20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Eon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question concerning detergents. In the course of a recent discussion with a leading medical pathologist I was concerned to hear that cleansing preparations which are now in constant demand for washing clothes and dishes, and which are generally known as detergents, are what he calls carcinogenic, which means that, they are likely to cause cancerous conditions on skin surfaces that are exposed to their action. I understand that this is an opinion that is widely held in Australian ‘ medical circles. As these detergents are extremely efficient cleansing agents they are widely used, and if they have the effect that has been suggested hy the medical profession they are a constant and growing source, of danger to the health of the community. In these circumstances, will the Minister ask the Minister for Health to make a statement on the matter?
– I shall be pleased to ask the Minister for Health to have this matter investigated and a statement made as soon as possible.
– On the 21st May, Senator Critchley asked me the following question : -
Can the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Senate when the new airport at West Beach, Adelaide, will be completed? In view of the bad condition of the Parafield airport, is there any early hope of West Beach field being made available soon as an emergency landing ground?
The Minister for Civil Aviation has now supplied me with the following information : -
The facilities at the new airport at West Beach, Adelaide, will not be sufficiently advanced to enable it to be brought into use this winter, and whilst it is hoped that it may be possible to do so in the winter of 1953, that will depend entirely on the progress of the work in the meantime; and, consequently, it is not possible to state at this time just when the new airport will be completed.
– On the 22nd May, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what progress had been made in the negotiations with superphosphate companies in South Australia that aro interested in the extraction of sulphuric acid from pyrites mined at Nairne. The Minister informed me in reply that representatives of the companies were at that time conferring with the responsible Minister in Canberra, and that an early decision was expected. Will the Minister tell the Senate what decision was reached?
– I am pleased to be able to inform the honorable senator that the conference was held, and that the Government has agreed to accede to the requests of the companies which ave interested in establishing treatment plants for the extraction of sulphuric acid from pyrites. On Wednesday last, I interviewed the representatives of the companies, and informed them that if the materials needed for the establishment of the plant could not be obtained in Australia they would be given first priority to import them. Thus, the conference was, in all respects, satisfactory, and the plant will be established without delay.
– On the 22nd May, Senator Byrne asked the following question : -
I desire to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General a question concerning the report that was recently published in the Brisbane press’ that the Postmaster-General’s Department in Queensland expected a deficit exceeding £2,000,000 for the current financial year. In view of the severe increases in postal, telegraph and telephone rates that were imposed by the last budget, is the Minister in a position to indicate whether a buyer’s resistance has built up against the heavy charges with a consequent fall in turnover and & relative decline in revenue? If statistics are available would the Minister inform me of the number of ( o ) telegrams, and (ii) phonograms, despatched through the General Post Office, Brisbane, for the periods 1st July, 1950, to 30th April, 1051, and 1st JulI. 1951, to 30th April, 1052?
The Postmaster-General has now supplied me with the following information : -
The department expects to show a profit is its commercial accounts for 1951-52. The press report to which the honorable senator referred probably related to the loss of £2,650,000 on the operations for 1950-51 as shown in the annual report which was recently presented to Parliament.
The expected profit for the present financial year, despite increased wages, costs of materials and transport charges, indicates that no general buyer’s resistance has built up against postal transactions as a result of the higher rates. As a matter nf fact, revenue for the ten months ended 30th April, 1952, was £11,783,074 higher than for the corresponding period of 1950-51.
As far as telegrams are concerned there has been a decline in traffic, but thin is not wholly attributable to the higher tariffs. The use of telegrams per head of population has been greater in Australia than in any other country. It was, therefore, inevitable that the growth of air-mail facilities and the increasing use of leased teleprinter services by newspapers, government departments and business organizations should make inroads into telegram traffic. Despite the fall in business, the revenue from the telegraph service for the first ten months of the current financial year was £657,473 higher than for the same period of 1950-51.
The number of telegrams and phonograms lodged at the Chief Telegraph Office, Brisbane, during the periods 1st July, 1950,. to 30th
April, 1951, were, telegrams 787,202, phonograms 094,494; and during the period 1st July, 1951, to 30th April, 1952, were, telegrams 631,025, and phonograms 532,286.
It is pointed out that telegram traffic in Queensland was also affected adversely by the serious drought in that State during the latter half of 1951.
– On the 22nd May, Senator Hendrickson asked me the following question: -
Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral request the Public Service Board to inquire into the obvious injustice now being perpetrated in connexion with certain postmasters and senior postal clerks who are denied penalty rates for Saturday work and overtime? Is it not a fact that junior officers who work under direction of postmasters and senior postal clerks are paid penalty rates?
The Postmaster-General has now supplied the following answer: -
Postmasters and senior postal clerks work under conditions which have been determined by the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator. The penalty provisions for Saturday and overtime are intended to compensate for the disabilities associated with shift Saturday afternoon and extra duty work which, generally, postmasters and senior postal clerks do not experience, however, if they do, the prescribed conditions apply to them in the same way as they do to their subordinates.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by pointing out that on Tuesday, no work was done on the Blue Funnel liner Tarpina by the waterside workers at Port Adelaide until the day shift ceased work at 5 p.m. Work then proceeded on the vessel from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. at penalty rates. The reason for the delay given by the Port Adelaide Haulage Company was that as the company had been unable to obtain delivery of sufficient tow motors work could not commence on Tarpina until work was completed on other ships at 5 p.m. In view of not infrequent happenings of this kind, will the Minister take action to ensure that in future tow motors on order shall be in readiness when the waterside workers at Port Adelaide are ready to commence work?
– I am indebted to the honorable senator for drawing my attention to this matter. I assure him that I will have it investigated to see what can be done to prevent a recurrence of the delay. I regard the matter of quick unloading of vessels at Port Adelaide as extremely urgent.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services inform me whether the Government has considered increasing the rate of child endowment? If not, will it do so in the light of the following factors: - (a) During its regime, Labour increased child endowment by 2s. 6d. weekly on two occasions; (b) there has been a vast increase of the national income since child endowment was last increased in 1948; (c) pensions have been increased, and the basic wage has been adjusted upwards in the light of improved national prosperity; and (d) family men, whose inflated wages have to bear increased taxation, particularly sales tax, now have only a greatly reduced purchasing power available to them for essential family requirements ?
– I am not aware that any consideration has been given to the matters mentioned by the honorable senator. I remind him that the party of which he is a member vigorously opposed the endowment of the first child. That child endowment is now paid not only in respect of the second child but also in respect of all children is due entirely to the action of the present Government.
– The answer is “ No “.
– Order ! The Minister is answering the question. I was under the impression that replies to questions are made only by honorable senators on my right and not by those on my left.
– Did the Minister for Trade and Customs observe that while Senator Ryan was asking a series of questions that took less than one minute to state no fewer than seven interjections were made by honorable senators who sit on the Government side of the Senate!
– The honorable senator’s question is entirely out of order.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Educational, scientific and cultural materials.
Cloth and garment pressing machines.
Chain pulley blocks.
Copies of the report on the chain pulley blocks are not yet available for circulation to honorable senators.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Benn be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Printing Committee.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Willesee be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay), read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill makes provision for a refund of the wheat tax collected on exports from the 1949-50 wheat crop delivered to No. 13 wheat pool, together with accrued interest. The 1949-50 wheat crop was one of the post-war series of heavy crops. Deliveries to the Australian Wheat Board from that crop totalled 201,930,000 bushels, and almost reached record figures. The amount of tax collected on the export of 140,700,000 bushels was £15,245,000. The rate of tax was 2s. 2d. a bushel.
The basic feature of the wheat stabilization plan is the financial contribution by the wheat industry towards its own future security. This contribution is made by growers while export prices exceed production costs. The Commonwealth, for its part, has undertaken that, for the duration of the plan, wheatgrowers shall receive a guaranteed price equal to the cost of production determined for each season. The Commonwealth guarantee, which applies to exports of wheat up to 100,000,000 bushels each year, is made possible by legislation which has been enacted by all State governments, under which a uniform price is assured for all wheat sold for manufacture into food for consumption in Australia.
The tax collected on exports of wheat from No. 13 pool has been held in a trust fund on behalf of the wheat-growing industry. It is now proposed to repay it to growers, through the Australian Wheat Board, as a payment from that pool early in the new financial year. Such a proposal is in accordance with the declared policy of the Government, and in line with its understanding with the wheat industry that amounts in excess of the requirements of the stabilization plan will not be retained in trust.
At the end of April the amount held in the fund was £27,343,000, which was made up of the proceeds of tax from No. 13 pool, No 14 pool, and the first instalment from the 1951-52 crop which is now being sold. The repayment of tax in respect of No. 13 pool, amounting to £15,245,000, will leave less than two seasons’ contributions in the stabilization fund, but this amount is considered adequate in present circumstances.
The succession of good seasons in Australia has coincided with high prices for export wheat. Therefore the stabilization fund has been buoyant, and it is possible to repay the whole of the amount received from the 1949-50 crop. The principle of “ first in first out “ has been endorsed by growers’ organizations, as the most satisfactory way of arranging refunds to the industry. For that reason the refund is being made to the oldest contributing pool. It has never been the policy of this Government to ask wheat-growers to contribute more than a reasonable sum to the stabilization fund for the benefit of their industry, and the fact that this bill is being presented to the Senate at the earliest possible moment is evidence of the Government’s intention to stimulate increased primary production, and to give every possible help to Australian wheatgrowers in the food production drive, which is so important to the welfare of this country. The amount to be refunded from No. 13 pool spread over the crop from which it was collected, would average1s. 6d. a bushel on the 202,000,000 bushels received into the pool. It may be recalled that the tax imposed on No.12 pool, amounting to £13,000,000, was repaid in December last, so that this refund means that growers will receive within seven months approximately £29,000,000 in refunds from the stabilization fund. This will help wheat-growers in their present efforts to increase acreages and production of wheat by providing ready cash against the expenses which they will incur in this year’s wheat-growing operations. Payment of the refund early in the financial year meets the wishes which growers have expressed through their organizations. The bill is presented to honorable senators for consideration with confidence that it will meet with general support. .
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 28th May (vide page 972), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In my remarks on this measure last night, I indicated that I propose to support the bill because of the very considerable benefits that it would confer. I also expressed my surprise and regret that honorable senators opposite could not see their way clear to support the bill for the reason frankly stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator
McKenna). I suggested however, that, in my opinion, in the very near future the Government should give consideration to vacating this field of taxation, and I enumerated several reasons in support of that contention. I wish now to bring briefly to the notice of the Senate a case which I am sure was not visualized originally as coming within the ambit of this legislation. It concerns a friendly society which does not function for profit or pecuniary gain. There are many such organizations in Australia working in the interests of their members. I am not prepared at this stage to mention the name of the society, but I have been given particulars ofthe case by the secretary in Adelaide, who is well known to me. Briefly, the facts are as follows : - Prior to the introduction of the new basis of assessment, the unimproved value of the two very valuable properties owned by the society in the square mile of the City of Adelaide was £86,456. Because of the new valuation it has now been assessed on an unimproved value of £132,065, which is an increase of approximately 50 per cent. Under the old assessment the society was liable to pay a tax of £2,165. The new assessment would have rendered it liable to pay £4,217 in land tax, an increase of over £2,000 or nearly 100 per cent. The bill before the House will reduce its liability by £843. The society will be liable to pay tax amounting to £3,374 instead of £4,217 which they would have been liable to pay had it not been for the introduction of this legislation. It may be observed from these facts that the bill does confer some benefit, despite what Senator Armstrong has said.
Friendly societies were not liable to pay Commonwealth land tax prior to 1940 when the act was amended in order to bring them within the scope of this legislation as a war-time measure. The societies did not object because they probably considered that they should make some contribution to the nation in its time of crisis. But this tax is now embarrassing them. The secretary of the society to which I have referred has estimated that his organization will suffer a loss of £2,000 in respect of the year ended the 30th June, 1952. That loss will be more than accounted for by the fact that the society will be liable to pay £3,374 in land tax. Had the society been exempt from the payment of land tax it would have been able to make a profit of approximately £1,374. The society is so embarrassed by the necessity to pay land tax that it may have to offer these two valuable freehold properties for sale. Whilst the sale of the property might not have constituted a hardship under normal conditions, such a sale is now prejudiced because of the burden which the land tax would place on a prospective purchaser. This is a serious matter for a society which is not trading as a profit-making concern. The society’s income is also restricted by State legislation. Of course, this can be no responsibility of the Australian Government but its rents are pegged and this circumstance hampers the society from taking action to remedy the existing state of affairs. In addition, under the friendly societies legislation in South Australia, this society is obliged to credit its capital with 4£ per cent, of its revenue or the total of its revenue if it falls below 4£ per cent, each year. This also indirectly affects the successful functioning of this very desirable and long-established order which operates for the benefit of a great number of members in South Australia.
I think that I have made it clear that it is highly desirable that the Government should examine the possibility of abandoning this field of taxation infavour of State or local government administrations. I have a completely open mind as to who should undertake the responsibility for its collection. This tax has failed to achieve the objective for which it was originally imposed. It is no longer a weapon with which to break up large estates for closer settlement. It has completely failed in that objective which has long since been lost to view. It has become simply a revenue spinner for the Commonwealth but it is not even a good producer of revenue. In introducing the bill the Minister said that it had only been expected that the tax would produce £9,300,000 in its first year of operation. That amount has been whittled down by this legislation and the considerable expenses connected with its collection must be deducted from the gross amount received by the Government. Moreover, every penny that is paid in Commonwealth land tax is an allowable deduction for income tax purposes so that in the final analysis, the land tax cannot produce very much additional revenue. I submit that the final net benefit to the Treasury would probably bc whittled down to about £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. This tax creates considerable confusion in the minds of people and it seems to me that it is not worth a candle to the Commonwealth. There are three valuing authorities in Australia none of which agrees with the others. The local governing authority, the .State government and the Commonwealth all make separate valuations and, in no case that I can discover, has there been any similarity in their assessment of values. The public is completely confused and this is a good reason why the Commonwealth should seriously consider relinquishing the field of land tax.
I wish to make it clear that I support the bill before the chamber. I believe that it does confer a benefit. If the Senate were to reject this legislation, it would deny the right of those people who will benefit by it to benefit in this financial year. Therefore, I hope that the bill will be passed without delay. I am amazed at the attitude of honorable senators opposite who, throughout the whole of yesterday afternoon, took up the time of the Senate in saying how the Government was imposing impossible burdens on the primary producers, and thus discouraging them from producing to the maximum ; yet now, when the Government has introduced a bill, the purpose of which is to give, some relief to primary producers, members of the Opposition decline to support it simply because, as the Leader of the Opposition admitted, their party has denied them the right to exercise a free choice. They are acting, not upon the decision of the electors, but on that of a small coterie of men outside the Parliament, who are not elected by the people, and are not responsible, to them. I understand that the executive of the Australian Labour party consists of twelve men who have power to direct the policy of the party. Let the primary producers take heed of the admission frankly made by the Leader of the Opposition last night. I commend him for his frankness, but the admission should be a warning to primary producers.
– In following Senator Pearson, as I do with some trepidation, I should be content if I could note among honorable senators opposite some understanding of his arguments. However, the attendance of Opposition senators is sparse, and they have obviously not given close attention to the debate. Many thousands of hard working persons are gravely concerned over the incidence of federal land tax, and the situation requires the urgent consideration of every member of the Senate. Last night, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) addressed himself to the bill, and I protest against the way in which he abused his position by presenting a set of views on this measure, and then declaring that ae intended to vote in a manner contrary to those views. Honorable senators are entitled to protest against having to listen to arguments which were admittedly contrary to the conscience of the speaker. The Leader of the Opposition pretended that he held certain views and then, before he sat down, he declared that he would vote in a manner contrary to those views. If this Senate is to function with efficiency honorable senators should demand-
– The resignation of Senator Wright.
– They should demand that each member of the Senate shall vote as he speaks. As for the Pecksniffian cant which prompted the interjection, I ignore it, having regard to the source from which it came. Federal land tax was first introduced by a Labour government for a political purpose, and members of the Opposition now admit that the purpose has not been achieved. Many honorable senators on this side of the chamber also believe that the tax is serving no useful purpose, yet we all seem prepared to allow it to remain in force. That is a situation which demands serious thought
We should consider federal laud tax in relation to present economic conditions.
During the war, all parties were content that the price of land should be pegged in order to prevent property-owners from realizing on the inflated values which are a feature of every war. It is impossible to maintain such restrictions permanently when a war ends, and so we must adjust ourselves to a condition of inflated values. Federal land tax, which had formerly been assessed on the war-time pegged values, was subsequently assessed on higher values. It so happened that the change was made at a time when the price of wool was extraordinarily high and the wool clip sold for £660,000,000. It is a stark fact, however, that this year the yield will be only about half of that, yet the only palliative which we are offering to the primary producers is to raise the exemption for land tax purposes from £5,000 to £8,750. We should consider whether we are not placing too heavy a burden on the producers whose incomes have fallen so heavily since the time of maximum wool prices.
All the State governments still control rents, so that the return from city property is still restricted, but the owners are now being called upon to pay a great deal more in federal land tax. That is a situation which no democratic parliament should sustain. It should be our purpose so to legislate as to induce land owners to put their land to the best use. If we continue to keep the dead hand of rent control on city properties, while at the same time levying heavier land tax upon them, we reach a situation in which the right of property is being denied.
A very difficult task has been set those whose duty it is to assess federal land tax under present conditions. The basis of the tax is the unimproved value of land, but to arrive at that value in relation to land situated in the heart of Sydney or Hobart, on a theoretical basis, is a complicated matter. First it is necessary to determine the capital value of the property, consisting of the combined price of the land and improvements. Then, by subtracting the value of improvements we arrive at the unimproved value. On coming to office this Government inherited conditions of scarcity thai had prevailed in 1949, and those conditions prevailed until 1951.
During those years many people preferred to purchase ready-made buildings, even though in some instances they were outmoded, rather than face the terrific waste and uncertainty then associated with obtaining materials and fabricating them into structures. The formula by which we arrive at the value of improvements in order to make a deduction from the improved capital value is completely uncertain and bewildering. I do not believe that there is any specific approach to the matter of quantifying that deduction on account of improvements. I am sure that anybody who has had actual experience of effecting improvements during the period that I have mentioned will agree that we should pay more attention to this aspect of the matter. Despite the skill and integrity of the departmental officers, and their consciousness of duty, the formula is inequitable. I believe that the Senate should establish a new formula to enable the value of improvements, for the purpose of the deduction that I have mentioned, to be- reached with more definiteness. The matter should not be left for determination by the court, with consequential expense and. vexation to the taxpayer.
This measure proposes to increase the exemption from land tax from £5,000 to £8,750. In common with other speakers, I agree that this will provide an undoubted measure of relief to taxpayers, particularly those who suffered the war-time impost of super tax. However, I accept that degree of relief only under protest. I believe that it is insufficient and inappropriate as a type of relief that the present situation warrants. Let us consider the case of a property the unimproved value of which in 1939 was £10,000. After allowing exemption in respect of £5,000, the land tax payable was £26 7s. 9d. Let us assume that by 1951 the property had trebled in value. On that basis it would be reasonable to expect that the tax payable would be three times the original tax, or £79 3s. 3d. But that is not how the legislation operates. The unimproved value of the property in 1951 was £30,000. If the exemption were not increased as provided by .this, measure the tax payable in relation to that property in 1951 would be £243 ls. Id., because the fathers of this legislation conceived that the ra.te of tax should increase more steeply than the increase of the unimproved value. Therefore, although the unimproved value increased only threefold, the tax payable in 1951 would be £243 ls. . Id., not £79 3s. 3d. This disturbs me greatly, and I consider that more attention should now be paid to this aspect of the matter. The only relief provided in this measure is to increase the exemption from £5,000 to £8,750. Applied to the hypothetical case that I have cited, the effect of this modification will be to reduce the tax payable in relation to that property from £243 ls. Id. to £188 17s. 9d.
– More than six times as- much as it was previously!
– Yes; whereas the unimproved value of land has increased threefold, after this bill becomes law the impost levied on the taxpayer will be increased approximately sixfold.
I propose now to deal with the hill as it will affect the taxpayers of Tasmania. The proposal to increase the statutory deduction from £5,000 to £8,750 results from the desire of the Government to relate the deduction to the aggregate increase of the unimproved value of land throughout Australia between 1939 and 1951. The Government has accepted the view that the average unimproved value of land throughout Australia has increased by 75 per cent, and that, accordingly, the statutory deduction should be increased by a similar percentage. After repeated inquiries I ascertained yesterday that the average increase of the value of land in Tasmania is greatly in excess of the average increase in other States.
– Tasmania is a most important State.
– I am not dealing with this matter lightly.
– The honorable senator would not know how to do so.
– I am amazed that such unco-operative interjections should be made by Opposition senators who alsorepresent Tasmania. I should have thought that they would show a cooperative interest in the pertinent remarks that I am making on the bill as it affects Tasmanian taxpayers.
– We should do so if the honorable senator would get out of the sewer.
– Before I was rudely interrupted by Opposition senators I was about to say that, although unimproved land values throughout Australia are estimated to have increased by 75 per cent. since 1939, the information that I received from the Taxation Branch yesterday reveals that the average increase in Tasmania is estimated to be 100 per cent. for country lands and 200 per cent. for town lands, making an average increase of 150 per cent. I am indebted to Senator Armstrong for having suggested that I obtain figures from the Taxation Branch relating to the position in each of the other States. I wish to make it clear that in dealing with this matter I shall refer not to assessments in which I am either personally or professionally interested but only to those that have been brought to my notice as in ordinary citizen or in my public capacity as a senator. Information relating to assessments that has been furnished to me indicates that on the average unimproved land values in Tasmania have increased by considerably more than 150 per cent. That is why I am apprehensive about the effect of this bill on Tasmanian taxpayers. This proposal exposes the Tasmanian taxpayer in a peculiar degree to liability for the payment of an impost which I believe cannot be sustained in existing circumstances.
These thoughts induce me to believe chat further consideration should be given to the bill, but as the measure will confer substantial benefits on the owners of land I am unwilling to delay its passage by requesting that it be referred to a select committee for examination and report. I trust that after the measure has been passed a committee will be established to inquire into its operation, and that in the course of two or three months the committee will be able to present basic facts to the Government which will assist it to remedy the obvious deficiencies of the legislation. I trust that when the bill reaches the committee stage the AttorneyGeneral will agree to report progress so that the matters to which I have directed attention and, in particular, the incidence of this measure on Tasmanian taxpayers, may be considered.
