20th Parliament · 1st Session
The Deputy President (Senator George Rankin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that there is a shortage of hog casings which are used in the manufacture of sausages? Has the Minister seen the report which appeared in the week-end newspapers in Sydney to the effect that a Mr. T. A. Herbert has said that only a small quantity of hog casings would be available for this year’s big winter sausage trade ? Is the Minister further aware that since the 16th June, 1952,I have written to him continuously on behalf of Messrs. Keith Henry and Company, of 181 Clarence-street, Sydney, in order to secure for them a licence for the importation of hog casings from Ireland? Is it a fact that the quantity of hog casings that may be imported from the United States of America has been reduced by 50 per cent. by the Department of Trade and Customs? Is it a fact that dollars are made available in respect of quotas which are allotted by the Department of Trade and Customs ? Is it also a fact that a firm has suggested to the department that ox runners would be suitable for use as sausage skins? If that is so, is the Minister aware that ox runners would be rough and not suitable to the
Australian taste? Is the Minister aware that the importation of hog casings is permitted only from countries that have been certified as free from foot and mouth disease, namely, Canada, United States of America, England and Ireland? Does the Minister know that a million bundles of hog casings are required each year in order to meet Australia’s needs? Is he aware that Messrs. Keith Henry and Company have applied for a licence to procure 20,000 bundles of hog casings from Ireland when they are available? Does the Minister know that during the nine months that I have communicated with him on this subject his department has wrangled about the price which, in June, 1952, was 41s. a bundle but which in February this year was reduced to 17s. a bundle? Is he aware that now that the price of Irish hog casings is less than that of American hog casings his department has ceased to wrangle about the price but has refused to allow Messrs. Keith Henry & Company to import from the sterling area ?
-Ihave not been able to quite memorize all of the questions that the honorable senator has asked. However, if he will check me, I shall endeavour to answer them. I remember that for some months past the honorable senator has been making representations to me in relation to the issue of licences for the importation of hog casings from the sterling areas. I understand that his application has been granted in part. There is a dispute in relation to the actual requirement of sausage casings. Some suppliers of ox runners say that Australia’s annual requirement is considerably less than has been stated by those who wish to import hog casings. I have received several deputations from manufacturers, producers of ox runners and importers of hog casings, but, as the representations made were so diametrically opposed on matters of alleged fact, it is far beyond my capacity to give a f air and reasonable decision until a full factual investigation has been made. Accordingly, I have referred the question of the supply position, the requirement position, and the use of ox runners and hog casings to the Tariff Board. I hope to receive an early report from the board, and I assume that after due consideration, such measures as may be considered wise in the opinion of the Government, will be taken.
– Will the
Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the Senate of the monthly average of unemployment in Australia in each of the years from 1948 to 1952 inclusive, as revealed by the Commonwealth Statistician, and based on figures supplied by the trade unions? In which month and year during that period was there the greatest amount of unemployment in this country, and in which month and year was the least number of persons unemployed?
– I am unable to furnish to the honorable senator offhand the information that he seeks but I shall obtain it for him from my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service been directed to a statement in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald to the effect that the Commonwealth Statistician has disclosed that, excluding rural industry and private domestic service, there were 121,000 fewer persons in employment in this country in January last than in November of 1951, and that, at January, 1953, there was an estimated decrease of 8.6 per cent. in factory employment in Victoria and New SouthWales, compared with January 1952? Is it a fact that a survey of 1,396 of the largest factories in those two States revealed that during that period, employment had decreased by 10.5 per cent.? Does the Minister claim that there has been an improvement in the employment position in this country? If so, how does he reconcile that claim with the statement that was made before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in Melbourne yesterday, on behalf of the employers, that Australia is still in a serious recession?
– I shall not undertake to answer specifically all the questions that the honorable senator has asked. I read in this morning’s newspapers some figures dealing with total employment at certain related periods. Of course, the honorable senator, when he cited his figures, left out of account the fact that he compared the figures for the period during 1951-52 which was properly described as one of over-full employment in this country with those for a period when we have returned to a steadier and more normal level. If the honorable senator will wait for another 24 hours I shall furnish him with the latest figures on employment and I trust that he will not be disappointed when he discovers from them that there hasbeen an appreciable reduction of the number of unemployed during recent months.
– That does not tally with statements that the employers’ representatives have made in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– I am not concerned with what those representatives have said in the court. I understand that certain evidence was given by a witness yesterday, but that is a matter for the court. I assure the honorable senator that I have read many statements that have been made by representatives of the trade unions in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court that indicated that many industries in this country are as prosperous as we could wish them to be. I believe that a good deal of support for that view will be forthcoming from the figures which I shall make available to-morrow.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service seen a report which has just been issued by the acting Commonwealth Statistician in which it is stated that a survey of 1,396 of the largest factories in New South Wales and Victoria has disclosed a fall of 10.5 per cent. in employment during the last twelve months? In view of the repeated denials by the Government that a “ Hytten pool “ of unemployed is being formed, can the Minister inform me by what other term the 10.5 per cent. unemployment to which I have referred can be described?
– The figure which the honorable senator has cited does not indicate the existence of that degree of unemployment. The honorable senator overlooks the fact that we have passed through a period of over-full employment, when, in fact, many married women and old persons went into employment for the purpose of doing jobs which normally would have been done by other people. At that time persons were called into employment to assist in meeting the tremendous demand for labour. All those factors must be taken into consideration in order to work out the degree of real unemployment in the community during the last twelve months. Merely to quote total employment figures does not give the real position. Perhaps no more reliable guide to the actual degree of unemployment can be provided than from statistics relating to persons who have sought unemployment assistance. Some further guide can be obtained from the figures which are provided by trade unions from time to time. As I informed Senator Ashley a few moments ago, insofar as the figures relating to persons seeking unemployment relief are a guide, I am happy to be able to tell Senator O’Byrne that there has been a great improvement in those figures which, I believe, will be disclosed to honorable senators to-morrow.
– On the 25th February, Senator Armstrong asked a question about employees at Hale-street, Botany. The Minister for Supply has furnished the following answers : -
For the information of the honorable senator, it is pointed out that the statement made by the Minister for Supply regarding dismissals, referred to dismissals from the whole of the Stores and Transport Section, Sydney, but this was wrongly reported in the press as referring only to dismissals from Hale-street. The matter was fully dealt with by the Minister in a statement on the adjournment in the House of Representatives on the 3rd March.
– I should like some further figures on unemployment. Between 1947-48 and 1950-51, the average annual increase of employed persons in Australia was more than 80,000. However, since November, 1951, there has been a decrease of 121,000 in the total number of employed persons. Will the Minister ascertain from the Commonwealth Statistician just how the previous annual increase has been converted into a substantial decrease?
– As the honorable senator seems to know the answer to his own question there does not seem to be a great deal of point in my obtaining the information for him. However, I shall endeavour to obtain the figures that he has requested and I hope that when he receives them he will begin to realize what a great job the Government has clone.
– I ask you, Mr. Deputy President, whether it is a fact that the Parliamentary Handbook has not been reprinted for some seven, or eight, years? Is it also a fact that delay in printing this publication has been due to the inability of the Government Printer to handle the work? If that be so, will you endeavour to have the Parliamentary Handbook printed by private enterprise in order to obviate further delay in the printing of this publication?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- It is true that the Parliamentary Handbook has not been printed for several years past. I believe that the reason for that failure is that the Government Printer has had more work than he has been able to cope with. However, it is a matter for the Library Committee to decide whether the printing of the Parliamentary Handbook should be let to private enterprise. I shall bring that matter to the attention of the committee at the first opportunity.
– I preface a question that I address to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by explaining that crayfish exporters in Western Australia are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining adequate refrigerated space for the transport of crayfish to the United States of America. Can the Minister inform me whether it is possible for those exporters to obtain such space for 15,000 cases of crayfish on Lanarkshire, which is scheduled to leave Fremantle for Liverpool on the 15th April? If not, will he do his best to arrange to have adequate refrigeration space made available on another vessel which may be due to leave Fremantle on approximately the same date?
– I have been advised by the representative of the Overseas Shipping Representatives Association that it will not be possible to make available refrigeration space for the transport of crayfish on the vessel that the honorable senator has mentioned. However, I have also been advised by that representative that his organization hopes that it will be able to lift 8,000 cases on Port Vindex which will be in Western Australia about the 20th April and will sail via London. That organization also hopes to make available refrigeration space on another vessel which is due to leave Western Australia in May direct to New York. I wish to make it perfectly clear that whilst the organization is hopeful of being able to complete negotiations in respect of those two vessels, the negotiations have not yet been completed. The organization’s representative has advised me that he will confirm the information that he has given to me as soon as possible. I assure the honorable senator that every effort is being made to ensure that this important industry in Western Australia shall be provided with adequate shipping services for the transport of its valuable product to the United States of America where, as we know, it is earning substantial dollars for this country.
– In order to allay the fears of small investors, many of whom invest their life savings in semi-government and government loans, will the Minister representing the Treasurer make a considered statement concerning the bitter row that has occurred and the embarrassing statements that are being made regarding interest rates by rival Collins-street brokers who, by their chicanery, are “ raking off “ thousands of pounds ? Will the Minister state whether he thinks such tactics are unfair and even dishonest to the small investor who finds to’ his regret that after the closing of each local body issue that the security has fallen to a discount on the market?
– I regret to say that the honorable senator has the advantage of me in that I have not noticed the controversy to which he has referred. Apparently they do things in Sydney in a much more enlightened way, because no such circumstances appear to have arisen there. I suggest to him that his fears are not well grounded. The semigovernmental loans are being floated on the market in accordance with the authority that is given from time to time by the Australian Loan Council. Associated with those flotations are the Commonwealth loans. It is all a part of a pattern that is approved by the Loan Council, whose members have discussed with those who are best equipped to form a judgment the capacity of the market to take the loans. I believe that, by and large, the market is responding to the extent that was expected and that there will not be any grounds for fear or alarm on the part of any good Australian who puts his or her money into Commonwealth loans or semi-governmental securities.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that certain mineral leases are now being applied for in the Tennant Creek area, with a view to mining for copper? Will the Minister indicate whether the Bureau of Mineral Resources is at present assisting in exploration for the mineral in that area?
– I have noticed a report in the press that certain leases are being requested in the Tennant Creek area. The newspaper reports stated that the leases are being taken up by Mr. H. J. Conolly, who is a geologist of considerable repute. I do not know whether the department has any immediate contact with Mr. Conolly, but I do know that the Bureau of Mineral Resources has surveyed the area and has suggested that it might be found to contain worthwhile copper deposits. I think it is a fair assumption that Mr. Conolly, who is well experienced in these matters, has seen the findings of the bureau, which are in the form of technical or scientific advice which is always available to persons interested in mining, and proposes to test them. If that assumption be correct, it is all to the. good because the two things that we require most in connexion with mining in this country are more geological and geophysical exploratory work, and more practical testing of the results of such surveys.
– Recently, the Department of Civil Aviation acquired a big Austin passenger bus to transport its employees from Launceston to Western Junction. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation obtain for me the schedule, the cost, and the weekly running expenses of that bus? Was any consideration given to using a similar bus owned by “TransAustralia Airlines which for a considerable period of the day is idle at Launceston? Were tenders called- from private enterprise for this service before the department itself decided to provide it?
– The matter is one for the Minister for Civil Aviation. I shall communicate with him as soon as possible and obtain the information that the honorable senator has sought.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation investigate an invention by Dr. Feinbloom, of the Columbia University, New York, which has a lens powerful enough to give adequate eyesight to persons who are almost blind? Is the Minister aware that persons who were formerly classified as blind, after having been provided with these lenses, have been able to lead normal, productive lives? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of having similar lenses brought to Australia for the use of people who are almost blind?
– I have read some correspondence in regard to the matter that the honorable senator has mentioned. I shall obtain all the information concerning it that I can for the honorable senator. I assure him that the invention to which he referred has not been overlooked. It has already been investigated by my department.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health by informing him that I raised this matter in the Senate last October and that I wrote to the Minister for Health during the recess, but have not received a satisfactory reply. Is the Minister aware of the magnificent contribution to national health that is being made by the Red Cross blood transfusion service? Is he aware that blood transfusions are now an integral part of curative medicine ? Is the Minister aware of the multiplicity of humanitarian activities that are undertaken by the Red Cross Society, which is enabled to exist because of public subscriptions and the honorary, self-sacrificing work of its members? Is the Minister aware that the task of financing its other activities in addition to its extremely costly blood transfusion service imposes a terrific financial strain on the Red Cross Society? If he fully realizes the worth of the work that is done by the society, and particularly by its blood transfusion service, will the Government consider undertaking full financial responsibility for blood transfusion services as a vital part of the national health scheme, as this service would transcend in importance other services such as the distribution of free milk?
– I am well aware of the wonderful work that the Red Cross Society has done in this country and throughout the world, and I am also aware of the great work that has been done by its blood transfusion service throughout Australia. My department has been assisted on many occasions by the blood transfusion service of the Red Cross Society. However, the honorable senator’s question concerns a matter of Government policy and I shall bring it to the notice of the Minister for Health.
– On the 19th February, 1953, Senator Willesee asked the following question: -
Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Army aware that many youths are becoming interested in rifle shooting as the result of their national service training? Is he aware that many of these lads are prevented from developing this interest because of the high cost of rifles and ammunition? Does he agree that practice gained’ through association with rifle clubs is valuable in subsequent military training? If he does so, will he examine the question of aid to rifle clubs with a view to increasing such aid and reviewing the sales tax levied on rifles and ammuntion used by members of such clubs ?
The Minister for the Army has now supplied the following information: -
I am very pleased with the interest that national servicemen are taking in rifle shooting and that many are joining up with rifle clubs. It may be of interest to the honorable senator to know that a national serviceman in Western Australia has been selected by the National Rifle Association of Western Australia as a representative of that State for inclusion in the Australian rifle team which is going to Bisley this year. The Commonwealth Government provides an amount of over £50,000 annually to assist the rifle club movement. This is used to cover the cost of the provision and repair of rifle ranges, payments of grants for prize meetings, efficiency grants, fares and’ administration expenses, &c. In addition, rifles are issued to rifle clubs on loan without charge and when a rifle-man desires to have a rifle of his own, he can purchase one at a price as low as £3. Bach efficient rifleman also receives an issue of 200 rounds of ammunition free of charge per annum. If further supplies of ammunition are required the clubs can purchase certain quantities at the reduced rate of £2 10s. per 1,000 rounds. Sales tax is not levied on rifles and ammunition purchased from the Department of the Army by members of rifle clubs.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What weight of airmail was carried by, and what subsidy was paid to, (a) Trans- Australia Airlines, and (b) Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, for November and December, 1952, and January, 1953?
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished in reply to the honorable senator’s question the following information: -
asked the Min ister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: - .
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator George Rankin). - I have received from Senator Guy an intimation that he intends to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The continued failure of the Government to allow time for the consideration of private members’ business, notwithstanding the fact that a regular time for its consideration has been allotted by Sessional Order.
Is the proposed motion supported?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the proposed motion,
No Motion or Amendment shall anticipate an Order of the Day or another Motion on which Notice has been given.
It will be observed that the first notice of motion on the notice-paper, standing in my own name, reads -
That the Sessional Order giving preference to General Business after eight p.m. on Thursdays be suspended until Friday, 27th March. 1953.
Standing Order 419 provides, in part -
No Senator shall digress from the subjectmatter of any Question under discussion; nor anticipate the discussion of any subject which appears on the Notice Paper:
The subject-matter contained in the motion indicated by the honorable sena- tor can well be discussed, should the honorable senator so desire, after I have moved the motion standing in my name. In other words, the motion indicated by the honorable senator is in direct conflict with Standing Order 125, inasmuch as there is inherent in it the discussion that will probably arise on my motion, and I accordingly submit that Senator Guy’s indicated motion is out of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Under Standing Orders 125 and 419, I rule that the motion submitted by Senator’ Guy is out of order.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) proposed -
That the Sessional Order giving precedence to general business after 8 p.m. on Thursdays be suspended until Friday, 27th March, 1953.
.- I oppose the motion. I have just been baulked on a motion standing in my name on the notice-paper under the heading, “ General Business “. Therefore, I take this opportunity to enter my protest against the continued failure of the Government to allow time for the consideration of private members’ business, notwithstanding the fact that the Sessional Orders provide that time for such matters shall be allowed regularly. I regard the motion standing in my name as an urgent matter; but a few minutes ago you, Mr. Deputy President, ruled that I would not be in order in moving it. I bow to your ruling. However, I consider it to be my duty to oppose the motion now before the Chair in order to emphasize the need for recognition by the Government of the rights of private member*. Every member of every free parliament has the right to submit motions, introduce bills and initiate business and discussions, but, apparently, the Government, wittingly or otherwise, is now endeavouring to whittle away that right. Notwithstanding what the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) said a few minutes ago, no time whatever has been allowed for private member’s business during the last ten months. I do not propose to take up the time of the Senate unduly at this juncture, because we are now in the closing stages of the current sessional period, and I know that the Government desires to complete its business. However, I emphatically protest against the Government’s repeated and continued failure to make time available for the consideration of private members’ business in accordance with the Sessional Orders, which refer to such business as “ general business “. Private members’ business constitutes an important feature of the parliamentary system. The Government, in continuing tn thwart private members in this respect, is cutting right across our democratic system of government. By denying t.l” right to private members, it is denying the essence of democracy.
During the last two Parliaments, the Government has been so magnanimous that it has allowed two hours for the consideration of private members’ business in this chamber, whilst during the last ten months it has not allotted even one minute for the consideration of such business. It is over three years since I requested it to give consideration to a review of our electoral laws. I asked the
Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who represents the appropriate Minister in another place, to arrange for consideration to be given to this matter. I was fobbed off time after time by replies to the effect that the matter would be submitted to the responsible Minister, or that it was under consideration. In order to bring this matter to a head in May last, that is ten months ago, I moved a definite motion for the appointment of a joint committee. After several honorable senators spoke to the motion, the Minister for Trade and Customs moved that the debate b? adjourned; and on every occasion in the interim on which it was called on after 8 p.m. on Thursdays, which is the hour allotted under Sessional Orders for the consideration of private members’ business, the Minister moved that it be postponed. He has adopted that attitude now for a period of ten months. Surely, it is time that the Governmnet made up its mind on this matter. Its procrastination and vacillation in this instance is appalling. It is acting most unreasonably and unfairly, because the Senate has had ample opportunities to spare time for consideration of the matter. We have adjourned time and time again on the plea that the Senate has been waiting for business. Only a fortnight ago, the Senate adjourned for ten days. The Senate could, and should, have continued sitting during that period to deal with the business of the. Parliament. I resent very much the cavalier treatment that the Minister for Trade and Customs has meted out to me personally.
– That is solidarity.
