20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Eon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs disclose the extent to which he has, under the Customs (Import Licensing) Regulations, recently facilitated the importation into Australia of Japanese terry towels and towelling produced under cheap labour conditions? Seeing that there are in Australia -well-established industries engaged in the production of towels and towelling, and that much capital and skilled labour are involved, does the Min ister believe that the Australian towel industry should be subjected to unfair competition from Japan? If the Minister does not support such a policy will he re-impose the control over Japanese towels and towelling which hitherto operated, and which ensured that the Japanese article was admitted into Australia only when supplies of towels and towelling were not available from Australian and United Kingdom manufacturers ?
– I cannot tell the honorable senator exactly how much Japanese towelling is coming into Australia. I have on previous occasions explained that, whereas previously imports from Japan were limited to essentials, permission is now given for the importation of limited quantities of less essential goods. As for the protection of Australian industries, the honorable senator knows that, irrespective of what government is in power, the Tariff Board is asked to inquire into and report upon applications for increased duties. That is accepted policy, and it transcends party politics. Questions of what rates of duty, if any, shall apply to goods imported from other countries, and the extent to which Australian industry shall be protected, are in the first instance referred to the Tariff Board. No government would act independently of the board, nor completely ignore its recommendations. It has never been the policy of this Government or of any Labour government to use import licensing control for the protection of Australian industry. That is the function of the Tariff Board. I am not certain what rates of duty apply to Japanese towelling, but I think there is a general rate of 57$ per cent., 2$ per cent, service duty, and 5 per cent, primage duty, or a total of 65 per cent. I do not know whether that is adequate, because I do not know the facts, but if any Australian manufacturer believes that he is being adversely affected by the importation of Japanese towelling his proper course is to _ apply to the Tariff Board. I have no hesitation in Baying that, if the application is made through me, and a prima facie case has been made out in. support of it, I shall refer the application to the board.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation seen a chart issued by the Federal Executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia setting out the ratio between war pensions, age pensions and the basic wage in September, 1939, October, 1950, and November, 1951? If so, what does the Government propose to do to correct the disparity revealed in the chart?
- Senator Critchley advised me that he intended to ask this question, and I am grateful that he gave me an opportunity to prepare notes for a reply. As I have gone into the matter in some detail I ask for leave of the Senate to make a short statement.
– Is leave granted?
Honorable SENATORS - Yes.
– I remind you, Mr. President, that this is question time. If the Minister makes a statement now, less time will be available for the asking of questions, which will be subsequently broadcast. Let the Minister make his statement after question time.
– A question was asked, and the Minister for Repatriation has the right to answer it. He has sought the indulgence of the Senate to make a statement in answer to the question, and I ask him to proceed with his reply.
– by leave - Senator Critchley has asked me whether I have received a copy of a circular letter and graph dealing with the comparative base rates of war pensions and age and invalid pensions. I have received a copy of such a letter. It was signed by G. W. Holland, federal president, and J. C. Neagle, general secretary, of the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia.
The letter reads as follows : -
We regret the necessity for the attached pamphlet.
Having failed in our endeavours to secure the Government’s recognition of the case for a general increase in the basic war pension rate after exhausting all reasonable methods of approach, we now submit the matter to the judgment of all members of the Commonwealth Parliament.
The claim is based upon the fallen value of the £1 and its effect upon all war pensioners.
At the bottom of the graph is inserted a quotation of a portion of the policy speech which the present Prime Minister delivered in November, 1949. The quotation reads as follows.: -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. . . . We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
When I spoke at the last federal congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia at Hobart on the 31st October, 1950, I quoted that portion of the Prime Minister’s policy speech. It was inserted at the bottom of the graph apparently for the purpose of creating the impression that the promise made by the Prime Minister two years ago has not been honoured. I state quite definitely that that promise has been honoured, word for word, in the last two years not only by the Government, but also by the Repatriation Department, which I administer. That fact is borne out by the very substantial increases that were made in the rates of all war pensions and allowances on the 2nd November, 1950, less than twelve months after the present Government was returned to office. At that time the provisions of the Repatriation Act were also overhauled and many anomalies to which the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia had directed attention for many years were rectified. For instance, the regulations providing for the payment of a recreation transport allowance to those members who, through war-caused disabilities, are confined to wheel-chairs or cots, were greatly widened, thus giving more incapacitated ex-servicemen an opportunity to get away from their homes to the country. Shortly after the Government was elected it introduced regulations under which gifts of sedan motor cars have been made to members suffering from double amputations above the knee or complete paraplegia. Legislation now before the House of Representatives increases substantially the pensions payable to those classes of pensioners who are practically dependent on their pension for a living. It is true that there is to be no increase of the basic rate of pension.
With .that brief outline of what the Government has already done, I shall now deal with the subjectmatter of the honorable senator’s question, and of the circular letter. In view of the representations that have been made to widen the scope, of the present legislation to cover other classes -of war pensioners, it is necessary to make clear certain points on which, apparently, some honorable senators and many other people in Australia are under a misapprehension. The review of pensions made while last year’s budget was in course of preparation was comprehensive, and substantial increases totalling £5,600,000 were made in all classes of war pensions and allowances, particularly the general or base rates for incapacitated members and their dependants. The increase for the member was 15s. a week, which, incidentally, was the highest increase ever granted to members on the 100 per cent, general rate. The current budget is designed to meet the inflationary situation now existing and therefore the Government has decided that increases of war pensions should be allotted to those classes of pensioners who are almost entirely dependent on the pension for a living. Thus, the increase will be in the special rate payable to members who are blind or totally and permanently incapacitated, and to some others who are suffering seriously from tuberculosis or from amputations. The increase proposed is £1 15s. a week, which will bring the total to £8 15s. a week. The following examples show what the family incomes will be on the proposed new rates : -
– I rise to order. I submit that the Minister is not referring to the question that was put to him, but is making a survey of legislation recently passed by this chamber.
– The Minister has the indulgence of the Senate to make his statement in answer to a question. I am sure that he does not intend to trespass on that indulgence, but I ask him to be as brief as possible as other honorable senators wish to ask questions.
– I contend that the reference by Mr. Holland to my own speech at the conference and to the Prime Minister’s policy speech in 1949 reflects upon the Government’s honesty of purpose. I am trying to show that the Government has carried out completely the pledge thai it gave to the people in 1949. A great deal is involved in the various types of pensions for which provision is made in the repatriation legislation. Altogether there are five schedules of rates of pensions. In view of the accusation that has been made it is only fair that I should be permitted to explain what the Government has done. The circular letter mentioned only the base rate pension. I am endeavouring to show why an increase of the base rate pension is not proposed. It is useless for me to” continue unless I inform the Senate what was in the mind of the Government when it made a review of pensions, which is the subject of a bill now before the House of Representatives. The Government decided to grant increases to those most in need of them. I refer to war pensioners who are entirely dependent on their pensions for a livelihood.
– The question related only to the base rate pension.
– The base rate pension is linked with all war pensions. It is the basis of them. Although I shall not weary the Senate unduly, I consider that it is important that the people of this country should be fully informed of the Government’s proposals. The new rate of pension for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen will adequately take care of those people. If such a pensioner has a wife and child under the new rates of pension he will receive £11 2s. a week. War widows with children have very little opportunity to gain income. Therefore the Government considered that an increase in their case also was warranted. Under the new rates, and including child endowment, a war widow with three children may receive £10 ls. a week. The proposed increases will involve an expenditure of approximately £3,000,000 a year. I point out that it is not an innovation to select these classes of pensioners for increases. The legislation of the previous Labour Government in May, 1947, was similar in principle to the measure that is now being considered in another place. The plan was accepted as a logical one. The bill was treated as it should have been - on a non-party basis by both Houses of the Parliament and its passage was facilitated. It was assented to on the 11th June, 1947. The representations that have been made by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia are, in the main, to the effect that the general rate of pension for members should also be increased by £1 a week. If that were approved, the increase by way of war pensions and medical sustenance benefits for general rate pensioners alone would cost approximately £4,500,000. There are 168,000 persons on the general or base rate of pension. The average rate of pension is 35 per cent., and there are 43,000 persons receiving pensions of more than 50 per cent. If the average rate were adopted by way of example, it would mean that those 168,000 base rate pensioners would receive 6s. 8d. a week increase on the £1 a week general increase for which the league asks. I point out that practically all general rate pensioners, and even those on the 100 per cent, or nearly 100 per cent, rate-
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister for Repatriation (.Senator Cooper) obtained leave of the Senate to make a statement in answer to a question. He has not received leave to read a statement.
– Order! Perhaps a certain amount of indulgence has been permitted. When the Minister asked leave to make a statement, I was under the impression that as it was in answer to a question it would not be a long one. As the statement was to be made during question time, I think that it was reasonable to assume that it would be short. As the statement has already been lengthy, perhaps it would have been better if it had been made at a more appropriate time. However, the subject of the statement is a matter that affects everybody in the community. It is a national matter which must be looked at from a national point of view. While the making of such a long statement in answer to a question may not be strictly in accordance with Standing Orders, I have no doubt that each one of us is so imbued with the importance of the question which Senator Critchley has raised that a certain amount of indulgence should be permitted in answering it. With due respect to the Minister, I think that the statement is unduly long and that if he continues to make it he should complete it as rapidly as possible. Otherwise, it should be incorporated in Ilansard, because there are many honorable senators who are eager to ask questions.
– I thank you for your indulgence, Mr. President. I point out, however, that there have been several interruptions for which I have not been responsible. I was about to state that practically all general rate pen*sioners - even those on 100 per cent, or nearly 100 per cent. - are in full employment. To them the pension is not a needs pension because their wages or salaries increase from time to time in accordance with basic wage increases. It does not follow that the general rate of pension should be increased on every occasion when war pensions are reviewed by Parliament. The assessment of pension rates is based on disability due to war service. It is not based on economic grounds, and therefore there is no true relation between the general rate of pension and the basic wage. It must also be kept in mind that war pensions are free of income tax and are not subject to the hazards of age, sickness, unemployment and the like.
Bearing all those things in mind, it will be of interest to examine the position of a general rate pensioner in regard to direct benefits to which he is entitled under Commonwealth legislation. It is very important to remember that this statement deals entirely with the 100 per cent, rate pensioner. The payment received by way of war pension and child endowment is, for a single man, £3 10s.. a week; for a married man, £5 0s. 6d. a week; and for a married man with one child, £5 17s. a week. In addition, a base rate pensioner may earn whatever he cares to earn or is able to earn.
With certain specified disabilities, for example, the loss of a limb or limbs, or an eye, or the loss of vision in one eye, further amounts ranging from 7s. 6d. a week to £3 10s. a week are paid, in addition to the general rate. Incidentally, the present plan provides for this amount of £3 10s. to be increased to £5 5s., making a total payment, including the general rate, of £8 15s. a week, which is equivalent to the special rate proposed to be paid to those who are totally and permanently incapacitated.
I stress the point, in regard to the base rate pension, that the member is given medical treatment for all disabilities, including those not due to war service. If he qualifies for a service pension or a civil pension on account of age, through becoming unemployable or because he is suffering from tuberculosis, not necessarily due to war service, further amounts over and above the general rate may be paid. The suggested legislation provides also for increases in this field. The ceiling rate has been increased, and members can receive a war pension and a service pension up to the ceiling rate.
It will be seen that, in keeping with the main principles of the proposed legislation, where a general rate pensioner needs further assistance, provision for it is made at two points, that is, those with the more serious double amputations and the general rate pensioners who qualify for a service pension. This is the plan that the Government has adopted for the present budget, but the position will be reviewed if a change of circumstances makes it necessary to do so.
– Oan the Minister tell the Senate the percentage of exservicemen who are receiving base-rate pensions and have no other source of income ?
– I shall endeavour to obtain that information for the honorable senator, but the task will be most difficult because the base rate pension is not subject to any means test.
– Some time ago, Senator Piesse directed to me, as Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, a question relating to the wool sales levy. It is desirable to make known the Government’s intention with regard to the payment to the Australian wool-growing industry of the sum of approximately £45,000,000 which was collected from wool-growers by means of a 7£ per cent, levy on wool sales in the 1950-51 wool season, in anticipation of the support of the industry to the proposed post-Joint Organization reserve price plan for wool. Following negotiations between the Australian Wool Realization Commission, on behalf of the Government, and the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers, a satisfactory agreement has now been reached which will enable this sum to be refunded by about the end of November to the growers who contributed. The physical repayments to growers will be made by the woolbroking houses throughout Australia which actually handled the wool submitted for sale by the individual growers. The supervision of the repayment procedure has been entrusted to the Australian Wool Realization Commission, and special arrangements will be made by the commission in respect of the refunding of the levy paid on wool that was not submitted for sale through the brokers.
– Will the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture re-examine the embargo on the export of merino rams? In view of the serious diminution of woolgrowing in the United States of America, will the Government consider sympathetically a suggestion to permit the export of merino rams to that country? In view of the greatly increased use of artificial fibres, does the Minister consider that this competition should be met by increased production of high-quality merino wool throughout the world?
– The points that have been raised by the honorable senator are of great importance. Honorable senators will appreciate that the Minister has the right, under licence, to permit the export of merino rams. However, in order that I may obtain a detailed reply, I ask that the question be placed on the notice-paper.
asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable .senator’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. I will see that full consideration is given to the representations of the honorable senator, but I should point out that there is at present no composite list of persons who have actually left the wool-growing industry in recent years. Consequently, their full entitlement to wool profits will not be identifiable until such a “list can be compiled, the ultimate Joint Organization profits established, and a current High Court case determined. The position with regard to the taxation liability of individuals is not a matter within my knowledge.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. President. Do you know whether it is a fact that metropolitan newspapers throughout Australia propose to introduce syndicated newsgathering in Canberra by utilizing the Australian Associated Press, to dis seminate the same reports to all newspapers? If: you have no knowledge of this matter, will you make inquiries to ascertain whether the metropolitan newspapers in fact propose to introduce this system ? If the system be introduced, will you refuse to admit to the press gallery of the Senate, until a competitive newsgathering system is re-established, journalists who represent the Australian Associated Press?
– It is not strictly in order to ask questions of the President, but in view of the importance of those asked by the honorable senator I shall reply to them. I shall have inquiries made into the subject, and I assure honorable senators that their interests will be safeguarded. Insofar as it lies in my power to do so, I shall see that there is a correct and free report of the proceedings of the Senate.
– I desire to address a question to you, Mr. President. In your capacity of chairman of the Joint House Committee, are you the senior member of that committee? If so, do you control the hairdressing saloon at Parliament House, subject to decisions by the Joint House Committee? Is it a fact that, in private life, you are a wellknown breeder of horses in South Australia? If so, and being therefore a lover of horses, do you approve of the ridiculous action of Mr. Speaker of ordering that there shall be removed from the walls of a secluded room in Parliament House the portraits of two of Australia’s greatest racehorses of our generation, apparently in order to .satisfy his own paltry prejudices ?
– :I rise to order. I submit that it is improper for any member of this chamber to reflect on a member of the other House.
– In view of my previous decision, Senator Hendrickson^ question is not strictly in order. However, I have the honour to preside over the Joint House Committee, and I assure the honorable senator that all matters associated with that committee are in safe hands. The interests of honorable senators will be sefeguarded at all times.
– What about Phar Lap and Comic Court?
– I am answering courteously the honorable senator’s question, which could, perhaps, have been framed differently. At least he should extend to me the courtesy of listening to my reply. I have been courteous in all my dealings with honorable senators since my election as President of this chamber, and I assure honorable senators that as long as I hold this office they will receive courtesy from me. The matter that has been raised by the honorable senator can be safely left in my hands. I think that in public life the least we say about some matters about which we have very little knowledge the better.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport say when it is proposed to begin running the new diesel train service on the TransAustralian Railway?
– The first of the eleven diesel locomotives is already running for part of the journey, and it is hoped that on the 11th November the whole of the journey to Kalgoorlie will be covered. Honorable senators from Western Australia will be invited to the inaugural function, and I hope that they will be able to attend.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior aware that employees of the West Australian government railways are often precluded from travelling at concession rates on the Commonwealth line from west to east while on long-service leave, because sufficient berths are not available ? Is he also aware that as a result of this shortage of accommodation those employees frequently have to pay full fare, because otherwise they may not travel? In view of the economic hardship that is imposed on the employees mentioned, will the Minister take steps to make available more accommodation on the transcontinental line ?
– I shall refer the points that have been raised by the honor able senator to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and obtain a considered reply for him.