Last night I was interested to hear the Leader of the Opposition suggest that a roll of federal land taxpayers should be compiled. Such a suggestion was originally made by me at a conference ofland taxpayers which took place at Hobart more than two months ago. After the conference had concluded the taxpayers circularized all Tasmanian senators asking for their support in pressing for the compilation of such a roll. The proposal was made to the Senate last night by the honorable senator without acknowledgement of its authorship. Ever since the practice of rating land for local government purposes was adopted rolls of ratepayers have been compiled by local government authorities so that ratepayers could compare the levies imposed upon them with those imposed upon the owners of adjoining or comparable properties. Under that system equity of assessment is guaranteed. It is not to the credit of successive Australian Governments that during the 40years in which this legislation has been in operation no public roll of federal land tax payers has been prepared. As far as I am aware, the States publish rolls of land tax payers. I am bound to qualify that statement by saying that, some years ago, the Tasmanian Parliament passed a measure to establish a valuation board for State land valuation purposes which did not contain a provision for the compilation of such a roll. Inquiries that I have made of persons responsible for the administration of land tax have ledme to believe that no real reason exists why such a roll should not be provided. It is true that its compilation would involve the expenditure of a little money, but itseems to me that the advantages that would accrue would be well worthwhile. Taxpayers would be able to check valuations by comparing them with valuations: of similarproperties.I earnestlyhope thatconsideration will be given to that suggestion.
I support the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, which was also expressed at the conference in
Hobart to which I have referred, that instead of a taxpayer first being informed of a great increase of his valuation when he receives a 30-day demand for payment of tax, the branch should send a notice of valuation to the taxpayer. If that were done three or four months before his assessment arrived, he could arrange objection to the valuation board, which might reduce the valuation. The taxpayer should not be called upon to meet an excessive assessment. If the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition were adopted, the valuation would be adjusted before the demand for payment of tax was made.
I am totally unable to understand the attitude of some honorable senators opposite, who have opposed the passage of this measure. I support the bill very strongly, because I believe that it is an instalment of the relief to which the payers of land tax are entitled. It should not be forgotten, however, that it is only an instalment.
– I support the bill because it represents a step in the right direction. I am able to see only two reasons why land tax has remained in operation. First, as some honorable senators have said, its imposition has been maintained for the purpose of breaking up large estates, and secondly, it has been maintained because it is a source of revenue. As far as breaking up large estates is concerned, I should like to issue a word of warning. I have heard many statements on that subject, some of them being made by honorable senators whose knowledge of the matter is not as complete as it might be. In common with many other honorable senators, I do not believe that people should be permitted to hold land and do nothing -with it. Those who speak about breaking up large estates, however, should appreciate that the merino studs and the cattle studs of Australia could not exist on small farms. Australia could not do without such studs which, of necessity, require large areas of land if they are to be efficient”./ managed.
It is my opinion that, irrespective of the political party in government to-day, unimproved land valuations would have increased. The Taxation Branch does not take certain action merely because a political party of a particular colour is in office. The branch has its job to do. I wish to bring to the notice of the departmental valuers the position concerning land close to cities and towns which is used for agricultural purposes, such as dairying and vegetable growing. In many instances the towns and cities have expanded so that residential areas are now close to such agricultural areas. Because of that fact, the valuation of agricultural property has been increased, and many property-owners have been forced off the land. The unimproved value has become so high and taxation so heavy that they have not been able to carry on. It may well be that such land is ideal for growing vegetables. If it is not used for that purpose the shortage of vegetables will become more acute. I suggest that land which is being used to produce commodities that the people require should not have- its unimproved value increased merely because it adjoins a residential area.
Land tax could have been justified had it been imposed for the purpose of protecting the land. But it has never been used for that purpose. The land in Australia needs protection from soil erosion and rabbits. In addition, we now face the menace of the Argentine ant. I do not mind how much honorable senators laugh about that subject, but I warn them that the ants will travel right across Australia before many years unless action is taken to halt their progress. I have been in contact with many municipal bodies throughout Australia and it appears that not one of them has been able to check this pest. On the contrary, I have received many letters stating that the number of ants is increasing. I suggest that if honorable senators take the trouble to learn something of this subject they will adopt an attitude similar to mine and agree that it is a problem with which the people of Australia must deal. If they do not do so, many people will be forced from their homes. I remind honorable senators opposite that at one time there were only ten rabbits in Australia. If they had been dealt with at that time we would not have such an infestation of rabbits to-day. All the money in the banks of Australia would not now be sufficient to eradicate the rabbit pest.
I hope that this measure represents the first step in the ultimate removal of land tax. Country roads boards, municipalities and other local government authorities would welcome the opportunity to obtain the proceeds of land tax for their own use. All local government authorities are in difficulty to-day because they are not able to obtain sufficient funds. Such authorities are obliged to raise the money necessary for the eradication of Argentine ants, although the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the entomologists of the State Departments of Agriculture are conducting worthwhile experiments. When it comes to the actual work of eradication, however, the local government authorities must do the job.
Some honorable senators have suggested that the collection of land tax should again become a State matter. I do not mind how land tax legislation is administered so long as it is not the function of this Parliament. I hope that this measure will be the first step towards the eventual removal of land tax. Such action would be most welcome to landowners whose land is now subject to State valuation, ‘ federal valuation and municipal valuation. The result is that they do not know where they are because of the variations that occur in the three valuations. I support the bill.
– in reply - The measure that we have been debating is designed to extend some relief to those people who would be liable to pay land tax under the provisions of the Land Tax Assessment Act as it stands to-day. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber support this proposal unequivocably. Indeed, I understand that many of them believe that the relief that is being extended is not as great as it should be; but, at any rate, some relief is being given, and the proposal has the support of honorable senators on this side of the chamber. I wish to make that quite clear, because to those who heard the speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) last night, it was not clear, until he uttered his last sentence, that the Labour party in this chamber is opposing the extension of any/ relief whatever to land-holders who aref liable to pay land tax under the legislation that exists to-day. That is the position. I have seldom listened to a speech containing so much humbug - and I say this with regret - as that delivered by the Leader of the Opposition. Throughout the whole of his contribution to the debate he advanced arguments “in favour of either abolishing the land tax altogether, or providing some relief to taxpayers from the operation of the aci as it stands to-day. Only in his last sentence did he say, almost in whispered tones, . “ Ah ! But the platform of the Labour party, laid down in 1910, binds us to an exemption of only £5,000 and so, although I have put before you all the reasons why I consider the land tax to be an iniquitous imposition, the Opposition does not- support the granting of relief to taxpayers “. The Leader of the Opposition was also very ready to suggest to the listening public that this Government had increased the land tax. That, of course, is entirely false. It is fortunate for all of us that the administration of our taxation legislation is in the independent hands of the Commissioner of Taxation.
– Subject to the provisions of the taxation acts.
– Subject to the provisions of the taxation acts, and no more and no less than that. What happened in 1951 was that the Commissioner of Land Tax performed his duty in accordance with the Land Tax Assessment Act, which, I remind the Senate, was placed on the statute-book by a Labour government. The Commissioner has done no more than that. The act provides for triennial valuations. That provision has been included since 1927, and triennial valuations took place up to 1939 when war broke out. During the war we had land sales control and all sorts of restrictions on the free sale of land. To provide the staff that would have been necessary to continue triennial, revaluations would have been most , difficult. Regulations made first under the National Security Act and then under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act relieved the Commissioner of the obligation to make triennial land valuations. Those regulations ended in 1950 and the provisions of the Land Tax Assessment Act, which as I have said is Labour legislation, again became operative. The Commissioner was then under an obligation to reconsider land values in 1951, and that is what has been done. No new tax has been imposed by the Government. The Commissioner has acted independently in the proper discharge pf his duty under the act. There are, of course, differences of opinion about land values, and the act provides the . means whereby such differences may be resolved; but the standards that the Commissioner has to follow are laid down quite clearly in the act. The definition of “ unimproved value “ to which the Commissioner must have regard is as follows : - “ Unimproved value “, in relation to land, means the capital sum which the fee-simple of the land might be expected to realize if offered for sale on such reasonable terms and conditions as a bona fide seller would require, assuming that the improvements (if any) thereon or appertaining thereto and made or acquired by the owner or his predecessor in title had not been made.
That is the test that land valuers had to apply in 1951. Bearing in mind the fact that land had not been revalued since 1939, it is surely not surprising that, in some instances, valuations were increased considerably. I know that all this may be used as an argument in favour of reducing the rate of tax, increasing the exemption, or, perhaps, abolishing the tax altogether. But no one can justly attack the Government because one of its officers performed his duty in accordance with an act of Parliament.
The same conception of value is introduced into the computation of the unimproved value of improved land. In that case it is necessary to assess the fair value of the land on the assumption that it is unimproved. That introduces certain complications. The . Leader of the Opposition asked me to explain the method of determining the unimproved value. The valuer is not free to apply his own tests of value but must apply the tests which are laid down in this legislation. That is his starting point. This act was originally introduced by a Labour government, and I understand that it is still approved by the Labour party. I understand that the valuer obtains particulars of all sales in the area, both of unimproved and improved land. Most of the sales have probably been of improved land. The sale prices of corresponding lands are dissected in order to obtain some idea of the value of land in the vicinity. The improvements are valued at the estimated amount that they add to the value of the land and the act provides that this added value must not exceed the cost of improvements of equal efficiency at the date of valuation. The valuer does not base his valuation of the improvements on their actual cost unless they have been effected fairly recently. As I have said, he discovers the cost of erecting similar improvements on that piece of land and then makes allowance for depreciation having regard to the age of the building. The valuer cannot simply deduct the cost of replacing an old building from the total improved value of the land because the resultant figure would be a minus quantity in many cases. That is why allowance has to be made for the depreciation of the building.
– No allowance is made for the inflation of the currency.
– That is so. Many other difficulties in relation to this subject arise from the fact that the value of money has changed considerably during the last 40 years. The honorable senator who is so concerned about making allowances for inflation presumably intends to vote against any increase in the exemption figure of £5,000 which was provided for in 1910.
– Honorable senators opposite have sworn to do it.
– Apparently they have sworn t.n do it despite the fact that £5,non in 1010 would be the equivalent or about ^40.000 Despite that great change in the value of money Senator
Cameron will, no doubt, proceed in his opposition to increasing the exemption allowed under the act. The Labour party has resolved to stick to the policy of 1910 when this exemption amount was fixed just as it has stuck to the Marxian policy of socialism. of 1850.
The Leader of the Opposition and other honorable senators suggested that some method might be devised whereby the taxpayer could be furnished with a valuation before he received his assessment. No such provision is contained in the act which, as I have said, was originally introduced by the Labour party. I am informed that no similar suggestion has ever been made during the 40 years of the operation of this legislation. Due regard must be paid to the fact that we are facing a rather unusual situation. There was no revaluation under this legislation for twelve years. Consequently, the circumstances are a little peculiar and are likely to provoke suggestions for remedies which may be unnecessary in normal times. At any rate, I shall take notice of what the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable senators have suggested. At the present time, when the taxpayer receives his assessment he has 30 days before it becomes due and payable, and I think it is not until the expiration of 60 days that he becomes liable to a penalty for non-payment of the tax. There are provisions for appeals which can be readily heard before appeal boards without any great formality, and the Commissioner is most anxious that typical cases on which there are differences of opinion should come before the appeal boards as soon as possible. “Whilst a whole flood of appeals may be made in these circumstances, as the appeals are heard the decision of one appeal may help to solve the difficulties in many cases of a similar kind. In that way, a number of difficulties which face taxpayers this year will be overcome in a reasonably short space of time.
There is another matter to which reference has been made. There seems to be some competition between the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Wright on who -was the author of this-
– Not at all.
– I gathered that. Senator Wright had made this suggestion some considerable time ago, although 1 first heard it mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition during this debate. I will not attempt to decide who is its author. The suggestion to which I refer is that a valuation roll should be prepared. Apparently some such roll is open for inspection by the people of Tasmania. I think that Senator Wright suggested that a similar roll existed in all States, but I do not think that there is one in Victoria. There are municipal rolls in Victoria which I think set” out certain valuations for rating purposes, but I am not aware of a land tax roll which is open to public inspection. The federal land tax is not applicable to all land-holders. Reference to a valuation roll of land subject to tax would not necessarily give a fair idea of the value of lands in a particular area because there may be only a limited number of allotments in the vicinity subject to federal tax. However, this suggestion also will be examined.
This bill should receive the support of all honorable senators. I believe that it will receive the support of all honorable senators on this side of the chamber. The Labour party will have to answer to the elector’s for the fact that it is not prepared to extend any concessions whatever to any of the people who are liable to pay tax under the present act.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Debate resumed from the 22nd May (vide page 691), on motion by Senator SPICE* -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– The bill now before us provides for the repeal of seven patents acts now in force, and for the repeal of portions of three others. It contains saving provisions to preserve continuity, of administration, and takes the necessary precaution to integrate records under existing acts with those that will be made under the new legislation. Many matters are left to the decision of the Commissioner of Patents, but I note with approval that in every instance there is an appeal from the decision of the Commissioner to a tribunal which will consist of a justice of the High Court of Australia.
I should like very earnestly to congratulate the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) on the introduction of this measure, and particularly on his secondreading speech. That speech was particularly informative and interesting, sand dealt admirably with the historical development of patent law in Australia and other parts of the British Commonwealth. Above all, the speech expressed very well the purposes at which this legislation aims, namely, the protection of the inventor and of the public interest. I ifould not with advantage add anything to what the Attorney-General said’ on those points. The bill, as honorable senators know, is the work of an expert committee which consisted of patent attorneys, a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Parliamentary Draftsman and the Commissioner of Patents. This is a highly technical measure, and I join with the AttorneyGeneral in paying a tribute to the members of the committee for what he described as the lucidity and comprehensive nature of their work. The committee was particularly fortunate in having as one of its members the Parliamentary Draftsman, Mr. Ewens, and I pay special tribute to what must have been his own work, the drawing up of the draft bill for the committee, a document which, in turn, became the bill that is now before us. Committees have been engaged on this work since 1936, and some work was performed by committees during the term of office of the Labour Government. As the Attorney-General explained, the work was interrupted by the war. I have read the reports of the committee, and I have read the bill. The committee’s work has been well done.
The bill covers 56 pages and contains 177 clauses. It not only consolidates the existing law, but also completely revises it. None of the main principles of patent law has been altered; the alterations are related for the most part to procedure and machinery. As the Attorney-General explained, this measure will bring, where it is considered desirable, the Australian law into line with the patent law of the United Kingdom, which was revised and consolidated as recently as 1949. It is well that in the draft bill before us there have been incorporated the terms of the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. Hitherto, its provisions have not formed part of our law, but, by this legislation, we shall come fully into the convention that is binding on most countries.
I shall defer my comments on one phase of the bill until it is being considered in committee. Those comments will be less in the nature of criticism than for the purpose of seeking information, but at this stage I do not want to say anything that might appear to mar what I intend as a tribute to the AttorneyGeneral and to the Government for the work that has been done. The bill will, of course, be a great convenience to every one who is concerned with patent law, and I conclude by again congratulating the Attorney-General on the work that has been accomplished, and on the excellent manner in which this measure has been presented to the Senate. Very seldom do we hear a second-reading speech of the calibre of that which was made by the Attorney-General on this bill. Very seldom is action taken so quickly on the report of a committee. In this instance, the report of the committee was presented only on the 17th April. There has been placed before the Senate a comprehensive bill, an excellent secondreading speech, and also the reports of various committees which, from time to time, have considered amendments of our patent law. The Opposition cordially supports the bill.
– in reply - I appreciate very much the reception which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has accorded the bill. Even if the bill contains some imperfections, it is better that it should be enacted as it is rather than that we should delay its passage by searching for imperfections. The bill is based on the unanimous recommendations of the expert committee which was appointed to consider the existing patent law. I earnestly hope that the measure will be passed by the Senate to-day, so that it may go on to the House of Representatives and stand a reasonable chance of becoming law during the current sittings of the Parliament. I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the attention that he has given to the bill, and for the support which he has accorded it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I have examined this bill, and there is in it no provision to which any one could take reasonable exception, although in some respects it may not be as complete as could be desired. We know that technical improvements, and the patents relating to them, spring from the production practices of the past. If we examine the records we shall find that, decade by decade, patents have been associated with the technical practices and productive methods that obtained at the time. You, Mr. Chairman, will recall that the ploughing of timber country in Victoria was a matter of great difficulty until some one invented the stump-jump plough. You can also remember when the harvesting of grain consisted of two operations. First, the grain was gathered by a stripper, and then it was put through a winnower. Now, those two operations are combined in the header. Man is naturally lazy, both physically and mentally, and a great many inventions spring from his desire to find an easy way to do things. Even as we deliberate here to-day, inventors are thinking out new technical processes which, in due course, will be patented. It is desirable that persons who think out a novel and practicable way of doing something should lie rewarded, and under patent law their rights are protected. We should encourage persons with inventive minds to evolve improved methods for saving labour and reducing costs. I consider that they should be afforded all possible - protection. At the same time, every possible incentive should be provided for “ people to patent inventions. I submit that the bill fails in this respect. It isprovided that a commissioner shall beappointed. Perhaps the office has existedfor some time. I understand that applications are lodged for approximately 400 patents per annum. There should be appointed to the office of commissioner a mechanical engineer or draughtsman, who could provide assistance to inventors. In many instances the ideas that such people have lapse unless they are provided with assistance to carry them to the patent stage. As a result of the mechanization of industry, I am sure many more patents will be registered. Following the termination of hostilities in World War II., many German, Italian and Japanese patents became available in this country, and I believe that the bill has been introduced in consequence. I should like the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) to inform me if there is a definite limitation to the rights of a person who is granted a patent. I point out that the majority of the machines used by the manufacturers of footwear in this country are not owned by them, but have been imported and are used on a hiring arrangement. They pay royalties to the patentees. I consider that we have a responsibility to the public in this matter. The rights of patentees should be made perfectly clear.’
– I wish to refer to Part XV., which deals with the registration of patent attorneys. Hitherto, all legal- practitioners have been entitled to practise as patent attorneys. According to the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), the Australian Law Council has concurred in the alteration in this connexion that is contained in the bill. I understand that under this measure a legal practitioner may not practise as a patent attorney unless (a) he has certain scientific qualifications, such as a degree of engineering or science, or its equivalent; (i) he passes certain examinations of a relatively restricted character; and (c) he is registered as a patent attorney. Apparently the only exception is that if, prior to the 1st January this year, he practised as a patent attorney, he may continue to do so. The Australian Law Council has agreed to that exception. I concede at once that very few legal practitioners embark on the task of lodging patent applications, and, in particular, they refrain from the task of drawing up specifications and claims. Whilst the drawing up of a specification may be primarily a scientific matter, it is also a drafting matter, and it is at that point that the service of a legal practitioner should be useful. As the bill provides that a patent attorney may employ a solicitor to assist him in so drafting, that point is covered. It appears that although a legal practitioner is to be prevented from drawing up specifications and appearing before the Commissioner he - and he alone - may appear when the proceedings are translated to the appeal tribunal. In short, when the matter becomes truly controversial and complicated the services of a lawyer are required, and patent attorneys may not appear in the courts. I would like some information from the AttorneyGeneral about clause 134, which reads - 134. - (1.) A patent attorney -
Another sub-clause qualifies that, but before I pass to it, if we were to stop at the provision that a patent attorney is entitled to conduct all proceedings for the purposes of the bill, I suggest that that would entitle a patent attorney to appear before the Commissioner, and that a lawyer who is not registered as a patent attorney could not do so. Clause 134 (2.) reads -
Nothing in this section authorizes a patent attorney toprepare a document which is to be issued from or filed in a court or to transact business or conduct proceedings in a court.
I suggest to the Attorney-General that lawyers ought to be eligible to appear before the Commissioner. There are matters that certainly require trained handling, and the fact that a man is an excellent patent attorney does not of necessity qualify him as an advocate or one who could discuss, as well as a lawyer could discuss, the controversial points that arise before the Commissioner. Will the Minister say whether I am correct in the thought that clause 134 (1.) entitles a registered patent attorney to conduct all proceedings for the purposes of the bill, which would entitle him to appear in court before the appeal tribunal if it were not qualified; in other words, that it entitles him to appear before the Commissioner, and that subclause (2.) takes away from him only the right to appear in a court? Reducing it to one sentence, is it the position under the bill that a patent attorney so registered and so defined under the act, is the only person who can appear before the Commissioner ? Are lawyers debarred at this point?
– The members of the committee will appreciate that my friend the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and I have a family interest in this portion of the bill. My reply to the query that he poses to me is that my view, which is confirmed by my advisers, is that the clause to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred does not prevent a qualified legal practitioner from appearing before the Commissioner in proceedings. I think that is clear if we look at the actual restrictions that are placed upon a legal practitioner. The first restriction is that he is not to carry on business as a patent attorney. The other, and more direct restriction, contained in clause 137, is that a legal practitioner shall not prepare a specification or a document relating to an amendment of a specification, unless he has practised as a patent attorney prior to the 1st January, 1952, or unless he is acting under the instructions of a patent attorney.
– That is quite clear.
– When a legal practitioner appears in proceedings before the Commissioner, he will appear not as a patent attorney but as a legal practitioner. There is nothing in the bill which in any way restricts his right to appear not only before that tribunal but before all kinds of tribunals throughout the land. I think that is the answer to the Leader of the Opposition. I do not think that there ia any confusion between the two ideas. I think it is a mistake to read clause 134, which describes the things that the patent attorney may do, as meaning that he is the only person who may do those things. Some of the things which he may do, and which he is authorized under clause 134 to do, as, for instance, to appear before the Commissioner, may be things which can be performed by people who are not patent attorneys, such as legal practitioners. The only restriction placed upon the legal practitioner in the performance of his ordinary functions as a legal practitioner is that he shall not prepare specifications and so forth.
Senator Benn has referred to the fact that there are monopoly rights existing in this country in connexion with machinery that is used in the manufacture of boots and shoes. I point out that the whole purpose of the patent system is to give a monopoly right to the inventor. It is not a monopoly right forever, but only for sixteen years. During that period he may grant licences to people to use his patent, and the legislation contains provisions which are designed to ensure that the patent for which he enjoys the monopoly shall be used during the period of the monopoly.
Senator VINCENT (Western Australia) [2.45 J. - 1 am not quite clear about the intention of clause 125 (2.), which refers to the matter of remuneration that is payable to the inventor of a patent in respect of which a government department has a- prior knowledge. If I have read the sub-clause aright, I interpret it to mean that, except in certain circumstances, no remuneration shall be payable to a patentee if, for some reason or other, the invention has already been recorded in the archives of a government department. I should like the AttorneyGeneral to state in what circumstances it is envisaged that a department would obtain knowledge of a patent so- as to deprive the owner of the patent of remuneration under the general provisions relating to the remuneration of patentees.
