it.
I was pleased to note from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that the Departments of Shipping and Transport are to be included in one portfolio. I do not know what the word “ transport “ means in this connotation. I assume that it means the movement of goods from port to port. I believe that the greatest difficulty experienced in the movement of goods to-day lies not in their transfer from port to port, but in their movement within the ports themselves. “We should not only improve port facilities by the provision of additional mechanical handling equipment to move goods into and out of ships, and on and about the wharfs, but we should also improve roads of access to and egress from the ports. We should also endeavour to break down the congestion in our major ports by developing all outer ports that are capable of development.
Reference was also made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to national development. As I have heard no definition from authoritative sources of the term “national development” I often wonder what it really means. Does it mean the building of additional factories, the production of greater quantities of steel and coal, or does it mean the development of the potential of every square yard of Australia? Recently I saw a list of projects which were described as works of national development. To me the list represented merely a catalogue of the various public works that are being undertaken by the States. That is a very narrow view to take of national development. The Senate is the appropriate legislative authority in this country to examine the broad development of Australia. This is the only free legislature in Australia in that its decisions can be made on the vote, not of parties, but of States. In that respect, the Senate is in a unique position which is not analagous to that of upper chambers of the State parliaments. Here, ten representatives from each State can consider, as no other authority can do, the problem of decentralization, including decentralization within States. We are freer from obligations to limited and small areas than are other houses of parliament. Each of the 97 regions of Australia needs particular care and attention. The four regions in the Northern Territory need it in a special degree. True national development demands as even a spread of the population as it is possible to achieve. The Commonwealth is almost the sole source of finance for the government of this country under the existing arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States, and it must accept its responsibilities for making satisfactory financial adjustments in the revenues available to the States. In the less populous States many concerns produce equipment and machinery as large as a motor car. Because of high cost of this equipment they can afford to bear the cost of send- ing their goods to the major markets. The manufacturers of smaller articles are in a different position. The smaller selling price makes it impossible for ? manufacturers to pay the cost of trans port of their products to the more populous States. Financial assistance shon be provided by the Commonwealth enable such industries to operate in the less populous States; otherwise the major States of New South Wales and Victoria will continue to expand their production to the detriment of the minor States. This chamber is the only legislative body which can give consideration to such broad aspects of national development and it is the prime function of the Senate to consider every matter, financial and otherwise, that relates to such development. We have reached the stage in matters relating to national development and the Northern Territory when we should cease calling for reports. We should digest those that we already have and go into action.
The Governor-General referred to the growing importance and urgency of water supply and irrigation projects and stated that special attention would be devoted to them. I direct the attention of the Government to the. great value of small works. It is the custom in this country to talk about the Snowy Mountains scheme and other similar large undertakings which have a great dramatic appeal as though they- were the only national works really worth while. In my view there are hundreds of small works, some o ‘ them costing only a few hundreds of pounds, which are more important than all these so-called national works to which I have referred. The conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held recently in Canberra trimmed many works on that works programme. I should have been happy to see many of them trimmer! still further or replaced by small works which are of greater importance to tho national development of this country. J am not as enthusiastic as are many other honorable senators about the Snowy Mountains scheme. If we are facing a position of emergency, as I believe we are, and if we are to prepare for a possible war, the Snowy Mountains scheme can be regarded only as a long-term project upon which we cannot afford to dissipate our energies. That project, and other similar undertakings, are robbing our State departments of experienced key officers and setting up competing authoTitles foi- the limited number of technical men. available in Australia. The Snowy Mountains scheme should be reviewed in the light of present circumstances.
I note with interest that the Government proposes to import large quantities of building materials from overseas. I am pleased that it has decided to do so, as the importation of such materials will have a deflationary effect. Our accumulated overseas funds should be used to the fullest extent for that purpose. Money standing to our credit overseas is money out of circulation as far as this country is collier
The Speech of the Governor -General contains this paragraph -
My Government will proceed with its policy of promoting the stability of our rural industries. In giving effect to this policy it will continue to work in close association with the organizations that represent the producers in the various industries and will seek the collaboration of the Governments of the States.