– Last week, Senator Paltridge asked me a question about the payment of butter subsidy to dairyfarmers. The Commonwealth Government will ensure to dairy-farmers their cost of production of 3s. 6d. per lb. for commercial butter, and payments will be retrospective to the 1st July, 1951. Any losses sustained by Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited through delay by State governments in sanctioning the increased retail price will be adjusted by the Commonwealth within the subsidy. This will be dated back to the 1st July to ensure that farmers shall receive the full price from the time they were entitled to it. Now that farmers have won their fight for a just retail price, I hope that they will increase the production of dairy products which Australia so badly needs.
asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
When may dairy-farmers expect to receive the increased price for their products delivered to factories consequent upon the retail price of butter being increased to 3s. l$d. per lb. in the States of New South Wales and Queensland, and from what date will it be calculated ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
Dairy-farmers throughout Australia who supply milk and/or cream for manufacture into butter, cheese, or processed milk products will receive their recognized cost of production oi 3s. 6d. per lb. commercial butter basis in respect of production of the 1951-52 seasonFinancial arrangements will be made with dairy factories which will enable them faadjust dairy-farmers’ returns retrospectively to the 1st July last. Such payments will be made as soon as the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited is in a position to complete arrangements.
– In answer to a question which I asked on the 10th October about the importation of bean seed from Tanganyika, the Minister for Trade and Customs said that, except for .the usual quarantine inspection, no special permission was required in order to import. I now ask the Minister from what overseas countries bean seed is imported? Is it not a fact that there is at present a surplus of good-quality bean seed that has been produced in Australia, apart from stringless varieties for canning? Is it a fact that a serious disease has been recently discovered in Victorian seed crops produced from imported seed, which was admitted to the country without proper precautions having been taken te ensure that it was free from disease? Is the stability of the Australian bean seed industry being seriously affected because of the failure to ensure that imported seed is free from disease? Will not laxity in this respect inevitably result in the introduction into Australia of many of the worst diseases which afflict bean seed in other parts of the world? Is it true that, as the result of pressure from seed importers eager to obtain cheap seed from overseas, regulations with respect to the importation of bean seed have been suspended until the 1952-53 sowing season ; that is, until after next season’s Australian seed crop has been harvested?
– The honorable senator’s inquiry is half statement of fact and half question. I do not know which part was propaganda and which part of it was seeking information. However, I have not offhand the information that he seeks. I shall inquire into the matters he has raised and let him have an answer in due course.
– Is it not a fact that there are in Australia to-day thousands of bags of seed beans for which the growers cannot find a payable market? Will the Minister confer with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture with a view to imposing a duty on imported seed so that local producers will not continue to be driven out of the industry ?
– I know nothing of the thousands of bags of seed referred to by the honorable senator. I am surprised that he did not let me know about them before because I take a serious view of the matter. I shall be happy to do everything possible to assist local growers to meet the situation arising from the surplus of seed.
– On the 16th October, Senator Annabelle Rankin asked the following question: -
Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health state whether it is a fact that although free milk is being provided for children in several of the ‘southern States of the Commonwealth under the scheme of the Commonwealth Health Department, it is not being provided to Queensland school children? If that is so, will the Minister inform the Senate why the Queensland children are not receiving such milk?
The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
Queensland is the only State where the Government’s free milk scheme for school children is not operating. Under the State Grants (Milk for School Children) Act 1950, reimbursement of expenditure on the provision of free milk is dependent upon the completion of a satisfactory arrangement between the Commonwealth and the various States. Identical proposals’ were made to all States but, so far, it has not been possible to reach finality with Queensland. Until Queensland accepts, the Commonwealth’s offer school children will not be able to benefit from the scheme.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that many children who live in tropical and sub-tropical regions of Australia are prevented from receiving free milk under the national health scheme because of the absence of dairies in those localities ? Will the Minister consider issuing Calvita tablets to such children to supply them with calcium required for a balanced diet? I have in mind towns such as Carnarvon in Western Australia where an abundance of fruit including bananas provides many of the vitamins contained in milk but does not provide calcium.
– I quite appreciate the difficulty of providing milk for school children living in the remote centres to which the honorable senator has referred, and I shall be only too pleased to bring her worthy suggestion to the notice of the Minister for Health.
– I understand that the Minister for Shipping and Transport has an answer to a question I asked concerning the number of ships being built in Australian shipyards or being purchased overseas for the Australian coastal trade.
– The Australian Shipbuilding Board has furnished the following information: -
– I preface a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by stating that, although approximately 20,000 tons of general cargo has been shipped from Melbourne to Western Australia during the last few weeks, only a small percentage of assembled machinery has been shipped. As harvesters and headers are required in Western Australia to assist in harvesting crops which are urgently needed, will the Minister do all in his power to facilitate the transport of the many headers and harvesters which have been consigned and which have been awaiting shipment from Melbourne to Fremantle for some time ?
– I shall give that matter my immediate attention because I have a high appreciation of the urgent need to ship machinery to Western Australia in order to assist in reaping the harvest.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– . The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport the following questions, upon notice -
– The yards are already fully occupied with commercial and naval orders. Further orders are being considered.. I hope to be able to make a statement on the: subject later in the session.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen a report that the Premier of Victoria has now joined the Premiers of New South Wales and Tasmania in desiring to hand back to the Australian Government power to control prices ? As the time of six State Ministers is now being taken up on the matter, has the Minister changed his former opinion, which he stated on the last occasion on which I addressed a question to him on the matter, that control of prices by the Commonwealth is the only effective way of contributing to the arresting of the thief, inflation? Will the Minister inform me whether the necessary preparations are being made by the appropriate Commonwealth Department to take over the administration of prices when control of prices is relinquished by the States?
– I can well understand the Premier of Victoria and, indeed, any other State Premier, doing everything possible to get rid of responsibility for prices control, because I think it is admitted by all intelligent sections of the community that prices control can provide no solution of the economic difficulties that we now face. I can also understand the Premier of Victoria seeking to drop the baby into somebody else’s lap, but as far as the Government is concerned it will not be placed in the position of taking the baby and finding that it can do no good as the result of so doing. As the Prime Minister recently announced, the Australian Government does not believe that prices control of itself can make any contribution to the solution of the difficulties that we are now facing, and, consequently, it is not making, any plans to submit to the people of Australia any proposals relating to prices control.
– In view of the Minister’s extraordinary statement that the Government has come to the conclusion that price-fixing cannot halt inflation, does the Government intend to cease the payment of £700,000 annually of the taxpayers’ money to the State governments to reimburse them for the administration of prices control?
– I do not think th Kt the -Government intends .to do that.
Apparently some State authorities see virtue in prices control and, as long as they think that such control can make a contribution to the improvement of our economy, the Australian Government will not withdraw its financial assistance.
– PUBLIC SERVICE.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the
Minister for the Army. Recently, in Tasmania, eleven’ public servants were dismissed from the Commonwealth Public Service, of whom nine were exservicemen. I desire to obtain information concerning the position of an ex-serviceman who served for four years in World War I., and was wounded three times, and again served in World War II. from the 30th October, 1939, to the 6th July, 1944, and was employed in the Commonwealth Public Service from the 17th July, 1944, to the 19th September, 1951, when he was retrenched. Will the period served by that person in both world wars be added to his period of service in the Public Service when computing furlough, recreation leave and other privileges due to him as an officer of the Public Service?
– I cannot conceive any circumstances in which a person who served in World War I. and joined the Public Service a generation later should have the right to enjoy furlough, recreation and other leave privileges in respect of the period of his war service.
– I ask .the Minister representing the Minister for the Army whether it is legally correct or in the interests of justice to dismiss a public servant while he is absent from duty on sick leave? I have in mind a public servant who was a returned soldier of World War I. and who, because of warcaused disabilities, has been receiving a war pension. He has been employed for a period of twelve years in the Commonwealth Public Service and, while absent on sick leave, has been retrenched.
– Over .a long period of years the various governments of Australia have evolved a code for the management .of their employees. I am sure that that code, commands the respect of all Australian citizens. I am -also sure that all Australians approve the arrangement whereby its administration is placed in the hands of the various public service boards. Whatever action has been taken in the instance to which the honorable senator refers, I am confident that it was taken by the department concerned with the full approval of the Public Service Board. I am also confident that if the details of the matter could be ascertained and placed before the Senate, it would be found that the Public Service Regulations had been complied with and that the department had acted with justice towards the employee concerned.
– I understand that this year the price of wheat bags has risen from 6s. to 7s., which is equivalent to 2s. 3d. a bushel on their wheat content. Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say what is the difference” in the bushel price paid by the Australian Wheat Board to growers who bag their wheat and those who sell their wheat in bulk? Has the board considered an alteration of the price during the coming season to counteract the present high price of wheat bags to the growers of bagged wheat?
– From memory, 1 understand that the additional amount paid to growers who bag their wheat represents the difference between the new and second-hand prices of wheat bags. In regard to possible alterations of the basis of payment, if the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper I shall refer it to the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board for reply.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army advise the Senate whether the recent press reports that the Government is pressing for the eviction of 250 families, involving 1,300 persons, from the former military camp at Watsonia, in Victoria, and that it proposes to expend millions of pounds in enlarging the camp, are correct? If the reports are correct, will the Government, in view of the acute housing shortage and the undoubted hard ship that will be caused by these evictions, defer such action until suit: alternative accommodation has been made available? Further, will the Government make the requisite funds available to provide alternative accommodation for these Australian families?
– I have not seen the reports to which the honorable senator has referred, nor do I know whether or not they are correct? I know, of course, that the Government is pushing on with its defence preparations in the quickest and most efficient manner. The people who are affected by the Government’s decision, if, in fact, any are affected by it, may, with perfect confidence, rely upon the Government to do what is right and proper, having regard to all the circumstances.
– In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 20th October, the Minister for National Development was reported to have said, while addressing a Liberal party conference -
The public works programme in Australia was large because government services had got into a hopeless position through inefficient State governments in Queensland, New South Wales’ and, to some extent, Victoria.
I ask the Minister -
– In view of the length of the honorable senator’s question it could more appropriately have been placed on the notice-paper in order that I might have had an opportunity to assimilate it. However, taking the last part of the question first, I am sure that the honorable senator was in humorous vein when he accused me of having shown political bias. I repudiate any suggestion that I attacked public servants in any of the States mentioned. I have always held the view that it is not fair to attack or criticize public .servants. Any justifiable criticism that I had to offer was directed entirely against the governments of those States. Substantially, the newspaper report correctly records what I said, even though, when I said it, I did not know that newspaper reporters were present. I stand on the comment that I made. The situation that exists to-day in the three States is the result of inflated works programmes that could not be fulfilled because of lack of labour and materials. The difficulty could have been obviated had the governments concerned efficiently planned their works in preceding years.
– I should like to make it clear that at question time my practice is to give the call to all honorable senators who have not asked questions before calling any honorable senator for a second time. It is not my intention to prevent any honorable senator from asking as many questions as he wishes to ask.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs, at his convenience, inform the Senate of the allo cation and use of dollars during 1950-51 ? Will he also state what was the dollar expenditure for the purchase of petrol for Australia during the last financial year and, if possible, the estimated dollar expenditure for petrol for this country this financial year?
– To the extent that it has been customary to make such figures available, I shall be happy to do so. I am sure that the honorable senator, as a former Minister for Trade and Customs, is aware that the subject of petrol is not within the province of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– On the 16th October, Senator Sheehan asked the following question : -
Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is true that an imported prefabricated house is being erected at Bairnsdale, Victoria, for the postmaster in that town? If so, what department has been responsible for the importation of the house and what is the erected cost? Is the Minister aware that considerable public criticism has been caused by the erection of this dwelling in what is considered to be one of the building areas in “Bairnsdale? Is it proposed to erect similar dwellings in other country centres, and if so, in what centres are they to be built?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished the following information: -
-In a report last week it was stated that orders have been placed for our tinplate supplies for 3953 and 1954, that the United States of. ‘ America will provide 60,000 tons, or * 40 per cent, of the requirements, and that the remainder of about S0,000 tons will come from the United Kingdom. Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply able to confirm that report? Will he also indicate what orders have been placed for 1952?
– I am unable to confirm the report. However, I shall be very pleased to refer this matter to the Minister for Supply and request that an answer shall be supplied to the honorable senator as early as possible.
– On- the. 16th October, Senator Tangney asked the following question : -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Heu 1 ill urge the making of inquiries into the Kenny method of treating poliomyelitis with, a view to establishing in this country a clinic on the the lines of those already established in the United States of America, Russia, France, Greece, Denmark, Norway and other European countries, where they have- proved their worth over a. period of. y,cars ?.
The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
The Commonwealth’s main, interest is in virus- research-, allied to the cause of poliomyelitis. As the vast majority of cases of poliomyelitis are treated in State institutions,, it would be appropriate for any clinical work regarding different modes of treatment to be undertaken by the State concerned. It is believed that one State is about to. establish & Kenny clinic.
– On the 16th October, Senator Critchley asked the following question: -
Will the Minister representing the- PostmasterGeneral say whether his colleague isaware that many, persons, including exservicemen engaged, in business, are- awaiting’ the installation of telephones and that, owing to a shortage of labour, the installations have, not been made? What steps have been taken by the- Government to avoid extra delay in the installation of. telephones as a result of the recent dismissal of technicians from the Postal Department? Is it a fact that telephone equipment that is ready for installation has been crated and returned to store? “ The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
Whilst many applications for telephone services, including a- proportion from exservicemen engaged in business, have- had’ tiff be: deferred, this action has been necessary mainly because of shortages of equipment, line plant and building accommodation. The department is proceeding as rapidly as possible to provide telephone services consistentwith the need to adjust its capital works programme in the light of the enormous demands which are being made by government and business undertakings on the limited national resources available. This adjustment will, affect, residence telephone services rather than those required for business purposes. I have no knowledge of any instance where telephone equipment which was ready for installation, has been crated, and returned to’ store.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the- following” answers-: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice - 1’. How many doctors are’ co-operating- in” the pensioners’ benefit scheme, and how many ha.ve not done so?
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following reply :-
asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - ]’ and 2. Meat exporters in all States of the Commonwealth have been warned by the Australian Meat Board to stop preparing lamb for export to Canada and the United States as from the evening of 17th October. The board estimates that by that date there should be approximately 1,S00 tons of lamb in store foi America and Canada out of a total approval of about 3,000 tons of frozen meats for the current meat year. This would leave approximately 1,500 tons to be supplied in the form of mutton and beef at the appropriate time.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Government, however, has been actively associated with development in the north of Australia and expenditure by the Commonwealth on the development of the Kimberleys for the period the 1st July, 1949, to the 30th June, 1951, was as follows: - (a) Half the cost of operating the agricultural experimental research station on the Ord River at Ivanhoe- £13,689 12s. 7d.; (b) expenditure under the State Grants (Encouragement of Meat Production) Act 1949- £75,604 19s. l1d.; (c) expenditure on construction of aerodromes - £100,000. Funds paid to the Western Australian Government for road construction purposes under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1950 would be available for expenditure on roads in the Kimberleys at the discretion of the State Government. In addition, the Commonwealth has authorized expenditure under this act on the construction of strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth property (aerodromes) in the Kimberleys.
report of Public Works Committee.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Proposed Erection of a Telephone Exchange at Launceston, Tasmania.
– I present the second report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
The report deals with applications by the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for financial assistance in 1951-52 from the Commonwealth under section 96 of the Constitution. The Government has adopted the recommendations made in the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
Debate resumed from the 17th October (vide page 778), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following papers be printed: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1952;
The Budget 1951-52 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable Sir Arthur Fadden on the occasion of the Budget of 1951-52. National Income and Expenditure 1950-51.
– This debate has been in progress over a period of four weeks, and little could be said about the budget that would be new. However, world events have been moving rapidly during those four weeks, and I propose to direct the attention of honorable senators to certain things which have been happening abroad. According to the budget, the estimated revenue for this financial year is £1,041,500,000 and the estimated expenditure is £927,000,000, leaving an estimated surplus of £114,500,000. It is proposed to expend £181,000,000 on defence this year, which is £33,000,000 more than was expended last year. An amount of £8,000,000 has been allocated for international developmental projects, and an additional £33,000,000 is required for payments to the States.
In this jubilee year, it is well for us to compare our defence requirements with those of 50 years ago. Defence should be above party politics. It is well that there should be difference of opinion on domestic policy, but when considering foreign policy and defence preparation we should close our ranks, and put aside party differences, particularly in this chamber. Above all, we should refrain, when debating such subjects, from seeking political advantages. There is in Australia an appalling apathy towards foreign affairs and’ defence. Questions sometimes asked in this chamber, and particularly some of those asked this afternoon, show how honorable senators minds are working. They are concerned with very small issues. One question this afternoon related to pictures of racehorses. Honorable senators ‘do themselves and the Senate a great disservice by neglecting the more important issues, and concentrating on the small and petty ones. The newspapers, too, tend to play up small issues, while giving scant space to more important matters. For instance, on Thursday last, the amazing exploits of an Australian aircraft carrier received very little attention in the newspapers. Perhaps it would be well for me to read a newspaper report of its doing3. The report is headed, “ High Tribute to H.M.A.S. Sydney “, and is as follows : -
The C-in-C Far East Station (Vice-Adml. Sir Guy Russell) has congratulated the Australian light fleet carrier Sydney on a record of SO sorties in one day during her first operation period in Korean waters.