– The clause to which the honorable senator has referred relates to cases in which the relevant knowledge of an invention is in possession of a Commonwealth or State department prior to the date upon which the inventor’s right began to accrue.
– Clause 137 provides that legal practitioners may not prepare specifications, or documents relating to amendments of specifications, except in certain circumstances. The penalty prescribed for breach of the provision is, in my view, unduly harsh. I am well aware that there is great legal talent among the representatives of the legal profession in this Parliament-
– Oh !
– I am not treating this matter in a jocular manner. It seems to me that this provision will give the Attorney-General almost dictatorial powers. It is too much to expect that an ordinary layman with’ an inventive turn of mind, who invents something that will be of- great benefit to the country and to the people generally, should be conversant with all the provisions of this ponderous measure. Why should the penalty for breach of the provisions of this clause be so drastic? With due respect to the members of the legal fraternity in this chamber, irrespective of what modifications may be made in the principal act, in the Lord’s good name I hope that any help they can give to an inventor will not bring them into the category of those who are regarded as holding an office of profit under the crown.
. - I am amazed at the solicitude that laymen are beginning. to extend to members of my profession. It is quite a welcome change for them to do so. It is true that the penalty prescribed for breach of the provisions of the clause is a fine of £100, but if the honorable senator will examine the Acts Interpretation Act he will find that the penalties provided for breaches of the provisions of acts are in all eases maximum penalties. I should not think that any member of the legal profession would be disposed to cavil ant the penalty prescribed in the clause to which the honorable senator has referred.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion bySenator Spicer) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this bill is to add a new section, 13a, to the existing act so as to give to the Commonwealth clearer powers to undertake or authorize mining operations for uranium in the territories of the Commonwealth. Under section 8 of the principal act uranium found in the territories was vested in the Crown. It might assist honorable senators if I read the actual words of that section because they are material to the bill now before us. Section 6 (1.) of the principal act, which deals with prescribed substances including, in particular, uranium, reads as follows: -
All prescribed substances existing in their natural condition, or in a deposit of waste material obtained from any underground or surface working, on or below the surface of any land in any Territory of the Commonwealth, whether alienated from the Crown or not and. if alienated, whether alienated before or after the commencement of this Act, is hereby declared to be the property of the Commonwealth.
These prescribed substances - I am thinking in particular of uranium - became the property of the Commonwealth in 1946 under the provisions of the principal act.
– The principal act provided for compensation ?
– Yes. Section 14 of the principal act reads -
Where- to) any prescribed substance is or any minerals are acquired by the Commonwealth by virtue of this Act; or
any person suffers loss or damage by reason’ of anything done in pursuance of section ten, eleven, twelve or thirteen of this Act, the Commonwealth shall be liable to pay to any person who had any right, title or interest in the prescribed substance or minerals, or to the person who has suffered the loss or damage, as the case may be, such compensation as is agreed on between the Commonwealth and that person or, in default of agreement, is determined by action against the Commonwealth in any court of competent jurisdiction.
A similar provision is to be found in all Commonwealth acts that provide for the payment of compensation. In addition to the powers conferred by section 6, which relate only to substances found in territories of the Commonwealth, other powers were conferred by the act which apply to substances found anywhere in the Commonwealth that may be required for defence purposes. The exercise of those powers is limited to the acquisition and control of such substances for defence purposes. They confer upon the responsible Minister substantial powers to control uranium, to enter upon land, to take possession of uranium, to acquire it and to acquire the right to work such mineral deposits. The Government now considers that the powers conferred by section 13, which relates to the entry upon land and the acquisition of rights, are not sufficiently wide or clearly defined. One serious defect is that section 13 requires an order to be served “on the persons appearing to be in possession “ of the land containing uranium. It may be impossible or difficult to identify the owners of some of the land at Rum Jungle where uranium has been discovered. If the owner is difficult to identify, it may be impossible to effect the service required under the act. The provisions of the act are defective in that they do not give to the Commonwealth the clearest possible power to do all the things that now seem to be necessary to enable uranium found in Commonwealth territories, and which is the property of the Commonwealth, to be mined. In order to meet those difficulties, the present bill proposes to extend the powers which may be exercised with relation to uranium deposits in the Northern Territory. The main provision of the bill is that contained in proposed new section 13a., under which the Minister may authorize persons to enter property, take possession of land and carry on mining operations upon it, erect and install buildings, and exclude other people from premises in which mining operations are to be carried on.
The amendments are necessary because of the discovery of substantial uranium deposits in the territories and the desire of the Government to develop those deposits as quickly and as efficiently as possible, in the interests of our own defence and of that of our allies, and alsobecause of the likelihood that atomic energy for industrial use will prove to be of enormous benefit to Australia in the future. When honorable senators examine the bill they will appreciate that it proposes to extend the provisions for compensation by providing that any damage or loss which a person suffers as the result of the new powers conferred by the relevant section may be recovered in a court of competent jurisdiction. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 28th May (vide page 916), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– On the 22nd May the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) made a statement in the ‘Senate in the course of which he reviewed the operation of the budget proposals. That review was almost in complete consonance with a statement about the economic position which had been made previously in the House of Representatives. The debate following that statement was limited, but the opportunity presents itself, now that Supply is being discussed, to deal with matters that were referred to in that financial statement and also in relation to the budget.
The budget which was presented to the Parliament last year was designed to remedy the economic ills which faced this country. It was based on certain principles which I propose to restate briefly, because it is only by balancing the statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs against the budget proposals that honorable senators can adequately assess the value of the statement or the success of such proposals. Sporadic departures from the budget plans have occurred since the budget was introduced. I do not propose to deal with such departures in detail, because the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) canvassed them effectively and, from the Government’s point of view, disastrously, in the Senate recently. It is, therefore, not my intention to paint the lily. I wish to draw the attention of the Senate primarily to a fundamental departure from one of the important principles contained in the budget. For that reason I want to refer briefly to the principles on which the budget was framed. The Government, approaching the inflationary situation from what might be called an orthodox doctrinaire economic angle, said, “We must take money out of circulation and put goods into circulation, thereby reducing the pressure of money on goods.” That approach’ has been adopted in other countries, but it must be remembered that Australia is a young country which is faced by the necessity to carry out developmental projects, and it is a moot point whether the same approach should apply here. I do not propose to discuss that aspect at greater length. I merely say that the Government adopted that method of approach and stated at the time that it would stand or fall by it.
The budget proposals have been abandoned in one important instance, thereby destroying, in effect, the whole purport of that proposal. The Government elected to take money out of circulation by means of staggering increases of direct and indirect taxes. At. the same time, it proposed that production should be increased. That subtraction of money from circulation because of direct and indirect taxes has dealt a severe blow to production. Incentive to produce has been almost destroyed. When a doctrinaire approach to a problem is adopted, the effect which the Government has achieved in regard to production must be expected. Savage taxation has been responsible for the destruction of incentive. That budgetary proposal has therefore failed.
The Government unctuously stated that it would take money from the community and put it where it would do least harm. By a magnificently agile and adroit piece of financial juggling, the Government has now put that money where it can do least good. That is one of the reasons for the public loss of confidence in the Government, to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred. That is why public loans have failed and why the bond market is not receiving the traditional support of the Australian people, such as it enjoyed when a Labour government occupied the treasury bench.
In addition to removing money from circulation, the Government has also endeavoured to prevent new money from coming into circulation by imposing credit restrictions and capital issues control. Such action, of course, was belated. Capital issues control had been instituted by Labour, abandoned by the LiberalAustralian Country party Government, and then re-introduced by this Govern-“ ment. When it was re-introduced, it was done foolishly. It .purported to be a selective credit plan, but it has not worked out in that way. The Australian economy, which has been financially dehydrated by the Government’s taxation measures, has been refused a blood transfusion. Credit restrictions have been introduced. It can, therefore, be claimed that the budget proposals have failed completely.
Senator Cormack recently stated that there is no money about at the present time, and the honorable senator produced figures which appear to establish conclusively the truth of that statement. The Opposition does not altogether agree that that is so. It believes that the loss of public confidence in the Government has resulted in a certain tightening-up. Money has been taken from circulation and placed where it can be of no assistance to our economic condition.
– The Premier of Queensland, Mr. Gair, would not agree with that contention?
– Mr. Gair is of the opinion that money would bc plentiful if it were not for the lack of public confidence in the Australian Government.
The Opposition in this chamber considers that although there is a lack of public confidence in the Government, there is still some money in the community.
The second part of the budget proposals revolved round the diversion of labour, which is associated with the recent action of the Government in regard to import restrictions. At the time that it introduced its budget, the Government said, in effect, “ We shall divert labour from unnecessary secondary industries and transfer it to essential, basic, and primary industries. We will make up the difference in production by importing all kinds of goods, and thereby preserve the standard of living of the Australian people “. There has been a violent departure from the proposal to supplement Australian production by importing goods from overseas’. I suggest that the unlimited importation of goods of unrestricted qualities and quantities has been a deliberate part of Government policy. In the budget speech that was delivered by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in this Parliament last year, the right honorable gentleman stated -
Imported goods and materials came forward slowly in the early post-war years and it was only as industry revived in the United Kingdom and Europe that currency troubles diminished and that the flow began to help substantially in overcoming our local problems.
In other words, the unrestricted importation of goods was contemplated as one of the methods of solving our financial problems. There is no doubt that the importation of certain goods might have assisted in the solving of such problems, and I consider that this Government wantonly disregarded its responsibility when it allowed the importation of mlimited quantities of many commodities. The Treasurer voiced no word of caution in his speech. He did not say, “ We must keep a close watch on the goods that come into the country, both as to quantity and quality “. The door was deliberately opened wide by the Treasurer as a part of his economic proposals. The right honorable gentleman also said -
The pressure of excessive demand would continue to bank up behind the framework of controls, as it did during the war, and there is no reason whatsoever to suppose that control of prices and costs would help to increase production or encourage the flow of imports from abroad.
The object of- the Government was obviously to encourage imports from abroad. That policy was pursued without discrimination, until we were confronted with virtual financial disaster in relation to- our overseas credits. No government could expect to escape severe censure for such a careless approach to grave national responsibilities.
In. relation to the diversion of labour, the Government adopted a doctrinaire approach such as might have been adopted by Russia, where individuals are regarded as bodies, without domestic commitments, or roots in the soil of a particular State. According to the Government’s proposals, people were to be “ disemployed “ willy-nilly and transferred, as so many industrial and commercial units, to other industries in other parts of Australia.
– We did not say that.
– The Government said that, in effect. Its policy is to divert labour. During the recent financial review to which I have already referred, members of the Government boasted of the fact that there, had been diversion of labour.
– Hear, hear!
– It is all very well for us to say, “ Hear, hear ! “, provided that we are not uprooted, our homes disrupted, and the schooling of our children interrupted. It is obvious that the doctrinaire approach of the Government to this matter has been unsuccessful. At the present time there is considerable unemployment, which the Government would have us believe is really “ disemployment “. The horrible term “ bodies “ has crept into everyday use. So many “ bodies “ are to do this or do that, and so many “ bodies “ are to move here or move there. That is the attitude of this Government to the rights of the Australian people. Had the plan succeeded, if would have been inhuman, but it has failed, and the figures relating to the unemployment position that are given by responsible Ministers are open to the gravest suspicion. They probably con siderably under-estimate the actual number of unemployed. So, the financial policy implicit in the budget, and on which the budget depended, has not succeeded. The labour transfer policy, inhuman as it was, has not succeeded. The credit restriction policy has not succeeded. All the Government’s inconsistent approaches to the economic problem have failed. That is the position in which we find ourselves to-day. The Government has been in office since the end of 1949, and the people of Australia are asking for results. They are justly entitled to results. They are asking, “ Is this the Government which, in 1949, virtually diverted our minds from the economic situation by asking us to vote on all sorts of ideological questions, and failed to place before us the real danger of economic dislocation which was facing Australia at that time and which has become much more acute in the last two and a half years?” The people of Australia are entitled to ask when the Government proposes to face up to our economic difficulties instead of looking around for alibis and excuses. The sole concern of members of the Government at present seems to be a search for some one on whom to put the blame. As Senator Armstrong said in another debate recently, it is not the Labour party that is on trial to-day. We are not the Government. We have not been the Government for some years. Honorable senators opposite are the Government, and they are the ones who stand charged.. I warn Government supporters to be careful in searching for alibis.
I have followed this debate carefully, and I have heard all the excuses that have been put forward by honorable senators opposite for the Government’s failure to get this country out of its economic difficulties. First and foremost, of course, blame is laid on the sins of the socialist, Marxist, Labour party. Speaker after speaker on the Government side of th9 chamber has tried to draw the hounds off the trail by pointing to the alleged, sins of the Labour party; but we refuse to accept the blame. We are not on trial. Honorable senators opposite, however, are being subjected to keen scrutiny, not only i): this chamber, but also in every city, town, and hamlet throughout the Commonwealth. They are the ones who have to answer for consistently violated election promises. The 40-hour week has been blamed for many sins of omission and commission, responsibility for which rightly lies at the door of this Government. I think it was Senator Gorton who suggested that the import restriction policy was forced on this country by the refusal of the United Kingdom Government to allow us to work on overdraft. Every excuse that can be put forward to exculpate the Government is being put forward; but the responsibility still rests with the Government, and it is the Government that will have to answer to the electors at the appropriate time. When every other excuse has failed, and every person who can possibly be blamed has refused to accept responsibility, the final blame can always be placed on the shoulders of the Australian people.
I wish to refer particularly to what I consider to be one of the most craven and cowardly statements that have ever been placed on record by a responsible government. It was made particularly in relation to import restrictions but it is general in its charge and in its effect. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall read that statement, but first let me point out that wholesale imports were encouraged by this Government. A policy of unrestricted imports was a part of the 1951-52 budget plan. At no time did the Government indicate that unrestricted imports would be dangerous. Then, like a thunderclap, came these restrictions which are doing irreparable harm to our international honour and good name, and have disturbed contracts entered into by traders who have been dealing with British firms for decades. This disturbance has happened because the Government, acting belatedly and, ultimately, stupidly, has chosen to introduce import restrictions. Now honorable senators opposite are looking for excuses to justify their action, and when we read the following statement made by the Treasurer, we know upon whose shoulders the blame is to be placed : -
Practically everybody thought it was a good thing to get more imports.
Practically everybody did not think that. We on this side of the chamber were not consulted. The Australian people were not consulted. But fancy a responsible Government; having at its command the resources of the Public Service and the knowledge of its own economists and financiers, saying that “ practically everybody thought it was a good thing to get more imports”! Since when has it been the function of a government to rely on the uninvited opinion of a heterogeneous body of people in determining its course of action? Since when has that been responsible administrative practice? Yet that is the Government’s excuse - “ Practically everybody thought it would be a good thing to get more imports “. We refuse to accept any part of the responsibility for the present state of affairs, and the Australian people will refuse to accept any part of it. The Treasurer’s statement, which I have described as one of the most craven and cowardly ever to emerge from any government, continued -
People in all sections of the community bought imported goods freely and paid what was asked for them.
Fancy any government being prepared to issue a statement in those terms ! The Treasurer added -
I think it would be very difficult, however, to find any one who honestly could claim not to have had some share in bringing about the difficulties which have occurred.
Apparently every man, woman and child in Australia is now to be asked to accept responsibility for the sins of this Government. Who was it that promised some years ago to restore stability to the currency or, to use a brilliantly coined aphorism “ to put value back into the fi “ ? Did the people of Australia make that promise that they should now be charged by the Government with having violated it? The promise was made by the Government to the people, but after hearing the Treasurer’s statement, one might be pardoned for thinking that the people were on trial for the violation of promises. Is any honorable senator opposite prepared to read that statement verbatim to his electors; to read it with all its implications of abandonment of responsibility; and to say to the woman who has bought an imported shirt for her husband or to the child who has bought an imported toy, “You are responsible for the present situation”? I challenge any Government supporter to endeavour to explain the Treasurer’s statement to the electors.
– That would depend upon the explanation.
– There is only one explanation, and that is the complete abandonment by the Government of all responsibility for its own action; and when a government abandons responsibility it should be prepared also to relinquish power. Any government that persists in exercising power after it has abandoned responsibility is no longer democratic. It is becoming authoritarian, and if the Treasurer’s statement is to stand, that is the charge to which this Government is laying itself open. It” has abandoned responsibility and, in honour, it must abandon power. If the word “ honour “ can still stir the conscience of a government which has such a record of violated promises to its discredit, then, in honour, this Government should resign and give to the people an opportunity to determine in whose hands the task of arresting the deterioration of our economy should be placed.
I wish now to direct attention to one on two statements that have been made in certain other debates in this chamber in the last few days. The Government, as I have said, is searching for alibis. It is prepared to put the blame on anyone who in any sense may be expected, to assume it. Last night, Senator Wright, wanted to place the greater part of the responsibility for the failure to increase primary production on the Queensland Government. With a mental agility which, appropriately to the honorable senator, was almost cherubic in its application
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator George Rankin). - Order! The honorable senator must not refer to debates that have taken place in this chamber during the last few days. He must confine his remarks to the bill.
– <I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy President. I wish now to place .before the Senate the position of the Labour Government of Queensland in relation to primary production..
Presumably I shall be in order in pursuing that line of discussion.
– I rise to order. I submit that this bill has nothing to do with the administration of the Queensland Government in relation to primary production or anything else. The bill is concerned only with the financial measures of the Commonwealth. Whilst honorable senators may be allowed considerable liberty in a debate of this kind, I suggest that Senator Byrne cannot go as far as he is now attempting to go.
– I submit, Mr. Deputy President, that the measure now under consideration is what is popularly termed a “ money bill “. It is a measure appropriating moneys for the services of the Commonwealth, and such a bill, I contend, permits a complete and free discussion. I agree entirely with the Chair’s ruling that an honorable senator may not refer to recent debates in this chamber, but I believe that the activities covered by this measure are sufficiently wide to permit a discussion on almost any subject.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - On the first reading.
– I assume, in view of the submissions by the Leader of the Opposition, that I am in order in pursuing my line of argument, but that I am precluded from making specific references to matters that have been discussed in this chamber in the last few days.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Yes.
– As I said earlier, the financial policy of the Government rests on two factors, the first of which is an increase of production. Australia is a federation and every State in that federation has an obligation to play its part in increasing primary production. The Queensland Government has not been remiss in this respect. It is not correct to suggest that recent amendments of State legislation in Queensland have had the effect of compelling primary producers in that State, by means of some authoritarian system, to grow particular crops and market them. Such an idea could only arise from a complete misconception of the word “ produce “ in a section of the State legislation. The purpose of the Queensland legislation was to require primary producers, if they produced certain crops, to deliver them, in certain instances, to certain boards. The act was passed so that the Australian consuming public should have the opportunity to buy on the home market in times of shortage and so that the farmers would not fall back on the home market in time of plenty and starve it in times of shortage. The legislation was intended to achieve equity between consumer and producer. It has never had the effect of restricting the actual production in which a person could engage. I do not think that any government in Australia has so consistently received the support of the primary producers as has the Government of Queensland.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I think that the honorable senator would be wise to relate his remarks to the bill now.
– Primary production in Queensland has been stimulated by the Government of that State, but the policy of the Australian Government in relation to import restrictions indicates that it is not nearly so interested as is the Queensland Government in primary production. Yesterday, Senator Wood referred to the sugar agreement which the Commonwealth recently concluded in order to increase the export of sugar which is so vital to our overseas balances. But the picture is not as pretty as Senator Wood depicted it. The industry had recommended a higher price than the Australian Government conceded. The Government allowed an interim increase and has referred the difference between the price requested and the determined price to an investigating committee. Tremendous discontent existed in Queensland at the action of the Government. There is another story that illustrates the solicitude of the Government for the sugar industry. Before the import restrictions ha.d been imposed a mill in Senator Wood’s district ordered £ tons of nuts and bolts from England for the purpose of repairs and maintenance. When the import restrictions were imposed the importer who had placed the order in England asked the Department of Trade and Customs for a licence to import the nuts and bolts, which were vitally necessary for the production of sugar, which, in turn, would increase the amount of our exports. Despite numerous representations to the department the importer did not succeed in obtaining a licence. Those nuts and bolts had been specially ordered and fabricated for the Pioneer Sugar Mill and were lying in a warehouse in England awaiting’ shipment direct to Townsville by one of the few ships that sail direct to that part of Australia. But because they were not actually in transit when the import restrictions were imposed, the customs authorities held that they could not be admitted to Australia. They missed the ship and they will probably not arrive in Australia for some months. This is a very poor example of the Government’s solicitude for ‘the sugar industry. In view of this type of maladministration it is extremely fatuous for honorable senators opposite to criticize the Government of Queensland which has given every incentive to primary producers and helped to build the sugar industry of Queensland, and place it in as stable a position as any other industry in Australia.
This bill allows the widest possible debate, an opportunity which will be taken by Opposition senators to draw attention to the Government’s misdemeanours and to its multitudinous derelictions of duty. The Government has suggested in a snide manner that the Labour party is rejoicing in the present situation because if the position becomes worse and misery stalks the land it will be to the political advantage of the Labour party. Government supporters have suggested that the Opposition does not keenly desire that the present economic position should be adjusted. Nothing could be further from the truth. Such a suggestion could only result from a perverted approach to the subject. On more than one occasion the Labour party has had the unenviable task of assuming office in order to clean up the mistakes of other governments. As a party which advocates social improvement the Labour party, when it assumes the reins of government, likes to be in the best possible position from which to advance. It does not want to devote the main part of its administration to rectifying errors. We hope that when it is our turn to move on to the government benches we shall find some foundation on which we can build effectively for the benefit of the community.
It is completely wrong and unfair to suggest that the Opposition is rejoicing in the present misery, uncertainty and unemployment which have resulted from the Government’s ineptitude. The Government must accept its responsibilities. It must answer the charges that have been preferred against it by the Opposition, by the people, by the Government’s own supporters in commerce and industry, by trade unions and by those who are disemployed and unemployed. The Government cannot place its responsibility on other people. An attempt to place his responsibility elsewhere was once made by a man whose very name is a term of opprobium. That man was Pontius Pilate. Honorable senators opposite who are now accused are not prepared to defend themselves. They prefer to place the responsibility on their accusers. The opportunity that is presented by this bill to canvass the sins of the Government, its defection from its promises, and its failure to accept its responsibility which it so enthusiastically assumed in 1949 and again in 1951 is welcome. The Government has been responsible for a grave departure from its 1951 budget plans. It stated that on them it stood or fell. It is now pursuing another plan and it should inform the Senate what it proposes to do. Is it following its 1951 plan or its 1952 plan? Or is it trying to reconcile the two? On its answer to that question the Government will be judged to its favour. or, more likely, to its complete discredit.