– I am a supporter of the Government, but its leaders make mistakes just as members of the Opposition do. The only difference is that the Government makes fewer mistakes than does the Opposition. I know that on this occasion the Minister for Trade and Customs will reply to the effect that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), within whose jurisdiction the matter dealt with in my motion falls, has been ill. All of us are sorry to know that the Minister has been ill. However,
I believe that he is on the road to recovery and that very shortly he will resume his duties, if he has not already done so. But to say that this business has been held up because of the illness of a Minister is so much unadulterated nonsense. The Minister for the Interior has not been ill for the last ten months. Does the Minister for Trade and Customs suggest that because a Minister is ill all matters with which his department deals must be brought to a standstill? Such a contention is untenable. On the 4th November last, I made’ representations in writing to the Minister for the Interior along the very lines that I was advised to act; but, although practically five months have elapsed, I have not yet received even the common courtesy of an acknowledgment of my letter let alone a reply to my representations. It is useless for the Minister for Trade and Customs to say that this delay has been due to illness of the Minister for the Interior. Perhaps, some subterfuge may be resorted to when an answer on this matter is supplied to me, but what my constituents and I desire to know is why the Government does not observe the Standing Orders which provide that time shall be regularly allotted for the consideration of private members’ business. As I have already said, the Sessional Orders provide that private members’ business shall take precedence after 8 p.m., on Thursdays. I challenge any Minister in this chamber to instance one occasion during the last ten months on which that provision has been observed. On every occasion on which my motion has been called on, the debate has been immediately adjourned at the behest of the Government.
– “With the honorable senator’s consent.
– Of course it was, but it was at the behest of the Government. The Attorney-General is now imposing on my loyalty. I ask you, Mr. Deputy President, whether you think that the provision that private members’ business should take precedence after 8 p.m. each Thursday is being respected when, for ten months, the Government has refused to provide an opportunity for honorable senators to discuss such business. Only two hours have been allowed during the last three years for that purpose. Not one minute has been allowed during the last ten months, although there has been a private member’s motion on the noticepaper for that period. Ministers cannot excuse themselves by pleading that urgent Government business should take precedence, because I repeat there have been continual adjournments-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! I think that the honorable senator is attempting to get round my ruling by discussing the matter raised by his notice of motion. I have already ruled that he may not do so.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy President. I shall conclude by saying that the Senate could have sat for a couple of days in order to dispose of the business on the notice-paper. If the motion that Government business should take precedence over other business during the remainder of this sessional period is carried it will preclude consideration of my motion on the notice-paper. I emphatically protest against this very disdainful treatment which the Minister has meted out to my motion and to me personally.
– The Opposition opposes the motion. I have no great sympathy for Senator Guy when he intimates that for a period of ten months he has concurred, from time to time, in the request of the Government that his motion be deferred. I cannot support him if he makes that request, in which he has concurred, a ground of complaint. I do support him, however, very strongly when I recollect that many honorable senators on this side of the chamber spoke in support of the motion on the notice-paper a considerable time ago. When the Senate rises within the next week or so, it will probably not meet again for another four, five or maybe six months, so that the motion will have stayed on the notice-paper for a period of approximately fifteen months. Without discussing the nature of Senator Guy’s motion, I record the fact that the Opposition considers that it is of importance. I agree with the general proposition put by the honorable senator, to the effect that private members have rights which should be safeguarded by the Standing Orders, and in general support of that proposition the Opposition will oppose the motion.
I understand that the Government has not a great deal of business to transact in the immediate future, and I cannot see that any great disability would be imposed upon it if it were to allow one item on the notice-paper to be debated before this sessional period concludes.
. - in reply - I do not propose to reply at great length. Senator Guy’s appeal, although very eloquent, was quite fallacious. Indeed, I am sory to say that it was very false. His motion has been carried forward from time to time, not only with his own consent, but also with the unanimous consent of the Senate.
– At the behest of the Minister.
– Yes- with the unanimous consent of the whole Senate.
– It was carried forward because the Government has a majority in the Senate.
– No, it was unanimous. I remind the honorable senator that there had not been a division on this matter during this sessional period until last week.
Both Senator Guy and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) have said that discussion of private members’ business has been denied. That statement is entirely false. All private members’ business which has been placed on the notice-paper has been discussed. The fact that so little time has been spent in dealing with such business merely indicates that private members have decided not to put business on the notice-paper. If private members do not wish to place business on the notice-paper for discussion in that way, the Government can hardly be blamed. On the contrary, it is a tribute to the efficiency of the Government and indicates that members have no complaints to make.
Finally, I think that it comes rather ill from the Leader of the Opposition to say that by agreeing to the motion we shall deprive, from now on, private members from having their grievances discussed on Thursday evenings, because during the whole time that he himself was a Minister of the previous Labour Government it was traditional, in the last fortnight or so before the Senate rose, to move a similar motion.
– It leads to legislation by exhaustion.
– Those two motions standing in my name are traditional and have been carried, in similar circumstances, ever since we have had a Senate. I think that the Opposition lacks integrity and good faith when it imputes improper motives to the Government, because this is what Labour governments did in the past, and it is what we have done since we have been in office. It is what will continue to be done, no matter what political party is in power, because it is purely a traditional machinery measure, which is placed on the notice-paper and carried, generally without dissent, by the Senate in the last two or three weeks of its sittings. I repeat that it is quite false to suggest that private members have not had an opportunity to discuss their business. They have not placed such business on the notice-paper to be discussed, and, therefore, there has been no discussion of it.
Question put -
That the Sessional Order giving precedence to general business after 8 p.m. on Thursdays be suspended until Friday, 27th March, 1953.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator George Rankin.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
NEW BUSINESS AFTER 10.30 p.m.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) proposed -
That Standing Order 08 be suspended up to and including 27th March, 1953, to enable new business to he commenced after 10.30 p.m.
– I formally record the Opposition’s objection to the motion. There is no reason why the Parliament should not conclude its business at leisure. As Senator O’Flaherty stated earlier, we object to legislation by exhaustion. We do not believe that it is right that the Government should be free to introduce new business after 10.30 p.m., and we shall vote against the proposal.
– I add my protest against this proposal to restrict the opportunities accorded honorable senators to give proper thought to measures that they are to discuss. In the past twelve months after all-night sittings there have been very heavy casualties among honorable senators. I believe that the all-night sessions are partly responsible. The exhaustion that is evident on such occasions in the case of the older senators shows that it is inadvisable to force all-night sittings upon them. I protest on behalf of the older senators because I believe that those long sittings are the cause of much ill health among them.
. -in reply - I should not like honorable senators to vote under the misapprehension that Senator O’Byrne’s remarks? would suggest. The motion has nothing to do with all-night sittings. They may or may not occur irrespective of whether this motion is agreed to or not. I hope that we shall not have all-night sittings. The motion is purely a provisional measure that is brought in about a fortnight before the Senate rises, regardless of the Government that is in office, to enable some measures to be concluded and new measures to be taken after 10.30 p.m. That is all that the motion states and that is all that is intended by it.
Question put -
That Standing Order68 be suspended up to and including 27th March, 1953, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator George Rankin.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in affirmative.
The following bills were returned from the House of Representatives, without amendment : -
Canned Fruits Export Control Bill 1953.
Dried Fruits Export Control Bill 1953.
Seamen’s Compensation Bill 1953.
Patents, Trade Marks, Designs and Copyright Bill 1953.
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 contains amendments of the Meat Export Control Act 1936-1950, which are practically identical with those contained in the Egg Export Control Bill 1953 and explained by me in my second-reading speech on that bill. The amendments relate to the Minister’s power to veto or alter decisions of the board, the determination of terms and conditions of employment of staff of the Australian Meat Board, the remuneration and expenses of members of the board and the re-drafting of certain provisions of the principal act to bring them in line with more recent legislation. I commend the bill to the consideration of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by . Senator MoKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for the payment of increased rates of bounty on tractors of the internal combustion engine type, in capacities ranging from 10 to 55 belt pulley horse-power, manufactured in Australia for sale and use in the Commonwealth. Under the bill the increased rates will be payable for a three-year period from the 24th Oc tober, 1952. As honorable senators are aware, the Tractor Bounty Act was enacted in 1939 for a period of five years. In 1944, 1947 and 1950, the act was, amended to provide in each instance for an additional three-year period. The 1950 amendment also increased the bounty payable on tractors exceeding 40 but not exceeding 55 belt pulley horsepower from £72 to £96 a tractor. In the absence of any amendment of the Tractor Bounty Act, the payment of bounty at the rates at present in force would continue until the 23rd October, 1953. However, early last year, representations were made by the Australian tractor industry for greater assistance. It was claimed that increased cost since the industry was reviewed by the Tariff Board in 1950, had placed Australian manufacturers in a position in which Australian-made tractors could not compete with imported tractors. As a result of these representations I decided to refer to the Tariff Board, for inquiry and report, the question of the necessity for continuing to assist the production of tractors in Australia. The Tariff Board has recommended, amongst other things, in its report, that the rates of bounty be substantially increased and that these increased rates operate for a period of three years. The present rates of bounty compared with the recommended rates are as follows : -
The Government has decided to adopt the rates recommended and also proposes that those rates shall have retrospective effect in relation to tractors produced on or after the 24th October, 1952. The proposed rates represent a considerable increase on those now in operation and
honorable senators will appreciate that their retrospective application will do much to alleviate the difficulties Australian manufacturers have encountered in selling their products in competition with imported tractors. Another significant amendment proposed by the bill now under consideration is the repeal of section 4 of the Tractor Bounty Act. That section specifies the total amount of bounty which may be paid during prescribed periods. Whilst that section has not reacted to the detriment of bounty claimants in the past, the position could arise whereby the claims for bounty would exceed the total amount specified and, in such circumstances, it would be necessary to reduce all claims correspondingly. The repeal of section 4 will, therefore, eliminate a possibility which could defeat the object of the bounty.
Under the present provisions of section 9 of the Tractor Bounty Act bounty is not payable in cases where the manufacturer’s net profit exceeds 10 per cent. per annum. In considering this factor in relation to the effect the increased rates of bounty may have on the Commonwealth’s financial commitments, it was decided to reduce the net profit limitation to 5 per cent. An appropriate amendment is contained in the bill.
The Australian tractor manufacturing industry has expanded considerably during the post-war years, and I consider that this has been in no small way due to the assistance that has been accorded to the industry by means of bounty. Capital employed in the industry is approximately £4,000,000 and direct employment is given to approximately 2,000 persons, over 90 per cent. of whom are males. Australia’s annual requirement of tractors in the bounty range has been estimated at 20,000 units, but at present Australian manufacturers can only meet about one-fifth of this demand. The alternative to bounty assistance would be the imposition of protective duties, but in view of the relatively small Australian production the imposition of such duties would impose an unjustifiable burden on users - principally primary producers - of the many tractors which must necessarily be imported.
In its latest report the Tariff Board stated that whereas a bounty equivalent to a protective duty of approximately 121/2 per cent. had been considered sufficient in 1950, the increased costs of labour and materials in Australia in the succeeding years had been considerably steeper than in overseas manufacturing countries and that bounty equivalent to a duty of approximately 25 per cent. was now needed to provide adequate assistance to the industry. The proposed rates of bounty were assessed by the board on that basis. As I have already indicated, the payment of the bounty proposed by this bill is for a three-year period commencing on the 24th October, 1952. The question of what assistance should be accorded to the industry beyond that period will, in due course, be made the subject of a further inquiry by the Tariff Board. I commend the bill as one which merits favorable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
HEARD ISLAND AND McDONALD ISLANDS BILL 1953.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spicer) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As honorable senators are aware, Heard Island and the neighbouring McDonald Islands have been Australian territory since December, 1947, when, following the United Kingdom’s transfer of its rights in the islands to the Commonwealth of Australia, effective control of them was established by the Commonwealth. An Australian research expedition landed on Heard Island for the purpose of establishing a weather and scientific research station at about that time. The position was regularized by an exchange of notes between the United Kingdom and Australian Governments which took place in December, 1950, when it was formally confirmed that it was the understanding of the United Kingdom Government that, as from the 26th December, 1947, His Majesty’s sovereignty over the islands had been exercised by, and the rights of the United Kingdom Government in the islands had been transferred to, the Australian Government, and that by such transfer and by the establishment of effective Australian control, the territory had been acquired by the Commonwealth of Australia.
The object of the present bill is to provide a system of law in the islands which shall be certain and adequate. It would be difficult to state with precision exactly what laws are in force in the islands at the present time, and in view of this uncertainty as well as the absence of any provisions for certain administrative purposes, it has become necessary to make full provision to meet such contingencies as may arise. Early last year, for example, certain fatalities on Heard Island drew attention to the need for provision for the holding of coroner’s inquests, and the registration of deaths, while legislation is necessary for such matters as the protection of wild life and for governing the qualifications of medical practitioners appointed to attend persons stationed on the islands.. These are specific matters, but other branches of the law may also require attention. The present bill will not only provide for the application of a general body of law, but will also empower the making of ordinances. It is proposed to apply the laws in force from time to time in the Australian Capital Territory, insofar as such laws may be applicable, to the islands. This would enable the administration to function, generally speaking, through existing officers and instrumentalities so that, for example, when it became necessary to register a death, this GoUld be done with the Registrar for the Australian Capital Territory in the ordinary manner; since the bill provides that the laws shall apply as if the islands formed a part of the Australian Capital Territory.
There is, however, one general exception to this principle and honorable senators will see from the provisions of clause 5,, sub-clause (2.), and clause 7 that acts of this Parliament will not, unless expressed to extend to the islands, apply there either of their- own force, or as a part of the law of the Australian Capital Territory. The reason for these provisions is that it is considered preferable to make a selection of Commonwealth acts which can be applied ac any time by ordinance, rather than apply all of them indiscriminately with consequences which might well be unforeseen. In any event, it is clear that many Commonwealth statutes would not be suitable for application in these islands. As I have already indicated, there is a general power in clause 8 of the bill for the amendment or repeal of adopted laws and in clauses 10 and 11 for the making of ordinances generally. Clause 9 of the bill provides for jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory in respect of the islands. This clause is necessary because of the otherwise general provision that Commonwealth acts shall not of their own force apply. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
[4.39]. - This measure has the cordial support of the Opposition. The establishment of control over Heard Island and the McDonald Islands had the approval of all parties when it was accomplished by the Chifley Government in 1947. That Government considered that the islands would be of use and importance to Australia in obtaining scientific data for weather observations and for research. The islands were also in strategic positions which might be described as covering our possessions in Antarctica. The islands were also strategically placed in relation to South Africa and other portions qf the British Commonwealth. The Opposition agrees that it is proper that there should be no doubt as to what law applies to these islands. Considered from the point of- view of the number of inhabitants of these islands this bill may not be of great importance. But it is important, as a means of buttressing our claim: to the islands and also> for the purpose of doing justice to those who take up their hard lot in these places, that a clear- and well defined- law should be applicable to them. Stories- have- been told of the exploits of these persons which have excited the admiration of those who have heard them.
Fortunately there is no question about our power to legislate for these islands. Section 122 of our Constitution confers upon this Parliament a very clear authority to legislate in untrammelled fashion for any of our territories of this type. I think it appropriate that the bill contemplates the application in these islands of the law that is applicable to the Australian Capita] Territory which is the centre of government in Australia. With those brief comments the Opposition gives its cordial support to the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 17th March (vide page 1118), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now lead a second time.
– I think that I have said that the arguments against this measure are only two. One argument has been that the separation of the bank’s functions is mischievous and calculated to do great harm to trading sections of the bank. The other argument has been that the separation of functions is a futile and useless act which will effect no real change. Both of those arguments cannot be true. Both of them can be false, and I wish to demonstrate that both of them are false. There is a precedent for the separation of the functions of the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Savings Bank was originally a division of the Commonwealth Bank. I think that it was separated from the Commonwealth Bank during the Prime Ministership of Mr. Bruce. Ever since that time the Commonwealth Savings Bank has increased the number of its depositors. It has become a most important body and, I think;, has become more efficient. I could produce figures to prove those, statements but- figures are tedious and as the record is available for all to read it I shall not bore the Senate with it. It has been contended that the credit of the trading bank will be affected by its being called the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia rather than the* Commonwealth Bank of Australia purely and simply. I regard that argument as mere dredging for some mischievious thing to say against the bill by those who have no argument to offer. The trading bank will be run by the same officers, in the same buildings and in the same way as the trading section has been conducted. Do honorable senators think that the mere addition of the word “ Trading “ on the cheque books will induce any person who has an account with the Commonwealth Bank to withdraw it? The great building of the Commonwealth Bank in Martin-place in Sydney will continue to be an attractive and commanding building. In every way the bank will be strengthened, not weakened.
Senator O’Byrne interjecting.
– As I understand that the honorable senator who. is interjecting will follow me in this debate, he will have an opportunity then to say whatever he wants to say. If the provision that I have mentioned were not mischievious, it could be futile, but I shall prove that it is not futile, because the manager to be appointed will be a trained and able banker. Any one who imagines that the sort of man who would be placed at the head of a large institution, or a large number of institutions working together, would be a rubber stamp, simply does not know how business is conducted. It would be impossible to get a man big enough to be a manager of the separate trading, bank who could be accused of being a rubber stamp. Even if he were, he could not be ordered about at the whim or pleasure of the Governor of the bank, or the board of directors, even if they were the sort of people who wanted to do that. What he has to do is laid down in the bill. I advise the critics of the measure to read it carefully before they indulge in the sort of airy abuse that we have heard during the last couple of days. I doubt whether most of the honorable senators opposite who have opposed the bill have even read it. Several pages of the bill are devoted to the laying down of provisions in relation to the trading bank. Proposed new section 22h provides -
The Trading Bank may establish branches and agencies at such places … as the Trading Bank thinks fit.
I emphasize the words “ as the Trading Bank thinks fit “. The trading bank itself shall establish branches - not the Governor or the board or the government of the day. This plain direction given to the general manager of the trading bank to go ahead is reinforced by sub-section (2.) of proposed new section 18, to which I referred last evening. Those provisions dispel completely all the argument that has been heard - and which will no doubt be repeated on the hustings - that it is the intention of non-Labour governments to destroy the Commonwealth Bank. Here, in the statute, we lay down certain things which shall be mandatory on the general manager of the trading bank, irrespective of any direction that he may receive from anybody else.
I happen to know the kind of people that we have in the Public Service. Having been a public servant myself for many years, I know that a man who has a statutory position will not be deflected from what he considers to be his duty. The mere airy assertion that this measure will weaken the trading section, or any other section of the Commonwealth Bank, has no validity, in view of its positive provisions which will empower the general manager of the trading bank to act in accordance with trading bank practice. The new bank will have a separate seal, and it will be a corporation in its own right. Thus, it will be able to do within the law many things that a person who is merely managing a division, cannot do.
Some critics of the hill have contended that it would be more desirable to make a complete break between the central bank and the trading bank. I shall not introduce any argument against that proposition as an ordinary, sensible proposition. It has great validity. As :s matter of fact, if a bill were brought in to attain that objective, I would be quite prepared to support it. However, I point out that the Commonwealth Bank is not exactly similar to any other central bank. It has been developed by legislation that has been enacted by both Labour and non-Labour governments, and as a result of the ability of its officers. The Bank of England is, of course, the oldest, the most powerful, and, I suppose, the most efficient central bank in the world. It has grown up over a period of about two and a half centuries, and has passed through many crises. _Many acts have been passed to protect it, and many wise men have been engaged from time to time to work out a practice suitable to the conditions of Great Britain and, indeed, of the whole world. London is still one of the most important centres in the world, from a monetary point of view. There was a time when it was the most important centre. As far as possible, the Bank of England has exerted its influence over other banks by intricate methods, and it has operated in tha ordinary money market. It is not possible for a central bank in Australia to control credit and to try to stabilize the currency by the methods of the Bank of England. As everybody knows, one of the most significant features of the London banking system is the large number of short-dated loans that are negotiated by many people and institutions. That practice is only in its infancy in Australia. Bills of exchange and treasury-bills are not so important in Australia as they are on the London money market. In fact. in London, the term “ money “ is often applied not to the currency but to shortdated bills.