In his signal, the C-in-C said, “Your air effort in the past two days, unprecedented in quantity and high in quality, has been a magnificent achievement on which I warmly congratulate you. “ Eighty-nine sorties in one day is grand batting by any standards, particularly in an opening match.”
There are probably a thousand or more veterans from Korea back in Australia, and they are unsung heroes. They have endured one gruelling winter in Korea, and some of them will return to face another; yet hardly any one of us knows one of these men.
Since the commencement of this debate world events have moved with such startling rapidity that this country must immediately take a very much greater interest in defence preparations than it has done in the past. Australia is now an adult world force, but how many of us are taking our responsibilities seriously? An amount of £181,000,000 has been set aside in the budget for defence. I predict that before the year ends much more money will be required. The occupation of this country by Europeans dates back for only about 160 years, but during that period, little by little, control of Australia by Great Britain has been shed, and responsibility for the ad ministration and control of this continent has been assumed, first by the various colonies, and later by the States and the Commonwealth. Our assumption of responsibility has been voluntary and gradual, but in these days ever-increasing responsibilities are being thrust upon us. Since the debate on the Estimates and budget papers was commenced the Egyptians have spurned British rights and challenged British might in the Suez Canal area. The Egyptian Government has abrogated a long standing treaty with Great Britain. Only about a month ago the Government of Persia broke a solemn commercial contract in which British interests were involved. The events that are taking place in Persia and Egypt may have world-wide repercussions. Within the last four weeks great responsibilities have been thrust upon this country because without the normal contractual British control of the Suez Canal contact between this country and Great Britain and Europe would be very seriously prejudiced. That is why I stress the importance of defence preparations and the defence vote. I am taking some pains to refer to these matters in the hope that the people of Australia will quicken their interest in national affairs. They should have the fullest information concerning the purposes for which defence preparations are required.
So far this debate has, from certain angles, been rather disappointing. Questions have been raised as to whether the increase of the excise duty on beer and cigarettes will result in an increase of the basic wage. The real question that we should ask ourselves is whether Australian servicemen fighting in the battle zones of Korea and in Malaya, in the air or on the sea, are getting the best support that this country can give them, and whether our national service trainees are being trained adequately and expeditiously. We should ask ourselves, not whether the subtraction of our national service trainees from industry will unduly affect production, but whether they are being taught to serve their country in the real sense.
In preparing a budget a Treasurer looks ahead and estimates. We, too, must look ahead. I look ahead and afar, and in a direction other than towards Great Britain. I look in the direction of our near north. .Since the days of Governor Phillip the Royal Navy has assured the protection of this country. During the last 160 years a remarkable British system of security has been developed and except for the brief periods of the two world wars there has been peace in the oceans of the world. That peace has made possible the achievement of a world economy that otherwise would not have been possible. The Royal Navy cleaned up piracy; trade followed the flag; and the rule of law prevailed throughout the British Empire and beyond its boundaries. Common law, mercantile law and usages based on British law were accepted and adopted throughout the world, including southern Asia and the islands to the north of Australia. In 1942, with the remarkable advance of the Japanese nation, the protective fence provided by those laws, if I may so describe it, was knocked down. Since then the British have had to withdraw to their own islands; the Dutch have withdrawn towards Holland; the French are withdrawing towards France; and the United States of America, although very powerful in our near north, is gradually abandoning its control of Pacific islands, such as the Philippines. “We have to face up to the position that has resulted from the .decline of European influence in our near north. The importance to Australia of the countries to our near north lies in the fact that one-half of the population of the world is centred in them and they lie within 4,000 miles of this continent. Their populations are increasing rapidly and their food supply is inadequate. With the lessening of European influence an those countries in the last decade their peoples have been animated by a spirit of violent nationalism which, in the main, has been a disintegrating force. Instances of that disintegration are to be seen in the plight of Pakistan and India. Local administrations have failed adequately to take over the administration of their countries from the Europeans, and as European and American influence waned communism waxed strong. The march of imperialistic communism has been unparalleled in the history of the world. In -1945 the Communist imperialists controlled 200,000,000 persons.; by 1950 they controlled no fewer than 800,000,000 persons. To-day, almost the whole of Asia is under the domination of Communists, who are endeavouring to foist a new order on the people following the disorder caused by the departure of adherents of other ideologies. At this moment, within 100 yards of the front line of our Australian troops in Korea, are vast forces of Communists backed by still greater forces in Communist Asia. Our troops are opposed by forces that are by no means composed of dimwitted people. The Chinese have shown themselves to be a very competent industrial force. All through their long war with Japan they kept their industries going. They have remarkable reserves at their disposal. Further back, in Russian Asia, vast industrial forces are rapidly developing methods of mass production. The Russians of Central Asia appear to be able to manufacture jet -aircraft and to operate them efficiently. When we are considering the events that are taking place in countries to our near north we must not lose sight of the importance of these facts.
In what direction do we turn hopefully in our search for security? To-day, there floats above this building in which we are now sitting the blue flag of the United Nations. I am disappointed that the Union Jack and the Australian flag are not beside it. This, however, is the anniversary of the foundation of the United Nations, and, consequently, the blue flag of that international body has been given pride of place. Can we look to the United Nations alone to help us to survive? The United Nations, as I see it, is merely a debating assembly and. by and large, a very able debating assembly ; it has no sovereign authority and no great power to enforce its decisions. We are all cheered by its decision to support the action of Great Britain and the United States in Korea, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that it has very definite limitations.
We must concentrate on the problems of Australian defence. I ask Opposition senators to do all that they can do to promote and foster interest in the national service training scheme. Recently, it was my privilege to inspect the national service training camp at Woodside, where remarkable results are being achieved in a very short time. A great keenness is exhibited by the young men who are being trained there, and their officers, all of them veterans of the last war, are as keen as are the men themselves. I ask Opposition senators to assist the Govern-; ment in its recruiting campaign for the Citizens Forces and to encourage those of its supporters who are about to undergo national service training to do their best to fit themselves to defend their country. The Royal Australian Navy has given an excellent account of itself during the Korean campaign and I hope that, with the latest equipment at its disposal, the Air Force will also be able to live up to its glorious traditions. I ask every member of this chamber to support wholeheartedly the Government’s defence effort before it is too late for them to do so.
I welcome the announcement of the Government’s decision to appoint a parliamentary committee on foreign affairs. Such a committee, representing both sides of politics, could do much to enlighten the general public on international issues. Whilst I believe strongly that Australia should co-operate whole-heartedly with the British Commonwealth of Nations, the United States of America, and the free peoples of Western Europe in forming a defence team, we must go further than that. We must help Asia to find its own way to freedom and to rid itself of the fear of want. I commend the Government for its support of the Colombo plan, but whatever contribution we make to the Asian people under that plan we should be careful to ensure that our gifts of foodstuffs are not left to be distributed by methods which would not have the approval of this Parliament. I saw something like thai happen in Syria ten years ago. When the Syrian campaign ended, large quantities of wheat were shipped into that country very quickly for the civil population, but I regret to say that some of the wheat failed to reach its intended destination. Instead, it fell into the hands of exploiters. I should prefer our help to Asia to take the form of education in agricultural methods. Australians who have done splendid research into *he use of trace elements, animal diseases, animal nutrition, and agricultural science generally should be sent to Asian countries to increase production there. By spreading our knowledge and culture in that way, we could make a worth-while contribution towards a permanent solution of Asia’s food problem. After all, the Asians are a proud people and no proud race likes to exist on a dole. It is most gratifying to see Asian students coming to this country to study agricultural science. Subject to the warning that I have given, I commend the Government for its effort to help the people of Asia.-
While the international situation continues to be uncertain, our only course is to fall in line with the United Kingdom and the United States of America by preparing for defence. Obviously Great Britain cannot offer to us the protection that we had fifty years ago; but Britain is still a vital force in the world, and we are proud to -be of British stock. I urge the Government to pay some attention to what may be termed civil defence projects in preparing its defence plans. We know that atomic weapons can cause terrific devastation in cities. The Government should do everything possible to influence the States to decentralize new projects. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, is to be commended for his decision to establish a huge power station at Port Augusta, 200 miles from Adelaide. That station will serve Whyalla, Port Pirie, and the northern areas of South Australia. I congratulate the Commonwealth too, upon its diligent pursuit of the Snowy Mountains scheme, but I should like to see more made of the Murray Valley, which offers splendid facilities for decentralization. Defence planning must be closely related to national development. It would be a calamity if our cities were to continue to become larger and larger and so further denude the rural areas of their population.
I come now to another’ aspect of the budget, the Government’s responsibility in relation to expenditure. The Government has found it -necessary to retrench a substantial number of public servants. Fortunately, economic conditions are such that those people have little difficulty in finding other employment. From inquiries that I have made, they are being absorbed fairly easily, but I believe that greater economy could be observed in the functions of government. When the Commonwealth was established, normal governmental functions were already in existence in all the States. There were courts of justice, railways, taxing authorities and so on, and the entry of the Commonwealth into such fields has led to considerable overlapping of Commonwealth and State functions. As I appear to have reached the limit of time allowed to me, I shall further develop my argument on that matter on some future occasion.
– I can understand the belligerence of Government supporters in their endeavour to defend this fantastic budget. Generally speaking, this national balance-sheet has not been well received. I contest Senator Pearson’s claim that all sections of the community in South Australia received the budget favorably. For instance, on Saturday, the 29th September, the Adelaide Mail published the following comment : - “ No one is happy about the Budget, it was not intended to make anyone giggle,” said Sir Arthur Fadden.
Still the Country Party leader, who used to abuse the late Mr. J. B. Chifley for his high taxation to cushion post-war shocks and who won public favor by promising to give Australians less taxation of all kinds and incentives to work, now emerges as the No. 1 “ Ned Kelly “.
That hardly supports Senator Pearson’s argument that the budget was favorably received by all sections of the community. The following quotation is from the Sydney Morning Herald of Thursday, the 27th September, and no one, I am sure, will claim that journal to have Labour leanings: -
Yesterday’s Budget has delivered a staggering blow to the nation.
It will depress industry, lessen the incentive to work, undermine public confidence, and help to raise costs to a pitch that may well cause sectional unemployment.
The Government has reversed the principles which it put forward so forcibly when first asking the people for a mandate. It is now asserting that high taxation is a cure for the ills’ that beset a community struggling to meet rising inflation. This will shock its most earnest supporters.
Such taxation, coming at this stage, will undermine the strength of the economy. The general increase of 10 per cent, in income-tax will reduce the incentive to work. The effect will be particularly noticeable on overtime and spare-time work.
The indirect taxes - sales-tax and excise - fall heavily on articles of popular consumption. This will arouse resentment and drive up living costs still further.
There is the answer to the pugnacious contention of Government supporters that the budget will curb inflation. Those are the chief attributes associated with the presentation of the national budget. But what does this budget contain? Income tax rates are to be increased by 10 per cent., and rates of sales tax and excise duties also are to be increased. The Government proposes to withdraw from the Australian public about onethird of the national income.
Senator Cormack has stated that there is a general malaise permeating the Australian economy. I consider, however, that at present there is being put forward the highest productive effort in our economic history. The facts are indisputable. This Government accepted responsibility to maintain a stabilized economy. Our national finances were never more stable than when this Government entered office. The Government has made no practical attempt to stem the inflationary tendency, but has merely sought the advice of experts on the introduction of a new technique in management. It has budgeted for a surplus of more than £114,000,000. Although some- economists contend that the withdrawal of that amount of money from circulation will stimulate production, I do not agree that that result will be achieved. The housewife has her own methods of management and is best able to apportion the family income. She will be hardest hit by the increase of sales tax on groceries from S-J per cent, to 12£ per cent. This is an increase of approximately £d. in the ls., or about ls. in the £1. As a result of the higher rates of taxes, there will be less spending power in the hands of the community.
There will, therefore, be a restrictive market for goods and services. Manufacturers will not maintain the present rate of production unless there is an ever-ready market to absorb their goods.
The Government is establishing the setting for a depression, because the policy of full employment that has been in operation for the past decade will be endangered. If markets for our goods are restricted it is obvious that manufacturers and producers generally will dispense with some of their staff, and no other employment will be available to absorb the displaced persons. Supporters of the Government contend that persons who are displaced from non-essential industries will be absorbed into more essential production. But who is to define what are essential and what are nonessential industries? We have heard airy but indefinite expositions of this subject I contend that every commodity that is used in one’s every-day life is essential. I include in that category washing machines, refrigerators, and other amenities that have become recognized adjuncts to home life. It is fantastic for the Government to expect the people of this country to accept a restrictive and nondevelopmental economy, while, at the same time, exhorting them to develop Australia to its utmost capacity.
As a result of quarterly adjustments upwards of the basic wage, based on increased prices and costs of items in the “ C “ series index, many persons in receipt of fixed incomes are suffering a reduced standard of living. Very few items have escaped, the Treasurer’s survey in connexion with the increased rates of sales tax. Dog powder has been classified as an essential commodity, and as such will be exempt from sales tax. On the other band baby powder, which is essential and necessary for every newborn Australian, will be subject to sales tax.
The Government has not made adequate provision for social services. I trust that it will take steps to restore the spending power of pensioners. The. increased ago and invalid pensions proposed under the budget will still be only 31 per cent, of the basic wage. If further basic wage adjustments upwards occur, the percentage will become even lower. The Government expended £250,000 on a senseless and useless referendum which it used for the purpose of whipping up public hysteria. Instead of wantonly wasting that large sum . of money, the
Government should have used it for the benefit of age and invalid pensioners. I consider that had this budget been presented a week prior to the holding of the referendum, the majority for “ No “ would have been much greater.
– Not in Western Australia !
– I venture to say that even in Western Australia that would have been the result. However, the people of Australia were determined to preserve their freedom and did not allow themselves to be hoodwinked by the Government. They returned a well-considered verdict for the preservation of democracy. In no uncertain fashion they gave their answer to the proposal of a government which had adopted fascist and totalitarian methods in its efforts to have the referendum carried.
– The Australian people feared a return to office of the Australian Labour party.
– There was no fear attached to the answer which the people gave at the referendum on communism. That answer was overwhelming. The Conservative press of England lauded the Australian community for having defeated the referendum proposal and for having preserved the right of free speech and free association.
– And free Communists !
– There is certainly no Communist influence in the Labour movement, because the constitution of the Australian Labour party prevents Communists from gaining admission to its ranks. I have no doubt, however, that Communists seductively woo and solicit assistance from other organizations.
This Government purports to desire increased production. In Australia manufacturing productivity is greater than ever before in our history. Is it not paradoxical that on the one hand there should be enormous production and on the other a marked inflationary tendency? I remind honorable senators that the members of the Government have often said to the people, “ Increase production and you will defeat the inflationary tendencies “. Their logic amazes me. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) frequently slates the coal-miners when he speaks in this chamber. . He flagellates them here, but praises them, through the newspapers, for having attained a record output of coal.
– He is a South Australian.
– I remind the honorable senator that there is no Newcastle coal in South Australia. Our coal-fields are being developed under wise administration.
– They are socialized.
– It is true that they are socialized. The Minister for Shipping and Transport recently said that the output of coal in 1950 was a record. As recently as this week a statement, attributed to the Minister, appeared in the press. It stated -
Production of open-cut mid underground coal for this year to 13th October, is 371,477 tons ahead of last year’s output for the same period … If miners maintain their present output rate, production for this year will be at least 13,000,000 tons - a record.
– Good government is bringing it out.
– I ask honorable senators why the cost of commodities is so high to-day. The price of wool has reached unforeseen heights. The details of wool prices may be ascertained from a summary of Australian statistical information.
– What would the honorable senator do about it?
– I am asking the Government to say what it proposes to do about it. Why is the price of woollen goods so high if increased production is the answer to our economic troubles? Although there is unlimited production there are also skyrocketing prices. The Treasurer proposes, by means of this budget, to draw off spending power from the community. I remind him that the demand for goods is limited and that if that demand is curtailed, thousands of people will be thrown out of employment. How then is it proposed to increase production ?
Honorable senators opposite should appreciate that the industrial workers of this country have assisted to streamline production. Although the basic wage is constantly increasing, the marginal rates paid to skilled artisans have not increased accordingly. I contend that marginal rates should rise in conformity with increases of the basic wage. The original margin paid to a skilled artisan was approximately 33 per cent., whereas today it is only 25 per cent. Yet production in the manufacturing fields has never been higher. If I had more time at my disposal I could outline to honorable senators the decline of our rural industries and endeavour to show where Communist influence is operating. However, I may be able to do so on another occasion.