– Senator Byrne has tried to impose on the Senate a new conception of governmental responsibility. The responsibility of the Government is not to guarantee to everybody in the Commonwealth everything that he wants. The responsibility of the Government is not to delude people into thinking that it can shelter them from all the vicissitudes of life. The noisy gentlemen opposite indulge in constant propaganda in order to delude people into believing that the Government can do that. The responsibility of the Government is to act strictly in accordance with the Constitution, and to make laws and to accept responsibilities in the federal sphere, not to usurp the functions of the State governments. Apparently Senator Byrne’s whole object was to discredit the Government without having any regard to this bill. He stated that it was an alibi or an excuse for a Government to point out that there are certain facts which any government or people must accept. It is not the fault of the Government that there is a rising price level throughout the world. For a certain proportion of the rising price level it may be responsible, but Senator Byrne made no attempt to limit the Government’s responsibility. He mentioned a promise that had been made to put value back into the £1. Whoever made that promise made a very foolish promise. The words “put value back into the £1 “ were not used in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and they were not used by me during the election campaign. . They are not words for which I accept any responsibility. The Prime Minister promised to take such action as would tend towards stabilizing the price level, and the policy of the Government has been directed towards that end. Anyway, never mind if we did make a stupid promise: never mind if every one on this side of the chamber made such a promise. All honorable senators sitting opposite, including those who are not thinking but are merely making noises, know that it is not within the power of any government in the world to control completely the forces which affect the price level, or, indeed, to do more than affect them to a slight degree.
– Then why tell the public that the Government would do it?
– The honorable senator who has just interjected has admitted time and time again that governments cannot effectively control prices. He says one thing privately outside the chamber, but when he enters it he tries to prevent other honorable senators from stating their opinions, and he even tries to put words into their mouths. The Government is not responsible for the enormous rise in the price of imported goods due to world-wide defence preparations. Many nations are expanding their defences, and that condition of affairs has dominated the economy of the world since the present Government assumed office, but it did not dominate the economy of the world when the election speech, to which so many references have been made, was delivered. Responsible members of the Parliament should not act and speak in such a way as to confirm people in the opinion that governments, and particularly the Australian Government, are omnipotent. Neither should responsible persons try to pin others down to statements that were made when circumstances were different.
The Government is not responsible for the output per man-hour, but that output has been increased since this Government took office. The Government has adopted measures to increase output, and output has increased, not so much as we should like, but it has increased. The Government is not responsible for the general lack of efficiency on many public works undertaken by .State governments. Senator Byrne, who made wild charges against the Government, and then walked out of the chamber, might well consider the inefficiency that prevails in the prosecution of public works in Queensland. I am veil aware of the inefficiency that exists in New South Wales. I know that there is not anything like the degree of efficiency in management or output that there should be on many public undertakings in New .South Wales. In the building industry costs have risen because of deliberate efforts at sabotage under the direction of Communist organizers, and because of the inefficiency of those who are merely lazy, or who waste their time on the job they are paid to do so that they may work on another job during week-ends for higher wages. Because such a condition of affairs obtains, people are reluctant to lend money for expenditure on public works, and for the same reason it is difficult to obtain loans overseas. People do not like to invest their money in an undertaking which is not prosecuted with honesty and efficiency. The cost of public works is rising to such heights that this is rapidly becoming the age of shoddy. In Canberra, and in other parts of Australia, buildings that are a disgrace to the country are being erected.
The cost of even the plainest sort of building is now so high as to be almost prohibitive, but the Government is not responsible for that. We have been taunted with trying to blame the Labour Government for all our troubles. That is not true, but the Labour party must bear as much responsibility for what happens in Australia as any other party does. The present Government, in the brief space of two years, could not be expected to reverse all the trends for which the Labour Government . was responsible over a period of eight years. During all of that time Labour was in power, not only in the Commonwealth sphere, but also in Queensland and in New South Wales, and for part of the time in some of the other States. Many of the efforts of this Government to improve the general situation are nullified by the actions of the New South Wales. Government. I shall not speak of Queensland because I do not know enough about what is happening there, but I can speak with knowledge of what is happening in New South Wales, a State which contains almost half the population and wealth of the whole continent. In New South Wales, there is one of the most feeble and foolish governments with which any State was ever saddled. The leaders of that government come to Canberra as mendicants, and expect the Commonwealth to accept the odium of raising loans and imposing taxes so that they may gain credit by lavish and foolish expenditure. The New South Wales works programme is chaotic. The Government of that State, instead of beginning one undertaking and finishing it, which is the only way to make pubic works productive, has started a great many undertakings for electioneering purposes, and has not finished many of them. Most of our labour problems would be solved if State governments pursued a wise policy in their public works undertakings.
The Menzies Government has done everything possible to promote production. It is not an excuse, but a simple statement of fact, to say that much of the responsibility for what is unsatisfactory in our national affairs rests upon State governments and private individuals, including employers. I have never asserted that the employers, particularly in secondary industries, are guiltless of failing to do what they should in the drive for greater production. Some industries are efficient, but others are inefficient, and the blame lies with management more than with labour.
I think I have succeeded in answering effectively the attack on the Government which Senator Byrne made under the pretence that he was speaking to the bill. Because there has been a general rise of prices the Government is asking the Parliament to approve of certain additional expenditure. I have shown that, whilst the Government must accept some measure of responsibility for the present situation, and has adopted measures to discharge that responsibility, it is far front being wholly responsible. lt is largely to the credit of the Government that inflation has been checked, and that prices are rising more slowly than before. Commonwealth revenue is expected to decline because the national income has declined. If the income tax yields less this year than it did last year the Government cannot be held responsible. The price of wool is now only about half what it was last year, and the national wool cheque will be about £300,000,000 less. What action of the Government could have prevented that from happening? Wool is sold at public auction, and the Government could not possibly do anything to prevent prices from falling. I will not accept, nor will the people of this country accept, the proposition that a. government is justified in interfering in the lives of the people at every turn. It was right to permit the importation of goods when that policy had the effect of preventing prices from rising, and it was right to leave the choice of imports to individuals. I do not accept the proposition that the Government should say “You shall buy this kind of watch, or you shall not buy n. watch at all “. I know that some money was expended on importing fripperies, and it would have been better if more had been expended on capital goods. The fact remains, however, that a good deal of money was expended on importing capital goods, and a good deal on importing consumer goods. Even if a good deal of money was expended on motor cars, at least we have the cars. They are part of the wealth of the country. If some one spent beyond his income in order to buy a motor car, some one else will probably reap the benefit by being able to buy a cheap second-hand car. In the main, the policy of importing goods was good for the country. It tended to check inflation, and it kept prices from rising as high as they would otherwise have risen. At the same time, the Government was right to restrict imports, and I think the restrictions were imposed at the right time. As a general proposition, it was necessary to apply import restrictions, and whilst I believe that restriction is a clumsy weapon which I do not like to use, the Government was justified in using it, and it has served its purpose.
It is not in the public interests that members of the Opposition should use extravagant and exaggerated, language of the kind that most of them have used in this debate. We are not in the middle of a depression. We are not in a depression at all. The Government has taken measures to deal with the situation, and its changes of policy have been justified. Senator Byrne deplored a doctrinaire approach to national problems, and said that governments should not adopt a too rigid attitude. Then, in the very same speech, he castigated the Government for changing its policy. Of course a government must sometimes change its policy, just as a ship must tack to meet changes of wind and tide. The Government has altered its policy, and will probably alter it again. Every alteration has been justified, but that does not mean that the Government is not actuated by certain guiding principles. Honorable senators opposite may, if they like, harp on the battered phrase about putting value back into the £1. The fact is that the Government set out to prevent raging inflation, and it has succeeded. I do not think that any government could, in the short space of two years, have done more. There is more to be done, and more will be done. With that promise I conclude.
– The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) in his second-reading speech used these words -
Honorable senators will appreciate that, under present day conditions of rising costs for wages and materials, it is not practicable to limit the provision to the rate of expenditure provided for in the 1951-52 Estimates. !. take strong exception to the Minister stating what is obviously a half truth, it is true that costs are rising in terms of depreciated currency, but it is not true that real costs are rising. On the contrary, to the degree that production is being organized and improved, real costs are being reduced. The statement made by the Minister has been repeated in the newspapers throughout Australia, and it is grossly misleading. It is a half truth, but it is being used by certain firms as an excuse for closing down their works. They say that costs are too high. In point of fact, they are justified in restricting the production of luxury goods. However, it is somewhat disconcerting that engineering companies and other companies associated with the processing of food are, with the concurrence of the Government, closing down because of rising costs. As L have pointed out in this chamber before, costs can ‘be expressed in terms of gold, in terms of labour, or in terms of other commodities. In terms of gold, costs are decreasing. In terms of labour also, which is a diminishing factor in power production, costs are decreasing. In terms of commodities that the workers can purchase with their wages, also., costs are decreasing. Of course, we all know that the money wage is only worth its purchasing power.
Senator McCallum has stated, in a general way, that conditions are not really bad. I disagree with him. Things are going from bad to worse, and ultimately the climax will be reached. When that occurs supporters of the Government will probably apologize for something for which they claim they were not responsible. The honorable senator also referred to the fact that costs and prices are rising in other countries. Of course, that is the responsibility of the governments of those countries. It is the responsibility of the Australian Government to reorganize the economy of this country. I do not agree with the contention of honorable senators opposite that conditions should be allowed to find their own level. As we all know, retrenchment is taking place in the community. In a properly governed country no people who are able and willing to work should be unemployed. The unemployment that is occurring not only in the United States of America, which is the richest 1 country in the world, but also in England, France, Italy, and other countries, is due to incompetent management. Mismanagement leads to unemployment, increased crime, and attendant evils. Supporters, of the Government have implied that if industry in this country were to revert to. a 44-hour- week or a 48-hour week production would be increased. Our first objective should he to achieve a balanced economy. Unless we achieve increased: production at minimum prices a vast unemployment problem will manifest itself. To-day, minimum production is being achieved at maximum prices. I contend that we should engage reverse gear in order to stabilize our economy. In almost every instance, companies are closing down so as to maintain only minimum production for the purpose of obtaining maximum prices for their products. A similar situation existed in the United States of America before the Korean war. Jules Abels, in The Welfare State, points out that prior to the Korean war the Government of the United States of America was at its wit’s end to know what to do with the vast quantities of consumable foodstuffs that were stored iri American warehouses and refrigerators, and that the Korean war provided it with an opportunity to overcome for the time being that big social problem.
Although supporters of the Government have made bold statements of their intentions, I remind them that they will not be able to ignore the consequences of their incompetent administration. The people will judge them by results. After a long association with the public life of this country, I am very chary about (promises that are made by anti-Labour parties. The Australian economy is in a worse plight to-day than it was during the war years. Honorable senators on the other side of the chamber should remember, when they try to make excuses for the present state of affairs, that results speak very convincingly for themselves. 1 have before me a survey of primary production in Australia, which was recently published by the British Farm Equipment
Company, Melbourne. It is perhaps the most exhaustive factual survey on this subject that it has been my privilege to read, and I commend it to honorable senators. The title of the publication is Decline and Fall. It is a report of the decline and fall of Australian primary production, and its effect on Australia’s trade. According to this survey, during the last, ten years the rural population of this country has decreased by 70,000, while agricultural productivity has increased by 50 per cent, per capita, The survey places great emphasis on the. necessity for national planning, and draws attention to increased production that was achieved in Great Britain under the previous Labour Government in that country. The survey is emphatic that national planning is necessary in this country if we are to achieve increased production. I am sure that such a reputable company as the publishers of the survey would not make that statement unless they were prepared to stand up to a full and complete inquiry.
Reverting for a moment to prices, I point out as I have pointed out in this chamber on other occasions, that prices include enormous capital charges that have never been incurred. This Government is doing nothing to correct that state of affairs. The real cost of production in Australia was never lower than it is to-day, but prices are loaded because of the continual recapitalizing of land, buildings, machinery, and other assets. Those capital costs have never been incurred. That is one of the reasons for the present high prices, and this state of affairs will continue until the Government takes positive action to remedy it. For so long as big companies are able to recapitalize outmoded assets they are not prepared to incur the expense of erecting new buildings and installing new machinery. During World War II. we had to build up-to-date workshops and install modern machinery. Because our educational system had been starved by State governments we had to establish classes to train young workers. As they became proficient they were absorbed in industry in order to increase production. T repeat, that the constant recapitalization of obsolete buildings and machinery will never end unless by government action. If, unfortunately, we should become involved in another world war, the Government will be faced with the necessity again to increase production quickly, in order to meet war-time demands.
I propose now to refer to the unfortunate position of State governments that results from actions taken by this Government. All the States need additional electric power, larger irrigation areas and additional buildings, and last but not least, they want to provide workers with decent houses and schools; but this Government has said to them, “ We are not in a position to provide the money that you need for those purposes “, and it has refused to provide it.
– The States have obtained greater allocations of loan moneys from this Government than they obtained from any Labour government. No Labour government ever underwrote State loans.
– Labour governments in the Commonwealth and State spheres have invariably attained office after a period of economic chaos and confusion that has resulted from the misdeeds of tory governments. They have made the best of their task. When the Scullin Government sought to use the credit of the nation to finance works for the relief of unemployment, the tories then sitting in Opposition opposed the proposal and prevented it from being given effect. The private banks that control the credit of this country were virtually an invisible government acting behind the scenes. I remind honorable senators that the Trans-Australian Railway, which was commenced before World War I. and was completed in 1918 at a cost of a little more than £9,000,000, was financed by the Commonwealth Bank without adding a penny to the national debt. After the line had been completed revenue derived from it was paid to the Commonwealth Bank and did not find its way into the pockets of the wealthy shareholders of financial concerns.
– Interest is still being paid to the Commonwealth Bank on the money provided .for that purpose.
– That may he true, but it does not find its way into the pockets of wealthy people. The Government cannot continue its policy of raising loans and incurring colossal debts for interest without eventually ruining this country. If honorable senators opposite believe that the Government can continue to raise loans indiscriminately, they will soon be sadly disillusioned. The essential works programmes of the States could have been financed by the Commonwealth Bank. I have in mind the construction of roads and railways, water conservation works and urgently needed housing for the people. The bank could without difficulty finance all essential production and essential services without increasing our loan indebtedness and without involving us in heavy interest payments.
An experiment in the use of credit for the financing of essential works that was made more than 100 years ago in the Island of Guernsey was so successful that the tory government of the day stepped in and prevented the further use of credit for such purposes. When the residents of Guernsey sought the assistance of the banks to finance the construction of fish markets and roads in 1815, the banks refused to advance the requisite money unless they were guaranteed a return of 17 per cent. The Governor of Guernsey, Daniel de Leslie Brock, obtained the authority of the islanders to issue credit to finance the works and printed credit notes which were utilized for the payment of workers and the purchase of materials to enable the works to be completed. He promised them that after the works had been completed he would retire the notes by utilizing rents collected from stalls in the markets and from the rates levied on road-users. After the notes had been retired he called a meeting of the islanders in the market place and publicly burned them. The works were carried out without increasing the indebtedness of the islanders and without the payment of interest.
Although the Victorian railways have been government-owned since 1884, twothirds of the revenue of the railways is used for the payment of interest. Thus, the capital cost of construction has been repaid nearly twice over. How much better off would the people be had the construction of the railways of Victoria and of the other States been financed in the same manner as was the construction of the Trans- Australian Railway! This Government is afraid to break new ground lest it brings about its head an. avalanche of adverse criticism from its wealthy supporters. It has followed orthodox methods and the country has suffered as a result.
I propose now to deal briefly with retrenchments that have been made in the Public Service, particularly in the medical services provided by the Repatriation Department. ‘ Because of staff retrenchments patients at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital are denied the attention to which they are entitled. I havereceived many letters from patients protesting against the Government’s action in reducing staff at that institution. T shall prepare a synopsis of the letters and present it to the Minister.
– I shall be glad to see the letters to which the honorable senator has referred.
– I believe in the maxim multum in parvo. I shall prepare a synopsis of them and present it to the Minister next week. What has the Government done to assist ex-servicemen who are able and willing to work but cannot find employment ? How can it justify the imposition of high taxes on exservicemen to meet interest charges the proceeds of which find their way into the pockets of people who neither fought nor worked during the war? How can the Government justify the dismissals of servicemen from government departments ? It should do a great deal more for the former fighting men of this country than it has done for the shareholders of private banks arid financial institutions who have always enjoyed the best that this land can offer. If any honorable senator opposite thinks that he can justify the Government’s actions, let him attempt to do so.
Senator McCallum has said that the Government is bound to act in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution. I do not deny that, but I do challenge the judgment of those who have interpreted the Constitution. Many of them have been based on a subjective rather than an objective examination of the provisions of that document. The difference between war-time and post war-time judgments is noticeable. Now that we are enjoying a period of comparative peace the Government is allowing its supporters a free hand. The provisions of the Constitution do not prevent it from doing a great deal more than it is doing to-day. There is no provision in the Constitution that prevents the Government from financing urgently needed public works by the same means as were used to finance the construction of the east-west railway. If any honorable senator opposite has any doubts on that matter I refer him to paragraphs 504 and 538 of the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, which was presented in 3.937. If this Government wishes to remain in office it must make a more intelligent approach to the control of our economy ‘ and so prevent the growth of unemployment. The Government must also stabilize the currency, which is not possible while private banks have the right to inflate the currency. If it is not stabilized, higher wages will be cancelled by increased prices. That is the result of inflation, which is really an indirect and corrupt form of taxation. Honorable senators opposite have stated that inflation usually follows a period of war. That is so, but I submit that it is not necessary if the currency is stabilized.
It is obvious that the science of economics is either not understood or has been ignored by the members of the Government. Industries which close down because of increased costs, in fact, close down because of increased inflation. The halting of inflation is definitely the responsibility of the Government. If it is not controlled, the sequence of events which occurred after the first world war will recur. There will be inflation, followed by deflation, and finally by re-inflation. Those are the three stages. At each stage the working people suffer most. In the term “ working people “ I include primary producers, particularly small farmers who work on credit. I also include small businessmen. Deflation will automatically follow a financial collapse. Pound notes of an actual value of 5s. will then increase in value. There will be a veritable harvest for creditors, and wholesale bankruptcies and unemploy ment for debtors and workers. If the Government says to the private bankers, in effect, “You have full authority to do as you like “, it must accept the blame for what happens.
Senator McCallum has stated that the basic cause of our financial troubles is insufficient production. I point out to the honorable senator that the policy of the Government is restricting productivity because it is causing unemployment. Production in rural districts has increased by more than 50 per cent. per capita during the last ten years.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the output of each worker has increased by 50 per cent, during the last ten years?
– I do not know whether the honorable senator has read the document in which that statement appears. A short while ago he purported to read something from a document which in fact did not exist. Insufficient production is not the cause of inflation. If production is increased and markets fail, unemployment will be doubled. That has always been so. In the 1930’s the shops were crowded with goods but the people had no money with which to purchase them. Rising prices, such as those of butter and boots, are evidence of an unbalanced economy. No attempt has been made by this Government to balance it. It is useless for Senator McCallum, or any other honorable senator opposite, to say that we are victims of world conditions. The Government is the master of its economy and could balance it or re-organize it without difficulty.
I am not interested in trying to discredit the Government merely for the sake of doing so. There is nothing to be gained from such a course. I am endeavouring to point out to the Government the directions in which it could improve its financial policy. I point to the results of increasing unemployment and rising prices. If the Government would undertake to stabilize the economy no one would be more pleased than I. After all, the people outside this Parliament want results. They are not interested in political, academic or legal shadow sparring, or in dialectical contradictions. They are interested in being able to live under reasonably decent conditions. Thousands of them, and possibly hundreds of thousands, are not able to do so at the present time. For instance, Holmesglen, in Victoria, where many immigrants live, is a s’um. The Government is putting the immigrants into slums-
– Order ! I point out to the honorable senator that this is a Supply bill. I have already given him a great deal of latitude. Many of the matters to which he has already referred should properly have been raised during the first-reading debate. He should bear i n mind that the bill is now at the secondreading stage.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. President, but I point out that previously I had referred to the second-reading speech of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) in which he stated -
Honorable senators will, however, appreciate that, under present-day conditions of rising
COStS for wages and materials, it is not practicable to limit the provision to the rate of expenditure provided for in the 1951-52 Estimates.
That statement of the Minister clearly deals with finance. The whole structure of our economy depends on finance, and I am endeavouring to put before honorable senators various methods of approach to our financial problems.
The results which are apparent to-day, and for which honorable senators opposite are so ready to apologize, are the result of mismanagement of our financial structure. Had it been properly managed, the present state of affairs would not exist. There would be a sound system of national credit, unemployment would be unknown, the currency would be stabilized, and the Government would be able to do much more for the people generally. In addition, it might be able to honour some of its pre-election promises. For instance, it might attempt to put value back into the £1, which, after all, is possible. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) and other members of the Government promised that such action would be taken.
I conclude my remarks by emphasizing that finance is a matter of management. When the management is incompetent or careless, results such as those apparent at the present time are bound to. follow. Primary producers are affected by such results as much as are other members of the community. Those engaged in essential production and essential services are affected by them. The depression of 1893, which I experienced as a boy, was due to incompetent financial management at that time. Such incompetence continued right through to the 1930’s, which was the worst period of all. It seems, however, that we shall enter an even darker period than that unless a more intelligent approach is adopted towards the solution of our financial problems.
– lt was no doubt inevitable that this debate should revolve round the economic and financial problems that confront this country in common with other countries of the world. I do not wish to refer at length to the matters raised by Senator Cameron because, to be frank, some of them are beyond my comprehension. Whether that admission reflects on the standard of my intelligence, I do not know, but the fact remains that I was unable to grasp the meaning of a great deal that the honorable senator said. For instance, he stated, as he has on numerous occasions, that the Commonwealth railways were built without resort to taxation for the provision of the necessary funds.’ I am not in a position to deny the truth of that statement, but I do know that successive Labour governments failed to follow that unorthodox method. If such a method of finance represents the panacea for all our financial ills, it would have been natural for the Chifley Government to resort to bank credit for the development of this country instead of having recourse to taxation. The honorable senator has said, from time to time, that we, on this side of the chamber, reason subjectively and not objectively. I do not know whether those terms have a peculiar significance in economics, but I have yet to learn their full meaning. However, I believe that the honorable senator is sincere in what he says. He claims that the people of this country are not concerned .with the shadow-sparring that takes place in the Parliament, but with the general welfare of the ‘community. I have no doubt that he sincerely desires improved living standards for the Australian people. I give him credit for his sincerity.
