20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 8 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the
Minister for Trade and Customs inform me when, and by what authority it was determined that members of this chamber should be styled “Senators”; what senators are entitled to be addressed as “ Senator the honorable “ ; and when and by what authority was it determined that a member of the House of Representatives should be styled “M.P. “? That question may appear to be trivial, but I assure the Minister that I have had some correspondence with the general editor, Official War History, about it and there seems to be some dispute about the matters to which the question refers.
– I do not think for one moment that the honorable senator’s question is trivial. I am sure that every one who is interested in the Parliament would like to know precisely the correct appellations of its members, and how they came to be chosen. If the. honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper I shall be happy to obtain a complete answer for him.
– In view of the fact that recruiting for the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Australian Navy is lagging, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy endeavour to arrange periodical visits of aircraft carriers to Tasmania in order to demonstrate the work of the Fleet Air Arm ? I point out that Tasmania is an island State and has always contributed a proportionately large percentage of the personnel of the Navy.
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s suggestion to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for the Navy, and let the. honorable senator know the result.
– On the 17th September, Senator O’Flaherty asked the following question : -
Can the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Health say why it is that under the arrangement with friendly societies for the payment of an extra hospital benefit of 4s. a day no provision has been made for juvenile lodge members? Although these juvenile members have been paying hospital benefit dues since the inception of the scheme, is it necessary for them to join another hospital benefit organization to receive the benefit that is paid by the Government?
The Minister acting for the Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply :-
Under the Hospital Benefits Regulations, the Commonwealth additional hospital benefit of 4s. a day is payable in respect of every qualified patient who is contributing to a registered organization for a hospital benefit of at least Os. a day. In the case of a friendly society which is a registered organization, any juvenile member who is contributing for a hospital benefit of Cs. or more a day would be eligible to receive the Commonwealth additional hospital benefit in , the normal manner.
Friendly societies which have been registered as organizations under the regulations are aware of this requirement. It is believed that, where necessary, they have amended their rules to allow juvenile members to contribute for increased hospital benefits and so become eligible to receive the Commonwealth additional hospital benefit.
On the 16th September, Senator Paltridge asked the following question : -
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether some State government departments impose a commission charge upon societies registered under this Government’s health and hospital benefits scheme when employees of such departments pay their contributions by way of “ pay-sheet deductions “, the total amount of such deductions for each department then being forwarded as- one amount to the registered society? If this practice is being followed by State government departments, will the Minister direct the attention of the State governments concerned to the desirability of having it discontinued and, in that way, reducing the administrative costs of registered societies?
The Minister acting for the Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply:-
It is unfortunately true that some State government departments do impose upon societies registered under the Government’s medical benefits and hospital benefits schemes a commission charge for covering contributions to those societies under the “ group “ deduction arrangements referred to by the honorable senator.
Having regard to the effects that this practice has upon the level of the administrative costs of registered societies, action is being taken to urge the State governments concerned to waive this commission charge.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Health by stating that yesterday, in reply to a question, he informed me that he knew nothing of a report of a threatened strike by chemists. I told the Minister then that he was the only one who knew nothing about it, and I hope that in the meantime he has been able to inform himself. Is it a fact that the friendly societies’ dispensaries are filling prescriptions for age and invalid pensioners for 4s. 6d., the same price as chemists are being paid, and that the chemists allege that the prescriptions cost them approximately 10s.? Will the Minister give the Senate an assurance that before a new arrangement is made with the -chemists and before any contract is entered into, full consideration will be given to the ability of the friendly societies’ dispensaries to make a profit on a prescription at 4s. 6d. when the chemists claim that they cannot prepare it for less than 10s.?
– I can only assure the honorable senator that I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister acting for the Minister for Health.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform the Senate whether widows and dependent children in receipt of social services pensions receive free hospital treatment? Are war widows and their dependent children entitled to receive similar treatment?
– I cannot immediately inform the honorable senator whether civilian widows and their dependent children receive free hospital treatment as such treatment, if given, would be provided by the Department of Social Services. However, I can inform the honorable senator that a war widow is entitled to free medical and dental treatment for herself and her children. War widows suffering from certain types of sickness are also given free treatment in repatriation hospitals when beds are available.
– My question to the Minister for Trade and Customs relates to Australia House, London and i preface it by stating that an astonishing number of Australian citizens returning from Great Britain have . suggested that the staff at Australia House sometimes is lacking in knowledge of Australian affairs. Complaints have been made also that on some occasions the officers at Australia House are most unfriendly and unco-operative towards visitors other than very important persons, members of Parliament and senators. Tourists returning from Great Britain have said that the staffs of some Australian Banks in London and of the AgentsGeneral for the various States are generally more helpful. How many persons are employed at Australia House? How many of those employees are Australians? What training, if any, have persons in the public relations section undergone? Finally, what position does a Miss Strella “Wilson hold at Australia House ?
– I am not aware of the source of the information upon which the honorable senator has based his question. Of course, as all of us know, it is impossible to please every body ; and some persons are very difficult 10 deal with. However, if the honorable senator has based his question on information that he received recently, it is conceivable that of the thousands of Australians who visited London for the Coronation - an estimate of between 35,000 and 45,000 has been made in that respect - officials at Australia House would not have been able to satisfy requests made by all of them. For instance, Australia House is allocated a certain number of invitations to garden parties, possibly not more than a few hundred, and if several thousand persons applied to be supplied with such tickets it is inevitable that some of them were disappointed. Having regard to the large number of Australians who visited London for the Coronation, it is conceivable that all of them did not receive the attention which they desired and which, I am confident, the High Commissioner and the staff at Australia House would be eager to give to them. In respect of the other matters that the honorable senator has raised, I ask him to place his question on the noticepaper.
– On the 16th September Senator Robertson asked the following question : -
Is the Minister for Trade and Customs able to inform the Senate whether it is a fact that control over entry of drugs into the Commonwealth is divided between his department and the Department of Health? If that is so, is not such dual control liable to give rise to error? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of establishing a narcotics bureau, to be staffed by trained personnel and to be the responsible authority in this connexion?
The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
Action is already in course for the establishment of a central narcotics section in the Department of Trade and Customs to administer existing Commonwealth legislation governing the importation, exportation and distribution of narcotic drugs, and to ensure generally that Commonwealth obligations under the International Drug Conventions are fully met. As at present, administration will bc maintained in close co-operation with the Department of Health which has agreed to make available, as required, the services of a senior pharmacist to assist in matters requiring technical advice. In addition, an interdepartmental committee has been set up to provide for organized liasion between the Department of Trade and Customs and the Department of Health in relation to the control of narcotic drugs. The committee will consist of a representative each from the Department of Health, the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Department of Trade and Customs. It is considered that there is no justification at the present time for the setting up of an independent authority for the control of narcotic drugs.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that a housing amendment bill, that was introduced yesterday in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, so widens the powers of the Victorian Housing Commission that it will be permitted to build shops and churches, and to plan parks? Will he inform the Senate whether, should the bill become law, the Victorian Housing Commission will be empowered to undertake the general business of buying and selling land and the erection of all types of structures, including buildings for industrial and factory purposes? If so, will that activity conform with the purpose for which the CommonwealthState housing legislation was enacted?
– I know nothing of the proposed legislation to which the honorable senator has referred; I had not heard of it previously. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides that a .proportion of the moneys that the Commonwealth makes available for the .purposes of the agreement may be utilized by the States in the provision of parks within housing areas. As the States may utilize the moneys provided by the Commonwealth in the manner that they think best, they would be able to engage in the buying and selling of land. However, it is not intended that the States should, with those funds, engage in the business of buying and selling all types of buildings, including factories. Moneys are provided to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement for the provision of dwellings only. Those moneys may not be used to build factories, shops, churches or any buildings other than dwellings. If the Victorian Government has in mind extending the activities of the Victorian Housing Commission in the direction that the honorable senator has mentioned, it would appear that that Government intends to provide funds for that purpose apart from the moneys that become available to it under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. That proposition would be so unique that I doubt whether I have correctly interpreted the honorable senator’s question.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The Minister for Social Services has furnished the following reply to the honorable senator’s questions : -
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General consider issuing regulations to authorize the provision of rental-free telephone services to blind persons? I point out that this facility would improve immeasurably their living conditions, and as exemption from payment for telephone calls is not requested, the revenue of the Telephone Branch would not be impaired by the concession.
– ‘This matter has been raised previously. However, I shall refer the honorable senator’s representations to the Postmaster-‘General and endeavour to obtain a considered reply for him at an early date.
– I ask the Minister representing the “Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that since the strike on the Bowen waterfront ended the tonnage handled per gang-hour has risen from 13 tons to 19 tons? Is it a fact that a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration laid it down in the last award for waterside workers that 24 tons per gang-hour should be a minimum? Is it a fact that troops which were sent to Bowen in order to relieve the congestion handled’ between 40 and 50 tons per gang-hour ?
– I understand that the rate at which waterside workers have handled cargo since the dispute at Bowen has risenfrom 13 tons to 19 tons per gang-hour. I shall ascertain from the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the other figures cited by the honorable senator are accurate.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : -
– I desire to inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator Maher tendering his resignation as a member of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee.
Motion (by Senator O’SULLIVAN) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1940, Senator Paltridge be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings.
Debate resumed from the 22nd September (vide page 189), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following papers be printed : -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ended 30th June, 1954.
The Budget, 1953-54 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable Sir Arthur Fadden, M.P., on the occasion of the Budget of 1953-54.
National Income and Expenditure 1952-53
– When the Senate adjourned last night, 1 was in process of analysing the provisions of the budget, and for the benefit of honorable senators who were not in the chamber at that late hour, I shall briefly recapitulate the propositions that 1 have submitted. I said that the budget, conceived as a political instrument - I firmly believe that it has been conceived as such - had obviously failed almost immediately and was doomed to an even more noticeable failure as month followed month. I also said that, considered as it should be considered, that is, as a statement of financial and economic policy, it was again doomed to failure. I pointed put, too, that the alterations of income tax rates announced in the budget gave undue preference to certain classes in the community, particularly the propertyowning class and companies, at the expense of and to the prejudice of those who derived their income from personal exertion. I said that the remissions of company tax amounting to between £2S;000,000 and £29,000,000 were out of proportion to the total tax amelioration foreshadowed by the budget. To sum up my arguments, I submitted that the budget would necessarily operate to attract to industries engaged in the production of luxury goods investment capital, which is so vital to this community. This, I said, would, first, have a substantial inflationary effect because those industries were not producing consumer goods or vital and fundamental equipment required for further production. Secondly, it would starve” the already attenuated loan market at a time when more capital was this country’s most urgent need. Thirdly, starving of the loan market would result in a continuation of the burden now imposed on Consolidated Revenue by the capital works programme and consequently in the retention of high taxes while denying to the Government - whether this Administration or some other one - the ability to expend sufficient money on social services to ensure just treatment to all sections of the community. That in brief is a summary of my arguments. Let us glance at the purposes of the budget, as they are revealed in the words of the
Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). In the course of his budget speech, the right honorable gentleman said -
Finally, a combination of harder work, greater efficiency and a higher level of savings undoubtedly holds the key to the third main problem, the promotion of greater national productivity. As the Government sees the position, this is the best possible moment both psychologically and from an economic standpoint, to give a strong impetus to effort and enterprise.
In the light of those statements, it is worth while to examine some of the provisions of the budget in order to ascertain the incentives to saving, efficiency and effort that are to be given to the great working class in the community, with whom the ultimate success of the budget rests. Reference to the tax tables, which are a part of the budget speech, discloses that a person without dependants who now earns £600 a year and increases his earnings to £800 a year will be provided with an incentive payment of less than 2s. a week. A married man with a dependent wife will receive the benefit of an incentive payment of approximately 2s. Id. a week, whilst a married man with a wife and one child will benefit by ls. lid. a week. A married man with a wife and two children will receive less than ls. lOd. a week. Those are the incentives which will be given to encourage the workers to increase their efficiency ,and rate of production. I am sure that the attitude of the Government to this matter of incentives will give great encouragement to delegates to the conference of trade unions which will be discussing this question generally during the week. The advocates of incentive payments will derive little support from the manner in which the Australian Government proposes to provide incentives to the workers of Australia in order to induce them to increase production.
Let us consider the fatuous phrase “a combination of harder work, greater efficiency and a higher level of savings “ which the Treasurer used during his budget speech. What possible chance has a worker to raise his level of savings if a married man with a dependent wife and two children is to receive an incentive payment of less than ls. lOd. a week to induce him to increase his output? If the budget hopes to achieve something on that basis, it is doomed to failure.
The budget is not standing up to the close scrutiny which it has been receiving in respect of its general terms, its fundamentals or its particulars. Government supporters waxed most eloquent about the budget when it was presented. Indeed, their enthusiasm was so great that some of it was conveyed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies 1 himself. The right honorable gentleman became so infected with the synthetic enthusiasm displayed by his supporters that he went on to the international stage and declared that this is the best budget to be presented by any country since World War II. Let us analyse that statement. During the course of my remarks, I have attempted to show the factors which lurk .behind the budget. For instance, there is recognition of the present high cost level, although the budget offers no cure for that state of affairs. Yet the high cost of production is one of the major evils in Australia to-day. The Statement of the Prime Minister concerning the budget must stand before the bar of public opinion. If it does so, it will be adjusted to be the budget of a country which is producing goods at such a high cost that it cannot sell them because other nations cannot afford to buy them. I do not, of course, refer to wool, which is more or less exclusive to Australia and for which we can command a market in almost any circumstances.
This budget acknowledges to the world that the Government cannot do justice to the people of Australia. It shows clearly that, in respect of social services and repatriation benefits, we are not in a position to do even primary justice to our own people. The Government in this budget acknowledges that it can do little tq assist Australians who work all their lives, many of whom end their working days in complete penury. Yet it claims that this is the best budget since the war!
In conclusion, I direct attention to a matter which I think will have a very serious international reaction. It also is one of the evils which lurk behind the facade of the budget. I refer to the policy of the Government regarding immigration. In the statements attached to the budget papers, the following footnote is to be found under Item No. 7 - Miscellaneous Services: -
The reduction of £2,694,000 in the amount to be provided in Z953-54 under the Miscellaneous Services vote of the Department of Immigration reflects both the decline in the rate of intake of migrants in 1952-53 and the expected further decline in 1953-54.
That statement is made in a document which is going before countries which expect Australia to take persons who are an embarrassment to them because they cannot be supported. To them, Australia appears as a great and distant land wl i ch should be in a position to receive many people from overseas. It seems to me that this statement must have a very bad effect internationally/ particularly in Great Britain, which is prepared to give us some of its people. However, because of mismanagement on the part of this Government, we are unable to take even people of British stock.
The Opposition denies the things which are implicit in the budget. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber contend that the Prime Minister is not entitled to parade the document in the terms he used and for the purposes he disclosed. We claim that there is capacity in this country to realize our national destiny, that we should accept immigrants, that we can develop the country, and that if we fail to do justice to our own people now, at the appropriate, time, and when the government of the country is in the right hands, those things will be done. The Opposition believes that the budget does not reflect the true soul or the aspirations of the Australian people. It is of the opinion that the present economic conditions have been brought about by the maladministration of the Liberal-Australian Country party Government during its three years of office, and that that maladministration has resulted in the nation losing its national momentum, which should never have happened in a country which possesses such wealth and opportunities. If honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber contend that this budget is a good one, we must conclude that they do so only because they think that perhaps it could have been worse. For our part, we say that it is particularly bad because it could have been and should have been and in other hands would have been infinitely better.
Senator - LAUGHT (South Australia) 3.49]. - I rise to support the budget, Senator Byrne, although a delightful and likeable person, in my opinion has made an extravagant speech. I rise to contradict the statement made by the honorable senator that Australia was losing its national momentum because of this budget. Within the last few weeks Mr. R. M. Eggleston, Q.G., who appeared on behalf of the Australian Council of Trades Unions in the wages and hours case, before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, stated -
Inflationary pressure has virtually disappeared. Exports are expanding; overseas funds are increasing. Employment is rising. Profits are increasing. The current economic outlook is favorable. Productivity is increasing. If you make a comparison between 1940-50 and the present time in my submission, you find a better condition of thu economy now in every respect.
While Senator Byrne wa.s addressing the Senate last night, he little knew that the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Cahill, was delivering his budget speech, in which he said -
We feel that the economy of our State should be allowed a breathing space. By world standards, our level of employment, our production and our living standards are very high.
New South Wales has 40 per cent, of Australia’s population so that statement is particularly noteworthy. Mr. Cahill also paid a tribute to this budget. He said -
The recent Commonwealth budget, however, reduced the very high level of direct and indirect taxation which was restricting initiative and hampering production, and our Government feels that the full effects of the Commonwealth’s budget should not be offset by »ny measures which would reduce the purchasing power in the hands of the people.
Mr. Cahill, although a Labour Premier, was man enough to- acknowledge the good effect of this budget. Yet Senator Byrne, who certainly is a back-bench Senator on the Opposition side, but is not without ability, painted an entirely different picture. Both gentlemen cannot be right. Mr. Laurie Short, the national secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia, in referring to the budget, said -
The tax reductions will greatly benefit both workers and’ employers.
That was the reaction of a very able man and a supporter of the Labour party. Senator Byrne referred to the 1951 budget as one that plunged Australia into economic depression. He was unkind enough to refer to this budget as a concocted affair that did some things for a few. I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the 1952 budget was very beneficial to rural industries, and that this Government, by its policy over the past three years, has been able to achieve much for Australia. The Government showed imagination in allowing the initial 20 per cent, depreciation allowance which has been very helpful to rural industries. A year ago, this Government decided that essential plant, machinery and buildings for the housing of employees and the conservation of fodder could be written down by 20 per cent, each year for five years. Already in South Australia, the production of meat, wool, wheat and barley has gone ahead rapidly and extensively. The average increase of production in one year in South Australia has exceeded 20 per cent., compared with the Australian average of 17 per cent. I have visited many parts of; South Australia recently in the course of my political duties, and everywhere I went I saw buildings for employees in the course of construction and new machinery being brought into use. That is an example of the stimulus that was given to rural industries by the 1952 budget.