It is, therefore, necessary for our bank to be a different kind of institution. It has to operate and obtain its information in different ways. ‘I do not profess to be a banker, or to understand all the intricacies of the banking system, but I have informed my mind by reading and discussing these matters with bankers. I took the opportunity when I was in London recently - at my own expense, I might add - to interview two or three of the leading bankers there, including an Australian, Mr. Kershaw, who is one of the prominent bankers of the world. In the light of those discussions, I think we are wise not to adopt the advice of any one school of thought or any one pressure group of this country.
There has been a taunt that this bill will further the interests of the private banks. But, as I said last night, some of the strongest criticism of it has come from the private banks themselves. It is quite clear that this hill has not been dictated by the private banks. It is true that the Government has received representations from people interested in private banking. I suppose every member of the Parliament, like myself, has received large typewritten sheets setting out the views of different people. I have also discussed the matter with bank officers. The Government has - whether or not wisely, the future will reveal - deliberately steered a middle course between the point of view advanced by the trading banks and their officers, and the point of view of the Commonwealth Bank. I am prepared to support the bill, and if, as time goes on, it becomes apparent that it would be better to effect a complete separation of the .central bank and the trading bank, the legislation can be amended. By this experiment, we are doing no harm to either the central bank or the trading bank. As I have pointed out, the trading bank will be a separate corporate body, with its own manager and its own policy, but subject to an overall direction from the Governor and the board of the Commonwealth Bank. I know the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank personally, and I am convinced that he does not merit the terrific abuse that he has received from some quarters. He has tried to conduct the Commonwealth Bank in the interests of this country and has not been guided merely by party interests. This bill will not interfere in any way with matters that concern the trading bank but only with matters that concern the overall policy of the central bank and the Government. If it fails in that respect, we can then consider effecting a complete separation. With this overall direction we get the great advantage that there is only one service, and any officer who is under the general direction of the governor may aspire to the highest position in all the banks. Included in the staff of the Commonwealth Bank are some of the ablest bankers in this country. I have watched the careers of some of them. Some officers of the savings bank and other sections of the Commonwealth Bank are equal to the best that the private banks can produce. It is for us to let them regard themselves as bankers, not as partisans or people who will obey the policy of a particular political party. It is a good thing, therefore, to have one service, but to have the separation of functions in the central bank and its three sections, and the separate savings bank. As the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems in the ‘thirties pointed out, in the absence of the experience that the Bank of England has had in the buying and selling of bills and dealing with all the intricate mechanism of the London money exchange, the Commonwealth Bank needs other experience, which it obtains by having a trading section, that it regards as a sort of guinea pig to determine what the bank can do. As far as the resources of the central bank are concerned, this bill puts that trading section on exactly the same level as the trading banks, which is fair and reasonable. It must be an ordinary trading bank dealing in the same way as the private trading banks, if its experience is to be of value to the central bank. The taunt has been made that non-Labour governments have been the enemies of the Commonwealth Bank. I point out that the New South Wales Government still has its cheque accounts with a private trading bank. That State, which has been administered by Labour for the greater part of the last twenty years - and exclusively for the last twelve years - has repeatedly refused to transfer its accounts from the Bank of New South Wales to the Commonwealth Bank. The biggest bank buster of them all, Mr. Lang, was just as firm as was anybody else in refusing to transfer to another bank. I am not blaming the Government of New South Wales in that respect. I believe that it has done the right thing. It would be wrong for any authority to transfer accounts from one bank to another merely to suit a political whim or to advance momentarily the cause of a political party. But members of the Opposition should not raise their hands in holy horror and declare that they are the good people who help the
Commonwealth Bank and that everybody else is its enemy. Government supporters are no more the enemy of the Commonwealth Bank than honorable senators opposite are.
With respect to the proposal to separate the trading bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank from the central bank and other sections of the bank, I remind honorable senators opposite that the Treasurer in the Scullin Government actually proposed a complete separation along those lines. I mentioned that fact in the course of two speeches that I made on previous occasions in this chamber, and Senator Vincent reminded us of it in his speech last night. No one can dispute the fact that the Treasurer in the Scullin Government, under the bill which that government introduced, proposed a complete separation of the central bank from the General Banking Division. Those activities were to be absolutely separated and the supporters of that Labour government thought that that was a good proposal. Under this bill, this Government proposes to effect not a complete separation but a separation whereby the trading bank activities will remain under the control of the Governor of the bank and the Commonwealth Bank Board. It is mere poppycock for honorable senators opposite to say that such a proposal will ruin the Commonwealth Bank.
I say to certain of my colleagues in both chambers that on this as on all matters we need to be aware of a too doctrinaire attitude. From the point of view of the individualist a beautiful case can be made for the complete separation of the central bank from the trading bank activities, indeed so beautiful that I should support it if only I considered it to be practicable. Honorable senators opposite object to the charge that they are doctrinaire socialists. A doctrinaire individualist is as dangerous as a doctrinaire socialist. We have a system of banking which is mainly private. The ordinary banking business, in the main, is done by the private banks, and that business, I believe, can best be done by those banks. But we have also a system of public banks which has grown from small beginnings and which suits our purposes. The most important parts of the Commonwealth Bank are certainly the central bank, the Savings Bank and the three other sections of the bank, the Rural Credits Department, the Industrial Finance Department and the Mortgage Bank Department. All of those sections are to remain completely under the direction of the Governor and of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Those sections are not designed to do ordinary banking business. They are not designed to make money although they do so, and that is all to the good as the making of profits, is a test of efficiency. The savings bank is probably one of the most important institutions that have developed during the nineteenth century. It has done more than any other single institution has to raise the standard of living and the general attitude of the ordinary people towards thrift. The Commonwealth Savings Bank is an institution in which we should have the utmost pride. I, myself, have had a savings bank account since I was a small boy and I still retain it in addition to my current account with the Commonwealth Bank. All the good provisions of existing legislation are to be retained. Nobody can say that under this measure the Savings Bank will be threatened in any way at all. The same observation applies to the Rural Credits Department, the Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department of the bank. Each of these sections has special functions to perform, but the main function of all of them is to assist good citizens’ who engage in enterprises which are clearly of benefit to the whole community, but who may not be able to obtain finance from the ordinary private banks. The Commonwealth Bank in its General Banking Division is efficient. It is in no way better than the private banks with which it competes, but it is through honest competition with the private banks, which we now seek to preserve under this measure, that it will prove to be of use to the community as a whole.
Summing up the advantages of this bill, I believe that it represents a statesmanlike attempt to provide a banking system in the interests of ordinary citizens, that is, the public; the business community, consumers, home-builders and many other special classes. It is an attempt to get rid forever of the atmosphere of suspicion that has surrounded every bill dealing with banking that has come before the Parliament. I wish that I could believe absolutely that it will have the effect of burying forever the threat of bank nationalization, but I cannot do so in view of the recent utterances of many members of the Australian Labour party on that point. Some members of that party cannot even speak on the subject of banking without breathing hatred of the private banks and endeavouring to implant in the mind of the public the idea that the ordinary person would benefit if the banking system were nationalized. However, I support this bill, not because the people are emphatically against nationalization, but because such a system would lead to regimentation. Under this measure, we shall retain both the public and the private banks. The public banks will perform special functions, whilst the private banks can meet the community’s needs in respect of ordinary banking business and by providing working capital for industries. This bill will strengthen every part of the banking structure. It will make the private banks more secure and will leave the public banks completely secure. It will make more difficult any clandestine attempt to nationalize the banking system. The Government no longer fears a frontal attack on the private banks, but is fearful of the threat that the private banks may bp forced out of business by methods under which all kinds of favours can be shown towards the public bank and by the use of the public bank for purposes for which it was not established. This bill will make it more difficult for a future government to adopt such methods. Finally, the measure provides grounds for hope that the banking system will cease to be a subject that will divide the community. I sincerely wish that we could obtain on this and many other measures the degree of unanimity that was shown in the passage of the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Bill, but. as yet, we do not get unanimity in respect of measures that deal with banking. I believe that we shall be obliged to fight still more engagements on the nationalization of banking. Whilst it cannot be said that honorable senators opposite no longer regard banking as an issue for the winning of elections and for dividing the people, nevertheless, this bill will establish a system that will serve not only the interests of banking but also those of the community as a whole.
– The speech made by Senator McCallum was full of platitudes. He spoke about what the bill will not do, what the private banks will not do and what the Commonwealth Bank will still be able to do. His remarks were interesting particularly in the light of the history of the Commonwealth Bank. On every occasion on which anti-L’abour governments have attacked the Commonwealth Bank they have always protested that they were not harming it. However, the trading figures of the bank in respect of periods subsequent to the making of such attacks show conclusively that those governments have seriously interfered with its activities. Government supporters misconcieve public opinion on this matter. They fail to realize that the people are now much more politically conscious and informed than they were prior to World War II.
– That is why they returned this Government to office.
– That is why the people will eject this Government from office in the near future. They will do so because they will judge the Government not on its election promises but on its performances. On that basis, they have been sadly disillusioned.
– How does the honorable senator know what will happen at the next general elections?
– One has only to use a little common sense to be able to forecast the fate of this Government. The results of elections in five of the States show that the people have Jost confidence in this Government. Senator McCallum declared that the people want free competition in the banking system but that the Labour party desires to prevent competition. There is no such thing to-day as free competition. I shall remind Government supporters of the history of the Commonwealth Bank and of Australian banking in general. That history discloses three major developments. The most important of them has been the institution of the Commonwealth Bank on sound foundations and its steady growth. In spite of the attacks that have been made upon it, the Commonwealth Bank is now the principal financial instrumentality in this country. At the same time, the success of the Commonwealth Bank has been accompanied by an increasingly pronounced monopolistic tendency among the private banks which have effected many amalgamations. Whereas prior to World War I. approximately 32 banks were operating in this country, only 22 remained in existence after that conflict, and, to-day, that number has been reduced to seven. Since the Commonwealth Bank was established, the private banks have persistently refused to accept restraints, the imposition of which are absolutely essential in a modern economic system. There is no alternative to them. Therefore, there is no such thing as free competition. Likewise, under modern conditions, no individual can wend- his way through life unhampered, because society has become too complex. In any event, what sort of a world would it be if individuals were completely free of restraint? We should simply revert to the law of the jungle. I doubt whether Government supporters have really tried to follow their doctrine of free competition to its logical conclusion. It is clear that they have no regard, for the right of the individual but endeavour only to ensure that the big end of the stick shall always remain in the hands of vested interests which support them politically. During the general election campaign in 1949 the Government parties had hoardings and placards all over the country stating “Demand referendum on banking “. That propaganda was well organized and was perhaps one of the most effective attempts ever made in the history of Australia to mould public opinion. The supporters of the present Government parties were determined to fight their cause by fair means or foul. They did not hesitate to attempt to discredit individual members of the previous Labour Government, who had been burdened with the added responsibility of the war years and the task of picking up the broken threads left by their predecessors in 1941.
The interlocking directorates of the private banks are the real big business people of Australia. The main businesses of the country are controlled, directly or indirectly by those directorates. They are the people who wish to see this legislation passed by the Parliament, and indeed they are insisting that it shall be passed. Senator McCallum attempted to demonstrate during his speech that the main purpose of the legislation is to remove the possibility of a future attempt at nationalization of banking. In that connexion, it is interesting to point out that in the field of civil aviation this Government has deprived TransAustralia Airlines of a tremendous amount of its hard-earned business. I find it difficult to travel by air from Tasmania to Canberra unless I travel in an Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited aircraft. I can no longer travel from Launceston to Hobart by Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft, as I used to do. The attitude of the Government towards civil aviation is the same as was its attitude to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Honorable senators will remember that it sold the Commonwealth interests in that organization because the big business interests pressed their supporters in the House of Representatives and the Senate to do so. The same process has being going on all along the line. The representatives of vested interests in the Parliament are allegedly following a path of freedom and private enterprise. After all, “private enterprise “ is only another name for the vested interests which represent power, profit and privilege. Indeed, the very reason for the existence of the organization which support the present Government parties are power, profit and privilege.
Throughout the history of banking in this country we have seen a persistent refusal by the private banks to appreciate that in a modern economy there must be certain restraints and some idea of the need to expand and restrict credit where necessary. I must say that since this
Government has been in office it has used its power to restrict credit, not to the detriment of Australia alone, but also to the whole of the British Commonwealth. In this morning’s newspapers a Mr. H. R. Sanderson, who is described as a business and financial adviser, is reported to have said before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court that Australia is still experiencing a serious economic recession. It is within the power of the Commonwealth Bank, which this Government is trying to weaken, strangle and subvert, to halt recessive influences. It is also within the power of the Government to stop inflation. It should do so by placing restrictions on the whole banking system so that the economy of the country may be balanced.
Ever since the Commonwealth Bank was first established, anti-Labour governments have been attempting to undermine the great advantages which that institution can give to the Australian people. The objectives of the Commonwealth Bank are clearly defined in the policy of the Australian Labour party, together with many other things which will inevitably come to pass. Like King Canute, this Government will be unable to hold back the tide. When will it appreciate that society must progress to the stage where there is more regard for Christian principles, more co-operation, and greater human fellowship and brotherhood ? Measures such as this now before the Senate only interrupt that progress. Legislation of this kind caters only for the greedy, profit-making, animal side of mau. That is why I am certain that honorable senators opposite do not appreciate the futility of supporting bills such as this. As the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) has said, the main design, of this legislation is to subvert, undermine, divide and gradually weaken, the Commonwealth Bank, which has been so supremely successful as an instrument of the people. In his opinion, the objective of the Government is to break down wantonly the existing system of special deposits, not in order to ensure fair competition between the trading banks and the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank, but to provide excessive and unfair profits for the private banks at the expense of the Commonwealth Bank and its depositors, who comprise so great a majority of the people.
Throughout the whole process of the development of the Commonwealth Bank continuous attacks have been made on it by anti-Labour governments. These puny efforts by the temporary custodians of the treasury-bench will be in vain, as were the previous attempts. In 1913, the private trading banks believed that their end had come when they were deprived of the right to issue their own bank notes. That power was vested in the Commonwealth Treasury in 1910, but at that time the press of the day screamed to high Heaven about the “ flimsies “ that would flood the whole country. They made a great outcry about the worthlessness of Commonwealth Bank notes. The same line of argument has been advanced by honorable senators opposite, who, have spoken during the debate on this bill. The vigorous opposition by the private banks to the Commonwealth Bank waa maintained until World War I. broke out. The government of the day saw the weaknesses of the private banking system, the unco-ordinated approach and inability and unwillingness of the private hanks to realize the importance of money in financing a war. The Commonwealth Bank became much stronger because of its role in financing the prosecution of the war effort. During that war the bank became definitely and finally the banker for Australia. It financed such organizations as the wool and wheat pools and the fruit exports, which were such a great success and which kept the economy of the country on a firm footing. The products of our primary industries were absorbed in that way, and. after the war. when the Commonwealth Bank still stood behind them financially, they received a handsome profit from the sale of their commodities on the markets of the world. Actually that pay-out resulted from th-3 long-sightedness of the Commonwealth Bank. The same thing happened during World War II., when the bank had a magnificent record.
Throughout the whole of its history it has been subject to attack, but the present attack is the most subtle that has yet been made upon it. This Government is trying to make the people believe that it does not intend to harm the bank in any way. It says, in effect, “Do not worry. Everything will be all right. We are only going to separate the trading bank from the other departments of the bank “. What the Government would like, of course, would be to get the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia into the little coterie of private banks and allocate to it a certain amount of trade, as it is doing with TransAustralia Airlines. It is obvious that this Government does not wish to see Commonwealth ownership of anything. It wants Rafferty’s rules in private enterprise, because it knows very well that the little man cannot survive under modern business methods, and that the big monopolies, which finance the present Government parties, eventually take over.It is interesting to recollect that the Nazi Government, in Germany, never molested the private banks, because those institutions supported the Nazi party. This Government has been making a gradual attempt to give preferential treatment to the interests which will ultimately become monopolies in this country. The immediate sequel to a financial and industrial monopoly is the kind of dictatorship which many thousands of Australians gave their lives to overthrow. This attack upon the Commonwealth Bank is one of the most subtle in its history. During World War I., its opponents could do nothing about the Commonwealth Bank and it grew strong, but after the war when the flag-waving was over, the private banks pressed for changes. By means of propaganda, they helped to return to the Treasury bench the BrucePage Government and through it they were able to enforce restrictions upon the Commonwealth Bank. The bank’s returns in those years show how damaging those restrictions proved to be. The Bruce-Page Government amended the Commonwealth Bank Act along the lines that were desired by the private banks. It took away the original objective of the Commonwealth Bank, which was to operate as a people’s bank, and turned it into a banker’s bank. That is the ideal set-up for vested interests. They like to have a nice milch cow from which they can draw at any time. That is not the objective for which the Commonwealth Bank was set up. Whenever the Labour party detects attacks upon the Commonwealth Bank, whether they are subtle outflanking attacks or the actions of saboteurs, it will be prepared to defend the bank as it has done throughout the bank’s history.
The Commonwealth Bank Board itself as it was set up by the Bruce-Page Government showed clearly where it stood when it ruled that six of the directors must be engaged in commerce, business or agriculture. That showed that the Commonwealth Bank was to all intents and purposes to be at the beck and call of certain groups. The Government would have the people believe that every farmer benefits from legislation that has to do with agriculture, but the wealthy agricultural and stock companies benefit the most. They have the game sewn up from the time that stock is reared until it is consumed. The experience on the stock exchange is much the same. The representatives of finance have their own coteries who look for the first information. The person who buys Commonwealth bonds or has a punt on shares is only a pawn in the game. It has been said that among the inmates of lunatic asylums, there are more persons who have been enthusiastic chess players than there are economists and financiers. It seems that the game that the Government is playing is very much like a game of chess. The knight would be the black knight from Queensland and the people of Australia are the pawns. The Government is playing with the Commonwealth Bank and trying to gain advantages for its friends. The private banks themselves have been amalgamated. The Bank of New South Wales swallowed three other banks that were operating after World War I. Of 21 banks that were operating at that time four others have amalgamated with the National Bank of Australasia Limited, and one each with the English,. Scottish and Australian Bank Limited, the Commercial Bank of Australia Limited, and the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited. At present there are only seven private trading banks operating. Government members; should know the story of the Associated Banks very well because they obtained very substantial support from them at the 1949 general election and on other occasions. One chairman of the associated banks was handsomely repaid with a title. Now the time has come for the private banks to -get valuable advantage over a competitor which has been a great asset to Australia and will be protected at all costs by right thinking people.
Senator McCallum said that if this measure failed, we could look at the law again. I ask the honorable senator what right has the present Government to force the Commonwealth Bank to change its name to the Commonwealth Trading Bank? The value of goodwill is known to all honorable senators and the Commonweatlh Bank has built goodwill. Now the Government proposes to establish the Commonwealth Trading Bank. It is impudent of the Government to take such a drastic step when it is so near the end of its term of office. I say that with good reason and .without sorrow. Its passing will be met with rejoicing throughout Australia. In the dying hours of its term of office, the Government is overstepping its mandate in making such a drastic change in the economy. It has no mandate whatever to interfere with the Commonwealth Bank to this extent. The Government claims that it will only separate the Commonwealth Bank into sections. I firmly believe that the Government will do to the Commonwealth Bank what it has done to every other Commonwealth enterprise. A line must be drawn firmly in this case. That is why the Opposition is opposing this measure. Unfortunately the Government has the numbers. In a. democracy a majority must rule, but in this case the majority actually represents only a small section. The Government has not the support of the majority of the Australian people.