I wish to refer now to the economic position as Senator Cameron has done, but, of course, from a different point of view. Australia, in common with other countries, is experiencing a period of great economic and financial perplexity. It is an unenviable time for any government to be in office. We realized that when we were elected in 1949. We knew that serious’ difficulties lay ahead of us, and those difficulties have decidedly materialized. The economic problems of to-day have been compared to those that confronted the Labour Administration during the war and immediate post-war years, but I have no hesitation in saying that Australia’s war-time problems were much more straightforward than those now confronting us. That may be said also in some measure of the problems of the immediate post-war years; but none of us had any clear conception of the difficulties that would arise in 1951 and 1952. We are all aware that recently the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) attended a conference in London on the economic crisis in the sterling area. We cannot divorce our financial and economic problems from those of Great Britain. We are partners in the sterling group, and the problems of the people of Great Britain are our problems. The Treasurers of the British. Commonwealth countries decided to confer in London in the hope of finding a way out of the financial difficulties that had arisen, particularly in the early part of this year. Without doubt, the crisis arose because the sterling area was spending more than it was earning. The drain on gold and dollar reserves had been heavy and the economic stability of the whole sterling area was threatened. The conference decided, according to the report made by the Treasurer on his return to this country, that every member of the sterling group should endeavour strenuously to live within its means. It was agreed -also that the entire sterling area must be in financial balance with the rest of the world, including the dollar area, by the end of 1952 at the latest. The conference decided that all sterling countries should try to stabilize their own currencies. The first essential was to do everything possible to combat inflation, and the second essential was that there should be . a maximum expansion of earning power to increase world trade generally and trade within the sterling group in particular. The third essential was to encourage investment by other countries in the sterling area. We in this country have a great responsibility to endeavour to achieve those ends.
We have been exhorted to stabilize our internal economy by combating inflation, and I propose to refer first to the Government’s efforts in that direction. Many charges have been made against this Government. We have been told we have failed to combat inflation, and that our methods of tackling this task are useless. I deny that strenuously. I believe that the Government’s corrective measures are at last bearing fruit. We all know, of course, what methods the Labour party would have adopted to combat inflation. We have been told of those methods from time to time. Had a Labour government been in office, it would have endeavoured to further its policy of socialism by instituting all kinds of controls. That is not our method. We have used our fiscal powers together with a certain measure of control.
– I thought that this Government did not believe in controls.
– The controls that we have instituted are infinitesimal compared with those that would have been foisted on the people of Australia by a Labour administration. It is clear to all of us that inflation was born of war. That has been conceded by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). War requires many measures that are completely foreign to a free democracy. We had to subject ourselves to a certain degree of regimentation. Controls were necessary. The result was that, when the war ended, and controls were lifted, the reservoir of spending power that had accumulated iri the days of war-caused shortages and ‘ restrictions was opened, and a great impetus was given to inflation. That, however, was only one factor. Another was the introduction of the 40-hour week. I am not one of those who condemn the 40-hour week out of hand. I appreciate what a 40-hour week means to the man working in industry. If I had to work in an industrial undertaking or in any other job that demanded a high degree of mental and manual labour, I should regard 40 hours a week as quite sufficient. Even with a 40-hour week, there are many people who, in the wintertime, have to rise before daylight, travel to their place of employment, work an eight-hour day and return home after dark. Unfortunately, however, a 40-hour week is not being worked by many people even though it is the law of the land. That is where our system has broken down, and that is one reason why inflation continues to be a problem. I am not criticizing only industrial workers. What I have said is true of people in all walks of life. Too many members of the community have not been giving of their best, and that laxity has had a direct bearing on the inflationary process. Another contributing factor was the increase of fi a week in the basic wage. Unfortunately many people in this country have a vested interest in inflation. I have in mind particularly the Marxist notions that have had such a profound influence on industrial unions. In the post-war period, and particularly in the last few years, these Marxist influences have had a very serious effect on the economy of Australia. I do not think it can be denied that they have had a marked effect on production. A reservoir of money in the hands of the people, coupled with inadequate production, naturally tends to further the process of inflation. Stringent measures were necessary to combat this state of affairs, and the Government, in its wisdom, adopted a fiscal process of trying to correct these difficulties. It has incurred a certain amount of unpopularity because of the necessity to impose, amongst other things, high taxation.
The high prices that have been received for exports, particularly wool, have been a greater cause of inflation than any other single factor. These high prices are symptoms of inflation overseas. High prices were paid for our wool and other exports, mainly because of the existence of a state of affairs external to Australia over which the Government had no control. We know of the disturbed state of the world and the threat of war and the feverish activity of other countries to purchase raw materials regardless of cost. These factors have brought about a serious state of affairs in our economy which it has been most difficult’ to control. The Government has adopted courageous methods in order to try to control the economic position. Unpopular as these measures have been, I believe that the Government is beginning to succeed in its attempt to arrest inflation. The basic wage adjustments of recent months have been decidedly lower than the adjustments of last year and the Government’s budget proposals for the financial year 1951-52 will continue to cause basic wage adjustments to continue to fall.
The control of capital investment has been of very great value in channelling industry into essential quarters. I am a primary producer and I am particularly interested in the reaction of the primary producer to some of the budget proposals that have directly affected him. It has been suggested by honorable senators opposite that what they call the punitive rate of taxation has been responsible for reducing the output of the man on the land. That statement is not supported by the facts. In New Zealand the taxation that is imposed is a great deal higher than it is in Australia. Yet there has been an appreciable increase in agricultural production in that country. Australia has been afflicted by severe drought conditions which have been reflected in lower production, particularly of beef and wheat, but I consider that production in some agricultural industries has been lessened by the disproportionately high prices that have been paid for wool. The fall in the price of wool will arrest the decline in some of the important agricultural industries. High wool prices result in people changing from other forms of production to the raising of sheep. This has been done at the expense of wheat production, dairy production, and other forms of primary production. With the fall in wool prices many producers will return to their former industries.
Many other factors have been more responsible for the fall in primary production than has high taxation. One such factor is the difficulty that primary producers have experienced in obtaining the plant necessary to continue production. The Government is very desirous of fostering the production of materials which are essential to the man on the land. The Government has set itself out to give every assistance to the man who is engaged in agricultural production. The taxation concessions which the Government proposes to give to primary producers will have a very direct bearing on production. The fact that a 20 per cent, depreciation allowance will be permitted in respect of houses for employees, plant and material for water reticulation and fodder services will result in greater production. The Government is to be highly commended for having proposed this action so that this country will get the foodstuffs which it and other countries badly need. The Government has announced that there will be a remission of wheat tax of 2s. 2d. a bushel. This will allow the grower to receive a greater initial advance on his wheat and encourage him to sow more. The Government has proposed that the provisional taxation system should be altered. If anything has caused heartburning among the people on the land it has been the application of the provisional tax, which was a child of the Chifley Labour Government. The tax was all right in a time of rising incomes. The Government could not be blamed for failing to foresee what might happen when the .price of one or more important primary products declined. The price of wool has fallen by from 4-0 per cent, to 50 per cent., with the result that the provisional tax has borne heavily upon many producers. In order to relieve the situation, the Government was compelled to grant a rebate of 40 per cent. Otherwise, many wool-growers would have been seriously embarrassed. Now, it is proposed to vary the provisional tax system, and in a few days’ time legislation will be introduced to enable taxpayers to assess their own liability. When that legislation becomes effective, it will be of great assistance to primary producers and others.
Senator Cameron referred to the conflict between the State governments and the Australian Government on the raising and allocation of loan funds. The Menzies Government has no reason to be ashamed of its record. This Government has assisted the States in every way possible, but the State Premiers have made demands which cannot properly be conceded. Last year, the Commonwealth vacated the loan market in favour of the States, and even agreed to underwrite loans for State public works. By this undertaking the Government committed the Commonwealth to find £150,000,000, and it is well that it had the foresight to budget for a surplus for 1951-52.
As for import retrictions, I ask in all sincerity what the Government could have done other than to impose restrictions.
– It could have taken action to prevent the drift in our overseas balance.
– A very close check was kept on our overseas balance. During the regime of this Govern-, ment our overseas balance increased from about £500,000,000 to £843,000,000. Then, because the Australian people indulged in a buying spree, our overseas balance receded to a dangerous level. The Government would not have been justified in restricting imports at an earlier date because, up to a point, the importation of goods tended to correct the defects in our own economic position. The policy of import restrictions has undoubtedly caused inconvenience to some people, but the Government had no alternative but to apply that policy. The choice was between restricting imports and defaulting on our overseas payments.
– Mr. Churchill asked us to restrict imports.
– Yes, the decision to restrict imports arose out of the conference of finance Ministers in London earlier in the year.
– Not entirely.
– Well, it was partly the result of that conference. If the restrictions had not been imposed our overseas balance would have disappeared altogether. The Government does not intend to keep the restrictions in force for a moment longer than is necessary. Notwithstanding the pessimism of honorable senators opposite, it remains true that Australia has still a vast overseas trade. The price of wool is still good, even though it is only half what it was. “Wheat is still bringing a very satisfactory price, so that our overseas income will remain high. I am an optimist, and I hope that before long it will be possible to relax import restrictions.
Since the Government has been in office, it has been faced with unprecedented difficulties. The wiseacres on the other side of the chamber did not foresee those difficulties any more than the Government did. No one can see into the future. We must deal with problems as they arise, and the Government has dealt with national problems with courage and determination. Senator Byrne condemned the Government for what he called its doctrinaire approach to national problems. He said that those problems should have been dealt with in a less orthodox way. How, I ask, would a Labour government have dealt with them ? I have not the slightest doubt that it would have applied a doctrinaire socialist policy. It is evident from the speeches of honorable senators opposite that their only idea is to impose socialism on the country, but the people of Australia do not want socialism. Members of the party to which I belong will resist such a policy with all our might. The Government has taken a realistic view of national problems, and its financial policy is sound. I have no doubt that we shall stabilize our currency, and by so doing help to stabilize the currency of the United Kingdom and of the entire British Commonwealth.
Senator COOKE (Western Australia) ff>. 27]. - There was nothing in the speech of Senator Hannaford that might help us to solve our national problems, but, at any rate, it was obvious that he was sincere. I agree with him that we are faced with grave problems. They are even graver than he is prepared to admit. I also agree that we are passing through a period of confusion and complexity. The financial position of the country is certainly complex, and the Government is certainly confused. The parties which now support the Government put over a good lino of propaganda during the election campaign of 1949, but since the present Government has been in office its policy has been one of vacillation. It has failed to apply the proper remedy foi’ our economic ills, which are themselves largely the result of its own efforts to abolish all forms of economic control. Senator McCallum reprimanded the Opposition for reminding the leaders of the present Government that they had promised to restore value to the £1. He asserted that it was not the responsibility of the Government to restore economic stability. That is contrary to the statement . of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who, in his policy speech of 1.949, said -
Yet, under the administration of the Menzies Government, the country is in a state of inflation, in sharp contrast to its sound economic position .when Labour vacated office. We achieved equilibrium in Australia’s internal and external balances. The right honorable gentleman made further promises to the people of Australia, which the Government has not fulfilled, and which honorable senators opposite now claim it is not their responsibility to carry out. They maintain that it is the responsibility of the workers of this country to increase production. As Senator Byrne has stated, the Government is eager now to adopt any alibi in order to dodge its responsibility to carry out the right honorable gentleman’s promises. He continued -
In the long run (and not very long, at that), increased production will mean competition among sellers, and therefore lower prices. Greater turnover will mean reduced costs. A resolute reduction in the burdens of government, and, with it, in the rates of tax, will mean reduced costs of production. In brief, higher production will mean lower costs; and lower costs will enable us to enter and secure oversea* markets which are now not supplied by us because we are not producing the goods.
But this Government has increased, rather than decreased, taxation. The most vicious taxation of all, indirect taxation, has been increased considerably. It now bears very heavily on every section of the community. The Government has failed miserably to honour its promise to reduce taxation.
When the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) recently placed before the State Ministers at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council a plan to increase production, he used as a basis for his remarks production figures for a period during Labour’s regime. As we all know, production has declined considerably. Honorable senators opposite have attributed the decline of agricultural production to droughts. That is certainly not the reason as far as Western Australia is concerned. After coming to office the present Government opened the flood-gates to imports to such an extent that it finally became embarrassed as a result of its own folly. Yet, despite the flood of imports that came to this country, the Government has not been able to obtain sufficient agricultural machinery for our farmers. Labour did not find it necessary, even in war-time, to borrow from the dollar area, but this Government has negotiated a 100,000,000 dollar loan. Although only half of that loan has been expended, interest has to be paid on the residue.
I come now to a more recent statement by the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman is reported to have stated in Canberra on the 1st May -
I contend, quite advisedly, that this Government has been most careful to avoid damaging that stalking horse which it has groomed and kept and used to gain a political advantage. I remind honorable senators that when the Government was continually denouncing the Communists, guards were posted at Parliament House to check the credentials of every person who wished to enter the building. Even the then Leader of the Labour party, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, was not admitted in the usual way, that is, through the side entrance to the House. The Government introduced its anti-Communist legislation, which was subsequently invalidated by the High Court of Australia, which includes five judges who were appointed by antiLabour governments. Then the Prime Minister appealed to the people and asked, “ What shall I do now?” The economic position of Australia has continued to deteriorate, and now honorable senators opposite claim that it is a matter for the people themselves to adjust. The Government has not made any attempt to deal with the Communist menace. I do not believe that the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) could cite one case in which action has been taken by the Government in relation to Communist activity.
– Order ! I have allowed the honorable senator a fair amount of latitude, but he is getting too wide of the mark. He should now confine his remarks to the bill, which does not refer to Communists or their associates.
– I humbly bow to your ruling, Mr. President, but I point out that my remarks have been inspired by Government senators who have stated that communism has been one of the main factors that have disturbed the financial structure of this country. Some supporters of the Government have stated that production would have been increased if the Government had been empowered to deal successfully with the Communists. I am suggesting now that the Government could have taken action to combat communism. This Government has the power to do at least what the former Labour Government did. It will be remembered that Labour took action against leaders of the Communist party on three occasions. If the Government considers that communism is upsetting the economic foundation of this country, it has sufficient power to take action.
The Opposition does not quarrel with any item of the Government’s defence programme, but if it really believes that insufficient man-power could be mustered and put in the field if we were attacked by an enemy, it has the remedy in its own hands. At least it could encourage the establishment of further secondary industries in this country. If it is not prepared to do that, primarily for the purpose of defence, at least it should protect the secondary industries that were established by the former Labour Government, and abandon its laisserfaire attitude.
Supporters of the Government have denied that unemployment is mounting. The Commonwealth provided more than £1,000,000 worth of capital assets for Chamberlain Industries Limited, in Western Australia, for which it has not yet been paid. Those works are comparable with any works elsewhere in the southern hemisphere. The company soon overtook the shortage of tractors, and now the tractor market is in over-supply. I understand that there are in existence 10,000 new tractors, but no buyers. In Geelong, 1,000 Chamberlain tractors are unsaleable. As far as I know, the Government has not done anything to alleviate the position. Already 200 men have been dismissed from Chamberlain Industries Limited, and I understand that at the end of this week another 100 skilled employees of the company will be thrown on to the labour market. There is an acute shortage of cast-iron piping agricultural implements, and other commodities which could be manufactured by Chamberlain Industries Limited. In Western Australia, also, the Commonwealth financed the installation of iron extraction plant at Wundowie, most of the output from which has been utilized by Chamberlain Industries Limited. Both of these industries were established because the Australian Government realized that in the event of war, Western Australia would be isolated from the established sources of war supplies. I cannot stress too strongly the necessity for the Government to establish additional secondary industries in this country. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
.- I move -
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
It will be generally agreed that a review of the electoral law of the Commonwealth is long overdue. I know of no more competent body to examine its provisions and make recommendations for their improvement and more smooth working than a. body consisting of members of both Houses of the National Parliament. Many provisions of the existing law cause a good deal of concern. Many persons believe that the provision which compels an elector to vote for all candidates whose names appear upon the ballot-papers is wrong and should be reviewed. In order to record a valid vote for the election of members of both Houses of this Parliament an elector is compelled to vote for every candidate who offers for election and whose name appears on the ballot-paper.
Rightly or wrongly, the Parliament has adopted the proportional representation system for the election of representatives to the Senate. I believe that we should also adopt the Hare-Clark system of voting for Senate elections. At present an elector is compelled to record his preference for all Senate candidates, including those in whom he may have no confidence or trust and for whom, therefore, he can have no preference.
If an elector does not wish to record a preference for, say, Communist candidates, it is morally wrong to compel him to do so. Many electors throughout Australia have refused to be coerced in this manner and have declined to vote for all candidates, with the result that their votes have been informal. Under the Hare-Clark system an elector is obliged to vote for at least three candidates, though, if he so desires, he may vote for all candidates who offer for election. Most of the electors have political party allegiances. The adoption of the Hare-Clark system would mean in practice that most electors would vote for their political party nominees only, though they could record their preference for the remaining candidate? if they so desired. The adoption of the Hare-Clark system would undoubtedly result in a large number of exhaust ballot-papers, but in the opinion of many electors an exhaust vote is far better than an informal vote because the elector would have expressed a preference for at least three candidates. Naturally, ho would express his preference for those candidates in whom he had confidence. Under the existing Tasmanian law six candidates are elected for each division but the law compels the elector to vote for only three candidates. The electors almost invariably adhere to party allegiance, and vote for party nominees whether they number three, eight, or more.
Another unsatisfactory feature of the electoral law is the form in which ballotpapers are prepared. In elections for the House of Representatives candidates whose names commence with the letters “ A “, “ B “ or “ C “, or any of earlier letters of the alphabet, have a decided advantage over those whose names commence with the letters near the end of the alphabet because the law prescribes that the names of the candidates shall appear on the ballot-paper in alphabetical order. Under the present system very often the vote is regimented, and political parties urge the electors to vote for their candidates in the order in which the names appear on the ballot-paper. Electors who are not politically minded comply with the law in order to avoid being mulct in a fine for having failed to vote, but they take the easiest way out and record their vote by placing successive numbers in the squares right down the list of candidates.
Electoral officers draw lots for positions on the ballot-paper for Senate elections. Thus the election is really a game of chance. The political party that draws the group “A” position on the ballot-paper has a distinct advantage over other political parties. Every electoral officer with whom I have discussed this matter has agreed that candidates who are fortunate enough to be placed in group “ A “ have a distinct advantage over all others. The choice of representatives to govern the nation should not be left to chance. In some countries the names of the candidates are printed on the ballot-papers in a circle. In Switzerland and other countries, and in France, in municipal elections prior to the war, the names of candidates on ballot-papers have been so displayed. Thus, there is neither a top nor a bottom of the list. Those who have given years of study to this problem contend that the use of ballot-papers of that kind would result in the recording of a more intelligent vote. They say that those who control the destiny of the nations should at least possess the modicum of intelligence necessary to enable them to exercise their voting rights on a ballot-paper in which the names of the candidates are printed in a circle. The adoption of such a system would undoubtedly mean that the percentage of informal votes would be increased, but it is claimed that if an elector does not possess sufficient intelligence to cast a formal vote on a ballotpaper of that kind he does not possess sufficient intelligence to decide in whose hands the destiny of this country should be placed. The adoption of such a system would not in any way necessitate an alteration of the existing method of voting or the counting of votes. I am not advocating the adoption of such a system of printing ballot-papers at the moment, but I think the idea is worthy of consideration because it is said that it has proved successful in those countries in which it has been tried.
Another matter that is causing a good deal of concern is the spruiking, touting or canvassing for votes that is permitted m the vicinity of polling booths. Under the Tansmanian law it is an offence for any person to distribute literature or advertisements on the day of an election, not merely at the entrance to a polling booth, but anywhere in the State. It is also .an offence to distribute “howtovote “ cards, “ mock ballot “ cards or election propaganda on polling day. This law has proved very effective in curbing undesirable practices. Under the present system of controlling federal elections, many voters reach the polling booth in a state of exhaustion because they have been greatly embarrassed by canvassers and touts who have rushed out and thrust bundles of literature and “ how-to-vote “ cards into their hands as (they have approached the polling booths. Many elderly people arrive at the polling booth in a state of hysteria because of this practice. That is one of the reasons why so many informal votes are recorded at Commonwealth elections. As the law compels people to vote it is a natural corollary that the electors should be protected and not embarrassed in that way. Voters should be permitted to observe the law without molestation. It is an insult to the intelligence of the electors to have bundles of literature thrown at them as they approach the polling booth’s. In Tasmania the State elections are conducted with :a decorum and decency which is patently absent from federal elections.
– Oh !
– Senator Critchley should have been present at some of the polling booths in Tasmania during the recent federal election to see for himself the kind of tiling that is going on. The Tasmanian law operates smoothly and no voter is interfered with as he approaches the polling booth. Senate elections are in a different category because, there may be as many as twenty candidates and a dozen or so canvassers embarrass electors by distributing literature setting forth the claims of the respective parties.
– That applies only in Tasmania.
– It is obvious that the honorable, senator does not know what be< is talking about.
– Of course I do. The vote is a regimented vote on the mainland.
– That is what I have been saying. On the ballot-papers which are distributed on the mainland it is necessary to proceed down the paper and to vote for each candidate. Interference with the freedom of electors at polling booths is not permitted in Tasmania. I know that the electoral officers do their best to prevent irregularities, but it is completely impossible to police such matters thoroughly. Marked “howtovote “ cards have been deliberately left in polling cubicles so that they might act as a guide to other electors. In Tasmania an unscrupulous candidate stood in the porchway of the polling booth, without his hat and coat, and with a pencil stuck behind his ear, giving the impression that he was an electoral officer. He handed a marked mock ballot-paper to every person who entered, and said, “ This is the way to vote. Vote this way and you will be doing the right thing”. That was a flagrant breach of the law, but it is impossible for electoral officers to so police the conduct of elections that irregularities are entirely prevented.
The Broadcasting Act provides that the broadcasting of propaganda of any kind is prohibited within ;5i6 hours of the opening of polling booths. The idea of that prohibition is to give the elector time for calm, dispassionate, and unemotional consideration of the merits of the respective parties and candidates. I consider that the same principle should be adopted in relation to canvassing and the distribution of literature at election time. Certainly such practices should not be permitted on the day of an election.