The Opposition is of the opinion that this budget will fail to achieve its purpose for the reasons to which I have referred. Although spending power may be withdrawn from the community public confidence will be destroyed and unemployment created. In addition, the budget proposals will give the Government a licence to continue the policy of laissez-faire which it has followed since it has been in- office.
Senator WORDSWORTH (Tasmania) [5. 42 J. - I rise to support the budget. I do not intend to repeat in different words statements that have already been made many times. Instead, I propose to deal with one or two aspects of the budget which have not yet been discussed in this chamber. Before doing so, however, I wish to join issue with Senator Ryan, who attacked the budget on the ground that it is fantastic because it embodies increased income tax provisions. The honorable senator stated that increased income tax will reduce the incentive t’o work. For his benefit, I wish to make a comparison between the income tax that will be paid in Australia and that now paid in Great Britain and New Zealand. I do not think that the honorable senator can truthfully say that the people of the United Kingdom or of New Zealand have lost all incentive to work. I could cite figures to cover a large range of incomes, but I shall content myself with the figure of £600 per annum, because an income of that size seems to me a fairly good rate to adopt with the basic wage as.it is at the moment. I appreciate the fact that the majority of wage-earners to-day earn far more than the basic wage. For the purposes of this comparison, I shall refer to a person with a dependent wife and one child. In the United Kingdom, such a man pays £66 3s. a year income tax; in New Zealand he pays £67 2s. 6d., and in Australia £27 8s. In addition, the Australian figure which I have quoted is pounds Australian, whereas the others are pounds sterling, which means either that the Australian figure should be 25 per Cent, less or those of the other countries 25 per cent. more. In other words, the Australian tax is approximately £22. “Wo should consider ourselves very lucky to get off so lightly, considering our national commitments to rearm and to prepare ourselves against a war of aggression. Senator Ryan also stated that this budget proposes to impose the highest taxes ever known in our history. In answer to that statement, let us compare present taxes with those that were imposed during World War II. The man who is now earning £600 a year would have paid £126 12s. in taxes during World War II., whereas to-day he- pays only £27 8s., or almost £100 less.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I have compared the incidence of tax in Australia with that in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, and I point out that a taxpayer with a wife and one child who received an income of £600 would have to pay £66 3s. in the United Kingdom, £66 2s. 6d. in New Zealand, but only £27 8s. in Australia. One needs, of course, to make some adjustment in those figures, because the Australian £1 is not worth 20s. sterling. A comparison of the adjusted currency values reveals that the Australian taxpayer pays only the equivalent of £22 8s. sterling.
Senator Ryan complained that increased taxation had a restrictive effect -on production, but I ask him whether the people of the United Kingdom and New Zealand are, in fact, being obstructed, in their productive: efforts by the hight taxation in their countries. We all know, of course, that the United Kingdom has maintained a wonderful industrial output.
I turn now to indirect taxation, which affects only those who actually spend money. If one does not spend a lot one does not pay a great deal in sales tax. Of course, I realize that because of the high cost of living we are all compelled to spend a considerable amount on necessaries, but the articles on which increased taxation has been imposed are mainly luxuries or semi-luxuries. Although I should like to buy a new motor car, the effect upon me of the new budgetary imposts will compel me to defer the purchase. The whole budget is designed to restrict unnecessary spending. I think that indirect taxation is one of the most painless ways of extracting money from the taxpayers, and, therefore, it has my full support.
I shall say something now about certain matters that have not been previously dealt with in the debate. I refer first of all to the amount proposed to be provided for international development and relief. The amount provided under that heading is £9,906,000, which is a huge sum for such a young nation as Australia, and will cost us more than £1 a head of population. Altogether the Government proposes to expend £8,950,000 on the Colombo plan this year and £31,250,000 during the next six years; As honorable senators are aware, the Colombo plan provides for the economic development of South-East Asia, and it is wonderful to think that Australia, which is the youngest country in this part of the world, should expend such a large sum upon some of the oldest nations of the world. However, although that is a magnificent gesture on our part, I do not think that it will achieve anything. It may be a very good idea theoretically, but in practice I believe that it is totally unnecessary and that the money might be expended to more advantage. Let us consider for a moment how it may affect economic development in South-East Asia. Will it, in reality, raise the standard of living of the peoples of that part of the world ? I do not think that it will do* so. The total population of the nations that the plan is designed to assist is 500,000,000, and the expenditure upon them of approximately £9,000,000 will result in an average expenditure a head of population of only 4d. Imagine for a moment a rich and powerful country, such as the United States of America, which desired to assist the development of Australia, making the magnanimous gesture of contributing a sum equal to 4d. a head of our population. Does any one imagine that it would have much effect in raising the standard of living in this country ?
For what other reason is it proposed to make this grant? Is it intended to foster good-neighbour relations? I lived in the East for many years, but I do not think for one moment that Pandit Nehru, or any other member of his government, would feel particularly grateful when they received India’s share of the total sum of £9,000,000. I do not think that that gesture will induce them to feel a greater love for Australia or for the British Empire, and it is fantastic to imagine that it will do so. We must be realistic in these matters. Since nine out of ten of the people of this country have not heard of the Colombo plan, and would be quite indifferent to it even if they had, what earthly reason is there to believe that the teeming millions of India, Burma, Pakistan will be conscious of their indebtedness to Australia?
I consider that we could obtain infinitely better value for the expenditure of this money if we arranged to brins; people from Eastern countries to Australia in order to let them see how much higher is our standard of living than theirs, and I consider that such visits would have a considerable influence in raising the standard of living in those countries. Another matter that disturbs me is the fact that the United Kingdom, which is a party to the Colombo plan, is itself receiving Marshal aid. Can the United Kingdom afford to assist those countries? I, for one, would prefer to see the money proposed to be appropriated for expenditure under the Colombo plan devoted to assisting Great Britain.
Having said that, I must admit that we are committed to the Colombo plan. and we must adhere to it. In my opinion there has been far too much denunciation of international agreements in recent times. Nevertheless, adherence to our obligations under the Colombo plan need not blind us to the necessity for telling the people of the countries concerned a few home truths. The need for such straight talking is immediately apparent when we realize that at present India and Pakistan are spending approximately 50 per cent, and 75 per cent., respectively, of their national incomes upon armaments. 1 point out, incidentally, that these armaments are not intended to protect those countries against a common foe, but against each other. I think that we would be well advised to tell those countries that aid under the Colombo plan will be withheld unless they settle their dispute over Kashmir. One does not like to attach tags to gifts, but, in the circumstances, I believe that we would be quite entitled to impose some restraint upon the unreasonable expenditure upon armaments of the two nations that I have mentioned.
I also believe that we should take the opportunity to press for some commercial concession from the two nations mentioned. This afternoon we were told of the inordinately high price of jute, which is reflected in the price of cornsacks, wool bales and chaff bags in this country. Pakistan, which is a big exporter of jute, imposes a special export duty of £35 a ton on jute. Australians can thus understand why the cost of cornsacks and chaff bags is so high. Furthermore, we are entitled to expect more moral support from those countries in our international dealings. Because of the situation in Persia, support from Pakistan, which occupies a prominent position in the Mohammedan world, would be particularly appreciated at the present time. One good turn deserves another, hut I certainly do not regard the attitude adopted by India towards the Japanese Peace Treaty as being in 011 r interests. Indeed, as I have already indicated, I believe that the money that we propose to expend on Eastern nations might be much more profitably expended in efforts to increase the. population of this country. There can be no doubt that ultimately we shall be confronted with the danger of an Asiatic invasion, and our greatest protection will lie in an adequate population. Whilst I do not object to the proposed appropriation of £250,000 for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund or of £500,000 for the relief of distressed persons in Korea, I should like to know why the Government proposes to expend £156,000 on relief in Palestine.
I am extremely pleased that more money has been made available for defence. There is no need for me to enlarge on the complexities and dangers of the world situation to-day, particularly in the Middle East. Indeed, the events of the past two months, and in particular the assassinations of the former Prime Minister of Persia, who was favorably disposed towards the democracies, of King Abdullah and of Liaquat Ali Khan, prove that world tension is very high in the Middle East. That part of the world, of course, is vitally important to Australia and to the democracies generally. The time has come for us to face up to facts, and I was extremely pleased with the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the course of which he made very clear our position vis-a-vis the Middle East and especially towards the situation in Egypt. I am only sorry that this attitude was not adopted at the beginning of the Persian crisis. I am quite certain that had we made a show of force that crisis could have been ended very quickly in our favour. The time has come when we must take a stand. We cannot allow countries with which we have agreements to treat them as mere scraps of paper. Our very existence depends on maintaining a footing in the Middle East, and we are largely dependent on the maintenance of oil supplies from that area. The British by ..moving out of Persia have placed themselves at a grave disadvantage. lt lias been said that if Britain had put troops into Persia it might have started a .third world war. My own opinion is that it would not have done anything of the kind unless Russia were ready for a third world war, and if Russia were ready it would not have waited for the Persian crisis or the Egyptian crisis. Russia is quite capable of manufacturing a crisis itself when it wants one.
The Suez Canal is vital to us in peace and in war. It is vital to us in peace because it is our main line of communication by sea with Europe, and the Middle East is also our main line of communication with Europe by air. Unless we study this situation we shall not realize how important the Middle East is to us. The situation in Egypt might even have a bearing on the proposed Royal visit to Australia next year. I do not believe that the people of Great Britain would allow their future Queen to travel through that part of the world if British troops were not stationed there. In time of war we should be at a grave disadvantage if we evacuated the Middle East. Russia could put its paratroops into the Suez Canal area, and into vital oil areas in the Middle East, within a few hours. It could put a motorized division there within a few days, and an armoured division there within four or five days. If Great Britain evacuated all its troops from the Middle East it could not replace them in an emergency within a matter of weeks.
Britain has been accused of imperialism in wanting to maintain forces in the Suez Canal area, but Britain is only asking that the provisions of an existing treaty with Egypt be observed. In Persia, also, Britain asked only that the treaty with that country be observed. I am very pleased that Australia’s attitude to those problems has been made clear. Australian troops fought in World War I. and World War II. It seems very probable that if there is to be a third world war Australian troops would again fight in that area.
The proposed vote for civil aviation is £9,500,000, of which only £129,000 has been allocated for aero clubs and gliding clubs. I ask the Treasurer to increase that amount. Such clubs are a very cheap and efficient means of training civil airmen. In Germany, they were the principal method employed for training the German air force before World War II. Honorable members of all political parties admit the importance of the Air Force in time of war, especially to Australia. In Australia, there are many aero clubs and gliding clubs with large memberships, but there is a shortage of machines and money. If the Government were to make loan money available to the clubs, it would be a great help to them, and would prove of great benefit to Austra.Ha in time of war. I support the budget, which has been designed to check inflation and to promote the welfare of the people of Australia.
– I was amazed at the declaration of Senator Wordsworth that he supported the budget. Its provisions are almost entirely opposed to the promises he made to the people if he were returned to the Senate. In 1949, Senator Wordsworth, together with Senator Guy, Senator Henty and Senator Wright, issued a pamphlet in which were set forth all the things that they promised to do if their party were returned to power. It was stated in the manifesto that they would fight for the highest possible living standard, generous help for home-owners, increased production to prevent inflation, lower taxation, social services without a means test, stabilization of primary industries, and so on. Mr. Kekwick, who represents the constituency of Bass in the House of Representatives, also issued a pamphlet which set forth what he would do if he were returned to the Parliament. In the pamphlet there is a picture which shows the honorable member taking away Mr. Chifley’s 10s. note and replacing it with Mr. Menzies’s £1 note. There is some element of truth in that, at any rate, because it now takes almost £1 to buy what could be bought with 10s. when the Labour Government was in office.
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing a member of the House of Representatives.
– I was merely reminding honorable senators of some of the promises that had been made. Senator Wordsworth declared a little while ago that he supported the budget, and the budget proposes to increase by 10 per cent, taxation rates payable by the workers.
– And by everybody else.
– I am speaking of the workers.. The honorable senator may look .after .the others. It is also proposed in the budget that sales tax shall be increased on a wide range of goods, and that other indirect taxes shall also be increased. Senator Wordsworth promised the people of Tasmania that he would fight for lower taxation, and yet he says that he supports the budget. I cannot reconcile his statements. Unfortunately, since this Government has been in power, prices have increased considerably, and we know why. The Government’ has, in fact, brought down a war budget, and whenever a government starts raising money with which to pay for armaments there is a tendency for the currency to be inflated.
– Are not defence preparations necessary?
– I shall give reasons presently to show that they are not necessary. Pension rates do not bear the same relation to the basic wage as formerly. In November, when the new basic wage comes into effect, the age pension will be only 29 per cent, of the basic wage, which is considerably lower than when the Labour Government was in office. In 1948, the age pension was 36.64 per cent, of the basic wage.
– What about the medical benefit?
– The medical benefit was more liberal in 1948 than it is now..
– But no one was able to take advantage of it.
– Some doctors did co-operate with the Government, and when they did the people were able to take advantage of the national health scheme. To-day, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) made a statement about pensions. The statement purported to be in answer to a question by Senator Critchley about basic war pensions, but it did not in fact, answer, the question. Basic war pensions have increased by only 67 per cent, since 1939, whereas the basic wage has increased by 153 per cent. Consequently, pensioners are considerably worse off than they were in 1939. Pensioners, superannuated persons and those who saved money to provide for their old age now have the greatest difficulty in -buying the necessaries of life. The present difficulties have arisen because the Government can see no way of carrying on the administration of the country except by increasing taxation, and when taxes are increased living standards are reduced. The Government promised that it would reduce prices, but 1 fail to see how it can reduce prices by adding shillings to the price of certain goods sold. In the long run, all taxation is passed on to the consumer, and in the last analysis it is the workers who bear the greater part of taxation.
There is no need to increase taxation. The Government has fallen for the current war hysteria. As time goes on, prices will rise still higher. The most recent basic wage increase was 14s., and I predict that the next one will be in the vicinity of £1. Each increase is based on some prices that existed three months before.
– That is not true.
– It is true. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) should know better than to contradict my statement. He controls the department embracing the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and should be familiar with its operation.
– The court?
– At least the department. He knows very well that price increases precede adjustments of. the basic wage by about three months.
– The very reverse of that is the case.
– From my years of experience in the industrial labour movement I know that adjustments of the basic wage are based on figures compiled in relation to certain prices and charges during the preceding quarter. The next basic wage adjustment will, in my belief, increase the wage by approximately £1 a week because it will be based’ on present-day prices. Wages follow prices all the time and whenever the’ basic wage is increased the purchasing power of the £1 is correspondingly reduced. Higher wages bring the workers into higher income categories for taxation purposes and thus the worker is caught both ways.
Seneator Wedgwood. - What would the honorable senator1 do ?
– I shall tell Senator Wedgwood what I would do before I resume my seat. We have been told that the Treasurer proposes to draw off from the people an amount of no less than £114,000,000. In other words, the right honorable gentleman proposes to dip his hands into the pockets of the taxpayers and to extract from them money which does not belong to him. He has said that he will put the money in a place where it will do no harm, and that by that means the Government will be able to reduce prices. That proposalreminds me of the story of the man who owned a dog and decided that he could not meet the cost of feeding it. He decided that the only way in which he could economize would be to accustom the dog to do without meat. For a while the dog seemed to get along very well. One day the man met a friend in the street who said to him, “ How is your dog getting along without meat? “. The man replied, “ Well, 1 had just got him used to going without meat when he died “. That is the kind of action the Treasurer proposes in this budget. The proposal is all the more reprehensible having regard to the promise made by the Government parties that if they were elected to office they would reduce taxes. It has been claimed by supporters of the Government that the Treasurer’s plan constitutes the most painless way of dealing with the problem of surplus spending power. The extraction of such a huge sum from the taxpayers will not be painless because it will force many of them to do without at least some of the necessaries of life. The Treasurer has decided to fleece the people in this way because the Government has fallen for the war propaganda that has been disseminated by the merchants of death during the last century.
– Where are they - in Moscow?
– No, they are not. One could tell the AttorneyGeneral about Moscow also. The war-mongers have not adopted a new technique. In 1847-48 they engendered a similar war panic that frightened the peoples of the world. The creation of panics of that kind form part of the deliberate policy of the capitalists to ensure that their profits shall be maintained. Capitalism’s path is one of booms, slumps and war scares. We have had the boom; we are going into a slump; and the merchants of death are now trying to scare the people into believing that some unknown nation will attack us.
– Unknown nation?