We have heard some excellent speeches in this chamber from men associated with specific activities. Senator Scott spoke on the dairying industry, and gave us the benefit of a clear personal statement. Senator Annabelle Rankin referred at considerable length to the difficulties of those associated with rural industries in Queensland, and she also dwelt upon the scarcity of butter and other foodstuffs. Indeed, we have been treated ad nauseam to stories about the scarcity of butter, meat, milk, &c. I believe that the rural industries are handicapped to-day because the wool growers are in a position to outbid other primary producers for the limited amount of labour available. I am not necessarily condemning them, but that is what is happening. In my maiden speech in this chamber I said -
The cities must face the important fact that they are dependent to a great degree on primary production. If the drift from the inland continues on the scale maintained over the last fifteen or twenty years - and the evidence is that it is accelerating - there will not be a person left on the land in the primary industries in ‘ 30 years’ time. In that event the cities will Ire without the sources of their food supplies.
Since I made that statement, about 6 per cent, of the 30 years has gone by. The drift from the country has’ continued, and even if no more than 6 per cent, of the rural population has left the effect on primary production is much worse than the figures would seem to indicate. If only one man is employed on a farm, and that man leaves, the farmer has lost, not 6 per cent, of his labour but 100 per cent. Until we realize that the flow of labour from the country is continuous, and that it is responsible for a general decline of production which the payment of subsidies can do little to arrest, we cannot hope to solve our present problem. But for this drift, the effects of an odd strike or industrial dislocation would not be so serious. The Senate is the one legislative body that is qualified to consider dispassionately the basic causes of the present situation. Here we should be free of the inhibitions which cloud the judgment of those more closely associated with the industries affected. The basic cause of the drift of population from the. country lies in the fact that urban industry can offer workers higher wages aud more acceptable conditions of living than are available in the country. The tendency to move certain industries to country towns has aggravated the trouble. People point with pride to the fact that their town is growing, but its development is at the expense of the rural industries. Recent statistics show that the population of Sydney has increased by 14 per cent, more than the general rate of increase throughout the State. The Senate would be rendering a great service to the nation if it tackled the problem of how to get population into the country and keep it there.
I suggest that our housing and immigration policies should be adjusted to achieve this end. If we were to stop building houses in the cities, and concentrate on building them in the country, the effect would be to encourage people to leave the cities and go to the country. Instead of herding immigrants in thousands in reception camps, we should distribute them in small groups in country towns under the care of local authorities so that from the beginning they would become an integral part of the local population. In that way they would be assimilated quickly. I have been informed that one quarter of the number pf immigrants brought to Australia during the last few years cannot now be located. Where are they? Without doubt they have drifted to the cities. If my suggestion’s were adopted, the labour problems of the farmers would be in a fair way to being solved, and people would be content to stay in the Country.
I was pleased to read in the Speech of the Governor-General that the Government attaches so much importance to the effective industrial and social assimilation of aliens. The process would be hastened if immigrants were sent in small batches into country areas, and received . immediately as potential local residents. The present system carries within it the germ of a grave political danger. It is possible that these aliens, as they are described in the Governor-General’s Speech, although I prefer the term “ New Australians “, may become a political force which could decide the result of future elections. The only sure way of preventing such an occurrence is to disperse immigrants in small groups throughout the whole of Australia. The present method of bringing people here in a hurry because we want carpenters or engineers or labourers is dictated by expediency, and may well rebound against us to our detriment. We must bring immigrants to Australia, but we should proceed carefully. We should endeavour to turn them into good Australians as quickly as possible. That can be done only by distributing them in small groups throughout the whole community, not by letting them drift into city suburbs where people frequently do not know their nextdoor neighbours.
