21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether it is a fact that the Government will not apply the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to Japan? If so, seeing that Australia voted in favour of Japan’s admission to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which is an international attempt to reduce and limit trade barriers, where possible, would not the failure of the Government to observe the agreement flout the spirit of the agreement? Can the Minister give an assurance that, should Australia not apply the agreement to Japan, the name of Australia will not be damaged in the eyes of other nations?
– The question raised by the honorable senator is one to which I should not like to give a reply u (Elland. I shall, therefore, have a considered reply prepared for him. In the meantime, I indicate that Australia’s attitude towards the admission of Japan to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade does not in any way violate either r,he letter or the spirit of the agreement. Article 35 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade contains a special provision to the effect that it shall not be obligatory on the part of nations which have subscribed to the agreement to extend to other members the benefits of the most-favoured-nation treaty provisions. By not agreeing to Japan’s participation in the agreement, Australia will really be complying with an expressed provision contained in it, and which has been designed to meet the circumstances of countries like Australia. At the same time, it would be an unfair attitude on the part of Australia if, while taking steps to protect this country’s interests under Article 35 of the agreement, we denied, or attempted to deny, to Japan the right to trade and negotiate with other countries when such action would have no effect on Australia at all.
– At the request of many sections of the community in Tasmania who have made strong representations to me, I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether, in view of the splendid service rendered to Tasmania by the late Senator McLeay, as Minister for Shipping and Transport, the proposed new straits ferry steamer to ply between Melbourne and Tasmania, which had engaged his special attention for some time, and which he had set his heart on establishing, can be put into service with the least possible delay, and be named “ McLeay “ in honour of a worthy citizen and a great Australian.
– I am sure that all members of the Senate appreciate to the full the sentiments which the honorable senator has expressed in relation to our late colleague, Senator McLeay. I assure him that the suggestion that he has made will receive the consideration of the Government.
– -Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to the recent steep increase in the price of tea? As the Minister will know, this increase will have a detrimental effect on the household budgets of pensioners and those on modest incomes, and will also cause severe pressure on the cost of living. Has the Minister seen a report published in the press yesterday that the wholesale price of tea on the Ceylon market has fallen? If he has read the report. I am sure he will understand that the statement will cause bewilderment among the persons whose budgets will be affected. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether the recent increase in the price of tea was warranted, and whether the announcement of a decline in the Ceylon market offers any hope for Australian consumers ?
– The Australian Government’s control of the importation of tea was necessary so long as the Government paid a tea subsidy. That control ceased from the 1st July.
If unfair charges are being made by Australian wholesalers or retailers, I am sure that the State authorities will take appropriate action. I noticed a statement in the press made, I believe, by the Minister in charge of prices controls in New South Wales, Mr. Landa, in which he stated that investigations had indicated that the margins charged by whole.salers and retailers were not unfair. I am not in a position to know at this stage whether or not that is correct because I do not know what the margins are. It is comforting to know, however, that the price-fixing authorities in the States are watching the position, and are indicating that appropriate action will be taken if there is any excessive margin of profit by retailers or wholesalers.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs inform the Senate of the success or failure of the amnesty declared by the Federation of Malaya and Singapore? Is the Minister in a position to state the number of persons who have already surrendered under the amnesty ?
– I am afraid I cannot, at the moment, give to the honorable senator the information he seeks, but I shall make inquiries in relation to it from my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, and let the honorable senator know.
– Has the Minis ter representing the Minister for Labour and National Service noted comments by the Chief Conciliation Commissioner in bis annual report, concerning the lack of power of interpretation by conciliation commissioners? Does the Minister agree that this is an obvious weakness in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and can lead only to frustration and delay in carrying out the provisions of awards? Will he take steps during the current sessional period suitably to amend the act so that it will comply with the Chief Conciliation Commissioner’s request?
– I shall give consideration to that matter.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer give the Senate information concerning the loan that was raised in Switzerland some time ago ? Is he able to say whether the loan has been fully drawn upon and utilized? If it has not been fully used, will he state the interest rate that is being paid on the unused portion?
– The Swiss loan was validated by an act passed by this Senate. That act contained the terms of the loan raising, including the rate of interest payable on it. I am not sure whether the loan has been fully utilized, but I shall make inquiries and let the honorable senator know.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. Mcmullin). - I wish to inform the Senate that the Eight Honorable Richard R. Stokes, member for Ipswich in the. House of Commons in the United Kingdom, and a former Minister in the Attlee Government, is within the precincts of the chamber. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the Senate beside the President’s chair.
Honorable SENATORS - Hear, hear!
Mr. Stokes thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been directed to statements made by eminent nuclear scientists at the recent. Atoms for Peace Conference in Geneva? Is he aware that a world famous expert stated that there was an ever-present risk of a nuclear reactor getting out of control and causing the complete destruction of all life within an extensive radius? Has the Government taken this warning into consideration in connexion with its own proposals, and does it still propose to go ahead with the construction of a reactor at Menai, adjacent to thickly populated centres ?
– I suggest that, the honorable senator should read the speech made by my colleague, the Minister for Supply, in the House of Representatives during the course of the budget debate. In that speech, the Minister set out world opinion on this point and, I think, established most conclusively that the scientists responsible for the control of atomic energy in its various forms know the dangers that may arise and are taking all the precautions necessary to overcome them. Australia has a Liberal government in office, and we cannot lag behind the rest of the world. This country will continue with the research programme that has been announced.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Now that the commissioners inquiring into the Petrov case have laboured and brought forth a mouse, is it the intention of the Government to allow tie Senate to debate the results of the inquiry?
– I propose to table the report of the Royal Commission on Espionage at a later hour to-day, and I. see no objection to the honorable senator initiating a debate on it if he feels so inclined.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Is the Minister aware that the fall in the price of wool is causing great concern in the wool industry? Has the Minister heard that comments are now being made on the London wool market to the effect that the Australian Government intends to stabilize the Australian wool market by guaranteeing a base price for wool from the current season’s clip? Is there any truth in this comment? If the answer to the last question is “ No “, will the Government consider the serious effect of the fall in the price of wool on the Australian economy, and will the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government is prepared to guarantee a base price for wool or to take some other action for the protection of the Australian economy and wool industry?
– It may be a grave mistake to over-emphasize the fall which has taken place in the price of wool. In the last two or three weeks there have been some signs of stabilization, and it would be a great mistake to proceed on the basis that the market will continue to fall. It would be a departure from the policy that has been followed in Australia to embark upon such a scheme as the honorable senator has mentioned, and I certainly have no knowledge which would suggest that there is any basis for his suggestions.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. In view of the Government’s policy regarding social services, as disclosed in the present budget, will the Government consider paying the full maternity allowance in respect of each child in the case of a multiple birth ?
– The Government’s social services proposals, as contained in the budget speech of the Treasurer, will be brought before the Senate so that the necessary legislation may be passed. At this stage I cannot encourage the honorable senator to think that there will be any variation of those proposals, but I suggest that he address his mind to the matter when the legislation is being debated.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, arising from the question asked a few minutes ago by Senator Cooke. Has there on any occasion been a request by any woolgrowers’ organization or organizations for a base price for wool, or have the woolgrowers’ organizations always indicated that they required no base price to be guaranteed by the Government, and wanted no government interference with the industry?
– My understanding is that the attitude of the people engaged in the wool industry has always been that they preferred open market operations, and that they have not sought any government guarantees in relation to their product.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen a report in the Sydney press to the effect that a State royal commission into the operations of the timber industry in New South Wales has revealed that monopolies have developed and a prices ring is in existence? As the alleged monopoly operates through import licences, will the Minister consider withdrawing import licences at present available to timber companies which have abused them, and re-issuing those licences to smaller timber concerns throughout Australia?
– I did see a newspaper report about the commission referred to by the honorable senator, but I fear that he is under a misapprehension, unless his definition of monopolies differs from mine. A monopoly is a very close cartel with a limited membership. However, the number of licences issued to timber dealers is more than 150 or 160, and it is difficult to understand how that number of concerns could be called a monopoly. However, I am not in a position to express an opinion on the report because it is not yet available to me. The Department of Trade and Customs has asked for a copy, but to date has received only a brief summary of the’ report. When the full report is available it will be studied, and if there is any action that the Australian Government can take to remedy the evil if an evil exists, appropriate action will be taken.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs read in the press that Mr. Foster Dulles and the Premier of Japan have agreed to use Japan to police the SouthWest Pacific area? Has the Australian Government considered, that matter? Has any consultation about it taken place between the Minister for External Affairs and Mr. Foster Dulles, or has Mr. Foster Dulles, as usual, merely referred the matter to the Government for its concurrence?
– I am not clear as to what transaction the honorable senator is referring, even if he knows himself.
– If the Minister cannot understand it, I can only tell him..
– I may be a bil dense, but I do not understand that one. However, I shall make some inquiries to see if the department can understand the honorable senator’s question.
– My question i? directed to the Minister representing thiMinister for Commerce and Agriculture. I understand that last Friday the Minister conferred with representatives of the Australian Dried Fruits Association in regard to problems that have arisen in that industry along the river Murray. Will the Minister ascertain from th,Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what developments are likely to occur following that conference and ask him to let me know as soon as possible?
– I shall make ti..inquiries that the honorable senator has asked for and let him have the answer as soon as possible.
– Approximately three weeks ago I asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General a question in relation to the payment of conduit workers under the Australian Postal Workers Union’s award, and the difference between the rates in Western Australia and those paid in other States. The Minister promised me the courtesy of a reply, but I have not received it. Can he further report on the matter?
– In the absence of Senator Cooper, who represents the Postmaster-General, I suggest that if the honorable senator’s question is on the notice-paper-
– The Minister told me not to put it on the notice-paper.
– I shall make inquiries and obtain the necessary information.
asked the Minister for Trad’-* and Customs, upon notice -
– I am now in a position to furnish the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, -upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers: -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Where are they held?
– My colleagues, the Acting Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for the Army, whose departments are .jointly responsible for the administration of this matter, have supplied me with the following answer: -
No Japanese war criminals are being held as prisoners by the Australian Government. When the Japanese peace treaty came into force in April, 1952, the Japanese Government assumed the responsibility for the continued imprisonment of convicted Japanese war criminals, and all prisoners held by the Australian Government were transferred to Japan. At present, in addition to four major war criminals who are being held by Japan on behalf of the nations who constituted the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, 152 Japanese war criminals sentenced by Australian war crimes courts and tribunals are at present held in Sugamo prison, Tokyo, though three of them have also been convicted by other tribunals and are at present serving sentences imposed in respect of those convictions. The peace treaty gave Japan the right to make recommendations to the governments concerned for the review of the sentences of these prisoners, but stipulated that no variations could be made without the consent of those governments. Over the past three years the Japanese Government has made many recommendations for review of the sentences of major and minor war criminals, and each recommendation has been carefully examined. To date, variations have been authorized in the case of eight major and three minor war criminals. The most recent recommendation from the Japanese Government in respect of minor war criminals was received on the3rd August,1955, and sought a general release of all war criminals on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the end of the Pacific war. This recommendation was not accepted by the Australian Government.
asked tie Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Minister for Labour and National Service with a view to having instructions issued to officers to advise unemployed persons unable to obtain employment of their entitlements under the Social Services Consolidation Act?
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– I now furnish the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1. (a) No. (b) Yes.
Will the Minister state whether any, and if so what, benefits have been given to Genera) Motors-Holden’s Limited, since its proposed establishment in Australia.
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question, is as follows : -
No special benefits have been given to General Motors-Holden’s Limited, since its proposed establishment in Australia. That company has been treated on the same basis as other motor vehicle manufacturers whose manufacturing plans have been approved by the Commonwealth Government.
– by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that his Excellency the Governor-General has been pleased to appoint Senator the Honorable John Armstrong Spicer, Q.C., Attorney-General, to hold also the office of Minister for Shipping and Transport, and to administer the Department of State connected with that office.
– I present reports of the Public Works Committee on the following subjects: -
The proposed erection of accommodation for local administration staff, Darwin, Northern Territory.
Ordered to be printed.
The proposed erection of a court house at Darwin, Northern Territory.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Report of the Royal Commission on Espionage.
– I move -
That the paper be printed.
Some members of the Opposition have already indicated to the Senate that they desire that an opportunity to debate the report of the Royal Commission on Espionage shall be provided, and for that reason I have moved “ That the paper be printed “ under the provisions of Standing Order 365, in order to preserve, as far as possible, the right of the Opposition to debate the report. It will be recognized, I think, that it would be quite unfair to expect me to debate now the contents of a very voluminous document which, so far, I have not had an opportunity to read. Presently, I shall seek for leave of the Senate to continue my remarks on a future occasion. I notice that the
Minister has signified his approval to that course, and, accordingly, there is no need for me to develop my theme now.
– I think it would not be right for the honorable senator to speak to his motion now, and then, at a later stage, continue his remarks, thus having, as it were, two bites at the cherry.
– I quite agree with you. I have no intention of referring to the subject-matter of the report. First, I believe that in the circumstances it would not be fair and, further,I would be speaking on a report that I ha ve not yet had an opportunity to read, and that would be foolish. I ask leave of the Senate to continue my remarks at a later date.
Motion (by Senator Maher) - by leave - agreed to -
That the following order of the day, General Business, be discharged: -
Dual purpose jetty, Townsville - Report of Public Works Committee - Adjourned debate on the motion that the report be adopted.
Debate resumed from the8th September (vide page 110), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following papers be printed: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending the 30th June, 1956.
The Budget 1955-56 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable Sir Arthur Fadden on the occasion of the Budget of 1955-56.
– One of the most amazing features of the budgets that have been brought down by this Government since 1950 is the manner in which they have switched from one monetary policy to another, and have confused the business people and the workers of Australia. Yet every supporter of the Liberal partyand the Australian Country party in this chamber and in another place rises on every possible occasion to state that the current budget is the solution of our troubles, and the only possible budget that could be introduced. I cannot understand how they reconcile their support of the budgets that vary from year to year when any intelligent person knows that j consistent monetary policy is essential in a developing country. In 1950, the budget was introduced, according to supporters of the Government, solely for the purpose of curing the excesses of a long run of Labour governments. Honorable senators on the Government side declared that this man Chifley knew nothing about finance or the governing of a country, and a budget had to be produced to cure all the evils that he bad left behind. One of the charges made by supporters of this Government was that the Labour Government had left the coffers of the Treasury bursting with money that had been taken from the pockets of the people and had not been spent, because the Labour Government did not know how to spend it. The supporters of the new Government of that day said that that principle was wrong, and that Canberra needed a Treasurer who, with his first budget, would put the ship of state on an even keel. That budget was brought down in 1950, and among the first actions of the new Government was the abolition of capital issues controls.
I remember with amusement that the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) announced then that another useless socialistic control had been thrown overboard. He said that the persons involved could get back to productive work; hut within a matter of months, the Government had changed its mind. Its supporters found that the late Mr. J. B. Chifley was not the fool they had made him out to be. The Treasurer had to eat his own words and reintroduce capital issues controls, not as a useless socialistic venture, hut as a bulwark of capitalism which the Liberal-Australian Country party coalition Government must introduce immediately. That was the 1950 budget, which was to dispense largesse and so overcome the economic difficulties of the Chifley Administration.
Evidently, it was not the great success that the Government supporters claimed for it because, in 1951, the Government brought down the “ horror “ budget. That name was given to it by the Treasurer himself. In that budget, the Government budgeted for an amount of £114,000,000 in excess of requirements to be taken from the pockets of the people so that, in the words of the Treasurer of the day, it could be put into cold storage where it would do least harm. In taking that money from the pockets of the people to stem the inflationary trend, the Government, did not recognize that expenditure by a government is just as inflationary as expenditure by the people. The supporters of this Government, who claimed that they did not believe in controls adopted the very measures that they had attacked. They told the people in effect, “ We are going to take money from you because you might do some harm with ifr, but if you give it to the Government, we can handle it more wisely “.
– Hear, hear!
– These are the people who do not believe in controls, yet. Spun tor Mattner interjects with the remark “ Hear, hear ! “ The Opposition attacked the Government on its proposal, and the leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) was one of those who wanted to know what was to he done with the £114,000,000. We had a reply on the high authority of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) who said that the money would not be spent except over his dead body. I invite honorable senators to look al him to-day. He is the picture of physical health. His body is not dead. As to hi? mentality, I leave that question to hi? colleagues.
– The Minister is dying politically.
– That is true. The Opposition was given a solemn assurance that £114,000,000 was to be taken from the people to be put in cold storage. The Minister for National Development said that it would be spent only over his dead body. We thought at the time that here, at last, was the champion of the Liberal party, who would interpose his own body between the people of Australia and the rapacity of the Government. Who won? The Minister sits there alive and well, and the £114,000,000 has gone.
– Where has it gone? lt has gone to make up the loan moneys to the States. Why does not the honorable senator tell the whole story?
– If I told the whole story about Senator Kendall, we would be here for a month. The Government, which did not believe in controls and told the people they did not know how to spend their money, took the people’s money from, them to put it into cold -t.ora.ge. It told the people that their money would be spent by the wise old “wl of a Treasurer. In 1952, however, we found that, apparently, the 1951 budget was not the proper one after all, because the Government came in, making Father Christmas look miserly in companion, and said, “ We will reduce taxation “. That was the worst confidence trick that has ever been put over the people of Australia. The Government had increased taxes by 10 per cent, in 1951, and it reduced them by 10 per cent, in 1952. On that occasion, when the budget was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, there was a carefully stage-managed display. I shall never forget seeing stately old gentlemen opposite throwing papers in the air and cheering as though they were at a Christmas party, because the Government had it last decided to give back to the people of Australia some of the money it had taken, from them.
In 1953-54, the Government took a different tack. It said, in effect, “Now we must start to invest. Inflation has deen cured for all time. We have now remedied the terrible excesses of the Chifley Government, which led us into inflation. We have done that by means of our ‘ horror ‘ budget, and now we can get on with the real work of developing this young and progressive country”. Taxes were thereupon reduced by about: £140,000,000, and there was a clear indication to the people to build up their businesses and invest in capital equipment. As it turned out, the value of capital investment did not reach the figure which the Treasurer expected it to reach in those two taxation years. Then the Government came to a remarkable decision. It said that it thought the people were going ahead too rapidly with capital expenditure and expansion of their businesses. I do not know how I should feel if I were trying to develop an industry which relied for its success on longterm planning. People in charge of businesses were at first told not to invest in capital equipment, then they were told to do so, and now they have been told that, by building up their businesses and developing industry, they are destroying the economy.
Because the Government has been in office for six years, it has become arrogant and conservative. Now it wants to level off capital expenditure and to deal with hire purchase and other matters. It says to the farmers, in effect, “Yon must not develop your farms any further “, and it tells the people that more money must be taken from them. By adopting this status quo principle, the Government is forcing down the living standards of the working class people of Australia. By saying that it will not put more money into the pockets of the people by reducing taxes, the Government is really saying that the people must live on the same amount of money that they had last year, despite the fact that prices continue to rise and wages have been pegged. The basic wage has been frozen, although the supporters of the Government profess not to believe in controls. By completely mishandling the political aspect of wage fixation, the Government is forcing the workers of Australia to accept the same amount of money this year as they received last year. I suggest that it makes not one iota of difference to people on fixed incomes whether the money is taken from their pay envelopes, or whether they are forced to pay more for the goods they buy. By means of this budget, the people will be forced to pay more for the goods they need. As I have said, the Government is forcing down the standard of living of the people. Despite what honorable senators opposite may say to the contrary, the supporters of this Government have always hated trade unionism.
I turn now to the one section of the people 011 fixed incomes who will benefit from this budget. I refer to the pensioners. Thi3 Government already has fallen into a trap in dealing with social services benefits, and it could easily fall into that trap in the future. In my opinion, government policy in relation to social services in Australia for too long has been a political football. The policy of the present Government in that regard bears little relation to the needs of the people whom it is seeking to help. A great deal of credit has been taken for the fact that pensions are to be increased by 10s. a week, but I contend that that decision was taken because the very conservatism of the Government forced it to do so. The Government did not decide to increase pensions because it believed that that was the right thing to do, or because it believed that that would be a humanitarian action; it did so because it has been hammered and badgered, for two years, on this question by every section of the Australian community. The Australian Labour party, every decent newspaper, and every charitable organization with the interests of the old people of Australia at heart, have been hammering at the Government for two years to increase pensions. In my opinion, pensions should have been increased by at least 10s. a week when the miserly increase of 2s. 6d. was given.
The Government has not made a proper approach to the problem of pensions, a problem which transcends party political considerations and the statements made in this Parliament from time to time during the heat of debate. Let us consider the plight of a married couple who will receive age pensions of £4 a week each, who have some money in the bank, own their home, and are able to earn the maximum amount permissible. Let me say at once that very few pensioners are able to earn anything at all. That couple would have an income of £15 a week, made up of £S from pensions and £7 from earnings. Let us suppose that, living in the same street, there is a worker earning the basic wage, and trying to bring up four or five children and pay for his home. He would have an income of something less than £13 a week, plus child endowment. On that basis, it might seem that the pensioners were being treated rather well, but the distribution of income into the various sectors of the community cannot be looked at in that way.
I suggest that the pensioners in the worst plight are those who live in that part of our cities described by Henry Lawson as “ Where the outer suburb’ and the city proper meet “, the part of a city that does not please anybody very much as an area in which to live. There will be found the .pensioners about whom something must be done. If a married couple live in a room and have to nay rent of £1, £1 10s., or £2 a week from their pension, and the wife dies, the husband must continue to pay rent and live on £4 a week. I have no hesitation in saying that the members of the fair sex cook and perform household duties much better than do most men, and a male pensioner left in that position will find it impossible to live on £4 a week.
Surely the housing position is at the root of this problem of pensions. 1 believe that this Government, and other responsible organizations in the community, is not attacking the housing problem with sufficient vigour and imagination. Tt would be comparatively cheap to erect blocks of small dwellings, containing one bedroom, kitchen, and living space, in which to accommodate old couples who do not own homes.
– The Liberal Government in South Australia is doing that.
– I thank the honorable senator for his interjection. The Liberal Government in South Australia is not doing that at all.
– Yes, it is.
– I shall deal with that matter in a moment and show what a shameful thing the South Australian Government is doing. I cannot understand how some people, in view of their arrogance and stupidity, ever got into the Senate. They have neither brains nor manners. It is astonishing to think that one such person was at one time President of the Senate. No wonder he was removed from that position !
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid).- Order !
– In Western Australia, the Mount Henry Home stands as a fitting monument to the late Mr. 1. J. Kenneally, who served with distinction not only the State of Western Australia, but also the Commonwealth, as a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. There may be found facilities to enable old people, who are unable to provide homes for themselves, to live in decent surroundings. There is a hospital ward where they may go when they are sick, and there are proper cooking conveniences. The whole thing is in a beautiful setting ou the Swan River. Unless we start to attack this problem on a similar footing, the plight of the pensioners will deteriorate still further. I turn now to the interjections of my learned friends on my left. Is it true that this Government laid down a policy of subsidizing organizations, £1 for £1, for the building of such units as these? But what has been the effect of that ? The Government is monkeying around, particularly in South Australia, with fifteen-room and sixteen-room accommodation units, which I contend are not economical. They cannot be as satisfactory as is a place like the Mount Henry Home. But what I deplore is that when the time comes to deliver the cheque to the people concerned, the Government does so to the accompaniment of the worst type of political platitudes. We see Senator Mattner and other prominent supporters of the Liberal party, with looks on their faces like so many Father Christmases, handing over the cheques to the people concerned. Such thing3 should be removed from the realm of party politics. These payments should be received as of right.