In this budget, the Government has provided substantial reductions of taxation and thereby it is attacking directly the cost of production. This Government has other achievements to its credit. I direct the attention of honorable senators first to the work of the Public Accounts Committee. It gives me great pleasure to link with that committee the distinguished service that has been given to it by Senator Byrne. The committee has functioned free of party political thinking. It is rendering a great public service to Australia by examining procedures connected with the Government that were considered once to be sacrosanct. It is endeavouring to ensure that the Government will get value for the money that is spent. The Auditor-General can audit books and find no faults, but this committee can go behind the Auditor-General’s formal auditing and determine whether government departments are getting value for money. I pay tribute also to Senator Seward and Senator Paltridge, who are members of the committee, and to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), who is chairman. I believe that the work of the committee has had a marked effect upon this budget and that it will influence future budgets also. It is regrettable that nominees of the Australian Labour party in the Parliament were not made available to serve on the committee earlier than they were. I recall that the necessary legislation was passed at the end of 1951, but it was not until a year ago that the committee began to function because of that delay.
I direct the attention of honorable senators now to the report of the AuditorGeneral relating to taxation. I pay tribute to the Taxation Branch and theCommissioner of Taxation. Last year, outstanding taxes at the 30th June, 1952, totalled £186,000,000. This year the amount outstanding is £127,000,000. The Government has made good progress this year in collecting outstanding taxes. The Auditor-General focused the Parliament’s attention upon that matter about a year ago. I remind the Senate that the Government has entered in agreements with other countries, particularly the United States of America, to abolish double taxation. That is an important matter, although no mention is made pf it in this budget. Substantial justice has been done to taxpayers by the introduction of the self-assessment system. Taxpayers are now permitted to assess their own provisional tax, and I assure the Senate that that system is working admirably.
This budget, compared with the last budget that was introduced by the Chifley Government, makes provision for an additional expenditure of £161,000,000 on defence, £80,000,000 more for social services, £80,000,000 more in payments to the States, and £40,000,000 more for the financing of public works. Overall, this budget makes provision for an additional expenditure of £380,000,000 on essential services compared with the expenditure provided for in the last Chifley Govern- ment. No member of the Opposition has seriously attacked that expenditure. Indeed, some honorable senators opposite appear to think that greater provision should be made in that respect. Having regard to the substantial additional expenditure proposed under this budget compared with expenditure incurred during the so-called “ golden age “ of the Chifley Government, it is only to be expected that the Government must obtain increased revenue from tax collections. However, the real test in respect of taxation is the proportion of income that is left to the taxpayer after he has paid tax. The relevant figures are most interesting. Under the last Chifley budget the amount of income left to Australian taxpayers as a whole after payment of tax totalled £1,289.000,000, whereas under this budget the sum of £2,730,000,000 will be left to taxpayers after payment of tax. That sum will provide a capital structure and make savings available for the purpose of increasing production. I shall now refer to notable trends in taxation during the last few years. Under this budget, the Government proposes to abolish the entertainments tax which has been haunting the family man for the last 30 years. Last year, the Government abolished land tax which had been haunting Australian land-holders for the preceding 40 years. Members of the Opposition opposed that action tooth and nail, and their leaders in this Parliament declared that Labour, if returned to office, would re-impose land tax. Already, several State Labour governments have threatened to re-impose the entertainments tax. In addition, the Government now proposes to abolish the differential tax on income from property. That is wise, because, after all, no penalty should be imposed upon persons who by the exercise of thrift are able to acquire shares in companies or to lend money on the security of mortgages. But the most dramatic action of the Government in this sphere is the proposal under this budget to exempt completely from tax certain classes of aged persons. It is well to remember that under the Chifley Government every person, regardless of age, was liable to pay tax on an income of £104 a year. This Government, under its budget, which honorable senators opposite were pleased to describe as the “ horror “ budget, exempted males over the age of 65 years and females over the age of 60 years from payment of tax if their incomes did not exceed £234 a year. Last year, the Government raised that exemption level to £254, and under this budget, it proposes to raise it still further to £375. In the case of an aged couple, that exemption will be doubled; and it will be possible for such a couple to have an income of £750 a year, or approximately £15 a week, before they become liable to pay Id. of income tax. Thus, under this budget, the Government proposes to grant a concession to aged couples which will be more than seven times greater than that which operated under the Labour Government. Under this budget, the Government proposes to raise the exemption level in respect of pay-roll tax from £20 to £80 a week, and this will have the effect of exempting between 50,000 and 60,000 small farmers and graziers, professional men and business people from payment of that tax. For many years, estate duty was payable in instances in which estates which exceeded £2,000 in value were bequeathed to the wife, children or grandchildren of the testator. Under this budget, the Government proposes that estate duty shall not become payable in such instances unless the value of the estate exceeds £5,000. That concession will prove of tremendous assistance to many people.
Last year, the Government exempted from sales tax equipment used for educational purposes and many other items, and on this occasion it proposes to exempt from that tax such articles as matches and fruit juices. The proposed concession in respect of fruit juices will be of enormous benefit to the citrus industry. One could refer to many other taxation concessions that this Government has made in spite of difficult economic trends during the last three years. Implicit in this budget is a challenge to the Opposition in this Parliament and to State governments not to re-impose taxes which this Government abolishes. However, as 1 have said, the Opposition has already declared that, if returned to office, it will re-impose land tax; whilst several State Labour Premiers have announced their decisions to re-impose the entertainments tax. In due course, the people will pass judgment oh those responsible for such decisions.
I shall now deal with the direct effect of the budget on the family man. For many years the concessional deduction in respect of a dependent wife remained at £104. By this budget that deduction has been increased by 25 per cent, to £130. Income taxation has been reduced by an average of 12£ per cent., apart from the benefit that will be derived from this concession. During the last year of the Chifley Government’s term of office a person in receipt of an income of £600 a year was required to pay £26 5s. in tax, compared with only £13 ls. in this financial year. In addition he will receive endowment for the first child - assuming that he has more than one child - which was denied him by the previous Labour Administration. Honorable senators will recollect that this Government’s legislation to introduce endowment for the first child in every family under the age of sixteen years was bitterly opposed by the Labour Opposition in this chamber. The taxpayers are also eligible to receive benefits under this Government’s medical scheme upon payment of small contributions.
There has been a most important development in relation to education during the last two years. Last year this Government introduced a deduction allowance of £50 for parents in relation to fees actually paid to a school, convent, college, or university attended by their children. This budget increases the allowance by 50 per cent, to an amount of £75 a year. Furthermore, the deduction will now be allowed in relation not only to tuition fees but also to boarding fees, school equipment, and travelling expenses. This concession, as- well as the increased allowance for a wife, will be of considerable benefit to taxpayers in the middle income bracket. I thought that it was most ungracious of Senator Byrne to imply that this Government had granted taxation concessions only to big companies and the wealthy members of the community, because the budgetary proposals will benefit many persons in the lower income brackets, especially those who have children. I remind honorable senators that nearly 3,000,000 taxpayers in this country will derive a benefit from the reduction of income tax, at a cost to revenue of £64,000,000 a year. Company taxation has been reduced by £29,000,000. In another place, the honorable member for East Sydney. (Mr. Ward) stated that Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was a monstrous concern. I point out that there are about 26,000 shareholders in that company. It is unfair for the Opposition to contend that the reduction of company taxation will benefit only the wealthy sections of the community, because hundreds of thousands of small people in this country, including widows, pensioners, and beneficiaries of trust estates derive income from small shareholdings. Sales tax has been reduced, at a cost of £11,000,000 to the revenue. The highest rate of sales tax is now only 16$ per cent., while the general rate has been reduced to 12^ per cent. On the morning after the budget was introduced an advertisement by a large Melbourne retail store was published in a Melbourne newspaper under the headline “ Sensational price reductions throughout the whole store “. The advertisement stated that buyers would save 4s. 6d. in every £1 spent. That is an indication of the benefit that will be derived by all members of the community from the reductions of sales tax.
Pay-roll tax has been reduced, at a cost to revenue of £5,000,000 a year. Within a short period this reduction will be reflected by the lower price of many commodities. Entertainments tax has been abolished, at a cost to revenue of £7,000,000 a year, and provided that the State governments do not now decide to impose entertainments tax in the respective. States this concession will be of considerable assistance to all sections of the community, particularly family men. Although some of the substantial taxation concessions that have been granted by this Government will be lost to the Australian people as a result of the action of some of the State governments, in the main they will be of considerable benefit to the taxpayers. The ball is now at their feet, because this Government knows where it is going and it has honoured the. promises that it made to the people during the recent Senate election campaign. Last year we granted substantial relief from taxation to rural industries, and the farmers responded by increasing production. They have given a lead to the community at large, and I am convinced that if that lead is followed there will be a very bright future ahead of this great country, and the submissions that were made to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on behalf of the Australian Council of Trades Unions during the recent wages and hours application will be shown to be well founded. This Government’s momentous record will go down in history to its credit.
. in the financial year 1949-50 the people of Australia had a mere £95,000,000 taken from them in income tax. In 1950-51, under the present Government, that amount rose to £177,000,000. In 1951-52 the amount was £336,000,000 and in 1952-53 it reached the sum of £387,000,000. Between the financial years 1949-50 and 1952-53 income tax increased by £293,000,000. During those years total excise collections rose progressively from £66,000,000 in 1949-50 to £113,000,000 in 1952-53. That was an increase of £47,000,000 which took place during the regime of this Government. In the same period sales tax increased from £1.36,000,000 to £280,000,000, an increase of £94,000,000. All these taxation increases aggregate £434,000,000. I submit that even if the Treasurer is correct in alleging that this budget will reduce taxation by £118,000,000, that reduction will not recompense the people for the £434,000,000 which they have paid to this Government in increased taxation. The budget must be viewed in that light in order to obtain a clear picture of the operations of the Government in the field of taxation.
Honorable senators supporting the Government have sung hymns of praise and have claimed that this is a splendid budget which contains everything for which the public could wish. They have deluded themselves into believing that the general public shares their opinion of it. But let us ascertain what people are really thinking of the budget. The housewives, who are an important section of the community, are reported to have made the following statement about the budget: -
Housewives representing four States decided in Melbourne to-day to support any protest by women’s organizations against the pension increase of 2s. 6d. They said it was’ a mere pittance and an insult.
Whatever the views of housewives may be on taxation there is no doubt that they support Opposition senators in their protest against the totally inadequate increase in pension rates.
Honorable senators opposite have alleged that the business world has reacted favorably to the budget which they claim will produce boundless prosperity. According to the stock exchange notes of the Sunday Telegraph on the 20th September the ordinary shares index dropped 2.8 points to 166.2 during the preceding week.’ Yet, according to honorable senators opposite, the budget announcements made during that week were of great value to the community. The share market indicated that the busi ness community was not impressed with the budget and could see nothing in it to improve our economy. On Tuesday there was still a lull in share trading on the stock exchange. That fact indicates what the community thinks of this budget.
I think that it can be fairly stated that when the press comments on the activities of this Parliament the scales are weighted against the Labour party. Yet the press reaction to this budget has not been very favorable. One influential Sydney newspaper dismissed the budget with a few words by saying that it merely “ clipped the air above the tree “, by which it meant that the budget would achieve nothing. The financial expert of that newspaper considered that the budget would not have any effect on the economic life of this country. I have before me a bulletin printed by an influential section of the business world, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, which makes the following statement: -
The apparently good practice of freeing theloan market by reducing taxation has been followed, but whether it will produce the desired result remains to be seen. It would appear, however, that it may be defeated through this Government’s past bond issue policy, which, to a great extent, destroyed public confidence in the Commonwealth loan market. . . . The budget introduces some new and strange anomalies. Spirits for instance including imported Scotch whisky enjoy an excise relief of 21s. a gallon whereas duty and excise on petrol the means by which all Australian goods and services are, at some stage, moved or operated will continue to pay an unchanged rate returning some £30,000,000 per year to Commonwealth revenue.
Obviously, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries is not very satisfied with the budget or the activity of the Government. The bulletin further states -
Responsible industry and people, who are truly Australian in outlook, must read into the budget a clear indication that the Commonwealth Government desires, for reasons’ best known to itself, to reduce its responsibility in the sphere of national development. No one will quarrel with commonsense reduction in taxation, providing always that it has occurred following the most searching examination of national needs and is based on n determination by all governments to strive to avoid extravagance and waste of public funds. But so urgent is our need for national development to-day and so limited are our national resources for undertaking such work that one reasonably may reach the conclusion that the financial policy of the present Commonwealth Government does not reflect a clear conception of its national responsibility.
So, as we find out what the outside world is thinking about this budget, we may perhaps be excused for believing that some slight element of doubt might intrude itself into the minds of those honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber who have been so eulogistic in their references to the budget. They have used the budget to woo the Australian people, but with the passage of time, I believe they are becoming uneasily aware of the fact that it is a case of unrequited love.
X wish to refer now to a statement made
W the Prime Minister in one of his regular “ man to man “ talks. On that occasion he advocated the entry of a greater number of businessmen into the political life of this nation. He said that because we were now dealing with budgets amounting to £1,000,000,000, it was essential that we should have in the legislative halls of this country, businessmen who -could steer the various financial deals through to a proper conclusion. I certainly do not subscribe to the belief that there is any need for the intrusion of (businessmen into the Commonwealth or State Parliaments. I do not say they should be excluded, but I believe that the business of the nation and the welfare of the people should never become inconsequential sidelines .of somebody engaged actively in the pursuit of profits. The influx of great numbers of businessmen into our Parliaments would have exactly that result. The Parliaments of . this country need men and women whose hearts and minds can be moved by suffering and who have a burning desire to correct injustices. Above all, we need men and women whose ears are so attuned that even above the roar of commerce and industry they can hear the cry for mercy of the underprivileged. “We do not need businessmen to do that. When one looks through the legislation that has been placed on the statute-book in this and other countries, one finds that every measure that has for its aim the advancement of the human race was placed there by people of the homespun kind who know and understand the needs of the people and not by hard-boiled businessmen who are so concerned with chasing profits that the real problems of the people escape them. We want people with understanding in our legislatures.
I wish to touch briefly on one of two comments of certain honorable senators opposite. Senator Pearson, one of my colleagues from South Australia, made the rather fantastic claim that Labour representatives of South Australia would be pleased with this budget. He knows quite well that we on this side are not pleased with it; and it is unlikely that we would be, because we have a rather deeper sense of responsibility in this matter than he has. Although senators represent all the people of their respective States, if the results of the last -Senate elections are any indication, we on this side represent at least 31,000 more of the electors of South Australia than Senator Pearson and his colleagues do. Because of that, there rests upon us a deeper sense of responsibility than Senator Pearson needs to exhibit.
Much has been said about certain evidence .that was placed before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court during the hearing of the wages and standard hours case. We have been told that, evidence given by trade union representatives indicated that this Government had established bounding prosperity. That claim was refuted by the employers who claimed in their evidence that under this Government, Australia had gone rapidly and completely to the dogs. I disagree with Senator Laught on this matter. I submit that the court’s recommendation of adiscontinuance of the quarterly adjustment of the basic wage was a vindication of the employers’ case rather than of the case of the employees. It demonstrated that the court is not satisfied with the Australian economy. Clearly the court believes that inflation remains unchecked. Otherwise there would be no need to recommend a discontinuance of the quarterly adjustments.
Yesterday, a supporter of the Government - I think it was Senator Maher - made an extraordinary statement in support of the Government’s treatment of the pensioners. He said that pensions had been increased by 67 per cent, since the Government assumed office in 1949. I do not dispute that figure, but the honorable senator forgot to tell the Senate that the basic wage has increased by more than 80 per cent, in the same period. It appears therefore that Senator Maher was using the inflation created by the Government of which he is a supporter, to bolster up his case in defence of the Government.
Time will not permit me to deal fully with other matters, but I wish to make a brief reference to & statement made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). The right honorable gentleman said -
Clearly, therefore, we have now practically attained that stability we set out to achieve in the strenuous days of 1.950 and 1951. It has not been easy either for the Government or for the community.
The admission that it has not been easy for the community must surely be the understatement of the century. I come now to the Government’s sales tax proposals, and I find some rather peculiar things in those proposals. Matches are no longer to be taxed, and I shall not argue against that concession; but I find that aeroplanes also are to be exempted. I am sure that thousands of my working class acquaintances, when they buy their next aeroplane, will be very pleased indeed to find that the sales tax has been removed from those extremely essential machines! I feel compelled to pay a tribute to the Government for having made such an important contribution to the welfare of the working classes !
Much has been said about the report of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Honorable senators opposite would have us believe that, according to the bank authorities, Australia is a land of bounding prosperity under this Government. They have quoted repeatedly from the report in support of that claim, but I am afraid that they have not read the document completely. Hearing those claims, I thought I had better see whether they were true, and I must say I found some rather depressing utterances in the report. They included the following passages : -
The aggregate amount of private investment declined in 1952-53. … . . commencements of new buildings, both residential and non-residential, were appreciably lower in 1952-53 than in the previous year. . .
Investment in motor vehicles was much lower than in the previous year; on the one hand, demand appears to have fallen off, and on the other hand supplies were considerably reduced by import restrictions. . . .
It was supported largely by projects planned or commenced in earlier years but there is some evidence of a fall in new investment plans during 1952-53…..
And so they went on. Clearly the Commonwealth Bank’s report does not support the view that prosperity abounds inAustralia as honorable senators haveclaimed. The budget makes no mentionof child endowment for the very obvious reason that child endowment” payments are not to be increased. Thousands of housewives throughout Australia who are acutely aware of the necessity to increase child endowment are bitterly disappointed by theGovernment’s failure to meet its obligations in this connexion. It is idle to» say that an increase is not justified. The purchasing power of money has reached such a stage to-day that if child endowment had been increased by 5s. a week it- would Have done no more than bridge the gap, and I am certain that housewives who have given due consideration to this matter, will take appropriate action at the forthcoming House of Representatives election. Pensioners, too, have not been justly treated under the budget. The Government has failed to honour the promises of better treatment for pensioners made by its candidates at the recent Senate elections.
I return now to what I said at the beginning of my speech. The only practical approach to this budget is to relate it to the Government’s financial and economic policy since it has been in office. If that is done, we find that despite the alleged gift of £118,000,000 which the Treasurer claims is being made to the Australian people, this Government will still take from the community £350,000,000 more than the Chifley Government took in 1948-49. The whole conception of the budget is based on the assumption that the memories of the people extend back no more than twelve months. That reasoning is fallacious and the political history of this country is studded with instances in which governments that have adopted that line of reasoning have fallen by the wayside.