Following the last general election, I received a number of letters of protest concerning this matter. One of them, which is typical of many, read as follows; -
If you get a chance to make mention in the right quarter that it is about time to pass a bill to abolish the pernicious habit of spruiking outside polling booths <m polling and referendum days, you would be doing a’ great service. It is becoming more and more a source of annoyance to all voters, especially elderly people, who. are most embarrassed by sheafs of literature being thrust at them at every step, that they take to the polling booths. It is high time it was stopped altogether.
I now wish to refer to postal voting which has .become a regular racket. E think honorable senators generally will agree that the electoral provisions in relation to postal voting require examination and tightening up, particularly in connexion with voting by inmates of hospitals and homes for invalids and aged persons. On occasions, canvassers have visited such places and have approached inmates who have not been feeling very well. Nevertheless, they have been asked to accept a ballot-paper which has been placed in an envelope which has hot been sealed and the canvasser has taken it away and marked the ballot-paper in a manner to suit himself. It has been suggested that every hospital or home for aged people with eight or more inmates should be declared a polling booth and that the persons in charge of such institutions should be appointed electoral officers and given authority to conduct polls. In my opinion, a better suggestion would be to use mobile polling booths. Polling booths on wheels, manned by two electoral officers, could travel from hospital to hospital. If that were done, many of the irregularities which occur to-day would disappear.
Our electoral laws could no doubt be improved in many other ways, but perhaps I have said sufficient to justify the appointment of a joint committee to consider and report upon such laws, to hear evidence if necessary, and to report to the Parliament. The mere adoption of the motion before the Senate will not, of course, amend the existing la,w. It would simply mean that the existing provisions would be examined, and that smoother functioning of electoral procedure might ultimately result. I commend the motion to honorable senators..
, - I support the motion. Many of the remarks that have been made by Senator Guy are perfectly correct. Whilst I have no- proof concerning his allegations on postal voting irregularities,. I have no doubt that such irregularities have occurred.
In my opinion the appointment of a joint committee to consider and report upon the electoral laws of the Commonwealth could not do any harm. Whether a committee such as that envisaged by Senator Guy should be appointed, however, is another matter. I do not know that any advantage would accrue from a particular grouping of the names of candidates on the ballotpaper. If. the grouping became a lottery, I could appreciate the position.
– The honorable senator should watch the left hand corner of the ballot-paper.
– I know something about lotteries, because a lottery ha3 been operating in Tasmania for many years to the benefit of that State. Unless the voting is regimented, I do not know whether there would be any great advantage in having one’s name at the top of the paper. Lf the voting is regimented, the electors are told to vote straight down the paper. I point out that my name, which commences with “ A “ has twice appeared at the top of the ballot-paper for Senate elections. On the third occasion it was further down the- paper and in an unfavourable position. Nevertheless, in each case I was returned to the Senate by the electors. I suggest that, that illustration demonstrates that it does not make a great deal of difference where- one’s name appears on the ballot paper.
It seems to me that the candidate with the greatest amount of money to spend 03i an- election campaign enjoys an advantage on polling day because he: is able to> pay canvassers to- appear on his behalf. On many occasions I have encountered, age pensioners who were, canvassing for an- honorable senator who is a member of the Liberal party. They told me that the honorable senator paul them, a certain amount for the day and that although they were not prepared to vote for him, they required the money;. They merely wanted a day’s ‘ pay. The candidate who has money to spend’ and is able to find workers to canvass for him has a great advantage over his opponents..
– Is that why the honorable senator was re-elected?
– Unfortunately, I have never had sufficient money to be able to incure costs of that nature. In any event, such expenditure is not necessary by Australian Labour party candidates, because our supporters are invariably willing to distribute literature and cards without payment, unlike the paid canvassers employed by the other political parties, lt is not uncommon to find as many as twelve canvessers round one polling booth. At one general election which I can remember, a member of the Liberal party posed as a special constable and confiscated literature that was being distributed by another political party. When irregularities such as that occur, it is time that an inquiry was made.
– The honorable senator is showing bias now !
– I am supporting the motion, but I am also endeavouring to point to matters which call for investigation should a committee be appointed. Matters similar to the one to which I have just referred were reported to returning officers after the last general election but nothing could be done about them. The electoral office replied that it had never appointed a special constable. Honorable senators may be aware that in some instances policemen who do not know the provisions of the electoral laws attempt to chase people away from the polling booths. Such action would not be so serious if the policemen adopted an unbiased attitude, but I have found that on occasions they have been most biased. On one such occasion, I followed some such policemen to the police station. They entered by the back way, and I went through the front entrance to interview the police superintendent and to ask him to call off his constables. In my opinion they were not policing the law so much as interfering in a matter that did not cancern them. Should a joint committee be appointed and visit Tasmania, witnesses will be forthcoming who will give startling evidence of irregularities at polling booths.
I express no opinion concerning the suggestion that there should be a circular ballot card. That is perhapse a matter which a committee could consider, as is also the question of the relative position of groups of candidates on the ballot paper. I agree with Senator Wright that at the last State elections in Tasmania a great improvement in the conduct of the elections was noticeable because canvassers had been prohibited from canvassing on the doorsteps of the polling booths.
– I did not say that!
– Perhaps I should have said that Senator Guy made that statement. I am sorry that I attributed such a sensible remark to Senator Wright.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McCallum).- Order ! The honorable senator must confine himself to the motion.
– I am doing that. I am dealing with the necessity to improve the present electoral system by eliminating irregularities at polling booths. I was about to tell the Senate how successfully the Tasmanian system had been, not only from the point of view of the general public, but also from the point of view of the candidates. The distribution of “ how-to-vote “ cards and other literature at polling booths during State elections is prohibited. Any candidate who works hard throughout an election campaign does not need the assistance of canvassers at polling booths. .If he does not play his part in the election campaign, he has no chance of election without the assistance of canvassers at polling booths. The candidate who conducts his electioneering from broadcasting studios, must, of course. accept full responsibility for that method of campaigning.
– The honorable senator is surely not suggesting that the reforms made in Tasmania were originated by the Government of that State.
– I was not a member of the State Parliament as Senator Wright was, and, therefore, I am not in a position to know exactly what happened; but I do know that Senator Wright’s departure from State politics greaty pleased Tasmanian members of the- party to which he belongs, just as his early departure from federal politics would please his colleagues on the Government benches. The honorable senator will have something to boast about if be can say at some future date that, regardless of the electoral system, he has had the privilege of serving his country in this chamber for fourteen or fifteen years as I have had, but I am sure that unless he changes his tactics in this chamber, his term of office, will not be anything like fifteen years. No harm would be done by appointing a committee such as that suggested by Senator Guy and possibly an inquiry, could be of great advantage. The committee could gather much useful information to place before this Parliament to guide it in any attempt that it might make to ensure that federal elections shall be above board at all times.
– I had not intended to speak to this motion but for the remarks of Senator Aylett who has placed the discussion on a level which apparently suits him. He has dragged a non-party matter into the political arena. I support the motion, and I agree entirely with Senator Guy’s remarks. I have seen such happenings as he has mentioned. Undoubtedly, there is much confusion in the minds of old people, particularly at election times. They become bamboozled by the activities of canvassers at polling booths. I know of one old lady, who, at a recent Brisbane by-election, put the three or four “ how-to-vote “ cards that she had been given by canvassers, into the ballotbox, and took her ballot-paper home. Matters such as these should be investigated by a competent committee. Electoral officers have informed me that a candidate who draws first place on a ballotpaper gains an advantage of lj per cent, of the votes. Surely it is highly undesirable that the composition of this Parliament or any other parliament should be influenced in any measure at all by the position of candidates on the ballot-paper. I have great pleasure in supporting Senator Guy’s motion.
– After listening to Senator Guy and Senator Aylett to-night, I suggest that the motion should be amended to provide for an investigation not of “ the electoral laws of the Commonwealth” but of “ the conduct of federal elections in Tasmania”. The occurrences to which the honorable senators have referred are a slur on the officers who conduct the elections. I can assure Senator Guy that such irregularities do not occur in all the other States at least. Apparently the people of Tasmania, who have quite a high opinion of their own importance, have devised a system of their own, under which candidates fight each other to secure some electoral advantage, and, in so doing, abuse the electoral laws. I do not think for one moment that the electoral officers are at fault. The blame can more properly be placed on scheming individuals who try to get around the law. An inquiry into electoral happenings in Tasmania seems to be most desirable, but if such an investigation were to be confined to the allegations that have been made by the two Tasmanian senators who have spoken in this debate, it would be a waste of time. I should be prepared to support the holding of an inquiry into the electoral laws generally, but I do not think that we can be expected to support Senator Guy’s motion in view of the remarks made in the course of this debate.
Mention has been made of the advantages of a circular ballot-paper, but would such a ballot-paper be favoured by the political parties? Apparently Senator Guy is not interested in the views of the political parties on this matter, and judging by the scheming that has been going on in Tasmania for a period of years, particularly in relation to Senate elections, party loyalty is unknown amongst honorable senators opposite.
– There has been some scheming in the Labour party too.
– There will always be scheming amongst individuals but, when a party decision has been made, the scheming ends. Honorable senators opposite have often twitted us with having acted in accordance with the policy of the Labour party. “We support the Labour party’s policy on electoral matters too. In recent years I have not seen any literature other than “ how-to-vote “ cards, distributed at federal elections. I recall the time, however, when it was not unusual for a barrel of beer to be placed near a polling booth so that a voter could have a pint before casting his vote.; but that was many years ago.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McCallum). - Order! The relevance of the honorable senator’s remarks to the motion is very slight. I ask him to confine his attention to the matter now under discussion.
– I am addressing myself to the motion. I am dealing with polling booth practices. I have referred to the old practice of placing a barrel of beer near a polling booth ; but those days have gone. Election results do not support the theory that the candidate who is placed first on the ballotpapers secures an advantage. The top man does not always win. In fact, he does not win even half of the time. On one occasion only my name was placed on the left-hand side of the ballot-paper, but I am still here. In New South Wales, the names of Labour candidates have not appeared on the left-hand side of the ballot-paper for quite a long time. They are usually jammed between five or six others. Therefore Senator Guy’s argument falls to the ground, and I see no reason for an investigation of that aspect of our electoral law. At the last Senate election in South Australia, a group calling themselves “ Protestant Candidates “, or something of that kind, was placed on the left hand side of the ballot-paper, but without success. Their position did not give them any advantage. I do believe, however, that if a committee such as that advocated by Senator Guy were appointed, it could profitably occupy its time considering whether people should be allowed to vote at eighteen years of age instead of 21 years of age. The present system of voting works very well, and I see no reason to introduce the quarrelsome system now operating in Tasmania. If that is the honorable senator’s object in moving this motion, he does not deserve support. Once again I suggest that the motion might well be amended to provide for an investigation of the conduct of federal elections in Tasmania.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1042).
– In the statement that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made on the 1st May, he said that the Government would maintain existing social services benefits, but there have been radical alterations in the Government’s policy on this subject. I believe that alterations have been made in the handling of the National Welfare TrustFund, and 1 should like the Government to make a statement on that matter. The Government should give immediate consideration to explaining its policy to the Senate, because it has continually appealed for. assistance from this side of the chamber in furthering the best interests of the nation. I think that there should be a review of pensions. With the spiralling inflation, the cost of living has risen out of all proportion to increases in pensions. The Government is slow to move and is being embarrassed by the continuous rise in prices. What is the present position of the pensioner who has never at any time enjoyed more than a meagre existence? I hope that the Government will do something for him.
The Prime Minister also said, in his statement, that the Government would adopt financial measures designed to reduce the cost of living, but it has been vacillating in its policy. Prior to the last general election the Prime Minister promised to abolish controls. He did abolish some of them, but the economy of the country was immediately affected. Gradually, he imposed controls of a nature that would not interfere with certain influential sections of the community, which financed the Government’s propaganda at the last general election. As a result of the imposition of financial controls the economy of his country has been upset. The Government has changed its policy in relation to the Commonwealth Bank. Nowadays when a person applies for an advance from the bank, it suggests that he should endeavour to obtain finance elsewhere. Undoubtedly, this is a result of Government policy. The Government has notexercised any control over theprivate banks, but has controlled the operations of the Commonwealth Bank so as to restrict advances and embarrass many clients of the bank.
The Government has been- much criticized because it has– restricted imports. It has been held by the Government that the rate of imports into Australia had some relationship to inflation and that it was necessary to restrict them in order to put value back into the £1. “What actually occurred? Supplies came freely from abroad, warehouses stocked up and imports flooded the market. Those occurrences did not greatly affect the price of goods. “When certain firms had obtained large stocks the Government found that it was embarrassed by the quantity of goods being imported, and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden”) discussed the position with people outside, this Parliament. No statement was made on the matter within the Parliament. When the members of the Opposition raised the matter in this chamber they were told that their questions concerned a matter of policy, and would not be answered at question time. When we asked, during debates on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, what action the Government intended to take, we were still ignored. During the course of the financial statement the Treasurer made recently, he said -
It was obvious a.t that stage that unless a full in the rate of imports occurred, serious difficulties lay ahead; but it was impossible to determine with any certainty whether any such fall would occur. Most people whose opinions were obtained - people in the business and financial worlds who were in a position to know about the volume of order?, placed abroad and. prospects for delivery - thought that a fall would occur after Christmas but no one could determine accurately just when the fall would, begin or how great it would be. We had necessarily to wait upon events.
Apparently, certain sections of the business world were appraised of the Government’s intentions in advance, and took full advantage of the information. Before the Government announced its import restrictions, those people established, irrevocable letters of credit, abroad. I believe that certain finniss pay men to use their’ business acumen on their behalf. The discussions which the Government had with people in the business world outside this- Parliament would have been: sufficient to apprise anyone with the smallest amount oi business acumen of the action that it was, likely ‘to take. It is a disastrous state of affairs that the Government should discuss and formulate its policy outside the Parliament. Such a state of affairs calls for a strict inquiry, for it is detrimental to our economy. The Government’s action was partisan in the extreme. In Great Britain, France, and Germany there has been a. type of government known as government by personal association, which bears a close resemblance to the type of government that has operated in this country during the recent period of economic f rustration. Even honorable senators who support the Government were not informed of its intentions, yet the Government discussed its probable policy with men outside the Parliament. Certain influential persons who are in the confidence of Cabinet Ministers were able to take advantage of the information which, they received, and this was to the disadvantage of many others. I know firms in Western Australia which have boasted that because they had good liaison with buyers in the eastern States, they were not embarrassed by the import restrictions, those buyers having established irrevocable letters of credit. I know a supporter of the Liberal party who traded honestly and fairly and obtained import licences, but who was embarrassed to the amount of £8,000, because he. had completed all arrangements for the importation of goods with the exception of the establishment of Setters of credit. His quota was cut. Others in Western Australia, who desired to trade directly with overseas firms, found that they were allowed to import goods only through agents in the eastern States. Some traders have found that, because of the Government’s new policy of restriction, they cannot import even essential goods. The Treasurer said that he had discussed the situation with persons outside the Parliament, ‘and explained the overseas trade position. Evidently, he accepted directions from them, and they are now sitting on top of the world.. Traders in Western Australia, who did not enjoy the advantage of personal discussion with the Treasurer, are now at a disadvantage-. The Government should immediately investigate- such cases’.
– Has the honorable senator given particulars of those cases to the Treasurer?
– I will certainly do so, and I hope that I shall have the assistance of Senator Seward.
– Can the honorable senator prove on oath the truth of what he is saying?
– I am prepared to submit statements from the persons to whom I have referred.
– And will the honorable senator swear to the truth of those statements ?
– Why should I?
– The honorable senator should be sure of his facts.
– I am sure of my facts. I have succeeded in awakening the Minister, after a long period of somnolence, and I am satisfied. Now that the cross-examination seems to be over, I should like to proceed with my speech. The Prime Minister said that his Government had done much to assist the primary producers. As with import restrictions, the Government’s policy towards primary production has been a matter of too little too late. That policy was also framed in the course of discussions with persons outside the Parliament. Commonwealth Ministers conferred on the subject with the representatives of the States, and with other persons. Later, the policy was placed before the Parliament, but not for discussion. We were merely told what course the Government proposed to follow. Long before any bills dealing with the matter were introduced, we were told what the Government intended to do. Whatever assistance the Government proposes to give to the primary producers will be too late to affect production this year, because it is already too late for farmers to increase the area under crop. The Government has boasted that it removed controls. It certainly did, and immediately prices rose, and also the cost of production.
I commend the Government for its decision to allow depreciation on plant at the rate of 20 per cent, for income tax purposes. It has been announced that expenditure by primary producers on water conservation work will be an allowable deduction. The Government also proposes that money spent on providing housing accommodation for rural workers shall be an allowable deduction.
– The Labour party never thought of that.
– Until recently, the living conditions of a great many farmers were such that they could scarcely find the money to house their own families. 1 do not quarrel with the Government’s proposal, but the concession can be availed of only by well-to-do farmers. The man who has been described as a tourist farmer, who has a property which he does not work himself, and does not even live on, must have some one else to work his land, and he must provide accommodation for that person. Nevertheless, 3 do not quarrel with the Government’s proposal to grant a concession in respect of the cost of providing such accommodation. I do say, however, that the Government should also make it possible for the small working farmer, and for other workers, to be decently housed.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Government should do more for the wealthy farmers?
– The Minister i? evidently hungry for knowledge.
– I am searching for wisdom, but I have not heard any from the lips of the honorable senator.
– I remind the Minister of the following words of a famous literary man : -
Yon may beat your pate and fancy wit may come.
Knock as you like; there’s nobody at home.
The Government has done well out of the federal land tax. The tax has provided a considerable amount of revenue, and the Government is greedy for revenue. However, the tax has not operated equitably. When a city land-owner is assessed for federal land tax, he is able to pass on the tax to the consumers because it goes into the cost of the goods he produces. Thus, by imposing land tax, the Government has not helped to keep down prices. Bather, has it helped to increase them. Indeed, the individual taxpayer who is able to pass the charge on to the consumers may even benefit, because what he pays in land tax is an allowable deduction for income tax purposes. It is a sort of thimble and pea trick - now you see it, and now you do not. We have been told that the purpose of federal land tax is to break up big estates. Therefore, it is the duty of the Government to ensure that the tax is not added to the cost of goods.
Government supporters have claimed that the workers are chiefly responsible for declining production. We have also been told that the responsibility for increasing primary production rests upon the farmers. Of course it does, but the Government must help. It has been claimed that primary production cannot be increased because essential materials are not available in sufficient quantities. There is a shortage of steel, we have been told, because the miners will not produce enough coal to enable the steel to be made. The miners have been used as a scapegoat upon which to fasten the sins of the whole community.
– The workers are all right; it is the Communists who are to blame.
– The Prime Minister said that the Government had increased coal production by 1,000,000 tons during the first three months of the present year.
– Is the honorable senator sure that the Prime Minister said that?
– I shall quote his actual words -
The production of coal lias been notably increased in the past year, in that we now have substantial quantities of coal at grass - it is being produced faster than the railways can handle it. For the first three months of 1052, production was roughly 1,00(1.000 tons higher than during the correspond ins? period last year. The extensive open-cut programme has been tremendously successful : and the Commonwealth has done its utmost to assist on the transport side by allocating a substantial proportion of the International Bank’s 100.000.000 dollar loan for the procurement of diesel locomotion. In New South Wales, workers in underground mines have shown a gain of 656 since th? 30th Juno, 11)51, compared with a net intake for the five years up to 1!)50 of 401.
– The Prime Minister did not say that the Government had produced the coal.
– The document from which I have read is a report of the Prime Minister’s statement of the 1st May. The right honorable gentleman was most explicit.
– I rise to order! I submit that Senator Cooke has misrepresented the Prime Minister. The honorable senator has stated that the Government said that it had produced the coal. The passage that has been attributed to the Prime Minister does not contain that implication-.
– As the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) claims that Senator Cooke has misrepresented the Prime Minister’s statement, I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the statement that the Government produced the coal.
– With respect, Mr. President, I said that the Government had stated that it was responsible for the production of the coal. The Government had nothing to do with the production of the coal. That is what I was about to say when the Minister rose. To satisfy the Minister, I withdraw humbly the statement - if I did make it - that the Government was responsible for the increased production of coal. Be that as it may, the production of coal was increased during the period that I mentioned. It was increased tremendously in Western Australia, and I consider that the coal-miners are worthy of commendation in this connexion.
– Hear, hear !
– Logically, the Go’vernment cannot now claim that the coalminers are not doing a good job, and are thereby embarrassing the Government. The Prime Minister also stated that the output of iron and steel had been increased. I am not saying that the Government increased the output. The workers in those industries also are worthy of commendation. It is of no use for supporters of the Government to claim that steel was not available when required for the manufacture of agricultural implements.
– Does the honorable senator consider that the 100,000,000 dollar loan that was negotiated by the
Prime Minister assisted us to obtain agricultural machinery?
– Yes, most certainly, I think it did. But, as I have said before, agriculturists could have been given more help im that connexion. The dollars could have been more wisely expended. The Government has embarrassed the dollar pool by its large expenditures on petrol. Although the Government abolished petrol rationing I point out that, in effect, petrol is now rationed very severely because many petrol users cannot afford to pay from 3s. ll$d. to 5s. Id. a gallon for it. The price on the goldfields of Western Australia is very high indeed. This is a type of rationing that is applied by Government action rather than by government control. The price controls the use of the commodity. The high price of petrol has greatly increased the inflationary tendency in this country.
Government supporters have claimed that farming implements could not be obtained by farmers, but I point out that although the Government has had a substantial dollar credit for eighteen months, a number of applications by individuals for dollars to purchase agricultural implements from the United States of America have been rejected. Furthermore, we have been called upon to pay interest on tine- residue of the dollar loan that has not been expended. It is not a new cry on. the part of the farmers that they are short of plant. If the Government is really sincere in its desire to achieve increased rural production, it should ensure that the necessary farming implements are made available to the men on lie land. In his recent statement the Prime Minister claimed that this Government had achieved better employeremployee relationships. So that there will be no mistake, I shall read his words. He said -
The policy of the Government in encouraging better employer-employee relations all round has achieved good, positive results.
The latest available figures show that during 1051,, relative to the total work force, fewer man-days were lost through industrial trouble than in any year since 1942, when the very security of the Australian continent was threatened by invasion.
– The honorable senator does better when he reads the Prime
Minister’s “words than when he gives his own version of what the right honorable gentleman meant.