– Not long ago I challenged honorable senators in this chamber to prove to me that the Russians intended to attack Australia. I said that if they could prove to me that the Russian Government had designs on Australia I should vote for a bill to re-introduce compulsory military training in Australia. Not one honorable senator attempted to prove that Russia threatened our safety. In 1S47-4S the same sort of panic was engendered in the minds of people by the merchants of death, the warmongers and the manufacturers who were then losing their fat profits. To ensure the retention of their profits they indulged in propaganda designed to lead the people to believe that an outbreak of war was imminent. F. W. Hirst, in his book The Sir, Panics, wrote - “At the end of 1847,” said Cobden in the House of Commons (February 20, 1849), “we had a panic among us, and we were then persuaded by Mr. Pigou, the gunpowder maker, that the French were actually coming to attack us”. The panic ended dramatically. Lord John Russell was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the budget he produced on February 18, 1848, raised the income tax from 7d. to ls. in the fi, in order to increase armaments and to re-organize the militia in accordance with the Duke of Wellington’s advice. When this stiff addition to taxation came into view, in association with preparations against the danger of invasion, the danger seemed to diminish and the panic abated. Public meetings of protest were called. Men of all parties joined to denounce the proposal, and to demand instead a reduction of public expenditure. Petitions poured in, until on February 28th Lord John Russell withdrew his budget and left the income tax at 7d. A touch of burlesque, as Cobden remarks, was imparted to the closing scene of the first invasion panic by the abdication and flight from France of Louis Philippe, the dread Monarch who was to have invaded and conquered England. A committee of the House of Commons was appointed to recommend reductions in military and naval expenditure, and the Queen’s Speech of 1849 (ignoring the revolutionary tumults and wars which convulsed the Continent) contained a gratifying announcement : “ the present aspect of affairs has enabled me to make large reductions on the estimates of last year”.
That was the first great panic. The second panic took place in 1851-53. Dealing with that panic, Mr. Hirst had this to say -
But in spite of the plain facts there was enough panic in the air of London to float Palmerston’s theory of a nocturnal invasion; and the Militia Bill (unaccompanied this time by additions to the income tax) passed through all its stages. The Militia Bill, indeed, was unpopular. Eight hundred petitions were presented against it and not one in its favour. It was opposed by most of the members representing the great centres of industry. The panic was a newspaper panic, which worked on the Blouse of Commons and the Ministry through London society - one of the first but by no means the last of its kind. Old Joseph Hume, the veteran economist, remarked in one of the debates : “ Our present panics are not due as in times past to the old women, but to having too many clubs about London, containing so many half-pay officers, who have nothing to do but to look about for themselves and their friends. These are the people who write to the newspapers, anxious to bring grist to the mill somehow or other
I have read those extracts to show that to-day history is merely repeating Itself . The third panic-
– Order! I am afraid that the third panic will provoke me. I ask the honorable senator to deal more specifically with the budget.
– I understand that in addressing myself to the Estimates and the budget papers I have the right to deal with any related subject. I am endeavouring to show that war scares to extract taxes from the people, similar to that which we are now experiencing, took place at earlier periods in our history. The third panic-
– Order! It is within my province to decide how far the honorable senator may go in discussing that aspect of the matter. I have given him latitude to develop his argument. I now ask him not to persist with his story of the third panic.
– I was under the impression that I would be in order in so doing. We have been told that we are liable to attack by some nation and in order that we shall be in a position to resist that attack we must provide the Government with certain moneys for defence preparations. How will that money be used? It will be used to ensure that the profits of those who engender a fear of war in the minds of the people shall be preserved.
– What are we doing in Malaya and Korea?
– I do not know what we are doing in Malaya. We have no right to be in Malaya.
– Order ! The honorable senator will develop his remarks as he thinks fit. Interjections must cease.
– I thank you, Mr. President, for your intervention. In 1909, there was a similar war scare. Prior to the outbreak of World War I., the shipbuilding industry in Great Britain was failing lamentably and in order to stimulate the industry Mr. Mulliner, the managing director of an ordnance works at Coventry, published in the press and in other journals statements that Germany was then engaged in the building of eight dreadnoughts and was thus challenging the supremacy of the British Navy. The publication of that statement caused such consternation among the people that the British Government of the day decided to lay down four dreadnoughts. Subsequent inquiries revealed that the statement was completely false, that the Germans were not then engaged in the building of even one dreadnought and that the statement had been published solely for the purpose of preserving the profits of the death merchants. A similar state of affairs exists to-day. We have been told that Russian fighter aircraft are superior to British fighters. Prior to World War I., armament manufacturers wrote to the Germans and told them that the French were producing a better machine gun than the Germans had. The whole thing was a hoax and similar hoaxes are being perpetrated to-day. Our daily newspapers are being used to circulate war propaganda. They do not give any reason for the unwarranted assertions that they make. They merely say “It has been reported from so and so . . .”, or “It is believed . .”, and so on. The authors of the alleged information are never named. I do not think that there will be a major war in the near future, because the international armament manufacturers know quite well that another world war would end the capitalistic system under which they are able to make huge profits. Capitalism could not stand another war. Is it likely that armament manufacturers would risk their private ownership of businesses and their profits by provoking another war? We are told that the democracies want to disarm, but that too is a hoax. The Security Council of the United Nations decided on a plan for disarmament, but the nations refused to follow it. The American Government does not own the atom bomb. The bomb belongs to the huge Du Pont organization, which also controls three American newspapers and is a substantial shareholder in several others. It is thus able to cause war scares, and so to create alarm among the public. Any one who has read the true story of the armament industry knows that similar scares have been caused in the .past to bolster profits.
Liberal party Senate candidates told the people of Tasmania prior to the last election that the Menzies Government would cure inflation, but since then inflation has become an even more serious problem. It is being accentuated by the rearmament programme under which we are purchasing out of date aeroplanes from the United States of America. We are not given an opportunity to buy the most modern aircraft.’ The net result of all this wild spending is that the people of Australia are becoming poorer and poorer. If sufficient people understood exactly what is happening to-day, the public would not tolerate the present economic system any longer. Roads and railways are. deteriorating through lack of maintenance. Insufficient funds are available to build schools and hospitals. The public works programmes of the States and the Commonwealth have been cut by 25 per cent. Why should those things happen in a land of plenty? Even if more coal were produced by the miners it could not be transported because of thi: shortage of rolling stock. The development of this country is fettered by an economic system of our own choosing. Surely it is not beyond our competence to solve the problems that confront us. We have been elected to this chamber to do our best to improve the living standards of the Australian people, not to assist to rob them to swell the profits of warmongers. Under a proper socialist system railways, schools, and hospitals could be built and national development schemes undertaken. The living standards of the workers would be improved instead ofbeing lowered as they are to-day. There would be no need for an application to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for the restoration of a 44-hour week. Machinery and plant would be used to the best advantage, and workshops would be properly organized. All that could be done under socialism, but so long as capitalism lasts, working conditions will become worse and worse. This Government is intensifying our problems to such a degree that, if it continues in office much longer, there will be a revolt throughout the country.
– I always understood that considerable latitude was allowed in a budget speech, but surely Senator Morrow has treated us to a most unusual roundabout. He took us back to 1S48, then to 1853, and then to 1910. Just what he was endeavouring to prove was not very clear; but the outstanding part of his speech was his assertion that, in his opinion, the solution of all our problems lay in the establishment of the socialist state. More people are afraid of that than the honorable senator imagines. That is why they will not accept as rulers of this country those people who advocate the socialist state and that is something for which we should all be thankful. The honorable senator appears to be worried about the possibility of a capitalist war. I am sure that he was not expressing the opinion of his party on that matter. Honorable senators opposite cannot shut their eyes to the situation existing overseas. They know only too well the danger that confronts the world at present. The possibility of war is far from remote.
– War from which quarter?
– To my mind the danger of war comes only from Russia. I am certain that the great peace-loving democracies have no desire for war. If war comes, it will be solely because of aggression by Russia, and I have no doubt that, at the moment of Russia’s chosing, Soviet forces will be well prepared for battle. That is the background of this budget discussion. The Government has the added responsibility of relating Australia’s economic policy to the budget proposals. Recently in Sydney an economic conference was held, and whilst it may be argued that the apparent results were not spectacular, some valuable ideas were offered for the solution of our economic ills. Delegates agreed that financial correctives were necessary, and that such correctives were preferable to physical controls such as rationing, the direction of labour, and price fixing - all matters over which the Commonwealth has no authority.
– If war came the Commonwealth would have all the authority that it needed.
– That may be, but at present its authority is inadequate. Therefore the alternative is control of credit and capital issues. That is a wise course to follow, and one that will be of considerable value. It will steady the wild scramble for investment and stabilize the economy generally. Capital issues will be carefully examined and where they are necessary for essential purposes they will be permitted. The increasing of interest rates is also a timely measure. The anti-inflation proposals contained in the budget seek to remove incentives to non-essential industries. Undoubtedly, there has been a rapid growth of such industries in recent years, and it is necessary to curtail their activities in the present crisis. Every effort must be made to divert labour from them back to essential avenues of production. There must be restraint in government spending. If the operation of the budget plan results in the taking of money from the people to whom Senator Morrow has referred-
– It will rob them.
– I do not like the word “ rob “ in this sense, although the honorable senator seems to favour it. The Government has a duty to ensure that its expenditure .shall be curtailed as far .as possible. The whole purpose of the budget will be defeated, if the Government, in a moment of weakness., gives way to the temptation to over-expand. Higher tax revenue will ease the strain on the loan market. “We could, of course, borrow more money or use more bank credit, but either of those courses would accentuate inflation. It is far better that defence expenditure in time of war or near war should be met as far as possible out of revenue, and that, after all, is the accepted policy of the Labour party. In other words, defence should be financed on the “ pay-as-you-go “ principle, and a very sound principle it is. The Government proposes also to build up reserves against a possible fall in the national income. All those precautions are simple and elementary methods by which a country can husband its resources. Surely there can be no objection to them. They are the basic principles of this budget. The Government will keep expenditure under control and safeguard the future to the best of its ability.
The main point of criticism of the budget is that the revenue to be raised will exceed minimum requirements. What the critics forget is the necessity to put this country’s finances into a sound position. It is the duty of the Commonwealth during this financial year to see that the States are able to carry out their functions and meet their responsibilities. We cannot allow the programmes of the States to be in jeopardy.
I consider that taxation has been spread equitably; no one section of the people of this country is being unduly taxed. Indeed, the proposed increases of taxes are not as high as many people had expected they would be. Objections to the budget proposals have come from sectional groups. Unfortunately, in this country the pressure group system is extending. Certain groups of individuals tend to exert more pressure every time anything that does not suit them is done. It is a dangerous development, inasmuch as people in a particular group tend to adopt a narrow rather than a national approach to problems that arise.
– That was the attitude that was adopted by Mr. Withall in Canberra.
– He is not a friend of mine. To digress for a moment, I am reminded that recently, when a tariff matter was under discussion, although the Chamber of Commerce complained about the proposal, the Chamber of Manufactures lauded the action of the Government. We must guard against being misled by a section of the people that is not prepared to defer judgment on a proposal until it has seen how the proposal may work out. We all know the type of people who rush in and claim to be authorities immediately budget proposals are announced. In common with some honorable senators they always propound only their own point of view. The size of this budget staggered many people, who could not believe that in so short a period Australia had developed to such an extent that a budget of this magnitude had become necessary. But we have some real problems on our hands. We do not know when the Korean conflict will end, or where we may become involved before it is over. Only one man knows, and he is not revealing his hand.
– The Prime Minister ?
– I refer to Generalissimo Stalin, who could end the campaign if he wanted to.
In Australia we have a welfare state. Provision is made for people who unfortunately cannot provide for themselves. The entails responsibility on the Government to devise ways and means of obtaining increased revenue. The cost of living has increased considerably and it is imperative that we should ensure that pensioners and people in receipt of repatriation benefits are treated as they so richly deserve. There must be no whittling down of present allowances.
– Apparently the honorable senator is starting to see the light.
– The milk of human kindness is not confined to any one group of the community. I am just as capable as are honorable senators opposite of appreciating the probelms that confront pensioners and other members of the community on fixed incomes. I am convinced that good results will be achieved if the budget proposals are carried out. Before the end of this financial year the result of restriction of credit and increased taxation will be apparent.
There has been considerable discourse on socialism. I believe that private enterprise should be encouraged because of the tremendous amount of good that flows from its activity. After studying the principles of socialism, I am convinced that private enterprise is preferable to that system, because it permits the best that is in people to come out. It has assisted tremendously to develop the English-speaking countries of the world.
– The honorable senator is saying, in effect, “Blow you, Jack ; I am all right “.
– That is not so. Honorable senators opposite are not the only people that think of the other fellow. I have a kindly feeling for my fellow men, and I believe that more can be done for them by private enterprise than by the glorified socialist state that we have heard so much about. I consider that many virtues and advantages will flow from our sticking to private enterprise.
Opposition senators interjecting,
– Order ! To my knowledge, Senator McMullin has never interjected when other honorable senators have been addressing the chamber. He has been one of the most courteous members of the Senate since it has been my privilege to preside over this chamber. Many of us could, with advantage, follow his example of good conduct. He deserves to be heard without interruption, and I therefore ask honorable senators to refrain from interjecting.
– I am greatly concerned about the volume of government trading between Australia and Great Britain, which I assure honorable senators is a matter on which I have some knowledge. This form of trading with the socialist Government of Great Britain began during the regime of the previous Labour Government in this country. I am convinced that the practice will have a bad effect on Australian primary production in the future if it is allowed to continue. From my observations whilst in England twelve months ago, I am sure that if this government buying continues we shall ultimately have no reputation at all for our products. Although I do not wish to scare honorable senators, I assure them that it has become necessary for us to keep a very close watch on this matter. I hope that a change for the better will occur in the Old Country in the next two days. Then we shall be able to do away with government trading and get back to the good, common basis of private enterprise playing its part in the development of this country. *
– The present British Government is the best government that has ever been in office there.
– It is imperative that our primary producers should be encouraged in every possible way so that we shall be able to help to relieve the shortage of foodstuffs in other parts of the world. I was interested to observe in this morning’s Sydney Morning II erald a report about the decline of farm areas in New South Wales. It reads -
The area of cropped land in New South . Wales has declined from 7,108,008 acres in 1947-48 to 4,704,853 acres in 1950-51- a fall of 2,250,000 acres.
– What is the reason?
– I shall explain the reason when I have finished reading the article. It continues -
This is shown in figures released by the Government Statistician, Mr. S. R. Carver. Last season’s cropped area was the lowest for 25 years, he said. The biggest decline was in wheat, from 5,043,017 acres in 1947 to 3,328,490 acres last year. (This year th« figure is believed to be down to less than 3.000,000 acres.) Oats decreased from 009.207 acres to 332,158, maize from 80,979 to 52,074 and barley from 23,478 to 8,302 acres.
The only grain crops to show an advance were rice (41,000 acres against 26,208 acres) and linseed (14,630 acres against 1,019 acres i. Potatoes were down from 21,911 acres to 18,374 acres, and other vegetables from 61,527 acres to 50,761 acres.
Potatoes are very important to the housewives of this country. It does not matter greatly what is the cause of the decreased acreage under crops. The present situation is serious, and we have to face it.
– What does the Government intend to do about it?
– I have read with very great interest articles written by men in industry. In the main, they have reviewed the situation, as I am doing, without offering a solution of the problem. However, I warn the Senate that unless the problem is faced, before very long there will be a shortage of food in this country. Primary producers must be encouraged to play their full part. The decline of acreage of cropped land is due to the high prices that have been obtained for wool, as well as to shortages of labour and materials. The shortage of materials has been very pronounced in New South Wales. The steelworks in that State have been producing at only about 60 per cent, of capacity. As a result there has been produced insufficient wire and galvanized iron to meet the essential needs of the farmers.
– What about their profits?
– They are very high.
– Order! I am disappointed that some honorable senators have not heeded my request of a few minutes ago. I appealed to the good sense of the honorable senators who were continually interjecting. At least they should remain quiet while I am on my feet. The cross debate must cease.
– I do not wish to be unkind to my friends of the Australian Labour party, but I suggest to them that it would be wise if they brought themselves up to date and forgot some of their phobias and fears. This is a grand country and one with which we can do much. It is true that we are going through a difficult time, but it is a time when every section of the community should make its contribution in order to keep the country on an even keel. I suggest, without any bitterness towards honorable senators opposite, that they should not let the whole of their lives be blighted and warped by something that happened in the past. I know that the depression years were very difficult ones and that the memory of them has remained clearly in the minds of honorable senators opposite. But surely there must be some hope. Honorable senators opposite frequently give me the impression that they are without hope and are wandering about telling their old stories and looking for the worst in everybody else. With a little cooperation and encouragement, we could solve our economic problems, which, after all, are not insurmountable. If this Government is permitted to remain in office, and if all sections of the community cooperate with it, the inflationary danger will pass and Australia will go on to the great future which it so richly deserves.