The Speech of the Governor-General also contains a reference to the need for shortening the time for the turn-round of ships in our ports. As I pointed out before, the workers are not entirely to blame for the delay in working shipping. It is true that the workers have sometimes held up operations, but I have seen long lines of transport standing idle in the vicinity of wharfs because of congestion on the wharfs themselves. The time taken to unload a ship is governed in large measure by the speed with which the cargo can be got away. Another way to expedite the handling of cargo would be to use all our ports instead of concentrating loading and unloading operations at a few of the big ones. If it is objected that only at the large ports are proper loading facilities to be found, I reply that it is our duty to ensure that such facilities are made available at the other ports also. The Government cannot overcome the difficulty by howling at those who work the ships, or by concentrating all its attention on the ports at present in use.
The Governor-General also referred to the works programme of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I object to the system of day labour which is in force on most of the works undertaken by that department. Although I am second to none in my admiration of the Australian workman, human nature is what it is, and we are all capable of being demoralized by bad methods of work. The two methods now in use in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are day labour on the one hand, in which no limit is placed on cost, and, on the other hand, the terrible cost-plus system. At the beginning of the war I was one of those who bad to work out the basis of the cost-plus contracts used by the Government to meet an emergency. Only a state of emergency could justify such a system, which in ordinary times demoralizes both workers and employers. The cost-plus system should be abandoned altogether. There are other ways of protecting contractors against fluctuations in the cost of materials. If it could be made illegal to contract for work on the cost-plus or commission systems it would be a step towards the eventual reduction of costs.
Near the end of the Speech, the
Governor-General said -
In pursuance of a policy directed to these objectives the Government will push forward the work, which it has already commenced, of surveying the physical and economic resources of the Territories, with the object of determining the best means of developing their resources.
Once more, apparently, there is to be an investigation of proposals for developing the territories. In the files of government departments there are enough reports and recommendations to keep us busy for the next ten years if we set out to put them into effect. I deprecate the suggestion that further investigations should be instituted. Let us act on information already in our possession.
I suggest that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture should establish a school for training pioneers. At such an institution young men of the right type would be taught how to break in virgin country and make it productive. The pioneers who first settled in Australia subdued the wilderness almost with their bare hands, but very few young men 1>o-day would know how to begin such work. Necessity drove our forefathers to develop the country, but the spur of necessity is no longer as keen as it was. To-day young men do not seem to feel any impulse to engage in pioneering work. In the vast, unoccupied north of Australia there are vast tracts of virgin land that could be subdivided and closely settled. However, the technique for developing virgin country can be acquired only by long experience or with expert instruction. Therefore, I think that the Government should provide some means of instruction in pioneering for the benefit of those of our young men who are still sufficiently adventurous to break new country.
I turn now to a consideration of the functions that we are discharging as members of the Senate and of the role of this chamber in our legislature. It is pertinent to remind ourselves that during the last Parliament the Government was completely frustrated because it did not possess a majority in this chamber. We all know, too, that some years ago a Labour government experienced similar frustration because it did not possess a majority in the Senate. I emphasize at the outset that the views that I am about to express are my private views and are not necessarily the views of the political party to which I belong. In the first place, it appears to be necessary for any administration to possess a duality of control of Parliament, that is to say, to possess a majority in each chamber, if it is to accomplish anything worth, while. But if an administration possesses a majority in the Senate as well as in the House of Representatives, it is pertinent to ask what purpose the Senate fulfils. Is it merely a replica of the House of Representatives? If it were merely a duplication of that House, then it is obvious that it would he preferable for the two Houses to meet in joint session. However, we know that even when the Senate contains a majority of Government supporters it is not a mere replica of the other branch of the legislature. What is the justification for the existence of the Senate, which costs the taxpayers approximately £250,000 per annum? What return do the people obtain from that expenditure? Before I suggest specific answers to those two questions, I point out that, broadly speaking, there are two courses open to honorable senators. The first course is that we should ourselves alter the constitutional role that we a rr discharging. I mean that we could, in future, regard ourselves as being primarily members of a house of review. The second course open to us is to take the initiative in summoning a constitution convention to consider, amongst other tilings, ‘tho precise part that the Senate should play in the national legislature. At that convention I have no doubt that similar considerations and arguments would be adduced to those that were expressed at the various conventions which preceded federation. However, my personal view is that the members of this chamber should themselves determine and decide the course to be followed. After all, we have had the great advantage of close acquaintanceship with the legislative machine, and because of that experience we are able to determine how far the. present Senate is fulfilling the ideas of the fathers of federation. Let me say at once that I believe that members of the Senate are more free to speak their minds on legislation than are the members of the House of Representatives. The attitude of the members of that chamber must be dictated, to a considerable degree, by the views held by the majority of their constituents upon a particular subject. Some of the constituencies are quite small in area and the views of the constituents are in many instances coloured by local, sectional or class interests. Members of the Senate, however, represent all the people of the several States, and since the basis of our representation is broader, I think that it follows that we have a great deal more freedom to express our views on matters that come before us.