When the House of Representatives elections take place next year, honorable senators opposite will find that the memories of the Australian people go back further than twelve months, and this Government will meet the fate that befell those other administrations.
– I congratulate Senator Toohey upon his maiden speech in the Senate. With some of his sentiments I agree; with others, I disagree violently. Nevertheless, I congratulate him on his moderation which indicates that he gave considerable thought to the preparation of his speech. I commend him also upon his manner of delivery. No doubt, in the opinion of the party to which he belongs, it was an- excellent speech, and therefore to that extent he is to be complimented upon it. Every one who is not steeped in party political prejudice must agree that the budget is a masterly effort and that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is deserving of the most profound thanks of the Australian people. The budget proposals will be a great fillip to the economy of Australia. I can think of nothing more calculated to encourage production, individual effort and business enterprises. It is indeed the incentive for which Australia has been waiting. Honorable senators opposite who are adept at offering destructive criticism and who, to use a common phrase, can pick holes in any constructive proposals, have been left spell-bound. Even their most friendly newspaper, the Melbourne Argus, has strongly commended the budget and referred to it as a “little man’s” budget. Indeed, the budget has been acclaimed by all sections of the reputable press and also by the community generally. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator MeKenna), with all their undoubted ability, have been hard put to it to make an effective criticism of it. They have found a few mares’ nests and that is all. Good lawyers can sometimes make white appear black, but in this instance both gentlemen have failed lamentably. The Australian Labour party to-day is disappointed and perturbed by the proposal of the Government to reduce taxation so substantially. By implication, they have already admitted their perturbation. The president of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Labour party, Mr. Reece, who until recently was the federal president of the party, said a short time ago -
The people are awake to this type of preelection political bribery.
It is nauseating, but there it is. They cannot have it both ways. I point out to honorable senators opposite that the proposed taxation concessions are due to action taken by this Government to restore economic sanity.
– Did Mr. Reece say that?
– No, he would not have the brains to say it. These concessions are simply a part of the buildingup process which has been made possible by the courageous action and the foresight of the present Government. The members of the Opposition contend that taxes should be reduced, but when the Government proposes to do so they say that it is political bribery. If an honorable senator opposite is of that opinion, it is his duty to vote against the proposed reductions. I look forward with interest to seeing the number of honorable senators opposite who vote against the budget proposals.
During the recent Senate election campaign, the supporters of the Australian Labour party made outrageous demands in respect of tax reductions. Now that the Government proposes to reduce taxes, they say that it is scandalous and amounts to political bribery. I am sure that the electors of Australia will agree that this is an incentive budget and also a prosperity budget, because every one in the community will benefit from its provisions. It will add to the pay envelope of every wage-earner in Australia. In addition, it will give him greater purchasing power, which is of paramount importance. If honorable senators opposite are able to derive any pleasure from the fact, I readily agree that it is to be regretted that the Government has not been able to increase pensions to a greater degree than is proposed, but I remind the Senate that £18,500,000 more will be provided for pensions this year than was provided last year. The all-round increases contemplated by the Government will ensure that pensioners remain on the economic level on which they were when pensions were increased last year. In addition, pensioners, like every one else in the community, will have the benefit of the lower prices which must follow the proposed tax reductions.
The means test is to be relaxed substantially. When the budget proposals become effective, pensioners will be permitted to have additional income of £2 a week, making a total permissible income of £5 10s. a week for a single person and £11 a week for a married couple, without entitlement to pension being affected. That relaxation will, in many instances, have the effect of increasing pensions by far more than the increase of 2s. 6d. a week which the Government proposes. In addition, it will bring many more persons within the reach of pensions. It is also proposed that the value of property which a pensioner may have without rendering him ineligible for pension shall be increased. For instance, a married couple will be entitled to own property to the value of £2,500, irrespective of the value of the home in which they live, the furniture which it contains, and their personal effects. It should not be forgotten that pensioners are entitled to free medicine and medical attention.
In my opinion, the manner in which the supporters of the Australian Labour party play on the plight of age and invalid pensioners is shameful and is to be deplored. Invariably, they endeavour to make a political football of the misfortunes of those people. From their statements, one would think that honorable senators opposite are sincere in their concern for pensioners, but what did the Australian Labour party do for the pensioners when it had the opportunity, and when it had a majority in both Houses of this Parliament? Let us examine the records. The history of the age and invalid pensions is that a non-Labour government, under Mr. Deakin, instituted them in 1909, at the rate of 10s. a week.
– The Australian Labour party kept Mr. Deakin’s Government in office.
– That is an old story. A non-Labour government, under Mr. Hughes, increased the pensions by 5s. a week between 1916 and 1920, making them 15s. a week. Another non-Labour government, under Mr. Bruce, further increased them by 5s. a week between 1923 and 1925, taking them to £1 a week. Then a Labour government, under Mr. Scullin, reduced the pensions by 2s. 6d. a week in 1931, bringing them down to 17s. 6d. a week. A non-Labour government, under Mr. Lyons, restored that 2s. 6d. between 1935 and 1937, making the pensions again £1 a week. Then the Menzies Government, also a non-Labour government, increased them by 2s. 6d. a week between 1940 and 1941, making them £1 2s. 6d. a week. A Labour government, under Mr. Curtin, increased them by 10s. a week between 1941 and 1945, bringing them up to £1 12s. 6d. a week. Another Labour government, under the late Mr. Chifley, further increased them by 10s. a week between 1947 and 1948, bringing them up to £2 2s. 6d. a week. Then the Menzies Government increased them by £1 5s. a week between 1949 and 1952, making them £3 7s. 6d. a week. The same Government now proposes to increase them by 2s. 6d. a week, which will make them £3 10s. a week.
It will be seen from the figures I have given that Liberal-Country party governments have increased the pensions by a total of £2 12s. 6d. a week. Labour governments have increased them by £1 a week, but if the 2s. 6d. reduction effected by the Scullin Government in 1931 is taken into consideration, the net increase made by Labour governments is only 17s. 6d. a week. I can safely say, therefore, that the Liberal and Australian Country parties have been true friends of the pensioners and have done more for them than shed crocodile tears, as the members of the Opposition have done during the last few days. Approximately the same ratio of increases applies to social services benefits generally. One of the main features of this budget is the proposed substantial reduction of taxation, which will amount to approximately £118,000,000 and which must encourage effort and enterprise. During the last two years this Government has provided £200,000,000 by way of tax reductions.
Excessive costs and prices can ruin the economy. This budget must go a long way towards arresting rising costs and reducing the high prices which Australian people must pay for commodities to-day. One of the most valuable of the proposed tax concessions is that the deduction in respect of a wife is to be increased by £26 a year, making the annual deduction £130. That concession will apply also to taxpayers who maintain a parent or a housekeeper. Another valuable concession will be the further exemption of aged people from the payment of income tax. The exemption is to be increased, in respect of single persons, by £121, and in the case of married persons, by £243. In other words, a single aged person who earns up to £375 will be exempt from the payment of income tax, and an aged married couple who earn up to £750 will also be exempt.
As honorable senators on this side of the chamber have pointed out, the allowable deductions for medical expenses are to be increased from £100 to £150 in respect of each person in a family. The deduction in respect of dental expenses is to be increased from £20 to £30 for each person. The allowable deduction on account of education expenses will be increased from £50 tq £75 in respect of each child attending school. In addition, taxpayers generally will benefit by the proposed abolition of the differential rates of tax in respect of income from personal exertion and income from property. The reduction of indirect taxation and the abolition of the entertainments tax will stimulate employment and production. The exemption figure in respect of pay-roll tax is to be raised from £1,040 to £4,160, which will relieve approximately 50,000 employers of the obligation to pay such tax. The remaining 40,000 employers will, of course, benefit considerably from the higher exemption figure. It is easy for honorable senators to put forward hypothetical cases and to select individual items from the budget and criticize them, but the budget must be taken as a whole. Honorable senators are on gaged now in a general debate upon the budget. When the relevant bills are before the Senate, the details can be properly discussed.
I believe that this is an appropriate time to place on record a summary of the taxation concessions that are proposed in the budget. The concessions on income tax paid by individuals total £51,250,000. The abolition of the differential rates of income tax on property income will amount to £3,500,000. Other amounts by which taxpayers will benefit will be : Increased concessional allowance for spouse, £6,000,000; increased concessional allowances for educational expenses, £1,950,000; increased concessional allowances for medical and dental expenses, £100,000; increased exemptions from income tax for aged persons, £1,500,000 ; concessional methods of computing taxation on certain abnormal incomes, £50,000. Thus the total of concessions to individual taxpayers will be £64,350,000.
Income tax concessions applying to companies may be regarded as reductions of taxation on individuals also because big companies often are made up of a multiplicity of small investors. The proposed reduction of income tax rates on private and public companies will amount to £28,750,000 in a full year. The extension to private companies of the 10 per cent, retention allowance on property income will give relief totalling £350,000, making the total proposed concessions in connexion with income tax on companies £29,100,000. The Government proposes to allow concessions totalling £100,000 for deductions for gifts to the Queen Elizabeth the Second Coronation Trust Fund for Mothers and Children. The total income tax concessions, therefore, will amount to £93,550,000.
The review of sales tax rates will mean a reduction of £10,390,000 in tax collections and the’ exemption of certain goods from sales tax will give relief amounting to £1,310,000, making the total of proposed sales tax concessions £11,700,000. Increased exemptions from pay-roll tax will total £5,000,000. The abolition of the entertainments tax will give concessions totalling £7,000,000. The Government proposes to reduce estate duties by £430,000 and reductions of customs, excise and primage will total £750,000. Therefore, the total taxation reductions are expected to reach £118,430,000.
Surely those figures will be a tonic to the nation. The budget proposals will maintain an atmosphere of confidence and stability. The bond and stock markets, which are generally- regarded as a barometer of public prosperity, are becoming firm and active.
I invite honorable senators to cast their memories back to 1949 when the present Government took office. Because of the lack of action by the previous Labour Government, Australia was heading for economic disaster. Inflation was out of control because the socialist Government had neither the courage nor the capacity to tackle the problem. No action was taken by it to put the economy of the nation on a sound basis. Exports and imports were askew. Imports were valued at twice as much as exports and trade balances had reached the danger point. Still the socialists took the line of least resistance. A little reflection will stir unpleasant memories of rationing, black marketing, industrial bottlenecks, strikes and Communist arrogance and power. The Labour Government launched a socialist bid to liquidate the banks and bring the nation’s economy under bureaucratic control. In doing so, it was inspired by creeds and principles obnoxious to every freedom-loving Australian.
Lack of production in 1949 meant that Australians were short of essential commodities including bricks, tiles and cement for houses. There was a scarcity of coal to keep factories busy manufacturing agricultural implements to keep the men on the farms, and of steel for galvanized iron and piping. Butter and many other essentials were in short supply. The government of the day said that petrol could not be obtained, but this Government secured all the petrol that was needed. It was able to abolish petrol rationing that had been imposed by the Chifley Government. Although petrol consumption now is twice as high as it was in 1949 because there are twice as many cars on the road, there is still no shortage of petrol in Australia. Defence stocks of petrol have been increased substantially. No previous government in the history of Australia took office with so much leeway to make up and so much straightening out to be done as fell to the lot of the Menzies Government. When this Government took office, the former Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley who then became Leader of the Opposition following the double dissolution in 1951, said - 1
I do not say that the new Menzies Government will cure inflation in a day. Drastic things will have to be done and they will not all be popular measures, but they must be done if the economy of Australia is to be saved.
The socialists did not have the courage to face up to drastic and unpopular measures although their leader said that they were essential if the Australian economy was to be’ saved. History will record that the Menzies Liberal Government was the saviour of Australia in the hour of its greatest need. The courage of Mr. Menzies was needed to take strong and resolute action and risk unpopularity. The Menzies Government took that action knowing it to be in the interests of the nation and for the eventual happiness and contentment of the people. Undoubtedly the medicine prescribed by the Government was unpalatable, but the beneficial effects are so apparent that the actions taken have been vindicated entirely. This march towards prosperity and stability that has been led by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is appreciated by the people of Australia because the saner and more thoughtful elements of the community, irrespective of their political leanings, realize that the action taken was justified as the only way to restore economic equilibrium. The people of Australia are now reaping the benefits of that action of the Liberal party. Shortages under the Labour Government have been replaced by plenty under the Liberal-Country party Government. There are practically no shortages to-day. Australians can buy almost anything they want at competitive prices. The decline in the export of primary products has been arrested and increased production is general.
The economic salvation of Australia, in my opinion, lies in the measure of success that we attain in our efforts to increase production ‘ and the national wealth. As national wealth increases, so does taxation decrease. The Menzies Government’s plan will lead the country to greater economic security and, step by step, to lower taxation. The plan is to increase the productive wealth of the nation and raise the standard of living concurrently with reductions of taxes. This budget will give encouragement to new investors in Australia, and that will help to stabilize prosperity and maintain confidence. The Government’s programme must increase the wealth of the nation and increase employment. These benefits have been made possible by outlawing communism, by ridding Australia of socialism and by preventing strikes through the secret ballot legislation. That instrument has been used by genuine trade unionists to rid themselves of Communist leaders. ‘ There are many calamity howlers in our midst who are always crying depression. Too much gloom is being spread by honorable senators on the Opposition side. We are at a stage where we see gloom on the facs of every Labour leader. Those who preach calamity in Australia are doing a grave disservice to- the community. The budget has been received with the highest approbation and Australia will say, “ Well done, Menzies and Fadden “.
– I regret that I cannot emulate Senator Guy and repeat the compliment that he paid to the honorable senator on the Opposition, side of the chamber whom he followed. I have been astonished by some of the statements that the honorable senator has made. Honorable senators are not accustomed to hearing them even in a budget debate. The introduction of the budget permits the discussion of many subjects. It is an open season for Ministers because their administration comes under criticism. This budget has met with a mixed reception. It is lauded by Ministers and Government supporters and criticized and despised by the Opposition. So that honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber will have no doubts about my views, I indicate to them now that my attitude will be one of criticism and condemnation. Supporters of the Government have admitted that this budget has been planned and presented as a piece of window-dressing for the House of Representatives election that will be held next year. That election will be held a.= soon as possible after the Royal visit and the departure from Australia of Her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. The Menzies Government and its supporters hope that in an atmosphere of exaltation resulting from the Royal visit, the guilty men, the bunglers who have been responsible for the chronic mismanagement of this country for the past four years, will be forgotten. While they may believe that the memory of the Australian people is short, the Government has overlooked the fact that the recollections of the people have been refreshed by almost every action of the Government. That applies especially to its recent extraordinary actions. One would expect that the knowledge and experience gained by Ministers in this Government during their many trips abroad would have diminished their capacity for blundering and political depravity. Three weeks ago the Government descended to unprecedented depth of political immorality when a prominent member of it acted as an intermediary in clearing the deck to enable the Commonwealth Actuary, Mr. Balmford, who is also chairman of the Capital Issues Board, to issue on a Sunday a consent to the issue of 678,674 shares by Associated Newspapers Limited to John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited, proprietors of the Sydney Morning Herald. Public confidence in the administration of capital issues control has been shaken by the events which occurred in Canberra on Sunday, the 30th August last. ‘For the benefit of honorable senators, who may not have followed the sequence of events in this matter, I shall state the facts briefly as chronicled in the Sydney newspapers. On Saturday, the 29th August, the Sydney Daily Telegraph made a counter offer to that made by the Sydney Morn 0 Herald* to purchase shares in Associated Newspapers Limited. Negotiations had been proceeding between the Sydney Morning Herald and Associated Newspapers Limited and those interests realized that they would have to act with great urgency because if shareholders in Associated Newspapers Limited sold their shares to the Daily Telegraph the deal which they were negotiating would fall through. Consequently, they decided to present a fait accompli by the following Monday.
On the Saturday somebody in Sydney contacted somebody in Canberra, the persons involved being the mystery parties in this deal. However, we know that Mr. Balm ford, as chairman of the Capital Issues Board, agreed to make himself available on the Sunday in Canberra to the representatives of the Sydney Morning Herald and Associated Newspapers Limited. Such an action was unprecedented in the history of the board, although during the war-time emergency, members of the staff of that body often worked on Sundays. Despite the explanation that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) gave in another place, it is almost inconceivable that an officer in Mr. Balmford’s position would agree to put through a deal for an applicant in such circumstances. How would I fare if, on a Sunday, on behalf of an exserviceman, 1 made an application to the board for consent to a deal in which the exserviceman sought to purchase a property or a business? Honorable senators can well imagine what the result would be. in this instance, according to evidence given in the Equity Court, the application to the board was prepared in Sydney on the Saturday and was addressed to the secretary of the board ; and was brought to Canberra by a representative of one of the parties involved. Here, I point out that Mr. Balmford is not the only member of the board; nor is he secretary of the board. The function of the board is to advise the Treasurer upon matters which require his consent under Capital Issues Regulations. Obviously, this particular application required the consent of the board itself, which, in addition to Mr. Balmford, consists of Mr. A. Armstrong, general manager of the trading section of the Commonwealth Bank; Mr. J. T. Campbell, who is general manager and actuary of the National Mutual Life Association of Australasia Limited; Mr. A. E. Heath, of the Sydney and Suburban Timber Merchants Association Limited; and the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury. It might reasonably be expected that such an application would be referred to the board as a whole. It is quite true that Mr. Balmford is the delegate of the Treasurer and in that capacity has power to sign a consent on behalf of the Treasurer. However, there have been many instances in which private firms have experienced great difficulty in obtaining the consent of the board to increase their capital because they were unable to satisfy the board that the proposed increases of capital would be in the interests of the national economy. Two firms coming within that category, namely, Marcus Clark ‘ and Company Limited and Davies Coop and Company Limited, went so far as to challenge in the High Court the power of the board to prevent them from increasing their capital. The court ruled that the Capital Issues Regulations were valid and, consequently, it dismissed the appeals made by those companies. It is true that later the board granted permission to Davies Coop and Company Limited to increase its capital.