– They are.
– They are not. With their narrow political prejudices, senators on the Government side even batten on these unfortunate aged people. When the cheques have to be handed over, the members of the Government come along with their black Homburg hats and big black cars, and their manner of delivering these payments bears all the ear-marks of charity, which we deplore. The Government should not, while granting these social services benefits, say to the recipients, “ It is a great Liberal government which is doing this for you, and you should be grateful that you have a Liberal government, because it comes along and hands out the dole to you whenever you need it”. I believe that that is completely wrong.
The Treasurer has told us how much he is opposed to controls. I have already pointed out how the Government has said, when introducing successive budgets, that it does not want to control for control’s sake. God forbid ! But the Government says to the people, “You may not spend your money intelligently, so we will take £100,000,000 from you, in excess taxation, and spend it for you “. If honorable senators will read Hansard, they will notice that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) dealt with this question of pensions in his speech on the 7th September. He does not believe that pensioners should be paid anything. I will read to honorable senators some of his remarks, because they are very interesting, coming from a man who was elected to this Parliament, to do away with controls. The honorable member said -
I think we have to direct our minds into a new channel. I believe that we are arriving at a stage where we have to re-establish the duties and responsibilities of the family unit-
Far be it from the Government to interfere with the responsibilities of the family ! - if necessary by legislation.
I can foresee a budget being brought down in this Parliament which will have the effect of re-establishing the duties and responsibilities of parents to their children, and of children to parents. Therefore I am brought back to my pointthat this increase of 10s. was not granted because the Government wanted to grant it, but because it was badgered into doing so by every decent citizen in this country. The honorable member for Indi has let the cat out of the bag; and he has had the courage to say what he thinks on this matter. If it were left to him, there would be no pension at all, and he would re-establish, by legislation, the responsibilities of parents to children and vice versa.
I shall now make passing reference to the matter of child endowment. I believe that a position is being reached in the distribution of the national income in which the Government must be very careful with its social services policy. It should not throw out a pension increase of 10s. a week merely as a vote-catcher, but should show a greater sense of responsibility than it has shown during the last five or six years. When child endowment was first introduced it was at the rate of os., and it has since been increased to 10s. There has been no substantial change in the rate of payment. The Government is conducting an immigration programme, which I wholeheartedly support, but which is throwing a tremendous strain on Australia’s economy. The cost of bringing an immigrant into Australia has been estimated at varying amounts up to £2,000. It is hard to assess exactly what the cost is. The fare costs only about £30, but after the immigrant arrives in Australia he has to be housed, work has to be found for him, and the cost of bringing him into the country consequently rises. The Government of Rhodesia, which is a young country and can calculate these things more accurately, has estimated that it costs £2,000 to bring an immigrant into that country. If we spend that amount of money on an immigrant - and I applaud the policy of immigration - surely it is good business, and it is equitable, to spend a bit more in bringing in what I shall call a natural immigrant, an Australian-born child.
Senator Kennelly provided us with some interesting figures regarding building costs. He told us just how much it is costing to build workers’ cottages. When the number of children in a family exceeds four, something must be done to rearrange the home. Another bedroom must be found. In the hotter climates there must be a larger area for openair sleeping. The kitchen has to be enlarged, otherwise the mother will be driven completely off her head. I believe that these things should be considered in relation to our social services policy. The larger families should receive child endowment at an increased rate, and the parents should receive instead of 10s., something like £1 for every child after the fourth. There are noi many families with more than four children, but I believe that that argument is unanswerable that those families are most entitled to Government assistance. My proposal would not involve tinGovernment in the payment of a largo amount of money. The money spent in child endowment is a good investment in anybody’s language. There can be no argument about that. It is not paid for an unlimited period of time, but only until the children attain the age of sixteen years. The payment is then discontinued, and the person for whom the payment was made then commence? to work and pay it back in income tax. It is a pretty good bet from anybody’s angle, to grant larger payments to the larger families.
– Where would the honorable senator get the extra money with- which to pay it ?
– From the pockets of the people of Australia, where the Government usually gets its money
Sen a tor Scott. - Taxation ?
– Of course. I do not mean that it would be obtained by increasing taxation. The Government has a surplus, and it has had surpluses for years. The money can be obtained from the same place as the Government is getting the extra 10s. a week by which the pensions are to be increased. I am not one of those people who contend that money can be conjured out of the air. I do not believe that a government can be a Father Christmas: that is another point on which I disagree with honorable senators opposite. .But the money can be obtained, as I said, from the same source as it is being obtained to pay the extra 10s. a week in pensions. When the Government makes the extra payment it will be merely re-distributing the national income; the money will come in at one end and go out at the other, but through a different channel. I was asked to speak to-day at short notice, and unfortunately I have not ‘ the exact figures to show what my suggestion would cost. I do know, however, that an increase of 2s. 6d. in each individual payment, for instance increasing a 5s. payment to 7s. 6d., 10s. to 12s. 6d., and 12s. 6d. to 15s., would cost about £30,000,000, but I. would not necessarily contend that all child endowment payments should be increased. It would probably not be necessary to assist smaller families to the same degree as larger ones. However, nhat Ls my plea, and I would like the Government to give some consideration ro my suggestion.
– Does the honorable senator think that a means test could be i imposed ?
– By and large, 1 am not in favour of a means test, because it always results in cumbersome administration. I have worked, in government departments, and I believe that anything introduced by the Government should be in the simplest possible form, [f my suggestion were adopted, and the amount of payment were doubled for each child after the fourth, I believe that the number of families with more than four children would be found to be so small that there would be no necessity to apply a means test.
Before I leave the subject of social services, and at the risk of boring honorable senators, because I have already mentioned this matter several times, I believe that if there is one type of social service which has been completely neglected it is that which applies to widows and their children. People can prepare for most of the tragedies that can affect the family. We all know that we shall grow old some time, and we can prepare for our old age ; we all know that there is a possibility of sickness, and we can make our preparations for that; but there is no way in which a family can prepare for the death of the breadwinner in mid life. If the father of a family dies after the children have been, reared and the home paid off, and all such matters taken care of, the tragedy for the family is not so great as if he should die and leave his widow to face all those problems. I suggest that we should emulate New Zealand, and strive for equality of opportunity among our people. But the children of a widow do not have equality of opportunity, because they have lost their father and the support that he can give them. Therefore, I suggest that there is a good case for an increase of the Government payment to widows, with young children. It is largely because such widows are too busy with the cares of their family that they cannot join together and raise their voices to exert pressure on the Government in order to get what I consider to be their rights.
The Treasurer seemed to be worried that if such payments were made the additional money would have an inflationary effect on our economy. But I suggest that none of the propositions that have been put forward to-day could be in any way inflationary. If child endowment were increased the money paid to the parents would not be used on luxury goods ; it would be used for goods such as meat, bread and eggs. That being so, the effect of higher spending on such essential commodities would not be inflationary, but would assist our hard-pressed primary industries.
I am alarmed that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has refused point-blank to discuss any action that the Government might contemplate taking with regard to hire purchase. The Treasurer has said that he is alarmed at the volume of hirepurchase business in Australia, but when the Prime Minister was asked whether this matter would be ‘ discussed by the Parliament, he said, “ The answer is no “. The great dictator spoke, and every one is supposed to obey him. I agree with the Treasurer that the amount of hirepurchase business being done in this country is a problem, but I suggest that if he examines the position in other countries, he will find that no one has been courageous enough to say at what point consumer credit becomes dangerous to the national economy. Of course, the difficulty is that our available money is to-day being diverted from essential items such as homes into the purchase of consumer goods through the hire-purchase organizations - I almost said rackets.
The Treasurer has revealed how much money private banks have invested in hire-purchase organizations, such as Customs Credit Corporation and the like and surely it is obvious that if bank funds are so invested money is not available for homes and other essential items except at rates of interest ranging up to 15 per cent. I am not concerned about the Treasurer’s belief that in using hire purchase the people are mortgaging their future, because I believe that such a consideration is one for the family unit itself, tn my own home there is very little that has not been bought on hire purchase, and I maintain that, provided we keep it under control, no harm will be done by this system of purchasing goods: However, if hire purchase has the effect of increasing interest rates and drawing money from essential items, the Government should take some action.
The home of hire purchase is America, and every television show and almost every poster advertises the availability of loans. I remember one advertisement that showed a proud father presenting his daughter with a wedding breakfast, and it indicated that a certain bank was willing to lend money for that purpose. Of course, that could not be done in this country. Professor Marcus Nadler, who is the economic adviser of the Hanover Bank and is connected with one of the American universities, has stated that there is no point at which it can be said that people using the hire-purchase system are endangering the national economy. Therefore, if the national economy is not liable to be damaged, the extent to which hire purchase is used is a matter for the people.
I am shocked to know that the Prime Minister will not discuss this matter in Parliament, and I urge the members of the Liberal party in this chamber to exert any influence that they might have on the Prime Minister to get him to change his decision. If the Liberal party stated that it did not believe in any control, but in an open slather economy, I could understand it. If the Liberal party said that it believed in a controlled economy, I could also understand it. But I cannot understand the Liberal party believing that one section of the economy should be controlled to benefit some people while another section is left uncontrolled. If the Liberal party decided to let prices and wages rise as high as was necessary to reach a natural level, then we would be in the same position as America which, although its people on fixed incomes have suffered, has attained a very high standard of living. But the Liberal party does not do that. It has pegged wages-
– We have not.
– This Government is completely ignorant of industrial matters. The basic wage has been controlled, except in Western Australia. I shall deal with it in my own way hecause if I try to get down to the level of honorable senators opposite I shall be here all night. In Australia, wages are pegged, but not the prices of the things that wages can buy. There is not a “ pegged “ economy because only one side of the economy is pegged and not the other. All that the Government has done during its five years in office has been to bring about a greater imbalance of the national income than was the case before it took office. Let us see how the position of the working class and the trade unionists has deteriorated. I shall quote only a few examples. As a result of the pegging of the basic wage since June, 1953, the workers of Sydney have lost £16 18s., the workers of Perth £83 4s., and the workers of Melbourne £9 2s. The reason for the lower figure in Melbourne is that the wages board there did not peg wages to the same extent as was done in other .States.
The Government has taken that money out of the pockets of the working class and at the same time has allowed prices to rise. I desire to make the position clear as far as it relates to the basic wage. By marrying the basic wage to the C series index nobody obtains an increase in wages. All that happens is that when the 0 series index rises, wages are to some degree correspondingly matched. With very peculiar economic logic honorable senators opposite have argued for years that if wages are pegged prices will adjust themselves. Are they convinced now? For two years wages have not risen, but in the City of Perth the price of commodities has gone up to the extent of £83 4s. So much for that peculiar economic logic. No matter how much honorable senators opposite might try to get around, the matter the fact is that they have forced down the standard of living of people on wages, but they have not done the same to the rest of the community.
– What about margins? They have gone up.
– They were pegged for some time. I do not know whether other honorable senators are speaking out of ignorance, but the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) should know perfectly well that if he were running a grocer’s shop - I do not think he would make a good grocer, he is not that type - he could increase his prices to-morrow but his grocery assistant could not ask for a rise in wages until he went to the Arbitration Court; and then there would be a long rigmarole before he could get any sort of an increase at all. This Government has made that long rigmarole much longer than it was until to-day it has forced the trade union movement to ask to .he allowed to get back to collective bargaining. Please do not talk to me about margins. Honorable senators opposite would have us believe that in a wage of about £15, £10 of that is a margin whereas the position is that the basic wage is round about £12 13s. and the margin is only about 30s. Do not start me off on that tack because that is one of the most vulnerable points of the argument advanced by honorable senators opposite. They had the cheery idea that margins could be pegged until they were bursting through the roof, but the time came when even that semi-radical, Senator Wright, was forced to say something about it. Then they had the bright idea that they need only lift the margin of the skilled tradesman, and they gave him a rise of £1. If we have a look at the arbitration system and the wage structure to-day we find that the tradesman has been treated worst of all because his £1 was immediately swallowed up by increased prices.
Figures show that company income has increased by £127,000,000 whereas wages have increased by £200,000,000 over the last couple of years. Some people may say that that is very fair, that £200,000,000 has gone to the workers and £127,000,000 to company profits. It reminds me of the chap who wrote home after returning from the Middle East. He said, “ One thing about the Australian Army is that it is democratic. The ship was divided equally into two halves, the officers had one-half and we had the other half. There were 300 officers in one-half and 3,000 men in the other “ ! That is what we have here.
– Some workers have shares in public companies.
– Senator McCallum used to be a member of the Labour party. There may be 1 per cent, or ^ per cent, of the workers who hold such shares, but they do not hold millions of shares. What an argument to put forward; some workers hold shares! Of course, some workers hold shares; but, surely, the honorable senator with his vast political experience is not trying to tell me that the bulk of shares are held by workers.
Senator McCallum interjecting,
– The way the honorable senator dodges and wriggles the moment anybody looks like defending the working-class people is indeed amusing. The fact is that 95 per cent, of the people of Australia are dependent on their wages and nothing else. An additional £200,000,000 has been given to that 95 per cent, during this period by way of wage increases, while £127.000,000 has gone to the other 5 per cent. It is again the story of the boat being equally divided. It is useless to say that workers hold shares. I suppose there are certain workers who do hold perhaps 50, or, 100 shares.
– What is the honorable senator’s definition of a worker?
– The honorable senator certainly would not come within it.
– That is being personal; I was not being personal.
– A worker is a man who sells his labour for money and nothing else.
– Is the honorable senator a. worker?
– Yes, I have no other income. The honorable senator is not in that class because although he may work hard on his pearling boats, his apple orchard and his wool station he does not rely merely on what a boss pays him. Therefore, he is not a worker. He works hard manually but he is not relying on receiving £10 or £12 a week from an employer and therefore, for the purposes of this debate, does not come within the definition of a. worker.
– We are all workers except the idle millionaires, and there are not many of them.
– The honorable senator is trying to confuse the issue. A worker has nothing to sell but his labour When he receives his pay envelope that is the only income he gets. That is the definition of a worker.
– Would the honorable senator include a farmer in that definition ?
– A farmer works tremendously hard, but he is not a worker in the sense in which I am using the word. At the end of the week, he does not receive wages. At the end of a certain period he receives money for his wheat or other produce. He is a farmer, and not a worker. He is getting a return on. his capital but a worker has no capital to invest. The honorable senator knows that as well as I do but he is trying to confuse the issue.
– What is the position if he owns his own house?
– Of course, he is a worker if he owns his own house. He is receiving wages. The honorable senator knows the answer. He was well aware nf what he was asked. I have pointed out that this tremendous imbalance which the Government has forced upon the economy since it has been in office will become worse unless action is taken to control it. The Government cannot expect its cry for increased production to be heeded, because the workers realize that they are not sharing in the benefits of increased production. I have produced figures to demonstrate
– Increased production has not been accomplished yet.
– I say that it has, because the figures I have cited show that production has risen by 20 per cent, in the years 1950 to 1955, but wages have increased by only about 7 per cent, in that time. The Government is forcing the community back to a system of collective bargaining. Recently, in Canberra, representatives of the building trades industries conferred with building employers, and an agreement was reached to pay 7s. a day attendance money to workers who attended and worked on the job. When the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) heard of it he attacked the parties. The Government professes t.o believe in conciliation, but this episode demonstrated that as soon is an agreement was reached between the employers and employees, the Liberalminded Minister for the Interior was openly hostile to it.
– Who had to find the money to pay the 7s. a day attendance money ?
– The employers, of course.
– Who was the employer involved in this agreement?
– It was the Government.
– What difference does that make? Has not the Government any industrial principles? Does it not believe in conciliation? The moment the Government is probed on matters of this kind its hypocritical approach to everything connected with the system of arbitration is revealed. In the United States of America, the General Motors Corporation - which I mention as an example to its Australian counterpart - two years ago had a conference with the representatives of its workers, and agreed that the rate of production of the country was rising by about 2 per cent, or 2-J per cent, annually. They agreed, further, that the workers should receive a 2 per cent, increase annually in their wages. If Ministers of the Australian Government were administering the American economy - which God forbid - they would have condemned such an agreement, as they have condemned the local agreement, to pay 7s. a day attendance money.
The whole tenor of this budget emphasizes the conservative attitude of the Government and, I regret to say, its arrogance. The anti-Labour parties have been in office for six years, and it is unfortunate for Australia that there has not been a change of government in that time. I have shown by figures the amount nf revenue from industry that is not finding its way into the pockets of the Australian worker. Surely the Government believes there is prosperity in Australia.
– So do the workers.
– They do not. They cannot be expected to believe it when the Government treats them as it does. Every company balance-sheet and the financial pages of the press - and unlike the leading articles, the financial page has to be factual - show that there is prosperity in Australia. That is admitted on one side, hut on the other side there is a. terrific moaning and groaning from that section of the communitythe workers - who are not receiving their fair share of the reward of increased production. Surely the additional national income should not be distributed to one side only. The effect of the Government’s policy on the Australian economy can only be detrimental. It can only make for economic imbalance if high production is achieved by paying inadequate wages to the workers. The effect would be to force the trade unions and the employers to resort to collective bargaining. The Government realizes the position i has created, and it should take immediate action to correct it.
– The budget contains many items of great interest which I should like to discuss, but I shall deal with only the major aspects resulting from the change of fortunes of those who, in the post-war period, have provided the money to pay for large-scale importations into Australia. The total revenue for the financial year ended on the 30th June last was £1,059,000,000. That was £44,000,000 in excess of the estimate. Expenditure in that year amounted to £989,000,000, which was slightly more than £25,000,000 below the estimate. The surplus of revenue and the saving on the expenditure side together amounted to £70,000,000, which was appropriated to the Debt Redemption Reserve Fund. These figures should give cause for great rejoicing, if it were not for the presence of a very bad “ nigger in the woodpile “.
The Australian national income has exceeded all records, standing as it does at the figure of £4,033,000,000. The prosperity and general economic stability of the country has been greatly enhanced since 1949, in which year the national income was £1,950,000,000. In view of present movements in the Australian economy, the financial year just closed may well prove to have been a peak period in Australia’s economic history, because the mildly inflated position of the economy has been strongly buttressed by splendid prices, derived from real wealth sources - our primary exports.
In the past five years, under the regime of the Menzies Government, prosperity has risen to levels such as the country has never before experienced, and I am confident that that is the opinion of every honorable senator, based on his personal experience. I should like to remind Senator Willesee that, during the past five years, wages and salaries paid in Australia increased from £1,060,000,000 to £2,321,000,000, an increase of 119 per cent. By comparison the income of farmers - which includes that of the alleged wool and beef barons - rose from £329,000,000 to £480,000,000, an increase of only 46 per cent, in that period. Personal incomes, as distinct from the foregoing, rose from £403,000,000 to £867,000,000, which is slightly more than 100 per cent.
– What class of persons earned those incomes?
– I should say that the classification takes in those engaged in business operations, dividend earners, rentiers and individuals with miscellaneous incomes other than those receiving salaries and wages.
Sitting suspended from 1S.1/S to 2.15 p.m.
– I emphasize to Senator Willesee who spoke this morning, that wages and salaries rose by 119 per cent, in the five-year period which ended 011 the 30th June, 1955, and that under this Government, and during its term of office, the working man has received a very generous slice of the national income - the sum of £2,321,000,000. That is much more than was ever received by the workers previously in this country’s history. Compared with that figure, the farmer who, as I said earlier, includes also the grazier, received only a +6 per pent, increase during the same fiveyear period. I was astounded by Senator Willesee’s definition of a worker. It certainly was striking and original, and one that I had never previously heard. The honorable senator claimed that a farmer was not a worker, although he admitted that a man in receipt of a salary who directed a big business concern, and had an income of £5,000 or even £10,000 a year, was a worker. The logic of the honorable senator’s argument is cockeyed because in my experience the farmer is a genuine worker. Very few people in this country work harder than the farmer does in his efforts to win wealth from the soil, and any political definition that classifies a farmer as a non-worker is, in my opinion an unfair and untrue definition. I repeat that record levels of prosperity have been reached during this Government’s term of office, the like of which I never previously experienced.
However, at this point of record high prosperity signs, which cannot be ignored, have appeared in our economy. “Wool, which is the sheet anchor of the Australian economy, has fallen sharply in value. “Wool brokers assess the decline in the value of wool at the opening of this year’s wool-selling season, at 25 per cent, lower than it was at the sales in September 1954. A drop of 25 per cent, in the price of such an important commodity, upon which this country depends so much, is a serious matter. Receipts for wool during the year which ended on the 30th June last totalled £352,700,000. If the drop of 25 per cent, in the value of wool U maintained during the current financial year - and the drop could be even greater - our receipts for the year will be about £88,000,000 less than the receipts for wool sold during the financial year just ended. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), in answer to a question in this chamber this morning, said that the sharp fall in the price of wool should not be over-emphasized but I point out that that drop hits the individual woolgrower very hard indeed, because with costs so high as they now are his reduced income will barely enable him to equate the costs. I want to make it clear that the individual wool-grower will be hit. very hard indeed, financially.
– It would be worse for the nation.
– If there is a big production of wool the nation will receive a substantial sum of money, but the individual wool-grower will still feel the effects of the drop in price and the high costs that he has to meet. However, that is looking ahead. Looking back over the financial year that is just closed, we find that the return for wool was £38,000,000 down. That drop in the actual receipts occurred despite the fact that a record quantity of wool was sold in 1954-55; a total of 4,000,000 bales was disposed of at auction in that year. I repeat that, because of the continuous and progressive fall in the value of wool, the last financial year, ended with receipts totalling £38,000,000 less than in the previous year, despite the greater production. Wool is the main prop of our London funds, and so a serious position arises whenever there is a substantial fall in the value of wool. At the 30th June last our overseas balances were in debit to the amount of £256,000,000, and the debit balances were mounting up against us sharply during the first two months of this financial year despite a strict control of the licensing of imports. For that reason, I desire to impress on the minds of all honorable senators that in the high wide and handsome way we are living to-day, we are living far beyond our means. Any loss of London funds represents a loss of liquidity in the banking system of this country, and that can only mean a progressive tightening of credit. I noticed in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald a complaint by the mercantile people of New South Wales that the Government’s policy of tightening credit .amounts to a restriction of credit. If I understand the position aright I do not think that the situation- requires any direction from the Australian Government or the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. Any such suggestion is merely nominal, because it seems to me that if we lose liquidity in our banking system because of a lowering of our London funds, the banking institutions will be short of resources to expand credit. In other words, they will not have the means by which credit could bc expanded. It is not a matter of blaming either the Commonwealth Government or the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank; it is a natural reaction to the situation that has developed, namely, a heavy decline of our London funds and consequential heavy debit balances. I do not want to make the flesh of honorable senators creep by detailing the possible happenings in the situation which has come about by the fall in the value of our primary products that we export, and the reflection of that condition in the hig debit balance we are now running in connexion with our overseas funds. For that reason, I shall not go into details, but I should like to say that, should the present adverse balance of payments continue, and perhaps even deteriorate, tilings could go hard against this country. We must be realists, and face the position. There are many who say that the only solution of this problem is to increase production. Obviously, that is one answer, but where is the man, or the authority, in this country who can deal with the lions in the path of increased production, and in particular increase the production of merchandise for export overseas ?