One change in our function that 1 would suggest is that we should not be expected to give all our attention to matters that do not truly affect the national interest. In other words, I consider that the type of matter that should engage our earnest attention is one that could be a subject of discussion between State governments. I think that too much of our time is spent in a minute examination of legislation that affects only a comparatively small number of people and does not concern Australia generally. Whilst such matters are quite properly discussed in the Parliament, I think that they fall more within the ambit of the House of Representatives than of this chamber. If the Senate is to continue to serve a useful purpose I think that it is important that we should reconsider, and define afresh, the role that we are to discharge. In saying that I do not want to be understood for a moment as suggesting that we should regard ourselves as being opposed to the government of the day. I believe, on the contrary, that having determined the nature of the .part that Ave should play, Ave should discharge our duties to the absolute limit of our collective wisdom and with confidence that we are rendering the best possible service to tha people. Undoubtedly, the founders of the Constitution intended the members of this chamber to play a most significant part in the government of the country. If we have any doubt about that matter Ave need only remind ourselves that although the State of Tasmania has only five representatives in the House of Representatives, that State has ten representatives in this chamber. It is obvious that the Senate was always intended to play a part different from that to be played by the House of Representatives. To summarize my contention, I think that we should concentrate our activities upon certain phases of the legislation brought before us for discussion. The primary question that Ave should ask ourselves in respect of each piece of legislation is : How will it affect the nation as a whole? Once Ave have set before ourselves a definite role, Ave should let the people know what that role is, and then they would recognize the real value of the Senate and appreciate the task that we are discharging. I also take this opportunity to suggest that it might be advantageous for representatives of each State in this chamber to confer with representatives of the House of Representatives from the same State in order to review the respective functions of the twochambers. In considering measures referred to us by the House of Representa- tives I suggest that a sound approach would be to ask ourselves whether a particular measure will affect a number of States, only one State, or merely a part of one State. If it affects only a part of one State, then I do not think that it is a measure that deserves the exacting scrutiny of this chamber. If it affects a whole State, then we should ask ourselves whether it is likely to have some secondary effect on other States or, perhaps, upon the whole nation. Should it appear likely to do so, then it obviously merits very careful examination. If a measure will affect the national interest, then we cannot be too careful in examining it. I think that most of the measures that originate in this chamber will affect the whole nation, and, applying the criteria that I have mentioned, such measures would require very careful consideration. I have put the foregoing suggestions before honorable senators as a basis for discussion, and I do not contend for a moment that they should represent the limits of discussion upon this matter, lu conclusion, I express my belief that the elevation of the status of this chamber in this year of the Commonwealth jubilee will accomplish a great deal towards fulfilling the high hopes entertained by the members of the first Commonwealth Parliament, many of whom laboured for so long to establish this institution.
– I commend Senator Tate for the candour of his remarks, and I was particularly interested by the observations that he made on the constitutional role of this chamber. His remarks were particularly in point because of the amazing decision that precipitated the last general election and established a precedent that has altered entirely our conception of the role of the Senate as a house of review.