The point I emphasize at this juncture is that, invariably, the onus is placed upon an applicant to prove to the satisfaction of the board that a proposed issue will be in the national interest. Many applications have been held up for months pending investigation by the board. In this instance, as I have said, Associated Newspapers Limited applied for permission to issue to John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited 678,674 ordinary shares at par, which would have the effect of increasing the capital of Associated Newspapers Limited from £2,563,601 to. £3,242,275. The increase of capital was not sought for the purpose of launching a new newspaper, or any other new enterprise. Indeed, it was sought in order to enable the Sydney Morning Herald to gain control of Associated Newspapers Limited and to close down the Sunday Sun, which has been long established. Bearing those facts in mind, surely it could reasonably be expected that such an application would bc referred to the board as a whole. However, there has not been the slightest, suggestion that members of the board, other than Mr. Balmford, were consulted on the matter. The parties were represented by the general manager of the Sydney Morning Herald and by Mr. R. A. Irish, a leading Sydney accountant, who is a director of Associated Newspapers Limited. Those two gentlemen arrived in Canberra at 12 noon on the Sunday in question. According to evidence given in proceedings in the Equity Court, they were met at the Hotel Canberra by Mr. Balmford, who took them to the office of the Capital Issues Board. ‘Subsequently, at that office occurred one of the strangest episodes in the history of public administration in this country. On a quiet Sunday afternoon, the chairman of the Capital Issues Control Board, having, presumably, read the application drafted in his own writing a consent to it. That document was typed on a typewriter in the board’s office by the general manager of the Sydney Morning Herald. Later, according to evidence given in the Equity Court, it was found that the document which was signed by Mr. Balmford contained several errors. The first of them was that Mr. Balmford’s name was typed on the document as “ W. T. Balmford “ instead of “ W. C. Balmford “. Secondly, the document was dated the following day, the 31st August, instead of the 30th August. I have no doubt that if the proceedings that took place in the Equity Court had not arisen the discovery that the document was issued, not on the Monday, but on the Sunday, would not have been made. It was not until this matter was raised in. the Senate that Mr. Balmford discovered the errors that I have indicated.
The fact remains that, in the solitude of a public office, official consent to this deal was put through on a Sunday afternoon. The only witnesses to it, apparently, were Mr. Balmford, a director of Associated Newspapers Limited and the general manager of the Sydney Morning Herald. When the Government was challenged on this matter it resorted to alibis. First, Mr. Balmford was said to be an obliging man. There is no doubt that he was most obliging to the applicant in this instance; but there is no evidence that he has been prepared to give up his Sunday afternoon in order to oblige other applicants who have had to take their place in the queue. Next, it was said on behalf of the Government that Mr. Balmford’s integrity was undoubted, and that he had been appointed to his present position by Mr. Chifley. Such an alibi does a great disservice to the man on whose behalf it has been offered. At all events, by 4 p.m. on the Sunday the two representatives of the parties concerned had left Canberra with the consent order. They rushed back to Sydney to attend a meeting which was held at midnight for the purpose of completing the deal. As the deal could not have gone through without Mr. Balmford’s consent, he played a vital part in the matter. I am not convinced that Mr. Balmford, personally, was responsible for the indecent haste with which the application was granted or for the preferment given to the parties concerned. In such circumstances it is necessary to seek the real explanation. Mr. Balmford, personally, had nothing to gain from the action which he took, because the newspapers could do nothing for him. He is still a public servant. There can be only one explanation for the action of a senior public servant in dropping everything else on a Sunday in order to expedite an application of this kind. That explanation is that he was asked by a highranking member of the Government to take the action which he took. Whilst the newspapers concerned could do nothing for Mr. Balmford personally, they could do plenty for the Menzies Government, which will need their support when it goes to the polks at the general election for the House of Representatives to be held next year. There is nothing the Government would not do to obtain that support. So, why should not a member of it ask Mr. Balmford to give up his Sunday to attend to an application by the representatives of two all-powerful Sydney newspapers? That is what happened. In obtaining the board’s consent to this application the Sydney Morning Herald played the ace against the Daily Telegraph. It is unfortunate that Mr. Balmford should have to suffer the odium associated with this unsavoury conduct. His action was a clear instance of preferment for the newspaper concerned, which upsets the idea that the control of capital issues is being applied fairly and without discrimination. If Sydney newspaper companies can get consent orders through at almost a minute’s notice on a Sunday afternoon, how can the Government justify holding up other applications for weeks and even months ? Had a Labour government been involved in a matter like this, other newspapers would have been screeching’ to high Heaven, demanding all kinds of public inquiries. This is undoubtedly a public scandal. Mr. Balmford, in his own interests, should tell the whole truth about the matter and state the reason for his strange action. He should say who first approached him in connexion with the matter, and explain why it was not referred to the other members of the Capital Issues Board.
I come now to the sequel to the story. Mr. Irish was asked, during his crossexamination in the case, how he had arrived at certain calculations that he had placed before the board of Associated Newspapers Limited in relation to the deal with the publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald. One of his greatest difficulties was to explain how he justified the expected amount of increased earning power that he said would result from economies and rationalization of the newspapers. He had included an amount of £71,000 under the heading “ Taxation adjustment”. Mr. Irish, under pressure by counsel, told the judge that while he was in Canberra on the Sunday afternoon lie was informed that company taxation was to be reduced from 9s. in the £1 to 7s. in the £1. As Mr. Irish was in Canberra for only two hours, it is obvious that he would not have much time left after negotiating the consent, yet when he returned to Sydney that evening he was quite confident that the forthcoming budget would reduce company taxation by 2s. in the £1.
– Who told him that?
– That is what the people of Australia want to know. Mr. Irish knew the precise reduction that was proposed and the amount by which Associated Newspapers Limited would benefit. At that time members of the Government parties had not been informed of the contents of the budget, which was being kept a close secret. It was said that only three men knew the contents of the budget, namely, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and Dr. Wilson, the Secretary to the Treasury. How, then, could Mr. Irish have learned of the contents of such a vital part of the budget? That information could possibly have been used in connexion with stock exchange transactions. Although the budget was not introduced into the Parliament until Wednesday, the 9th September - ten days later - a director of Associated Newspapers Limited gave sworn evidence that in Canberra on the 30th August he learned that company taxation was to be reduced by 2s. in the £1. Who told him? It is of no use for supporters of the Government to say that probably he learned the information in a bar or from -a newspaper man. His information was so reliable that it was used by him in order to make vital computations for the guidance of his fellow directors at the meeting on the Sunday evening. As Mr. Balmford should not have known the contents of the budget on the 30th August, who provided Mr. Irish with the vital information ?
Last week the Government put up one of its “ smear “ experts in another place to defame the Labour party, because it was afraid that we intended to get to the bottom of the Sunday afternoon deal. The only inference that can be drawn from the evidence is that a representative of the Government is directly involved in both phases of the matter. If the Government was not afraid of the consequences of an investigation, it would have taken action immediately after I asked a question in this chamber last week. Instead, it attempted to counter the charge by raising a smoke-screen of abuse. The people of this country will demand a full explanation of everything that occurred on the Sunday afternoon at Canberra. The Government should at least appoint a parliamentary select committee, or a royal commission, to clear up this unsavoury transaction by placing the blame on the person who was responsible for the disclosure. I am sorry that I have made Government senators somewhat uncomfortable. This matter has been mentioned already in the press, and I hope that action will be taken to clear up the matter.
I shall now deal with the budgetary proposals. Both the Ministers who occupy the front benches opposite, and the back-benchers of the Government parties have claimed that, as a result of this budget, the taxpayers of this country will receive benefits that they have not previously enjoyed. Nothing is further from the truth. That was clearly misrepresentation, because their contentions are not borne out by facts. The principal budget concessions will merely reduce the unnecessarily harsh burden of taxation that was imposed on them previously because the Government considered that they were incapable of looking after their own money. This Government only intends to relieve the wage and salary earners, small business men and companies from some - not by any means all - of the extortionist taxation that was imposed on them by the horror budget of 1951-52. Its action can be likened to that of a highwayman or brigand who, having bailed up and fleeced a traveller, hands back to his victim something to enable him to continue on his way. The anti-Labour parties have endeavoured to justify the imposition of high rates of taxation by claiming that a big expenditure on defence was necessary. The Chifley Government’s budget of 1949-50 imposed direct and indirect taxation amounting to £519,000,000, or an average of £64 9s. 6d. for each person in this country. If defence expenditure of £55,000,000 had been excluded from that budget, the total amount of taxation in that financial year would have been £464,000,000, or £57 12s. a head of our population. By the first budget of the Menzies Government in 1950-51, the total of direct and indirect taxation was increased, to £777,300,000, or £93 10s. 2d. a head of population. Excluding defence expenditure of £149,000,000, the total of taxation in that year would have been £628,000,000, or £75 15s. a head of population. In the following year, 1951-52, which is well remembered by all taxpayers as the year of the horror budget, direct and indirect taxation rose to £934,000,000, or £109 7s. 6d. a head of population. Excluding the defence expenditure of £170,000,000, taxation in that year would have been £764,000,000, or £S9 9s. 3d, a head of population. Taxation was reduced slightly by last year’s budget to £S85,300,000. Excluding defence expenditure, the total taxation i m pop fid last year was £670.000,000, or at the rate of £77 10s. a head of population. In this budget the Government has imposed direct and indirect taxation of £875,500,000, which is only £10,800,000 less than last year. Excluding the estimated expenditure of £200,000,000 on defence, taxation this year is expected to yield £674,000,000, or £76 a head of population. The total taxation impost in the present budget is £875,500,000, compared with £519,000,000 under the Chifley Government’s budget of 1949-50. Comparisons have been drawn between conditions to-day and the conditions that existed when Labour relinquished office in 1949. Supporters of the Government have claimed that at that time the economy of this country was unstable, and that high rates of taxation had been imposed in order to provide for the increased defence needs of this country. Taxation imposed by this budget is £355,500,000 more than that imposed by the 1949-50 budget. “When referring to the value of the concessions that the people will receive as a result of the budgetary proposals, supporters of the Government have at times laid stress on the rates of taxation that have been imposed under various budgets in order to make provision for defence. Excluding defence, the per capita taxation is higher to-day than it was in 1949-50. Another reason that has been advanced for the heavy burden of taxation that was imposed by the 1951 horror budget is that it was necessary to halt inflation in this country and stabilize the economy. This Government allowed the country to be flooded with imports from all parts of the world, and introduced financial restrictions which caused unemployment, frustration and despair in industry, from which we have not yet recovered. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer), when speaking during this “debate, referred to a transcript of evidence that had been given on behalf of the Australian Council of Trades Unions before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in the wages and hours case recently.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I now propose to quote from a report which appeared in the. press in regard to the submissions that were made on behalf of the employers in the hours and wages case. On the 18th
March, 1953, the Sydney Morning Herald published the following information: -
Mr. H. E.Randerson, a business and financial adviser, told the full bench of the Arbitration Court to-day that Australia is still in a serious recession. Mr.Randerson was called by the employers in the basic wage and standard hours hearing. A group of employers is seeking a reduction in the basic wage of up to £2 9s. a week and a longer working week of 44 hours. . . . The disparity between Australia’s wages and those of other countries had helped to weaken the Commonwealth’s economic position. If the Commonwealth Government had stabilised wages two years, or even eighteen months, ago, Australia’s economic position would not be as bad as it is to-day, he said.
That report provides an answer to the statement by the Attorney-General to which I have referred. In the next column of the same edition of the Sydney Morning Herald the following report appeared : -
Total civilian employment, excluding rural industry and private domestic service, decreased from 2,643,100 in November, 1951, to 2,522,000 last January, a fall of 121,000 according to figures released to-day by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. K. N. Archer.
Each month since January, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has announced in the press that the employment position was improving. He announced that last July was the seventh successive month in which employment had increased. He announced that August was the eighth successive month in which the employ- . ment position had improved. I have a document known as the Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics, which is issued by the Commonwealth Statistician and which is prepared under instructions from the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), : so it should be authentic. This document shows that the position has certainly improved since February of this year. It shows that in February 21,000 unemployed people went back to work. In March, 12,000 returned to work, in April, 3,300, in May, 1,300, and in June, 600. In July, the number of unemployed persons increased by 3,600. So it can be seen that the position improved over five consecutive months, not over eight months as was stated by the Minister for Labour and National Service. I do not say that the Minister has deliberately misrepresented the position, but, apparently, he has been misled by somebody. Surely, we must give credence to the figures that have been published by the Commonwealth Statistician. These figures indicate stagnation. This country is not progressing. In the three years preceding the peak period of employment in November, 1951, the number of persons employed increased by 255,400. That increase was due partly to the arrival of immigrants and partly to children leaving school and commencing work. The number of people employed in Australia increased by an average of 85,133 a year for each of those years, which is equal to approximately 7,000 people a month. Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the people why the employment position has deteriorated since that time?
One of the reasons for the unemployment in this country has been the erratic policy of the Government. Senator Armstrong referred to the Government’s policy in relation to imports. In 1951, the Government permitted £44,319,000 worth of textiles to be imported into this country. I ask honorable senators to contemplate the impact those imports had on the local industry. They completely dislocated the textile industry. Tens of thousands of persons who had been engaged in the industry were thrown out of employment and tens of thousands were transferred to part time employment. Thousands of people have not yet returned to the industry. The importation of 600,000 motor and truck tyres dislocated the rubber industry. Rubber goods were imported from every part of the world. We even imported rubber shoes, rubber boots and rubber clothing which could have been manufactured here. These imports created more unemployment. Honorable senators opposite have claimed that the Government inherited an unstable economy from the Labour Government. That claim is completely false. When this Government took office in 1949 it had an overflowing Treasury and full employment. Prosperity extended throughout the country. People were coming to Australia from every part of the world, seeking a place for the investment of their capital and the engagement of their skill. But a. change has since taken place. What a difference !
What a tragic position we are now in! The people who arrive in this country at present are ordered into immigrant camps where they are complaining and demonstrating because of their unfortunate plight and lack of employment. One of the reasons for that state of affairs is our unstable economy. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) sniggers at my remark. No nian in this Senate is more responsible for the inflation in this country than he is. He recommended to the Prime Minister that the price of coal should be increased by 6s. a ton although the existing price had been determined by an authority which had been set up by this Parliament and the Government of New South Wales. The Minister has caused more inflation than anybody in this country.
– That is all that the Minister got. He now has coal lying all over the country. A million and a half tons of coal have been stacked up, none of which will be used. The Minister created unemployment in the industry. I see that my time has expired, but I hope that I shall have a further opportunity to address the Senate in regard to these matters.
.- Listening to Senator Ashley before the sitting was suspended, one could not help wondering whether he intended to deal with the subject that the Senate is discussing - the budget for the financial year 1953-54. I was afraid that his time would expire whilst he was still in the course of reading a long statement which had obviously been prepared by an outside source.
– I rise to order! I take exception to the statement of the honorable senator, which is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Reid). - I ask the honorable senator to withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw my remark that the honorable senator’s statement was prepared outside the chamber. The standard of accuracy of his speech was about the same as that achieved by articles in Jack Lang’s journal, the Century. When the honorable senator began to speak on the budget he referred to the Chifley budget of 1949. I wish to supply a few details of that budget which he omitted. First I should like to remind the Senate that in 1949 the cost of living rose by 12^ per cent. What did the Labour Government do for the pensioners? It did not give them an increase of even a three-penny bit. Yet Labour senators have criticized the present Government which, during the last four years, has given pensioners one increase of 7s. 6d. a week, a second of 7s. 6d. a week, and another of 10s. . a week and which now proposes to increase pensions by half a crown a week although the cost of living rose by only 4 per cent, during the last financial year. We have come to expect this hysterical Opposition to shed crocodile tears over matters such as this.
I listened to Senator Ashley with a great deal of interest, particularly in view of the fact that in the budget debate in the House of Representatives, the Labour Opposition has folded up and withdrawn 30 speakers. Apparently the Labour party is not prepared to debate the Government’s budget proposals any further. Obviously Labour’s aim is to endeavour to divert public attention with a smear campaign. That is typical of Labour’s technique and it is significant indeed that the socialists and Communists, in double harness, are the masters of this smear campaign. The public should be made aware of that.
The budget has been acclaimed throughout Australia as one that will give great relief to the little man and to families generally. I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Government upon the sound economic policy that has been pursued over the last three and a half years. That policy has made this budget possible. We must not overlook the part that has been played also, by the Government’s advisers whose duty is to build on the framework of government policy. They should be given all due praise for the assistance tha t they have given in the preparation of the budget. Perhaps this Government’s greatest achievement was its success in steering Australia, through the difficult year of 1951. Honorable senators will recall that in that year our export income dropped by 30 per cent. It is interesting to recall that a similar drop occurred in 1929-30 when the Labour party was in power. What steps did the Labour Government take to remedy the situation ? It succeeded only in causing misery and widespread depression by its financial measures. In 1951, however, with brilliant skill, the. Menzies Government guided us through our difficulties with the least possible dislocation. The people of Australia were greatly heartened by the knowledge that they had a government that was prepared to learn the lesson of 1929-30, when a timid and hesitant Labour Government failed this country in its hour of need. So well had the Menzies Government learned that lesson of history, that balance has now been restored to our economy.
The more one studies the tax reductions announced in the budget the more one realizes why Opposition speakers have been struggling ever since this debate started. The Government’s financial and economic policy has been criticized by no less a financial expert than .Senator Ashley; but there is no need for us to heed those slightly biased gentlemen on the Opposition benches. We have at hand the opinions of an unbiased critic who has served, not only this Government, but also the preceding Labour Government. I refer to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. I would far rather read the report of the Commonwealth Bank than listen to the honorable senator opposite. On page 7 of the report the following passage appears: -
Australia. 1952-53 has been a year of transition and adjustment. The inflationary conditions characteristic of the earlier part of 1951-52 had been sharply checked later in that year largely by the strong flow of imports and the consequent fall in the level of bank deposits and bank liquidity. A cumulative decline in demand was then a possibility and industry faced difficult adjustments in its costs as more competitive conditions emerged.
The year under review thus opened against a background of uncertainty. Hesitancy continued until towards the end of 1952 and some unemployment occurred, although it quickly became apparent that there was little danger of a major decline in activity! Since .then there has been a steady improvement in the tone of the economy and employment is now at healthy levels. Aggregate demand of consumers, businesses and governments is adequate to maintain this level of employment, and appears to be within the range of available supplies. The inflationary pressure characteristic of earlier years has, therefore, been relaxed and prices are relatively stable. 1 take much more cognizance of those unbiased opinions than I do of the obviously biased views of honorable senators opposite, few of whom are willing to give credit where credit is due.