– This budget provides a great deal of scope for the discussion of actions of past and present governments. I do not propose to return to 1843, as one honorable senator has done, in order to discuss the problems in existence at that time. I wish to deal with the problems that confront this country to-day. I remember very well that when the Chifley Government brought down a budget which provided for the expenditure of £471,000,000 the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) described it as an “ astronomical budget “. I remind honorable senators that income tax has increased from £61 a head at that time to £123 a head to-day. During the last war heavy taxes were imposed on the people. There was also direction of man-power, and the young men of the country were placed in the armed services. The very people who condemned the Chifley Government and the Curtin Government because they increased taxes when we were at war and the country had its back to the wall, support the budget now before the Senate. It is true that the international situation is not what we could wish it to be. Indeed, it is fraught with many difficulties.
Although the present Treasurer referred to a budget presented by the Chifley Government as astronomical, he himself has introduced a budget which will increase taxes not on high incomes but on low ones. Everything that he said in 1949 he has since repudiated. Indeed, all the statements made by members of this Government during the 1949 election campaign have been repudiated by them. Honorable senators will recall that there has been a great deal of talk about mandates. The members of the Government claimed that they had received a mandate for this, that and the other thing. They, said that they had received a mandate to reinstitute the Commonwealth Bank Board, to introduce excess profits legislation, to reduce taxation, to restore value to the £1 and to stop inflation.
– And to deal with the Communists.
– That subject has whiskers on it. I hope that we have finished with it.
– The honorable senator hopes.
– I hope that we have finished with it. No one in this chamber is more opposed to communism than I am. I remember when the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) was in Opposition, and that is where he and his party should be to-day. This is what the Treasurer of to-day said of the late Mr. Chifley, when he was Treasurer in 1949-
– That was before the Korean war.
– I stated in this chamber twelve months ago - and the record is in Hansard - that this Government would play on the violin strings of the Korean war for any misdeeds that it might commit. Those words of mine have been borne out, because the interjection of the Attorney-General indicates that the Government has hung its hat on the peg of the Korean war. However, the Attorney-General will not divert me from the track that I propose to follow. I was a member of the Curtin Government and also of the Chifley Government. I have heard some very grave misstatements concerning the achievements of the Menzies Government from 1939 to 1941.
– So have. I ; many of them.
– Recently I heard the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) refer, in the House of Representatives, to what the Menzies Government had done during its two years in office prior to the election of the Curtin Governnent. The Minister stated that the Menzies Government had placed this country on a war footing. I remember, as a Minister, going to Western Australia and interviewing General Plant concerning the defences of that State. At that time there was not an antiaircraft gun in Western Australia. There was only one rifle to every three men. Yet members of the Government to-day glibly claim that the Menzies Government geared up the war effort. I consider that it was lack of activity on the part of that Government which was responsible for the Australian Labour party assuming office when it did not have a majority in either house of the Parliament. The Labour Government then carried on the affairs of the country for a period of two years. When it went to the country in 1943 it was returned with an absolute majority in both houses. That is the answer to all the accusations that have been made against the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government.
This is what the Treasurer said-
– Tell us what Mr. Curtin said.
– I know very well what Mr Curtin said, and one day I shall give the honorable senator the true answer. I do not propose to do so tonight because time does not permit.
– Mr. Curtin said in 1938 what the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) said in the House of Representatives yesterday.
– According to Hansard of the 21st September, 1948, at page 610, the present Treasurer stated, during the budget debate -
Instead of backing his words with actions, the Treasurer and his colleagues concerned themselves with furthering the Labour party’s socialist policy.
Those remarks referred to a budget of £417,000,000. To-day the estimated expenditure is more than £1,000,000,000. I can imagine the Treasurer at his desk endeavouring to find items from which he might obtain a few shillings by imposing sales tax on them. Even such things as children’s toys and ice cream have been taxed. I am afraid, however, that the right honorable gentleman grew tired and forget certain items. For that reason t consider that the budget should be withdrawn and redrafted. The right honorable gentleman forgot to tax children’s soothers or dummies, and teething rings. As far as I can see, those are the only items that he has forgotten.
The right honorable gentleman also said during the budget debate on the 21st September, 194S : -
It will be argued that such a course is antiinflationary, but what of the inflationary course pursued to raise the money, the high sales tax and other indirect taxes which force up the price of goods. . . .
These are the words of the Treasurer who has now adopted the method followed by the late Mr. Chifley, but to a far greater degree. The right honorable gentleman continued -
It would be far sounder economic planning for social security and national welfare if the price of goods came down through alleviation of sales tax;
Yet he has increased sales tax from approximately 12£ per cent, to 63 per cent. !
– Only some of it.
– I remind the Attorney-General that sales tax on some items has risen from 12J per cent, to 63 per cent. The right honorable gentleman also said - . . if basic wage rates remained stable through pay roll tax remissions and other reductions in indirect taxation; and if lowered income tax raised the volume and value of production. The Government’s policy is of such a nature that the Treasurer submits that the people should not have control over their own money. . . .
To-day the Treasurer is budgeting for a surplus of £114,000,000. He is the great financier who bitterly criticized Labour’s financial policy when he was in Opposition and even suggested during the war that we should have compulsory loans. To-day he proposes to extend the financial policy of the Chifley Administration.
I remind the Government that it was elected to restore value to the £1 and to arrest inflation. From every increase of ls. in the basic wage the Treasury receives approximately £1,000,000, so that honorable senators will realize the extent to which the present Government is benefiting by the continuing increases of the basic wage. In 1939 the basic wage was £3 19s. In July, 1950, it was £6 18s. In November of that year it had increased to £7 2s., and. in December to £8 2s. In February, 1951; it was £8 8s., in May, £8 17s. 6d., and in August it increased to £9 9s. To-day the basic wage is £10 7s., which represents an average increase throughout all States- of lis. a week. Under the Government’s tax proposals a single man would be better off than a married man who has children to support.
One of the worst treated sections of the community are the skilled workers, who formerly enjoyed a substantial margin over the basic wage. Despite the enormous increases of the basic wage that have taken place there has not been any increase of the margins for skill. When representatives of the skilled trades approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court they have to convince that tribunal that the skill of their members has actually increased before the Court will increase their margin. The practical consequence of this rule has been that to-day the margin for skill has virtually disappeared.
Earlier to-day an agreement between the Australian and United Kingdom Governments for the supply of meat during the next fifteen years was announced but I say at once that I have considerable doubt whether we shall be able to fulfil that agreement. As all honorable senators are aware, primary production has declined most alarmingly in this country. The area under wheat has declined by 3,250,000 acres and the. production of butter, pig meats and other essential primary produce has fallen very considerably.
– Neither potatoes nor onions are procurable.
– At least, not in Sydney. The significance of the decline of primary production is emphasized when we realize that the population of this country is increasing sharply each year. According to 1949 statistics, the excess of births over deaths in that year was 106,000, and during that year we admitted 150,000 migrants, so that in all, our population increased during that year by approximately 256,000. Furthermore, the natural increase of population in this country will soon approximate 100,000 a year. “When we add to that figure the enormous number of immigrants pouring into this country, which is estimated at approximately 200,000 a year, we realize the formidable task that confronts our primary producers in feeding our own population.
Before World War II. the consumption of meat per head of population in this country was 248 lb. Last year it had declined to 231 lb., largely because the introduction of rationing during the war accustomed people to subsisting on a reduced quantity of meat, and also because the current high price has discouraged people from consuming that commodity.
In 1949 Australia produced 1,050,000 tons of meat, which exceeded the meat production of 1942-43 of 1,033,000 tons by only 17,000 tons. Statisticians estimate that in future Australians will con*sume an average of 245 lb. of meat a year, which is, of course, considerably higher than the consumption of meat in any other country. In 1949 Australia produced 1,050,000 tons of carcass meat, of which it exported 235,000 tons, which represented our surplus production during that year. Now that our meat producers have to provide meat for an additional annual population of 300,000, honorable senators will realize that the quantity available for export will be seriously reduced. Indeed, after seven years we shall have no surplus meat for export unless its production is considerably increased in the meantime. I find it difficult to understand, therefore, how the Government proposes to carry out the long-term contract that it has made with the United Kingdom, let alone provide meat for Canada, as has also been suggested.
When Labour was in office it implemented a policy designed to increase primary production, but I challenge honorable senators opposite to tell me of any effective effort on the part of the present Government to increase primary produc- tion since it attained office nearly two years ago. During a visit I made to the far north-west coast of Western Australia I saw the experimental station that is situated about 80 miles from Wyndham, but even there I could not obtain any evidence of any real effort on the part of the present Government to increase production. I need hardly remind honorable senators that our experience during the recent war taught us that our national survival depends upon the capacity of this country to produce sufficient food not only to feed Australian workers but also the members of any expeditionary force that may be engaged in defending it. Unless some prompt and effective action is taken to increase the present inadequate production of meat we shall certainly’ not be able to complete the contract with the United Kingdom Government.
Finally, I am astonished that members of the present Government who have stigmatized prices control as being ineffective and inflationary, continue to spend £700,000 or £800,000 a year on the present unsatisfactory system of prices control. The Menzies Government has failed miserably, and it has repudiated every promise it made to the electors in 1949. I have no doubt that if a general election were held tomorrow the anti-Labour parties would be annihilated.
– I have followed the debate with the greatest interest, and have noticed that one feature of the contributions made by members of the Opposition is the lack of unanimity in their criticisms of the budget. Whilst some honorable senators opposite have contended that the budget will aggravate the present inflationary spiral and have said that it will worsen the present situation of over-full employment, others have contended that it is deflationary, and have described it as a blue-print for depression that will inevitably cause unemployment. Some critics say that there will be no surplus; that mounting government costs will swallow it up. Others say that the surplus will be even greater than is estimated; that it will amount to £200,000,000 or £250,000,000. If the arguments of Opposition members were firmly grounded the Government would be open to attack either because it had failed accurately to assess the country’s economic position, or because the budget is quite unsuitable, having regard to economic conditions as they now exist. In point of fact, I believe that the Government’s handling of the situation cannot be seriously assailed. Indeed, its position is unchallengable. If there is an alternative plan, it has not emerged from the arguments advanced by members of the Labour party. It is true that an attempt has been made to show that taxation, especially sales tax, will fall most heavily on those in the lower income groups. However, the fact is tha’t the steeply graded, selective nature of the tax will place the burden where it properly belongs; that is, on the purchasers of luxury or non-essential goods, and those purchases are found mostly in the higher income groups.
– What about baby powder and ice-cream ?
– Ice-cream is not a luxury. It is a standard item on the menu of most restaurants, because it is cheap. I would not be prepared to say that more ice-cream’ is eaten by children than by adults. I suspect that members of the Labour party are envious because they left it to a Liberal-Country party government to introduce the innovation of a selective sales tax. Earlier this evening, Senator Wordsworth cited figures to show that Australian taxpayers are much better off than are taxpayers in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. I have taken out figures which show what will be the position of Australian taxpayers in 1952-53 compared with their position in 1949-50, which was the last year to which a Labour government budget applied. The budget that year was for £471,000,000, as against this year’s budget of more than £1,000,000,000. One might have assumed that, having regard to the Government’s tremendous commitments for defence, social services and increased payments to the States, income taxation would fall more heavily on all classes of taxpayers this year than in 1949-50, but such is not the case, as the following figures show : -
The Treasurer is to be congratulated on the fact that, despite all his difficulties, he is collecting less in income tax from those in the lower income groups than the Labour Government collected in 1949-50. I flatly deny the fiction, repeated by Senator Morrow to-night, that prices are in advance of wage increases. As a matter of fact, since the basic wage increase of £1 in 1950, the reverse has been the case. Up to the time of the last increase, the celebrated “ C “ series index has shown an increase of only 100 per cent., whereas the basic wage has increased by 140 per cent. For that statement my authority is the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who cited the figures at the economic conference in Sydney.
The Government’s diagnosis of the country’s economic ills is correct. The greatest difficulty with which we are confronted to-day is inflation, a condition from which we have suffered for some years past. It is manifested in rising prices, caused basically by an insufficiency of goods to meet the demand arising out of progressively increasing incomes. Neither local production nor imports are able to satisfy the demand. High prices for exports have aggravated the position by increasing demand. The price of imports is high because the countries which supply them are also suffering from inflation, and dear imports inflate local costs. The demand for investment in all its forms, Government and private, essential and non-essential, is imposing asevere strain on national savings. High costs are making such tremendous inroads into savings that the savings are
Inadequate to meet all investment needs. Much of the investment capital available has been attracted to industries engaged in the production of less essential goods, because of the promise of quicker, and sometimes higher, returns.
The result is that our economy to-day is out of balance. We are trying to build on a base which is neither wide enough nor strong enough. This condition of economic unbalance shows itself in some odd ways. For example, there is an unsatisfied demand for refrigerators, although we are tragically short of electric power. Motor car sales are at a record level, yet roads are either unformed or out of repair. The manufacture of beverages, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic is at a record level, but water conservation plans are delayed or deferred because for want of labour and materials. It is comforting to note that the Government recognizes this trend in the field of public works. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said recently that major government projects were bidding against one another for men and materials. He also said that the interests of the nation would be better served if we concentrated our efforts on a smaller number of essential undertakings, and saw them through to completion. In a more general way, what is substantially the same thought has been voiced by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Dr. Coombs, in the last annual report of the bank. Dealing with investment, he said -
Total public and private investment expenditure in 1950-51 (excluding movements in stocks) was about One-third higher than in the previous year. Although this rise was largely due to price and cost increases, investment in real terms rose significantly. A substantial part of the expenditure of public authorities waa on projects designed to strengthen the Australian economy by improving power and water supplies, and transport and communication facilities. While it is essential that both public and private investment programmes should be reduced to a level more appropriate to the volume of resources available, it U clear that the successful completion of many of these basic projects is necessary if Australia’s development is to progress and the growing population is to be provided with basic services and the means to a rising standard of living. Commonwealth and State Governments arc now examining public investment plans with the object of ensuring that effort is concentrated on the most essential projects so that the best use is made of scarce resources. The need for this action is reinforced by the growing requirements of the defence programme. Although defence expenditure in 1950-5 1 was much greater than in the previous year, the full effect which defence preparations will have on the economy has not yet been felt, and a substantial curtailment of other investment expenditure will be necessary to allow the defence programme to be carried through, as well as lo reduce inflationary pressures.
Credit restriction and capital issues control have done much and are doing much to direct the. flow of capital into the most essential industries; but effective as these measures may be, we still have the basic problem of the shortage of investment money for our major industries. We may well find that, despite a more rigorous direction of financial resources than has yet been applied, and despite a taxation policy more severe than is imposed in this budget, we shall still not arrive at the position where investment is sufficient to maintain our immigration policy, even on a reduced scale, to provide for defence and for a sufficiently rapid expansion of our basic and essential industries. Fundamentally, Australia to-day is faced with a problem similar to that which confronts all young and expanding economies. We are passing through a transitional period of development and we shall soon have to decide whether we shall take the business risk, inevitably associated with expansion, of borrowing, or whether we shall allow our economy to reach stagnation point merely because we eschew that sort of policy. It is obvious that our national savings will not finance our requirements of essential products. The Government should again give thought to the raising of overseas loans. The first dollar loan negotiated by this Government enabled us to obtain much equipment of a vital character, including heavy earth-moving equipment, machinery, transport and the like. I am pleased that it made possible the purchase of eleven diesel locomotives for the Trans-Australian Railway. However, we are still painfully short of many requirements, and we still do things with a shovel that modern technique demands should be done with a bulldozer. I realize that there is a considerable prejudice, sometimes an unreasonable prejudice, against borrowing from overseas; but I cannot see the validity of the Objection to such a policy if we ensure in advance that the capital so raised shall be applied to those basic industries that will enable us to correct the unbalance that exists in our economy and in so doing materially improve the living standard of the people.
The recent decision of the International Monetary Fund to free gold is, at this point, interesting and possibly fortuitous, as it may enable us to service some of our debt commitments by making available .some of our gold production.
It is very satisfactory to note that the financial measures taken by the Government are bearing fruit. We have been told that, for the first time since 1946, the Upper Yarra dam scheme is now being implemented at full speed because men have been released from less urgent projects to hasten its completion. Even before the budget was introduced,- however, the effect of credit restriction was felt in another direction. The September, 1951, issue of the Monthly Summary of Australian Conditions, a publication issued by the National Bank of Australasia Limited, contains the following statement : -
One more recent example of the steadying ot buying pressure is to be found in the real estate markets. After climbing steadily for many months, prices for house property are no longer rising, and, whilst they are not falling to any appreciable degree, financial accommodation for such purposes is obviously more difficult to obtain, and sales are not so rapidly effected. lt becomes apparent, then, from recent indi cations in -many sections of Australian business that, while inflation continues “to press upwards upon costs and prices generally, the pressure is wavering at important points. . . Most of these recent changes in internal markets are surely the result of reactions to inflation which have now become extensive and are finding expression both in the spending practices of consumers and in the policies of Governments.