– If we restrict imports, we must cramp production.
– We must face the position that, if we cannot pay for imports, it will not be long before our creditors overseas refuse to sell anything to us. We must pay our way. I wish to deal with these problems in stages, and I am now referring to the obstacles that face us in the exportation of primary products. The wool-growers have increased production. This year, Australia produced nearly 4,000,000 bales of wool, and that is a record. Nobody can fault the wool-growers. The cattle men have increased production of beef, but an increased output of both wool and wheat can only be gradual because of fluctuations in the seasons.
– Does the honorable senator believe that there is still an unsatisfied world demand for Australian beef?
– Yes. Sugar-cane growers have increased production, and could improve their output considerably on present figures if markets were available for their product, but they are not available. The advocates of more production would get a horse laugh from the wheat-growers if they asked them to increase production at a time when there is a heavy carry-over from last year’s harvest, and the prospect of a new harvest before Christmas of 90,000,000 bushels. A bill is now before the Senate providing for the raising of £3,500,000 for the erection of storage silos to hold unsaleable wheat. How can we go to the wheatgrowers, in the circumstances, and ask them to increase production!? Dried fruits growers are reported to be ploughing in many acres of vines with the deliberate intention of restricting production because they cannot profitably market the dried fruits they have been producing.
Favoured by good seasons and stimulated by high prices, primary producers have responded very well to the call for increased production. I do not believe that the primary producers can do any more than they have done. If the seasons should run against them, they cannot possibly do as well. Our primary producers have become rather cynical about, the constant advice from all and sundry that they must become more efficient and reduce costs. Reduce costs! There would be unlimited markets for every kind of primary product if we could sell it more cheaply, but the high Australian cost structure prevents it being achieved. We are told that the primary producers should reduce costs to earn more export income.
– That is what I want to know. How? The primary industries are most efficient. They can and will continually increase efficiency, but they cannot finance ever-increasing imports into Australia because of the fall in the value of our staple commodities. Australia has been riding on the backs of the primary producers, and it is up to secondary industry now to increase its efficiency, reduce costs and increase exports materially. Let us change the record. I suggest that the press, politicians and businessmen should cease to ask the primary producers why they do not reduce costs and become more efficient. The primary producers have been carrying the burden of imports into Australia. They have produced the wealth to pay for those imports. They cannot carry the burden any longer.
– They have been doing very well for themselves, too.
– They have paid high taxes in the process, and have helped to maintain the high standard of living that everybody in Australia has enjoyed. There is a bad nigger in the woodpile. He threatens our economic system. I refer to Australian production costs. That is the bugbear of both primary and secondary industries. Excessive production costs already have a strangle-hold on primary industries, having regard to the declining value of wool.
A point has been reached where secondary industries must accept their responsibilities. High manufacturing costs block any chance of selling the products of Australian manufacturers outside Australia. Therefore, it must be obvious to the manufacturers, and to thoughtful trade unionists who are employed in Australian factories, that unless there is a substantial reduction of costs, the hitherto profitable Australian market will not have the purchasing power to buy the highly priced commodities that are produced by Australian factories, and sales resistance over a wide range of goods will be experienced. The farmers and graziers will have to cut their coats according to their cloth, and that goes for all who are dependent on the farming industries.
The statement of the Treasurer shows that the’ income of farmers has decreased by 20 per cent, over the past two years, and it will decline much more steeply during the current year, while all other incomes have continued to rise. We are reaching a position where the farmers will be the new poor while others will become the new rich. That would have a bad effect on basic primary industries from which the wealth of the nation is derived. Bad results must accrue for all of us if the exporters of primary products are obliged to sell in the highly competitive, low-priced markets overseas and must buy in the high-priced and protected local market. That is the bone of contention. The primary producers are required to sell in the low world markets and must buy in the protected market which is available to the Australian manufacturers.
I remind the Senate that 60 per cent, of our total overseas earnings are derived from the sale of wool and wheat. Four other items - meat, dairy products, fruit and sugar - add another 20 per cent, and which is supplemented by 6 per cent, from the sale overseas of base metals. Therefore, from primary products, we get 86 per cent, of the value of Australia’s total exports overseas. It is obvious that we depend materially upon primary production for our present prosperity. The scene has changed, and it is not outside the bounds of possibility that the manufacturers of Australia, who are already costed out of overseas markets, will find themselves costed out of the Australian market as well. The incomes of the people in the rural areas of the country are declining seriously,, whilst the cost of living is not stable but, on the contrary, is still rising. That is why I say that manufacturers, those employed by them, politicians, and trade union leaders all have to think hard. We are facing an extraordinarily difficult situation, and the outcome depends on just how we meet it.
The effect of a two-way economy in which primary industry is deflated while secondary industry is inflated, if permitted to continue, must have a devastating result as far as our internal economy is concerned. An immediate bad effect of that will come from the drift of farm and station workers to the cities and towns, in pursuit of the inflated high wages which are paid in the factories. During the last six years, owing to the excellent prices which have been obtained for most products of the land, rural employees have fared extremely well. However, heavily deflated farm incomes will make it impossible for many primary producers to maintain current wage standards.I fear, therefore, that the bright lights of the city will become a Mecca for many of our rural workers, who can ill be spared in the districts where the primary wealth of Australia is produced. I think it was Oliver Goldsmith who said -
Ill fares the land to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay.
This may appear to be a grim picture at a time of over-full employment, record mercantile income, and record treasury receipts, but I should fail in my duty if I tried to conceal the facts as I see them. The problem of production costs would be ugy enough if stability could be obtained on the present level, but everything points to renewed demands, on the part of trade unions, for further wage and salary increases based, as they say, on the cost of living, a claim which completely disregards the fact that the cost of living always rises proportionately to wage increases. Therefore, it is merely a case of wages chasing prices. If wages went up to £50 a week, the cost of living would be in the same ratio, and we should be no better off.
There is a great deal of industrial unrest at the time, arising, I think, from the belief of the working man that excessive profits are being drawn from the inflationary processes by many big mercantile and industrial concerns, thereby causing the cost of living constantly to keep well ahead of the purchasing power of wages. I am quite satisfied, through my contacts with working men, that that is their feeling. They believe that they are not getting a fair cut of the big profits that are being earned by those engaged in industry. To make things worse, the trade unionists, acting on the advice of false prophets like the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and many of their left wing union leaders, have the settled conviction that the cost of living can be overcome only by regular and continuous wage rises; in other words, that continued inflation - a sort of “ Rake’s Progress “ - provides the answer.
– Are wages the only reason for increased inflation? Are not other factors involved?
– I agree that there are other factors, but the fact that wages constitute 80 per cent. of the total cost of everything that is made and sold in this country, causes me to regard wages as the main factor, and leads me to believe that if wages go up, everybody who has to pay increased wages, in big business and little businesses alike, has to find more money in order to do so. That means that, in turn, businesses have to increase the cost of the goods and services they provide. It is a system of continuous inflation which I term a “Rake’s Progress “.
The most remarkable solution of the problem of inflation since the days of Mirabeau and the French revolutionary leaders was put forward by Dr. Evatt when, in the House of Representatives, he said -
A logical policy to follow under present conditions was to increase wages as a check to inflationary conditions.
That sounds almost barmy to me. It is interesting to recall what Mirabeau said in the French Chamber of Deputies in 1790. He stated -
We must accomplish that which we have begun: There must be one more large issue of paper, guaranteed by the national lands and by the good faith of the French nation.
To show how practical the system was. Mirabeau insisted that just as soon as paper money became too abundant it would be absorbed in rapid purchases of national lands, and he made a very striking comparison between this selfadjusting, self -converting system and the rains descending in showers upon the earth, then in swelling rivers discharging into the sea, then drawn up in vapour, and finally, scattered over the earth again in rapidly fertilizing showers. He predicted that the members of the French Chamber of Deputies would be surprised at the astonishing success of this paper money and that there would be none too much of it.
That was Mirabeau in 1790, and it sounds very much like Dr. Evatt in 1955. Six years after Mirabeau made that highly oratorical declaration in the French Parliament, the great inflation ended, and the machinery, plates and paper used for printing assignats were taken to the Place Vendome and there solemnly broken and burnt, in the presence of a great crowd. That is what can happen under a system of uncontrolled inflation such as Dr. Evatt, of course, advocates.
– But a Liberal government is in office now.
– I must face criticisms of the Government, and that is one of them. As there are many industrial workers who have profound faith in Dr. Evatt-
Opposition Senators. - Hear, hear!
– Honorable senators said that rather feebly, I thought. As I say, there are many industrial workers who have profound faith in Dr. Evatt. That being so, his advice in this economic pinch must cause embarrassment and bewilderment to the more levelheaded members of the Australian Labour party and trade unions. Dr. Evatt, in his simplicity of mind, overlooks the existence of financial laws as real in their operation as are those which hold the planets in their courses. He may be wise to some things, but he is not wise to financial laws. Speaking in the Senate last year, I pointed out that Dr. Evatt’s advocacy of unlimited credit expansion adhered to the Communist line. Lenin said that the subtlest and most effective way to destroy the capitalist system was to debase the currency. Karl Marx said that the easiest way to overthrow capitalism was to destroy the monetary system. Communists in this country and all over the world, therefore, strongly favour inflation, with the object of causing a collapse in our currency, with resulting chaos. When Dr. Evatt advocates higher wages in the present emergent period, he stands for that policy of inflation, and, in doing so, stands, as he has always done, right in line with the Communist party. Under Dr. Evatt’s policy of continued inflation the skilful manipulators of inflated currencies would have the scope to become extraordinarily wealthy, by exchanging paper money for property of permanent value, but the masses of the people who would follow Dr. Evatt’s advice would suffer the most profound misery as the inflation proceeded. Daniel Webster said many years ago-
– He was an American.
– Yes, and a very great American in his day. He said -
Of all the contrivances for cheating the labouring classes of mankind none has been more effective than that which deludes them with paper money.
There is the voice of experience from past history. The taste of mild inflation which we have experienced in the post-war period has been very sweet and cloying, but it has been safely held by the high prices received for our primary products on overseas markets. It will be difficult for the people of this country, as a whole, to understand why danger now lurks in a situation that previously could be regarded as indicating high prosperity. We are beginning to lose the props that supported the mild inflation and the prosperity which we have known. There can be only one end to a process in which wages continue to rise because of inflation, and the price of export commodities continues to fall. There can be but one end, and I warn all concerned that it may be a bad end.
The Australian Council of Trades Unions has given its blessing to a system of collective bargaining, which means, of course, by-passing the industrial courts. Senator Willessee attempted to justify that in his speech this morning, by pointing out that a building contractor in Canberra and his employees entered into a bargain whereby extra money was to be paid to the employees as an incentive for special attendances on building jobs. The honorable senator said that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) had ruled against that bargain. I support the decision of Mr. Kent Hughes. It is the Commonwealth which has to pay. It is all very well for the building contractors to take the line of least resistance, and, with their employees, to gang up and exploit the Commonwealth for more money. The higher payments to the employees would be reflected in the amount the working man in Canberra has to pay for a home, or in the rental that he would have to pay as a tenant. The working man must be protected from people who would gang up in that way in order to obtain more money from the Commonwealth, increasing building costs in the process. The Australian Council of Trades Unions has come round to the point of view where it sees virtue in collective bargaining. It wants to by-pass the industrial courts and enter into private arrangements with employers. In far too many cases, from my observations in the past twelve months, the employer has shown a willingness to enter into such arrangements. In that way, without the publicity attaching to industrial court proceedings, our economy can be substantially inflated. Such private arrangements would not be known to the general public, but the effects would be reflected in ever-rising costs of the goods and services provided by the employers and employees concerned.
– There is a demand for labour. The people whom honorable senators opposite represent got a good price for their wool when there was a great demand for it.
– But the honorable senator cannot escape the fact that if you increase wages it will have the effect of increasing the cost of a dwelling for a man in Canberra or anywhere else who wishes to purchase a home. If you increase building costs, and consequently rents, how are you serving the interests of the working man? Costs must be stabilized. Honorable senators opposite cannot turn me from my argument by drawing red herrings across the trail. I have given the facts to the Senate, and, regrettably, the type of inflation to which we have become accustomed suits many employers. I say that deliberately. But under the changed conditions which will operate in the current financial year there will be a far more risky type of inflation than anything we have experienced so far. That fact should be impressed on employers and employees. The economy of Australia could be seriously disrupted in the forseeable future, if costs continue to rise.
Senator Cameron interjected a while ago, and asked what was the remedy. It is not easy to provide an effective remedy,, but some things can be done, and I know that the Government is greatly concerned and is taking steps to try to protect our economy. I have one suggestion, theadoption of which might be of some value. The federal executive of the Queenslandbranch of the Australian Country party carried a resolution some time ago to ask the Australian Government to appoint a commission to conduct an economic survey, at the earliest possible date, into Australia’s national economy. T-he proposal envisages a complete and continuing examination of all related economic factors, finance, tariff, costs, prices, and the conditions of both primary and secondary industries. I think it is highly desirable that such an economic survey should be undertaken without delay.
– It is five years late.
– Better late than never. I also believe that it is highly desirable that the employers of this country should convene a conference of leaders in primary and secondary industry, including retailers and importers, and the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Such a conference should discuss the dangers to employment and living standards implicit in the rapid changes in the structure of our economy, viewed in conjunction with the worsening of Britain’s economic position. These are important matters, to which this Senate should give very careful thought. The news from Great Britain is not by any means cheerful. Like Australia, Britain is over-spending her income. Imports are increasing faster than exports. Britain is facing an adverse balance of payment in overseas trade, just as Australia is. Sterling is weak, and Britain is feeling the growing competition of West Germany in the world markets. Here is a thought for men who seek to advise the trade unions of this country: Skilled metal trades workers in West Germany are working like beavers 48 hours a week for the equivalent of ?8 sterling. British adult males are earning an average of ‘ ?13 12s. lOd. a 4S-hour week. That amount includes overtime, incentive pay and bonuses, and the figure is taken from a recent survey by the British Ministry of Labour. Yesterday, newspapers carried a London cable to the effect that the British Employers Confederation, representing firms which employ 70 per cent, of British man-power, has stepped out into the open for the first time since 1931 - that is rather ominous - and they invited the co-operation of the trade unions in an all-out campaign to cut the cost of living. The British employers want the trade union representatives to discuss with them the question of wage restriction, lower dividends in industry and severe cuts in government spending.
I remind the Senate that all that is being done on the initative of the British confederation of .employers, and not by the trade unions. Moreover, that confederation is responsible for the employment of about 70 per cent, of the male workers in Great Britain. The suggestion is, of course, that provided the unions are prepared to go slowly in the matter of wage demands, the employers will go slowly in the matter of dividends. Our economy is rapidly approaching a state similar to that of the economy of Great Britain, and I therefore believe that the time is ripe for similar action to be taken by the Chambers of Commerce and the Chamber of Manufactures in Australia. They should be prepared, like the employers of Great Britain, to make some concessions to secure the good will of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and of the thoughtful and moderate elements among trade unionists. I believe that such a move would come far better from the employer interests of this country, who sense the dangers both in Great Britain and in Australia. They should meet trade unionists and explain at round table talks just what the position is in Australia and Great Britain, and ascertain whether it is not possible to make better use of the vast potential wealth that is awaiting exploitation by our manufacturing industries.
At present our manufacturers can sell their products only on the home market, but if the way could be made clear by a reduction of costs, there is a world to win in the markets overseas. If we do not reduce our costs by mutual agreement, a reduction will be forced on us in such a way that there will be a lot of worried people in this country alter the process has been completed. When we see a storm approaching it is better to get inside before it breaks, and there are signs of a storm about.
A survey conducted by the Department of National Development in May last indicated that nearly half the number of families in Australia were buying articles for personal and household use through hire-purchase companies. I, like Senator Willesee, believe that people have a right to buy goods on hire purchase, but I favour a much reduced rate of interest chargeable to the person who buys the goods. What is termed a flat rate of 10 per cent, interest often works out al 17 per cent, or 20 per cent., which is quite excessive. I would not pretend to fix a fair maximum rate of interest for hirepurchase transactions, but I believe that one could be arrived at after a fair investigation. I suggest that after such an investigation both sides could come together and fix a fair maximum rate of interest. Hire purchase is a very helpful system to people, including most young people, who are struggling to get on in life. I am all for the system of hire purchase, but I am against its abuse. Moreover, if a fair rate of interest were laid down in respect of hire purchase, public loans would have a reasonable chance of competing with hire purchase in the investment market. The 20 per cent, or so that is now being paid in the hire-purchase business seems to be closer to usury than a legitimate interest charge.
I see no point in holding down the bank interest rate on fixed deposits to 2 per cent, while allowing hire-purchase companies a free rein to offer up to 7 per cent, for money. It is wrong that the banks should be discriminated against in that way. The Treasurer has called for restraints on commitments and publicspending, and I believe that people will respond to that appeal more actively if the Commonwealth and State Governments set the. example. It is highly important that from now on the pruningknife should be applied with considerable vigour to public spending. The restraint? on spending should apply to governments, to individuals and to industry alike. Australia has never been more prosperous than it is to-day, and the budget has been designed to hold that prosperity. If there is a common-sense approach to the matter, if restraints are exercised by all classes, and if we all play our part, it will help the Australian Government to pass through the very difficult period that has been caused by the substantial fall in the value of our exports.
– Senator Maher has given us a definition of a worker, and has challenged the definition given by Senator Willesee. T believe that Senator Willesee gave no cause to Senator Maher to question his definition of a worker, because whether we work in shops or factories, in white collars or dungarees, we are all workers contributing to the wealth of Australia. Senator Maher is a large property owner, and no doubt he has members of his own family or other persons creating wealth for him. Nevertheless, that fact does not alter the definition of a worker to any degree, and I do not see any need to be disturbed over the matter.
There is no doubt that the workers’ conditions have improved during my lifetime. When I worked in a rural area, I worked from daylight to dark and, after having had a bit of corned beef and some bread and treacle or jam, [ lit a candle or kerosene lamp and did a bit of chaff-cutting. Those days have gone, and it seems to disturb Senator Maher that the workers of those times are not available to-day. It is very strange for the honorable senator, who represents a rural area and always professes to speak on behalf of country people, to bemoan the fact that Australian manufacturers have costed themselves out of the markets of the world. A similar statement was made some eight or nine months ago by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) when he expressed deep regret because the workers of Australia were pricing themselves out of the rural markets of the world. The position is in reverse now. The Minister should apply his remarks to the rural section of industry.
Reference has been made to industrial unrest. It is true that a great deal of industrial unrest exists in this country to-day but it is because of the high cost of living. It is admitted that there is a high standard of wages and a degree of prosperity never enjoyed before in this country. Anybody who attempted to deny those facts would be a fool. The position is that this high degree of prosperity is not enjoyed by the workers to the same degree as it is enjoyed by the captains of industry and the monopolies whose huge dividends have increased by 250 per cent. When Government supporters speak about the approach of inflation they should realize that no government in this country has made a greater contribution to inflation than has the Menzies-Fadden Government. It did that when it increased the price of coal in spite of a determination on a reasonable basis by a tribunal appointed by the Federal and State governments. The tribunal allowed for a profit of 7£ per cent, on the capital invested, after every charge incidental to the industry had been paid. Many bondholders in Australia to-day would like to be able to redeem their bonds at the price they were supposed to get for them, but, because of inflation, if they desired to sell they would have to accept a considerably reduced value. This Government is not concerned about the bondholders; it is concerned about its friends, the coalowners, who made representations to the Minister for National Development. 1 am sorry that he is not in the chamber at the. moment. He approached the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who instructed the Joint Coal Board to appoint a committee. That committee recommended a formula to the Government, but the Government, instead of allowing 7-J per cent, on the capital invested, after every charge incidental to the industry had been paid, with ls. a ton minimum profit, increased the price of coal by 6s. a ton and, consequently, made the greatest possible contribution to inflation. That, statement is borne out by the fact that to-day we have over-production on the coal-fields. Millions of tons of coal are lying at grass, and most of it will never be used. On the other hand, we find that the coal-owners were able to go to South Australia and Victoria and reduce the price of coal by 6s. a ton.
Surely, that is an indication that they have been getting too much money in the past, particularly when we take into account the degree of inflation that exists to-day compared with conditions in 1951 when the Government increased the price of coal.
My friend, Senator Maher, moans about inflation and about the approaching storm. He says he can see the clouds coming. He offers the same solution as every other honorable senator on the Government benches.
– Reduced wages.
– Yes ; reduced wages and greater production. The bending of the backs of the workers a little further will not solve this problem. This budget is like an annual show ; it contains a number of exhibits. I have some of them here. I start off with the exhibit of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden).
– Document J?
– The honorable senator would know more about document J than I would. A number of people were disappointed because they did not get the prizes in the Treasurer’s speech that they expected to get. They had spent considerable time telling the Government what should be done and what should not be done. A large number of people had assisted in getting the exhibits ready, but even those who were partly responsible for the production of the budget were not quite satisfied. As a matter of fact, without a word of exaggeration, the budget has been given a very cold reception. In the press it has been described in varying terms and, generally speaking, it has been given a frigid reception. I think it would be proper to say that it has been given an Antarctic reception, because that is the coldest place I know of. It can be regarded, unfortunately, as a portent and as a warning of the coming depression which was emphasized by Senator Maher. With many thousands of people I listened to the Treasurer’s budget speech. I was disappointed. He described the nation’s economic position in the most melancholy manner possible, foretelling of the imminence of inflation, the weakening of our overseas balance of payments and the evils of the time-payment system. The budget indicates that the Menzies-Fadden Government is afraid of the future, so afraid that it proposes to have an election in December before its remedies for the unfavorable economic’ outlook are put into operation, in the hope that the season of gloom and despair will not arrive too soon. The Government complains that a great upsurge of spending has been facilitated by a far too generous expansion of credit on the part of the banking system, together with the rapid growth of the time-payment system. Hire purchase is used mostly by the workers and those on the lower rungs of the financial ladder. Persons in the same class, like my friend, Senator Maher, would never need to resort to time payment, which, according to the Government, is the chief cause of the tension and pressure in the Australian economic position. The Treasurer made that clear in his speech. He said that unless corrected, it would produce open inflation. I think my friend. Senator Kennelly, said something abou open inflation last. week. I do not care whether it is open or how long it has been present, but it is evident that it has begun . and is rapidly increasing. My colleagues and I want to know what the Government proposes to do to check it. The Government has never favoured full employment.
– “What nonsense !
– It is of no use f or honorable senators opposite to squirm. The Government has never believed in full employment because that weakens and destroys the bargaining powers of the masters of the Government - the monopolists and captains of industry. Under full employment they have not the same bargaining power as when there is a pool of unemployment. I do not think that any honorable senator opposite would attempt to refute that fact. The Government refuses to trust the people to spend their own money; therefore, it has continued to tax them more than is necessary. The budget provides for no reduction of income tax, and no relief has been given by way of taxation remissions in industry, although the workers and leaders of industry were expecting help of this kind. They were disappointed ; they received no prizes.