– What is the honorable senator’s opinion of bank nationalization?
– As soon as the people .of Australia decide to give constitutional power for economic changes of any sort, the Labour party, by the constitutional use of parliamentary machi nery, will bring about reforms designed to eliminate monopolies and the exploitation of men by men. Honorable senators on the Government side are always seeing Reds under the bed now but their faces will be red then. The Commonwealth Bank has a proud history. It has developed slowly but soundly in the interests of the Australian people. This Government has no mandate to alter the nature of the bank and separate its functions. I believe that in changing the name of the Commonwealth Bank, the Government is doing it a grave disservice. When the Labour Government is returned to the treasury bench, it will help the Commonwealth Bank to develop to its full stature so that it will become a people’s bank as it was intended to be, controlling the flow of credit, assisting in the full development of the country, ensuring full employment and helping to expand the population through immigration. I hope that some honorable senators on the Government side will. cross the floor when the vote is taken upon this measure, so that at least it will be postponed until the people of Australia have given their verdict on the 9th May next.
– In rising for the first time in this Senate chamber, may I pay a brief tribute to him whose place I have been chosen to fill. I knew Senator John Hartley Chamberlain very well. He was a man of great warmth of character and broad humanity. He made countless friends in all walks of life, yet he had no enemies because those who knew him admired his sincerity. Many envied him his ability to see the other man’s point of view. In taking his seat in the Senate, I trust that I shall be able to learn and increase in political knowledge and wisdom and that perhaps it may be said in time that I have faithfully filled his place in this chamber.
The Senate is now debating a most important bill. Any bill that affects the banking structure of this nation is of great importance, not only to politicians and big business organizations, but also to each individual person. I believe that honorable senators should consider this bill from a national point of view and not on party lines.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I have said that the Senate should give the fullest consideration to the Commonwealth Bank Bill because, as the measure affects our banking system, so it will affect everybody in Australia. It will affect every organization that has a bank account and every business firm. Our clear-cut duty as legislators is to do everything within our power to fortify the banking system of the Commonwealth. In England, when one wishes to express confidence in anything, he says, “ It is as safe as the Bank of England “. I believe that when the banking legislation that the Government has prepared for our consideration in the present sessional period has been passed, the people of Australia will be able to say, when wishing to emphasize their confidence in a venture, “ It is as safe as the Commonwealth Bank of Australia “. That is the sincere aim of the Liberal Government in sponsoring this legislation.
There has already been a long debate on this bill and its details have been discussed by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I do not propose to traverse the ground that has already been covered, but I shall deal with two aspects of the bill which I believe to be of transcending importance. First, I congratulate the Government upon its decision to divorce the central reserve bank - the banker’s bank - from the other activities of the Commonwealth Bank. That is an unquestioned necessity in our banking structure. To quote a striking sentence uttered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his second-reading speech on this measure in the House of Representatives -
The duty of the central reserve hank is to guide lending operations and regulate the volume of credit made available to the hanking system.
That, beyond doubt, is the duty of the central reserve bank. I admire the Prime Minister’s choice of words -
To guide lending operations and regulate the volume of credit made available to the banking system.
That is what this measure truly does, and in that regard it is characteristically a Liberal measure. Had it originated with the Labour party, we should have seen the phrase “ To control the lending operations “. As a Liberal, I am opposed to the use of the word “ control ‘”. “ To guide the lending operations and regulate the credit made available to the banking system “ is the power that this legislation will confer upon the central reserve bank.
The provisions of the bill which relate to the special accounts are important. The existing provisions are not being applied to the fullest degree. Indeed, to apply the law in full would not be in the interests of our banking structure. I believe, therefore, that the Government is acting wisely and in accordance with its clear duty in seeking to adjust the special accounts provisions so that they will fit in with our banking structure. In summarizing the purposes of this legislation, I say without fear of question that it will place the Commonwealth Bank on the same footing as the trading banks. In other words, it will ensure competition in our banking system. “We on this side of the chamber believe in competition in the banking system, and I am sure that many humble Australian citizens will have cause to thank this Liberal Government for having given effect to that part of its policy in this legislation. If I were in need of an overdraft, I should not like to think that, if my application were rejected by one man, I, a lonely citizen, would be without the financial help that I required. In a competitive banking system, if an application for help is rejected by one banker, the customer can always go to another. In the past, many citizens have had reason to be thankful for the competitive element in our banking system.
I understand that, as this is my maiden speech, I should endeavour not to be provocative; but when one is called upon to debate an important bill such as this is, and one finds strong opposition to it from the Labour party, one is inclined to feel that it may not be possible to refrain from treading on a few toes. However, I trust that I shall observe the customs of the chamber, and that I shall tread very carefully on those toes. In theory at least, two political doctrines are clashing in this debate. There is first the doctrine I adhere to which is that private enterprise should operate in fair competition with necessary government undertakings. There is the other theoretical doctrine - I emphasize the word “theoretical” - that the banking system should be socialized. I do not think that one Opposition speaker in this debate has openly advocated the nationalization of hanking. Last weekend Tasmania was honoured .by a visit from the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt). The right honorable gentleman said - or to be fair, he was reported as having said - that he was opposed to the proposed sale of the Commonwealthowned ships because he believed that those vessels should be retained in competition with private industry. Undeniably both shipping and banking are important integral parts of our economy, and surely a party which espouses the belief that a government shipping line is necessary to provide competition with private enterprise, can be expected to believe also that the Commonwealth Bank should operate in fair competition with the trading banks. Either the Labour party has a different attitude towards those two aspects of our economic life, or else it believes also in the nationalization of the shipping on the Australian coast.
Although the Labour party has offered strong opposition to this measure, it has npt spoken with one voice. In general, all Opposition members have berated the private banks. They have also accused the Government of sabotaging the Commonwealth Bank. But I do not think that any fair-minded critic will see in this legislation any attempt by the Government to sabotage that institution. Some nasty insinuations have been made about the Liberal party’s association with the private trading banks. I was inclined to interject when I heard those insinuations because it was obvious that an attempt was being made to put into the minds of the Australian people the belief that the Liberal party - and that must mean not only its honorary heads but also every member of it - had received dishonest help from the associated trading banks during the last two election campaigns. I nail that lie and I take the strongest possible exception to such insinuations because I have been an employee of the Liberal party for four years and I have worked in many election campaigns in Tasmania. I say emphatically now that the Liberal party has not received any unlawful or dishonest assistance. It is true that the Associated Banks fought the Labour government’s bank nationalization proposals and they had every right to do so. I should be cruel and uncouth if I were to accuse the Labour party of dishonesty simply because the trade unions have helped its causes in politics. Let us be fair. Surely in the national legislature we should not make accusations of dishonesty unless we know that it exists.
The Liberal Government has introduced this bill for two purposes. Shining as clearly as an illuminated pike-staff is the fact that this legislation has been brought down in accordance with the Liberal party’s mandate to implement its oft-repeated banking policy. At least since 1945, to my knowledge, the very essence of this bill has been an avowed feature of the Liberal party platform. However, there are other reasons why it has been necessary to introduce these proposals. The bill is necessary first because of the acknowledged intention of the Australian Labour party to implement its policy of bank nationalization. Secondly, the bill is needed because of the attempt that was made in 1947 to nationalize the banks. Thirdly, the bill is essential in the light of recent assertions by various spokesmen of the Labour party that bank nationalization is still part of Labour’s policy. It is clear, of course, that one Labour leader at least is playing this nationalization harp with muted strings as we approach the Senate election. If we need another reason for acting to prevent the nationalization of banking, it is to be found in the opposition that has been offered to this bill.
May I remind the Senate of the twofold effects of the bill. First. it has been introduced to fortify our banking system which, as I have said, is a cardinal duty of the legislature. Secondly, I consider that I have every reason to believe sincerely that its purpose is to prevent the nationalization of banking if that can bc stopped by legislation. If the bill achieves this purpose, there will be no back-door method of nationalizing the private banks. The back door and the side doors will be closed and locked. There will be only one entrance, and that will be the front door. The nationalizing of banking will be possible only through legislation passed by the National Parliament, and, of course, our Standing Orders are such that the passage of important measures requires a certain time. In that intervening period, the people of Australia will be able to say whether or not they have changed the opinions that they expressed so candidly and overwhelmingly in 1949 and again in 1951. Apart from nationalization, if this measure were not passed, it would still be possible for the Commonwealth Bank, under the direction of a Labour government, to draw away the life blood of the trading banks by means of the special accounts system. At present approximately £200,000,000 has been called up under the special accounts provisions. But if the provisions of the legislation, which is now on the statute-book, were to be put into full effect, £700,000,000 of the assets of the trading banks could be called up. It does not require a banking expert to realize the effect that that would have on the trading banks. By altering the provisions relating to special accounts this bill will help to prevent the nationalization of the private banks. The bill is not designed to save the private trading banks from’ competition. It is designed to provide a competitive banking system. According to Dr. Evatt, the Labour party wants a competitive shipping service on the coast of Australia. Why then, should it object to a competitive banking system?
I sincerely believe that this bill will ensure the safety and security of the various functions of the Commonwealth Bank. It will implement the policy of the Liberal party, which was clearly and definitely stated to the people who returned the Government to office at the last general election as an indication of their acceptance of that policy. Any government which introduces legislation to put its policy into effect cannot fail to win the applause of the electors. I have already mentioned that I have not heard any Opposition senator say that he or his party believes in the nationalization of banking. If Opposition senators vote against this measure I suggest that in doing so they will proclaim to the people, by their actions if not by their words, that they oppose the bill because they want to nationalize the private banks. If they are prepared to contest the Senate election on the 9th May on that issue I shall be happy to contest it on that issue also. I know what the result will be. Because I believe that this bill is in the interests of the economic structure of Australia I have pleasure in supporting it.
– In making his maiden speech in this chamber, Senator Marriott has suggested that he has expressed the views of the Liberal party on this contentious legislation. I was very pleased to hear the honorable senator make that statement because from speeches which have been delivered by some honorable senators opposite, and by some Government supporters in another place, I have gathered that the bill before the Senate does not express, in its entirety, the views of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. One honorable member in another place roundly condemned the Government for introducing this legislation and threatened to move amendments to it. . Only after great pressure had been brought to bear on him did he desist from his attempt to have the bill amended. So it was very nice to hear a Government senator say that he subscribed to all the provisions of the bill. Senator Marriott suggested that during the course of this debate intense argument had developed around the subject of bank nationalization or the maintenance of private banking. The subject of bank nationalization should not obtrude into this debate. But a very important subject is under discussion. The reason that the Opposition is opposing this measure so strenuously is that Opposition senators believe in the preservation of the people’s bank and are opposed to its capture by finance monopolies from other parts of the world.
The great Commonwealth Bank, in its comparatively short but successful career, has, on numerous occasions, withstood the attacks of money monopoly, which have plotted for its destruction. The Australian Government was only thirteen years of age when it was proposed that it should embark on a national scheme of banking. It was suggested that a people’; bank should be established which would have no shareholders other than the entire populace of Australia. It was to be an institution which would not pay dividends to private shareholders but which would seek only to serve the people of this young country. If profits were made those profits were to be used for the development of the country instead of for the purpose of lining the pockets of private individuals. Serious opposition was launched against the bank from its inception. Some of us well remember the cartoons and the leading articles that appeared in the antiLabour press at that time which alleged that what they regarded as an inglorious experiment would prove to be a failure within a few years. Now, 40 years after the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, the political successors of those who derided the bank at its inception have come to praise it. They now express the view that the Commonwealth Bank has served a useful purpose.
In. a very plausible speech, Senator McCallum said that the Government did not want to harm the Commonwealth Bank, but wanted it to play a part in the development of Australia. But how does the Government want it to play a part in the development of Australia? Honorable senators opposite have said that this young bank is in a position to deal unfairly with the private trading banks. That is to the credit of the Commonwealth Bank which commenced with a grant of only £10,000 from the Australian Government. The private trading banks came to Australia at the dawn of our history. It may be read in advertisements that the private banks opened their branches in the earliest days of settlement in this country. The Bank of New South “Wales commenced operations in 1817. One would have thought that if those banks had rendered a service to the Australian people there would have been no place in this country for the Commonwealth Bank and that it could not have succeeded. Evidently, the private banks did not render the service to the community that a banking system should render. If the private banks had done all that they could have done for the development of Australia the demand would not have arisen for the establishment of a new institution. Those who have been called the “ founding fathers “ of this country met in conference in the early days of our development in order to formulate the Constitution for the new Commonwealth. They were not Labour men or socialists. They were what might be called the “ good old Liberals “ and the Conservatives of those days. Most of them had played an important part in the development of the colonies. Those “ founding fathers “, in conference assembled, decided that the Constitution should give the Australian Government power over banking. Evidently they considered that the existing banking system had failed the people of this country. Consequently they included in the Constitution the power under which the Australian Government was able to establish the Commonwealth Bank.
It is very important that our banking system should be free from the control of overseas monopolies. Australia is at the crossroads. One school of thought believes that an extension of our secondary industries would not be in the best interests of Australia or the British Commonwealth of Nations, or other nations. It has been suggested that we should depart from the paths that we’ have followed in recent years and remain a primaryproducing country. It has been suggested that we should become the granary of the world. Let us examine the position in which Australia would be placed if the control of our monetary system were placed in the hands of people who believed in that principle. If Australian industrialists desired to expand their industries it would be necessary for them, to raise new capital. They would go to the banks which are dominated by overseas interests. All of the trading banks of this country have head offices in London and their policy is determined by the boards of directors. In effect, the managers in Australia are merely agents for the overseas monopolies. Australian industrialists could be refused financial assistance by the trading banks of this country for the purpose of expanding secondary industry. Senator Marriott has stated that he would not like to be in the position of requiring financial assistance and having only one bank to which to apply. In view of the distinct possibility that concerted action by overseas interests could prevent the expansion of the secondary industries of this country, and that the private banking system failed this country badly in the early days, the Australian Labour party decided to establish the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Although it was intended that the Commonwealth Bank should have an important role in the development of Australia, following the defeat of the Fisher Government and the death of the first Governor of the bank the activities of that institution were retarded. There came into office an anti-Labour government, which owed its existence to the moneyed interests of this country. The price that that government had to pay for the assistance that it had received from those interests was to take steps to restrict the power of this young and virile institution, which had outstripped its competitors. Ultimately, the bank was instructed not to accept new business at the expense of the private trading banks. That policy, which was decided upon by the officers who were placed in charge of the Commonwealth Bank by the BrucePage Government, continued until the Curtin Government came to power. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber find it difficult to understand the Government’s reason for bringing down the measure now before us. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), when speaking to the motion for the second reading of the Commonwealth Bank Bill 1950, as reported in Hansard, volume 206, at page 900, stated : -
In reviewing that 1945 hanking legislation and in the preparation of this hill, the Government has been deeply conscious of its responsibilities to the people, and particularly of the fact that these responsibilities require -
that measures of such great importance should not be approached in a partisan spirit; and
that the administration of the bank should not be subject to frequent and violent change.
I shall make some comment in a moment on the phrase “ the administration of the bank should not be subject to frequent and violent change “. The right honorable gentleman continued -
In respect of central banking operations and otherwise the Commonwealth Bank and the other banks have achieved a considerable measure of harmony and co-operation and the Government is satisfied that the broad purposes of monetary and banking policy are being achieved. For this reason, and because it would be undesirable to make frequent changes in legislative requirements affecting the banking system, the Government has decided to preserve the genera] pattern of control by the Commonwealth Bank over the banking system and the broad structure of the Commonwealth Bank.
I remind honorable members that there are few countries in the world with banking systems as highly organized and efficient as the Australian banking system. Moreover, it is, I feel, appropriate to recall that the essential features of the 1945 banking legislation were based upon the war-time banking control regulations, which themselves were based upon an agreement arranged between the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks in 1941, during my previous term of office as Treasurer.
Although the Treasurer stated during the debate on the legislation of 1950 which restored the Commonwealth Bank Board, that he deplored any violent changes in the administration of the bank, only two years later the Government proposes to effect a violent change in the structure of the Australian banking system by the measure now before the Senate. The Treasurer admitted that the Commonwealth Bank was an efficient organization, but now the Government seeks to destroy it. The Opposition believes that great pressure has been brought to bear on the Government by vested interests that supported it financially during the general election campaigns in 1949 and 1951, who wish to make a profit out of the banking system of this country. Our justification for that belief is the statement of the Treasurer in 1950, to which I have just referred.
– It is in the same category as the sale of the Government’s shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
– That is so. Senator Marriott has asked why it is necessary for the Australian Government to run shipping services. As a representative of Tasmania, he should know that private enterprise has failed that State badly. Many representations have been made from time to time for the Australian Government to run ships, in competition with private enterprise, to serve not only Tasmania but also the islands around our coast. By endeavouring to sell the Commonwealth-owned ships, by the sale of the Commonwealth shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, by the sale of the Commonwealth’s shares in Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and by the dispersal of other government assets this Government is endeavouring to repay the moneyed interests that assisted it to gain power.
Supporters of the Government have apparently convinced themselves that the new Commonwealth Trading Bank will compete on fair terms with the private trading banks, merely because of a change of nameplate. Ultimately, I believe that the new bank will surmount the obstacles that the Government is placing in its way. The present capital of the Commonwealth Bank is about £4,500,000, and it has a reserve capital of £1,300,000. This is the bank that honorable senators opposite expect to compete fairly with the private trading banks, which have a combined capital of about £40,000,000, as well as a reserve capital of an additional £32,000,000. The Government asks the Opposition to believe that this young hopeful, with a capital of from £5,500,000 to £6,000,000, will be able to compete fairly with the private trading banks, which have a combined capital of about £73,000,000. I believe that there is a conspiracy against the Commonwealth Bank. In view of the need to develop this country, it is obvious that there must be a release of bank credit in the near future. We cannot continue to have thousands of people unemployed, with demonstrations taking place in the city streets by people who have been brought to this country but are unable to find work. Believing that the Commonwealth Bank will supply any financial assistance that they require, people who desire to expand their activities will naturally apply to that institution for finance. When its funds have been exhausted, those people will say, “ What is the use of the Commonwealth Bank? As it cannot provide us with financial assistance, we will take our business elsewhere.” I consider that, by this measure, the Government is attempting to belittle the Commonwealth Bank, and to prevent it from performing the functions for which it was established. At the beginning of this week I met a friend who was endeavouring to obtain financial accommodation in order to buy a new home. He had been transferred, in his employment and had sold his old home, in the purchase of which for about £3,000 he had been assisted by the Commonwealth Bank. When he had the opportunity to buy another house for £4,000 he approached the Commonwealth Bank to obtain accommodation for £800. When he told me that he had assets to the value of £4,000 to offer as security for an advance of £800 I said that he had nothing to fear and that the bank would certainly advance him the latter amount. To my amazement he was refused a loan of £800. When the municipality of Castlemaine, with which I was associated, applied to the Commonwealth Bank for a loan for the purpose of developing the sewerage system in that town, it was told to seek accommodation with a private bank. I am given to understand that scores of semi-governmental authorities have been told to go to private banks when they have sought accommodation from the Commonwealth Bank. Does any sane person believe for one moment that the trusted officers of the Commonwealth Bank are responsible for that policy? Is it not remarkable that this state of affairs has developed since the Parliament passed the measure which was introduced by this Government in 1950 and under which the Commonwealth Bank Board was re-established? Is it not apparent from the facts that I have given that a deliberate attempt is being made to prevent the Commonwealth Bank from playing its part in the development of this country? In those circumstances, the Opposition is justified in fighting this bill, and the Banking Bill. This measure is a sweet, sugar-coated pill. It has been supported with plausible speeches by the Prime Minister and his followers as well as by the press. The proposal to separate the trading bank activities from the central bank will mean, if this Government remains in office, that only a slight amendment of this measure will be necessary in order to make that separation absolute. The central bank and the Commonwealth Trading Bank will then be two entirely separate institutions. After stripping this great institution of its strength, the Government proposes to cast it upon a sea of trouble. That is the inference to be drawn from speeches that have been made by Government supporters in another place who have expressed disappointment that the Government is not going far enough under this bill. Their objective is the complete destruction of the Commonwealth Bank. However, the Government can do its worst. It can do its utmost to destroy the Commonwealth Bank, but I assure the Senate and the people that that institution will rise again. Thank goodness, it will not be long before a government will be in office that will be sympathetic towards the Commonwealth Bank. It will be a government of the kind that has nurtured this institution, and it will readily accept the job once again of enabling the bank to render service to the Australian community. Despite the passage of this measure, the people will soon have an opportunity to give Government supporters the right-about and once again a Labour government will be entrusted with the task of restoring the Commonwealth Bank to its rightful place in the Australian economy.