Senator Armstrong made two criticisms to which I shall now refer. The first was that the budget made no provision for initial depreciation allowance on plant. Surely the honorable senator must have overlooked the fact that the reduction of company taxes provides funds within industry itself which may be used as directors or shareholders think fit. If they care to use those funds for depreciation purposes, they may do so. After all, the companies themselves are more competent than is the Government to decide how reserves can -best be employed. I believe, therefore, that the reduction of company taxation is a wise provision. Senator Armstrong also said that the budget made no provision for the development of Australia. What is Labour’s approach to this problem? Labour’s abhorrence of overseas borrowing in a capital-hungry country such as Australia is almost pathetic. Its opposition to the last two American loans to this country shows beyond doubt that honorable senators opposite are unaware of the real conditions that exist in this country. It may be of interest to recall the occurrences in two great countries, the United States of America and our sister dominion of Canada in the early days of their development. In its early days America borrowed millions of pounds from Great Britain and by so doing ensured the rapid development which ultimately made that country the richest in the world. What has been the greatest factor in the spectacular development of Canada? I say without hesitation that Canada’s greatest asset has been the proximity of a country of enormous capital wealth, the United States of America. Canada, realizing that its own capital resources were limited, set about inducing wealthy
American companies to come in and undertake major developmental works while Canada itself devoted its attention to the construction of roads and the provision of other services which are the essential work of any government. The American companies were given a franchise to run railways and to supply electricity and other- services. The franchise agreements, however, included a provision that after a certain period of years, the people of Canada would have a right to buy those undertakings. The Canadian people have largely bought back those undertakings out of the very prosperity that they created.
Let us have a look at the socialist approach to this problem. The socialists are fearful of borrowing. They are fearful that some large company might make a profit. That would be a dreadful thing. So what have they done? They have diverted the limited resources of this country away from bread and butter projects such as road construction, which are the duty of all governments, to the airy-fairy projects that we now see dotted all over the Commonwealth in a halffinished state. -In Tasmania there is one such project which has been a political football for a number of years. I refer to the aluminium undertaking at Bell Bay. The aluminium industry in this country would now be in production, and perhaps would have been in production years ago, had the Labour Government had the sense to give a franchise to some company that had the “know how “ and capacity to undertake the work. A Labour member of Parliament was reported in the press recently as having said, upon his return from a visit to Canada as a member of the Empire parliamentary delegation, that he saw an aluminium plant in that country three, times the size of the Bell Bay project which private enterprise had built from grass to the production stage in nine months. How many years have we been trying to establish aluminium production in this country under governmental control? Millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money has been diverted into projects such as this, although no government department had the “know how “ to carry them out. Whilst those departments are building up their orga nizations and learning the job, millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money is being wasted in experiments. In the last few years large sums of money have been expended in purchasing aluminium from dollar areas while we have been learning how to produce that vital metal in this country. Recently, we sank another £4,000,000 into the industry. That is what happens when governments undertake jobs to which they are not suited. Neither the United States of America nor Canada made that mistake. They recognized the limits of governmental activities. That is a lesson we could well learn from our own experience.
What is the objection to profits? The claim that anybody who makes a profit is exploiting the people is ludicrous. There is a far more pernicious form of exploitation to which the socialists submit with the greatest of pleasure. I refer to the exploitation of the taxpayers through heavy losses on governmental undertakings. In many instances, inexperienced government departments are unfairly called upon to undertake projects which rightly are within the province of private enterprise. Apparently that is a form of exploitation which. Labour supporters are prepared to accept. If an industry is efficient, they want to destroy it because it makes profits. The fact that it will provide more goods at a lower cost never enters their heads. The Public Accounts Committee has done a valuable job in the last few months in. unearthing this form of exploitation, which is often carefully hidden in departmental accounts. I hope during the course of the debate on the Estimates to give some further instances of this exploitation.
I wish now to refer to the proposed Dajarra to Birdum railway line, which would open up one of our greatest meatproducing areas, in Australia. But does any honorable senator really believe that an Australian government, of any political colour, will undertake its construction? Already, interstate jealousy has raised its head in the Parliament at the mere mention of the railway line. Further, where would the necessary capital be found, having regard to our other commitments? How much money wil? have to be expended in order to complete the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme and all the other public works that are being undertaken in Australia? Surely it is not suggested that a start should be made on yet another project? In my opinion, the Government would be very wise to seek out a successful railway construction organization overseas and say to it, “We are prepared to give you a franchise to construct and run this railway line for a certain number of years “. In that way we could be assured that the railway would be efficiently operating while other developmental projects were being undertaken. In my opinion, this railway line should be constructed at the earliest possible moment because it would be of the greatest benefit to Australia.
Honorable senators opposite have made repeated references to the so-called horror budget of 1951. In that connexion, it may be interesting for us to consider the position of Canada at that time and the methods which the St. Laurent Government used when it was faced with a similar “ milkbar “ economy. I am indebted to the official Canada Handbook for 1952 for the following passage : -
T.n order to discourage non-essential investment projects, the Government ruled that depreciation could not he charged for a period of four years on all capital assets acquired after April 10, 1951, with the exception of certain classes of assets defined in the regulations (e.g., electricity, gas and waterworks, telegraph and telephone services, pipe lined, and those assets used by individuals in farming, fishing and professional services), and certain additional kinds of assets when certified as eligible by the Minister of Trade and Commerce. In the latter group were those required for defence purposes, for the production and distribution of primary products in certain basic industries, or for direct use in transportation and communication businesses.
In the budget of April 10, 195.1, a surcharge of 20 per cent, on personal income taxes and corporation income taxes was announced. The sales tax was raised from S per cent, to 10 per cent… and excise taxes on motor-cars, radios, certain household electrical appliances, cameras and other articles was raised from 15 per cent, to 25 per cent. At the same time, a tax of 15 per cent, was imposed on all mechanically operated refrigerators and washing machines and on domestic cooking-stoves.
The Consumer Credit Act, effective March 19, 1951, raised down-payment requirement* on automobiles and other goods and lowered the time limit for payment from eighteen months to twelve months.
Early in the year, the interest rate to the borrower on government-assisted residential housing mortgages was raised from 4i per cent, to 5 per cent., and down-payment requirements were increased.
I do not wish to dampen further the spirits of honorable senators opposite, but it is obvious that when the Canadian people appreciated the fact that the wise and sound leadership of the St. Laurent Government was responsible for averting a great catastrophe, they voted that Government’ back into office with an overwhelming majority at the last general election. In my opinion, the people of Australia are beginning to appreciate the fact that the Menzies Government, in the teeth of bitter and short-sighted criticism by the Labour Opposition, has done the same thing for Australia.
The next two or three years will be difficult ones for this country. Basic prices are toppling, and our diminishing export trade must be regained with lower prices for our commodities. I believe that wise and courageous government can do much to help. The present Government has proved that it can take the strain. It has also proved that it can lead in adversity. It is my opinion that the people of Australia will choose the present Government parties to lead the country again after the next general election. I support the budget.
– I have listened with rapt attention to a number of the speeches that have been made during the budget debate in this chamber. That of Senator Guy, which was made before the suspension of the sitting this afternoon, intrigued me, because the honorable senator is in the unique position of having been a member of two political parties, each of which, at one time or another, has reduced pension rates. It was, therefore, astonishing to listen to him shedding crocodile tears on behalf of people whose pensions, in earlier years, he had helped to decrease. In case the memory of the honorable senator is not good, I refer him to Hansard, volume No. 135 of 1932 and to a particular division list in which his name appears.
I believe that this is a dishonest budget, and during the time at my disposal I hope to prove that contention. It seems to me that an honest budget is one that is brought down for the welfare of the nation. When the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) introduced this debate on the budget papers, he said -
We have attained this first great goal of economic stability.
By “ we “, I presume he referred to the nation. His speech contained no proof of the truth of that assertion. Does he believe that inflation has been stopped in this country? Does he think that value has been put back into the £1? I inform him, with the greatest respect, that the £1 to-day has only a purchasing power of 7s., as against 14s. under the Chifley Administration. Is it the intention of this Administration to stabilize on present-day costs? If it is, it is pertinent to ask what is the position of the young man and woman who wish to purchase a home. What hope does the Government think they have of purchasing even a modest home when the price of a timber house, in the large cities, is approximately £3,500, and of a brick or brick veneer house, between £4,000 and £4,500? Therefore, I say that no proof has been submitted of the truth of the Minister’s assertion, to which. I have referred.
I further ask the Minister for National Development what will be the position of our secondary industries, with the possible exception of the steel industry, if we stabilize on present-day costs? Where will our export markets be found ? It will be practically impossible to sell the products of our secondary industries overseas, having regard to present-day costs. I know that the old catchcry, to the effect that the workers should produce more, will be raised. The fact is that the workers have produced much more in the years since 1939 than before then. The Queensland Bureau of Industry has issued a publication which states that between the years 1938-39 and 1951-52 the increase of production was 17.6 per cent, a man-year. We on this side of the Senate believe that production will have a greater chance of increasing if industry is brought up to date than it will by listening to the catch-cries of our political opponents. I have yet to hear the supporters of this Government comment adversely upon the huge profits that are being made, not only on capital investment, but also on watered stock and bonus shares. I marvel’ at the apparent belief of honorable senators opposite that the only people in the community who should work harder are those who receive wages. They never assert that those who take the great profits from industry should return a greater proportion of those profits to the nation. The budget discloses that the Government proposes to hand back approximately £28,750,000 to those who have made excessive profits during recent years. I have always accorded my political opponents great credit for one thing, and that is that they never fail to look after their friends. I should like to know how much of that £28,750,000 will be used in the general election campaign next year. The present Government parties always help their financial backers.
What is to happen to the country if overseas prices fall? We are all concerned with the world position of wheat at the present time. We know that there is a big carry-over of wheat in the United States of America. Honorable senators know also that Great Britain has not signed the International Wheat Agreement. Can any one blame it for not doing so when there is a possibility of obtaining cheaper wheat ? How long will prices for Australian wheat and wool remain on a high level? Now that the war in Korea is halted, there is every possibility that the stockpiling of wool will cease, and it is common knowledge that every fall of Id. in the price of wool means a loss of £4,000,000 in our national income. Since 1945, Australia has had the most bountiful seasons in the history of settlement in this country. I trust that they will continue, but I fear that that would be against the law of averages.. I ask the Government what will happen if the prices of wool or wheat should collapse and if bad seasons should be encountered. If I did not disapprove of the budget for any other reason, I should do so because the Government is handing back £28,750,000 to its friends and because the budget has not been framed honestly in the interests of the nation.
In case some honorable senators on the Government side request corroboration of the views that I have expressed, I shall read to them several extracts from London journals that were published in the Sydney Morning Herald. One of these statements appeared in the Financial Times and the other in the Economist. The Sydney Morning Herald summed up those opinions by stating -
It is the general opinion of British financial writers that the Australian budget carries the threat of renewed inflation.
The Financial Times asked in an editorial whether “ the Australian budget is not relying too much on a continuance of good seasons and export markets which may prove to be exceptional “. The Economist stated -
With Federal elections ‘less than a year ahead, and with incentive budgets the fashion in other countries, it was inevitable that Sir Arthur Fadden would hand out liberal tax concessions.
That extract explains why I believe that this is not an honest budget. The prime motive of the Government is to secure the return of the present Administration in May or June next year.
If there be a third world war, Australia’s main role will be one of food production.
If that is so, I ask why the Government is not providing £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 from the proposed defence vote to prepare it for such a role in the event of another world war? If that were done, money would be available for power, water conservation and an efficient transport system. Further, the expenditure of that money would give young men who desire an opportunity to go on the land to do so. Immigrants would be encouraged to come to Australia, not to walk the streets of the cities, but to develop the empty spaces in the outback. The sum of £200,000,000 that the Government proposes to provide for defence is not being spent as I should like to see it spent. I remind honorable senators of the national service training scheme. One honorable senator on the Government side’ said that this party was opposed to it. For his edification I remind him that the platform of this party states that it favours compulsory military training for home defence, subject to a proper regard for the national economy. All honorable senators should have a clear knowledge of the printed platform of the party they support although I admit that honorable senators on this side of the chamber sometimes have difficulty in ascertaining the policies of their opponents because those parties have not a printed copy of their platforms that the world may read. A boy aged eighteen years, who is called up under the national service training scheme, has to spend 96 days in camp. Later he has to do fourteen days more in camp each year and about 36 night parades per annum. How does the training scheme affect boys who are attending apprenticeship classes? Since night parades were introduced as part of the national service training scheme, the number of passes at examinations among boys attending classes in plumbing in Victoria has dropped by 20 per cent.
Sentor KENNELLY. - It is not rubbish. If the honorable senator desires proof, I shall produce it in the form of letters from the colleges and the organizations concerned. How does the national service training scheme affect the youths who are studying accountancy or preparing themselves for similar professions? I know of one youth who lost a year of study because he had to undergo 96 days training under the national service training scheme. I believe that ons or two lines of action should be taken in connexion with the scheme. I suggest that the lads who are undergoing apprenticeship training at night or who are studying for one or other of the professions should have the same consideration as that given to university students. With a little organization, it should be possible to fit their drill into their normal vacations. Further, I ask the Government whether it is right that a lad who wants to join the Royal Australian Air Force or the Royal Australian Navy for the purpose of undergoing his national service training should have to sign his life away for five years after he has completed his training? How can a lad of eighteen years know what responsibilities he will have when he is. 26 or 27 years old? A lad who is called up for training cannot join either the Royal Australian Air Force or the Royal Australian Navy unless he is prepared to sign an agreement that he will answer a call to serve any time during the five years after his period of training has been finished. Taking all these factors into consideration, I do not believe that the nation is getting value for the money it is spending on defence. It may be that the Government wants to introduce a military caste. Honorable senators will have read enough about the military caste in other countries to know that the farther it is kept away from Australia the better.
I direct the attention of honorable senators now to the budget as it affects repatriation and social services. I was astonished when I discovered that the Government proposed in the budget to give £1,200,000 more to ex-service pensioners and war widows and £28,750,000 to its friends. Is it any wonder that Sir George Holland, the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, protested? The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), who knows Sir George Holland as well as I do, knows also where his political affiliations lie. An honorable senator opposite who had occasion to refer to the remarks that Sir George Holland was reported as having made did not read them, because they did not convey a favorable picture of the budget proposals in respect of service pensioners. Sir George said that so meagre were the proposed increases of service pensions that they were a slap in the face to pensioners in that class. Mr. Wilson, the
Victorian State president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, who is well known to the Attorney-General, said that the proposed increases of war pensions were an insult to the men and women who served in the defence of theircountry in its time of need. I marvel at this Government’s treatment of ex-service personnel, particularly when I recall thecheers which were given for them when they went to the war. Yet, within a few years after the war has ended, this Administration, while it proposes to give concessions amounting to £28,750,000 to financial interests which contribute to the election funds of the Government parties, is prepared to give concessions amounting to only £1,200,000 to recipients of war and service pensions, including warwidows.
When I read the proposals contained in. the budget in relation .to social servicesbenefits I was reminded of advertisements for two of the biggest retail stores in this country that were prominentlyexhibited in the press prior to 1939- Those advertisements were headed “ Nothing over half a crown “. It is truethat under this budget the Government proposes to relax the means test by raising the amount of permissible income and the value of property of pensioners.. However, the fact remains that practically 70 per cent., of persons who are in receipt of pensions to-day have no income apart from their pensions. If the Government sincerely desires to do justice tothose people and to enable them to subsist in the inflationary period through which we are passing, it would at leastincrease the rate of pension to a degree that would increase their purchasingpower. I repeat that under this budget, the Government proposes to give concessions amounting to £28,750,000 tointerests which contribute to the election funds of the Government parties. It is useless for any Government supporter to tell me that those interests do not make such contributions. I have had’ quite a lot of experience in the conduct of election campaigns and I have always envied the non-Labour parties becauseof the fact that they have always had adequate electioneering funds. Now, T. know where those parties obtain such funds. Consequently, the Government is prepared to give most liberal concessions to its financial backers; but when it comes to helping that section of the community about whose plight Government supporters are always trying to cry, the Government is not prepared to give more than the proverbial half-a-crown. Honorable senators opposite should not run away with the idea that this budget will help the Government parties to win the general election for the House of Representatives which is to be held in May, or June, of next year. I remind them that the election which took place in Canberra last Saturday for the body that is entrusted with the government of the National Capital, resulted in the election of two Labour and two independent candidates, but only one Liberal candidate.
I refer now to payments made by the Australian Government to State governments by way of reimbursement of taxes and in the allocation of loan funds for public works. I am a firm believer in uniform taxation. Victoria’s only quarrel with that system is that the formula under which the reimbursements are made is weighted against it. Every one who takes an interest in the political welfare of this nation is aware of that fact. Although the Commonwealth and States Works Council recommended to the Australian Loan Council that loan funds of an amount of £283,000,000 should be made available to the States for public works for the current financial year, and stated that sufficient man-power and raw materials were available to enable the States to carry out a programme of that magnitude, the State Premiers, as members of the Australian Loan Council agreed to a reduction of that sum .to £243,000,000 because they knew that it would be impracticable for this Government to raise loans of the higher amount. The Treasurer told the State Premiers that the Australian Government would make available to them not more than £200,000,000 for public works. Why cannot this Government obtain more finance for public works? The fact is that the people will not invest in government loans while this Administration is in office. This Govern ment has had the unique experience of having successfully floated only -two loans since 1949. Those two loans were fully subscribed only after the Government had amended the Banking Act to suit the private financial institutions. During the recent campaign for the election of the Senate, I said that those loans would be filled because the Government had paid the price demanded by the private financial institutions. It is useless for any Government supporter to say that the people have not sufficient money to invest in government loans, when deposits in the savings banks now amount to over £1,000,000,000.
– That is a lot of money.