The real purpose of the budget is to syphon the people’s money out of their pockets and pour it into the Treasury where it will be placed in cool storage by allocating it to various kinds of trust funds. This subtle procedure is necessary because the Government, under the Constitution, has no authority to tax the people more than is required to meet the basic needs of government on a yeartoyear basis. The Constitution provides also that when there is a surplus of revenue, it shall be divided among the States. That is the reason for all these trust funds. In order to circumvent its constitutional obligations, the Government resorts to the subterfuge of spending in advance by placing surplus revenue into spurious trust funds and allocating to departments amounts that cannot be spent during the current financial year. A glaring example of that occurred during the last session of Parliament, when £23,000,000 was set aside for the building of a munitions filling factory at St. Mary’s. Whatever the Government might do, or attempt to do at St. Mary’s in the current financial year, it cannot spend any more than £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. lt is physically impossible for it to do so. But the allocation of money for the building of this factory provides the opportunity to stow away some of the money taken out of the people’s pockets, which they are not allowed to spend themselves. It would not be possible to spend £23,000,000 at St. Mary’s within the next two or three years. I regret to notice that there has been industrial trouble at the project, and that 200 men have refused to work. That strike will delay the expenditure of the money. I challenge the Government to show where more than £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 will be spent at St. Mary’s this financial year. The Government is afraid that if it allows the people to spend their money as they wish, that spending will contribute to inflation in Australia. But the Government, in effect, is filching the money from the people because it believes they cannot be trusted to spend it.
The Menzies Government claims that it does not believe in controls, but it has used its authority through the central bank to impose controls over credit. It has told the banks that they must not advance any additional money for hire purchase. It has sponsored a policy which has retarded the rate of homebuilding, but it has also encouraged commercial and luxury building. Only a couple of weeks ago the whole of the press of New South Wales announced a proposal to build two luxury hotels - one at Bondi, to cost about £300,000, and another at Revesby, to cost about £140,000.
– How many bedrooms will they provide?
– I understand that there will not be many. That is a total contemplated expenditure of nearly £500,000 for two hotels, but Ave can be fairly certain that before those buildings are completed they will cost more than £500,000. I raise no objection to the building of hotels to accommodate tourists and others who come to this country, but I think that people in need of homes should have first priority. People who are in need of homes cannot obtain ls. from the financial institutions or building societies. We seem to have indulged in a mad spree in the building of luxury hotels, and the erection of costly petrol garages on almost every vacant corner, to duplicate services that already exist. I know that petrol is necessary for transport in this country, but before this mad building spree began, we had sufficient distributors of petrol to meet, the needs of motorists. In those days, a man would drive to the nearest garage and obtain whatever brand of petrol he desired. He cannot do so to-day. While money is made available for these purposes, the family man - in many cases a man who served his country well in the war - finds that there are all sorts of impediments placed in the way of his obtaining a home, because the country’s Treasurer and the banking authorities still restrict the flow of money for home building. There is plenty of money for the building of luxury hotels, plenty of money for the erection of garages on vacant allotments, there is no limit to the man-power and materials necessary for such buildings; but in a time when there is a shortage of man-power and materials, the policy now in operation is uneconomic. If we adopted a proper order of priority in connexion with the construction of buildings, we would give preference to the home builder.
Added to the financial impediments placed in the way of home builders, there is the enormous increase in the cost of all building materials. Earlier to-day, Senator Armstrong asked a question relating to an inquiry that was held into the timber industry in New South “Wales. Reference was made to a recent report by Mr. Justice Richardson, which disclosed that sections of the New South Wales timber industry had sought to control, supply and distribute all imported timber. Since 1952, when price control over timber was discontinued, the price of Oregon has risen from 3s. Sd. to 33s. lOd. for 100 super feet. I am glad that Senator Maher has no shearing sheds or shearing huts under construction at the present time, because if he had, 1 am sure that he would be screaming about the cost. In the same period the price of parana pine has risen from 21s. 3d. to 44s. 8d. for 100 super feet. These figures indicate that monopoly capitalism is the real ruler of Australia’s economic life to-day. Almost daily, young men, many of them wearing returned servicemen’s badges, come to me and say that they cannot get homes, and have been waiting for homes for a long time. The Government should give some attention to the needs of home-seekers. The chief responsibility for the present state of affairs rests on the Menzies Government. It is bringing immigrants here by the tens of thousands, but at the same time it is making it harder for young Australians, who are trying to rear the best immigrants this country could have, to obtain homes. If tens of thousands of immigrants are to be brought here, the Government should, at the same time, have in operation a vigorous housing programme to provide homes for them.
The Government, through the Treasurer, has sounded a warning about the danger of another period of inflation approaching, and in a desperate effort to balance the Australian economy, it has decided on a policy of deflation. Every one knows what happens when a government starts to fiddle with the delicate mechanism of a country’s finances. Whether in the industrial field, or in the field of government administration, it is only courting trouble to adopt such a policy. We know from bitter experience that such a formula, when put into operation, leads to a depression. The Government professes to be deeply concerned about the facts of our economy and of the dangers confronting us, but it has not offered any solution of the problem. Only this afternoon, I saw the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in one of the lobbies of this House. Evidently, he had only just left the Prime Minister’s office. Already, the Prime Minister has had a conference with bankers, and I understand that there are to be further conferences with other sections of the community as to the means to be adopted to check inflation. The Government boasts that it is opposed to any form of control as a means of preventing inflation. It shrinks and shudders at the very thought of imposing controls. Yet, by the subtle method of limiting overdrafts and advances through the banking system, the Government is in reality imposing controls of the most effective and damaging kind. Its central banking policy will disrupt our industrial, commercial and financial stability to a greater degree than has any other control that has ever been imposed in this country.
I wish to direct attention to repatriation matters, and I regret that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) is not in the chamber to hear my remarks. I assume that he is unavoidably absent. I emphasize that I do not propose to be critical of any officers of the Repatriation Department. I know the limitations that are placed on them. I know that there are officers in the department who take the requisite action to help returned servicemen as much as possible. I wish to direct attention to repatriation activities which cannot be dealt with by the Repatriation Department because of the limitations placed upon it under regulations and rules.
A case to which I wish to direct attention is that of Dr. Joseph Glissan, who is now aged 65 years. Dr. Glissan was a major in the first Australian Imperial Force and served in Gallipoli and in France. At various times he has been honorary orthopaedic surgeon at St. Vincent’s Hospital, honorary consulting orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and visiting orthopaedic surgeon at the 113 th Australian General Hospital, Concord. Dr. Glissan was a leading bone specialist and a pioneer of many life-saving techniques in orthopaedic surgery. He was turned out of the Concord hospital from a sick-bed on the grounds that he was not entitled to benefits under the Repatriation Act. There is no doubt that the strain of work in two wars worsened the illness which has left him bed-ridden.
As well as treating thousands of civilian patients, Dr. Glissan worked with untiring devotion to heal wounded servicemen in two wars. Although his war service undoubtedly worsened the illness that left him partly paralysed, the Repatriation Department turned him out of a sick-bed to fend for himself. I do not like having to bring this case to the attention of the Senate. In my opinion it is terrible that a man with a record like Dr. Glissan’s should have to have his case ventilated in this chamber so that he might get some justice. Since the Repatriation Department has rejected his claims for repatriation benefits, Dr. Glissan has become a patient in the Lidcombe State Hospital. He served the nation in war and peace. He put many hundreds of his comrades in arms on their feet. He mended their limbs, and brought a ray of hope and comfort to servicemen and civilians alike when their days were darkened with despair.
– Does the Repatriation Department give any reason for its action?
– Keep quiet. The honorable senator can discuss the matter with me afterwards if he wishes to do so.
– Surely that is a sensible question ?
– In addition to his devotion to service in war, Dr. Glissan’s generosity to afflicted civilians of the poorer classes knew no bounds. Some of them called on me and said that he had treated them free for 25 years. I refer this matter to the Senate in the hope that the Minister for Repatriation and the Government will not besmirch the fair name of Australia any longer by denying to Dr. Glissan the nation’s grateful appreciation of his humane work which was so generously and efficiently devoted to servicemen and civilians.
It is not sufficient for the Minister for Repatriation to state that “Dr. Glissan’s case has been treated on the most sympathetic lines “. Perhaps that will satisfy Senator Kendall, who asked a question by way of interjection. In this case, as with others I could mention, the intervention of the Minister is necessary. Dr. Glissan’s record qualifies him for every consideration and the personal attention of the Minister. I appeal to the Minister for Repatriation to examine this case personally. It is a gross reflection upon the Government and the nation that a man with such a record of devotion to duty should be in a State hospital in New South “Wales.
I wish to direct the attention of the Senate now to the proposal to establish television in Australia. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has announced that ten channels in the very high spectrum - the very high frequency spectrum - have been allocated for television stations in the Commonwealth. These channels are designated from No. 1 to No. 10, and two of them will not be available until 1963. The ultra-high frequency spectrum provides 50 channels. They have been allocated, but at the present time it is not proposed to designate them by numbers. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, after discussions with representatives of the manufacturers, agreed from the outset that television sets should be designed so that they might be tuned to all very high frequency channels. I wish to make it clear that, of the ten channels allocated in the very high frequency spectrum, only eight are available. The remaining two will not be available until .1963.
The indications are that the first phase of television development will be in the ten channels as allocated, and that the succeeding stages of development will be in the ultra-high frequency, in which there are 50 channels. Experience in
America has disclosed that a similar plan, which was pursued there, caused considerable financial failure on the part of many broadcasters of television, as well as inconvenience and heavy expense to receivers of television. The limiting of Australia’s television venture to ten very high channels is courting disaster and is a. repetition of the costly mistake made in America. I do not say that this mistake id the responsibility of this Government or of any previous government.
What is our position to-day? Tens of thousands of people in Australia are waiting for the simple convenience of a telephone in the home. Telephones cannot be provided because of lack of foresight in the past. Labour governments are just as responsible as are conservative governments for that position. Lack of planned development can be seen everywhere in Australia. For instance, in country towns, very often water and gas services become inadequate in a few years, so that pipes have to be pulled up and new ones put in their place, dams have to be enlarged, and so on. The same thing occurs in relation to the services provided by the Postmaster-General’s Department. I do not wish to be critical in this regard, but I point out that, in connexion with the provision of television in Australia, we may run into the same problems and difficulties as those which confront us to-day in relation to other services.
It is essential, in the interests of the people, manufacturers of television receiving sets, and television stations, that the Australian Government prepare, as early as possible, an overall plan which will make provision not only for future development, but which also will ensure that the lack of channels will not create monopolies concerned more with profits than the provision of the best possible service for the people of Australia. An inquiry has been held into the allocation of television licences in Australia, and the Government, in its wisdom, despite the fact that, for some weeks beforehand, it was not possible to “ get on at evens “ that Mr. Packer of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, and Mr. Henderson, of the Sydney Morning Herald, would not receive television licences, allocated the licences to the press. I sincerely hope that, having done so, those who have received licences will provide proper service. I shall have something to say about that aspect a little later in my remarks.
As I have already said, of the ten channels available and allocated, two will not be really available until 1963. Therefore, until that date, channel No. 4 and channel No. 5, the two that are to be left out, will not be available for the initial introduction of television. The two very high channels to be added in 1963 will be of no significance in helping to break down the monopoly that may exist by then, or in providing a proper presentation of television programmes throughout Australia. No other service provided in this country calls for such long-range planning as does television. The commencement of such planning should be at the outset, not after television had commenced to operate. It is essential that the Government, with the advice of technical experts and its advisers on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, should give further consideration to planning for the introduction of television. Immediate action should be taken to provide a scheme of channel allocation that will ensure long-term future expansion of television services, embracing sufficient facilities to provide fair and equitable treatment to all undertakings that are able to demonstrate their ability to render efficient television services to the people, whether now or in the future.
At the beginning of 1946, there were six television transmitters and approximately 30,000 receiving sets in the United States of America. To-day, after less than a decade, there are more than 450 television stations, whilst the American people have purchased more than 36,000,000 receiving sets. Expansion in England has been on a similar scale, although limited there only to the national system. Commercial and national systems do not run parallel in the United Kingdom, as they do in America. If our television system were to operate only through national stations, probably the ten channels that have been allocated would be sufficient, but as the Government is determined that there should be a commercial service also, through the licensing system, an increase of the number of channels is imperative. This is an important factor. The sets which are to be manufactured will make provision for only the ten very high-frequency channels. No provision will be made for the ultrahigh frequency channels, which could provide unlimited facilities for expansion. That is the point that I want to bring to i he notice of the Government. The very high frequency channels are limited in number compared with the ultra-high frequency channels. The latter channels not only give better service, but also their use would afford less chance of monopoly control, which is quite likely to occur under the system proposed by the Government.
– That was the policy of the honorable senator’s party in The old days in regard to frequency modulation.
– We have learnt, a lot since the old days, and I hope that honorable senators opposite will learn a lot from what I am telling them this afternoon.
– The honorable senator does not understand what he is talking about now.
– I know what I ii in talking about, and the honorable senator may test my knowledge in any way he likes. I am not simply giving my views. I have made some inquiries in regard to this matter. My friend Senator Hannaford is, of course, a pastoralist and a wealthy man. He may know a lot about wool, but he cannot pull the wool over my eyes. He may know a bit about sheep, but he will find that I am no lamb.
I have already said that the sets which are to be manufactured will make provision for only the ten very high frequency channels, whereas the ultra-high frequency channels would provide unlimited facilities for television expansion. The information which I am giving to the Senate this afternoon may be of some help to Senator Hannaford. Much of my information has been obtained from Mr. Ray Allsop, a former member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, what was described by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) as one of Australia’s outstanding technical experts on television. One could not go to a better man in this country if one wanted to learn, something about television. Mr. Allsop points o;.: that once a set is manufactured and sold it will be the responsibility and liability of the owner to have it converted < altered to receive any ultra-high frequency stations that may be license ! later. When the ten very high-frequency channels are in use, the only means of expansion will be in the very highfrequency range, which can provide 50 channels. But the Government proposes to start with very high frequency, and the receivers will be built to operate on that frequency. The same position will be reached in Australia as was reached in America in 1948, when the use of the ultra-high frequency channels was delayed for two or three years. That need not occur in Australia, because we can start by using both ranges. The two range; could be used in different zones. That would not only result in better service but would also save the public a considerable amount of money, because the conversion of a television set from very high to ultra-high frequency will cost between £50 and £100.
I wish now to deal with the allocation of the channels. The Australian Broadcasting Commission and the stations of Messrs. Henderson and Packer will use three of the channels in Sydney. Newcastle will have one national and one commercial channel. Then there will be a contest to decide who Will get the remaining channels, or the three that are readily available. Mr. Allsop points out also that the two Sydney commercial stations will be looking for country outlets in order to spread the cost of their programmes over a wider area. That is to be expected, because a television station costs a vast sum of money. There will not be enough channels to provide a television station in each of the leading country centres, let alone to allow competition in those centres between commercial and national stations. For instance, Orange will have a national service, and it will be most unlikely to have a commercial service as well. Radio Station 2KY has an investment of £10,000 in television in a capital structure of just on £1,000,000. Therefore it has an interest of 1 per cent. [Extension of time granted.] I am grateful to the Senate for the extension of time, as I -wish to give further information on this matter. As I said, station 2KY has an investment of £10,000 in a capital structure of £1,000,000, representing an interest of 1 per cent. But there is a very interesting provision in the licence. No wonder my friend Senator Laught smiles ; lie may know something about it. The provision is that station 2KY must not receive any special consideration by way of time for political purposes. Although Messrs. Henderson and Packer, of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph, can use as much time as they like in advancing their papers’ editorial policy, station 2KY is specifically prohibited from broadcasting Labour propaganda unless equal rights are given to other political parties. In effect, apart from creating a forum for the conservative parties - they are the only people who are reported in the press, whilst members on this side of the chamber are not reported unless there is some sensational incident in which they are involved-
– The honorable senator is reported every time he speaks.
– I would gain a lot of publicity if I were reported as often as Senator Kendall speaks. As I was saying, the Labour station has been silenced. There will be no free time for Labour, despite the statements that were made when the investment was incurred, when it was announced that Labour would have half an hour each week.
Mr. Allsop also directs attention to the fact that a television receiver is not like a radio receiver ; it can be tuned only to the number of channels for which it has been designed. A radio set can be tuned to 107 channels, but a television set can be tuned to only ten channels, or to the number for which it has been made by the manufacturers. That, of course, confirms the statement that I made with regard to the sets that would have to be converted from very high frequency to ultra-high frequency. It is admitted by all experts that after the television sets have been distributed to the public, they cannot be made to work on any additional channels without additions and alterations which would cost between £50 and £100. To give senators an example of the work involved, it would take two skilled technicians one whole day to install a television receiver in a home. They would have to erect the aerial on the house-top, run side wires to the set, and then tune and adjust the installation. If additional work is required later that sort of work would have to be done all over again, and the new installation would entail alterations to the set itself.
I notice that the Minister in charge of the Senate, Senator Spooner, is busily engaged reading at present, but I ask him to obtain certain information for me about the proposed introduction of television to Australia. According to the budget, £850,000 will be provided for the procurement of television equipment, and an additional amount of £550,000 for sites and buildings for television transmitters and studios. I should like to know the number of dollars involved in the £850,000, as well as the amount of sterling. I should also like to know the relevant figures in respect of expenditure by commercial stations. It would be interesting to know the quantity of syndicated material that the Government proposes to allow into Australia, and the proportion of that material that will be purchased by dollars or sterling.
Although I may have seemed to be critical of the Government in my speech to-day, I have been actuated by sincere beliefs about television. I appeal to the Government to make further investigations into the matter, and to appoint a committee of technical men to investigate thoroughly all aspects of television in Australia. A telephone is a small thing when you compare it with a television set, but it is impossible to get a telephone in many parts of Australia to-day. Do not let us make mistakes in connexion with television like those thai we made in connexion with the Postal Department and other departments. Let us obtain some expert advice about if. If necessary, let us call upon an expert t from. England and one from America to collaborate with our own experts. Honorable senators should remember that, at the present time, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is running round trying to get advice from experts on the banking system so that he can devise some way to get out of the economic trouble that we are involved in. Let us not make any mistake with television ; let us make complete investigations now, and set up television in Australia in such a way that it will be a credit to the Government and to the nation.
.- [n supporting the motion before the Senate, I wish to refer to one or two aspects of the budget before proceeding with the main part of my speech. Today, we have heard much about pensions from honorable senators opposite. Of course, the Opposition likes to argue about pensions in the hope that it will influence pensioners at election time. During the last few general elections, the Opposition has appealed to the pensioners hy promising higher pensions than the Government was able to promise, but the fact that on each occasion the Government was returned to office indicates that the pensioners believe that this Government has always given them a fair deal. Indeed, after they receive the proposed 10s. a week increase of pensions, pensioners will be better off than they were under the last Labour Government. The best way to confound critics is to find out what they did when they had an opportunity to do something, and when we look at the matter of pensions in that way it is obvious that this Government has given pensioners a better deal than the last Labour Government.
The budget recognizes two problems. One is our financial situation, and in this National Parliament we should treat all such matters in a national : way. This country is not just composed of the soil on which we walk; it is also composed of people, and in putting forward suggestions to assist the country we are putting forward suggestions to assist our people. We must realize that our internal inflationary period is, to a large degree, caused by two main factors. One factor is that »f over-full employment. I do not think that anybody can deny that we have overfull employment at the moment. As a consequence employers are outbidding nach other for labour. That is only one factor, but it is something that is bringing about a rise in prices and cost of production. It is more serious than many people realize. Those who are associated with industry will know that that is true.
The other factor is loss of production through lack of discipline in industry. It cannot be doubted that lack of discipline has cost Australia many millions of pounds. With such a shortage of labour, it is essential that everybody be fully employed and there be no wastage of millions of man hours through industrial turmoil such as we have had in recent times. The Government should handle this matter very strongly. I have never believed in weak dealing in these matters. A show of strength must be made because strength is always respected. To allow these things to continue will bring about a higher cost of production.
The other very serious problem that confronts us - not one we should panic about, but about which we should do some clear thinking - is the reduction in the overseas credits of Australia. We know they have fallen considerably within the last year or so; and that is because we have relied almost solely on production from our primary industries. Over a period of years, not just in this Governments’ term, Australia has leaned so strongly on primary production that now that prices have fallen we find our overseas credits going down. That is a situation which calls for clear thinking on the part of the Government in order to find out how we can rectify the position. I believe that a solution can be found.
If we adopt the theme I have in mind, we shall get somewhere much more quickly than we think. Let our theme, or slogan, be, “ Let us have more- business, let us as a Commonwealth and Government chase business”. We need to take positive action. The reduction of imports is a stop-gap measure and for a country that is trading correctly, it is not the right sort of thing. If production can be balanced with imports the people of Australia will have much more freedom in their purchases and industry can be helped by the importation of urgently required materials, machinery, plant and so on. We should strive to balance our external trade. There are several ways in which this can be done, and I intend to mention a few methods by which we can build up our export trade with a little bit of thought, investigation and encouragement by the Government. In the aggregate it could amount to something quite considerable. If we cast our minds back a few years, even prior to this Government coming into office, we will remember a time when we were very short of dollars. Honorable senators will recall that the crayfish industry enabled us to build up our exports overseas, particularly in dollar countries. Although small by comparison with other exports, a great deal of success was achieved by that industry. It may not have amounted to millions but it may have been £1,000,000. In any case it was a contribution, and every contribution lessens the deficit in overseas trade. Another small item was the sending of orchid blooms to America. Probably that trade amounted to only a few hundred thousand pounds, but it was a contribution.
We can think of other industries which could be quickly developed not only in an endeavour to bring money into Australia but also to save money going out. If we save money on the purchase of goods, in effect it means that we bring sterling and dollars into the country. My colleague from Queensland, Senator Kendall, at an earlier stage in this debate, mentioned the fishing industry. I believe a great opportunity is open to Australia if the fishing industry is handled in the right way. Investigation is required which is not within the scope of ordinary individuals, but the Government can help in the matter. The industry is a worthy one and could benefit Australia. We must get away from the idea that because some individual will gain profit by the establishment of an industry, we, as a government, should not help that industry. When all is said and done, we are all Australians and we are all in the common pool. If individuals can make money and bring money into Australia, they are helping not only themselves but also everybody else.
The fishing industry is not the only one that offers possibilities. Along the coast of Queensland and New South Wales, the prawning industry is developing. To-day, some of those prawns are being sent overseas and are bringing money into the country. Off the Queensland coast, near my own City of Mackay, investigations have been made, and extensive prawn areas have been found to exist. If the industry were fully developed hundreds of boats could be engaged along the Queensland and New South Wales coast, probably extending as far south as Victoria. It would not only provide employment for our people but would also bring profit to those who ventured into it; and it would bring money into Australia as well. That is something which I think should be given very keen consideration by the Australian Government. It should help people investigate the possibilities and devise ways and means of sending these goods overseas and so increase the credit of the country. There are also possibilities in the oyster industry. Many oyster-growing fields are found along OU coast. and in New South Wales the industry is quite extensive. I know -that along the Queensland coast, oysters exist by the million.