– I support the bill. At the outset, I take up the challenge thrown out by Senator Sheehan when he said that the Government was obliged to introduce this measure under pressure. I inform him that in introducing the bill the Government has acted under pressure from the people. They applied that pressure when they ejected the Labour Government from office in 1949 and returned this Government, and again at the general election in 1951 when they again returned this Government to office following a double dissolution. That is the pressure that has been brought to bear upon the Government in this instance.
When the Commonwealth Bank was established much discussion took place about its possibilities and purposes. Some of the arguments that were then advanced have been proved to be wrong whilst the arguments of those who forecast that the bank would be successful have beer proved to be true. I am afraid that too much time has been devoted in the course of this debate to a discussion of the technicalities of the measure and that not sufficient attention has been paid to its purposes. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in his second-reading speech said -
Our purpose has been to obviate the possibility that the Commonwealth Bank at the command of a socialist Government could place its own trading activities in a privileged position through the unfair use of its central banking powers.
That is the real issue that arises between the Australian Labour party and the Government under this measure. No amount of discussion about the position that existed 40 years ago, or about the bank smash that occurred in 1893, ha3 any bearing upon that issue. I was one of the first persons to open an account with the Commonwealth Bank after it was established. I and many other people regarded it as being just like any other trading bank. Possessing some patriotic zeal, we were influenced by the fact that the bank was an Australian institution and, therefore, we opened accounts with it. However., as time went on, the bank gradually acquired a monopoly of government business which added to its strength. During World War I., as the banker of the Government, it carried out certain loan-raising function; and did a good job in that respect. During that period it grew stronger and its monopoly of government business was further assured. At that time it became a reserve bank. When it was instituted, it was foreseen that changes would occur in the banking structure. Just as the formation of reserve banks has been a feature of banking systems throughout the world, this bank became a reserve bank. At the same time, it continued to carry out other functions. It established a savings bank. It then developed into a bank of a type that was not envisaged by its founders. With the advent of a Labour government, greater power was conferred upon it. That government abolished the Commonwealth Bank Board and, at the same time, placed the bank in a position in which it was enabled to snipe at the trading banks under the protection of its special powers and privileges. At the same time, the private banks were out in the open. The Commonwealth Bank, with its backing as a reserve bank, differed entirely from the private banks, and thereby gained an unfair advantage in competing with them. Unfortunately, it competed in insidious ways the effect of which upon individuals and various organizations was, for a considerable time, imperceptible. Later, the effect of that competition became clearly apparent.
During World War II., the Commonwealth Bank, like all other government agencies, acquired increased power and authority. None of us objected in wartime, when the nation’s fate was in the balance, to the subjugation of some of our liberties in order to preserve- our ultimate freedom. After World War II., the Labour government of the day attempted to carry into peace-time the powers that had been conferred upon the bank for war purposes. Those powers included the control of special accounts. After the war, when the energy of our young men and women should have been released, they found that it was impossible to obtain financial accommodation because advances were restricted and all sorts of controls were continued. The issue which we are now discussing arises from the fundamental difference of opinion that exists between members of the great Liberal party and members of the Australian Labour party. That is a difference not of technicalities but of high principles and purposes. The Labour Government passed the Banking Act in 1945 in an attempt to use the Commonwealth Bank in peace-time for purposes for which it had necessarily, and rightly, been used during the recent war. That Government put forward its proposals for the nationalization of banking. It was disposed to do so because it had been in power for a considerable period during which the Commonwealth Bank had been exercising unprecedented power. The people had surrendered many of their rights and comforts. They had surrendered the freedom of self-decision. In such circumstances, it was not unnatural that the Labour government of the day should have attempted to retain many controls which it had exercised for so long during the war and into the post-war period. For instance, during the war it set up the Civil Construction Corps, the members of which were completely under its direction. The point I make is that at the general elections in 1949 and 1951 the people were so concerned about this trend that they defeated the Australian Labour party. For the same reason, they are still concerned because they cannot be convinced that if Labour is returned to office it will not revert to its old arbitrary practices. Therefore, the people are looking to this Government to protect them. The Chifley Labour Government tried to retain its war-time powers under amendments to the defence transitional provisions legislation. Although the validity of those measures was never tested, the effect of them was to conserve the dictatorial powers of the Labour Government in the post-war period. It was during that period that that Government attempted to nationalize the banks and to retain such restrictions as prices control and petrol rationing. It was not surprising that the people should rise, as they did, in their wrath in protest against such a policy, and return to office the present Government parties for the purpose of introducing measures of the kind that we are now debating. I repeat that the issue that arises under this measure constitutes a vital conflict between the Opposition and the Government in respect of banking. That conflict is more pronounced than any other that has arisen in the Parliament except, perhaps, on the subject of communism. The present leaders of the Australian Labour party in this Parliament were loud in proclaiming the need for bank nationalization and for the retention of controls through a governmentcontrolled bank. It is well known that if the banking system of a country can be completely controlled, the life-blood can be drained from every industry in that country. The Australian Labour party was well aware that if it could control completely the Commonwealth Bank it could drain the life-blood from every other bank. From its point of view, that was good strategy, but its plan was not agreeable to the people. The present Government parties came to office partly by reason of a promise to introduce this legislation. Its introduction was not possible for a period because of the checkmate in the Senate. The Government parties were returned to office after the deadlock in the Senate had been resolved, and the measure which the Senate has before it to-night represents a reendorsement of our policy. There is no question of any action being taken by the Government in the interests of the private banks. Indeed, I do not think those banks would be completely happy about such action. The Government is doing what it considers proper in the interests of the people to prevent the socialization of banking and any attempt by a future socialist government to bleed to the death the private trading banks.
In the days when nationalization of banking was uppermost in the public mind, the municipal councils of Australia were directed to bank with the Commonwealth Bank. I have a clear recollection of the fight on that ‘ issue when the Commonwealth Bank was unable to take over the accounts. There is ample evidence to support the statement that when various bodies and individuals approached private banks they were unable to obtain financial accommodation because the directions and rules of the Commonwealth Bank, as a reserve bank, provided that such banks could not advance money to certain customers. The same customers subsequently went to the Commonwealth Bank, for which different rules operated, and were able to obtain money from that bank. The Labour government of the day was gradually directing the accounts of industrial and local authorities to the Commonwealth Bank.
This bill is not an attempt by the Government to do something for the private banks; it merely represents the honouring of a promise, as the Government has honoured every other promise that it has made. If the Government was of the opinion that the Commonwealth Bank is useless, as honorable senators opposite allege, it would do away with the bank entirely. However, no such intention has ever entered the mind of the Government. We believe that the Commonwealth Bank is essential as a reserve bank. We also believe that, as f counterpoise and as a competitor to the other banks, it is of great value. It gives balance to the economy, and we are in favour of that. We know the power of the banking institutions. We believe that the duty of the Commonwealth Bank is to preserve fair competition. We are not in favour of giving to either the Commonwealth Bank or the trading banks the power to destroy one another.
It is interesting to note that although the supporters of the Australian Labour party stumped the country in 1949 with great pronouncements from the then distinguished leader of the party, the late Mr. Chifley, calling for nationalization of banking, not a word has been said in support of that policy by honorable senators opposite during this debate. They are silent about it. I regard them aspolitical wolves in sheep’s clothing in that connexion. This bill has been introduced because the Government, and also the people, do not believe that the Australian Labour party is running true to form. All kinds of side issues have been brought into the debate, none of which face squarely the points made by the Minister in his second-reading speech. He did not mince matters but said clearly that the purpose of the bill is to prevent the Australian Labour party, should it ever return to office, from carrying out its socialistic policy in regard to banking. The people of Australia have not forgotten that during the war men who are now prominent in Labour leadership took certain action. For instance, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who was then Minister for Information, muzzled the press. Although a free press is one of the safeguards of democracy, it was restricted, censored, and, in one instance, ordered not to publish.
– He was entitled to take such action for the protection of the country in time of war.
– It was following the Nazi and Communist pattern. Those ideologies teach that if the press and the finances of a country can be controlled by the party, that country will be at the feet of the party.
Opposition senators interjecting,
– Honorable senators opposite may interject as much as they wish. I assure them that their interjections will not disturb me. The people of Australia have not forgotten the activities of the honorable member for Melbourne during World War II., nor have they forgotten the actions of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) in connexion with the nationalization of banking. Not only did he espouse that cause, but he also felt so concerned about it that when the legislation was declared invalid by the people’s jury, the High Court of Australia, he himself appeared on behalf of the Commonwealth before the Privy Council. The people of Australia will also remember his self-chosen role as defender of the Communists in the courts against an act of Parliament which his own party supported. I bring these matters forward in support of my contention that we should not take chances in the future. How can we trust such men if they move in a certain direction one day and a different direction the next day? The honorable member for Melbourne changed his attitude towards the Communist Party Dissolution Act. One day he was not in favour of it and the next day he was. The failure of honorable senators opposite to refer to nationalization of banking during this debate only makes their omission more suspicious.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber believe without doubt that if there was a change of government the Australian Labour party would revert to its previous form. The electors are also of that opinion. They wish the Government to introduce this bill and accom panying legislation to amend the 1945 Banking Act.
Opposition senators interjecting,
– The interjections of honorable senators opposite support my contention that the Australian Labour party would revert to type if it were returned to office. A government can be judged only by its actions, and it is therefore reasonable to assume that the Australian Labour party would again attempt to nationalize the banks. Indeed, it might even attempt to control the movements of the people, because the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives has loudly proclaimed his belief that should it be necessary to control industry it would be no longer possible for individuals to choose where they would work or the type of work they would do. Some direction of labour would have to be accepted. That is the kind of reversion to type which we may expect if there is a change of government. I suggest, however, that such a change will not be made, because the people of Australia are convinced that the Labour party of to-day is not the party of many years ago, when it did not indulge in socialist and nationalization nonsense. If the present-day Australian Labour party got rid of such ideas it might have a hope of regaining public favour. Who can believe the supporters of a party who cry, “ One man, one job “, and do not practise that principle in the party executive? In my own State of New South Wales the party itself has tried to cleanse its executive. The members of that body enjoy the privileges of good jobs, with motor cars to run them about and with expenses paid. Some of them have got themselves elected to the Legislative Council and thus they enjoy the advantage of having two jobs and two pays. The Labour leaders of to-day are not what they were. While the Evatts and the Calwells lead the party there is not much hope for it.
The sole purpose of this bill, as I see it, is to prevent the possibility of socialization of banking should Labour, unfortunately for the country, be returned to office. With its avowed purpose of putting into operation the outstanding plank of its platform–
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable senator says “ Hear, hear ! “ without knowing what is going to be said. He will apparently say “ Yes “ or “ No “ to anything, whether or not he knows what it means. The outstanding and key plank of the platform of the Australian Labour party is control of the means of production, distribution and ex-change. That has never been denied. Why such an objective should be a part of the policy of any political party which calls itself Australian I do not know. I have always been mystified in that connexion, because I cannot see any reason for it to be a part of Labour policy. There may, perhaps, be remote countries in the world where such an objective might have some value, but I suggest that it is insulting in a country which, in 160 years, has acquired a population of approximately 8,000,000 people and has attained to its present position. The country has progressed without nationalized banks and without the need to control the means of production, distribution and exchange. In my opinion that is a disgraceful plank to be in the platform of any Australian political party. The trees have been felled, land cleared, large areas developed, and wealth and culture built up in such a way that to-day Australia is the centre and the hope of the Pacific area. If such development had not taken place the control of production, distribution and exchange might have some argument in its favour. The position is, however, that there is not a country in the world which does not envy Australia to-day. The standards of living and comfort and the stage of development that has been reached are unexcelled in history. That development came about under a system of banking and private enterprise that honorable senators on the Opposition side attempt to deride. History gives them the lie. Sydney, the second greatest city of white people in the British Commonwealth of Nations, was built by private enterprise. Roads, railways, bridges, civil works and secondary industries have all been built by private enterprise. Senator Sheehan suggested that private trading banks are a terrible thing.
He said that industries had to go to London to try to get funds and they could not get finance. That is nonsense. For its size and population, the achievements of Australia would be difficult to match. If we had not been able to get funds, we would not be in the position we are to-day. We have progressed because of the system under which we work. The Commonwealth Bank has done its bit also, but it is the system that has made possible the growth of Australia.
If the Labour party is returned to office it will be only a matter of time before the funds of the banks are taken over and the economy of the country is controlled through the Commonwealth Bank. I challenge any honorable senator on the Labour side to deny that when the war came it was the knowledge, skill and energy gained in private enterprise that made the war effort what it was. The Government alone had no hope of coping with the task. Many former Ministers of the Labour Government recognize that fact. They know that the power of private enterprise to emerge when needed and help in the war effort merits the highest tribute. The top men in every field were sought during the recent war from private enterprise. Probably the departments that would be most affected if war came again already have prepared a list of experts in private enterprise upon whom they would call. Those experts have gained their knowledge through the risks that are taken and the ingenuity that is shown by private enterprise.
– The Opposition does not object to that.
– The Opposition does not object to taking advantage of it. The danger is that it will not be there to be used when needed because if nationalization of banking is accomplished, the private industries and banks will disappear. It is said that if a government controls finance, it controls the nation. That is true. The point is whether the Government would control finance for the benefit of the people. When supporting the move for the nationalization of the banks, the present Leader of the Opposition spoke about the need to limit the freedom of the people. He said that they would have to be moved where they were needed. Australia has reached its present position not only by freedom of enterprise, but through the freedom of the people. This Government wants to preserve that freedom. It was returned to office for that purpose and freedom will be preserved as long as the Government occupies the treasury bench. The average Australian is no fool. When the Labour party was about to embark on its nationalization experiment, the majority of Australians snowed that they recognized that their nation had reached great heights without such experiments. The average Australian wants the legislation that is before the Senate. Thai is why the electors put this Governmenin office. The purge of the Labour party in New South Wales showed that many unionists are beginning to realize that their leaders have feet of clay. More and more of the workers are turning towards this Government.
When the Government was returned to office, Australia faced worsening inflation arising from the socialistic proposals of the Labour Government. The advances that this Government has made in the field of finance are evident from the fact that not once in this sessional period have honorable senators on the Opposition side asked the Government when it is going to restore value to the £1. They know that the Government has arrested the rot and that value is returning to the £1 quickly. That is one of the great things that this Government set out to do. Nationalization will always bring about inflation. Senator Sheehan suggested that the Commonwealth Trading Bank would be hampered. This measure contains a specific direction to the bank to develop and expand its business. The Government urges the bank to grow by means of fair competition. If honorable senators on the Opposition side were honest, they would say that they believe in nationalization. If they are returned to office, they will revert to type. I support this bill because it will be a means of protecting the Australian people against the hidden objective of the Labour party to renew the work of destruction in which it was engaged when the Aus tralian electors called a halt and returned this Government to stop the rot.
– It is unnecessary for any honorable senator to state that this is an important bill, but a measure of such importance should not be defended with the weapons that Senator Tate has tried to use. He has put forward a political defence of the measure. No attempt has been made to defend or justify it on any substantive grounds. Throughout his speech, Senator Tate confined himself to a detailed political attack and sometimes to a personal political attack upon the Labour party. If a bill of this nature can be defended, it merits a better defence. The only ground in support of the bill that has been submitted by any speaker on the Government side is the ground of fear. Significantly enough this bill follows a pattern that is manifesting itself in other legislation that was presented to the Senate by this Government. Recently a measure dealing with television was before the Senate. It was completely indefensible and the only ground put forward by the Government in support of it was the fear that something might be done in the future by a Labour government to prevent commercial interests from conducting television broadcasting. The Government acted in anticipation of something that might be done in the future. The same pattern has been followed in this bill. The Government is conjuring up all sorts of fears and resting its case on a hypothetical assumption. On those grounds, it is askingthe Senate to justify the principles that are involved.
It is an extraordinary thing for a government to present hypothetical cases to a legislative chamber and ask that legislation be accepted and enacted on that basis. There is no end to that type of approach. Any government could conjure up all sorts of imaginary circumstances and conditions and present to the chamber a series of measures to provide for the most outrageous possibilities. It would then expect honorable senators to adopt those proposals with common sense. The whole procedure would be a complete constitutional and legislative farce. Such a farce is being embarked upon by the Government. Senator Tate mentioned bank nationalization as a real fear in the minds of the Government. Bank nationalization now is a constitutional impossibility without the intervention of a referendum of the people. Therefore any fear that is based on that ground must be -completely irrational. That is a sample of the thread of the submissions that are being made by the Government.