The only other comment I wish to make on the budget concerns its central feature, the proposed surplus. I believe that even if a policy of overseas borrowing on a fairly large scale were embarked upon it would still be necessary to budget for a surplus because it is our responsibility to finance our essential capital works to the limit of our capacity. In drafting the budget the Treasurer was confronted with the necessity for providing for a commitment of £927,000,000, much of which was inescapable. Possibly a less resolute Treasurer would have looked for an easy way out. I am happy to note that on this occasion no easy way cut was sought. Recourse to the issue of treasury-bills would merely have added to the problem of inflation. If the Treasurer had cast his budget with a view to balancing expenditure against income ho would in no way have applied a corrective to inflation. In times of high and rising income it is sound policy to draw off from the community its surplus spending power. That policy has been subscribed to by all shades of political opinion. I believe that even my most frequent interjector. Senator O’Byrne, would agree with me on that point. The Socialist Chancellors of the Exchequer of Great Britain, first Sir Stafford Cripps, and later Mr. Gaitskell, have steadily pursued that course since the end of the war. Canada, the United States of America and New Zealand have also pursued a similar course. That policy was also followed by the late Mr. Chifley, but he usually concealed his surpluses to a great degree in various funds.
It can be said of this budget that it is the first Australian budget that has given expression to the principle that budgeting for a declared surplus is a mighty and powerful weapon against inflation. Perhaps that is why this budget has been described as courageous. Whether or not it is courageous is, however2 beside the point. What matters more is that it is an honest budget. It is a realistic attempt to combat inflation. Despite the first rather stupid burst of fury from some sections of the press, I believe that it is now accepted by the vast majority of Australians as the right measure to apply to our economic difficulties. I have great pleasure in supporting the budget.
.- ‘ All honorable senators who have participated in this debate have discussed the proposal of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to budget for a surplus of £114,000,000. It will be interesting to ascertain how much of that surplus is left in the Treasury at the end of the financial year. This document represents the
Government’s sole tangible attempt during its two years of office to stop inflation. How successful .that effort is likely to be can be summed up in the words of Mr. Latham Withall, the director of Associated Chambers of Manufactures, who, I assume, is not a Labour supporter. Discussing the budget proposals Mr. Withall said-
The Australian £1 is now worth only 5s. because the budget has devalued it another 2s. Higher taxes will prove inflationary, not deflationary. The present rates of taxation are sufficient to give a balanced budget - neither surplus nor deficit; but they are to be raised to provide a surplus of £114,500,000. In this new budget we have taxes equal to £20 more from each person in Australia. Eight million people will provide the surplus to the Treasury. The new taxes were not to pay the cost of government for the greater part of them would form a budget surplus. People on lower incomes would be the most severely penalized by the proposed taxes.
The principal bone of contention is not the proposal to increase income tax by 10 per cent, but the iniquitous imposition of higher sales tax rates which will be very severely felt by persons in the lower income groups. I believe in higher taxes when they are necessary in the national interests. Throughout history various methods of taxation have been employed. For instance there was the poll tax which was levied on every person in the community. That became outmoded centuries ago. The percentage taxes levied by the present Government may be described as poll taxes on a graduated scale. Labour believes in the graduated income tax because under it contributions are made in accordance with earnings. That is the only logical way of taxing. It means that taxes are spread over the community equitably. A person who earns £400 a year feels an additional tax impost of £5 a year much more than a person who earns, say, £4,000 a year feels an additional impost of £50; yet that is the principle of the proposed 10 per cent, increase of the income tax. We are told that workers are better off to-day than they have ever been. That is true, but only because pf full employment which the present Government seeks to destroy. The Government denies that it will conscript labour, but we all know that it will resort to economic conscription. If full employment ceases, or a
Senator Cole. worker is forced to leave his family to take a job elsewhere, his wages become uneconomic with the result that his standard of living and that of his family is lowered. Then we have the sales tax racket. We are told that revenue must be raised in these troublous times, and that the only way to get it is through the sales tax, but it seems very hard on the children when the “ big bad wolf “ of the Treasury takes his 20 per cent, lick of their ice-cream and frightens Father Christmas back up the chimney by increasing the prices of toys and Christmas stockings. The logical question to ask is, “What is all this money to be used for ? “ It is not to be used for defence preparations because defence expenditure for the current financial year will be only £33,000,000 more than it was last year, and is a mere drop in the ocean when it comes to expanding defence undertakings. The money is not to be used to improve social welfare. It is to be put into cold storage. The sales tax increases will yield an additional £35,000,000. Those iniquitous increases could be wiped out and the Government would still have a surplus of £79,000,000. In fact, the sales tax should be wiped out altogether, because it serves only to increase the living costs of people in the lower-income groups. It is of little importance to persons who receive high incomes. The Government could abandon the sales tax entirely and still balance its budget. To budget for a surplus of more than £114,000,000 is childish in the extreme. It will not stop spending, but it will stop saving. It will prevent wageearners from saving a few shillings a week to buy amenities to ease the burden of domestic life. Perhaps the Government also has its eye on the £600,000,000 that the people have in the savings banks. That money belongs largely to people in the lower-income groups.
We are told that the Government has been courageous in budgeting for a surplus of more than £114,000,000. If that is so why does it not propose, to use its revenue courageously? Increases of repatriation pensions will cost a measly £1,125,000; yet there is to be a budget surplus of more than £114,000,000 ! The pension payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen is to be given a reasonable lift, but what about the base rate? This is the first time in history that the base rate has been left unaltered while increases have been made in other special pensions. After all, our servicemen saved Australia and brought it to nationhood, yet they are to receive only an additional £2,185,000 under this budget. If the Government were to increase repatriation pensions to a reasonable level it would receive the approbation of the people. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in his 1951 policy speech -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldiers’ problems.
In the face of that promise, are the pension proposals contained in this budget the best that the Government can do? There is also to be a miserable increase of 10s. in invalid, age, and widows’ pensions. Honorable senators opposite will argue that that increase 13 greater than any increase granted by the Chifley Government, but a comparison of the basic wage under the Chifley Government with that ruling to-day shows clearly that pensioners are falling further and further behind in their struggle for existence. The pension increase of 10s. will cost the Government £9,500,000, but more than £114,000,000 is to be put into cold storage while the pensioners freeze in reality. Why does the Government not endeavour to understand the plight of these unfortunate people? Surely the minimum pension should be half of the basic wage. That is not very much to ask. What would it cost? It would cost a mere £45,000,000. The Government is interested only in legislating for the few. It cares little for the welfare of the majority, as I shall show later in my speech.
Under the Chifley Government, Australia had the best economy of any English-speaking nation. Now, under the Menzies-Fadden. Administration, it has the worst. Honorable senators opposite need not take my word for that. The report of the Commonwealth Bank for the year ended the 30th June, 1951, states, at page 14 -
Price increases in Australia during the year were generally larger than in overseas countries.
I invite honorable senators to study the graph that is printed on the same page showing the movement of retail prices in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and New Zealand. The only country in which prices were reasonably stable is New Zealand, where some form of price control exists. The graph shows that the Chifley Government kept the economy of Australia fairly steady. It shows too that prices soared in the United States of America when controls were lifted, but. became relatively steady again when a modified form of prices control was introduced after the outbreak of the Korean war. It is clear that under the Menzies-Fadden Government in Australia prices rose steeply until they reached a relatively higher level than those of any other English-speaking nation. The statistical bulletin of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia for February, 1951, at a page which I notice has been omitted from later editions, shows that from 1945 to 1949 retail prices in Australia rose by 24.4 per cent, and wages by 47.4 per cent. Apparently by 1949 wage-earners were getting a better share of profits from industry; but what has happened under the Menzies-Fadden Government? In 1950, prices rose by 9.5 per cent, and wages by 8.7 per cent. Once again, wages are chasing after prices. Everybody realizes what is happening in this country. I mentioned a few moments ago that the Government legislates only for the few. In other words, big business is their god and any interference with profits must be frowned upon. Why does not the Government do something about the hundreds of companies that are battening on the people and causing the prices spiral to accelerate until the ordinary working man finds it very hard to make ends meet? If he is out of a job for any length of time he is in desperate straits.
This Government has given the green light to companies to go ahead and make all the profits that they can. I shall illustrate this point rather forcibly to honorable senators. Let us consider the companies directly connected with the chief items of consumer expenditure. T refer to food, clothing, housing and furnishing. In 1949 Associated Leathers
Limited made a net profit of £97,842. In 1950 its net profit was £151,200. The important point is that its reserves and undivided profits rose from £410,506 in 1949 to £534,939 in 1950. It is no wonder that we cannot buy shoes for our families at a reasonable price. Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, which is a holding company in glass and allied industries, made net profits of £541,385 in 1949 and £601,842 in 1950. Its reserves and undivided profits were £4,520,000 in 1949, and £4,816,791 in 1950, after reserves of £794,228 had been capitalized. During the year the company capitalized £794,228 of its reserves. Australian Knitting Mills Limited made net profits of £44,959 in 1949 and £49,939 in. 1950. Its reserves and undivided profits rose from £319,675 in 1949 to £387,173 in 1950. Bradford Cotton Mills Limited made net profits of £145,858 in 1949 and £187,018 in 1950. Its reserves and undivided profits rose from £615,900 in 1949 to £1,154,672 in 1950. Its reserves and undivided profits in 1948 we’re £357,000.
It is no wonder that the working man cannot buy tobacco at a reasonable price. British Tobacco Company (Australia) Limited made net profits of £997,419 in. 1949, and £S10,259 in 1950. Share premiums in 1949 aggregated £1,338,848. Its reserves and undivided profits rose from £2,S30,753 in 1949 to £2,843,185 in 1950. The net profit of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was £1,244,671 in 1949, and £1,335,815 in 1950. Its reserves and undivided profits rose from £9,135,649 in 1949 to £11,348,037 in 1950. Davies Coop and Company Limited, spinners and weavers, made net profits of £166,744 in 1949 and £176,465 in 1950. Its reserves and undivided profits rose from £329,323 in 1949 to £439,933 in 1950. Elder, Smith and Company Limited, woolbrokers, made net profits of £380,687 in 1949 and £616,367 in 1950. Its reserves and undivided profits rose from £1,351,614 in 1949 to £1,62S,S25 in 1950. Pelt and Textiles of Australia Limited made net profits of £564,783 in 1949 and £597,080 in 1950. Its reserves and undistributed profits rose from £2,533,562 in 1949 to £3,756,026 in 1950. It is no wonder that that company was able to reduce the price of feltex by £1 a yard recently ! The following figures will show the ladies why they have to pay so much for stockings. Holeproof Limited made net profits of £77,143 in 1949 and £135,030 in 1950. Its reserves and undistributed profits rose from £205,420 in 1949 to £296,187 in 1950. Kelvinator Australia Limited made net profits of £99,667 in 1949 and £148,808 in 1950. The important thing is that in each instance there has been a. tremendous increase of reserves and undivided profits. In this instance there was a rise from £259,390 in 1949 to £328,498 in 1950.
I shall now mention some motor manufacturing companies and distributors that, indirectly, caused consumer goods to rise. Adelaide Motors Limited made a net profit of £92,988 in 1949 and £251,455 in 1950. The following comment was made by a stockbroker after the 1950 balance-sheet had been issued .! -
As with other distributors of Austin vehicles the company has shown phenomenal profits in the 1949-50 year. . . . This company should also gain materially from the 100 million dollar loan.
That is where a lot of the 100,000,000 dollar loan went. The company paid an interim dividend of 40 per cent, during the first half of 1950-51. Austin Distributors Limited made net profits of £159,503 in 1949 and £441,996 in 1950. Larke, Hoskins and Company Limitedmade net profits of £107,272 in 1949 and £379,427 in 1950. Its reserves and undivided profits rose from £161,057 in 1949 to £498,984 in 1950. York Motors (Holding) Limited made net profits of £376,996 in 1949 and £995,569 in 1950. Its reserves and undistributed profits rose from £958,905 in 1949 to £1,465,474 in 1950.
– What was the turnover ?
– Don’t worry about that. Think of the profits. Drug Houses of Australia Limited, which battens and capitalizes on sick people, made net profits of £247,128 in 1949 and £357,223’ in 1950. Its reserves and undistributed profits rose from £1,600,870 in 1949 to £1,714,565 in 1950. In this instance a sharebroker made the following comment after the 1950 balance sheet was issued -
Extension of the *’ free medicine “ scheme in 1950 offers the prospect of increased turnover in many drugs and preparations. . . Reserves and undivided profits have been doubled in that’ period.
It is therefore clear that prices are rising mainly because the Government will do nothing to try to control either prices or profits. Increased wages do not cause the spiralling of prices, because, as any economist will tell us, an increase of wages will leave profits untouched.
– What school of economics is that, the London school?
– It is immaterial whether it is the London school or the Melbourne school.
– Or any school.
– The Government has even refused to use taxation as an instrument to take excess profits from those who have made them and divert them into the Treasury. The Government would sooner take the few extra shillings from the little man than attempt to get its increased taxation from those best able to pay. Instead of acting in a courageous fashion and limiting profits and instituting prices control, which it knows the people desire, the Government is attempting to further decrease the incomes of the lower paid workers of our community. I suggest that one way in which the Government could help to stop spiralling prices would be to prevent the expenditure by commercial concerns of enormous sums of money on advertising products that are usually unobtainable. The Treasurer reminds me of the wellknown radio programme, and should be called “ Cop-the-Lot-Fadden “.
– There seems to have been gathered into the Senate the greatest bunch of pessimists that it would be possible to find in Australia, judging from the remarks made “by most of the honorable senators opposite during this debate on the budget. Most of these gentlemen appear to find it necessary to wear not only braces but also belts, and their pessimism has had the effect of a wet blanket on this debate.
I disagree with them, of course, which is not unusual. Despite all that they have said, I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) upon introducing such a courageous budget.
The budget seeks to do two things: First, to depress the ever mounting inflationary spiral, and secondly, to ensure that this country shall be adequately defended. It is by far the most important budget that has been presented to any Australian parliament since the critical years of the last war. Now that the Government has taken its courage into both hands and presented a plan for economic stability, it is for this chamber to assist in translating those plans into practice. The budget has been variously described by pessimists as “ an astronomical budget “, “ a fantastic budget “, “ a panic budget “, “ a horror budget “, “ a rigorous budget “, and “ a hysterical budget “. I still say that it is a courageous budget.
The Australian people generally realize the need for strong medicine, and are prepared to take it. I have received from Western Australia only one protest on general lines about the budget, another about pensions, and a few from regular pressure groups. I have spoken to hundreds of people about the budget, and while they did not like parts of it they think it is an emergency attempt to meet our critical condition. Their attitude is similar to that of the matron of a certain orphanage. When a small orphan declared that he did not like the blanc-mange placed before him he was told by her that he was not asked to like it; he was asked to eat it. We are not asked to like this budget.; we are asked to face it. I think that that is what Australians will do. I believe that there is almost a feeling of relief abroad because the Treasurer has faced up to the task of telling the Australian people that life cannot always be a party.
Recently a conference was called by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in order to obtain the opinions of all sections of the Australian people about our economic conditions. The feeling of the thinking women of Australia was placed before that conference by Mrs. Brookes, who was representing the National Council of Women. She said that all the seven councils which composed the National Council of Women advocated the restriction of production of luxury goods either by control or by taxation, or both, and that taxation revenue should be increased by heavier indirect taxes instead of heavy personal taxes. She said that the women of Australia were prepared to contribute more through indirect taxation in order to combat inflation.
During past years the women of Australia have suffered much from the effects of strikes, the consequent shortages of goods, rising costs and the fact that the average housewife’s working week is 72 hours compared with the 40 hours worked in industry. Moreover, very little help has been available to women in their homes. I object to sales tax being increased on certain goods that are now classed as luxuries. Many such good3 are merely normal requirements. Consider, for instance, refrigerators. They are amenities which, because of our climate should be found in all homes. Savings of perishable goods by the use of refrigeration are very great, and in these days of high prices and shortages of foodstuffs refrigerators are necessities. I do not agree with the Treasurer that the sales tax on refrigerators should be increased. Most women also object to increased sales tax on cosmetics and lipsticks, although some of them have been mollified because the Treasurer has also imposed sales tax on shaving creams for men. While that is equality with a vengeance, two wrongs do not make a right, and I consider that it is a great pity that the morale of the people should be lowered by the imposition of s>ales tax on articles which may be correctly described as the normal requirements of men and women. The fact that sales tax has been imposed upon- cultural articles, such as musical instruments and photographic equipment, is a disappointing feature of the budget. It must be admitted that culturally Australia is behind many other countries, and the imposition of taxes on such items is a retrograde step.