Those are small things, but there are larger avenues which I desire to mention in detail. The first is the tourist industry from an international point of view. The second is the development of the film production industry, not only the feature film but, in particular, the development of the television film industry. The third is the compulsory export of exportable goods which may be sold at some profit to Australia. The tourist, industry is one which I know something about because I have been associated with it for many years, lt is something in the nature of bread and butter, so far as I am concerned. In regard to bringing tourists to Australia, one parliamentarian said to me the other day, “ What have we got in this country to offer, for instance, to the American ? “ That is always the attitude adopted by people who do not want to make the effort. As Senator Critchley has remarked, Australia has many attractions to offer tourists from all over the world. I am not one to be beaten down by timid souls in this country who are afraid to seek an expansion of our tourist trade. Years ago, when I started this industry in my own City of Mackay and began to publicize the Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Islands and the Eungella Ranges behind Mackay, local doubting Thomases said. “ Tourists will never come here “. Each year now at least 500 tourists from the southern regions of the Commonwealth visit those very places and spend between £300,000 and £400,000 a year there. That industry was developed because some of us were not afraid to venture, and we had faith in the quality of our local scenery to attract tourists. That sort of thing could be repeated many times throughout Australia, and this nation has a grand opportunity to exploit the real gold-mine of international tourist trade. Unfortunately, at present, it is a dead loss to Australia because, whereas tourists from abroad spend £3,000,000 a year in Australia, Australians spend £23,000,000 a year touring overseas countries. The result is that Australia is losing £20,000,000 a year. Lf that loss could be transformed into ii profit, Australia would be benefiting by changing a £20,000,000 loss to a £40,000,000 credit in overseas trading. Honorable senators can well imagine how valuable that transformation would be to the Australian economy at present, ii nd it can be done.
I invite honorable senators, however, to look at the brighter side of the picture. The tourist industry can provide immense wealth if Australia will act with initiative and drive to attract tourists from abroad. Honorable senators may be amazed to learn that the international tourist trade is worth 2,400,000,000 dollars a year, of greater value than the world trade in wheat.
– To what country?
– That is the total income derived by the 41 member countries of the International Monetary Fund. That money is spent by tourists in the countries visited on accommodation, motor trips and souvenirs, but does not include their costs of transportation by ship or aircraft. That vast sum of 2’,400,000,000 dollars is distributed in the following proportions: - Western Europe receives 46 per cent., Mexico and Canada each 19 per cent., and the United States of America 23 per cent. The South Pacific section, which consists of four countries - the northern regions of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the Philippines combined only 1 per cent.
This should demonstrate what a small proportion of tourist traffic from abroad is coming to Australia, and also the need to stimulate this industry.
The development of air services throughout the world provides Australia with a greater opportunity than ever before to share in this trade. Previously, travel by ship made Australia seem a long distance from the more thickly populated countries. Air services have reduced travelling time, and in the minds of most people that means a reduction of distance. A period of weeks taken to reach Australia from the other side of the world has now been reduced to a few days.
– What about costs?
– I agree that transportation costs may be higher by air than by ship, but workers in receipt of salaries or wages are compensated by the greater time they are able to spend in an overseas country because of the more rapid means of transport to reach it. Many persons on holiday are not worried by the extra cost of transportation - certainly not the majority. Last year, when Coronia called at Japan for two or three days in the course of one of her cruises, 500 tourists from that vessel spent 300,000 dollars while they were ashore.
– But that was a millionaires’ cruise.
– That spending represented 600 dollars a head. Many tourists have money to spend on holidays, as is shown by the annual total expenditure of 2,400,000,000 dollars. Other countries remote from the thickly populated regions have a remarkably good income from the tourist trade, and there is no reason why Australia should not fare as well. International airlines are carrying more passengers than ever before - not only those travelling on business but also those on holiday. The tourist industry to Australia should be sold on what is called the “ package term basis Tourists from Great Britain or the United States of America should be offered a programme that includes visits to places of interest and beauty en route to Australia, thus varying the trip. Australia is in a most fortunate geographical position, because the tourist routes from the United States and Great Britain converge on our continent. World airlines are offering what they call a “ round the world air-ticket “, which provides concessions for tourists. Australia is a focal point of travel from both the United States and Great Britain, and it is also a junction for tourists on a roundtheworld ticket. Consequently, there is a twofold or threefold advantage. Tourists from the United States can go to Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia. A map showing air routes gives a clear indication of the opportunities for tourists to visit Australia, and the enormous possibilities of benefit to Australia from the air tourist trade. Senator Willesee is worried about the cost of air transport, but I assure him that last year, for the first time in the history of civil aviation, more passengers travelled across the Atlantic by air than by ship. They exceeded 1,000,000 persons, and the number is still growing. As tourists are there, so they can he induced to come here, provided we put the right drive and energy into placing Australia properly on the market in the world’s tourist countries. If we go for this trade there are right methods for us to adopt. I believe that if we press hard enough we can definitely increase our tourist trade considerably. What has been done in other countries, and the results that they have achieved, should open our eyes to the possibilities before us. In 1953, Western Europe increased its income from tourists to 330,000,000 dollars, an increase of 105,000,000 dollars in four years. Great Britain’s tourist trade is worth at least £100,000,000 a year. Tourists to Great Britain from the United States alone left more than 58,000,000 dollars in Great Britain last year, according to an American magazine of the 4th April. Great Britain is rapidly increasing its share of dollar earnings in the tourist trade because of the way it has tackled this matter. At the moment, Great Britain’s dollar earnings from its tourist trade are greater than the earnings from any other of its exportable commodities. However, in order to achieve those results, Great Britain spends 1,000,000 dollars a year in the United States to let the people of that country know what Great Britain has to sell to tourists.
Italy is a country that not many of us may think of in this connexion, but last year Italy earned £110,000,000 from its tourist trade. In order to show the importance attached to this subject in other countries, I point out that, the United Nations is going out of its way to assist countries which, like Australia, have adverse trade balances, to increase their international tourist trade, and so help to balance their budgets. Some countries have asked the United Nations for information, guidance and help in this field, and the United Nations has been most helpful to them, with the result thai those countries have benefited considerably from increased tourist traffic. A striking illustration is given by some South American countries. If the United Nations realizes the value of the tourist industry, surely we, as a member of the United Nations and a country which needs to obtain money from outside, should take cognizance of what has happened elsewhere, and go all out to increase our income from this source. The amount of dollar earnings from American tourists has enabled a number of countries outside the United States to buy 11 per cent, of the exports they have obtained from that country. In other words, the income received from American tourists paid for 11 per cent, of the goods imported by foreign countries from the United States. One of the countries which asked the United Nations organization for information and guidance in this field was Haiti. The result was that its income from tourist traffic in 1953 rose to 5,000,000 dollars, or one-sixth of Haiti’s total budget. The hotel accommodation at Haiti increased by 600 per cent in six years. Cuba is a country in some respects similar to Queensland, because its principal product is sugar. A few years ago its four major industries were sugar, tobacco, rum and tourists, in. that order. However, Cuba realized that sugar prices were falling, and so it set about to rectify the position by efforts to attract more tourists. The result was that Cuba’s tourist industry is now second only to its sugar industry. and even that state of affairs is not expected to continue for long. It is confidently believed that within a few years Cuba’s tourist trade will be its largest income producer. I regard the tourist trade as a gold mine into which Australia ought to dip, but in order to get the results we need we must proceed on sound lines.
– Poor hotel accommodation is a problem.
– I agree, and I shall deal with that subject later. Australia has many attractions for tourists. Some time ago I spoke with Mr. Charles Holmes on the Australian National Travel Association. He said that if he were asked what he regarded as Australia’s No. 1 tourist attraction, he would reply, “ Sunshine “. He said that many countries did not enjoy the sunshine that we do.
– Some countries get too much of the sun.
– Among our greatest attractions in the north of Australia are the Great Barrier Beef and our glorious tropical rain forests and jungle. Further south, we have our magnificent eucalyptus forests and our deep sea fishing grounds. Throughout Australia our unusual fauna is a great attraction, and, of course, we have some of the most lovely scenery in the world.
In my opinion, this is a matter for the Commonwealth Government rather than for the State governments, and in any attempt to attract tourists we should proceed on national lines. Whatever attractions the several States have to offer, publicity issued on behalf of a State does not have the same influence on people abroad as has publicity issued in the name of Australia. People abroad become interested when told that Australia, as a continent, has much to offer them, and so [ appeal to the Commonwealth Government, in its own interests, to get busy in this field. In my opinion, the first thing that should be done, is that the Commonwealth Government should make a thorough survey of potential tourist areas which would provide sufficient attraction to induce people from overseas to come here to see them. Having decided on the areas that might be termed “ international tourist areas”, the Commonwealth Government should then consider how best those areas can be developed to attract tourists. I believe that the incomeearning capacity of Australia would be increased if those areas were developed with the tourist aspect in mind. Having chosen the areas to be developed, the Australian Government should decide, through any instrumentality it chose, what hotel accommodation should be available. If the hotel accommodation already is not good enough, and if private enterprise has not sufficient capital to build hotels, the Government should reorientate its thinking and build first-class hotels. It should then let them to people of substance who know how to run an hotel.
– Why should not those interested build hotels themselves ?
– Some will ask why private enterprise should not build the hotels, but there are difficulties in the way of providing capital at times. I am thinking of the tourist industry as an earner of dollars and sterling. The tendency is to leave such matters to private industry. I remind honorable senators that other countries adopt a different attitude. Countries such as Peru, Spain, Italy, Colombia, Guatemala, Pakistan, Porto Pica and Hawaii follow the course that I am suggesting here. I do not suggest that the Government should run hotels, but that it should find the money to build them. It could then let them to people who know how to run them.
– That is not our policy.
– It is not Senator Scott’s policy to travel in government airlines, but he does so. Honorable senators know something of the great Hilton hotels and the Inter-Continental hotels, a subsidiary company of Pan-American Airways. They are beautiful hotels, but some of them do not belong to the persons who run them. Most of them have been built by governments, and the lessees are granted the leases because they know how to run hotels properly and profitably. If we close our eyes to the necessity to do something of this sort, the process of developing the tourist trade, in an international sense, will be lengthy. We have to think along different lines from those we have followed hitherto.
I do not accept the statement that the Australian Government does not build hotels or spend money in the tourist industry. Qantas Empire Airways Limited is a government instrumentality. It owns an hotel in Sydney, and has spent a large sum of money in modernizing it. Senator Kendall reminds me that the same instrumentality owns hotels in New Guinea, and that the Government owns hotels in Canberra. Having accepted the principle, the Government has no excuse for not developing the tourist trade along those lines.
Recently, I read a report in the press that the Government had been offered £5,000,000 for Trans-Australia Airlines. I am not discrediting Trans-Australia Airlines, because I believe that our internal airways are equal to the best in the world, but if the Government accepted £5,000,000 for Trans-Australia Airlines and put the money into hotels to develop the tourist trade, Australia would derive real . benefit from the expediture. An internal airline does not attract £1 to the country, but £5,000,000 invested in good hotels for international tourists would earn a substantial income . from outside Australia. As Senator Laught has said, our hotels are a handicap to the tourist trade. That is probably the crux of the problem. “We need good hotel accommodation for international tourists.
Current circumstances require us to explore every possible avenue to attract income to Australia from, outside. I believe that the Australian Government should provide a large sum of money each year to publicize Australia overseas. I had a striking illustration of the value of publicity when we decided to embark upon a campaign to advertise Mackay and district, in Queensland. We put our advertising in the hands of J. Walter Thompson Australia Proprietary Limited of Sydney, an American concern with an Australian branch. We expended £4,000 and received 8,000 inquiries by coupons. If we were to spend money overseas advertising Australia, the outlay would be repaid many times. The tourist trade cannot he developed unless we select appropriate areas, develop them and improve them, and provide proper hotel accommodation and publicity of sufficient quality and quantity in the right places.
International airlines and overseas ships are already serving Australia. Next, year, the Matson Line of steamers will introduce two more ships into the trade between Australia and the United States and they will each bring more than 300 tourists to Australia each month. The Government of the United States is subsidizing the construction of those ships to the extent of about 19,000,000 dollars. I am not sure of the exact figure. That Government has a business mind, and is prepared to act as we are not prepared to do. I have mentioned four factors in the tourist traffic. I believe that if we developed the trade along those lines, we could show a. credit of £20,000,000 a year from tourists instead of losing that amount.
The Government has a good opportunity to show what publicity can do in connexion with the Olympic Games to be held in Melbourne next year. The Melbourne City Council Olympic Game? Committee, composed of aldermen and businessmen, is doing its best to publicize the Olympic Games and Australia’s attractions overseas. A member of the committee is going overseas at his own expense to assist in that publicity. Such an enterprising committee deserves support from the Australian Government. If it would set aside a sum of money for publicity, it could prove just how many tourists could be attracted to Australia. The tourist industry is a gold mine which is waiting for us to open up. The United Nations recognizes the value of the industry to countries with adverse trade balances. The President of the United States has expressed the utmost interest in it and wants to see countries such as Australia induce Americans to visit them and spend dollars, so that those countries will have dollars with which to purchase American goods. The Government of the United States, in common with the governments of many other countries, has stepped out of its usual routine to help the tourist industry. Surely, the Australian Government could think of measures whereby more overseas credit might be brought to Australia and the development of the tourist industry accelerated.
The second point that I wish to make to-day concerns the development of the film industry, not only in respect of the production of feature films, but also the production of television films. The film industry is one that we could well establish here, in the knowledge that its products would not be priced out of the markets of the world because of the operation of high costs. This industry offers a wonderful opportunity for Australia to earn considerable credit balances overseas. As honorable senators may be aware, there is a great shortage of television film in the world. “With the establishment of television in Australia, that shortage could result in a serious drain on our overseas credit balances, because if we have no local films available, we shall have to buy them from other countries and so expend more sterling and more dollars. Therefore, we should be thinking now not only of how we can meet this problem when it arises, but also of how we can capitalize on it. An American film producer told me recently that television film is so short in America that television broadcasters are resurrecting all the old films that they can find. They are even showing old pictures like 7’he Silence of Dean Maitland, which honorable senators may remember.
The United States, particularly, offers us a wonderful market for television films, because there are more than 35,000,000 television sets in that country at the moment. I read an article recently which said that, within a certain period of years, there would be a couple of thousand television stations in America. Those stations will need films to use in their programmes. Ralph Henderson, of the New York World Telegram, has said that the tendency will be for the world to rely on films insead of live shows because live shows are more expensive. It is costly for them to travel from place to place, whereas a television film can bc’ made in one studio, with one cast, and dozens copies of it can be made and distributed. Countries such as the United States would afford us a market for our films. There would not be a sufficient number of television, viewers in this country to warrant the making of television films for Australia alone. Therefore, it would be necessary to produce films of world class. The American film producer to whom I referred earlier told me that such films, if produced in Australia, would earn only 5 per cent, of their total income in Australia, the other 95 per cent, being earned outside this country. What an opportunity that represents !
Because of the operation of several factors, we in Australia are able to make pictures more cheaply than is possible in most countries. One of those factors is the relatively low ratio of wages because of lower living costs. Another, and more important factor, is that there is not the terrific competition between studios outbidding each other for actors, actresses and technicians, which exists in other countries. The man of whom I spoke said that the correct thing to do in this country would he to have television studios concentrated in the one area, and so cut out competition for artists. That would avoid payment of the extraordinarily high salaries which overseas artists demand. The cost of film production could be kept down, and films could be exported at a profit to Australia. The low level of costs would mean that Australian films would not be priced out of overseas markets, which is a very strong feature in favour of the film industry. The shortage of television films will increase, undoubtedly, and there is a great opportunity for us to break into the industry.
Another very favorable aspect of the film industry is that there are no heavy transport costs involved in the despatch of films to overseas markets. The films are so small that they can be rolled up in a tube and sent by air, thus obviating delays and costly freight charges. With our low costs of production, we really have the ball at our feet.
As I said before, the development of this industry requires to be tackled on a suitable scale. I believe that a first-class American film producer should be brought to this country. The man to whom I referred, who was here a few months ago, spent 1,000,000 dollars of his own money to establish this industry.
He has since gone back to America. It is unfortunate that the financial people of Australia do not understand the film industry and the factors which have to be considered in developing it. One of the most important factors is that of finance. It may interest honorable senators to know that, when a producer makes a film, he does not get his money back straight away. The income from that film comes in in from seven to ten years. The film goes out on what is called a run, then it is again circulated, and so on. It can be appreciated that producers are required to provide a huge amount of finance if they are continually making films.
The Americans understand the film industry, and banks in that country lend as much as 50 per cent, of the cost of production. In consequence, the industry is of great value to the United States of America. The governments of other countries, too, realize its value. The West German Government, quick off the mark, already has set about helping the German film industry financially, and it is making headway. It will not be very long before we shall be seeing more and more German films. Honorable senators then may remember this talk and recall what I have said in the Senate to-day.
The Italian Government also has given assistance to the film industry, with the result that, in 1954, 140 full-length feature films were produced in Italy at a cost of 50,000,000 dollars. That indicates the value of the industry to Italy. Indeed, Italian film production for export is second only to that of the United States of America. Italy is even out-doing Great Britain, although that country is certainly not behind in developing the industry. When foreign producers go to Italy to make colour pictures they do not have to send their films to England to have them produced in colour, as producers in Australia have to do. The Italian Government has made it compulsory for foreign producers to process their films in colour in Italy. The result is that to-day that country is one of the foremost producers of colour films. All honorable senators know what a great film industry Italy has. That country is the second largest exporter of films in the world.
I now turn my attention to Great Britain. In that country there is an entertainment tax, and certain amounts of money raised by that tax are paid into a fund, which is known as the “ Edie fund. Great Britain is probably more conservative than Australia in adopting new ideas, but nevertheless this fund is in existence, and from it British films are subsidized, as are also some motion pictures which are made outside Great Britain but in which British actors are employed. A board was set up to make advances from this fund to film producers, in order to help them finance their productions, and also to provide a bonus for the producers. Several examples could be given of the ways in which governments of various countries have assisted their film industries, and in those countries to-day the film industry is on a firm footing. Those industries not only earn money in their own countries, hut also save the sending of dollars to the United States. The British film industry is an income earner in its own country, but over a period of five or six years I think it has also reduced Great Britain’s dollar spending by about 8,000,000 dollars a year. That saving is of considerable significance, having regard to Great Britain’s need for dollars.
In the United States, the banks have a different outlook from ours on films, and considerable assistance is given to the industry. I have already told honorable senators about the American producer who came to Australia recently. He has since returned to the United States, and I hope he will return to this country. His experience here leads me to the conclusion that not only the Government, but also the financial institutions of Australia, must adopt a different line of thinking regarding the establishment of industries such as the film industry. This Government must consider ways and means of establishing that industry in Australia, not only from the point of view of meeting Australian requirements, but in order to make the industry an income earner and a dollar saver. First, the Government should try to induce the right kind of people, with the necessary “ know-how “, to come here from overseas, particularly from the United States, in order to produce films in this country for Australian companies, backed by Australian finance. In that way the income earned will remain in Australia and will not be paid in dividends to people overseas. Secondly, the Government should provide finance, where required, to accredited film producers. It would not .be the first time chat such assistance has been given. On other occasions State governments have guaranteed money for the production ofilms in this country. Only last Sunday, when I was speaking to a State treasury official, he told me that his government had backed several films, and had lost money on only one of them. Thirdly, [ suggest that consideration should be given to subsidizing film production in Australia, so that the industry may be properly established. Fourthly, the Government should make it compulsory, as is done in Italy, for overseas film interests to plough back into the local film production a proportion of the Australian profits. Overseas film companies have interests in theatres in Australia, and when they take profits from those theatres I believe that they should be compelled to plough back a certain percentage into film production in this country. Fifthly, the Government should, as the Government does in Italy, require all colour films made here to be processed in this country. Such films should not be sent overseas for processing. That is all I wish to say about the film industry and its projected development in Australia.
I now intend to speak about the third suggestion that I would make to the Government, which has to do with compulsory exporting. Some industries in Australia manufacture goods which, I believe are not priced out of some overseas markets. If a survey were taken, [ believe it would be found that Australians could go a little short of some of those goods, so that more of them could be sold overseas in order to improve our overseas trade balance. I believe that such a policy is just as essential from a national point of view as it is in our own homes, where each of us must balance his budget. I have in mind the position in regard to Holden motor vehicles. It is well known that a number of those vehicles are being sold in New Zealand, where they are not priced out of the market. Some manufacturers in certain industries, either voluntarily or, if necessary and if the Government has the power to compel them by compulsion, should export a certain proportion of their products. It would not be the first time that that has been done. It was done in Britain. I think, and it has been done elsewhere. The prices being received for our primary products overseas are falling, and it is necessary for us to find other means of increasing our export income, so that the country’s economy will be made buoyant externally as internally. [Extension of time granted.] I know that this is a touchy subject. We Australians are rather independent, and we have a slightly selfish streak. We have been fortunate in many ways. Australia is one of the luckiest countries in the world, and Australians do not like to have to go short. But no one can convince me that the selling overseas of a few thousand additional motor cars would mean that Australians would go short of motor vehicles. Last Sunday I drove along Parramatta-road in Sydney. Most honorable senators who live in Sydney would agree with me that one can travel for miles along that road and see a succession of second-hand car dealers’ establishments, all of them packed with motor cars. They are not old-looking vehicles. Some of them have not even had their paint rubbed or scratched. Some of them are probably only a year or so old, but because of the internal buoyancy of our economy, people buy motor vehicles and replace them. a year later with new ones. Australia could well adopt a national outlook on this, matter, even if it does mean going short of a few new motor cars, so that our country’s overseas trade balance may be improved.
The motor industry is one example of an industry that produces goods which can be sold on an overseas market. As I have said, the adoption of my suggestion would not cause a shortage of motor cars for the people of Australia. One hears of many families which possess two, and sometimes three, cars. In a time of external economic stringency. surely the allocation of a small proportion of our manufactured products to overseas markets would not hurt this country very much. There may be other industries which would be suited to the adoption of my suggestion, although I cannot think of any at the moment, A survey should be made to discover the industries which could be dealt with in this way. Then the companies concerned could be approached, and they may agree to export some of their goods voluntarily. If they do not do so, more drastic steps would have to be taken.
Those are the three suggestions that 1 make to the Government for the solution of its economic problems. Let us chase business for this country. Let us get behind the tourist trade in a practical way. The late Mr. Ben Chifley, when he was Prime Minister, once spent a holiday in my area, and I had the privilege, as mayor of the City of Mackay, of looking after him for four days. Wo all recognized him as a man who had his ear to the ground. I said the same things to him then as I have been saying here to-day. Mr. Chifley said to me, “ Mr. Mayor, go for the tourist industry as much as you can, I do not know of a better dollar earner that this country could have “. At that time, as honorable senators opposite know, we were very short of dollars, and that was the advice given me by the then leader of the Labour party.
I believe that there are tremendous prospects for Australia in the production, of films. Just as our sugar industry is better than the sugar industry pf other countries, we could build up a film industry that cOuld earn a large amount of overseas money for Australia. The present is a time for true national thinking, and we must think nationally on these important matters. It will be a most serious thing for all honorable senators, and for everybody else in the country, if Australia becomes short of money from outside. If our overseas balances run down, we shall be financially hamstrung irrespective of our internal prosperity. Therefore, the Government, the Parliament, industry and the people generally, have to adopt a national outlook and he prepared to make sacrifices and spend money to pull this country through.
Great Britain, Cuba, Italy, Spain and many other countries are finding that their currencies have become appreciated by the influx of money through the tourist trade. That being so, surely we can encourage tourists and help our own financial position. I suggest that the Commonwealth should spend a considerable amount of money each year in developing our tourist trade. If we should do that, what seems now to be a difficult period could, within the short space of two or three years, be transformed into a prosperous period and our finances could be placed on a sounder basis than ever before. If we should do as I have suggested, we should not have to rely solely on outside income from our primary products, because money would flow in from other sources as well.