The usual method of any responsible Government is to meet an existing situation or to change it only by legislative action. If there is a measure on the statute-book providing for a subsidy and the Government wants to increase the subsidy or remove it, it introduces legislation. If a government wants to bring about some improvement in industrial arbitration, it brings in a measure accordingly. To suggest a set of circumstances that will follow a government of some other political complexion and then purport to legislate for the conditions that may arise, is a complete negation of parliamentary responsibility. Yet that is the basis upon which this Government is presenting this legislation. The Government is in the position of a man who makes a dying deposition. The principles in it are receivable as evidence because it is given in the hopeless, settled expectation of an early dissolution. That is the feeling with which the Government approaches all the principles it is now putting into legislation - a hopeless, settled expectation of early political dissolution - and in the fevered mind of the Government, all kinds of fears and anxieties arise. There is almost a condition of political anxiety neurosis on the Government benches; but surely we are not to be asked to try to follow the rumblings of fevered imaginations and to legislate accordingly. The principles of political morality are in danger of being violated. It is not the moral principle on which legislation is presented, debated and ultimately accepted or rejected. The Government should have substantial grounds for this important bill; We are dealing with a tremendously valuable institution, one that is an integral part not only of our economic life, but also of the social and individual life of every person in the Commonwealth. There are three grounds on which the Government could have sought to base this legislation. The first is that available authoritative technical opinions do not justify the integration of trading bank and central bank activities. I should have considered that argument had it been advanced by the Minister, but there has been no attempt to justify the measure on that ground. The second ground that might have been advanced is that the commercial banks are, in fact, suffering under the existing law. That would appear to be a logical condition precedent to the introduction and defence of this legislation; but that argument has not been advanced. I did not hear any reference in the Minister’s secondreading speech or in the speeches of other honorable senators opposite, to any disability that the trading banks are alleged to be suffering at present. The third ground that the Government could have advanced for this legislation is that in fact, it does what it purports to do - that it does no more than establish equal and free competition between the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the private commercial banks. Those are the three main grounds that could have been advanced. They are, in my opinion, indefensible, but they are substantial, and any government with a sense of responsibility should have considered itself obliged to present them to this Parliament. Let us consider those grounds individually. Expert opinion is not conclusive on whether there should or should not be an integration of central banking and trading banking activities. I have before me an authority which I shall cite in relation to several matters with which I shall deal. The first point I wish to make, however, is that there is a tendency to base our central banking technique on that of Great Britain and America. There is no reason why that should necessarily be done. When Senator Paltridge was speaking yesterday, I mentioned by interjection that the technique of central banking is still in a state of flux. It has not yet fallen into a rigid mould. Various countries have adopted central banking technique in various forms. It is true that certain elements of that technique are now generally accepted, but there is no universal concept of central banking. My authority in these matters is Professor Sayers, Cassel Professor of Economics at the University of London. Speaking of central banking he has this to say -
Through most of this book the problems and their solutions have been generally stated in terms which apply directly to the highly developed banking systems either of the English type or of the American type. I would emphasize once more that this preoccupation with English and American conditions reflects no notion that those conditions are the ideals from which those other countries show unfortunate aberrations.
In other words he does not say that either of those systems should be followed completely or in detail. He goes on -
Nevertheless, there are problems peculiar to other systems that arc important to those countries and are also worth studying for the sake of the light they throw on the general principles of banking. The countries to which we shall refer in examples will generally be India, Canada, Australia, and South Africa.
The second point therefore is that we are not obliged to follow slavishly the American and British central banking mechanism. Professor Sayers then goes on to consider central banking in Australia and says that, at this stage, he would favour the separation of central banking and trading banking activities. I concede that quite honestly, but the Professor then turns to South Africa and says that, in that country, where there is no highly developed banking system because banking has fallen very largely under the control of two major banks, there is complete justification for the association of a trading bank with the central bank. Senator Cameron pointed out yesterday that, for the last 20 or 30 years we have seen a gradual constriction of the general banking facilities available in this country. The number of banks has been reduced from 20 or 30 to 7, and nobody can say that this process has yet ended. I do not know at what point Professor Sayers would say, in pursuance of his comments about South Africa, that there was a banking monopoly in Australia that was dangerous to the economy, and that therefore the central bani? should attach to itself a trading bank section; but it might well be that, in view of the process of restriction and constriction of trading bank facilities to which I have’ referred, that point is approaching. It is quite possible that Professor Sayers would hold that in Australia there is every justification for a trading bank section being attached to the Commonwealth central bank.
The second ground on which I have suggested the Government could have based this legislation is that, under the law as it stands at present, the trading banks are suffering severe disabilities. In that connexion, the first question I ask is, “ On what basis could we measure the disabilities that the private banks are suffering? “ The first test that could be applied is that of profits paid to shareholders. If that is to be the measure of the disabilities suffered by the trading banks the Minister should have cited specific figures to show that the trading banks have been sustaining severe losses, that their dividends have been substantially reduced, and that it is impossible for them to carry on. That may be the position - I strongly doubt it - but the Minister has not seen fit to inform this chamber whether it is the position or not. Yet we are told that the Government is going to protect the interests of the private banks !
– They are making enormous profits.
– That is so. Secondly, the Minister could have sought to establish that the private banks are prejudiced under the existing legislation by showing that owing to the competition offered by the General Banking Division of the Commonwelath Bank, the private banks have been compelled to reduce services to their clients. If that were true, it would be a serious matter indeed. After all, the clients of banks are the ordinary people in this community who rely on financial accommodation to conduct their business and domestic affairs. The Minister might have been able to produce, for instance, bundles of letters from the clients of private banks stating that they could not get the financial accommodation that they required because the private banks could not stand up to the competition of the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank. But there has been no word of that. Thirdly, it might be claimed that the private banks are suffering disabilities because they are frustrated in their desire to develop this country. That, of course, is most improbable, but nevertheless, if it were true, it would be an important and serious reason for the Government’s action. But the Government has withheld from this chamber all the information on which honorable senators might be expected to reach a valid and reasoned judgment. I strongly criticize the Government for its failure to inform us of the premises on which it has based its conclusions. It has relied purely on vague fears and anxieties which arc completely irrational.
The third ground on which the Government could have attempted to base this bill is that the measure will, in fact, do what it purports to do - guarantee free and equal competition between the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the private commercial banks. It is all very well for the Government to say that is the aim of the measure, but will it, in fact, do that ? The General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank has been carrying on under difficulties of its own, and for the Government now to say that it intends to put the Commonwealth Bank in a position of complete equality with the private banks, and to expect us to accept its ipse dixit, again unsupported by facts, is quite inadequate. Let us have a look at the restrictions that are placed on the private banks under existing legislation. Eoi- some years, they have been required to lodge a certain proportion of their reserves in special accounts with the Commonwealth Bank. That is a restriction and a constriction, and therefore it is a disability. This measure purports to relieve the private banks of a part of that disability because it alters the formula by which the amounts that the private banks are compelled to lodge are calculated. The private banks are also required to observe the interest rates fixed by the Commonwealth Bank. That, of course, is also a disability.
– There is no mention of that in this bill.
– I know that. I merely refer to the matter in passing as
I believe I am entitled to do. The private banks are also required to submit, in general terms, to the over-all credit policy laid down by the central bank. Those are the major if not the only disabilities that the private banks are suffering from to-day. Significantly enough, there is no mention of those disabilities, or of any interference in any detail with the operating policy of any of the commercial banks. Once again the English position is set out in detail by Professor Sayers. We find that in the .United Kingdom all the commercial banks are subject to extremely severe restrictions. If the Senate will bear with, me I shall read Professor Sayer’s comments in that connexion. He says -
Central bank legislation in other countries has .generally set out in considerable detail the powers of the central bank and has supported them by specific statutory restrictions on the other banks - notably by compelling the latter to maintain “ fixed ratio “ reserves at the central bank. Outside these specific statutory powers the central hankers have had to rely (as did the Bank of England before 1946) upon persuasion and co-operation, coupled sometimes with the knowledge that legislators would in the last resort intervene to support compulsion of recalcitrant bankers. The Bank of England is now operating under no such restrictions - it can issue directions compelling hankers, e.g., to hold certain reserves with itself, to vary those reserves, to alter their charges for any class of business. It may compel the bankers to favour one industry or group of industries as borrowers.
That constitutes a very direct interference with the specific operations of a private bank which is completely absent from this legislation. This bill does not provide for any specific intervention in the affairs of the private banks.
Section 9a of the Commonwealth Bank Act as amended by this bill will read - (1.) The Board shall from time to time inform the Government of the monetary and bunking policy of the Commonwealth Bank and of the banking policy of the Trading Bank. (2.) In the event of a difference of opinion between the Government and the Board as to whether any policy referred to in the last preceding sub-section is directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia, the Treasurer and the Board should endeavour to reach agreement.
That proposed section implies that the Trading Bank shall at all times operate to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia so that a very direct interference with the Trading Bank must be construed as a major possibility. No such requirement is imposed on the private trading banks in this bill. Therefore, to that extent, the Commonwealth Trading Bank will be under a disadvantage.
Sub-section (2.) of Section 108 of the Commonwealth Bank Act provides that whilst the Commonwealth Bank may make housing loans, in making such loans the Bank shall give preference to loans for the erection of homes and for the purchase of newly erected homes. No such limitation has been placed on the private banks. They are not required to give any particular preference to the advancing of money for the purchase of newly constructed houses. Section 109 of the Commonwealth Bank Act provides -
Loans under this Fart shall be made at the lowest practicable rates of interest.
That provision also constitutes a specific intervention in the affairs of the Commonwealth Trading Bank. No doubt any private institution which advances money will try to attain the highest rate of interest that the borrower is able to pay but the Commonwealth Trading Bank is required to accept the lowest practicable rate of interest, that is the lowest rate of interest at which it can economically operate. There is a vast difference between the obligations of the Trading Bank under this bill and the obligations of the private banks.
All banks are required to maintain a certain level of liquidity. It is a great disability for a bank if its level of liquidity should fall considerably. The General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank makes available most of the bank finance for home construction. I understand that it has lent £30,000,000 for the construction of houses. The lending of that amount has greatly reduced its general liquidity. That is a tremendous disability. Honorable senators opposite may reply that these provisions are already contained in the Act. But the Government has now, in effect, proposed to stabilize the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank. It has proposed the imposition of certain obligations and requirements on that division. Previously, the principal act contained certain compensating advantages which balanced the obligations of the Commonwealth Bank. But under this bill the advantages will be taken away and the obligations retained. That circumstance will weaken the competitive position of the Commonwealth Trading Bank. The private banks have virtually complete freedom of movement. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said that the amalgamation of private banks had resulted in an increase of their deposits and their strength. Under this legislation the private banks will be able to effect additional amalgamations which could strengthen their competition with the Commonwealth Trading Bank. The Minister referred to a section of the legislation which will remove from the Commonwealth Bank Board the necessity to make a recommendation to the Treasurer before banks are permitted to amalgamate. His fatuous excuse was that the Commonwealth Bank Board might refrain from making recommendations for amalgamation. Under the Government’s proposal the Treasurer will have a tremendous accretion of strength. Banking will become a political matter and the Commonwealth Trading Bank will be grossly jeopardized.
Senator Tate said that a balance had been struck between the private banks and the Commonwealth Bank. A balance has not been struck. The balance will be out of plumb and the position must be aggravated by this legislation. The Government has not been able to produce any facts to support this bill. It has defended it with political shibboleths and party slogans. A close examination of the bill leads Opposition senators irresistibly to the conclusion that no move has been overlooked, no subtle means disregarded and no possibility discounted which at some future time might operate to the prejudice of the Commonwealth Trading Bank. We assure the Government that every word of this bill, every concealed and every camouflaged assault on the Commonwealth Bank convinces us that the Government has embarked on the arduous and politically unprofitable road that will inevitably lead to the destruction of the Commonwealth Trading Bank. Somewhere along that road to destruction, perhaps not far away, the Australian people will be waiting to ensure that that sinister intention is not put into effect.
– I rise to support the bill. This bill has been introduced in order to ensure the preservation of the Australian banking system on the basis of fair competition. Senator Byrne criticized the Government for having acted on what he called imaginary fears. On Monday, the 9th March, the following article appeared in the Ballarat Courier: -
Senator Sets out Socialist Pattern. “ The only difference between the banker and the forger is that one works inside the law and the other outside,” Senator Donald Cameron declared in Ballarat on Saturday night. “ If we are to succeed in establishing a true democracy without poverty and war, we must control the banks,” he said. Senator Cameron made this reiteration of Labour’s plan to nationalize the banks at the Ballarat Trades & Labour Council’s Eight Hour Day dinner at the Wattle. “ This present state of society cannot go on indefinitely,” he said. “ War and poverty, the two greatest evils, are a result of the capitalist system.” Outlining his pattern for socialism, Senator Cameron said the Government needed to control the banks, control capital, and maintain rigid price control.
At the same dinner another gentleman, Mr. W. J. McAdam, secretary of the Ballarat Trades and Labour Council, said that Senator Cameron was one of the stalwarts of the Labour movement who had not forgotten that nationalization and socialism were still the main planks in the platform of the Labour party. Honorable senators opposite have been silent on that matter. On the occasion of the eight-hour day dinner, Senator Cameron completely let the cat out of the bag. The issue of Labor Call dated 26th February published an article by Senator Cameron, of which the following is a part : -
This policy must be reversed progressively by Labor Governments, Federal and State, if urgently needed public utilities are to be provided for the people independently of whether the private financing authorities would have it so or not. This can be done only, first, by the taxing of capital or the imposing of a graduated capital levy in addition to the taxing of incomes: secondly by strictly enforced price control which would disallow all capita! charges which have never been incurred and which are included and collected by the arbitrary increasing of prices; and thirdly, but not least, by the reduction’ down to the minimum and the abolition ultimately of all indirect taxation.
In that article Senator Cameron stated Labour’s position in relation to banking and capital levies quite frankly. The fear is not imaginary but very real. Senator Cameron is quoted with approval by all members of the Opposition. There is a fear in the hearts of 100,000 employees of the private trading banks in this country to-day. They are spread through the vast area of Australia, in small country towns as well as in the large cities. I do not mind admitting that those men rallied in 1949 to oust the Chifley Labour Government. There is a real fear in the hearts of all these people until bills such as the one that is now before the chamber have been passed into law. In order to allay any doubt about what Senator Cameron has said in connexion with this matter I shall refer to a resolution that was placed before the biennial conference of the Australian Labour Party in Adelaide on the 21st January last by the South Australian branch of the party. As it was too hot for the conference to handle, it was rejected.
Opposition senators interjecting,
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McCallum).- Order! It would be better if the interjectors did not interrupt one another.
– The resolution read -
That the Australian Labour Party should warn private enterprise that it will, on return to office, pursue its socialist policy and resume its control of those means of production, distribution, and exchange, sabotaged by the Menzies’ Government earlier.
The official reason given by the conference for not dealing with that resolution was that socialization was already a plank in the platform of the party. There is no doubt where the Opposition stands in connexion with socialization and nationalization, because one of the greatest men who has ever been in the Labour movement made a very interesting report in 1937. I refer to Mr. J. B. Chifley, who was one of Labour’s greatest sons. At page 263 in the report of the Royal Commission on monetary and banking systems, the right honorable gentleman, who seemed to think that profit in any form, especially by a bank, was a wicked thing is reported to have stated -
In my opinion the best service to the community can be given only by a banking system from which the profit motive is absent, and, thus, in practice, only by a system entirely under national control.
Although members of the Australian Labour party say that, in view of the decision of the Privy Council, they could not in future constitutionally nationalize banking in this country, they are still Mr. Chifley’s disciples in this matter. He was a ruthless, cold, socialist in the matter of banking and funds of the private banks. There is absolutely no doubt where the Opposition stands in this matter, although up to date not one of their number has stated the real position.
Senator Byrne has stated that there is” no warrant for the Government to bring down this bill. The following statement appears at page 252 of the report of the royal commission -
A strong central bank, publicly owned, and not dominated by the desire to make ‘profit, will exercise the necessary control over the activities of the trading banks, and the organization of these banks om- a profit-making basis will conduce to efficiency, while the area of choice afforded to borrowers will be greater than if all banking were nationalized and brought under one control. We think that in this way the nation will best be served.
That is the pattern on which this Government is acting. It is a well formulated pattern, which has stood the test of time. This Government has no desire to treat the Commonwealth Bank unfairly. As a matter of fact the institution has made very great progress since 1949, when we came to office. This Government has done some rather important things in relation to the Commonwealth Bank. For instance, it has re-established the Commonwealth Bank Board and that has brought to the control of this important institution a galaxy of talent that is probably not equalled anywhere else in
Australia. The members of the board are possessed of great talent in industry, commerce, agriculture and grazing. As a South Australian, I am very proud of the representation of South Australia on the board. The gentlemen who comprise the Board are finding that its activities require almost their full time attention, and they are sacrificing their business interests in order to give service to the nation.
– That is only a temporary condition.
– That interjection is further evidence of the intention of the Australian Labour party. In 1950 there was introduced into this chamber a bill which, amongst other things, provided for the reintroduction of the Commonwealth Bank Board, and for the increase of capital of the bank to £5,000,000. The Opposition in this place at that time, by reason of its numerical superiority, knocked out the bill. I emphazise that that bill provided for the strengthening of the capital of the Commonwealth Bank. Fortunately for this country it was as a result of the knocking out of that bill that a double dissolution of the Parliament was granted. The attitude of honorable senators on that occasion was an earnest of their intention, as far as the capital of the Commonwealth Bank was concerned.
The bill before the chamber provides for the separation of the trading bank activities from the functions of the central bank. I believe that there is only one other country in the world where the two functions are under the one control. I refer to Egypt, which has troublous financial times almost pertpetually. That country derives very little help from its banking system. The important factor to remember is that the bill does not affect the Mortgage Bank Department, the Industrial Finance Department, and the Rural Credits Department, which will go on as of yore. However, there are some very great improvements which have not been mentioned during the debate to-night. I refer particularly to proposed new sections 22j, 22k, and 2-2l, which provide for a distinct extension of the functions of the Commonwealth Bank. Proposed new section 22j provides -
The Trading Bank may enter into arrangements for the carrying out of any portion of its business with a. bank, a body corporate or an authority established under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth, or with any other person.
Therefore the trading bank will be able to enter into arrangements with other banks. Proposed new section 22k provides -
The Trading Bank may arrange with any person to act as agent of the Trading Bank in any place whether within Australia or beyond Australia.
That provision will extend further the functions of this bank, which Senator Byrne has stated we are restricting, and which Senator Sheehan has stated we are trying to belittle. These proposed new sections show clearly that we are trying to extend the powers of the bank, in a spirit of fair competition. Proposed new section 22l provides -
The Trading Bank may act as the agent of any bank carrying on banking busness wtihin Australia or beyond Australia.
It is evident that this Government favours fair competition, extension, more production, and more banking. That is exemplified in this legislation. As I have already stated, the Government has not acted hastily in this matter. It has taken counsel, and it has brought forward this measure only after deliberate thought. It has received great encouragement from the report of the royal commission of 1937. Many of the conditions referred to in that report have continued to this day. If competition is not made fair between the Commonwealth Bank and the private trading banks, it will be a bad thing for institutions which employ tens of thousands of employees, hold hundreds of millions of pounds, and serve the business and rural communities throughout this land. That this is no idle statement is evident from an article that appeared in the Melbourne Age on the 10th March., The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was reported to have stated at a picnic that he attended at Como Park near Melbourne -
If we could get nine years of Labour government in the Federal Parliament we could change the whole face of Australia.
– Did he say that?
– The honorable member for Melbourne is reported to have said that, and it has not been denied.
– Does the honorable senator believe the press report ?
– Yes. Does Senator Hendrickson deny that that statement was made by the honorable member for Melbourne ?
– The statement has not been denied, although there have been a number of opportunities for honorable senators opposite to deny it. It is on such statements that the people of Australia will have an opportunity to register their disapproval. I therefore stress the urgency for the people of Australia to see that persons who make statements like those that have been made by Senator Cameron, and the honorable member for Melbourne, to which I have referred., shall not be given the power to change the face of Australia. Australia wants strength ; it does not want a face change at the hands of such persons. I support the bill.
– Senator Laught’s speech was probably the finest indication of how bankrupt of arguments to support this measure are government supporters. He pointed to proposed new sections 22j and 22k and announced with great pride that they have been inserted in this measure by this Government in order to expand the powers of the proposed Commonwealth TradingBank. While I proceed with another aspect of my speech, the honorable senator might well occupy his time by looking at section 34 of the Commonwealth Bank Act in which he will see proposed new section 22k reproduced almost verbatim and to section 38 which he will find proposed new section 22.t reproduced almost verbatim. Those two sections have been in the Commonwealth Bank Act ‘ for years. Therefore, the honorable senator’s claim that the Government has inserted those provisions in this bill and is giving those great powers to the proposed Commonwealth Trading IBank is . completely and utterly false.