Whilst I admit that the increase of 10s. a week in the pension rate is one of the largest that has yet been granted, I do not consider that it is adequate in relation to the increased cost of living. 1 again appeal to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) to reconsider the pensions scheme and the anomalies that still remain, especially in relation to civilian widows and the blind persons who are unemployable. . Many blind people are not able to work and must be completely cared for by institutions. It is very difficult indeed for such institutions to carry on their operations and to provide adequate care for the blind from the small amount which the inmates are able to pay for their upkeep. I consider that it is unjust to limit to 30s. a week the amount which civilian widows may earn. That limitation restricts the field of work in which they may engage and robs the community of much valuable assistance which such women could render.
We have heard a great deal concerning the welfare state. I think that Australians should congratulate themselves upon the fact that they have reached a stage of civilization where, by and large, the needy are very well taken care of by the Government and by voluntary associations. I wish to pay a tribute to ‘that great band of people who give voluntary help in the community and who pour out goodwill day by day, year in and year out, by means of organizations which take care of those who are severely handicapped in life. I trust that we never reach the position that exists in totalitarian countries where all such goodwill is shu* out and voluntary assistance is not accepted by the Government.
I join with the Treasurer, the Minister for Social Services and those who consider that we have come to the time when we must think of a more secure method by which social services may be continued and, if possible, extended. This budget proposes to add another £13,000,000 to expenditure on pensions. In less than two years the Menzies Government has increased social services benefits by more than £37,000,000 a year. Expenditure on age and invalid pensions in 1951-52 is expected to total £61,770,000, whilst liability for a full year is expected to be £65,000,000. The totals for widows pensions are £5,700,000, and £6,100,000 for a full year. That means that the annual liability for social services benefits will be approximately £72,000,000.
The total expenditure on social services is expected to increase from £102,592,000 to £119,450,000, and for a full year to £124,000,000, or 31 per cent, more than the total Commonwealth expenditure in 1938-39. We must therefore take into consideration the growth of our social services in relation to the number of people in the community who will be called upon to meet their costs. The Minister for Social Services has forecast that a contributory system must be adopted ultimately, and I consider that that is a problem which honorable .senators should attempt to solve. Medical science has extended the span of life by from 15 to 20 years. Yet we still persist in allowing people to retire at the age of 60 years or compulsorily retiring them at the age of 65 years, thereby throwing them on to the scrap heap. They are then provided with a pension which is inadequate for their needs. Accordingly, there is a vast field of intelligent, experienced and able-bodied people who are sitting about waiting for the reaper because we have arbitrarily fixed a certain age at which we consider that people have finished their work. I am sure that all honorable senators agree that some deep thought must be given to the lengthening span of life and to retirement benefits.
Repatriation benefits will be greatly increased under this budget. I shall not weary the Senate by detailing those benefits, but I consider that the recipients of them have received from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) very sympathetic understanding. The noisy and almost hysterical outbursts of the Labour Opposition against the budget, both in this chamber and in the House of Representatives, have not yielded one constructive thought towards the solution of our difficulties. This country belongs to all of us and we should all give constructive thought to our economic problems. It would be profitable for the members of the Opposition who complain that the Australian electors are being weighed down with heavy taxes, to study the incidence of taxation in other countries, such as New Zealand and Great Britain. Senator Wordsworth and Senator Paltridge have cited certain figures, and I do not propose to do more than to say that at the present moment the average Australian taxpayer is let off very lightly indeed.
Opposition criticism of the budget is not only insincere but is also definitely obstructionist. Each member of the Labour party, from the leader down, must share that accusation. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives has been described in American diaries as an active source both of irritation and uncertainty. I add to that description that he is also an active source of obstructionism in this country. Whilst it is the function of an opposition to oppose, I suggest that its opposition should be constructive. I challenge any honorable senator opposite to refer to any constructive idea that has been mentioned by any member of the Opposition during the budget debate. Senator Nash complained during his speech that only one-sixth of the estimated expenditure will be applied to defence purposes. The honorable senator wailed loud and long about that matter. I suggest that if he wishes to be consistent he should rejoice in that knowledge. I remember the attitude of the honorable senator and that of other honorable senators opposite when the Defence Preparations Act was being discussed in this chamber some months ago. He should rejoice that the vote is not larger than it is. He is most inconsistent. The electors will not forget the performances of the Labour party and its refusal to co-operate in the recruiting campaign. Senator Morrow^ denied that some of our boys have paid:s the supreme sacrifice in Korea.
– Order! Iri .conformity with the standing order relating, to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative. <
– I hope most fervently that it will not be necessary to increase the defence vote;-‘ but every thoughtful person who reviews current world affairs must conclude unfortunately that we shall have to extend our defence preparations and expend an even greater sum on defence than the Government originally contemplated, would be necessary. Senator Nash also complained about the cost that is to. be incurred in the provision of free milk for school children. On the one hand he urged that social services should be increased, and, on the other hand, he complained that taxes are too high. His comparison of the present budget with previous budgets proved nothing because he failed to take into consideration the growth of our population during the last two years as a result of immigration and natural increase. He also ignored the. operation of the Colombo plan in respect of which Australia has already expended. £6,500,000 and is likely to expend over £9,000,000 during the current financial, year. It is estimated that our total expenditure in respect of that plan will amount to £36,000,000.
I disagree with Senator Wordsworth’s forecast that the Colombo plan will not. prove to be a success. I believe that the safety of Australia depends on its success. I. agree with him that we should be. well advised to enable- students from. South-East Asian countries to come to Australia to study our way of life. A number of social workers have already been sent from Australia and from New Zealand, which, also, is a party to the Colombo plan, to work in certain districts in South-East Asia, and they are achieving good worthwhile results. I also agree with Senator Wordsworth that very few Australians really understand what the Colombo plan means. I doubt whether members of the Opposition have read the book that the Department of External Affairs has issued in explanation of the plan. We should study that plan thoroughly and work for its success.
I am happy to note the widespread interest that hasbeen aroused by the appointment of a Minister for Territories. The honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck), who has received that appointment, has the advantage of being a Western Australian. I congratulate him upon the establishment of the firstLegis- lative Council in New Guinea and upon appointing a woman to that body in the person of Mrs. Clare Booth, O.B.E. I am confident that the council will perform much useful work. An understanding attitude accompanied by financial help will improve our relations with the people of New Guinea. Generally speaking, the public have received the budget in a sensible, understanding manner. It would appear that only the Labour party cannot rise to its importance or realize the necessity for it in the crisis that has overtaken Australia. I repeat that it is a courageous budget; and, with the exception that it fails to remove several anomalies relating to social services, I have much pleasure in supporting it.
Debate (on motion by SenatorByrne) adjourned.
Motion (by SenatorO’sullivan.) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I direct the attention of the Senate to the announcement by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) that the 1,300 persons now living at Watsonia camp must vacate the camp in order that it may be made available to the Army authorities. We should be ashamed of ourselves that we have permitted good’ Australians, who were prepared to fight the enemies of our country, to live at that camp under conditions that are as bad as those that existed at the Belsen horror camp. Unfortunately, because of’ the lack of foresight on the part of previous governments - I say this regardless! of. party politics - these people are forced, to live under appalling conditions. Now, they are to be told by the Minister for the Army that they are to vacate the camp in the near future as the Army authorities wish to build there a camp to accommodate the soldiers who will participate in the next war, if another war occurs. The Minister for the Army said that the Government intends to expend several millions of pounds for that purpose. It will accommodate the soldiers who will go overseas to be cannon fodder in defence of this country. Honorable senators opposite, who are too old to take part in any future war and are living in the lap of luxury, may smile. I hope that Senator George Rankin and other honorable senators who have held high army rank in the services, particularly honorable senators who come from Victoria, will support my representations in this matter.
The residents at Watsonia camp are living under conditions similar to those under which the miners on the Golden Mile were obliged to live in the early days. I trust that the Minister representing the Minister for the Army will be able to give me an assurance, either to-night or to-morrow, that the Government will not proceed with its proposal. I have been asked by residents at the camp to visit them again next Sunday; and I hope that I shall be able to give them that assurance. These people should not be thrown out of the camp until the Government has provided other accommodation for them elsewhere. We have been told that because of the curtailment of the allocation of loan money to Victoria - I do not canvass the merits of the decision - the Housing Commission in that State will not build any more homes. If that information is correct, the 1,300 persons now living at Watsonia camp will be turned out on to the streets to fend for themselves. I again appeal to the Government not to force those people to vacate the camp until other accommodation, either better or equal to that now provided for them, is made available. I make this request apart altogether from party politics. If these people are ejected they will be obliged to live in the streets, under bridges or in stables, as many Australians were forced to live during the depression..
. -I am not participating in this debate on behalf of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, but because I desire, as- a representative of Victoria, to correct some manifest inaccuracies in Senator Hendrickson^ speech. The honorable senator asked that this matter be dealt with upon the basis of compassion, yet he has attempted to place the blame upon the shoulders of the Minister for the
Army (Mr. Francis) and> by implication, upon this Government.
– I rise to order. I said at the beginning of my remarks that irrespective of the policy of previous governments-
– Order ! What is the honorable senator’s point of order?
– I have been misquoted by Senator Cormack.
– That is not a point of order.
– I bow to your ruling, Mi President, but I point out that the statement of Senator Cormack is not correct.
– Order! The honorable senator may make a personal explanation when Senator Cormack has completed his speech. So far, Senator Hendrickson has not directed my attention to a breach of the Standing Orders.
– I shall explain the conditions under which the camp at Watsonia was transferred from the Commonwealth to Victoria* After the last war the Commonwealth handed Watsonia camp and other service camps to the States, but expressly stipulated that such camps should be returned to the Commonwealth for its use when they were required. The Government now considers that, for defence purposes, certain camps that were made available to the States should be resumed by the Commonwealth. The Government of Victoria has been asked to act in conformity with the terms of .the agreement to which I referred, and to” vacate the camp at Watsonia. The Commonwealth gave the State ample notice of its intention. Responsibility for housing the present occupants of Watsonia camp rests, not upon this Government or the Minister for .tho Army, but fairly and squarely upon the Government of Victoria; but the Government of Victoria is making’ no attempt to meet that obligation. I suggest .that Senator Hendrickson should appeal to the Premier of Victoria and his supporters not to allow the occu-pants of Watsonia camp to be thrown into the streets and to spare them the ordealof having to live under bridges. The Victorian Government is responsible for* housing those people but, as- in other matters, it is trying to shelve its responsibilities and to blame the Commonwealth for the position. That is the true explanation of the present situation.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I was misquoted by Senator Cormack. I said at the beginning of my speech that, irrespective of what government was at fault regarding the appalling conditions at Watsonia camp. I was not attempting to make a political issue out of this matter. I think that you, Mr. President, heard me make that statement. Those are the words that I used. Senator Cormack had no right to accuse me of having attempted to lay the blame for the position on the shoulder of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), who was no more to blame for it than I was.
– I endorse the remarks of Senator Hendrickson about the plight of the persons who are now occupying Watsonia camp. I had not intended to speak upon that subject until Senator Cormack endeavoured to place the blame for the present unfortunate situation upon the shoulders of the Government of Victoria. I am concerned not with attaching blame to any one but with the welfare of the Australian people. I asked a question on this subject to-day, and I emphasize now that, so far from attempting to blame any one for the present situation, we all should be trying to prevail upon the Government to allow the persons concerned to remain in the camp until alternative accommodation can be arranged for them.
– By the Government of Victoria.
– I do not mind whether suitable alternative accommodation is provided for those unfortunate people by the Government of Victoria or by the Commonwealth. The sad fact is that 250 Australian families, totalling 1, 300 persons, may be cast into the streets very soon. They should notbe required to vacateWatsonia camp until other suitable accommodation is arranged for them. “ Field Marshal “ Cormack tells us that Watsonia Camp must be resumed for defence purposes. Any one may be excused for thinking that he is a field marshal when he speaks as he does about strategy and defence needs. If he believes that Watsonia camp is strategically important, let me disabuse his mind. That camp is not necessary as a military establishment. Senator Cormack, if he knows the geography of Melbourne, although I suspect that he is more familiar with the western districts should be aware that Watsonia camp is almost completely encircled by hospitals and mental institutions.
From the strategic stand-point, Watsonia camp is not necessary to the Army. According to reports, the Government intends to extend that camp and to expend several million pounds upon improving conditions there for the troops. I do not for one moment contend that conditions provided for the troops in camps should not be the best that we can provide for them; but I appeal to the Government to allow the occupants of Watsonia camp to remain there until suitable atlernative accommodation can be arranged for them. I hope that other honorable senators will forget parish pump politics, and will not endeavour to prove that it is the responsibility of the Government of Victoria to find such accommodation for those unfortunate people. Senator Cormack, as a representative of Victoria, should be well aware that accommodation is simply not available for them, and he should have their interests at heart. Instead of speaking so lightly and glibly about the obligations of the Victorian Government, he should support our appeal to the Minister for the Army to defer action until other accommodation is provided for those people.
On the matter of Watsonia camp, I find myself, as it were, bestriding two worlds. The plight of people in that camp, as described in this debate, is a definite fact. The responsibility for that plight, although it rests fairly and squarely upon the shoulders of the Victorian Government, should not be overlooked by us if that Government is prepared to fall down on its job. We should help the Victorian Government to meet its obligation, not for its own sake, because it needs no help, but for the sake of the occupants of that camp. I suggest that we can point out to the Victorian Government that something can, be done for those persons who are living in that camp, which is a Commonwealth establishment and is needed for defence purposes. There is published in Melbourne a newspaper called the Argus, which is commonly known as “old- fair play”. For the last four or five weeks that newspaper has published numerous articles to the effect that, as a result of reduced loan allocations for public works, a considerable amount of accommodation has become available at various centres in that State because workers have left those districts. If that is so, we can point out to the Victorian Government that accommodation can be found in such centres for the present occupants of Watsonia camp. That camp, if it is required for defence purposes, must be used for those purposes, and if the Victorian Government falls down on the job and cannot provide alternative accommodation for those people, I should like to see the Commonwealth help it to shoulder its obligations. To that degree, I support the plea that has been made by Senator Hendrickson.
– I should not have participated in this debate but for Senator Gorton’s remarks. “We should not forget that 250 families are involved in this matter. I suggest that, by arrangement with the Victorian State Housing Commission, 21 families should be placed in commission houses each month so that, at the end of twelve months or thereabouts, all the families would be suitably housed. The Commonwealth should ask the Government of Victoria to make such an arrangement. As the buildings in the camp were vacated, they could be taken over by the Commonwealth. That would be the humane way to deal with the problem. Let us not talk about war when we are at peace. We can look after a war when it comes, but now we should look after these families, and see that they are properly housed.
– I agree with what Senator Cormack has said on this subject. Watsonia was taken over as a housing settlement on a temporary basis. It was intended to be an emergency housing centre only. Strangely enough, the solution to the problem has been suggested by an honorable senator opposite. The Government of Victoria, through the State Housing Commission, is responsible for housing the people concerned. Only a few weeks ago, some people were deploring the conditions under which families were housed at Watsonia. Those conditions are certainly notsuitable, but there are people in Watsonia who have been offered houses, and have refused to accept them. Gradually, the State Housing Commission has been acquiring a list of people who unfortunately are not suitable tenants even for housing commission homes. We shall always have people in places like Watsonia and Camp Pell unless the State Government takes action.
– I shall be pleased to tell the people in Watsonia what the honorable senator has said about them. Her attitude is not humane.
– As I have said, some of them were offered other accommodation and refused it.
– Is the honorable senator condemning the 1,300 people who live at Watsonia?
– I am not. The Victorian Government has known of the conditions at Watsonia, but it has not made any real effort to provide alternative accommodation for them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Canned Fruits Export Control Act- Twentyfifth Annual Report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, for year 1950-51, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Commonwealth Grants Commission ActCommonwealth Grants Commission - Eighteenth Report (1951).
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and Designs ( 5 ) .
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - . Defence purposes -
Department of Civil Aviation purposes- Eagle Farm, Queensland.
Papua and New Guinea Act- Ordinance- 1951 - No. 30 - Arms, Liquor and Opium Prohibition (Papua).
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Repatriation - E. A. Phillips.
Supply - L. H. Norton.
Works and Housing- F. J. Allen,G. E. Partlett.
Repatriation Act - No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal - Report for 1950-51.
Sent of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Canberra University College - Report for 1950.
War Service Homes Act - Report of Director of War Service Homes for year 1950-51, together with statements and balancesheet.
Senate adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 October 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1951/19511024_senate_20_214/>.