I join with other honorable senators who have taken part in the debate in congratulating the President on his elevation to his high office. I believe that he will carry out his presidential duties with competence, impartiality and dignity. I am particularly pleased at his selection for that high office because he will preside over the Senate when Their Majesties the King and Queen visit this country next year. I also desire to tender my congratulations to you, Mr. Deputy President, on your election to the very responsible office of Chairman of Committees. I had the pleasure of serving under your chairmanship on the Public Works Committee, and I know from my experience on that committee that you have the ability to discharge the duties of
Deputy President and Chairman of Committees with advantage to the Senate and with credit to yourself.
I congratulate those honorable senators who have made their maiden speeches in this debate. May I say in passing that I was particularly impressed by the able and forceful speech delivered by Senator Byrne. I also take this opportunity to associate myself with the remarks of my colleagues who have deplored the passing of our former leader, Mr. Chifley. The late right honorable gentleman possessed an extraordinary combination of qualities, and, by his personal example he has permanently influenced my conception of the duties of public life. Above all things, Mr. Chifley was a man’s man, and I also have every reason to remember with gratitude his great kindliness. As a young man I appreciate very much my good fortune in having been associated with him. I have no doubt that in years to come his memory will be an inspiration not only to me but also to my colleagues.
T take this opportunity to make a plea once again for the provision of adequate shipping services between Tasmania and the mainland. As all honorable senators are aware, 90 per cent, of the goods carried between Tasmania and the mainland are transported by sea, yet shipping services are worse to-day than they have been for many years. Certainly they are much worse than they were in 1939. The passenger service too, is hopelessly inadequate, and unless there is a substantial improvement before long, there may be serious repercussions. Much of the interstate transport on the mainland is by road and rail. Tasmania has not those alternative means of exporting and importing commodities. It is separated from the mainland by the Bass Strait which at its narrowest point is more than 200 miles wide, and in these days of congested transport services, Tasmania is finding its isolation a serious problem indeed. Prior to the war, our shipping services were adequate to move most of our production. Since those days, the demand for shipping space has increased enormously, but there has been no corresponding development of shipping services with the result that Tasmania to-day is experiencing the greatest difficulty in exporting even the products of its basic industries, such as potatoes, apples and other primary products, to say nothing of such commodities as paper, pyrites and other minerals that are being produced by newer industries. The stage has been reached when there must be concerted action at the highest possible level to help Tasmania.
Mention has already been made in this debate of the serious dislocation that is being caused by the withdrawal from service of Taroona, the main passenger vessel travelling between Melbourne and Launceston. Unfortunately the overhaul of this vessel, instead of taking about two months, will take four or five months, because of certain difficulties that have arisen in connexion with the ship’s engines. As Senator Tate has said, the blame for the slow turn-round of ships cannot be laid entirely at the door of any one waterfront group. All sections of the shipping and allied industries in* eluding transport workers, forwarding and shipping agents, wholesalers, storage agents and so on, have their parts to play directly or indirectly on the waterfront. To-day each section attributes the blame to the others. I have taken an interest in this matter for a number of years, and I am convinced that one of the main causes of Tasmania’s waterfront trouble is poor port facilities. Most of the handling equipment on the wharfs is antiquated. That is particularly so at Launceston where there has been much dissatisfaction among waterside workers. I have seen them pulling heavy loads in old dollies that have been in use for 80 years. The wheels are badly chipped and almost oval. The dollies are used to wheel the cargoes from the side of the ships to the storage sheds and there another problem arises. Storage facilities are so inadequate that cargoes have to be loaded one on top of the other, with the result that transport workers whose task it is to remove cargoes from the wharfs sometimes have to shift 3 or 4 tons of goods before the commodities that they are seeking can be loaded. Then they are blamed by people who do not know the conditions under which they work for having taken too long at the wharfs. As I have said, the buck is being passed from one group to another. On top of all that, we hear the constant cry that Communists are responsible for all the trouble.