– Yes ; but the people will not lend their savings to this Government because they are concerned not so much about the rate of interest their investment will earn as they are about whether they will be able to recover their principal. They realize that as inflation continues they will run the riskthat their purchasing power will decrease. I say to the Government, as I should say to any government that might be in office, that it will not be able to raise sufficient loan money to finance urgent public works until it devises a system under which investors in governmental loans will be certain of at least recovering the amount that they so invest. In that respect, I have in mind some system akin to the war savings certificate system under which persons who subscribed, for say, £50 worth of certificates, actually paid £40 and received interest each year. I understand that under that plan, interest payable in respect of a certificate of a face value of £1 progressively increased by 6d. year by year. If a subscriber held a certificate of a face value of £1, he, or she, received that sum at the expiration of the term of the loan. One of the principal tasks that confronts this Government is to restore confidence in the community. A guarantee must be given to investors in Governmental loans that they will receive at least the amount of money that they invest. Until that is done, no government, regardless of its party political colour, will win the confidence of the people and induce them to lend the amount of money that is required to finance the development of this country. It will be a long time before the people will forget that, in respect of the loan maturing in 1961, a bond of a face value of £100 fell as low at £82. As my time has almost expired I shall conclude by telling the Government that this budget will not achieve the objective which the Government expects it will achieve. I believe that the Government’s main expectations is that the budget will enable it to win the general election for the House of Representatives that is to be held next year. Time will prove that Government supporters are bad judges in that respect. They would have been better advised in their own party political interests to produce a budget that will serve the interests of the nation.
.- The remarks made by Senator Kennelly contained so little substance that it is difficult to pinpoint anything that he said which calls for an answer. I propose to deal with the statements that he made relating to the provision of loan funds for the purpose of financing the public works programmes of the States. Practically every member of the Opposition who has taken part in this debate has alleged that public works are running down, that no construction is taking place, that power plants are not being brought into operation and that irrigation is not being provided for the development of primary industries. Those allegations are utterly at variance with the facts. The relevant figures completely refute such charges. During the last year of office of the Chifley Government, loan funds made available to Victoria amounted to only £15,000,000, whereas since this Government assumed office it has made loan funds available to that State to an amount of £36,000,000 in 1950-51, £56,000,000 in 1951-52, and £54,000,000 in 1952-53, whilst the amount has now become stable at £52,000,000. Those amounts represent gigantic increases when compared with the amount of loan funds that was made available to Victoria by the Chifley Government. Furthermore, public works are now being completed at a rate not previously approached in the history of . this country. Those facts completely refute the’ airy statements by honorable senators opposite that this country is not being developed.
The Senate is now debating specific proposals that are contained in the budget. Members of the Opposition have made general attacks upon the Government, but we have not heard them attack any specific proposal that has been placed before us in this document. Perhaps, that is natural enough. A senior member of the Australian Labour party fairly described the budget as “a most unfair budget “. It is considered to be unfair to the Australian Labour party because it affords members of that party no grounds on which to attack the Government. No honorable senator opposite has said that any of the proposals contained in the budget should not have been made. Any person who studies the budget will recognize that it contains no proposal that can fairly be attacked. For instance) no member of the Opposition has protested against the proposal to reduce rates of income tax on the average by 12£ per cent. Under that proposal, the reduction will be proportionately greater in respect of smaller incomes than it will be in respect of larger incomes; and it will be proportionately greatest, as it should be, in respect of the middle ranges of incomes. No member of the Opposition has attacked the proposal to increase the concessional deduction in respect of a dependent wife by £26 to £130. That must be accepted by the Opposition, because honorable senators opposite have never launched an attack upon it. We have heard no attack on the proposal to exempt from income tax the increased income of an aged couple who have been thrifty and saved throughout their working lives so that they would have an income when they retired. That is something that has been needed in this country for at least ten years. There has been no attack on the proposals to increase from £100 to £150 the allowance for medical expenses, and to increase from £50 to £75 the allowance for education expense?. We have heard some faint murmur of attack on the proposal to abolish the special rate of tax on property. It was only a murmur, not a full-throated roar. I should like to be informed officially where the Opposition stands on this proposal. because it seems to me that it is of the essence of Liberal policy that we cannot believe that those who have worked and saved and lived within their income should be penalized by being charged “a higher rate of tax on their retirement income than they were charged during the time that they were earning it. I believe from what I have heard that if the Opposition got the opportunity it would re-introduce the loaded rate of property tax, and would tax aged retired persons at a special penal rate, although I have not heard a concerted attack against the Government’s proposal in this connexion. That has happened before. I have heard very little attack on the proposal to reduce the pay-roll tax. Although it has been said that few attempts are made in this budget to bring in measures that would reduce costs and thereby help to reduce the cost of living, there can be no doubt in the mind of any impartial observer that the reduction of pay-roll tax will make a greater contribution to reducing costs than could be made by any other method except, possibly, the sales tax reductions. The abolition of entertainments tax is good, and the introduction of specific tax reductions for companies is not a reduction for some abstract figure but a reduction of taxation for hundreds of thousands of people in this country who are shareholders in companies. That these things are not attacked in detail or in concert, is understandable because, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said, this budget makes the greatest concessions that have been made since the war by any English-speaking country to the people of a country. It will remove financial burdens, and return incentive to those who have to produce the goods that make this country run.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), in the speech he made attacking this budget, said quite rightly that we should not regard it - good as it is - by itself, but that we should consider it against a background of the history of the last three years, that is, against a background df the history since this Government came to office. He painted for us a rosy, but untrue, picture of the conditions in this country in 1949 under . the last Chifley Government. I believe that if we cast our minds back to those days, remembering always that we have since come forward through the years, it would be fair to say that Australia had reached .a stage at which the greatest chance of development and prosperity which had ever been offered on a plate to any country was offered to Australia and was refused. At the end of the war in 1945 this country’s factories were not bombed; its transport system was not disrupted; its docks were in working order; its working force was housed ; and it was all set to compete with countries throughout the world which had been devastated by war and whose productive capacity had been halved and even quartered. The markets were there, and the ability to fill them was there, but the will was not present to take advantage of that situation and the opportunity was lost. We had come into a moribund and a decaying economy. There was no steel to be bought, and no cement, coal, or the real things with which we could build the dams, power-houses, schools, and hospitals that honorable senators opposite now cry for, and which Are now being built, but were not then being built. The materials were not available. Our transport system, which could be renewed easily at that time, was falling to pieces.
– It is obvious that the honorable senator had no first-hand knowledge of the conditions at that time.
– I am stating my interpretation of them.
– It is not a correct interpretation.
– Does Senator Courtice refute the assertion that there was no cement, steel, and other material available to build these things? They could not even be bought by the farmer who wanted to improve his farm, or the factory-owner who wanted to improve or expand his factory. The machinery was not there. There were constant blackouts throughout Melbourne, because there was no power plant available to generate electricity. There was gas rationing. In Sydney there was a constant shortage of electricity. All these things added to the cost of living and stopped production.
Superimposed on these things at that time we had strike after strike in key industries, which at that time were Communistcontrolled, aimed not only at the Australian Labour party, because it then formed the Government of this country, but also at the Australian people, because the Communists did not want the Australian economy to recover. That, again, stopped the production of those things upon which alone we could build the sort of country we wanted. Because of these things we had rationing. The “ spivs “ could go out and get things because they could offer a little on the side. Due to the irrational addiction to the control of prices, which still persists on the other side, only those people could buy scarce commodities, at a price, on the blackmarket. “We had in this country then no public works programme in any way comparable to the mighty surge of building that has gone on throughout every State in the Commonwealth since this Government assumed office, and the figures in official year-books show that that is so. There were shortages of many materials, and it was even necessary to import steel, cement, and coal, from overseas at that time. That was the position in 1949, the year to which honorable senators opposite look back with so much nostalgia as a golden or gilten age. There were strikes, absenteeism, and over-employment, as Labour’s leaders stated at the time publicly, and there was an irrational desire for the control of prices which, because it was placed only on essential goods, drove capital and labour into unessential industries and left the essential commodities not produced. Because the people were sick of those conditions, and because they did not like the immorality that went with price fixation and black marketing, and did not like standing idle by machines that were stopped because of the lack of electric power, thus raising prices, because the workers were paid for doing nothing through no fault of their own, they changed the government.
– And th’ey have been sorry ever since.
- Senator Tangney may bold that point of view, but at least those conditions have changed and improved and we have overcome the problems that were posed by those condi tions of 1949. We now have materials with which to build power plants. We have coal - even coal at grass - and we do hot need to import galvanized iron and wire netting from overseas. The things that we need to improve and increase secondary production can he obtained and are being made, where before they were not available. We do not have electricity blackouts in Victoria now, because since that time we have built new power plant. We are providing the people of Victoria with electric power they could not get before, and it is producing goods that were not produced before. We are completing in Victoria a bigger programme of water conservation and irrigation projects than was ever thought of before.
– Did the Australian Government have anything to do with the building of electricity plants?
– The Commonwealth had a great deal to do with these works, because it guaranteed the loans which alone made possible the building of these power plants and works. The Commonwealth has provided £7 out of £10 for the building of these power plants, because it knew the value of them and was prepared to take steps that the previous Government was not prepared . to take. That is why power plants are now sending out electricity, factories are . working, and machinery is available. That is why the economy has improved and the production of this country has increased. Senator Kennelly has admitted these increases over the last few years because of the action of this Government. This transformation of a scene from a moribund, strike-stricken, black market economy into one where production is up on every front, where strikes are few and power and water are abundant, was not easy, and was not made under easy circumstances. Very soon indeed after this Government took office the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration added £1 a week to the basic wage. That was not a cost of living increase, as members of the Opposition will persist in regarding it, but an increase because in the opinion of that court industry could at that time afford to pay it. The effect on the economy of that increase was, in itself, extremely large, and I believe even the Opposition will admit, beyond the control of any government. It Has been added to ever since automatically in quarterly cost of living adjustments. That hurdle was thrown in the path of this Government within months of it taking office. Again, right on the heels of that increase there came an outbreak of war in Korea, which not only involved this Government in immediate intervention itself by means of its own armed forces, its . army, Navy, ships and the transport which conveyed supplies to the tanks and the men on the battlefield, but also set off world-wide inflation. At once we were faced with the necessity to find greater amounts of money for imports of rubber, oil, tin and things of that nature from overseas due to the inflation that war engendered. In addition, it suddenly dawned upon 90 per cent, of the people that world conditions were bad and that it was necessary for this country in common with the rest of the British Commonwealth and the United States of America to expand inflationary defence production. That was the second hurdle which was placed in the path of the Government. The . next hurdle was the greatest rise in ‘the price of wool that this country has ever known. Nobody could have expected that such a great rise could have occurred in the short space of twelve months. That occurrence might not have mattered so much if the previous Treasurer had not made the enormous economic mistake of devaluing the Australian pound when the pound sterling was devalued in 1949. As a result of that move a quarter of the vast flood of money which poured into this country after the rise in wool prices was unbacked by goods.
– Wool prices had nothing to do with devaluation.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Other honorable senators will have an opportunity to address the Chair later.
– It is incontestible that the rate of exchange that was fixed by the previous Treasurer resulted in enormous sums of money being unbacked by commodities.
– Why did the Liberal Government not change the rate of exchange?
– I think that it should have been changed, but it would have been harder to make the adjustment a year later than it would have been at the time that devaluation was effected by the former Treasurer. Any one of the problems that I have mentioned could have been used by the Government as an excuse for doing nothing. They would have been used as such an excuse by a Labour government, but they were not used as an excuse by this Government. Together with the conditions which the Labour Government had left for this Government to clean up, these difficulties were overcome by hard work, common sense and a willingness to undergo temporary political unpopularity.
I shall outline the measures which the Government took to clean up the mess that had been left by the Labour Government and overcome the problems which crowded upon it. First, the Government dealt with the problem of constant strikes by Communist-dominated unions in key industries by introducing secret ballot legislation, which has been used with great success by the trade union movement. That legislation freed unions from Communist domination and removed the threat of strikes in key industries. When the Communists, with an impudence engendered by long years in which they had done as they liked, attempted to organize rolling strikes, it was necessary for the Government to use the Crimes Act in order to smash a strike on the waterfront which was aimed at Australia by the Communists. The secret ballot legislation put a weapon into the hands of the unionists themselves, and they conducted a victorious fight. Another great achievement of the present Government was the procurement from abroad of a loan of millions of dollars which was used to improve Australia’s transport system. Diesel electric trains are now running on our railway lines and modern rolling-stock is moving goods faster than before and in greater quantities, because the Government secured the capital necessary to re-equip ; an outworn transport system. The loan also enabled the procurement of earth-moving equipment and machine tools which were essential to the development of a sound economy.
While the Government was taking these steps and grappling with its internal and external enemies, what was the attitude of the Opposition? No Australian attitude was evident at any time in any statement made by any Labour leader. When inflation was increasing and it was necessary that people should not squander their money, the honorable member for Melbourne in another place (Mr. Calwell) advised people to spend their money as fast as they could because it would not be worth anything by the coming Christmas. That advice would have meant death to this country if the people had taken it. When the Government introduced a budget for the purpose of defeating inflation the Opposition raised a cry of depression, defeatism and unemployment. That cry was raised solely to bring about depression and create a lack of confidence in this country and its industries. When the Government introduced a bill which would enable the anti-Communists in the unions to throw out the Communists, the Opposition opposed that measure tooth and nail in this chamber and out of it. Some elements of the Labour party are still expressing their opposition to that legislation and those elements are represented in this chamber. That was the kind of assistance that the Opposition gave the Government in its fight against the conditions which it faced after it attained office.
In spite of what was called the horror budget, there is no unemployment to any significant extent in this country. We have been told by an honorable senator opposite that 256,000 new jobs had to be filled in the last two years by males alone. Those jobs have been filled and about one person in every 170 is now drawing unemployment benefits. The proportion of unemployed persons in this country is dropping every month. It is lower here than anywhere else in the world and it is infinitely better than the proportion in 1947 when 5 per cent, of the population was unemployed. The Labour Government then stated that 5 per cent, unemployment, to all intents and purposes, constituted full employment. Not’ only is there no unemployment now but the materials necessary to complete public works are available. Fac- tories, great and small, are expanding. Primary production has increased. Productive capacity of farms has increased and is still increasing. The barometer is set fair in this country. It is set fair because it tackled its problems properly although the Government faced hardship and difficulty when it took office. That is why it has been able to present this budget, which proposes more concessions for the taxpayers than any government in any English-speaking country, has made to its taxpayers since the war. This budget is a happy augury for the future and is justified by the signs of prosperity.
– Senator Gorton began his speech with an assertion and ended it with an assertion. He suggested that the speech of Senator Kennelly contained very little of interest. I think that Senator Kennelly’s speech was rather constructive, and I expected Senator Gorton to reply to him. Senator Gorton’s speech so far as the budget was concerned consisted of about half a dozen sentences. Then he wandered on to some technical subjects and delivered an academic discussion on matters with which I do not intend to deal. Senator Gorton suggested that the Chifley Government should not have devalued the £1. 3 remind the honorable senator that that is a subject that the present Government is afraid to tackle.
– It is too late to tackle it now.
– It is not too late to tackle it now but the Government is apprehensive of the warring factions among its own supporters. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party cannot make up their minds whether the existing rate of exchange is good or bad. Senator Gorton belongs to the Liberal party. I should be pleased to hear some of his colleagues in the Australian Country party expound their ideas on the devaluation of the £1. I did not hear the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) make any reference to the devaluation of the currency.
It is unfortunate that this debate has developed into . a debate on Victoria. Senator Kennelly, Senator Gorton and
L all come from Victoria. Senator Gorton suggested that in Victoria everything in the garden was lovely. He said that there were no black-outs. I am amazed that Senator Gorton, who is a country resident of Victoria, should have stated that people have no cause for complaint in relation to the electricity supply in that State. Has the honorable senator not been inundated by requests from people who want electricity to develop their dairy farms and other holdings?
– Apparently they consider that the honorable senator’s representations would be of very little assistance. I certainly have had many such requests. I am frequently asked by country people to see whether I can do anything to expedite the provision of electricity to their farms. Why is the State Electricity Commission of Victoria unable to supply the demands of those people? It is unable to meet those demands simply because since this Government has been in office, the Australian people have lost confidence in the loan market with the result that funds available for developmental work are totally inadequate. In the Latrobe Valley millions of pounds worth of machinery, imported from overseas with funds borrowed from America, is rusting. The State Electricity Commission has been compelled to sell some plant at less than cost in an effort to recoup itself. Senator Gorton said there was no foundation for the claim that, under the administration of this Government, the people of Australia had lost faith in the loan market. The truth is that the failure of the investing public to support Commonwealth loans has made it necessary for this Government to finance works out of revenue. In view of the joyous expressions of admiration that have come from backbenchers on the Government side of the chamber in connexion with the tax reductions announced in this budget, perhaps I may be pardoned for asking where the Government proposes to obtain the money that is necessary for essential developmental works if Australia is to take full advantage of the wonderful opportunity for expansion that is now offering, I realize of course what will happen. When a crisis arises, the people of Australia once again will turn to the Labour party. We shall be asked to get Australia out of the mess in which this Government has left it.
Honorable senators opposite have made much of the tax relief that the people of Australia will receive this year. It is true that the budget contains something for everybody; but there is very little in it for any one. Some newspapers went so far as to say that the budget contained the news we had been waiting for. It is true that we have been waiting for good news from this Government since its election in 1949, but does the 1953-54 budget contain that news? At the best, the budget provides for deferred payment, because not until the end of the financial year will any substantial relief be given to the tax-paying public. The Melbourne Sun published a table showing how the proposed tax reductions would affect various classes of taxpayers ranging from a single person to a married man with four children. I studied those tables with some expectancy. I found that the average wage-earner, that is a man receiving about £12 a week consisting of the basic wage plus a small margin for skill, will pay 3s. 6d. a week less in tax this year than he paid last year. For the married man on that wage, the reduction will be 3s. 9d. a week. In other words, his wife will be worth an extra 3d. a week to him. A married man with one child will receive an additional 2s. 9d. ; a married man with two children will receive an additional 2s. 3d. ; a married man with three children will receive an additional 2s.; and a married man with four children will be ls. 6d. a week better off. That apparently was the news that we had been waiting for. Is that to be the reward of unfortunate Australians who were gulled by promises made from the hustings in 1949 that taxes would be reduced and value would he put back into the £1 ? Is that the reward of people who suffered under the horror budget of last year? I recall distinctly that, prior to the introduction of the budget, Government supporters were’ confidently fore.casting tax concessions aggregating £200,000,000 a year, yet. according to newspaper reports, when the contents of the budget were disclosed to members of the Government parties, they were overcome with excitement and cheered loudly. Perhaps their exuberance on that auspicious occasion is understandable. The previous budgets introduced by this Government had been gloomy and dismal indeed. I suppose when honorable senators opposite were told about the extra 3s. 6d. a week for a single man and 3s. 9d. a week for a married man they saw those concessions as a ray of sunshine, and no doubt they were further heartened by the announcement of the sales tax proposals which will reduce the price of mink coats from 500 guineas to something over 400 guineas, and make motor cars cheaper.. One can just imagine a married man with a wife and three children, upon learning that he is to receive an extra 2s. a week, telling his wife to rush off and buy a mink coat or a motor car. What a wonderful budget! “ That is the news we have been waiting for “ Government supporters say. One does not have to study the budget very deeply to appreciate the falsity of the claim of honorable senators opposite that it is a budget for the little man. The greatest beneficiaries will obviously be the Government’s friends. I must make a reservation there however, because I notice that many people who have been Government supporters in the past few years, have become fearful of its economic policy.. They realize that under this Government’s administration the future of Australian industry is not so bright as it could be. Once again the flood gates are being opened to imported goods and the advantage that was gained by the import restrictions will very soon be undone.
