22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hoa. A. M. McMuIlin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Leader of the Government say whether it is a fact that, during the past few years, five new Australian doctors in Australia have committeed suicide because they were not allowed to practise here? Can he also say whether it is a fact that the president of the combined friendly societies has claimed that, in one year, doctors had almost doubled the number of visits to their patients? If that is so, does it not mean that many doctors are being overworked ? Will the Government approach the strongest union in the world - the British Medical Association - with a view to making it easier for doctors who are new Australians to practise their profession, by reducing the barriers that now confront them?
– I gather that the honorable senator has based his question on some newspaper reports. Whether it is true that five new Australians who wished to practise as doctors have committed suicide I do not know; and, even if the reports be correct, I am not aware of the reasons for their action. The honorable senator knows that the control of the medical profession is a matter for the States rather than for the Commonwealth. ; each State has its own rules and regulations, and supervises the admission and registration, of doctors, and their right to practise within, its boundaries. I under stand that, in the territories under the control of the Commonwealth Government, considerable use has been made of new Australian doctors, but as for the Commonwealth insisting upon the States following any ‘particular line of action in this matter, I am sure that the Commonwealth could not instruct the. States, if only for the reason that it has no authority to interfere in matters which are exclusively within the jurisdiction of the States.
-. - I think the Minister has missed my point-
– Order ! I suggest that if the honorable senator desires further information on the subject he has raised,, he should ask another question.
– In fairness to Hie doctors, many of whom are decent mon practising their profession, I ask the Minister whether he will make inquiries Vo ascertain whether it is a fact that the president of the combined friendly societies has claimed that, in one year, doctors had almost doubled the number of visits to their patients. That is a matter which affects the health scheme of the Commonwealth Government.
– I do not know what information can bo obtained on the particular point mentioned by trie honorable senator, bur I shall have inquiries made… and let Him know the result.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air by stating that the grim tragedy involving the loss of five lives and an aircraft in the Kimberley district of Western Australia has given rise to fear, and to adverse criticism of the radio arrangements for communication with aircraft in Western Australia. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether the direct ground-to-air communication facili ties have been closed at Derby, Hall’s Creek and Onslow? Is it the intention of the Department of Air or the Department of Civil. Aviation to close the Geraldton station also? Is it a fact that only one fully equipped air-radio station exists between Perth and Darwin whilst there are four fully equipped stations between Adelaide and Darwin? Is it a fact that the one fully equipped station that, is said to be established in the district i» frequently ineffective during severe electrical disturbances, which are prevalent in that area ? Will the Minister have a thorough survey made of the situation, and take immediate action to allay the fears of those people who are courageously living in. that lonely area and are fighting hard to make it productive?
– The Minister for Air recently made a statement in which ho said that the air-to-ground radio equipment provided in the Kimberley district and in the north-west of Western Australia had suffered no deterioration at all as a result of the closing down of certain radio stations recently. According to my recollection, the Minister said that although it had been necessary to close those stations, improved equipment at other points had more than balanced the closure of the stations. I shall refer the honorable senator’s lengthy questions to the Minister and obtain a detailed reply.
– In view of the very unpleasant memories of a previous economic advisory committee headed by Sir Otto Niemeyer which advised Australians to tighten their belts, and so brought about poverty amidst plenty, will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate whether the economic situation has become so much out of hand that 22 Ministers are unable to handle Government policy ? Is it a fact also that the appointment of a panel of economic advisors by the Prime Minister is a repetition of the previous arrangement, and amounts to an admission that the Government’s economic policy over the past six years has failed?
– I think I should allay the honorable senator’s apprehension. I remind him that the Prime Minister has already explained that our economic problems are problems of prosperity. The honorable senator need have no fears that the Government will fail to do what is required in the right way, being assisted by the advice that it can get from the economic committee recently appointed, and always acting as a government and taking the responsibility, as a government, for all that it does.
– I preface a question to the leader of the Government in the Senate by stating that reports have appeared in the Adelaide press to the effect that a higher retail price for sugar is likely to be sought by the Queensland Cane Growers Association in the near future. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether approaches have been made to the Australian Government for an increase of the retail price of sugar and, if so, what increase has been sought ? Will the Minister state whether, in the process of determining the justification for any increase, an investigation is being carried out by an independent authority, and, if so, by what body? Will honorable senators be given an opportunity to debate the matter and vote upon it in the Senate ?
– I think that, at the moment, the honorable senator’s question is entirely hypothetical. I am not aware that any approach has yet been made by the cane-growers of Queensland to the Australian Government, although in the scheme of things, it would not surprise me if they were to make such an approach, in view of the increased costs which they have had to incur.