– I compliment Senator Wood for the way in which he has praised his home State of Queensland. However, it is extraordinary that a supporter of a government which believes in private enterprise should advocate that government-owned airways should be sold and hotels bought, and so on. It is also strange that he should advocate subsidies, and regulation? to tell private enterprise what it shall do with its products after it has manufactured them. It may be said that Senator Wood is in favour of subsidizing hotels, but is against subsidizing butter. However, I was pleased to hear that there is at least one honorable senator on the Government side who believes that the development of the film industry will help us out of the terrible financial predicament in which we now find ourselves.
The budgetary proposals could have been foreseen as inevitable by any intelligent person in this country. More money will be allocated under the budget, but will return us less than that allocated under any other budget, simply because such a state of affairs is inevitable in a condition of inflation. Indeed, the only thing in the budget that is worth talking about, is the proposed 10s. increase of certain pensions. I believe that nil fairminded honorable senators, will agree that I have been a Jeremiah in this matter ; in fact I have shown clearly that I have seen our trouble coming for a long time. Way back in 1950 the first steps should have been taken to prevent our present difficulties from arising, and the Government must take responsibility for not having taken the necessary’ remedial action. In 1949, it was obvious to anybody outside a lunatic asylum - and to many inside - that after a war, controls cannot be abandoned overnight.
The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) speaks beautifully and is wonderful to listen to. But he does not say very much. Some time ago he spoke for about an hour on the subject of sending troops to Malaya, but he devoted about 55 minutes of the time to communism and five minutes to troops. Ho displayed the same kind of evasiveness in dealing with our financial difficulties. Soon after he assumed office, the Government removed controls on capital investment, and thereby allowed people to invest in picture shows, grandiose blocks of flats, artificial jewellery businesses, and so on, Consequently, we have not sufficient capital for necessary development. I do not believe that we can get out of our difficulties by manipulation of credit. The advocates of the Douglas credit system seem to think that all our problems could be solved by issuing credit, national dividends, and so on, but I do not believe in that. The Labour party and I believe that credit should be used in the best interests of the people, but that the use of credit is not a cure-all.
In 1949, the general election campaign was fought on the issue of putting value back in the fi. After a couple of years prices had increased enormously, and the Government then developed the idea that the Labour party was controlled by the Communist party, and fought an election on that issue. Wow the Labour party has been accused of being run by vested interests. Needless to say the Government cannot have it both ways, the Labour party cannot be run by the Communist party and by the brewers, unless brewers are all Communists, and I have yet to meet a Communist brewer.. After that election, a certain gentleman stated that war was inevitable within two years. The Prime Minister had said that he thought war would break out in three years, but the other gentleman went further and said that war was inevitable within two years.
– “Who said that?
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) said that after he returned from England. However, inflation went on and on and the Labour party said, “ You must control prices, otherwise inflation will get worse and worse “. And this same gentleman, and every honorable senator opposite, said, “ We are against federal control of prices because the States can make a better job of it”. Honorable senators opposite should be ashamed of themselves. Do they still think the States can make a better job of it? Has anything more fantastic ever been said? I do not think that the Attorney-General ever believed that State control would make a better job of it; it was just a case of “ When father says turn, we all turn”. I do not think that any honorable senator opposite believed it. But what have they got to say about it now? What do they say about State control being better now? We are told now that we must spend less. Yet the Commonwealth Bank is one of the worst offenders in putting up grandiose buildings all over Australia, buildings with polished wood from many countries, and beautiful bronze plaques here, there and everywhere.
Our intellectual Prime Minister devised a new idea. He said, “ What we should do is peg wages “. Has anything more stupid ever been said ? He would not have said before a general election that he was going to peg wages and let prices go up as they liked. If the Labour party had got into office in 1949 and 1951 the trade unionists might have agreed to wages being pegged provided that prices were pegged first. The Australian trade unionist is a great Australian, and he knows that during an inflationary period he suffers the most. If there had been a statesman like the late Ben Chifley the pegging- would have started at the right, end; but things have been allowed to go on and on, and it is a question now of the last condition being worse than the first.
This is a Government of private enterprise, and so Mr. Menzies said, “ We will peg wages “. That was one of the greatest impetuses to the time-payment system and the financial racket that is taking place now. Time payment is only in existence because the worker does not get enough wages to enable him to save enough money at the one time to buy the commodities he wants. When wages were pegged he was in need of certain things and he had to go still deeper into time payment; and now the time-payment system is rivalling banking. The old time-payment system was not so bad because a person paid instalments at the rate of 5s. and eventually obtained ownership of the article he desired, but now the system has developed to colossal proportions.
– A money-lending business.
– Yes: and the banks must be in it up to the hilt. It needs only to buckle at one point, and the whole edifice will fall. Senator Wood referred to thousands of second-hand motor cars. Of course, he is going to overcome that difficulty by boosting the tourist traffic in north Queensland. He has told us that thousands will flow into the country as a result of that. However, the timepayment system needs only to buckle at one point because one of our daughters, or somebody else’s daughter, has not an instalment of 2s. available to pay on an ice chest and the business houses will begin to take these things back as they did in the 1930’s. My friend, Senator Kennelly remembers what happened then. Some persons were paying for ice chests and thought they were going to own them, but had them taken from them. The companies began to take them back in dozens. The same thing will happen again in regard to motor cars. There will he employment for some, but only temporary employment, engaged in putting the cars back into the yards; and there will be so many in the yards that it will not be profitable to produce any more.
What is the position to-day? Mr. Menzies himself went to the hankers to see what they thought about it; but we do not need to be told what they think about it. We remember Sir Robert Gibson and what he did to the Scullin Government because the Senate, which was then controlled by the present Government parties, held up everything. Sir Robert Gibson said to the Scullin Government, “You will get money only on condition that you reduce pensions, and reduce this and that “. It is quite obvious that costs have risen so high that we cannot compete on overseas markets. Senator Paltridge delivered a rather good speech the other night but he dealt with everything except the most important matter as to how we could get costs down and increase exports of manufactures to America. Surely, he knows that Japan is the baby of America. How can we compete with Japan and America? Then, Senator Wood spoke about competing with Western Germany. In Western Germany, the workers are paid no overtime at all.
– I did not talk about Western Germany at all.
– The honorable senator spoke about producing films cheaper than they are produced in that country. The system has broken down, and if Government supporters do not believe in controls there is nothing we can do. When we first pointed that out in 1945 honorable senators opposite said that the position was no worse than when Mr. Chifley was in office. Now, they are not in favour of any controls at all : everything is rushing on and nobody i« doing anything.
– They want to control wages.
– Somebody is needed to control the controllers. Not one senator on the Government side has put forward one idea in this debate. They are just as bankrupt in internal affairs as they are in foreign affairs. It is agreed that there is not going to be a war for quite a while. Yet, Sir Eric Harrison, as Minister for Defence Production, is going to spend £23,000,000 at St. Mary’s, and spend it on a cost-plus basis. The Government is saying that costs have got to come down. Yet it is going to spend £23,000,000 on a cost-plus basis. Cost plus denotes that the currency is not stable. I might be asked, “ How do you make that out” ? Well, my friend, Senator Ryan, might be prepared to put up a building for me at a cost of £100,000 to be completed in five years. If lie were sure that the currency was all right, that everything was stable and that the wageearners and the men, women and children in this country were doing all right and there was no fear of a panic he would be quite prepared to go ahead and do the job for £100,000. However, on the other hand, being a wise man, he would say, “ The way things are going, how will it be? “What is going to happen in five years ? “ Then he would say, “ No, I want cost plus “. Cost plus means priority in wages and competition by the Government that is talking about reducing costs. “ Do Government supporters agree with this terriffic expenditure at St. Mary’s at a time when there is no prospect of a war? Mr. Foster Dulles has been to Japan, that great democracy that once was and was lost, but is coming again. Probably there will be a democratic government. They have seen that they have to fight alone. Great Britain realizes that, due to President Truman, who curtailed General MacArthur, there will be no war. In spite of all these things the Australian Government proposes to spend £23,000,000 on cost-plus contracts. Competition in the labour market is keen and an entrepreneur might come to a man who is receiving £15 or £20 a week and say, “ I will give you £21 a week “. If he finds another who is earning £20 10s. a week he will offer him £21 10s. But that .is not all. The scarcity of materials is also a factor. Government projects enjoy a priority for material. If a contractor wants to build a worker’s home and tries to obtain timber, bricks, tiles or any other building commodity, the Government will tell him that all those materials are required for the St. Mary’s project which has priority. The result must inevitably create inflation. If it will not, why does not someone tell me where I am wrong ?
Important events have taken place in the Parliament within recent months. One of them was the trial, by members of the Parliament, of two citizens. I am glad of the opportunity to express my opinion of those proceedings, and I cannot help if my words hurt some people. I say that all the parliamentarians came out of this affair ignominiously. I heard a great deal about the rights of Parliament when the matter was being discussed. It ii time we heard about the rights of citizens. I myself have been the victim of a cowardly attack by at least one member of Parliament. His statement was not merely untrue; it was entirely opposite to the truth, and although I proved that fact to the hilt I could do nothing by way of redress. A member of Parliament has the same legal rights as any citizen and if he is foolish enough to go to law he may do so, but he has another right also - that of defending himself in the Parliament. If parliamentarians are protected in that way, members of the public should be able to enjoy protection also. I have never implied in any of my remarks in the Parliament that anybody was dishonest. To talk about a person’s intelligence or lack of ability is a different matter altogether. No parliamentarian has the right unjustly to malign an outside citizen, whether he be a brewer or a boy selling newspapers on the street corner. His only justification should be his ability to present a prima facie case.
I might be asked what I should have done about the trial of the two men to whom I have referred. We drifted into it without knowing where we were going. I admit that I did not know that a precedent existed for the action that was taken. If I had had the opportunity to protest against the proposed action, I should have said that I knew nothing about a precedent but that I believed in a trial according to law and in giving accused persons the right of legal defence. I wish to withdraw from the whole matter. I am not prepared to assist to make legislation dealing with an offence of this kind retrospective so that these men may be handed over to the judiciary. If the law is to be amended it should apply only to future cases. This Parliament has made a mistake, irrespective of what the English precedent might have been. We are Australians here but while we are subject to an English precedent we do not know what it means to be an Australian. A great deal has been said about Magna Charta and England. Magna Charta was never intended to give the workers liberty. It was a fight between the rising industrialists and the feudal lords over the right of a citizen to be tried by his peers.
– That is quite wrong.
– Because Senator McCallum says I am wrong I am satisfied that I am right. Recently, when I said that Lord Palmerston was Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time of the opium war, the honorable senator said I was wrong, but I subsequently found that I was right. I am sorry that he has been a professor of history and that he has been out of his post so long because professors of history as a rule do not know anything about history.
– The honorable senator does not know much about Magna Charta.
– After listening to Senator McCallum I am satisfied that he knows less about it than I do. A great deal has been said about Magna Charta and about a man being assumed to be innocent until he has been proved guilty. [, for one, dissociate myself from the whole proceedings that led to the imprisonment of these two citizens, and I repeat that the whole of the Parliament came out of it ignominiously. I hope that some machinery will be set up to deal with a similar situation if it should arise, and that provision will be made to prevent members of the Parliament from attacking people outside of Parliament who are unable to defend themselves, unless the member making the accusation is able to prove his case.
I refer now to the Royal Commission on Espionage.
– I rise to order. If the honorable senator proposes to discuss the Royal Commission on Espionage, I suggest that he is anticipating a debate which is listed on the notice-paper.
– On the point of order, Senator Grant has, so far, not intimated what he proposes to say in respect of the royal commission. Therefore the point of order is taken prematurely and Senator Grant is entitled to continue his remarks.
– On the point of order, the Senate is discussing the budget papers, which include the Estimates of expenditure of various departments. Speaking from memory, I recall that a substantial allocation of money was made for the purpose of the royal commission to which reference has been made. In those circumstances what the honorable senator may be disposed to say about the royal commission is completely relevant to the budget papers which are now the subject of debate. Apart from that, 1 contend that the debate on the Estimates and budget papers, by tradition, allows the widest possible scope. Senator Benn has pertinently pointed out that Senator Grant has not yet intimated the nature of his comments, and I agree that the objection of Senator Spicer has been taken prematurely.
– On the point of order, I raised my objection for the purpose of maintaining orderly debate with regard to this matter. To-day, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) moved that the report of the Royal Commission on Espionage be printed, and that motion has been set down as an order of the day for the next day of sitting. That subject could be much more appropriately debated when that motion is moved than at this stage. I have no doubt that many honorable senators wish to reserve their comments on that subject until the debate on the motion takes place.
– I support the view expressed by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). Standing order 419 states clearly -
No Senator shall anticipate the discussion of any subject which appears on the Notice Paper:
Discussion of the report of the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia has been made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. That being so, regardless of what Senator Grant may wish to say about the royal commission, it is irrefutable that if he says anything at all he will be anticipating discussion of a subject which appears on the noticepaper, and, therefore, will be contravening the standing order. In reply to the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), I draw attention to the proviso contained in Standing Order 419, which reads -
Provided that this Standing Order shall not prevent discussion on the AddressinReply
That proviso relates only to a discussion on the Address-in-Reply.
– I support the view expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). In the papers that have been submitted to the Senate with the budget there is reference to an amount of £140,385 for this financial year in connexion with the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia. That being so, the Senate at least has the right to discuss the expenditure of any item contained in the papers, and, therefore, it seems to me that a decision upholding the objection of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) would deprive honorable senators of the opportunity to carry out their duties here. The position might be different if we could be certain that we would get an opportunity to discuss the report, but there is no guarantee that that opportunity will be provided. For that reason, I hope that Senator Grant will be permitted to discuss any item of expenditure included in the papers that have been placed before us.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - There seems to be a good deal of anticipation as to what other honorable senators are likely to do. If Senator Grant proposes to discuss only the expenditure associated with the royal commission, he will be entitled to do so; but he must confine his remarks to the costs involved. He would not be in order in discussing the findings of the royal commission, because the report of that body has been made an order of the day for the next day of sitting, and will appear on the notice-paper. I rule that Senator Grant will be in order so long as he confines his remarks to the costs incurred in connexion with the royal commission.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. President, as I should have done in any case, whether I agreed with it or not. I wish to discuss matters relating to our so-called secret service, which is not a secret service at all, but is a laughing-stock throughout the world. Everybody knows that it is so.
Sitting suspended from 5.48 to 8 p.m.
– I abide by your ruling, Mr. President, to the effect that I cannot refer to the findings of the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia, but I wish to refer briefly to the security service, for which the proposed vote is £413,000. I have been very perturbed about this matter. Recently I was abroad, and I found that our security service was ridiculed in many parts of the world. Newspapers in various parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations published photographs of leading men in the security service. There was no secrecy about them. I know that, generally speaking, a certain amount of secrecy is observed in connexion with the work of the security service, but 1 fear that it will be impossible to get recruits for the service because there is no security for those who work in it. A Polish gentleman, Dr. Bialoguski, claimed that he had played a leading part in the work of the security service, and that it was actually his brain that the service was using. I believe that the head of the security service must maintain secrecy at all costs. Without that everything goes. It is not much to expect of a security service. One might say that it is a sine qua non in the work of such a service.
It is possible for me to go to any police station and make a statement, and to indicate, at the same time, that I do not want the matter given publicity. I can say - as many do say in such cases - that publicity would not be in the public interest, or that the person concerned might get some of his thugs to attack me. When a case comes before the police court, it is not uncommon for a police witness to testify that, acting upon “ information received “, he made certain investigations or discoveries. If a barrister representing the accused informs the court that he wants to know where the information came from, it is usual for the magistrate, particularly if any security risk is involved, to refuse the barrister permission to press such a question. In the case of the security service, a national affair, its leaders have made all sorts of statements about Tom, Dick and Harry from one end of the world to the other.
The Australian security service is looked upon as a burlesque. Is it the intention of the Government to overhaul it from beginning to end? I believe that, even now, certain matters that have been investigated by the security service have been commercialized in a way that would make Hollywood blush. It is beneath the dignity of Australia and of the security service itself that this should be so. The Polish gentleman to whom I have referred was featured in the press. His wife was writing articles, and he went to Hong Kong and back. I wonder whether the personnel is fit for the job. Apparently, the officers have not the necessary training for it. One of the prominent officers had been a detective in New South Wales, but had none of the security training that he should have had. I do not know where they mould be sent for training. That is for the Government or the head of the service to determine, but proper training is necessary, particularly for men who have to deal with Communists. I have no particular love for the Communists, as honorable senators know. When men are engaged in counter-espionage, it is essential that they should have the best training. The head of the security service should be able to say to new recruits, “ You are now joining the security service. Report to me, and I will look after you “. That would engender confidence, but under the present system confidence is lacking. If boys were wanted for the security service, their fathers would want to know first whether it was actually a secret service. I do not believe that the proposed expenditure is warranted, or that value was received for past expenditure.
Perhaps I did not make myself plain when I spoke earlier of trial by politicians, and said that members of parliament should not attack the honesty of individuals without submitting a prima facie case. I did not mean to suggest that no member of Parliament should rise and expose dishonesty if he discovered it. If that were the situation, it would be impossible to carry on parliamentary government at all, but in such cases, a member of Parliament should produce some document or evidence to support his case. I object to a happening such as that which occurred in another place a week ago, when an honorable member attacked individuals, some of them very prominent men in the community, and when questioned admitted that he had no proof. No man is fit to be a member of Parliament unless he has a sense of responsibility. Members of Parliament should know that it is a heinous crime to attack a person who is not in a position to defend himself. I have not much more to say.
– Keep going.
– I think I shall be like the cook. She was a good cook as cooks go, and as cooks go, she went. I cannot refrain, however, from making some reference to the proposed financial restrictions, which will be very severe on the small man. I was discussing this matter with some honorable senators on the Government side, and one of them said that the effect would not be so bad on a man who was starting a new enterprise, but if a man was in a small way and found that he could not get material or an overdraft, he would be ruined. The restrictions will precipitate monopoly capitalism. The big fellows will have security, but the small men will not have the backing.
The policy of the Australian Labour party is best. We believe that credit should not be restricted. We do not mean that credit should be given, at a time like this, for the construction of mansions or to make artificial jewellery, and so on ; but we think that credit should be diverted into channels that will make the provision of houses easier and help young fellows who want a loan to get married. I am sure that the new policy of the Government will make things worse. This week, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) virtually said that he was meeting representatives of the banks and would do as they suggested. That is an extraordinary situation, and I am perturbed about it. We used to have severe droughts in this country, but for some extraordinary reason, whether because of the explosion of atomic bombs, prayer or good government I do not know, we have had the most marvellous seasons imaginable. I am reminded of the Presbyterian parson who prayed for rain. The first time he did so, there was no rain, so he prayed a second time.
Then there was a deluge. On the third Sunday it was worse. He entered the pulpit and said, “ Lord, we prayed for rain, but this is ridiculous “. We want only one bad season to upset the applecart. It is the duty of a wise government to put a little aside for a rainy day. Instead of having large credit balances in London, as we had when Mr. Chifley was Prime Minister, we have nothing there now. Does anybody really believe that import restrictions will meet the position? Of course, they will not do so. It is a case of “ on again, off again, Flanagan “. When they were imposed a few years ago, many people who had placed orders for goods overseas were told overnight that they could not bring any more goods in. The Government went from one extreme to the other. It is like the blind leading the blind.
I hope that some supporters of the Government will see that we are in a rather precarious economic position and will say, “ This is what we suggest should be done “. So far, nothing has been done. I am satisfied that the Government will have to introduce controls. Of course, the trouble is that the Government has already imposed some controls, but they have been put on at the wrong time and in the wrong places. Everything under capitalism is controlled, if it comes to that. That was particularly so during the depression, about which my friend, Senator Kennelly, spoke. At that time, the people were controlled by lack of money. The workers of those days could buy anything they liked, including mink stoles, and take their wives to the theatre, provided they could do so on 5s. lOd. per week, which was the value of the dole.
My friend, Senator Cameron, whom t designate as an economic Calvinist who believes in economic predestination, says that unless we accept the philosophy of Marx in its entirety, we are in for economic hell. As I see capitalism now, I think that the economic position necessarily must get worse and worse. Financial crises will become more frequent and more profound, and the poor will become poorer and the rich richer. Lord Keynes has given us some good advice, which I am afraid we shall have to take.
President Roosevelt took it during the time of the great depression. As honorable senators know, Lord Keynes wrote quite a lot of books, including The Economic Consequences of the Peace, and he pointed out that the depression economics of Marx could be adopted only by governments reducing credit when things were bad and tightening up when things were too good. That is not being done now.
The difficulties of the economic position here are fairly similar to those in the Old Country, although we have not the power over banking institutions that Mr. Butler has. Nevertheless, in the United Kingdom they are talking the same stuff abou stopping spending. Every time I pick up the Sunday newspapers I see thai some woman or other has just returned from her thirteenth tour of the world,, and things like that. Recently, I noticed in the English newspapers, when the United Kingdom Government was talking about cutting down on spending, that a lady known as the Duchess of Windsor had spent £6,000 sterling on hair-do’s and facials alone.
I think that, at this time, taxation should be increased in some directions. Something has to be done. It is certain that the drift cannot be allowed to continue. The monopolies should be taxed more. They are making a lot of money., and if the Government is wise, it will see that that is done. I do not think there will be a repetition of the depression of the ‘thirties, but I think there will be a repetition of 1951 conditions unless something drastic is done. Everything has changed since then, of course. In dialectics, the more things change the more they are alike. Controls of some sort will have to be applied, but, of course, this Government has abandoned the Labour controls. Without controls there is absolutely no hope at all of economic stability. I am inclined to think that the Government will have to re-impose capital issues control. After all, why should people now be permitted to build what they like and to open up all kinds of industries, even if they have the money to do so? Even supposing they can get the necessary credit, why should they be allowed to withdraw it from the market at a time like this? Our policy now should be to see that as much credit as possible is given for the production of things that are necessary, to try to uplift the lower sections of the people, and, if taxation is necessary, to apply very severe taxation to the people who car. afford to pay it. Unless that is done, we shall have a repetition of the conditions that existed in 1930. Having said that, I think I have said, not all I could say, but all that [ think honorable senators opposite can absorb mentally.
– First, I congratulate Senator Wood on the speech he made this afternoon. The honorable senator touched on a very important matter when he referred to the tourist industry, but I warn him that, from my personal experience of many hotels, particularly in Western Australia, something will have to be done about our hotels if we want to attract tourists and induce them to come back again. However, T think his idea is very good indeed. I hope that attention will be given to it and that greater efforts will be made to bring people to this country. It is only by accommodating them properly and allowing them to see the country that we can expect to induce more tourists to come here, and also to attract capital.
– I suggested that better hotel accommodation should be provided.
– Yes. There was one part of the honorable senator’s speech on- which I disagreed with him seriously, and. I shall deal with, that later in my remarks.
I congratulate the Government on the budget that has been presented. Of course, it is very tempting for a government to bring down a popular budget, and although, that may be fairly easy to do, difficulties are likely to arise later on. This Government has. not done that. During its term, of office, it has shown that it has the courage to do the unpopular thing when it is convinced that, by doing so, it is acting in the best interest of the nation. That is what it has done on this occasion. I have asked several people, at different times, for their opinions of the budget, and on this occasion I have noticed a marked inability to criticize the budget. Indeed., all of those to whom I have spoken havesaid, “Well, we think it is the only thing the Government could have done “. It is rather a novel experience to hear such commendation of the action that the Government has taken.