Let us examine now some of the wonderful ideas put forward by Senator Gorton, presumably on behalf of the Government. The honorable senator asked whether we protested against the increase of the concessional deduction for a wife. Of course we do not protest against that. Our complaint is that the allowance is still not sufficient. The Government led us to believe that it had in mind somethins; much more generous than .this miserable increase. We do not protest against any >of the concessions for the wace-earner that have been announced in the budget, but we believe that some of them are totally inadequate. Labour’s criticism of the social services provisions of the budget has been answered by Senator Laught and other honorable senators opposite with the question “ What did the Labour government do when it was in office? “ We are told -that the Chifley Government provided so many million pounds on social services under its last budget whereas this Government is providing many more millions to-day. That is quite true. The Menzies Government is paying out much more than was paid out by the Chifley Government; but let us not forget that under Labour’s rule, the basic wage was less than £5 a week. To-day it is nearly £12 a week. What does that mean? It means that the basic wage-worker needs nearly £12 a week now to purchase the commodities that he could get for less than £5 a week under Labour. Any one who has the merest knowledge of economics knows that the real measure of wages is the goods and services that they can purchase. What does it profit the worker if he goes home with a bundle of bank notes, the purchasing power of which has depreciated? The important thing is what can be bought with the money. Despite the fact that recipients of social services benefits are receiving, more pound notes to-day than previously, they are worse off than they were during the regime of the Chifley Government. I do not wish to go into percentages. To prove that that is so, it is only necessary to speak to the people concerned. Those honorable senators who do a little shopping now and then will appreciate that the prices of commodities have risen and that the value of the £1 has fallen. Fortunately, rent control has been in operation, so that in States where Labour administrations are to be found, pensioners are assured of that measure of protection. Many supporters of the present Government parties would like to see the removal of rent control. Should that happen, all I can say is that it would be most unfortunate for age and invalid pensioners and those on fixed incomes.
This Government is to blame for the inflation ‘ that exists. Senator Gorton referred this evening to the fart that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration increased the basic wage by £1 a week. As lie said, that increase was made not because of the rising cost of living, but as a reward for the prosperous conditions which the working people had done much to bring about during the Labour administration. Those conditions’ were also due, in part, to wise government and to the manner in which the economic life of the nation had been regulated. The supporters of this Government advised the people to reject the proposal that there should be Commonwealth control of prices. When the basic wage was increased by £1 a week, manufacturers and retailers increased the prices of their commodities. Because the people were prosperous and had the requisite purchasing power, buyer resistance was not as great as it might have been. The people purchased the goods they wanted, and enormous profits were made by business organizations.
The theme of this budget, which has been followed all the way through, is to benefit the richer sections of the community. Even in respect of company taxation, the greatest rebate is to be given to the large companies. One would think that if the Government desired to help the smaller industries, it would make the taxation concessions more advantageous for small companies than for large ones. Similarly, the larger private companies will benefit more than the small companies, and individuals with the greatest incomes from personal exertion will benefit more than those with the lower taxable incomes. It seems to me that the expressions of joy by honorable senators opposite, when the budget was first introduced in the Senate, were premature.
It is necessary only to look at the records of the stock exchange to see that investors, who had no doubt expected wonderful tax reductions and rushed in to purchase shares, are now regretting their action. On the first day after the budget was introduced, shares began to rise, but now they are receding. Industrial shares are falling. Consequently, many investors must have lost a considerable amount of money because they banked on this Government doing something to help them in the future. It is true, as Senator Laught has stated, that sales tax on matches is to be abolished.
I point out, however, that matches are still subject to excise and that the greatest competitor of the match industry, the imported cigarette lighter, is also to receive the benefit of the elimination of sales tax. I shall have something to say about this matter when the sales tax proposals are being discussed in the Senate. It seems to me that even though sales tax is to be removed from certain articles, the industries which produce those articles will be in a worse position than they were before the, introduction of this budget because of the importation of goods from abroad with which the local goods cannot compete.
If the Government thinks that this budget will whip up the flagging spirits of its supporters and encourage them to renewed efforts, I am afraid that it will be disappointed. The glamour of the budget has now passed away. The people are able to see what a miserable attempt has been made by .the Government to improve the economy. They now appreciate that the enormous increase of taxation which occurred during the earlier years of this Government’s term of office was made for the purpose of handing out, in an election year, a few crumbs, and in that way regaining public confidence. All that I can say to honorable senator” opposite is that if they think that this budget will work to their advantage with the electors, they are sadly mistaken.
– I desire to refer briefly to one or two of the comments that were, made by Senator Sheehan. The honorable senator stated that the people have lost confidence in this Government, and are therefore not prepared to subscribe to loans, so that the Government has been forced to appropriate, out of revenue, money for works purposes that should rightfully and properly be obtained by means of loans. With the greatest respect, to the honorable senator, the mere assertion that the people have lost confidence in the Government does not prove the truth of the assertion, but, of course, neither does my denial disprove it. However, I have here a few facts which may interest the honorable senator. I draw his attention, and that of other honorable senators, to the fact that loans are the prerogative of the Australian Loan Council and that, on that council, each State has one vote, and the Common-wealth has two votes, so that there are six votes against two. If there is any quarrel with the way in which the council conducts its loans, I suggest that Senator Sheehan should refer his problem to the Labour Treasurers who comprise a majority of the members of the council.
In addition, I refer the honorable senator to an interesting statement, made by Dr. E[. C. Coombs, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, relating to the raising of loans, which appears on page 15 of the latest annual report of the bank. Dr. Coombs states, under the heading. “ Public Finance “-
The financing of public investment in 1952-53 presented difficulties, since the loan funds sought by State governments were far beyond the resources of the loan market.
– That is the point. They were beyond the resources of the loan market.
– I shall read the rest of the statement in a moment, if the honorable senator will allow me to do so. Dr. Coombs come3 to the conclusion that the country could not afford to subscribe moneys to these loans. That is his proposition. Of course, he may be wrong. I merely bring his statement to the notice of Senator Sheehan, who asserted that the people of this country had lost confidence in the Government and that that was the reason why loan funds were not forthcoming.
Senator Sheehan also referred to pensions. In effect, he said that the pension rates at the present time are too low, having regard to the inflation through which the country has passed. I again join issue with him. He did not prove the truth of that statement either, but merely asserted it. I remind him that if the pension had been adjusted in accordance with the C series index, it would be, at the present moment, £3 8s. 3d. a week. In fact, it is £3 10s. .a week. That is to say, the base rate pension at the present time is higher than it was in 1949, having regard to the costofliving adjustments incidental to those years.
I pass now to the budget itself. I suggest that no budget should be con sidered as an isolated happening in the economic life of a nation, because it is not isolated. It is related both to what has happened in previous years and to what might transpire in future years. It is in that light that I desire to make some observations concerning the present, budget. In doing so, I shall not be out of order if I comment from time to time upon the attitude of the Opposition towards the various measures that have been passed in connexion with the budgets of this Government. Indeed, it is against that background that I shall discuss this budget.
I invite honorable senators to recall the year 194’9 and those preceding it because they have a close relation to the present budget. It does not do any harm occasionally to remind honorable senators on the Opposition side of the Australian picture and economic conditions that existed before 1949. There was not sufficient petrol, and we had petrol rationing. It was most difficult to purchase a motor car, but for the lucky persons who could do so, the petrol position was very grim. We had very little tea, butter, sugar or meat, and those products were rationed. Clothing was insufficient, and we’ had clothing rationing. It was impossible to buy bricks, tiles or building materials for houses, but we had black markets in those goods. A person with sufficient money could buy a second-hand motor car on the black market for £2,000 or £3,000, or he could buy 1 lb. of butter for 10s. We bad what is known as a condition of full employment. It was so full that farmers often could not. get farmhands to take off their crops, and hospitals had the greatest difficulty in obtaining employees. That was the Australian scene in those years under a socialist government.
– We will have another socialist government soon.
– I am not disposed to pose as a prophet, but I believe that the electors will not make that mistake next year. Australians did not like the way of life in 1949 and they threw the socialists out of office. The policy of the Menzies Government has been to produce more. In his policy speech in 1949 the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated -
We shall stimulate development of all basic industries, primary and secondary. . . . Coal is vital. Without it, we can have neither full employment nor full production. . . . A real full employment policy is completely interlocked with policies for the stabilizationand development of the primary industries, housing in the country as well as in the towns, improved transport, the securing of migrants experienced in farming’ methods, the maintenance of supplies of coal and other basic materials, the increase of production by adequate material incentives, the reduction of costs by greater efficiency on the part of both employers and employees. . . . We will attack all these problems with vigour and imagination.
The Government has attacked those problems with vigour and imagination and with great ability, and it has achieved conspicuous success. I do not make this assertion idly. Figures .that I have in my possession support my contention. Wool production, which is unquestionably the most important of Australia’s basic industries, was 20 per cent, higher last year than it was the previous year and reached a record high level. The wool cheque from overseas in 1951 was” £337,000,000. Last year it increased to £420,000,000. In 1951-52, Australia sold £5,000,000 worth of butter overseas. Last year the butter cheque exceeded £20,000,000. Two years ago our barley exports returned more than £11,000,000. Last year revenue from that source had risen to more than £19,000,000. In 1951-52, sugar exports were worth £7,000,000. Last year they had increased to £22,000,000. Exports of meat of all kinds, including canned meat, increased from £23,000,000 to £5S,000,000 in those years. They are impressive figures.
In 1949-50, the last year of the Chifley Government’s regime, the nation produced 1,200,000,000 super, feet of timber. Last year timber production had risen to 1,500,000,000 super, feet. The production of steel is not simple. It involves industrial problems, shipping and mining of ores and coal. Yet our steel production has grown from 1,200,000 tons in the days of Mr. Chifley to 1,900,000 tons. Every Australian should be proud of that record. In the days of the Chifley Administration, the Australian gold industry produced 850,000 oz. of fine gold each year. Last year production exceeded 1,000,000 oz. To complete the picture, I shall repeat the figures of coal production that have been given to honorable senators frequently in the past. In the last year of the Chifley administration, Australia’s coal production was 14,900,000 tons. Last year coal production rose to 18,500,000 tons. In the days of the Chifley Government, the best that Australia could do in the production of electricity was 754,000,000,000 kilowatt hours. Last year production rose to 999,000,000,000 kilowatt hours.
I make no apology for reciting those figures because they give a true picture of increased production. They indicate that this country has renounced blackmarkets and has changed from a condition of shortages in which everybody was grumbling to a condition in which anybody can buy anything. It is a condition of prosperity. Another important element in the economy is the money element. Hand in hand with the production of goods is the matter of prices that are obtained for the nation’s goods and services. The sum total is called the national income. It is an elementary proposition in economics that national income must go hand in hand with production of goods and services. They must be in the proper proportions. In a rising economy, a condition in which the national income is going up, it is absolutely essential that production of goods and services should rise proportionately. That desirable state of affairs exists in Australia. In 1949-50, the last year of the Chifley administration, the national income was £2,300,000,000. Last year it was £3,500,000,000. I do not mention those figures merely to indicate that the national income has grown. - The point is that production has grown proportionately. Economists call it rising productivity. In other words, we are prosperous.
That desirable condition was not achieved fortuitously nor did it happen overnight. There were two very good reasons why it happened and I shall refer to them briefly. In the first place, that prosperity was due to a splendid effort on the part of the producers of Australia, industrialists, farmers, miners, shopkeepers, employers and employees alike. They responded to the appeal of this Government to produce more goods. Secondly, prosperity could not have been achieved unless the Government had made it possible. It has taken three years to achieve. Eoi- three long years, this Government has pursued courageously a policy that was frequently unpopular with the majority of Australians. Many times it brought down legislation which seemed to be harsh but the Government was steadfast and courageous in its longterm plan to bring back prosperity to Australia. I claim that it has succeeded. At every possible opportunity honorable senators opposite have attacked measures that this Government has introduced with the object of increasing production. When any of those measures happened to bc unpopular with the public, honorable senators opposite redoubled their opposition to it regardless of whether such opposition was inconsistent with the policy of their party. They adopted that attitude in order to win a few votes; and to a degree they succeeded in doing so. In recent months, Labour has won two by-elections; but the Government has won the battle of production.
Of course, members of the Australian Labour party completely reject the Liberal party’s policy of greater production. The key to prosperity is hard work and increased production. Honorable senators opposite have1 only one answer to the problem of underproduction, and that is the imposition of controls, particularly prices control. Those honorable senators have opposed every measure that this Government has introduced during the past three years for the purpose of stabilizing our economy. At every opportunity, parrot-like, they have raised the cry that prices control would solve all our economic difficulties. As socialists, they believe that if only 1 lb. of butter is available and two housewives require butter, the only solution is to call in an official to cut the 1 lb. in halves and give an equal portion to each housewife’. The application of that principle, of course, does not entirely please either of the housewives, but, at least, it insures that each of them shall obtain some butter; and, invariably, in such circumstances Labour would impose prices control in a manner designed to please, not the producer, but the consumer. As a consequence, the producer refuses to produce sufficient butter. Then the official comes along again and cut3 1 lb. into quarters in order to give every one a portion of what is available. In simple terms, that example illustrates the philosophy of the Australian Labour party. Members of that party do not agree with the Liberal party’s policy that the only way to overcome a shortage of any commodity is to produce two pounds of it instead of cutting up the inadequate quantity available. The Australian people have already shown that they regard Labour’s philosophy in that respect as being a tragic philosophy. I am confident that when they are given the opportunity to do so they will, as they have done in the past, endorse this Government’s policy which is based on the principle that the road to prosperity is through greater production.
I have endeavoured to show that the Government has stimulated production and has, thereby, increased the real wealth of the country. It follows that a nation whose real wealth, as distinct from inflated wealth, is increased can afford to reduce taxes correspondingly. That is what the Government proposes to do under this budget, because ‘the proposals contained in it are rewards for individual effort. Before dealing with the budget proposals in detail, I shall refer to them in general terms. The Government proposes to reduce taxes in the “ aggregate by an amount of £118,000,000. The indirect benefit that will flow to the community as a result of that concession will be profound. At the moment it cannot be measured in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, but, in the course of time, that benefit will be substantial for the simple reason that that large amount of money, which will be retained in the pockets of the general public, will eventually be utilized to increase purchasing power and thus will find its way into the coffers of the producers and provide additional working capital for the production of even greater wealth. The benefit that will flow from that concession will, in the long run, be greater than the actual monetary value of the concession that will be derived by individual taxpayers.
The budget contains so many concessions that in the brief time at my disposal I shall not be able to deal with all of them. It must be many years since a budget presented to this Parliament contained so many concessions that they could not be dealt with in the course of a single speech. Members of the Opposition have remained strangely silent about practically all of the proposed concessions. I have not heard any of those honorable senators protest against the Government’s proposals to reduce income tax on the average by 12£ per cent., to reduce tax on the income of private companies by ls. in the fi, to exempt from pay-roll tax more than half the number of employers who formerly paid that tax, to reduce sales tax on thousands of items, to abolish the entertainments tax and the differential rate of tax on income from property, and to increase the concessional deduction in respect of expenditure on education. From the silence of honorable senators opposite, I conclude that they approve of those concessions.
However, they have adversely criticized the proposal to reduce the tax on income of public companies by 2s. in the fi. A bitter controversy has raged in another place over that proposal. Whilst members of the Australian Labour party have not actually objected to that concession they have, in their traditional party manner, made violent attacks upon large corporations, such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, and his colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), have insisted that the profits being made by such large corporations are excessive. Only one inference can be drawn from that contention, and that is that those honorable gentlemen believe that the profits of such organizations should be reduced and that the only way to .achieve that objective is to increase the rate of tax on the income of such companies. I invite the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) to state unequivocally his opinion about the pro- posal to reduce the rate of tax on income of public companies and to say whether or not he agrees with the inference drawn by his colleagues in another place that the rate of tax on income of public companies should be increased. The interesting thing about large companies, which members of the Opposition invariably refer to as big business, is that the majority qf their shareholders are little people. In fact, the wealthiest shareholders are usually found amongst shareholders in small companies. But that fact is overlooked, perhaps, intentionally by honorable senators opposite when they attack big companies. However, they consider that to be a good line for Labour to take. I have heard such an argument greeted with cheers in the Sydney Domain. The profits of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and other big organizations are really moderate when measured by the proper yardstick, that is, in relation to the amount of capital invested in such organizations. When assessed on that basis, their profits are not large but are really much smaller, proportionately, than those that are made by many small companies. In any event, let us suppose that the profits being made by bigger companies are large. What does that matter? The socialists foster the idea that there is something sinister about profits. That is nonsense. The profit motive is the essence of all business undertakings, be they big or small, and whether the business is a huge steelworks or a pie stall. Honorable senators opposite ignore the fact that without profits this nation would not be able to afford to provide social services benefits on anything like the scale on which those benefits are now provided. Profits are directly related to productive capacity and employment. The profits that are made by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, for instance, are directly related to its capacity to employ over 15,000 people. I doubt whether any honorable senator opposite would be prepared to address a meeting of those employees and tell them that the company should dismiss some of them. However, that is really what honorable senators opposite advocate when they advocate smaller profits. The country cannot be developed unless those engaged in business are able to make profits. During the last century, particularly during the days of the gold rushes, the profit motive, accelerated the development of Australia. If the profit motive had not operated as it did in those days, this continent would still be practically empty, whereas, to-day, it is more prosperous than any other country with comparable resources.