– A strike has been in existence in an industry vital to Australia for about three months, yet the Government has taken no action to end the dispute. I should like to see the strike ended as soon as possible. I believe that the existing arbitration laws could have been applied long ago to terminate it. When industrial disputes extend into two or more States the Australian Government should take early action to settle the matter. If the Government considers that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court,, the matter should be brought before the Parliament so as to give to the Opposition an opportunity to assist the Government.
– Does the honorable senator consider that the Government should interfere with the activities of the court?
– But that was the implication of the honorable senator’? remark.
– I am merely raising the question whether our Arbitration Court laws are defective.
– Are they?
– I invite Senator Robertson to consider whether the amendments of the arbitration legislation that the Government has introduced are justified. If so, she should consider also whether they should not have been introduced many months ago. Im the past, both in peace-time and in war-time, the Government and the big industrial unions have worked in harmony. However, the position has now arisen that industrial disputes have become callous. The Government has not endeavoured to settle them amicably, and in some instances the court has deregistered the unions. As a result, some trade unions have taken independent .action. This development can be traced back to statements that were made by both the ‘Communists and the Liberals that they did not have much faith in arbitration. I point out that when hia: trade unions become involved in disputes which are not settled with reasonable expedition the economy of the country suffers. Labour supports arbitration, but we believe that it should have the fullest backing of the workers and the Government. Equity should be maintained in order to ensure that justice is done. Inflation has embarrassed not only the Government but also the workers of this country.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I have been prompted to contribute to the debate in consequence of certain criticisms that were made by Senator Byrne about the Government’s economic policy. I could not help thinking of the old saying, “Horses for courses”. I was again reminded of that saying when Senator Cooke treated the Senate to an exposition on the national economy. Although Senator Byrne may have a complete knowledge of law, he was astray in some of his statements. For instance, he claimed that this Government had implemented savage taxation. The honorable senator should know that during the current financial year the Commonwealth has collected extra revenue from taxation amounting to £155,000,000, all of which has been allocated to the States. But for that magnanimous gesture on the part of the Commonwealth, many State public works would have had to be closed down, and unemployment figures would have risen considerably. The honorable sena-. tor referred to the estimated surplus of £114.500,000 for this financial year, and said that the Government had stated that that money would be put where it could not be got at. He knows very well that the money has been given to the States to enable them to carry out their works programmes. It was indeed fortuitous for the States that the Commonwealth obtained this additional revenue, which has enabled them to engage in a tremendous spending spree, The action of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in budgeting for a surplus of £114,500,000 has proved to have b°en a very wise provision indeed. The Premiers should go down on their bended knees and thank the Treasurer for what he has done for thom. Instead of so doing, they went back to their States and abused the right honorable gent’ em an. I should hate to think what would happen to the great hydro-electric undertaking in Tasmania if the Commonwealth had failed to underwrite the State loan programmes and had allowed theTasmanian Government to manage as best it could after it had exhausted the moneys that remained at its disposal.
Press reports of the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council indicate that the Premiers were a body of utterly irresponsible financial crackpots. I can think of no other term in which to describe them. Some people seem to imagine that the Loan Council consists only of representatives of the Commonwealth. They apparently do not know that the Commonwealth acts merely as the agency through which loans are raised for the States. The last meeting of the council was summoned to consider tho amount of money that could be raised in the Commonwealth by public loans. The council decided that the maximum amount that could be obtained from the market was between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000, but the Premiers blithely said, “Although we can raise only £50,000,000 or £60,000,000, we propose to spend £247,000,000”. They were summoned to Canberra to carve up but, one turkey, but when they arrived here they wanted their share, not of one turkey, but of five. A fact that has not been sufficiently stressed is that the Commonwealth voluntarily relinquished its share of the loan moneys raised. Although under the formula the Commonwealth is entitled to one-fifth of all loan moneys raised, it was generous, enough to allow its share to go into the States pool. Opposition senators do a disservice to their country and to the party to which they belong when they fail to present the truth to the people. “We cannot but feel alarmed at the irresponsible attitude adopted by the Premiers at the meeting of the council. Their irresponsibility has grown since the adoption of the system of uniform taxation because they no longer have to account to the people for the way in. which they expend the taxpayers’ money.
The financing of State activities has now become a splendid game for tip State Premiers. They attend meetings, of the Australian Loan Council and say, “We want to spend a certain amount of money”, and they name a fantastic sum which they could not possibly spend if they obtained it. When the Commonwealth is forced to refuse their demands they go back to their respective States and play the game of party politics. They go to the people of a district and say to them, “ You need a new bicycle track which will cost £2,000 ! We shall provide that money for you”. But later they write to the people concerned and say, “We were prepared to make £2,000 available to you for the construction of the new bicycle track but the Commonwealth will not give us the money “. To the people of another district who are pressing the provision of funds for the construction of a hall at a cost of £3,000, they say, “ This is a most important work. You should have had a hall long ago. We shall make the money available to enable you to build it “ ; but a little later they write to the persons concerned and say, “ We are sorry ; the Commonwealth will not give us the money, and we cannot help you “. They do not fail to play the game of party politics at every opportunity.
If I have any criticism to offer of the administration of this Government it is that it should have insisted on the adoption of a system of priority for State works projects. Top priority should have been awarded to hydro-electric projects, the construction of houses and the provision of water and drainage schemes, and unimportant projects such as the construction of bicycle tracks should have been discarded’ for the time being. If such a system of priorities had been established, some State projects which are now only one-quarter finished - in Victoria there are at least five which are only half finished - would have been completed long ago.
– There are no finished works in New South Wales.
– That is so.
– But there are about 2,000 foundation stones scattered over the countryside.
– The ‘ Premiers should be forced to accept some semblance of responsibility for the projects that they authorize. I remind Opposition senators that the troubles that beset us to-day may be, in the distant future - I trust that it will be the far distant future - troubles which they themselves will have to face. It is high time we said to the States, “’ We shall restore to you your right to tax the people. Henceforth you must accept full responsibility for every penny of the people’s money that you expend “.
– The Premiers would then rush for cover.
– Two other matters with which 1 propose to deal briefly were mentioned by Senator Byrne. The first is the credit restrictions imposed by the Commonwealth Bank. The directive issued by the Commonwealth Bank to the trading banks on thi3 subject was a very sound document which made provision for the financing of house construction and rural loans. Factors that are beyond the control of the Commonwealth Bank have prevented the directive from being given full effect. The private banks have not sufficient money to meet the demand for advances. Many persons who have sought advances from the private banks have been told that their requests could not be granted because of credit restrictions imposed by the Commonwealth Bank when, in fact, those restrictions have had nothing to do with the refusal. Not long ago a man told me that he had been offered a house for £4,000. He said, “I have £750; the bank is prepared to lend me £3,000 if I can raise the balance of £250 “. He was unable to raise the additional money and the house was withdrawn from sale. After twelve months had gone by he came to me in great glee and said, “ The man who owns the house I wish to buy is to be transferred from Tasmania to another State. He is now willing to sell it to me for £3,400. I have saved the £750 that I had twelve months ago, and as the bank was prepared to lend me £3,000, the deal should go through “. When he again approached the bank the bank manager said, “ Owing to the credit restrictions imposed by the Commonwealth we can now lend you only £1,700 “. I asked the man to what Commonwealth restrictions the bank manager had referred because the directive issued by the Commonwealth Bank had provided that advances could be made of up to £3,000 for the construction or acquisition of a house. I advised the man to go back to the bank manager and ask him what credit restrictions had prevented him from granting the advance. Subsequently I accompanied the man to the bank and said to the manager, “ I am very concerned about the reduction of the advance which you were prepared to make to my friend. To what restrictions imposed by the Commonwealth did you refer when you told him that you were now able to advance him only £1,700?”. The bank manager replied, “I did not say that the restriction had been imposed by the Commonwealth “. I said to him, “ My friend understood you to say that you could not make a larger advance because of some Commonwealth credit restriction “. The bank manager replied, “ Not at all. The advance we were prepared to make has been reduced in accordance with the policy of the bank “. It is understandable that the banks should have to restrict advances because of the fall in our export income. Our wool cheque has been reduced by £300,000,000, a large portion of which would otherwise have been invested in bank deposits and be available for advances. The point I wish to emphasize is that although the directive of the Commonwealth Bank was soundly based it is being used by the private banks as an excuse for restricting advances. In spite of the smaller wool cheque bank overdrafts have increased by £187,000,000 which, even in these days, is a very large amount of money. The private banks are endeavouring to play their part. I have no criticism of them to offer other than that some bank managers have sought to hide behind the directive issued by the Commonwealth Bank. In so doing they are merely endeavouring to pass the buck. I consider that some honorable senators opposite have dealt with the subject of credit restrictions in a manner which ignores the facts. I have found that in all instances where persons are unable to obtain advances the policy of the bank with which they dealt has been responsible. The Commonwealth Bank has not been hampered in any way. In some instances, that bank has advanced money after private trading banks have refused to do so.
I deplore the veiled allusions that were made by Senator Cooke to the effect that information concerning import restrictions was given by members of the Government to certain people. It seemed to me that the honorable senator made out a very poor case and obviously did not know what he was talking about. His reference to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was in keeping with that made in the House of Representatives by another person. I remind the honorable senator that, month after month, statistical information, from the Government Statistician’s Office, appeared in the newspapers of Australia indicating the trend of events in London. Any one could read that information merely by purchasing a newspaper. It was not necessary to ask a member of the Government questions about our overseas balances, because the information was readily available. It might well be asked why, if the man in the street could read the signs, the Government failed to do so. My answer is that the Government also read them. It had been watching the position very closely ever since June of last year. In October an alarming loss of funds occurred. British manufacturers went so far as to charter refrigeration ships, to remove the refrigerating equipment, and to use such ships to transport goods to Australia. Orders which had been placed two or three years before were suddenly filled. The reason was that British manufacturers had lost some of their overseas markets. It should not be forgotten that the British traders are among the shrewdest men in the world. They could see that there would be a decline in the trade in cotton, rubber and other goods. They were losing orders on overseas markets because of the increasing manufacturing capacity of Germany, Japan, Holland and other countries, and they looked round for other markets. Their eyes fixed on Australia, and they proceeded to flood the Australian market with vast quantities of goods.
Because this is a Liberal Government, and not a socialist one, it is loath to interfere in the normal course of trade and commerce. The Government believed that, in the normal course of trade and commerce, the imports position would become adjusted, but when the January import figures became known, it was found that they were higher than those of October. The imports in February were higher still. British manufacturers were piling everything they could on to the Australian market. In those circumstances, the Government was faced with no other alternative than to take immediate steps.
If it had been possible to assess the
Quantity of goods which had been ordered rom overseas by Australian traders, the Commonwealth Bank might have been able to advise the Government of the possible consequences. However, no such provision existed. I suggest that future governments should give attention to that matter, because in my opinion it is vital for both the Government and the Commonwealth Bank to know the value of overseas orders that have been placed by Australian importers. It is not necessary for the nature of such orders to be known as long as the approximate total value in a period of, say, three months can be ascertained. If the Commonwealth Bank set up a statistical department for the purpose of acquiring such information, I think that it would be a good idea. It might then be possible to prevent a recurrence of the action that was necessary last March. I do not condemn the Government in any way for that action; I merely suggest that if such statistical information could be obtained it would be of great benefit.
Many mis-statements about the ordinary course of trade and commerce have been, made in this chamber by honorable senators opposite. Senator Cooke referred to irrevocable letters of credit. Many such letters of credit will never be dealt with. It is only in cases where money has actually been sent to London that letters of credit will operate. Othervise, import licences are necessary before imports may be made. I suggest that if money has already left the country in payment for goods which are to be imported, there would be little sense in refusing to allow the utilization of such money by obtaining goods in return.
I* do not propose to speak on matters of law, because I know nothing about them. I earnestly submit, that honorable senators opposite who are well versed in law should not attempt to discuss matters of economics, because it is obvious that they are unable to do justice to them.
– I have no desire to restrict discussion of this measure or to prevent any honorable senator from speaking. However, I ask honorable senators opposite to assist the Government to deal expeditiously with its long programme of important bills. The Government proposes that the Senate shall meet next Tuesday. We have no desire to overwork any one or to witness, towards the end of the sessional period, disorderly scenes if the Senate is obliged to sit in the early hours of the morning. I appeal to honorable senators who wish to speak during this debate to limit their remarks as much as possible.
– I have listened attentively to the debate, particularly to the remarks of Senator Hannaford. I have been forced to the conclusion that the statements made by the honorable senator are based on fictitious, reasoning and supposition. His statements can be neither substantiated nor justified. I wish to deal briefly with the honorable senator’s remarks concerning the position of the balance of payments between this country and the United Kingdom. In doing so, I say at the outset that the decision of the Government to impose drastic import restrictions against the United Kingdom came, as a great shock, not only to the people of Australia, but also to the people of the Mother Country, who felt that a savage blow had. been dealt them when they were defenceless and helpless. That blow carried with it the repudiation of all existing contracts and all that that meant to the economy of Great Britain.
Never before in the history of the British Parliament have such words been used against Australia as those uttered during the course of the debate on this matter. All parties, irrespective of their political, differences, were united in protesting vigorously against the restrictions, which were described as a unilateral cancellation of all” existing contracts and a staggering blow to Lancashire and the whole of the heavy industries of the Midlands. Mr. Godfrey Nicholson, a leading member of the Conservative party, urged the Government to make representations to Australia at the highest level, in order to point out the irreparable harm that such import restrictions would do to Great Britain. Mr. Harold Wilson, who was president of the Board of Trade in the Atlee Government, is reported to have claimed that if Australia had cut .imports of luxury goods from dollar and non-sterling countries it could have easily maintained, and even could have increased, imports from the United Kingdom. Strong protests were also received from many important British industrial groups, . such as the Cotton Board, the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, the hosiery and knitwear sections of industry, and other industries directly and indirectly associated with such industries. They predicted widespread unemployment in the cotton, rayon and textile industries, which are expected to lose approximately £26,000,000 a year as a result of these import cuts. It has been estimated that more than 50,000 employees will be dismissed from the industries concerned. In the light of those predictions, it is not surprising that the people of the Mother Country are unable to understand the reason for the drastic import restrictions which the Australian Government has imposed. To them it does not make sense nor can it be reconciled with Australia’s declared desire to assist Great Britain with its economic problems. It is certainly not in keeping with the spirit behind the gift of £25,000,000 made by an Australian Labour government to the United Kingdom a few years ago, or with the spirit that has maintained a continuous flow of food parcels from this country to the Mother Land for a long period of years. It must be obvious to all concerned that there is no co-operation and no reciprocity between this Govern: ment and the Government of the. United Kingdom. When the balance of payments position was reversed, and Great Britain had a deficit with Australia,, the Government of that country did not cut imports from Australia.
The Government claims that it has imposed import restrictions to prevent the collapse of our overseas funds. That is an entirely new “phase of its policy. Previously the Government did everything possible to encourage unlimited imports on the ground that a big influx of goods from overseas would be an effective counter to inflation. . Then suddenly, almost overnight, that policy was changed. With every indication of complete panic, the Government reversed its attitude and implemented rigid import cuts on British goods. It is little, wonder that the people of the United Kingdom are confused and angry at the treatment that has been meted out to them by this so-called Liberal Government. They say - and many people in this country confirm the assertion - that the action of the Australian Government indicates a large scale sell-out to big business interests in this country. There is nothing in the balance of payments position that could not have, been foreseen eighteen months ago. The fall in wool prices was inevitable. More than a year ago it was well known that Austraiian importers were buying heavily abroad and that the speed-up of shipping would increase out indebtedness overseas. It was also known that import prices had risen steadily, particularly since the outbreak of the Korean war, and that our ability to produce primary commodities for export was becoming less and less every year. If this Government had taken the elementary precaution of analysing the economic statistical information prepared and released by its own advisers, it would have known the position. To-day, because of the maladministration of this Government, particularly in regard to primary industries, our economy is in a serious plight. Primary production has declined during our most favorable seasons. Should we encounter adverse seasons, not only shall we have nothing to export, but we shall be struggling to feed our own population of more than 8,000,000. The Government’s policy of restricting imports is a policy of. negation which cannot achieve anything. The only solution to the problem is more exports. Australia’s economic progress requires a rising volume of imports; but unless we can step up primary production to. provide the- exports to pay for the goods that we must bring to this country, our progress will be retarded. All attempts to increase primary production will be futile unless farmers are given greater incentives, and all the man-power and materials that they require to do the job. When those things have been provided, the primary producers will play their part. This Government’s action in slashing imports has effectively slammed the door on anti-inflation measures, and at the same time will prevent the restoration of the Australian economy to a stable basis.
The import restriction policy is a firstclass example of the Government’s inability to deal with our economic problems. Australia has been condemned to a revival of intense inflation. The inflationary spiral will now turn faster than ever, -and the plundering of the savings of people on the lower rungs of the ladder - the aged, the poor, and the thrifty - will be intensified. Inflation is being given an impetus which must inevitably result in widespread unemployment; but the real significance of the restrictions will not become obvious until our secondary industries begin to run out of raw material. Many people believe that the restrictions have been placed only on imports that are, in the main, finished consumer goods. On the contrary, approximately 70 per cent, of our imports are essential raw materials and capital equipment for secondary industries, and to a lesser degree, for primary industry. In a few months’ time, when our secondary industries begin to run short of raw materials, thousands of employees will be dismissed, and will be denied a reasonable standard of living for themselves and their dependants. The Government’s anti-inflation policy to which Senator Hannaford referred’ - that is if the Government ever had such a policy - has now been thrown overboard. It has been abandoned like the Government’s promises to put value back into the £1, to increase the purchasing power of wages, to reduce the cost of living, and to reduce taxation. Those specific, definite, and unqualified promises have been repudiated by the Government as it is now repudiating contracts with manufacturers in the United Kingdom.
I recall the broadcast speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when the import cuts were announced. He asked “Does this mean that our export trade is to be carried on by governments, or controlled by governments, and that business is to be conducted at the mercy of departmental officials “ ? It was easy for the right honorable gentleman to answer “ No. The import controls will be lifted as soon as the Government is satisfied that the probable volume of imports is no greater than our exports can pay for, provided that our overseas balances are at a safe level.” If we give to those words the consideration that an utterance by a Prime Minister of this country deserves, it becomes obvious to all concerned that the import restrictions will remain indefinitely because, under this Administration, we shall never be able to get our imports into complete balance with our exports. I repeat that our ability to produce primary products for export in sufficient quantities to pay for our import? is growing less and less every year, while our demand for imports to meet the urgent requirements of our ever-growing population is continually increasing. Therefore, if we have to wait until our exports can balance our imports, these controls will never be lifted.
Senator Hannaford referred to the decline of primary production. That decline, to say the least of it, is an economic tragedy which demands the immediate and urgent attention of this Government, and of every one else who has at heart the future welfare of Australia. It, is estimated that, with the natural increase of population, together with a continuation of immigration at the present rate, Australia will have a population of more than 10,000,000 by 1960. If our consumption of foodstuffs is to remain at its present per capita level - that is, if ou.present standard of living is to be maintained - and our exports are to be stepped up to the average level of the first four years immediately after the end of World War II., primary production will have to be increased tremendously. The production of beef and veal will have to be increased by 40 per cent., mutton by 58 per cent., lamb 23 per cent., pig meat 78 per cent., eggs 31 per cent., sugar 28 per cent., citrus fruits 61 per cent., and wheat approximately 7 per cent. It is also estimated that, by 1954, we shall either have to ration our consumption of wheat, flour and eggs, or be unable to fill even our reduced International Wheat Agreement quota. At the same time, the exports of most other foodstuffs will practically cease. As I have said before, the decline of primary production is an economic tragedy which demands the urgent attention of this Government, particularly when we take into consideration the fact that a production drive started now can have little or no results for at least two years. The procrastination of this Government during the past two years means, therefore, that we are starting four years behind scratch to find a solution of this pressing problem. The Government’s procrastination can be blamed for the breeze of economic uncertainty that is whirling with greater velocity daily all over Australia. The position, will continue to deteriorate just as long as this Government remains in office.
Senator Hannaford mentioned, the fantastic price of wool. It is true that our exports of wool have paid for more than half of our imports. Therefore, the solution to the problem is not to be found in growing food instead of wool. More wool must also be produced. It is estimated that, during the past ten years, approximately 70,000 rural workers have left the land. Although our primary industries have become more highly mechanized during that period, it is necessary that many rural workers should be encouraged to return to the land. If the necessary incentives such as decent housing and educational facilities are made available, the workers will play their part in increasing primary production. The shortage of machinery and farm implements has played a big part in the decline of primary production. In South Australia there is a tremendous lag in the delivery of orders for equipment. In the Adelaide Mail of the 19th April ‘ a spokesman for Horwood Bagshaw Proprietary Limited, is reported to have said that although his company was producing ten times as many implements as it produced before the war, it could not cope with the demand. There is a delay of two years in the delivery of scarifiers, headers, combines, and ploughs by that firm. A director of
John Shearer Proprietary Limited was reported to have said that the longest waiting period for any implement manufactured by his firm was seven years for a Majestic plough.
– Because of the procrastination of “this Government. The chief agricultural adviser, Mr. L. J. Cook, is reported to have said that the shortages of implements did not encourage farmers to increase production. Although most of their orders were probably for replacements and farmers could probably carry on with existing plant and machinery, if more land was to be placed under cultivation, new and efficient machines were absolutely essential. Fencing wire and wire netting are also urgently required. I understand that sufficient tractors are available to meet the demand throughout Australia. In 1950-51 Australia imported 21,500 tractors from the United Kingdom, 4,500 from the United States of America and the Continent, and 5,000 were manufactured in Australia, a total of 31,000. With the imposition of import restrictions there will not be sufficient tractors to meet the demand. A major aspect of the problem of increasing primary production is the shortage of fertilizers. Although there is sufficient low-grade sulphur ore in Australia it would take approximately five years to construct machinery to convert it into fertilizers. In 1950-51, the supply of fertilizers was approximately 8 per cent, below the demand. As I said before, that was because of the procrastination of this Government. Every day the vested-interest press tells the story of raging inflation, record prices, record turnovers and record profits all Qf which are indicative of the spiral of inflation which is running riot. Every day the purchasing power of the £1 is deteriorating more. A depression is inevitable unless something concrete is done to rectify the position ; yet this Government will do nothing. I reiterate that any policy that the Government ever had to deal with inflation hps been thrown overboard. As I have said before, it has gone with the wind, as have its promises to put value back into the £1, increase the purchasing power of wages, reduce the cost of living and reduce taxation.. These were specific, definite and unqualified promises, which will now be repudiated just as the Government has repudiated import contracts with the United Kingdom.