Senator ANNABELLE RANKIN,Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been drawn to statements in Queensland newspapers in which it is suggested that difficulties are being experienced in connexion with the Zillmere housing contract? Will the Minister inform the Senate whether that contract is being carried out to the satisfaction of the Commonwealth?
– I reply to the honorable senator by saying that the Zillmere housing contract has proved a somewhat difficult one for the Australian Government. It was entered into at a time, as honorable senators may remember, when the Commonwealth subsidized the importation of houses from overseas, and when the housing shortage was much greater than it is at the present time, There was a series of complaints about the standard of the houses and the way ia which they were built. Those complaints led to a number of inspections by both Commonwealth and State officers, and the Queensland Housing Commission was told of the work that needed to be carried out in order to bring the houses up to tho standard required under the contract and the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The Queensland Housing Commission has been told what has to bs done, and I think the great proportion of the work has been carried out already. But there has been a further development in the matter, in that recently I have had to write to the Queensland housing Minister to inform him that it now appears that a substantial number of the houses, in respect of which the subsidy of £300 a house was claimed by the Queensland Government and paid by the Australian Government, either were not imported at all or, alternatively, were built substantially of Australian materials. In view of this serious position, I have written to the Queensland housing Minister asking him to facilitate a further inspection by Commonwealth officers, so that the Commonwealth may have an opportunity to examine all the houses and to decide which of the 8S6 houses in the contract are eligible for the £300 subsidy, arid which are not eligible for it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air concerning the numerous reports in the newspapers recently about submarine activity in the Pacific area. Approximately fifteen months ago, virulent criticism was made in the press concerning the obsolete radar equipment used in Lincoln aircraft. I wish to know whether this equipment has been superseded by modern equipment.
– I, myself have no knowledge of the condition of the radar equipment in Lincoln aircraft. However, I shall obtain an answer from the Minister for Air and give it to the honorable senator.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise inform the Senate whether it is correct that a cut of 75 per cent, has been imposed on imports of malathion which, whilst being equivalent to E.605, is safer to handle than that dangerous and potent commodity? If this drastic cut has been imposed, will the Minister cause the matter to be reviewed in order to permit the admission of malathion into Australia now, so that sufficient supplies of this orchard spray will be available for use by Australian orchardists in September and October?
– I am not aware of the circumstances that have been mentioned by the honorable senator, but I know that, in the imposition of import restrictions, the utmost consideration is given to the requirements of all industries, particularly the primary industries. It is not the Government’s policy to indicate in advance that it intends easing or tightening restrictions in relation to particular commodities.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister by reminding him that during the last five years we have heard a lot about putting value back into the fi, and curbing inflation, which amounts to the same thing. Many people who have only an elementary knowledge of finance have invested money in government loans. It is now suggested that, while the brains trust - the advisory committee appointed by the Prime Minister - is sitting, the banks will raise the interest rate to 5 per cent. :Such an increase of the interest rate would have a very detrimental effect on the market value of many shares, and particularly the price of bonds. In the event of the bankers increasing the interest rate - I do not think the Government has power to stop them - will the Government itself enter the bond market, in order to keep up the price of government bonds, and thereby help the patriotic people who have subscribed to government loans and who, in many instances, have suffered a great deal?
– According to its tradition, the Government will continue to do the correct thing in the future, as it has done in the past.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport been directed to the continued strike on the Sydney waterfront, and to a report that, in addition to there being a shortage of 6,092 waterside workers in iiic port of Sydney yesterday, 971 waterside workers refused to work overtime in order to unload urgently required goods from eighteen ships? In view of the already serious congestion on the waterfront in Sydney, and the fact that cargoes of wool, meat and wheat are awaiting shipment to the United Kingdom, where they arc urgently needed, will the Minister inform the Senate what the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board is doing to cope with the situation? Is the Australian Government doing all possible to relieve the serious position that has arisen ?
– Although the honorable senator has directed his question, to me, it concerns the activities of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board in connexion with the current dispute on the Sydney waterfront, which matter comes -within the administration of my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, to whom I shall refer the question.
– I wish to preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army by pointing out ‘that a considerable number of Navy, Army and Air Force personnel from the State of New South Wales are at present on overseas service in Japan, Korea and Malaya, and further, that on Saturday next a State election is to be held in New South Wales, but these servicemen, because of the electoral law in that State, “will be deprived of a postal vote. Will the Minister make representations to the New South Wales Government, requesting it to restore to these Australian servicemen overseas their birthright to a democratic vote in the choice of the Government of their hon, e State?