Of course, it is easy for us to point to certain things that might have been done, as Senator Laught did the othernight. I quite agree with the suggestions made by the honorable senator, but I point out that, once we start to give concessions, it is very hard to know where to stop. Probably that factor influenced the Government on this occasion. I hope that the measures which the Government will adopt to restore the economic stability and prosperity of the country will be such, that it will not be long before it will be possible to give effect to the suggestions made by Senator Laught, and also to a suggestion that I put to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) some time ago, and in which I am particularly interested. That is the injustice, in my opinion,, of taxing theowner of stock who has to dispose of stock because of drought or fire. If he disposes of stock at a financial loss to himself, that is not a sale of such stock in the ordinarily accepted meaning of the word “ sale “. Rather, it is atemporary dispersal of his capital, which has to be replaced at the earliest possiblemoment, at a financial loss to himself. I fail to see how anybody could describe that as a revenue-receiving transaction on his part. I hope that that matter will be included, if it is possible toremove anomalies or make concessions in a few years’ time. I also hope that it will be possible to give taxation relief generally. If you want production, no matter in what sphere of activity, manufacturing, primary producing or anything else, you must provide the incentive. It is not much of an incentive toremove a large portion- of a man’s earnings in order to give the money away somewhere else or - I am afraid that I must say it - to waste it in government spending.
The first matter to which I want todirect attention - and it is a matter that I cannot possibly overlook - is what I call the shocking report that has been presented to Parliament by the AuditorGeneral. The Auditor-General has directed attention to the misuse of public funds. It appears that some departments - and when I say “ departments “ I mean the heads of departments - have not the slightest regard for the safeguarding or proper use of public moneys. If honorable senators care to read the reports of the Public Accounts Committee they will find that in almost every department there have been instances of lack of care in the safeguarding of stores.
I said that it was the last report of the Auditor-General, and, unfortunately, that is true in more respects than one, because I understand that it is the last report that the present Auditor-General will present to Parliament. He presented this report on the eve of his retirement, and I wish to say that in the short time I.’ have been here I have been impressed by the active, strenuous and fearless way in which he has carried out his work. I sincerely hope that he will have a long life and good health so that he may enjoy to the full the retirement that he has justly earned.
Returning to the Auditor-General’s report, I am sure that if honorable senators will read his remarks concerning the various departments they must be impressed by the way in which almost every department i3 severely criticized for what I can only call maladministration. In regard to the Department of External Affairs, the Auditor-General directed attention to the failure to obtain proper receipts for expenditure, and to the delay in the recovery of overpaid salaries. Ho directed attention, in his remarks concerning the Department of Works, to over-expenditure on day-labour projects in Papua and New Guinea, to the most unsatisfactory position regarding departmental control of projects constructed under contract by various firms in Papua and New Guinea, to the lack of adequate design and forward planning, overexpenditure of funds, insufficient supervision of work in progress, and to unsatisfactory stores features in connexion with the Woomera project. As to the Department of Civil Aviation, the Auditor-General said, that prior arrangements for stores accounting were inadequate in regard to the Cocos Island project, that unused materials were dumped in the station store at Cocos Island, no attempt being made to credit the respective works authorities, and that stores were issued’ without the necessary vouchers. He also said that stores and material were dumped on Cocos Island and lost through exposure and other causes. That is exactly what happened at Bell Bay. No prior arrangements were made for the receipt of stores ; they were just dumped there, and it was an almost impossible task for the people concerned to sort them out and establish a proper stores system.
In regard to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the AuditorGeneral directed attention to a deficiency of £116,629, caused by incorrect calculations and subsequent overpayments in 1949 and 1950. He also directed attention to equipment discrepancies in the Department of Territories, covering the period from the opening of new records in 1949 until 1954. He said that the administrator attributed these discrepancies to lack of effective control, to receipt of goods not properly recorded, to failure of branches to keep adequate records, and to the disposal and destruction of obsolete and unserviceable articles without proper authority. In regard to the electricity undertakings of that department, he mentioned that stocks on hand had not been taken into account. He directed attention to numerous instances of unsatisfactory stores accounting, and to the serious lack of adequate accounting. As he said, the need for proper control over public funds cannot be too strongly emphasized.
Much the same can be said in regard to the various other departments, such as the Departments of the Army, Air. Supply and Defence Production. The general excuse for unsatisfactory stores positions in departments is that they cannot get trained personnel. But these departments have not grown up overnight. Federation is over 50 years old. The present Government is not responsible for the position, but it will have to accept the responsibility of correcting this state of affairs, and it should not be very difficult to do so. It is said that the necessary personnel cannot be obtained. I admit that you cannot pick up off the street men who are accustomed to handling stores, hut I contend that the Government has a duty to establish a kind of school where men can be taught the job of receiving and storing things, and of introducing a system for the safeguarding of stores. Those men can be sent in advance to Cocos Island, or to Bell Bay, or wherever a particular joh is to be carried out. They can receive the stores in the correct fashion, and then they can instruct the men who come to take permanent control. After that they can be sent to do the same work at some other project. When departments are dealing with hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of material, surely there is an obligation to see r.hat stores are properly safeguarded, and r-hat public money is properly spent.
I might have mentioned another matter, but it is sui judice at present, so we must leave that for the time being. It is a very serious matter, however, and attention will have to be directed to it.
I now wish to say a few words about another matter which has been debated at length, and which I think is our outstanding problem at present. I refer to our external trade. We are passing through a rather difficult period. For some years now, we have been accustomed to government-to-government trading, but we are gradually passing into a situation “here the trading is from private seller to private buyer, and the conditions now are somewhat different. In these new conditions, price has a much stronger influence than it had when we were trading from government-to-government, and if we are to sell our products, particularly overseas, we shall have to see that our prices compare with those of our competitors. If we do not, we shall not he able to sell our goods.
Take the case of the various primary products that we have to sell. Wheat has been mentioned in this debate, and that is a commodity which is in rather a precarious position. We have a bill on the notice-paper, however, dealing with wheat, so I shall reserve my remarks on that subject until the Senate is debating that bill. In regard to wool, we have heard complaints about the fact that wool prices are down. Well, they are down ; they always are. As a wool-grower in
Western Australia, I would never dream of putting my wool into the first or the second sale. At the first sale the price is usually lower than the price at the last sale of the previous year, but at the second sale the price is lower than at the first. The wool-grower is therefore well advised to sell his wool at the third sale, and I think that when that sale does take place we shall have a better appreciation of what wool values will be in this season.
– The honorable senator is a deep thinker.
– 2Tb, that comes from practical experience. I should like to remind the Senate of something that I told it last year. In a lecture which he delivered in Melbourne last year, the late Sir Olive Steel said that it was quite possible, by the use of trace elements, to produce in Western Australia another 1,000,000 bales of wool. I quite agree with him. I usually travel by train, because it gives me an opportunity to see the conditions in various parts of the country, and I have noticed that in paddock after paddock there has not been the slightest attempt to promote pasture growth. All those paddocks could carry more stock. Although our wool prices have decreased, there is an opportunity to increase the carrying capacity of our country. We can increase our sheep flock and improve our wool, and thus more than compensate for any reduction of the price of wool.
There are other kinds of primary production to which the same remarks can be applied. Dried fruits are unfortunately affected by adverse seasons, but the dairying industry is in anything but a satisfactory position. I think that dairymen would be well advised to conduct a campaign in order to induce people to eat more butter. Of course, the local market, is the best market from their point of view, because they lose from lOd. to ls. per lb. on the butter that they sell overseas. If they could induce hotels, cafes and the like to put some butter on their tables, local consumption would increase greatly. I say that because I have found that it is almost impossible to get butter when eating in some of the places that I have mentioned.
For some time, I have been actively engaged in trying to save a number of small pig-raisers in the metropolitan area in Perth from going off their farms. They are not able to carry on because they cannot afford to buy wheat at 14s. 6d. a bushel, which is the minimum price. There is a certain amount of damaged wheat available at times, but that is not distributed in small lots such as these people can afford to purchase. It is sold in 20 or 26 ton lots. A most unfortunate case among these pig-raisers was brought to my notice. It concerned a man about 30 years of age, who, with his wife, had gone in for pig-raising. He had bought a piece of land, and purchased some old bouses, and used the timber from those to build piggeries. However, because he could not get his wheat in 1^-ton lots he had to sell the whole of his establishment, lose about £3,000 and get a job in the town. There are many like that man, and they are the farmers who are responsible for keeping up the quality of our pigs. They have to produce good pigs in order to get the proper market prices for them, and so carry on their activities. Of course, many other farmers buy pigs as a sideline at times that suit them, fatten them up and sell them. They are not concerned about the quality of the pigs and are content with small profits. Ft. is the small pig-raiser who keeps up the quality.
I suggest that we should conduct a proper examination to ascertain the cause of our failure to sell our primary products, lt was with that in mind that, a few days ago, I directed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to ascertain whether he could produce statistics to show honorable senators the results of the recent trade mission that was sent to South-East Asia. I am all in favour of trade missions, but it is of no use to send such missions abroad unless we can ascertain from them, upon their return, the amount of increased business that we can expect through their activities. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us the information that I asked for.
A few days ago, I noticed a report in the press of a statement attributed to a Mr. F. W. Jacobs, the leader of a party of 31 Australian farmers and graziers who are touring England and the Continent. It was reported that Mr. Jacobs had said that, when the party returned, they would report on a number of matters that concerned Australia, especially the way Australian meat was being advertised in Great Britain. He said that members of the party thought that the advertisements were bad and misleading. I suggest that that is an extraordinary statement for a responsible leader of a responsible party, because members of the Australian Meat Board have been very active in England, and surely the board should have introduced up-to-date methods of meat marketing.
We have high commissioners and agents-general abroad, and they could bring to our notice any deficiencies in the advertisements of our products. Mr. Jacobs also said that faster ships were required on the run between Britain and Australia. A year or two ago, I mentioned here the case of a refrigerated ship that was loading frozen lamb and cheese in Fremantle. It took eight days to load 500 tons of cargo, at a cost of more than £3,000. Quite recently, a meal ship was held up in Fremantle for a day and a half because the tally clerks on the waterfront went on strike over a new. streamlined tally system. They were afraid that one or two of their number might lose their jobs.
– One or two?
– I hope it would bn more than that, because costs ar< seriously affecting our shipping.
– The strike was against a complete violation of the conciliation and arbitration system.
– We have heard all that before. The honorable senator who interjected takes about as little notice of conciliation and arbitration as it is possible to do. Another incident was told to me by a personal friend who has jus returned from. England. During the trip, he sat at the captain’s table for meals, and the guests took it in turns to provide wines for dinner. He asked what his fellow guests though of Australian wines, and they said that they did not know that there were Australian wines. When his turn came to buy the wine, he instructed the steward to put Australian wines on the table. After dinner he asked the guests how they had enjoyed the wines, and they said that they were excellent. When he told them that they were Australian wines they were quite astonished. When I was overseas during World War T., I stayed with some people for Christmas. I noticed that the wine they were having was Australian Burgundy, a,nd commented on that fact. They said that they did not know it was Australian wine, but that it was the best they could get in the town. I put those matters before the Senate to indicate that we must pay much more attention in the future to advertising our products.
Now I wish to deal with production in this country. We are turning from a primary producing nation into a manufacturing nation, and I do not require statistics to prove that, because we have only to consider how the population of the capital cities is increasing, at the expense of provincial towns and cities. I believe that the reason for that, in Western Australia at any rate, is the lack of amenities in country centres. Water supplies, swimming baths in hot districts and so on, are all lacking. When he compares life in a country town to life in the city a young person naturally wants to live a city life, and he goes to the city to the detriment of the country town. But the country itself is far worse off than the country towns, because there are even fewer amenities there.
T suggest that telephones are the most important of all amenities for country people. At present, there are applications under my notice from twelve different districts in Western Australia where people are 10 to 20 miles from the nearest telephone, and have been told that they will not be able to get telephones connected for two or three years. When they ask why that is so, the usual reply is that there is a shortage of materials or labour. We cannot expect to carry on with the same quantity of materials and the same number of people in the work force while immigrants are constantly increasing the population. We in Western Australia have done so more than any other State. If we are going to cater for these people we must give them the facilities they are entitled to, and the telephone is themost urgent requirement in country districts. A farmer who lives in a hilly district wrote to me and told me that his life is just one continual worry throughout the summer on account of thepossibility of fires. He may see smoke over the hill, but when he gets into his utility and drives up to the hill he finds that it is over the next hill. By the time he finds out where it is, he has lost a lot of time. The telephone is absolutely essential and people will not stay in these areas unless they are able to get it. One soldier settlement is about 25 miles from the telephone. I have made the suggestion to the Department of the Interior and the Postmaster-General that the telephone should be extended to thedepot at that settlement to meet emergencies in cases of sickness or to save a man making two or three trips into a centre to obtain spare parts. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get anything done in that regard. If we do not provide these facilities for these people they will simply walk off their farms.
I disagree with Senator Wood in regard to television. If anything can happen to put television back 50 or 100 years I would be very pleased, because I am more concerned about primary production than about bringing in television in the cities. City people have any amount of amenities to make life enjoyable, but to country people the telephone and wireless would be far more useful than television. I am positively opposed to television.
– My suggestion was to use it in connexion with the overseas market.
– I know it is going to cost the Government only about £370,000 in the first year, but I should like to see that money spent on telephone services rather than on television. I am also concerned with the north-western - region of Australia. It is absolutely impossible for people living in that area to tune into Perth on their wireless. It is useless to expect people to live in places where they cannot even hear the news. I was pleased to know that the Western Australian Parliament sent a delegation to the Prime Minister to ask for financial assistance in order to develop the north-west, and I sincerely hope that it will be given a favorable reply. That area of Australia is rich in minerals and is capable of producing a much larger quantity of wool than it is producing now.
– It produces good people too.
– It produces excellent people; but when these folk want to send their children to school it costs them nearly £200 to have them schooled at Perth. I hope that something will be done to provide better conditions for them.
I turn to another matter that has simply astounded me. Sometimes I wonder if we are going mad. We have witnessed the height of lunacy in the recent Redex trial in which competing motorists tore round the country and caused serious damage to roads. If people living in those areas did a percentage of the damage to the roads that was done by those cars, they would be fined, and quite right, too. These motorists are allowed to tear over the roads and ruin many of them. In the process they smashed up 110 cars. It is about time we did something about that matter.
– Senator Kendall started it.
– He started in it, but he did not start the whole thing. I understand a bill is to be introduced in connexion with transport business. I have a picture here which shows reliability trial cars being hauled out by tractors on the Eyre Highway. The next thing we will hear is that money is required to repair that highway. Drivers of those cars were allowed to tear it to pieces. Next the Government will be asked to pay for the repairs. If we want to be able to sell our produce overseas it is necessary to give the people who are producing it the amenities they are entitled to.
I pass now to the matter of import restrictions which Senator Grant touched on. I desire to deal with it in much more detail than he did. I am disappointed that I have not been able to obtain as much information about it as I would wish. I think that a very great injustice has been done to certain people in this country. Honorable senators will remember that last year conditions were such overseas that we had to impose import restrictions. I do not think that anybody disagreed that the restrictions were necessary. I agree that they are necessary now, but I think they should be composed in a more business-like and satisfactory way than has been the case. There are two or three categories, but the main ones with which I am concerned are categories A and B. Last year, when the restrictions were imposed I think that goods in category A suffered a cut of about 25 per cent, and those in category B a cut of 40 per cent. Category A consists of more essential items whereas category B consists of less essential items. I think that when the cuts were imposed, an average of business done over previous years was struck to determine a base year and the restrictions were imposed on that basis.
– The year immediately preceding was used as the base.
– Some people had only lately entered the business of manufacturing and importing and on that basis they would not have been able to obtain a quota. However, they were granted a hardship quota. At the end of six months, some of the restrictions were lifted; but they were only partly lifted. Goods in category A reverted to 100 per cent, of the base year but those in category B remained at 60 per cent, of the base year. This year, restrictions have again been imposed on goods in category A to the extent of 15 per cent, and on goods in category B to the extent of 30 per cent. As the previous restriction of 40- per cent, on category B goods was not lifted, that means that goods in category B have been cut by 70 per cent.
– They have been cut by 40 per cent.
– Even a cut of 40> per cent, is severe, and it should be altered. I do not know who was responsible for determining these cuts, but I suggest to the Minister that he should convene a conference of importers and tell them that restrictions are necessary and ask them what kind of formula they would suggest.
– There has been an advisory committee for four years representing trade unions, the chambers of commerce and the chambers of manufactures.
– What do the trade unions know about this phase of business ?
– They are consumers. The chambers of commerce and chambers of manufactures are also represented.
– That is the position in respect of the categories. One case cropped up the other day which shows just how much is known about this business. Importers, of course, have operated overseas for some years and when anybody wants anything he goes along to them, obtains a sample and then orders certain quantities of the article he requires. If, say, fourteen bundles of a certain article are required, the importer tries to get the best price that he can by quoting for a minimum quantity in excess of that order. He has to get in touch with other people to see whether he can obtain sufficient orders .to make up that quantity and having obtained the orders he makes an application for a licence. Having obtained the licence, he obtains a letter of credit from his bank, sends his order in and pays for it when it arrives and then distributes the goods to various people. A regulation has now been issued to end that practice. The result is that the person who is importing the goods has to go to the bank ind obtain a letter of credit. That means that he has to pay for the goods before they come, instead of 60 days afterwards, which deprives him of the opportunity to sell some of them before he has to meet his obligation. If he has not done any importing previously, he cannot send for, «ay, five or six rolls of material. He may have no shipping representatives, and he is placed in a difficult position. This sort nf regulation will put the importer out nf business.
– Is the honorable senator referring to question 6 on the form?
– Yes, the one requiring the importer to give the name of his bank.
– That prevent? trafficking in licences.
– I know of importers who have complained to the authorities that this regulation will pui them out of business, and in reply th,officials have said, “ You had better get a job “. That was nice treatment to receive from a Government department I In this evening’s edition of the Melbourne Herald, a forecast is made that there will be further cuts for the unfortunate category B. If that is so, that category will go out of existence altogether, and the people concerned will be thrown on the scrap heap. Importers who have gone into business in recent years will have to close down and dismiss their staffs. 1 hope that the Minister will do something to have an alteration made in this regulation so that the people concerned may receive fair treatment.
I do not know what goods are in tinvarious categories. I do not know whether motor car parts are in category A, and I am not aware whether motor cars are in that section. A great many cars have been smashed in the Redex trial, and every day cars and trucks are involved in accidents and smashed. It is abou: time that a halt was called to the importation of cars. I think one honorable senator said to-night that our cities and towns were littered with cars. Car saleyards, service stations and garages are full of second-hand cars for sale. I do not know what amount of money is tied up in ‘them, but in my opinion there artfar more cars for sale than people to buy them, and some notice should be taken of that fact.
On previous occasions, I have referred to the need for a revision of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, but so far nothing has been done in this matter. It is absolutely necessary that, for the advancement of tome of the less-developed States, particularly Western Australia, a more reasonable distribution should be made of the revenue from taxation, and also of loan funds.
– “What about a redistribution of uniform tax revenue?
– I would be agreeable to that being done, and I am confident that the Leader of the Opposition in Western Australia would be, also. I doubt whether the Premier of Western Australia would agree. Some years ago, an investigation was made, and Western Australia wanted that to be done. Unfortunately, one of the Premiers put up a stupid proposal to the Australian Loan Council, and the idea was abandoned. I am certain that if various State Premiers discussed this matter in the Australian Loan Council, some favorable formula could be developed which would give the States, particularly chose least developed, more money, and consequently a better chance to undertake vital works.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden’ has said that steadily but surely, the Government is making up the leeway in social requirements such as hospitals, schools and housing. I have not the latest information about the schools in Wester A Australia, but I think I am right in saying that about 600 additional rooms will be needed at the beginning of next year to accommodate the new pupils that will be starting school. The State has not sufficient money to erect essential buildings, and to enlarge those in existence. There has been a great influx of immigrants to Western Australia and accommodation must be provided to educate their children. It is not right that children should have to be taught in washrooms or in draughty, cold halls, but the school authorities have to resort to that kind of makeshift accommodation. That happens because the sum of money allocated to Western Australia by the Loan Council is not sufficient. I have a newspaper report here of a statement by the chairman of the Public “Works Committee, when he visited Western Australia a few months ago. He said -
Further development of the State’s country areas would require an entirely new financial arrangement between the Commonwealth, States and local government bodies.
I was amazed at the development since I was here six years ago, but there is a crying need for further development, and that demands communications and water supply.
An entire re-orientation of the functions of the Commonwealth and State governments and of local government and a re-allocation of resources are needed.
All these matters urgently require attention if the people are to be encouraged to produce. They can produce all right, but they cannot be expected to live in country districts where there are no amenities such as telephones, swimming pools and so on, as there are in the city. I hope that, in the coming year, the Government will give earnest consideration to the matters I have mentioned, particularly to the marketing of primary products overseas. I am convinced that there is something radically wrong, with the exception of wheat. I will discuss that subject when the wheat legislation is before the House. I support the budget.
– Before I proceed to the main theme of my discussion, I wish to comment on the last point made by Senator Seward with regard to the financial difficulties of the States, and particularly of Western Australia. I direct the attention of honorable senators to that part of the Treasurer’s budget speech dealing with the creation of an additional trust fund - a Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Trust Fund - into which £48,500,000 will be paid. The Treasurer intimated in his speech that, on a subsequent occasion, he would disclose the purpose for which that trust fund would be used. He said that some portion of it would be used to support public loans. As honorable senators know, under the Constitution, surpluses in Consolidated Revenue funds should go back, as of right, to the States. Decisions of the High Court of Australia have established the proposition that if the money has been appropriated but not disbursed, the Commonwealth is relieved of the constitutional requirement as stated, apparently so explicitly, in the Constitution. But the States are in the position that, as those who receive the benefit of public loans for the construction of public works, they will receive moneys on which they will pay interest although they should receive those moneys free of interest.
– Not if the States <spend the money themselves.
– That would be a subterfuge, and virtually dishonest. The States will be subject to a form of overtaxation which cannot be morally or politically justified, and certainly not in the present situation as it has been disclosed by the Treasurer in his financial statement.