– I can quite understand the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) being in a hurry to dispose of this bill. “While the Opposition has something to say, it does not see any reason why it should refrain from saying it. After the verbal thrashing that the Minister received yesterday and to-day, it is quite understandable why he wants to close the debate as quickly as possible. Senator Henty said that he would not involve himself in a debate on a matter of law, but he put himself forward as an expert on finance. If he is an expert on finance the Opposition’s only regret is that he will not show the Government the way out of its dilemma. He stated that £60,000,000 was the maximum amount that could be borrowed by the Loan Council during the current financial year, and he criticized the .States for asking for loans amounting to £247,000,000. The States will not be able to give effect to their programmes even if that amount is raised. What a hopeless position they would have been in if they had taken the advice of the Prime Minister and endeavoured to raise only £60,000,000! If £60,000,000 is all that the Government considers can be raised in one year, that is a demonstration of it3 complete incompetence and its public disfavour.
The Government has stated that public works must cease because it cannot obtain the money for them. Can any Government supporter with a semblance of humanity allow the construction of hospital buildings and homes to stop, ‘because of lack of finance? Instead of endeavouring to raise the money required for these purposes the Government is creating unemployment. When I made that statement earlier in this chamber an honorable senator said, by way of interjection, that it was rubbish. I wish that he would show me where jobs can be obtained for men who are now receiving unemployment benefit. The 25s. a week that they receive is not equivalent to the dole of the 19.30’s. Owing to the Government’s failure to put value back into the. £1 that money will not buy as much at present as the dole, bought during the depression.. The list of able-bodied men who cannot obtain’ jobs is growing each week. The national employment officers cannot find work for them. I rang up an employment office recently in order to obtain work for a man, and the employment officer asked me whether he was a big; burly chap and whether he was old or young. I suppose that if I had said that he was a young, fit man it would have been suggested that he should join the Army. I was politely told that the office had an ever-increasing list and were unable to place one man in employment. The man on whose behalf I had inquired received a slip to fill in for the dole of 25s. a week, and he has two children to keep.
Senator Henty said that the banks were not prevented by the Government from making credit available, but had only done so in conformity with banking policy. Let the private banks have their policies. The Treasurer is able to control the policy of the Commonwealth Bank, and he has issued instructions that it shall call in overdrafts. Building societies and other societies which have financed the purchase of homes have had their overdrafts restricted by the Commonwealth Bank. Yet Senator Henty said that the Commonwealth Bank is carrying on as usual. He could not have had dealings with the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks if he claims that business is being carried on as usual to-day. If the Government cannot raise .the funds that are required it should obtain advice from somebody who could advise it how to do so.
– What is the honorable senator’s fee?
– My fee would not be to be dropped down the ladder like the Minister who fell from the top position of Leader of the Government in the Senate to the third rung of the ladder. That shows that he has lost any ability that he ever had. Other honorable senators have come into this chamber with less experience than the Minister and. have been promoted over him.
– I rise to order, Mr. President. Senator Aylett’s remarks about the Minister are very offensive tome and I ask that they be withdrawn. Apart from that fact, he is making a second-reading speech on a money bill which the Senate cannot amend, and I suggest that his remarks are a long way from the bill..
– Which remark does the- honorable senator say is offensive ?
– I think that Senator Aylett should apologize to the Minister.
- Senator Aylett will go on with his speech.
– If my remarks were offensive to Senator Kendall I withdraw them., but I know that they cannot be offensive to the Minister after what he said about me yesterday. The Minister was in this chamber as were other honorable senators opposite during the regime of the Chifley Government. That Government obtained finance to fight the war, pay soldiers, and enable the country to continue producing. When the Labour Government floated loans they were over-subscribed because the Government had the confidence of the people.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– We have a Commonwealth Bank which has rendered great service in the development of Australia, and has financed the country through two wars. Now, when we are faced with financial catastrophe, although there is more money in the country than ever before, the Government admits that it has not sufficient intelligence to use the Commonwealth Bank to develop produc tive national assets: If the Commonwealth Bank was able to provide money to make shells that were blown to pieces shortly afterwards, surely it can find money to develop national assets. The Commonwealth Bank should be used to finance the building of roads, railways and ships, and to bring land into production. It is absurd for the Minister to say that the market cannot provide any more than £60,000,000 in loan money. That could be true only if the people had lost all confidence in themselves as well as in the Government. Because loan money is not available, homes that have been begun for the housing of aged persons are standing partly completed. I do not care where the money comes from,, whether in the form of tax reimbursement, public loans or bank credit, so long as it is found. There was no lack of. money during the war. Schools are urgently needed, but they cannot be provided because, we are told, there is no money. The completion of new hospitals has been delayed, and there is no place for the treatment of many sick persons. Under the scheme introduced by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), the people of Tasmania are to be deprived of the benefit of free hospital and medical treatment, something to which they have long been accustomed. Unless a new arrangement is made with the Government of Tasmania, persons who are trying to live on a dole of 25s. a week may die if they fall sick, because they cannot pay for treatment..
– That is not true.
– It is true, and the honorable senator knows it. Sick persons are now able to be X-rayed at public hospitals free of cost, and to receive free treatment there. If a person on the dole has to go to a doctor in private practice for an X-ray, and cannot pay him, he will probably be told that the doctor is too busy, and the sick person may die.
– I rise to a point of order. Senator Aylett has made an offensive reference to the Minister for Health. Standing Order 418 is as follows : -
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
– I have listened carefully to Senator Aylett, but I did not detect in what he said anything that might be offensive to the Minister for Health. Had I done so, I should have promptly called the honorable senator to order. I have allowed a certain amount of latitude in this debate, but the remarks of some honorable senators have been very wide of the bill. A general debate is permitted on the motion for the first reading of an appropriation bill. When the motion for the second reading is being debated, the remarks of honorable senators should be relevant to the subjectmatter of the bill itself. So far, I have left it to the good taste of honorable senators, but I ask them not to overstrain my indulgence.
– This is an appropriation bill, and my remarks are relevant to the appropriation for the Department of Health. If there is not enough money for public health purposes some persons might die for want of proper treatment. If there is not enough money medical benefits to the public may have to be curtailed. I claim that not sufficient money is ‘being appropriated to provide adequate social benefits. The dole of 25s. a week is not even as much as was paid in 1930. The Government should’ increase sickness and unemployment benefits. It is not the fault of the unemployed that they are out of work; it is the fault of the Government. Every government worthy of the name should have a policy of full employment, but this Government, by restricting credit, is deliberately trying to create a pool of unemployment with the idea of bringing down prices. That is its method of countering inflation. Evidently the Minister believes that if 400,000 persons are unemployed fewer people will be able to get enough to eat, and the demand for necessaries will be reduced. That is a drastic way to check inflation, and the people of Australia will not tolerate it. The effects of the Government’s credit restriction policy are snowballing. Unless that policy is reversed the situation will get out of hand, as. happened in the case of import restrictions. Acting on the advice of Sir Douglas Copland, the Government sought to check inflation by encouraging the importation of goods. Sir Douglas Copland said that it was necessary to import more goods, and to produce more goods. Well, the Government permitted more goods to be imported, and met with disaster. Production in Australia, instead of increasing, has declined rapidly because the public has lost faith in the Government. The Minister for Shipping and Transport did not listen to my speech yesterday, but I advise him to read the report of it. He will find there a recital of all the promises which the Prime Minister made to the people’ before the last election, but which he failed to honour. The Government knows what should be done, but does not know how to do it. The experts have offered advice, and their advice has proved to be wrong. The people are beginning to realize what a colossal mess the Government has made of things, because prices are still rising, and inflation is becoming worse. The Government has repudiated all the promises that it made to the people at the last two general elections.
– This bill provides for the appropriation of a very large amount of money, a fact which indicates that inflation is still growing, and that the Government is incapable of dealing with it. I have watched the trend of events closely during the last twelve months, and I am not surprised that inflation is still with us. Retail prices increased substantially during the quarter that ended on the 31st March last. The price of food and groceries increased by 7 per cent., and the price of clothing and footwear by 2.4 per cent. When retail prices rise there must be a cause, and in this instance the cause is the failure of the Government to deal with the. problem of inflation. The Government is wholly responsible for the increase of retail prices. Was it hot the supporters of this Government who in 1949 promised that if returned to office they would reduce prices and restore value to the £1? This Government has been unable to fulfil those promises. Therefore I believe that I am entitled to claim that it has been wholly responsible for the inflation that exists in this country to-day.
During this debate several honorable senators have referred to the severe import restrictions that were recently introduced by the Government. But the whole history of import restrictions has not been related. Following the termination of hostilities in 1945, there was a shortage of all kinds of goods in this country. To meet that demand thousands of men who came out of the services established themselves in industry, some in syndicates and small companies, and others on their own account. The Government did not assist them in any way whatever. Honorable senators opposite told us soon after they came to office that the inflationary trend then in evidence was really due to the shortage of goods in Australia, that there was a surplus of money chasing too few goods. That view was expressed also by unsound economists in 1949. The Government decided to permit the almost unrestricted inflow of goods, irrespective of the country of origin, in order to combat inflation. To quell inflation, however, the Government should have excluded luxury goods. As there was a shortage of materials in Australia at the time supporters of the Government thought that if manufactured goods were imported the materials already in Australia could be reserved for the manufacture of essential goods. They, thought that that would produce a satisfactory result. Let us consider how that policy affected the ex-servicemen that I have mentioned. Many of them were forced to close down the industries that they had established, and became unemployed. It is obvious that if imported goods could be competed for at bargain prices, something had to go to the wall. Not very long ago, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) made a public statement to the effect that it would be inadvisable for industries that had been closed down as a result of the Government’s import policy to re-open. This is one of the sins that the Government will have to answer for sooner or later.
I listened very carefully to Senator Henty’s contribution to the debate. We differ in our views about the Government’s import policy. The honorable senator stated that the manufacturers of Great Britain looked for markets because Holland, Japan, and other manufacturing countries were putting their goods upon the Australian market. So, in competition with the manufacturers of those countries, they exported their goods to Australia. He stated that that was one of the reasons why Australia’s overseas balance had been reduced. For the life of me, I cannot follow that theory. For our balance in Great Britain to be reduced it would be necessary for the goods to be purchased by the Australian public, importers in Australia, or the marketing agents of the manufacturers in Great Britain.
We all know that there has been a very substantial reduction of Australia’s overseas balance, but it has been due to the purchase of goods overseas by importers in this country. The Government must know what has taken place, because it receives full details of cargoes that are handled at the various ports, and furthermore the Commonwealth Bank, which watches such matters very closely, informs the Government, I understand weekly, of the position in relation to Australia’s overseas balance. Does it matter two hoots whether our overseas balance remains at the present figure or whether it is reduced to the 1939 figure of £50,000,000? It does not affect Australia’s economic situation one iota, and it has no effect on the main problem, inflation. Very often, in conversation, we say that a man’s worst enemy is himself; that he is his own foe. That is the position to-day. The Government is its own enemy, because it is putting economic strangleholds upon itself. It decides to do one thing, does it up to a point, and then takes action to produce a result directly opposed to its initial objective. While on the one hand the Government is controlling capital issues, on the other hand it is engaging in practices that are inflationary.
Immigration was the subject of inquiry by an economic board which reported to the effect that immigration was inflationary. Supporters of the Government have claimed that because immigrants have filled a number of vacancies that we had in industry, the immigration policy has helped to stem inflation. It has done nothing of the kind. If, for instance, there were 100 vacancies in industry at Goulburn, and 100 men were sent to Goulburn from Canberra, allowed to work there for a week or so, and then returned to Canberra, the economic life of the nation would not be disturbed. But if we are going to engage in bringing men into Australia in thousands we must of necessity disturb the economic life of the country, because they do not constitute a labour force. If they are married and have children when they arrive in this country they require all the amenities that are provided in a modern civilization. They require homes, food, light and power, and all the things that we enjoy in this country. The local authorities must provide more streets. The State governments, with the assistance of the Commonwealth, must provide more housing. Therefore the whole effect of immigration is inflationary.
I come now to the matter of taxation. At present the Government is extracting from the people of Australia in taxes a sum equal to 30 per cent, of the national income. An economist has warned us that once taxation withdraws approximately 30 per cent, of the national income, we have reached the danger level. It is not generally recognized that we are half way towards a famine, yet the Government continues to bleed .the country white by taxation. “While the primary producers are so heavily taxed the inflationary position will continue. It may even become worse by next year. So heavy is the taxation impost on primary producers at the present time that they are deliberately restricting their production because they realize that if they produce more they will be required to pay heavier taxes. That is the outlook of the cattle men of Queensland.
Quite recently a committee of inquiry, under the control of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, toured Queensland to ascertain the cost of producing sugar. Its objective was to ascertain the lowest return on which the sugar-growers could carry on. If that committee were to do justice to one of the greatest industries of Australia it would fix the retail price of sugar at ls. per lb. I have examined cases that have been submitted to the Australian Government by employers’ organizations in the sugar industry, and I have also examined evidence that has been given to various committees by sugar-growers’ and mill managers. On the basis of that information, I am convinced that a retail price of ls. per lb. for sugar in Australia would be justified. The position of the growers depends wholly on the retail price of sugar.. They have been asked to increase production, because the present output is insufficient to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth. How can the sugargrower increase production unless he is given a reasonable price for his product? If he is to extend his acreage under sugarcane, he must first have the means to enable him to do so. The economy of the sugar-growing districts of Queensland is getting down to gutter level, because of the failure of the Government to fix a stable price for sugar. It is dilly-dallying with committees of inquiry, which, are apparently endeavouring to ascertain, the smallest increase that can be authorized. The grower has an interest in- the retail price of sugar; so also has the public. It is said that the average consumption of sugar in Australian households is approximately 4 lb. a week. Even if the price were fixed at ls. per lb., this week, the people would not be asked to pay too much for this commodity. An increase .of the price of sugar will not affect the wage-earner one iota, because sugar is included in the regimen of the “ C “ series index, and any increase of price will be reflected in the next quarterly adjustment of the basic wage.
The economy of the whole of north Queensland is completely dependent upon the sugar industry. It is true that some secondary industries ave established in that part of the Commonwealth, but they in turn are dependent upon, or related to, the manufacture of sugar. If the production of sugar in Queensland is stifled, the sugar-growing areas of that State will rapidly become depopulated, because they cannot be converted to any other form, of production. The best way in which to provide for the adequate defence of the Australian coast line, particularly that part where Cairns is .situated, is to settle the coastal areas with a white population.
The best means of inducing white people to settle in Queensland is to make sugargrowing far more attractive than it is at present. If the conditions of the industry were improved, the population of northern Queensland would increase rapidly. Australian industries must operate economically and effectively if the Government is to obtain the revenue thai it requires in order to finance its activities. This Parliament is a part of the great Public Service. The people of Australia look for service from the Parliament ; and if members of the Parliament discharge the duties which they have been elected to do, they must protect vital primary industries.
Tobacco has been imported into Australia on a large scale during the last twelve months, but only a week or two weeks ago, the tobacco-growers of north Queensland had difficulty in disposing of their crop. Greater assistance must be given to them. Many thousands of acres in north Queensland could be used for the production of tobacco if appropriate irrigation schemes were undertaken. The State Government has not sufficient funds for such works, and, accordingly, no possibility of an immediate expansion of tobacco-growing in Queensland exists.
Reference has been made during this debate to the cotton industry. More should be done for it in the future than has been the case in the past. This Government perpetrated a political joke when it fixed a guaranteed price for cotton which is almost equivalent to the market price of that product. Although the Government had great hopes of an increased cotton crop this year, it has been disappointed to learn that the cottongrowers in their own interests have decided not to increase their production while present prices prevail. The Government has divorced itself from the people. As the co-respondent the Labour party is prepared to look after the interests of the people in future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia) f 11.10]. - I rise to address myself to a reply that was given this morning by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) on behalf of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) to a question asked by Senator Byrne, first because the reply contains a fair amount of what I can only describe as departmental dishonesty, and, secondly, because I desire to make a suggestion to the Government. The substantive part of Senator Byrne’s question was as follows: -
In view of the severe increases in postal, telegraph and telephone rates that were imposed by the last budget, is the Minister in a position to indicate whether a buyer’s resistance has built up against the heavy charges with a consequent fall in turnover and a relative decline in revenue?
The rather long reply furnished by the Postmaster-General contains statements that demonstrate that the Government is in a state of hopeless confusion over this department and that, in formulating the reply, the departmental officers have been guilty of dishonesty. The second statement in the reply to which I wish to direct attention reads: -
The expected profit for the present financial year despite increased wages, costs of materials and transport charges, indicates that no general buyer’s resistance has built up against postal transactions as a result of the higher rates.
That is a silly answer to Senator Byrne’s question because any one who knows anything about the Postmaster-General’s Department is well aware that the increased charges imposed by the Government prior to the introduction of the last budget built up a buyer resistance. The reply continues -
As far as telegrams are concerned, there has been a decline in traffic, but this is not wholly attributable to the higher tariffs. The use of telegrams per head of population has been greater in Australia than in any other country.
I do not know what that statement has to do with the question. A mere statement that the use of telegrams in Australia per head of population has been greater than in any other country means nothing unless it is supported by graphs showing telegram traffic trends during the last 50 years or so. We do not know whether the people of other countries are telegram-minded. In any assessment of the use of telegrams, telephone and postal rates must also be taken into consideration. The reply continues -
It was therefore, inevitable that the growth of airmail facilities and the increasing use of leased teleprinter services by newspapers, government departments and business organizations should make inroads into telegram traffic.
The Postmaster-General capped that statement by the final paragraph of the reply, which reads -
It is pointed out that telegram traffic in Queensland was also affected adversely by the serious drought in that State during the latter half of 1051.
That is certainly a novel reason to advance in explanation of diminished telegram traffic. If this is merely an attempt to fob off Senator Byrne it may be fair politics on the part of the PostmasterGeneral, but if he really believes that statement to be true he is obviously even more confused about the activities of his department than I imagined him to be. When the Minister for Repatriation said this morning that the increased use of leased teleprinter services by newspapers, government departments, and business organization had inevitably made inroads on telegram traffic I took the opportunity to ascertain the extent to which telegram traffic had declined in each State. By comparison with the six months ended the 31st December, 1950, during the six months ended the 31st December, 1951, the decrease in each State was as follows : -
The two periods are almost comparable. The only difference is that the second period is shorter by nine days because the increased charges were imposed on the 9th July, 1951. Thus, the number of telegrams lodged over the whole of the Commonwealth declined by approximately 3,700,000. It is evident that we can dismiss at once the PostmasterGeneral’s claim that drought conditions in Queensland adversely affected telegram traffic in that State.
Let me now examine shortly the position in regard to teleprinters. I sought from the department information about teleprinter services in a less populous State because I thought it would be easier for the departmental officials tofurnish the detailed figures without delay. In Western Australia only one additional teleprinter service has been installed since the 31st December, 1950. It is operated by a newspaper company. No one would be naive enough to suggest that the use of an additional teleprinter service by a newspaper could have an appreciable effect on telegram traffic. If the newspaper concerned was a weekly journal the use of the teleprinter by it could but have a negligible effect on telegram traffic. If it was a daily newspaper, which I doubt, it would be handling traffic only late at night. I doubt whether any one would suggest that that would account for a difference of 4 10.001) telegrams in six months.
Apart from the fact that the Government has completely humbugged the Postmaster-General’s Department, I believe that the Government is allowing the department rapidly to run down. This Government seems satisfied to reverse normal business procedure and to seek high profits on a low turnover. Although the number of telegrams being handled is being depressed, more revenue is being received because of greatly increased charges. Such a policy completely disregards the fact that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has a duty to give service to tho people. If costs are increased so much that the number of postal transactions declines, the department is not giving service. Many of the users of telegrams are business people who are recouped, in part, for their expenditure when their income tax returns are compiled on the 30th June. Private spending is always preferable from the point of view of the Government, because no remissions of income tax are allowed in respect of it. Nevertheless, the use of social telegrams has been almost completely killed because the rate has increased to 2s. 6d. for twelve word*. In most instances the address alone accounts for five, six or even seven words. Gone are the days when congratulatory telegrams were freely sent. Even the heavy traffic associated with Christmas Day and Mother’s Day, has declined considerably.
Highly trained operatives with a great deal of experience are employed in the telegraph branch to work its modern technical machinery. Does it not become apparent that if those machines and operatives were geared to carry the traffic to which I referred previously they mast now be standing idle for some part of the day because of decreased traffic? It is well known that if a large sum of money is spent on the purchase of expensive machinery, the only way to compensate for that expenditure is to keep the machinery and its operatives working constantly. The fact is that dismissals have’ been made from the Postmaster-General’s Department in excess of the number originally proposed under the Government’s retrenchment policy.
I suggest that the Government should consider the introduction of a half-rate social telegram. If that were done, congratulatory and birthday greetings would again be sent by telegram to friends and relatives throughout Australia. The same degree of expedition in the delivery of such telegrams would not be required as in the case of ordinary or urgent telegrams. Trained operatives are available to cope with the traffic that would result, and the machines are already in position. There is nothing new in that suggestion. I remind honorable senators opposite that for many years past it has been possible to send a delayed letter-telegram through international channels at half rates. The only proviso is that there is no guaranteed time of delivery. If an ordinary international telegram is sent it is reasonable to expect that it will be delivered within a matter of hours, but with a delayed letter telegram its delivery may not be effected for a day or so.
I am alarmed by the reply that was given to a question asked by Senator Byrne this morning. From the nature of that reply it would appear that some one is hopelessly confused or wishes to present some kind of information with which the Minister might fob off awkward questions. To say that the drought in Queensland has caused a decline of the telegram traffic in that State is absurd. It is well known that such a decline has taken place in every State of the Commonwealth.
– I undertake to bring to the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) the remarks that have been made by the honorable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre- sented : -
Australian National University Act - Interim Council of the Australian National University - Second and Final Report, covering the period 1st January, 1950, to 30th June, 1951.
Elections 1949 - Statistical Returns (in summarized form) for the several States and Territories in relation to the Senate Elections 1949, and the House of Representatives Elections 1949.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquiredfor Postal purposes - Tyalgum, New South Wales.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator,&c. - 1952 -
No. 37 - Transport Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 38 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Ordinance - 1952 - No. 6 - National Memorials.
Regulations- 1952- No. 10 (Building and Services Ordinance).
Senate adjourned at 11.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 May 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1952/19520529_senate_20_217/>.