I welcome the proposal to reduce the rate of tax on incomes of public companies by 2s. in the £1 . because it will foster the general welfare of the community. It will release additional working capital which will be ploughed back by big organizations. It will help to increase production, and it will also have the effect of attracting foreign capital to this country. All of those results must be of great benefit to the nation as a whole.
In the limited- time still available to me, I shall refer in detail to only one other matter, namely, the proposal to reduce the rate of tax on income from personal exertion on the average by 12$ per cent. That reduction represents an all-time record in budget history in this country. It is a proposal of which the Government can well be proud. This budget can rightly be described as “ a small man’s budget “, or “ a people’s budget “, which was the description applied to it by the Melbourne Argus, which I regard as being a supporter of the Australian Labour party. I shall conclude with an observation with relation to the future. I believe that if we as a nation are prepared to work - and I personally utterly reject the proposition that Australians will not work when they set their minds to a task - national production will rise. We must strive to work a little harder. If, by so doing we can increase our national production and keep the socialists out of office I believe that next year we shall be able to further reduce taxation.
– Senator Vincent, who is a representative of Western Australia-
– He is a great man.
– Yes, the honorable senator is a great man, but despite the fact that he was bred on the gold-fields, he has sneeringly referred to the humble labourer and asserted that if the Australian economy is to be able to stand the burdens that this Government is going to impose on it, the Australian workmen will have to work harder, sweat harder, and show better results. Apparently the honorable senator is so overburdened by his political affiliations that he is preppared to propound in this chamber propositions that are against the interests of the State that he represents. When Senator Vincent returned to Western Australia recently he had the temerity to cross swords with Mr. Hawke, the Premier of that State, who is one of the most competent men who has ever represented Western Australia at meetings of the Australian Loan Council. Subsequently a statement by the honorable senator that Western Australia had been treated more than generously by this Government was as thoroughly wrong as were the statements that he made in this chamber to-night. He said a few minutes ago that decisions on amounts of prospective public loans were made by the Loan Council, which comprises six State representatives and two Commonwealth representatives.
– That is right.
– Yes, but Senator Vincent did not say that at the last meeting of the loan council Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia, voted with the Commonwealth representativesmaking the Loan Council vote 5 to 3 in favour of the States’ submission in favour of increasing the rate of interest, and the amount of loan money that would be sought for the States. When the Premiers, with the exception of Mr. Playford, stressed that they needed all the loan money for which they hari applied, they were told by the representatives of the Commonwealth that if they insisted on seeking to borrow such large amounts on the loan market the Commonwealth would reduce other payments tothem so that overall they would not derive increased finance. The Commonwealth held the States to ransom. Senator Vincent, instead of vindicating the attitude of the States, has cast a slur on the workers, whom he professes torepresent in this chamber, and has spoken against the best interests of the State that be represents. I have repeatedly requested the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) to table the minutes of meetings of the Australian Loan Council, but he has declined to do so. Some supporters of the Government are prepared to sell out the States that they represent in order to gain political kudos, instead of fighting for the provision of adequate loan moneys to their States for developmental purposes. A statement by Mr. Hawke that was published in the Western Australian showed quite clearly that the position had been wrongly stated by Senator Vincent, because the States, have not received the loan moneys that they sought, the amounts paid to the States to reimburse them for administering prices control have been cut, and overall they have received about £900,000 less than they received last year. Yet the honorable senator, in common with other supporters of the Government, still professes to believe that the Senate is a States house rather than a party house. Senator Henty stated to-night that the Opposition in another place - to use his own words - .” had jacked up on the budget and was not prepared to debate it.”. Although fifteen more members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives desire to address themselves to the budget they will not now be able to do so because the Government has imposed a time limit on the completion of the debate.
I do not consider that a government which professes to have the national interest at heart has any reason to be proud of this budget. The economy of this country has deteriorated under this Government’s administration. In order to consider the budgetary proposals in true perspective it is necessary to refer to the budget that was introduced by the Chifley Government in 1949-50. At that time there was economic stability in this country, the production costs were low, the basic wage was at a reasonable level, and the Australian people enjoyed not only a well balanced living standard, but also well-designed social security. This Government has failed lamentably to even preserve the conditions that then existed. The leaders of the Government parties, with greedy eyes on Australia’s assets, its sterling funds’ of about £800,000,000, and an untapped source of borrowing in the
United States of America, committed their parties to a solemn promise that they would) if returned to office, arrest inflation, reduce taxation, deal with socialism, improve social services payments, and provide better living conditions for the pensioners. Those promises have not been fulfilled. In order to assist the Australian housewives, the leaders of the Government parties promised to restore value to the Australian £1. The Government now claims that these promises have been fulfilled, but that claim is untrue, and it is even more dangerous than were the promises that the leaders of the anti-Labour parties made during their struggles to obtain power. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) has stated that inflation has been cured and arrested.
– That was said on behalf of the Australian Council of Trades Unions.
– I am referring not to what was said on behalf of the Australian Council for Trades Unions but to what the Minister said to-night. The basic wage, which indicates the standard of basic costs, shows how inflation has been accentuated in Australia since this Government came into office. It must be remembered that, until recently, the basic wage was adjusted quarterly, following the computation by the Commonwealth Statistician of movements of prices. Increases of the basic wage have always followed increases of costs. As at the 1st November, 1949, when Labour was in office, the basic wage was £6 ls. 7d. a week. In “Western Australia the basic wage has risen since 1949 by more than 100 per cent, to its present rate of £12 6s. a week. The costs of production are now so high that our products are not marketable overseas. Governmental expenditure has risen conosiderably. In this financial year no less than 27.4 per cent, of the national income will be applied to this purpose. That rate of expenditure is equal to the highest tax rake-off at any time during the period of the war and 5.4 per cent, greater than the rate of taxation that was imposed by the Chifley Government in 1949. In this financial year government receipts are expected to yield £948,000,000, yet the Commonwealth refuses to make available to the States finance for urgently needed developmental works. Although this Government has abolished entertainments tax and land tax it has reduced payments to the States to the point where it may be necessary for the States to reimpose those taxes in order to obtain revenue with which to carry out urgent public’ works. The Government is prepared to remit taxation of £28,750,000 to company shareholders, but it is not prepared to give the States a fair deal. Any senator who does not strive to protect the interests of the State that he represents is recreant to his trust.
This budget has been introduced as a political expedient in an attempt by the Government parties to influence the result of the next general election. An iron curtain has been dropped around the subject of unemployment. Employees of the Department of Labour and National Service are not permitted, without ministerial authority, to supply information about the unemployment situation. However, the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended the 30th June, 1953, at page 47, shows that- the expenditure on unemployment benefits has increased from £1,007,657 in 1952, to £6,255,472 in 1953, an increase of more than 500 per cent, during the last twelve months. Immigrants have rioted because this Government has been unable to provide them with employment. Persons who were not prepared to take any employment that was offered to them became ineligible to receive the unemployment benefit and so are not included in the figures. This completely refutes the claim that has been made by supporters of the Government that unemployment has decreased.
– This Government has doubled the amounts of the unemployment benefit.
– It has not done so in the last twelve months, but it has done great damage to the economy of this country. The previous Labour Government realised that ari exorbitant amount of money had. been extracted from the people in taxation in order to prosecute a total war effort, on which, an antiLabour government “ walked out “, and shortly after the cessation of hostilities remitted taxation of £140,000,000.
– 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.
– During the period to which I have referred the Chifley Government remitted £140,000,000 to the people of Australia by way of reductions of taxation. At that time every man, woman and child in this country paid an average of £55 a year in direct and indirect taxation. In 1949 the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made the following promise when delivering the joint policy speech of the Government parties : -
We still believe that rates of taxation must be steadily reduced as national production and income rise, and as economies are effected in administration.
Honorable senators opposite have claimed that these objectives have been achieved and that increased production and higher national income have been progressively attained. They have been attained. But taxation has been progressively increased by this Government since 1949. In 1949, the average amount of taxation paid by each person in this country was £55. That amount rose to £63 after this Government came to office in 1949. It rose to £70 in 1950, to £S6 in 1951 and to £112 in 1952. The last-mentioned figure represents an increase of 100 per cent, on the taxation which was levied at the time that the Government promised to reduce taxation. In 1949-50 the nation’s budget totalled £504,000,000 which equalled 22 per cent, of the national income. The present budget proposes to spend £478,000,000 more than that amount. Whilst the Government requires £9S2,140,000 to finance its activities, it has repudiated its obligation to provide money for ‘the State governments, abolished the tax on land-owners and company .proprietors and theatre interests and obliged the States to impose additional taxation on their people. Yet honorable senators opposite have boasted that the Government has acted in the national interest. I am afraid that the budget will not serve the purpose for which it was intended. It will not regain for the Government the popularity that it has lost as a result of its vacillating policy and the high incidence of inflation.
As a result of the Government’s inflationary policy Australia is not in a position to compete in the world market for wheat. Australia is being magnanimously treated by other countries who appreciate its position. The Government has shown bad judgment in relinquishing £28,750,000 in taxation to private companies. It would have obtained better results by restricting excess profits and charges and lowering the cost of production. The Government is not prepared to do that at this stage. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) promised that he would introduce legislation to regulate profits. It is natural that he would forget such a proposal because his party would not support it.
Now I wish to deal with the great betrayal. The greatest story of betrayal in Christian history concerns 30 pieces of silver. This story is one of 30 pieces of copper. It concerns the Government’s proposal to increase pensions by 2s. 6d. a week - also a betrayal of trust. Many pensioners in “Western Australia have to exist on a cup of tea and a piece of toast for breakfast, tea and a pie for lunch, which costs them1s. 6d. and a cheap three-course meal for dinner, which costs them 3s. 6d. In other words, they pay 6s. 6d. a day for meals, which equals 45s. 6d. a week. Their rent costs them between 25s. and £2 a week. If a pensioner pays only £1 7s. 6d. a week for rent, the cost of his meals and his rent equals the whole of his pension and he has no more on which to live. He has nothing left for clothes, laundry, entertainments, or travelling. His whole pension of £3 10s. a week has been absorbed. Yet honorable senators opposite claim that the Government has increased pensions to a greater extent than any other government. It has done so. But I shall prove by figures that the Government has also governed this country in times when inflation has exceeded all previous records and the pensioner is proportionately far poorer than he was under a Labour government.
Figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician show that in 1948, when the pension rate was £2 2s. 6d. a week, the basic wage was £5 16s. The single unit of pension then had a purchasing power equal to 36.64 per cent. of the basic wage. A man and his wife living together received 73.28 per cent. of the basic wage and if in receipt of the permissible income they could receive the basic wage between them. Whilst Labor was in office the basic pension never fell below 32 percent. of the basic wage. In 1952, it rose slightly to 32.03 per cent. But it has now fallen to 29.66 per cent. In other words, the value of pensions has fallen 7 per cent. since the Labour Government was in office when the pension rate was £2 2s. 6d. a week. These figures have been supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, and as honorable senators opposite are trying to prevent me quoting these figures I will ask that they be incorporated in Hansard as a correct record of pension values for any one who may be interested. Although Government supporters have claimed that this is a family man’s budget, Opposition senators have already proved that it will treat the single man better than the married man with two children. They have also shown that it will give companies and investors much better concessions than the wage-earner or the primary producer.
– Order ! Does the honorable senator wish the figures to which he referred to be incorporated in Hansard ?
– I should like them to be incorporated, Mr. President.
– Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
– Apparently honorable senators opposite fear that if the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician are published in Hansard the Australian citizens will read them and challenge the Government’s case. The child endowment payment of 5s. a week represents 2.114 per cent. of the basic wage. The amount is not worth half of what it was worth when the Government parties offered an additional 10s. a week as a bribe to the women of this country to get into power. Even the sum of 15s. a week payable in respect of two children is now only 6.35 per cent, of the basic wage instead of being 9.2 per cent, as it was when the 10s. a week was granted. The budget proposals will not correct the damage that the Government has done to the individual through inflation. It is beyond the power of the Government to correct the damage that it has done to- the nation. If the Government gave no tax rebates but concentrated on curbing inflation it would do a greater job than it will do with this politically inspired budget. If this country cannot produce sufficient wheat and wool and other commodities at a cost which will allow them to be exported great damage will be done to the economy of this country. The Government should assist that production instead of handing back £28,750,000 to private companies for the purpose of enhancing their already satisfactory profits. The Government has failed to conclude a wheat agreement although the previous agreement served the primary producers well for many years. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) asked the United Kingdom to relieve Australia of the obligation to supply that country with a certain quantity of butter. The Government of the United Kingdom agreed. The Minister then got a slightly better price for a small quantity of the butter in France. He tried to sell the rest of it in America but failed to do so and had to offer it to the United Kingdom again. The Government should explain to the primary producer why it has allowed the cost of production to become so high that although the producer’s income is high he is financially embarrassed. The Government should also explain why it cannot arrange an agreement in respect of the sale of wheat. The only answer honorable senators opposite can give is to endeavour to pass the blame on to the State Labour governments, but State governments would be quite prepared to carry on under Labour’s agreements which have been criticized by the present Administration. If there is to be any handout in this budget, it will fall into the same category as other handouts by this Government, and only the people who trade on the hard work of the farmers and the workers will benefit. The primary producer once again will have to obtain assistance from the banks. I hope that will not be so, but with rising costs of production and falling prices overseas I am afraid that it is very likely. I think I have said enough to convince honorable senators that the Government has produced a budget of which it should be thoroughly ashamed. To the people of Australia the budget is paltry and mean. It is indeed a “ small “ man’s budget conceived in small minds. Some features of it I am prepared to commend, but overall it reveals a very poor national outlook on the part of the Government.
– As this is the first time I have spoken since you have taken your seat in the presidential chair, Mr. President, I offer you the best wishes of the electors of Western Australia for your term of office as presiding officer in th, Senate. I also congratulate Senator Reid upon his appointment as Chairman of Committees ‘and new members of this chamber upon their maiden speeches. I hope their association with the Senate will be both pleasant to themselves and profitable for the States they represent.
Had time permitted, I should have dearly liked to “take Senator Cooke to pieces “ to-night, but I shall not be able to’ do that. I do say, however, that honorable senators opposite generally have been most ungenerous in their reception of this remarkable budget. I have noted the utterances of several Opposition speakers and I regret that some of them are not in the chamber to-night. Senator Byrne achieved, I believe, an all-time record in illogical criticism when he said that the pension of £3 10s. a week announced in the budget was nothing less than a political bribe. A similar accusation has been made by some other honorable senators on the Opposition side. 1 do not admit for one moment the truth of the assertion, but surely if it were reprehensible that a bribe of £3 10s. a week should be offered to pensioners, it is just, as reprehensible that the leader of the socialist party in the House of Representatives, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) should give an undertaking that if Labour is returned to office at the next election, tho pension rate will be raised to £4 n week.
In criticizing a budget such as this, Opposition senators should at least be fair and give some credit to the Government for honesty of motives. Senator Ryan severely criticized the proposal to reduce company tax. He said that although big companies were making huge profits, the workers in industry were receiving only award wages in return for the contribution they were making to those profits. But it is not the fault of many companies that the workers are receiving only award wages. I understand that many delegates to a labour conference now being held in Sydney this week’ have protested to their unions against the prohibition on accepting the incentive payments that many employers are offering to their workers. Surely it is not fair, .therefore, that blame for the failure to distribute profits to the workers should be laid at the door of the companies. I understand that the unions may withdraw their opposition to incentive payments.
Many other criticisms of . the budget have been made by Opposition senators, but they have all been very weak. I rise not to defend this budget but to support it. It needs no defence. Nearly four years ago, the Menzies Government defined its financial policy. The aim of that policy was first to curb inflation and then to reduce taxes. Despite bitter opposition and unfair criticism, that policy has been adhered to, and the fact that the Government has been able to produce such a wonderful budget as this one is clear proof that the policy adopted four years ago has ‘succeeded. The success of that policy has been acclaimed from one end of Australia to the other, and even in other countries. With the exception of a few gutter press journals, no newspaper in Australia has failed to commend the budget and to condemn the socialist leader in the House of Representatives for pretending that his party, if elected, would he able to produce from some source, which he did not disclose, fairy gold, to hand out to the people of Australia. This budget has announced the biggest tax reductions that have ever been given to the taxpayers of this country. As I have said, all sections of the people have acclaimed it and the press almost unanimously has given it a . favorable reception. The President of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, who has been one of the. most consistent critics of the Government since it took office, has said that he is very pleased with tho budget. Indeed he has said it is a fine budget because not one section of the Australian tax-paying community has been left out of it. They have all had some relief. Even Mr Monk, president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions has made some striking statements about the budget. One of them is as follows : -
The budget clearly shows that, in the opinio* of the Government Australia’s economy is stable. A general reduction in taxation of 12i per cent, is most welcome.
That opinion, which it will he noted has been shared by the unions in their representations to the court, is the opinion of a leading Labour man, yet in this chamber we have heard only most ungenerous criticism of the budget, by honorable senators opposite. The national secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association, Mr. Short, of whom some Opposition members of this chamber are very fond, said -
The tax reductions will greatly benefit both workers and employees.
It has been well said that prejudice is a great tune-saver because it enables one to form an opinion without finding the facts. I accuse Opposition senators of being prejudiced and of having expressed their opinions without knowing the facta. Let me deal now with some of the facts. The first fact is that with the reduction of taxes by £118,000,000 in this budget on top of the tax relief of £82,000,000 in last year’s budget, the total tax reduction in the last two years has reached the colossal figure of £200,000,000. That is’ the work of a government which promised to reduce taxes and has kept its promise handsomely. This budget should dispel for ever the fear propaganda of the socialist party that a depression is on the way. Lowered rates of taxation make the budget an incentive budget. It will do much to stimulate production and reduce costs. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Portland, Victoria.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance - 1953 - No. 4- Norfolk Island Public Hall.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Interior - W. D. Kennedy.
Shipping and Transport - J. E. Dobson, B. Walker.
Senate adjourned at 11.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 September 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1953/19530923_senate_20_s1/>.