Honorable senators this evening are speaking at a distance of three weeks after the budget speech was delivered in another place, and the budget papers were tabled in this chamber. I am compelled to observe that the speeches of honorable senators on the Government side - particularly those delivered to-day - are very different in tone and implication and intent from those which they would have delivered three weeks ago, or which their colleagues delivered a week or a fortnight ago in this debate. The reason is quite obvious. Only since the budget speech was delivered have the real implications of the economic situation of Australia been made apparent to the Parliament and the people. The delivery of the speech was greeted by the occupants of the Government benches with dismay, because it gave so little and because they realized that it would be unacceptable to the Australian electorate. Indeed, that dismay was so general that it became the subject of press comment throughout the country. The budget speech was greeted with a great degree of disappointment by those who hoped to receive some benefit from it, either by way of a remission of taxes or an increase of social services benefits. On this side of the chamber it was greeted with concern, because of what it indicated in connexion with the economic position of the country. I make these comments for this reason: In a constitutionally political set-up, such as we have in Australia, the budget speech is practically the equivalent of the State of the Union message delivered by the President of the United States of America once a year to Congress. In that speech the President canvasses the economic, financial and international situation of the union of the federation. The nearest equivalent to that speech in Australia is the budget speech, and if there is any occasion during the year when the Government should deal objectively with matters affecting the nation it is when the budget speech is being prepared. It is clear from the things that have happened - I may say the dramatic happenings - since the speech was delivered that the budget speech did not comply with those conditions. The Treasurer, in his opening remarks, said, “ This year, I believe, circumstances are such that we must perform that stocktaking with particular diligence, candour and thoroughness “. Although the right honorable gentleman gave expression to those canons, he himself did not observe them. “Within a week of the presentation of this document it was evident that there was anxiety throughout the community, particularly on the Government side. First, there was the action taken by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the question of credit control. There was some mention of it in the budget speech, but no one would have thought when he read the speech that there would be an immediate attempt to do something which would amount to a restriction of credit. At the time it did not appear that the situation demanded such action. There was not reference in the budget speech which would appear to warrant the dramatic departure of the Treasurer so soon to approach the International Bank. No one, at that time, would have suggested that the situation in Australia warranted such an immediate and drastic step. Since then there have been references to the control of hire-purchase finance, and there have also been suggestions, apparently from authorelative sources, of increased sales tax on certain luxury goods. These things have happened; yet none of them could have been regarded as imminent merely by reading the budget speech presented to the Parliament. Therefore, it is clear that the budget speech either was produced carelessly, or was drawn up without any thought that the situation which now exists would arise. For that reason J consider that the Government is worthy of the gravest censure. If it was in possession of facts as to the seriousness of the situation confronting this country, and did not, on the one occasion in the year when an opportunity was presented to it, acquaint the Parliament with those facts, so that the people, through its Parliament, would know what threatened the country, the Government deserves censure. After all, a budget speech, apart from being a recitation of the economic and financial situation of the country or, in the words of Senator Paltridge, a description of the financial and economic climate, is one of the instruments used by governments to deal with the economic situation. This budget deals with the economic situation only to a minor degree, because only in the direction of holding the rates of taxation does it play any major part in rectifying a situation that, apparently, is deteriorating rapidly.
– The drop in the price of wool occurred after the budget was presented.
– That may be true, but surely it was something that the Government might reasonably have foreseen.
– “We on this side are not clairvoyants.
– The Government and its supporters would not need to be clairvoyants to have foreseen the possibility of wool prices falling. The international situation is frequently reflected in the export of wool. It could reasonably have been thought that, because of the improved international situation, there would be some alteration in the demand for wool, but there is no mention in this document of anything along that line, tt would appear to have been overlooked. Vet within a few days of the presentation of the budget the Government found it necessary to take certain dramatic steps. Either the document was prepared to conceal something, or it is evidence of complete negligence and carelessness on the part of the Government. For having attempted to mislead the Parliament the Government is deserving of the gravest censure.
– The Parliament should have been placed in a position to know the true situation. The budget in itself does not do a great deal to cure the situation, for the reason that that situation only became obvious to the Government after it had happened ; nui then some kind of formula had to bc worked out. There is a good case for the withdrawal of the budget, so that it could be recast to meet the situation that now exists. That is something which I, as an individual senator, now place before the Government. I know, however, that that will not be done; or, perhaps, I should say it will not be done in that way, although it will be done in practice and operation. This document will, at least in part, be nullified by administrative action ; but that is not the Way to do it.
– How would the honorable senator rectify matters?
– If the Government and its supporters cannot find a formula to meet the situation, we on this side are prepared to move over to the Government benches. If we could do that, we would be prepared to accept the responsibility for meeting the situation, and we would discharge that responsibility.
– The budget is right as it is.
– Nobody in the country believes that the budget is right. Even the Government itself does not believe that. Indeed, the inadequacy of the budget has been revealed by the speeches which have been delivered during this debate by honorable senators who support the Government. Many who have spoken from the Government benches have revealed their anxiety about things to which the budget makes no reference.
– The budget is right.
– The honorable senator, by his interjection, canvasses the whole problem. He is alert enough, and honest enough, to see the problem, but he does not offer a solution. Senator Wood also realizes that there is a problem to be solved, and in his own way he offered something by way of a contribution to its solution in his speech earlier to-day. The honorable senator thinks that something could be done to improve Australia’s economic position, and to adjust the trade balance, by developing our tourist trade. I give him credit for that, because it is a positive suggestion of some value.
Senator Paltridge has a thesis which he propounded to-day, and I congratulate him on the care with which he examined it. However, I think it was, in effect, a retreat from reality, such as is characteristic, of the attitude of the Government to the present situation. I believe that his point of view was put forward honestly and effectively, but I think he has conformed to the Government’s thinking, which represents a retreat from reality in which Senator Maher and Senator Seward were not prepared to join. The real problem to-day is still the problem of prices and costs, and nothing will get us away from that.
– The honorable senator is on the beam now !
– That is right. That was the problem in 1949. In that year, we who are now on the Opposition side were on the beam, and Senator Maher was not. The Government has not been on the beam since. It was elected in that year with a mandate to do something about prices and costs. Since then, prices and costs have been going up and down like a yo-yo and, generally, they have gone up until they have reached a level that has led to the economic and financial embarrassment of Australia. Every one is running around frantically trying to find a way out of the mess into which the country has sunk. We have to be realistic, because in the solution of that problem lies the solution of all our problems.
– I still believe that the Treasurer’s budget speech was realistic und correct.
– Senator Maher is a Government supporter who retains confidence in the budget when confidence in it has been lost by all his colleagues. Honorable senators on the Opposition side have never had any confidence in the budget. The problem of prices and costs requires a realistic approach. Senator Willesee explained to-day the problem of wages. If anybody has made a contribution to the solution of our economic problems, it is the great- body of workers. They have made a major contribution because of steps that were taken affecting their incomes, but no great contribution has been made by other sections of the community. Can honorable senators suggest any other section of the community that has rna.de a major contribution to the solution of our difficulties? Can they say with truth that the public companies, in any line of business, have been asked to make any great financial sacrifice in the past few years? Such a proposition cannot be supported, because the balance-sheets of the companies deny that they have made any sacrifices. I cannot point to any section, other than the workers, that has made a contribution to the solution of our problems, and their contribution has been totally inadequate because they are only one component, important though it is, and they cannot on their own solve a problem that is so complex and vast.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) advocated a 40 per cent, depreciation allowance for secondary industries.
– That is a matter for Dr. Evatt, and I have not had an opportunity to discuss it with him. One section of the community - the workershas made a contribution, and the result in the absence of any similar effort by any other section, has been a terrific social injustice of which the workers have been the victims. All that has been suggested by the Government and its supporters is that they remain the victims of injustice. When redress is suggested, the cry is that that would make the problem worse. If we ask one man to make two contributions, what is wrong with asking some other section to make its first contribution? That is the submission implicit in the suggestion that has been put forward by Dr. Evatt.
– The honorable senator has forgotten the primary producers.
– I shall deal with the question of primary production, and ihe primary producers, for whom I have m tremendous regard. Their position has been stated fairly by Senator Maher and Senator Seward.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the primary producers have made no contribution?
– No, I exclude them. They are a section that has made a contribution, but certainly not to the degree that the working man has done. As Senator Maher has said, the primary producers have been a most effective unit in maintaining our overseas trade balance. The situation in Queensland is extraordinary, and I propose to direct the attention of honorable senators to it in some detail. Queensland is largely a primary producing State. The last figures available to me for a complete trading year are those for 1953-54. Australia’s credit balance on overseas trade for that year was £146,700,000. Of that figure, £109,500,000 represents the favorable overseas trading balance of the State of Queensland. In other words, 75 per cent, of Australia’s favorable overseas balance at the end of that trading year was directly attributable to Queensland exports. That is a magnificent contribution to Australia’s economic stability. In that year, Queensland exported goods worth £165,100,000 and imported goods valued at £55,600,000.
I make one important qualification that affects the figure of 75 per cent. Queensland’s imports from other States of Australia were in excess of its exports to them. In 1953-54, Queensland’s imports from other States totalled £143,600,000 and its exports totalled £72,600,000. Therefore, Queensland, had an unfavorable interstate balance of £71,000,000. Of that unfavorable balance, a certain component would comprise overseas goods which had come through other States directly, or goods manufactured in other States of components which had, in turn, been imported. Therefore, it is necessary to make that important qualification in connexion with the figures that I have placed before the Senate.
I discussed this matter with the Queensland Government Statistician, and these State figures are available for the first time, after many years of effort. The statistician told me that, allowing for the qualification to which I have referred, Queensland could be said to have accounted for at least 50 per cent, of Australia’s favorable overseas balance in that year. That is a magnificent contribution from one State. As S5 per cent, of the raw materials used in Australian secondary fabrication are imported, responsibility for the continued inward flow of those materials is dependent on the primary producing export States. The great manufacturing cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and the secondary industries of the eastern coast from Sydney to Newcastle, can look to Queensland largely as the State which enables them to continue production.
Queensland deserves the highest credit for that fact, but it believes that the Australian Government has not correctly and fairly assessed the position, or given Queensland its due. In spite of the necessity to maintain that level of export of primary products, which is of vital importance, not only to Queensland but also to the economic structure of Australia, Queensland has been denied financial assistance from the Australian Government which is necessary to enable it to expand its primary production.
– No, no ! The honorable senator is wrong.
– Senator Maher’s attitude on this matter differs from that of Senator Paltridge. I asked him, by way of interjection when he was speaking, whether he still felt that it was possible for us to increase our primary exports, and what were the factors militating against our doing so, and he pointed to the question of prices and costs. Senator Paltridge said that, more or less, the limit had been reached for our primary exports, and that no longer could our primary products carry the tremendous programme of development taking place in this .country, and maintain the level of government expenditure and social services payments.
– An increased programme.
– An increased programme in the expenditure fields to which I have referred. Significantly enough, Senator Seward pointed to the possibility of increasing the production of wool by the application of scientific methods. If our problem to-day concerns the balance of payments, and if primary producing States, such as Queensland, are able to make a magnificent contribution to our overseas balances, then there must be a tremendous surge of finance into such States to enable them to do the job on which the whole of the rest of Australia is dependent. Senator Maher and I might disagree on the extent to which Queensland has been receiving, or has been denied, financial assistance from th Commonwealth, hut at least we should agree on the fundamental principle that the flow of finance into Queensland to help primary industry is .essential and of vital importance.
If the problem is one of balance of payments, then let us consider the matter of financial assistance to the tobacco industry in the Mareeba-Dimbulah district of Queensland, a matter that has been raised here ad nauseam. A great drain on our overseas credits to-day is caused by the importation of tobacco. In the Mareeba-Dimbulah district we have an embryo industry on which the Queensland Government is expending tremendous sums in “order to get it doing. It is the kind of industry that requires nurturing and fostering in the present state of our economy. But what is happening? Consistently, and eventually finally, the Queensland Government has received no financial assistance from the Commonwealth.
– That is not true.
– It is substantially true.
– No. The industry gets assistance.
– I am speaking of the provision that is made for capital works, provision which is so freely made in other States for Commonwealth projects and for State projects being carried out under the guidance of the Commonwealth. The Queensland Government, from its attenuated finances, is proceeding to get that industry going, because it will be of great help to Queensland. In addition, it will relieve greatly the drain on our overseas credits and will assist magnificently the secondary production of other parts of Australia.
When we see the Government coming along and presenting a situation to us, as it is now becoming apparent in this country, we may ask, “What steps have you taken, in connexion with fundamental things, to prevent the situation from developing, or to handle it as you saw it developing?” I have pointed to an instance of an industry hungry for money, one which could make a first-class contribution to our overseas balances, but the Australian Government is not prepared to help it. That is only one of many examples of genuine applications which have stemmed from Queensland but which, for some reason or other, Canberra has regarded as being the selfish interests of the State of Queensland. [ have done my best to demonstrate to-night that, whilst that industry certainly will benefit Queensland - and who can blame the people of Queensland if, .knowing that, they still want Commonwealth assistance - it also will benefit immeasurably the whole of Australia. It is the fostering of projects of that kind and the stimulation of primary production that will relieve the government of the day, and also the country, of the grave difficulties that now face us.
So that, when the Government comes along with propositions like those recently announced, are we not entitled to ask “ Is not this a. repetition of that lack of imagination, that lack of foresight, that has characterized the financial approach of the Liberal party and Australian Country party in government ever since they assumed control of the country? “
– No !
– Is it not the same type of thing as that which faced this chamber only a. few years ago when, suddenly, drastic import restrictions had to be imposed? The position had been allowed to drift on and on until, suddenly, the thunder cloud burst, and with lightning flashing and thunder rolling, import restrictions were brought amongst us.
– That is the only way to impose import restrictions.
– Dormer und blitzen!
– The honorable senator says ” Donner und blitzen”, hut there is nothing of Father Christmas about this Government. When it decided to impose import restrictions, they were imposed suddenly. The complaint at the time was that the position ‘ had been allowed to develop and that, in consequence, the Government had to impose radical restrictions. I am not suggesting that an announcement should have been made that import restrictions are to be imposed and that effect should have been given to that decision week by week or month by month, but the drift in the economic position had occurred over a period of years. That is also true of the present position which has been allowed to develop. The things that might have cured our economic ills in the early stages were neglected.
It is no use to say that we can approach the present situation with equanimity. During the week, I was speaking to a couple of very big businessmen in Brisbane, and they informed me that they were gravely disturbed by the present situation. What particularly concerned them was the obvious uncertainty that is abroad. An assessment of the position, has never been clearly put before them, nor have they been told of the possible solutions of the problem. After all, when we start to get a grave disturbance in business confidence, and when businessmen do not know what they may or may not do, that is when we are really going to precipitate trouble.
– The Labour party has a similar position in caucus, has it not?
– I do not retreat from my universal proposition in any situation, but I think that the honorable senator will agree that the worst thing that can be done to any country is for the government to allow a state of complete uncertainty to develop, so that businessmen do not know where they are going. That is the position in this country to-day.
Many businessmen have projects in hand involving hundreds of thousands of pounds but are now pulling in their horns because uncertainty is once again abroad. The secretary of a big semipublic cor portion told me only a few months ago, when he was travelling throughout the country attempting to secure contributions to a public loan involving his corporation, that any amount of money was held on current account in the banks on account of many of the people he approached, and that although they were very wealthy people, they were not prepared to take their money out of current account and put it on fixed deposit. Again, it comes back to this position of uncertainty, which has become accentuated since this budget was presented and since the Government made certain moves during the last few days.
– That was proper business caution.
– It may have been business caution, but when there are vast sums of money lying idle like that, they are of very little use to the people who have them and of no use at all to the country. In such circumstances, I think that can hardly be called business caution. Perhaps it is more the equivalent of the business caution of the French peasant who hides his gold in the ground and does not even deposit it in the bank. That cannot be called good citizenship, certainly.
– Would the honorable senator offer such people a good rate of interest to induce them to invest their money ?
– At present, the rates of interest are such that they would not have to invest very much money to receive a magnificent return.
Concerning our economic situation, on reading the Brisbane Courier-Mail of yesterday’s date, I found a statement from London, dated the 13th September, regarding the conference which at present is being held at Istanbul. Personally, I was unaware of the actual task which the Treasurer had set himself in going to Istanbul. I presume that it was exclusively an approach to the International Bank.
– Where is our wandering boy to-night?
– That is the question. He may be caught up in the riots of Istanbul. This report from London directs attention to matters of which I believe are still unknown to the Australian people. It says -
Drastic internal measures are being forecast, both for Britain and Australia.
That refers to a conference of the Treasurers of the British Commonwealth, which was to take place at Istanbul. Apparently matters are being discussed at Istanbul on a British Commonwealth basis, the nature of which has not been disclosed, on a national basis, to Australia. The report deals primarily with the British position, but as it puts Britain and Australia on the same basis, we can apparently expect here what is contemplated in Britain. The report continues -
In some respects Britain has gone further than Australia to check over-spending at home, although the drastic course of import restrictions has not yet been taken.
It indicates that something of that nature is to be imposed here very quickly and very drastically. It continues -
Overdrafts are being chopped with a vigour that is alarming small businesses.
That is a matter to which Senator Grant referred, the tremendous injustice that might be caused to small businesses by this control of credit. That is something which we have learned from the press, from a distance of thousands of miles, and these things are hardly known in Australia. The report goes on -
The Financial Times reports that in the first eight months of the year the declared company profits in Britain were£ 1,475,000,000, anddividends£ 163,000,000.
I mention only the British situation, but the parallel with Australia is apparently complete, and in both countries there is, of course, a conservative government. The report further states -
Rumours that Mr. Butler may push up the bank rate continue with warnings that an over-enthusiastic brake on borrowing could ca use bankruptcy and unemployment.
It is not a pretty picture. It is a picture the lines of which are apparently now being drawn many miles from here, and this is something that will come upon the Australian people like a thunderbolt, because the Australian people were not prepared for this.
– The Commonwealth Security Loan was recently oversubscribed.
– That is possibly so, but I presume that this report to which I am referring comes, if not from an authentic source, at least from an informed source; and, apparently, these are the things to which we can look forward, perhaps with trepidation. At least we can expect that these things will occur, and my complaint is that the Australian people have not been made aware of the situation that has developed, and which apparently will cause these plans to be put into operation. No country can expect to progress if the people are not taken into the confidence of those whose responsibility it is to inform them.
In this regard I wish to refer to the peculiarly exposed position of the Australian economy at any time. Australia is a country which depends largely on overseas exports, and it is therefore in a particularly sensitive position in relation to disturbances and vagaries of the international situation. That is a matter of which we must always be aware. Therefore, the Government, which has the responsibility in regard to these matters, must be alert to what is happening internationally. Over the last few weeks we have seen what is apparently an improvement in international relations. For a long time the western democracies have been concerned, not so much because of the possible military threat of the Soviet Union to their integrity, but because of the peculiar political, social and economic structure of the Soviet Union, which has a rigidity that we do not enjoy. That country has, therefore, a capacity to make swift changes, if it wishes to do so, in the international scene, and therefore to force a very quick change of policy on the western countries. Over the years we have seen the creation of international tension, and then its relaxation. Then there has been a re-creation of a situation of tension, requiring a re-deploying of our economic and financial resources. That has happened over the years, and we are now witnessing a similar change taking place. I do not want to be one who would cast any doubt on what may be a genuine - and, please God, it is - improvement in international relations, from which peace may emerge in our time ; but, again, I ask the Government to be alert to the other possibilities which may be inherent in this situation. As soon as the international position improves, there is an economic re-action in countries that have a democratic political system. Certain people want certain things. Governments are under pressure to grant those things. There must again be a re-casting of the economic structure, and if you keep on putting stresses and strains on a structure, very soon it will crack. We must be careful to make sure that the change which is now taking place is not part of a plan which ultimately would attack the economy of this and other democratic countries.
I throw in those remarks merely as a counsel of caution, and I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the fate of our wool very often depends on the degree of international tension. In the years immediately following the war, when tension rose to a very acute pitch, there was a tremendous demand, at high prices, for our wool. Significantly, our wool prices have fallen with the easing of international tension. That is one instance of the peculiar sensitivity of the Australian economy to the international situation. In this regard we are not altogether masters of our own destiny, and this is a matter which should at all times receive the complete and thorough attention of the Government. I do not know what the solution will be. We must always be careful and prudent, and I suppose that all sections of the public will be making demands, perhaps not being fully acquainted with the circumstances which must affect the decisions of those in possession of all the information. Nevertheless, these are significant facts to which I direct the attention of honorable senators, and they are things which must be kept in mind when we are handling the economic difficulties into which we appear to have drifted.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer is that of the capital resources of this country. This is a matter, incidentally, in which Senator Paltridge and I have a common interest, if we do not always, perhaps, share a common point of view. I personally regard the mobilization of capital resources in the world to-day as something which might possibly mean the difference between national survival and national extinction for many countries. The world as a whole is short of capital, and countries like Australia, which are attempting to develop, are conspicuously short of it. We have seen capital fed from the United States of America, in one form or another, in the form of Marshall Aid, European Recovery Aid and things of that nature, to depressed and backward countries of Asia.
– A grand and noble thing.
– That is true, but we must also concede, without being cynical, that the provision of capital is being used in the world to-day, to some extent, as an ideological weapon. Again I say that I do not want to be thought cynical in regard to this matter, but I am being realistic when I say that the provision of capital aid to those countries has definitely had the effect of cementing their friendship with the United States, the donor of those good things. On the other side of the iron curtain there has been a diversion of capital to Asiatic countries from Russian sources, and again that capital is, in some sense, an ideological weapon which, wielded effectively, could have excellent results for those who use it.
Australia is not a country which receives capital on that basis from the United States or any other country. Our capital resources come from savings, international loans or international investments in this country. Therefore, if the provision of capital is so important, its effective mobilization is a prime national consideration. When countries which have ideas different from our own are getting capital from outside, it is important that we should not fall behind in the race for capital, and ultimately our capital must come from our own resources. However, it is also important that our capital should be put to the best possible use once it has been collected, but has not been done during the last six or seven years. It was done by the last Labour Government through the agency, among other things, of the Capital Issues Control Regulations, but we know the fate of those regulations. They were recently re-enacted under the Defence Preparations Act, .and we know of the challenge in the High Court, so that any attempt to operate those regulations might be defeated on constitutional grounds. But after all, the executive Government should ultimately determine whether a state of war, or of security or insecurity exists.
The executive Government has allocated the same amount of money this year for defence as it did in the critical years a short time ago. Therefore, the opinion must he held in Government circles that a state of national insecurity does exist. That may not be a compelling fact which would influence a court, hut in the absence of those regulations, we are deprived of an opportunity, that this country ought to have, to mobilize capital and put it to the best possible use. Perhaps the most important problem that faces the Government is how to go about mobilizing capital. An approach has already been made to private banks and to hire purchase finance companies, but the approach was made with a view to securing some co-operation that might be given as an act of grace or refused altogether. Perhaps the Government has not the legal power necessary properly to mobilize capital, but it is a matter that should receive the Government’s attention. If an approach to the States for a delegation of powers to the Commonwealth would be the solution, the Government should take that action.
– We have been trying for years to get the States to organize priorities.
– That is so, but the States are vitally interested in the economic stability of this country, and whenever crises have arrived the States have co-operated with the Government. Again I urge that we should try to mobilize our capital resources to the best advantage of the country. In the past, we have been dissipating them, and now that the era of dissipation is to be ended some interests may suffer injustice; but if we take drastic measures that may be unavoidable. There has been a drain on our capital resources by industries that have made very little contribution to the economy. But there has been no increase of the capital works vote. Local authorities have had grave difficulty in raising loans. The Brisbane City Council has had tremendous difficulty, and the Mayor of Brisbane has approached businessmen to get their support in raising money for local government.
– Those organizations cannot compete against hire-purchase companies which pay 7 per cent, for money.
– That is quite true, but the Government will have to face that matter. I shall now conclude on the note that I started on. Our economic position is obviously much graver than the Treasurer has indicated. I should like to think that it has deteriorated since he prepared his financial statement, but whether that is the case or not, the position calls for a severe remedy which the Government must have the imagination to perceive and the courage and determination to apply.
Debate (on motion by Senator ANDERSON) adjourned.
– I have to- inform the Senate that I have received from the widow of the late Major-General the Honorable Sir Thomas William Glasgow a. letter of thanks for the resolution of sympathy passed on the occasion of his death.
I have also received a letter of thanks from the family of the late Honorable Joseph Silver Collings on the resolution of sympathy passed on the occasion of his death.
Senate adjourned at 9.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 September 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1955/19550915_senate_21_s6/>.