We must make a new approach to the waterfront problem. We must realize that in most parts of the Commonwealth, and particularly in Tasmania, port facilities are too antiquated for presentday needs. This is a Commonwealth matter. At Loan Council meetings the State Premiers have to fight like crows around carrion for grants from the Commonwealth. State finances are not sufficiently buoyant to pay even for projects that are considered to be of first-rate importance. The expenditure by the States of substantial sums on the modernization of port facilities is out of the question. I repeat that this matter should be considered immediately at the highest level. Our ports are vital defence installations. Immediate steps should be taken to modernize cargo handling equipment, to increase berthing space for ships, and to improve shipping services generally. The Commonwealth should give the lead. Instead of blaming the waterside workers, let us see whether we are discharging our own responsibilities. It is of no use for us to pass the buck to the waterside workers by saying, “ They are all ‘ Corns ‘ ; we should shoot the lot of them “.
Senator Byrne referred to shipping difficulties in Queensland. The problem is common to the entire Australian coastline. A point I wish to make is that Tasmania has an important part to play in defence preparedness, particularly because of the establishment in that State of the aluminium industry. Aluminium is a vital war commodity. Tasmania also has huge tin deposits awaiting development. I cannot understand why the Commonwealth Government has not exploited the alluvial and underground tin deposits on the north coast of Tasmania. At present, we are importing most of our tin from Malaya, a source which may dry up at any time. Other sources of supply are not by any means as certain as they were. Surely it would be a simple matter to investigate the tin deposits in the northeastern portion of Tasmania. Wonderful results can be produced by dredging. That has already been shown. Tin is already being produced in payable quantities. Over the past few years, the dredge operated by the Department of Supply has proved a payable venture. Of course, we hear little about that from some people who are always ready to decry government enterprise. In another valley, the tin deposits have not yet been touched, although they have been surveyed by State mining authorities. Tin-bearing strata exist at a depth of from 12 to 25 feet. There are dredges lying idle in New Guinea. I have confirmed this since I asked a question in this chamber recently. In the interests of defence and national development, we should ascertain immediately not only whether those dredges can be bought, but also how quickly they can bebrought, down from New Guinea. The trouble seems to be that once responsibility for any matter has been delegated to a board or commission, the Minister concerned is unable to act expeditiously. I believe that a Minister who keeps the affairs of his department under his own control can act much more quickly than would be the case if he had to consult some other authority. At a time such as the present, when our national resources have to be marshalled for defence purposes, there should be some elasticity in administration and Ministersshould be able to. act quickly. There is too much buck-passing between the various departments.
Lack of adequate shipping is having a marked effect upon primary production in Tasmania. On the north-west coast, which is a rich potato-growing area, there has been a marked decline in the acreage under potatoes. Recently I heard of a Queenslander who had to pay 6d. for a potato. In addition, to get 1 lb. of potatoes he had to buy other vegetables as well. Fortunately I was able to send some potatoes to him, I grow them in my own garden, and I know how easy they are to grow. For potatoes, and perhaps some other commodities, Tasmania could be the larder for the southern States of the Commonwealth and even for part of New South Wales. It is a pity to see Tasmanian potato-growers leaving the industry. That must mean that potatoes, a staple food that every one likes, will be even scarcer in the future. The main cause of the decline of potato production in Tasmania is themadequacy of shipping space to carry potatoes to the mainland.
During the last season, apple-growers in both the north and south of Tasmania-had difficulty in exporting their crops. Special ships had to be sent to remove the apples that were accumulating on the wharfs. That is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. The problem must be tackled so that Tasmanian primary producers may know what quantities they will be able to export and can plan their crops accordingly. This should not be regarded as just another State problem. It is a vital matter. Tasmania’s lifeline is shipping and that lifeline must be maintained. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave gran ted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - read a copy of the statement delivered in the House of Representatives by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr.Casey) (vide page 274),laid on the table the following paper : -
Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement - 21st June, 1951. and moved -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna.) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 8.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 June 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1951/19510621_senate_20_213/>.