This bill is a violent attack upon the structure of the Commonwealth Bank. Because of that, I propose to sketch the bank’s present structure and. functions. There are two corporations. One of them, the Commonwealth Bank, controls the Note Issue Department, acting as a central bank, the General Banking Division, the Rural Credits Department, the Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department. They arc all under a governor who, himself, is under the control of the Commonwealth Bank Board. The second corporation is the Commonwealth Savings Bank, separate and apart altogether but with the identical manager of the Commonwealth Bank and thus under the control of the governor and the Commonwealth Bank Board. Both of these corporations are staffed by the Commonwealth Bank Service, that is, an identical service under two separate corporations, all members of the staff being interchangable between them. Let us examine what this bill does. Senator Vincent said that the purpose of the bill was to take the General Banking Division out of the Commonwealth Bank and to put it into a separate corporation. The bill does lift the General Banking Division out of the Commonwealth Bank, and it does make that division a separate corporation like the Commonwealth Savings Bank. It gives to the General Banking Division a new name - the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia. The same staff is to be used by the new corporation. In other words, the one staff will serve the three corporations and be completely interchangeable between them, all members of the staff enjoying the same benefits and privileges. The new corporation will be placed under a general manager but he, in turn, will be subject to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Bank Board. I pause there and ask, “What difference does that make; and, if it makes no difference, why bother to mako the proposed change at all? “ If I were to pause there, I should agree with those who contend that nothing has taken place apart from the bother and confusion of effecting the change. But I do not pause there because there are major as well as minor changes effected by the bill. The first of those changes is most insidious. I refer honorable senators to page 11 of the bill, where they will find marked in a vast schedule, which might be deemed to consist of merely consequential amendments because there are scores of them, an apparently insignificant section. It ls section 13 and, as the schedule shows, that section is to be amended merely by inserting the words “for that purpose and “ after the words “and shall”. But those are, perhaps, the most vital words in this bill because centred in section 13 are all the great powers that are now exercised by the Commonwealth Bank. Into that section have been injected those four apparently simple words which were not adverted to by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in his second-reading speech and the effect of which was not described. The words were obscurely tucked away in that apparently consequential amendment. Section 13 reads -
The Commonwealth Bank shall have power to carry on the business of a central bank and shall, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, have power, in addition to any other powers conferred upon it by this Act -
That section, then, gives to the Commonwealth Bank power to do innumerable things which are -set out in paragraphs (a) to (Z). The section, with the new words inserted, will read -
The Commonwealth Bank shall have power to carry on the business of a central bank and shall, for that purpose and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, have power, in addition to any other powers conferred upon it by this act -
Those powers include the power to borrow money and to lend money. Other honorable senators have detailed them. For the purpose of my argument I shall concentrate on one matter. The first thing that the amendment does is to strip from the Commonwealth Bank the vast powers that were conferred upon it under section 13, to restrict it to central bank activities and to tie its powers to that purpose only. The first thing that will happen under this bill will be that when the Commonwealth Bank takes action it will be open to every private bank to take it to the courts and argue that it is exercising powers beyond those that are necessary for the purposes of a central bank. This amendment will leave the Commonwealth Bank open to attack in the courts. I can see the Commonwealth Bank, when the private trading banks object to any of its actions, being dragged month by month and year by year through the courts whereas up to this minute there has been no possibility of any action of the Commonwealth Bank in the bank’s sphere being attacked. Of course, the most insidious attack that can be made on the bank is to lower its defences in that way. It ill becomes the Government to work into this legislation a change of such a major character and to fail to direct the attention of not only the Senate but also the people to that change.
I turn now to my next point. Whereas, up to date, the Commonwealth Bank could lend money for any purpose that seemed good to it, it must in future lend money only for purposes connected with its central bank activities. I ask honorable senators to keep that fact in mind.
– It will be a central bank only.
– That is so. I am pointing out how the wide general powers of the Commonwealth Bank are being trimmed off. One significant fact is that section 18 of the principal act casts upon the Commonwealth Bank the duty of expanding and developing the General Banking Division. That section is to be repealed and in its place a similar obligation is to be cast upon a mere division of the bank, the proposed Commonwealth Trading Bank. In other words, that is a denial to the Commonwealth Bank of a right or a duty to develop and expand the business of the General Banking Division. The bill completely repeals the section that imposes that obligation upon the Commonwealth Bank and imposes that duty upon a department of the bank. Secondly, there is no longer any obligation cast upon the Commonwealth Bank to help the General Banking Division to expand. The Commonwealth Bank no longer has the right to lend money to its offspring, the Com monwealth Trading Bank, except for central bank purposes. In those circumstances, how is the Commonwealth Trading Bank to be enabled to expand?
– What about its profits ?
– I have not overlooked that point. I shall come to it.
– Has the honorable senator overlooked nationalization?
– I assure Senator Paltridge that I have not; I shall come to that aspect also in due course. We reach this position: The new Commonwealth Trading Bank cannot look for assistance to the Commonwealth Bank for help to expand or develop because the Commonwealth Bank cannot lend money to it for that purpose. The Commonwealth Bank can lend money to the Commonwealth Trading Bank in circumstances that may arise owing to lack of liquidity. The Commonwealth Bank is to -be denied the opportunity to go to the aid of the Commonwealth Trading Bank to help it to expand and develop.
– How does a bank expand? .
– The only way that this bank can expand is by borrowing money. Under the bill, the Commonwealth Trading Bank is restricted in its capital. It must commence operations with the capital that it has to-day which amounts to, approximately £5,000,000, including reserves. How can that capital grow? It can grow only by the bank retaining half of its profits because the other half will have to be paid to the National Debt Sinking Fund: and it can acquire, if the Commonwealth Bank sees fit to make the money available, two-sevenths of a sum not exceeding £500,000 during a period of three years, that is by approximately £143,000 per annum. That, again, in the discretion of the Commonwealth Bank may be supplemented by a similar amount from the profits of the Note Issue Department. Can any honorable senator tell me how the proposed Commonwealth Trading Bank can fulfil its obligation to expand and develop for capital projects on an accretion amounting to, approximately, £286,000 per annum? In short, under this bill, the Commonwealth Bank is being told to let the Commonwealth Trading Bank develop by itself. What this bill does is positively to impede the development of the Commonwealth Trading Bank. How will the new bank be enabled to develop on the small profits which may, or may not, be made available to it by the Commonwealth Bank from time to time? What is being done, apart from the mere severance of the General Banking Division? One finds two things. The first is that the Commonwealth Trading Bank is to be isolated and weakened. The support of the Commonwealth Bank, which is its greatest asset, is being struck from underneath it. Turning to the central bank, one finds a similar position. The great unlimited powers of the Commonwealth Bank have been cut right down to those of a central bank and of the highly specialized departments dealing with rural credits, industrial finance and mortgages. Apart from those specialized activities it is tied right down, in every other activity, to functioning as a central bank. This bill therefore shows plainly that what the Opposition has been claiming all along is true. The bill will weaken both the General Banking Division and the Central Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Bank which is some 40 years old, with international ramifications, henceforth it is to be confined to the purely domestic function of acting as a central bank and attending to those other important, but relatively subsidiary, departments. The great Commonwealth Bank, known throughout the world as such, with agencies in every part of the world, is to drop right out of that field and serve a purely domestic function. It is to bo replaced by the creature of this Government - a weakened, emaciated and attenuated off-spring severed from the parent body.
– A central trading bank does not confine its activities to the country in which it operates.
– Indeed it will in this instance. As honorable senators have indicated, it will be concentrated down to acting as a bank for the bankers of Australia. It will undoubtedly have functions abroad, but primarily it will have to concentrate upon purely domestic activity. Certainly its function will not be to look after the multifarious activities abroad of the new Commonwealth Trading Bank. There is no denying the fact that the Commonwealth Bank and the proposed Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia will thus be weakened and emasculated. I have already indicated how the new Commonwealth Trading Bank is to be weakened in regard to its capital development.
– Sydney Domain rubbish !
– The honorable senator has made a most senatorial comment. I wish to deal with the bill. What reasons does the Government give for introducing this legislation? As far as I have been able to gather, it says that, first, the legislation has been introduced in the interests of fair competition between the Commonwealth Bank and the private trading banks and, secondly, to remove grounds for the fear that the private trading banks might be victimized in the future. The Government cannot point, and has not pointed, to one thing, in the course of this debate, or in the secondreading speech, which indicates that the Commonwealth Bank has competed unfairly with the private trading banks. Senator Henty was the only one to make an attempt and he referred to two instances. He pointed to the 1947 legislation, which required municipalities and semi-governmental bodies to bank with the Commonwealth Bank. But there was a gap in the honorable senator’s thinking. That was not action by the Commonwealth Bank in competition with the private trading banks; it was the action of a government. The honorable senator’s statement shows the confusion that exists in the minds of honorable senators opposite about this matter. The other point that he made was that the Commonwealth Bank was not required to lodge special deposits with the Central Bank Division of the Commonwealth Bank. I say at once that anybody who has had any experience of banking in Australia in recent years, particularly in the war and post-war period, will appreciate that all the controls exercised by the central bank were more rigidly enforced in respect of the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank than they were in respect of the private trading banks. The bill itself, as well as the second-reading speech of the Minister, indicates that the General Banking Division has been depositing, at the same level as the private trading banks, special deposits with the central bank. The bill provides that the sum of approximately £15,000,000, now held by the central bank for the General Banking Division, is to bc. credited to it under the new system.
I repeat that not one instance has been given or can be given of unfair competition by the Commonwealth Bank. Before I conclude I shall give many instances of how unfairly the scales are weighted in favour of the private trading banks.
I wish now to deal with the second ground - the fear that somebody might victimize the private banks in the future. There has not been the faintest suggestion from the Government that the banks have been victimized in the past, and no honorable senator on the Government side of the chamber has advanced any reason for that fear. If there are such reasons why does not some one name them? It is farcical to suggest that if this bill is passed by the Parliament it will protect anybody. This measure will not bind a future government. It cannot tie another parliament. It is sheer hypocrisy to suggest that it can. The suggestion that the bill has been introduced to prevent the banks from being victimized in the future is as false as is the suggestion that the Commonwealth Bank has been competing unfairly. If the reasons given by the Government fall to the ground, what is the real purpose of this bill? There are, no doubt, many reasons why the Government should introduce it, particularly- at this time, on the eve of a Senate election, but surely the real purpose must be to achieve what the bill, in fact, “achieves”. I have demonstrated that it will weaken the trading section of the Commonwealth Bank and emasculate the Commonwealth Bank itself. The bank will be “ cabin’d, . cribb’d, confin’d “, in regard to its activi- ties as a central bank and in respect of its three specialized departments.
This bill should be described as a bill to benefit the private trading banks. I suggest that that is an accurate description of it. As Senator Byrne has said, the present legislation is heavily weighted against the Commonwealth Bank in respect of advances for housing, interest, and other matters. The general trading bank, by this measure, is to be compelled to pay one-half of its net profits to the government for the National Debt Sinking Fund. What is the relative position of the private trading banks? They pay a maximum of 9s. in the £1 income tax. The balance in that respect is heavily against the trading section of the Commonwealth Bank. Let us consider the position of housing loans. This Government has not attempted to alter the present legislation, under which a limit of £1.750 is imposed by the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank in respect of advances for housing. No limit whatever is imposed by the private trading banks. If the Government really wishes to balance competition between the two sets of banks, might not it be reasonable to expect at least one honorable senator on the other side of the chamber to make a plea to place the Commonwealth Bank on an even footing with the private trading banks in that respect? The same thing might be expected about loans to primary producers from the Mortgage Bank Department. That department of the Commonwealth Bank is tied to a limit of £10,000 in respect of such loans. No limit whatever is imposed by the private trading banks. Is that fair competition? If honorable senators opposite are really interested in fair competition, why do they not suggest that the limit of advances for housing and primary production should be erased, thereby giving the Commonwealth Bank a fair go with the private trading banks?
The Commonwealth Bank Act, which has not been amended by this Government, limits loans to officers of the bank, which may be made only in special circumstances, to £250, and in respect of houses in which the officers reside. The private banks deal with their officers on exactly the same basis as they deal with the ordinary customers. Is any honorable senator opposite prepared to give the Commonwealth Trading Bank a fair go in that connexion? It seems to me that the Government covered up one eye when it spoke of fair competition. If honorable senators opposite approach the matter fairly they will surely see the need to give the Commonwealth Bank at least as fair a chance to secure the same business as that enjoyed by the private trading banks.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the Commonwealth iBank wants such business or would take the opportunity to acquire it?
– I suggest that the Commonwealth Bank should unquestionably have the right to do so. How hypocritical it is to say to the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, Expand and develop your business “. and then put two halters on- it, by limiting its liability to lend more than £1,750 in respect of housing, and £250 to its officers! Incidentally, £1,750 in these days of inflated costs and prices is a most unrealistic amount.
I have already indicated how the proposed Commonwealth Trading Bank will be tied down in respect of capital. It will not be able to continue to develop and expand without more capital. Subject to the temporary restrictions that may be imposed by the Capital Issues Board, the private trading banks are free to go on the market and raise money by debentures or share issues, and to borrow ad Hh. Again, I say to honorable senators opposite that if they really want, fair competition and are sincere when they say that the Commonwealth Trading Bank should develop, and expand, what about giving it the same opportunities to obtain capital as the private trading banks enjoy? The law provides that the Treasurer may make advances to the Rural Credits Department, the Industrial Finance Department and the Mortgage. Bank Department. Why should not a similar provision be made for the Commonwealth Trading Bank, which, by statute, is denied the same opportunity to obtain capital as the private trading banks have?
The cost of bringing about these changes - and I shall deal with tins matter presently if I have time - probably will be approximately £1,000,000. That amount will be required to carry out the will of this Government to change the General Banking Division into the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
– Would the honorable senator care to give us some details of that £1,000,000?
– I shall come to that in a moment.
– I hope that he does not forget to do so-
– I am dealing with the question of competition.
– Because of the honorable senator’s experience he should know that that statement is utterly false.
– I know nothing of the kind. On the contrary, I have every reason to believe that the amount will be well over £500,000, and I shall be very surprised if it is not £1,000,000.
– The honorable senator has already discounted the amount by 50 per cent. I shall await further discounting.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Reid).- Order!
– I come now to the costs involved in the matter of transfer. Whatever the cost may be - and I do not retreat from my previous statement - it certainly will be substantial. Who will bear that cost? Will it be a burden on the Commonwealth Trading Bank? Will the Commonwealth Bank of Australia be obliged to bear it? Is that a fair thing as between the newborn Commonwealth Trading Bank and the private trading banks, for whose benefit this cost will be incurred? Would it be right to ask the private banks to pay this cost? It is unfair that the new Commonwealth Trading Bank should bear Id. of the cost. The Government prates of fair competition, yet it would impose a burden of that nature upon the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Trading Bank. This bill opens the door, as many more bills that are floating around the Parliament are doing, to force statutory bodies of the’ Commonwealth to bank elsewhere than with the Commonwealth Bank. The answer may be that that is to apply only in cases where there are no branches of the Commonwealth Bank. If that is so, why not write it into the legislation? Why open the door so wide that all these Commonwealth instrumentalities may leave the Commonwealth Bank and go to the private trading banks?
I could go on pointing out many more unfair proposals in this bill towards the Commonwealth Bank. The Government has been seeking advantages for the private trading banks. There is no thought in its mind of true or fair competition. In redemption of my promise to say something about the cost that will now from this situation and the change of name, I inform the Minister now that there are committees of bank officers all over Australia, including at least 30 officers in New South Wales who are highly paid officials, which have been, engaged for weeks upon the problems associated with this transfer. There is all the disruption of staff, physical and psychological that has been caused by these proposals. There is the scrapping of forms that the bank has used and notifications all round the world to agents. Some arrangement has to be made with every individual customer of the bank, either expressly or by concurrence, implied or otherwise, before this Parliament can say to the customers of one bank that they should move to an entirely new bank. That cannot be done without the concurrence of the customer. There are more than 300,000 of them. That needs negotiations, postage and many complications. There is the question of altering the name on buildings throughout Australia. There are 443 branches and the name of the bank is worked into the walls above the entrance doors. The name will have to be changed to “ Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia “. That will not be accomplished with an expenditure of less than many tens of thousands of pounds. Then again there is the question of registration of mortgages, documents and instruments and stamp duties-
– That is quite incorrect.
– But that is exactly what the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said in reply to a question that was asked in another place within the last few days. He said that the bulk of the cost would he involved in stamp duty. I recommend the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to study the Treasurer’s statement - .
– I advise the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) to read the bill.
– I shall now refer to the final arrangements that are necessary under this transfer. While the General Banking Division remains an integral part of the Commonwealth Bank, it can stay in the bank buildings throughout the Commonwealth, but the moment this division is made, the Commonwealth Trading Bank will have to be put upon a rental basis or it will have to put its tenants upon a rental basis if it owns the building. Innumerable arrangements that normally would not have to be considered will have to be made-
– Is that not the basis now?
– There is an arbitrary apportionment now. The position will be entirely different when they are separate corporations. They will have to make different arrangements. 1 promised the Minister that I would give him some details of the cost and I believe that I have said enough to indicate that it will be colossal - .
– It will be nothing like that.
– I shall be interested to hear the Minister on that point. I ask the Minister to give the Senate details of the cost of the work involved. Let us have some estimate from the Government. Will the Minister indicate to the Senate when he expects that all these arrangements will be completed and when the bill will be proclaimed? The Minister has already intimated that some months will elapse before the bill can be proclaimed. Why cannot this be done at once if it is so simple ?
I should like to touch now upon a relatively minor but nevertheless important matter with regard to the transfer. That is the name that has been chosen for the new bank. The Government has probably chosen the harshest name that it could think of - the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia. Bankers take great pride in claiming that they are bankers and not traders. “ Trading “ is a harsh term and one that is unpleasant to them. This name will not’ float the new bank on a wave of goodwill. There are many alternative choices. The new bank could have been called the “ Commonwealth Bank of Australia’ (General) “, the “ Commonwealth (General) Bank of Australia “, “ the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, General Bank “. But the Government had to select the ugly, harsh name that will react unfavorably when the new bank is floated as a separate entity. If there is any truth in the claim by the Government that it merely wants to subject the General Banking Division or the new Commonwealth Trading Bank to exactly the same controls as those that are imposed upon the private trading banks, why not do it in a simple clause or two? I ask the Minister to inform the Senate why that could not be done. Why had the General Banking Division to be dragged away from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and both parts emasculated? If the only purpose is to keep the Commonwealth Bank and the private trading banks on an even keel in the matter of central bank controls, what was to prevent a few sections effecting that purpose from being written into the banking legislation without this work of destruction? The whole approach of the Government is a wanton and drastic interference with a great institution. It will have the effect of weakening both sections of the bank immeasurably. The Government could have achieved its purpose in the way that I have indicated. Why did it not do that? My conclusion is that the General Banking Division, to be known in future as the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, is like a chicken that is being got ready for the axe, not now or next year but down the years, step by step. The next step automatically will be to have a separate management and divorce the new section of the bank completely.
The bill proposes to separate the trading bank section with its own assets and liabilities and it will be easy for the next step which will be a move for a separate management. Then it will be easy for the Government to do what it has already done with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and the shipping line. The Government will try to sell it. What is the guiding principle of the Government in selling these publicly owned utilities? Their great fault is not so much that they are public utilities as that they are public utilities that are successful. Why should not the Opposition fear that the Government is getting this chicken ready for the axe now? It is all a part of the pattern.
I shall comment now upon the humbug of the Government. With all its claims to a belief in a policy of desocialization it is going ahead at top speed with a number of socialistic enterprises. They include the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme and the aluminium project in Tasmania. Only this week, in another place, the Government has introduced a bill to control the flax industry of Australia. Was there ever so much confusion in the minds of a government? As to bank nationalization, everybody knows that in 1947 an attempt was made by the Chifley Labour Government to nationalize the banks. A bill was drawn up in the course of which every conceivable approach that could be made to the nationalization of the private trading banks was set forth. They included the acquisition of shares, the acquisition of the banks as a going concern, the taking over of assets, and so on. Not one possible approach that could be thought of by the best brains available to the government of the day was overlooked. What happened? The High Court of Australia and the Privy Council of Great Britain both said that the nationalization of the banks was unconstitutional by virtue of section 92 of the Constitution. Plainly that is the position to-day. Not only can private trading banks not be nationalized but also no other industry or any type of service that has an interstate aspect can be nationalized unless there is a very major constitutional change that can be effected only by a referendum of the people. In such a referendum, a majority of the people in a majority of the States must approve the change. What is the reason for the Government’s pretence when everybody in Australia understands that the banks cannot be nationalized? I see one great virtue in that attempt to nationalize the banks. That attempt was inspired by an attack upon the 1945 banking legislation. When the 1945 legislation was brought into this Parliament, power over monetary and banking policy was conferred upon this Parliament as representing the nation. Those who now constitute the Government screamed red revolution and because that particular power and that legislation was attacked, the move for the nationalization of the banks was made. There was no other reason. What was the reaction of the parties who constitute the Government? They did exactly what we expected them to do. Why did the Government want to go further than the 1945 legislation? The Government might as well learn now that the real reason why the banks were to be nationalized was because the 1945 legislation was attacked. The attempt to nationalize the banks is written into this Parliament forever in that legislation.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.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.
– It is of no use honorable senators opposite trying to fool themselves. They cannot fool anybody else that the banks can be nationalized. That brings me to the second point that anything that cannot be accomplished directly by legislation, the courts of this land will not permit to be accomplished indirectly. I invite the Attorney-General to deny that assertion.
– Does the Labour party propose to remove the nationalization of banking from its political platform ?
– I am talking about the Government’s bill. At least the Australian Labour party has the good sense to know when it can do something and when it cannot. When the Privy Council gave its judgment in the bank nationalization case, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, said very plainly that the issue was dead unless the people themselves altered the Constitution. When an honorable senator on this side of the chamber asked how the banks could be nationalized indirectly a Government supporter from South Australia offered . the bright suggestion that the States could refer power to the Commonwealth for that purpose. How ridiculous that is! The one power that the States have over banking is confined to banking instrumentalities established by themselves, and the Legislative Councils of the States would not even allow that small power to be referred. As a representative of South Australia, the honorable senator should be aware that the State governments are just as much bound by section 92 of the Constitution as is the Commonwealth Government. That was made obvious in the James case which originated in South Australia. Therefore the one method suggested by honorable senators opposite by which the banks could be nationalized indirectly, is proved completely fallacious.
– A Labour government could make it very difficult for the private banks to carry on.
– That presupposes that the Commonwealth Bank itself would be a. party to some unfair and vicious attack on the private banks. I remind the Senate that the Commonwealth Bank Act provides that ultimately a difference of opinion between the Treasurer and the Commonwealth Bank Board must be ventilated in the Parliament. The implication in the Attorney-General’s suggestion is unworthy of him. He implied that if some improper approach were made by the Commonwealth Government of the day to the Commonwealth Bank to take action against the private banks, the great Commonwealth IBank, against which nobody can point the finger of scorn, would be dishonorable enough to do so.
– It would have to follow the Treasurer’s policy ultimately.
– Tes, but as I have said, any persistent difference of opinion between the Commonwealth Bank Board and the Treasurer would be brought to the notice of the Parliament. The suggestion that action might be taken quietly by the Commonwealth Bank is a completely unjustified reflection on that institution.
– I did not say that.
– One looks in vain to see why the Government has introduced this measure at this particular time. Senator after senator on the Government side has taken up all the old shibboleths. Indeed, one honorable senator opposite, in a speech which lasted about half an hour, touched on many subjects ranging from rationing to manpower direction, but did not spend one minute on the bill. It is quite obvious that in raising the bank nationalization bogy, Government supporters are endeavouring to revive the issues on which they rode to power in 1949. They are trying to frighten the people again. Even Senator Tate departed from his usual objectivity and followed exactly the same line. He said not one word about the bill before the Senate. It is quite clear why the old issues are being revived. Many of the Government back-benchers are alarmed at their electoral prospects. They need to summon to their aid all the forces that the private banks conjured up in 1949 - powerful forces backed by vast sums of money. We remember the part played by the “ constitutional “ leagues and “ democratic “ bodies, of which no one had heard previously or has heard since. They were very helpful to the Government parties in 1949. The banks were powerful allies, and their com..pagining contributed much to the victory of the present Government parties. Now it is obvious that honorable senators opposite are childishly seeking again to summon those forces. We have the spectacle of this legislation being rushed into the Parliament on the eve of a Senate election, although the Government has been in office for three and a half years. The Government claims proudly to be honouring its election promise. What was the Government’s promise in connexion with banking? The Prime Minister said in his policy speech -
We will continue the trading bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank in fair competition with the other banks.
Where in that statement was the slightest suggestion that the Commonwealth Bank would be split and weakened in the way I have shown? Some Government backbenchers have even written articles for the press. I have picked them up and marvelled at the ignorance that has been displayed. They have claimed, for instance, that the Commonwealth Bank does not pay income tax and therefore competes unfairly with the private banks. The truth, of course, is that the Government is taking from the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank as a contribution to the National Debt Sinking Fund more than the private banks are required to pay in income tax. Government supporters have claimed also that the General Banking Division is not required to deposit amounts with the central bank. That is untrue. They have claimed that the Commonwealth Bank is not paying rates, and therefore has an unfair advantage over the private hanks in that regard. The truth is that although there is no legal obligation on the Commonwealth Bank to pay rates, down the years it has voluntarily paid every penny of rates that it has been asked for throughout the Commonwealth. Obviously, there is a great mass of ill-informed opinion in the Government’s ranks, and I am afraid that some of that ill-informed opinion has pushed the Government into this legislation. I invite the Minister, in his reply to the second-reading debate, to tell the Senate why the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) avoided introducing this bill in the House of Representatives. The measure was taken completely out of his hands by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Surely it is most unusual for a Treasurer to be superseded by the Prime Minister in the handling of a measure which is notoriously a Treasurer’s bill. I should like the Minister to tell us whether the Treasurer agrees with the bill. If the Prime Minister had a reason for taking over the measure himself, what was that reason?
I think I have said enough to indicate that this is a most unfair bill, which strikes an almost mortal blow at the great Commonwealth Bank. We have read recently in the press that some doctors in the United States of America have been found guilty of performing unnecessary operations in order to get fees. By means of this measure, an unnecessary caesarian operation is being performed on the Commonwealth Bank, not by a surgeon with the precision tools of a surgeon, but by a butcher with the tools of a butcher. The result will be untold damage to the parent, and a very poor start for the offspring. I join with other members of the Labour party in offering fierce opposition to this bill. We shall vote against it. I should like honorable senators opposite who may follow me in this debate to deal with the matters that I have raised. I trust that it will take so long for this iniquitous bill to be given practical effect that another government will have supplanted this one before the measure can be implemented.
.- I listened with great interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and I should like to tell him why the Government has brought down this measure. The bill has only one purpose, and that is to protect the private trading banks. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of Labour’s attitude to the nationalization of banking. We have also heard what some other members of the Labour party have to say on that subject. For instance, .Senator Cameron, speaking in Melbourne, said that the intention of the Labour party was eventually to nationalize the private banks. In view of that declaration, it is our duty as a Government to protect the private banks as far as possible, because we believe in fair competition. It would be unthinkable to allow our banking system to get into the hands of a monopoly, government or pri- vate. I am certain that if the private banks were nationalized and the Commonwealth Bank were the only banking institution in this country, it would be a sorry day for the Australian people. Just imagine what might happen to a person carrying on a business as a farmer or a storekeeper in a country town. If he required an overdraft, he could go to only one bank. He might be at loggerheads with the bank manager, and his perfectly legitimate proposition for financial assistance might be rejected. He might try another branch of the bank in an adjacent town, but by the time he got there the word would have been passed along that he was not to be accommodated. That is what would happen under a banking monopoly. Senator Byrne said that Labour was opposed to monopolies, but that assertion is hardly supported by the Labour Government’s attempt in 1947 to establish a government banking monopoly. The banking system of Australia has grown up with Australia, and the banks, private and government alike, have played an important part in the development of this nation. They deserve the credit that is due to them in that connexion. In the early years, settlers in the outback areas required finance to develop their properties and assistance was always readily available through the banks. We all owe the banks a debt of gratitude for their work. Knowing the Labour party’s views on banking and its intention to get complete control of the banking system by fair means or foul, we believe this measure to be completely justified. We believe that the easiest way to avoid bank nationalization is to establish the Commonwealth Trading Bank as a separate bank apart from the central bank. Then, if a Labour government is returned to power in the years to come the banking legislation that it introduces will have the same effect on the Commonwealth Trading Bank as ic will have on the private trading banksThe Commonwealth Trading Bank will operate in fair competition with the other banks. Before any future Labour government can do much damage to the private banks it will have to damage the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
The Opposition has condemned the Government’s attitude to the Commonwealth Bank. This Government ‘ has assisted the. progress of the Commonwealth Bank. In 1950 the Government provided for the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board, consisting of tcn men, to guide the affairs of the bank. Since the board was established the number of the bank’s depositors has increased considerably. The Commonwealth Bank has prospered as every other bank in Australia has prospered. The branches of the Commonwealth Bank, which numbered 92 in 1922, had increased to 275 by 1942, an increase of 300 per cent. In the same period the assets of the bank increased from £134,000,000 to £421,000,000. Its staff increased from 1,692 to 6^442. Its profits increased from £400,000 a year to £1,000,000 a year in the same period. Since the present Government came to office, in 1949, the number of accounts held by the bank has increased from 250,000 to 372,000. Over a period of ten years, for eight of which a labour government was in office, the number of accounts increased from 142.000 to 250,000. That rate of increase during that Government’s term of office is not comparable with the rate of increase for the last three years. The Commonwealth Bank has made more progress under this Government than it made during: the previous eight years or Labour administration. Therefore, I deny the Opposition’s statements that the Government wishes to condemn the Commonwealth Bank. The Government desires only to place it on a fair basis of competition with other trading banks. Subsection (2.) of proposed new section 17 nf the Commonwealth Bank Act provides -
The Trading Bank shall he a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal and shall have power to hold land and to sue or to be sued in its corporate name.
The following sub-sections of proposed new section 17 read as follows: - (3.) The Trading Bank shall carry out general banking business. (4.) The Trading Bank shall have such powers as are necessary for the purpose of carrying on general banking business and shall, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, have all powers referred to in paragraphs (6) to (h) (inclusive) of section thirteen of this Act and the power to do anything incidental to any of those powers.
Proposed new section 18 of the principal act provides - (1.) It shall be the duty of the Trading Bank to develop and expand its business.
That is what the Government expects the trading bank to do. Proposed new section 18 continues - (2.) The Trading Bank shall not refuse to conduct banking business for a person by reason only of the fact that to conduct that business would have the effect of taking away business from another bank.
The Government expects the managers of the Commonwealth Trading Bank to get business for the bank in fair competition with other banks. So how can the Opposition accuse the Government of attempting to condemn the Commonwealth Bank? Opposition senators would like the people of Australia to believe that the Government is trying to condemn the Commonwealth Bank. They think that they will win votes by creating that impression. I challenge them to find a clause in this bill which will retard the progress of the Commonwealth Bank.
– It does not matter what argument we use, the Government will lose the Senate election.
– If we do lose the election Ave shall lose it knowing that the Government has endeavoured to benefit the country rather than seek a popular vote. We have put our country first. Many Opposition senators have accused the Government of desiring a pool of unemployed. I believe that Opposition senators are eager to have unemployment in this country so that they can get an extra vote or two. If they thought that they would get an extra vote by starving a person they would be willing to starve him by causing unemployment. That is not the right attitude to adopt in a country such as Australia.
This bill will have no ill effect whatsoever on the Commonwealth Bank. Opposition senators have said that the banking legislation which the Government introduced in 1951 had the objective of condemning the Commonwealth Bank. Yet I have shown how the bank has expanded during the last three years. The Commonwealth Trading Bank will also expand for the benefit of this nation. The Labour party brought about a double dissolution of the two Houses of Parliament by opposing the Government’s banking legislation and as a result, got a frightful hiding at the general elections in 1951. They have now contended that the Government has introduced this bill in the form of a “ pay-off “ to the private banks of Australia. When the nationalization of banking was mooted by the Chifley Government the bank employees, numbering more than 100,000, discovered that they would either be thrown out of work or would lose some of their privileges if the measure should become law. Accordingly, they rose up in arms and did all that they could to oust that Government. The employees of the banks, for their own protection, will again do all that they possibly can to ensure that this Government will be returned to power at the next general election and that Government senators shall be in a majority after the next Senate elections. The bank employees must protect themselves, and they know that the Labour party will give no thought to them whatsoever. They realize that the Labour party, if it again assumes control of this country, will make a further attempt to get control of the banks, and it is merely common sense that they must keep this Government in office in order to keep themselves in employment.
This bill will help to develop Australia. The Commonwealth Trading Bank, together with the other trading banks, will expand primary and secondary industry. The Government is eager to keep the private trading banks and the trading section of the Commonwealth Bank in full operation so that they can play their part in the full development of this country.
Debate (on motion by Senator Nicholls) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring to the notice of the Senate a deplorable state of affairs which every honorable senator should do his best to correct. I direct my request particularly to Western Australian senators. My complaint concerns the conditions at the Swanbourne military camp in Western Australia, where thousands of young men undergo national service training. They are taken from their homes while still very young, many from outlying districts, and they are required to train in this camp. The first of my complaints is. that concession fare for rail travel for long week-end leave is made available only for places within 100 miles of the camp. That prevents many of the young men who live at a greater distance from the camp from returning home for week-ends. Consequently, they have to spend their leave in a metropolitan area where they are mostly without friends and where they usually have no places to visit.
My second complaint is that there is no proper provision in the camp for the holding of religious services on Sundays. In the original estimates for the construction of the camp, provision was made for proper chapels to be built so that religious services could be held. There was some argument about the estimates, and ultimately that provision was eliminated and a gymnasium was to be built, to which two rooms which were to be used by padres would be attached. This provision was only makeshift, and it has now been learned that some time will elapse before the building of the gymnasium will be proceeded with, and in all probability, the rooms for the use of the padres will not be built at all. At the present time, there is no proper accommodation in the camp for the holding of religious services. Time and time again, the Government, and other authorities throughout the country, have given us grave warnings about the inroads of communism in our community, yet provision for religious instruction is not made in this large training camp through which great numbers of young Australians pass. I made representations about the matter to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) on the 12th January. I took that action because of complaints from certain ministers, as well as trainees and the parents of trainees. I received a letter on the 22nd January acknowledging my representations -and indicating that inquiries would be made, .and that’ on completion of the investigation the Minister would again communicate with me. An interrogation of the padres took place at the camp, and the commanding officer said that he was being criticized for having allowed this matter to be brought up. After I waited two months for a reply from the Minister, I mentioned the matter to him. He treated my representation in a rather extraordinary way for a gentleman who went to Japan to investigate the same sort of matter, and said, “ Oh, that was the growl about the parsons; yon will get a reply”. 1 suggest that that is not an attitude that should have been adopted by the Minister. It is not a matter of what a parson or a padre might think; it is a matter of the camps being properly equipped and conducted. The trainees themselves and the parents of the trainees expect proper accommodation to be made for the holding of religious services.
After they failed to obtain other accommodation some trainees used a quarter-master’s store for religious services, but that has now been taken away from them. Then they held services in a mess hut in which a hessian partition was drawn across the section containing mess equipment. There is not sufficient accommodation for the holding of proper services, and it is absolutely wrong that the Government should tolerate such a situation. I have now received a letter from the Minister for the Army which reads as follows : -
I refer again to your pergonal representations of 12 .tb January, 19S3, for better accommodation at the Swanbourne Military Training Camp, Western Australia, for the holding there of religious services.
The Commanding Officer at the camp concorned has examined the -position with all Chaplains who have agreed that the present consulting rooms can be made to suffice whilst’ financial stringency obtains.
There is certainly no stringency in the vote for the Army. I suggest that that answer is sheer hypocrisy. This year the Army vote is double last year’s vote, and arrangements for proper accommodation could have been made. The letter continued -
I have always been very keen on the provision of adequate accommodation for the holding of Church Services and the provision of a quiet room for use by Chaplains and have discussed this matter with the ChaplainsGeneral.
That is all very well, but I require the” Government to provide decent accommodation for religious services. A chapel should be built there or at least a proper room should be made available. The Minister’s letter continued -
It is therefore a matter of deep regret to me that it is not possible at present to provide thu accommodation which i consider is desirable.
Let us drop all this hypocrisy, and support any move to uphold the desire of these young men and their parents that proper accommodation for the holding of religious services should be provided. The parliamentary delegation that visited Japan was required to ascertain whether proper provision had been made for religious services for the troops, because a number of reports had been received that servicemen were getting “off the rails “. I appeal to the Minister to take steps to ensure that proper accommodation shall be made available for the holding of religious services at the camp in Western Australia to which I have referred, because many servicemen have to remain in the camp at week-ends. No provision has been made for men granted week-end leave to proceed to their homes if they live further than 100 miles from the camp. I trust that this matter will be rectified without delay.
– When I spoke on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate last night I did not refer to the Government or the Government’s treatment of soldiers, although I did mention a matter that occurred during the regime of the previous Labour Government. The case to which I referred last night- occurred while a Liberal government was in office. However, I repeat, that I did not mention the Government. I referred only to the Repatriation Department. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) stated that I should- have taker the matter up with him immediately after my arrival in Canberra, and not have waited for one and a half days before doing so. The Minister was hotheaded and bothered, and alleged that I was trying to make political capital out of the matter. All that I was doing was bringing forward a case of injustice. I brought the matter to the notice of the Minister within half an hour of my arrival, not a day and a half later as ho alleged. I undertook to furnish to the Minister additional details if he required them, and I hope that he will look into the matter urgently. In order to refresh my memory, I have perused the Hansard “ flat “ of my remarks. It makes no mention of any reference to the Government or the actions of the Government. I merely placed before the Minister certain facts in relation to a soldier who has been very badly treated. I did not say that he had been badly treated by the Minister, and I hope that the Minister will consider the matter sympathetically. I assure him that I am not trying to make political capital out of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Health Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. 21.
Public Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. 20.
Senate adjourned at 11.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 March 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1953/19530318_senate_20_221/>.