– I envy Senator Anderson his youthful enthusiasm in thinking that the New South Wales Government, as at present constituted, would act reasonably in a matter such as he mentioned. It has done its utmost to deny electors who are away from their homes, the opportunity to vote.
– In regard to the question asked by Senator Anderson and the reply given, and hi view of the .fact that servicemen -who usually reside in South Australia are subject to almost the same electoral disability as those from New South Wales, will the Minister make the same condemnation of the Playford Government in South Australia as he has made of the Cahill Government in New South Wales?
– I am unaware of the conditions applying to armed forces from South Australia on service abroad, as far as their electoral rights are concerned. However, I have a much different opinion of the Premier of South Australia than I have of the Premier of New South Wales. It is only fair to add that only recently was the New South Wales Electoral Law amended with the result that men in the armed forces serving overseas are denied the franchise, as are electors who are absent from their homes on polling day. That previously was not the position. It was altered because the absentee vote generally favoured the parties on this side of the Senate.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether the Commonwealth Health authorities have received any details regarding the successful vaccine against leukemia, which is reported by Dr. Joseph Beard of Duke University, United States of America. If not, will action be taken to ascertain what stage has been reached in regard to this important development, and particularly concerning the work on a human serum ?
– I shall be pleased to forward the honorable senator’s question to my colleague the Minister for Health in order that he may give a considered reply.
– I desire to direct another question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it afact that onthe Economic Advisory Committee set upto advise the Government two very important sectionsof the community are not represented? First, the tradeunionmovement, and, secondly, the most important section of the con- sumerpublic, the women of the com- munity, arenot represented onthat committee. I am quite certain thatboth those sections couldgive very valuable adviceto theGovernment.
– I am quite sure that those appointed by the Prime Minister to the committee have at heart no sectional interest at all. They are interested in the welfare of Australia and of all its people, and I am confident that they will give the best advice available.
– As this question time is tobe re-broadcastthis evening I should like to direct attention to Standing Order 418-
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House ‘of Parliament orany member of such House, or ofmy House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of movingfor its repeal,and all imputations of impropermotives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
I should like to ask for your ruling, Mr. President, as to whether youwill have erased from the broadcast the reference toa House of aState Parliament made bythe Minister for National Development.
– What are the words to which the honorable senator objects ?
– That it would be useless to ask the State of New South Wales to do anything about giving votes to members of thedefence forces who are absent from the State.
– I do not know that that is what the Minister said.
– I may not be giving his exact “words, but I should like to raise the matter later, after I have rend the Hansard report.
asked theMinister representing the Minister for Labourand National Service, upon notice - 1.. Has the Stevedoring Industry Committee of Inquiry finishedtakingevidence yet?
– The Ministerfor Labour and National Service has supplied thefollowing answers : - 1.No.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the salary at present being paid to - (a) the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and (ft) the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank ?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following reply: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has supplied the following reply-
As the Australian Whaling Commission was established by legislation, it would not be possible to dispose of it without legislation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Externa] Affairs has supplied the following reply :-
– On the 16th February, Senator Critchley asked the following question: -
Can the Minister for Repatriation inform the Senate what progress, if any, has been made in connexion with the erection of a ward at the Dawes-road Military Hospital for the treatment of ex-servicemen suffering from war neurosis, and can he say whether there is any truth in statements published in the press of South Australia late last year to the effect that tenders would be called and that the work would be put in hand?
I am now in a position to supply the following answer: -
It is a fact that a new psychiatric block is to be erected at the Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank, South Australia. This building, when completed, will incorporate the latest planning in psychiatric treatment and will, I have no doubt, prove a valuable asset to the institution. The honorable senator will appreciate that a considerable amount of designing and planning work is necessary for a project of this size. I am pleased to advise the Senate that the drawings for the work are complete; specifications are Hearing completion and bills of quantities will be drawn up at an early date. On completion of this action, tenders will be called. The honorable senator is assured that this preliminary work is being carried out as expeditiously as possible, and the actual construction work will commence at the earliest possible date.
– by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that, during the absence abroad of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) will act as Minister for External Affairs and Minister-in-charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and also that in the House of Representatives the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will represent Senator Spicer in that capacity.
Motion (by Senator Spicer) agreed to-
That Standing Order 14 be suspended to permit, before the Address-in -Reply is adopted, the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Consideration resumed from the 23rd February(vide page(4) of message received from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in the following resolutions : - (1.) That a joint committee be appointed to consider foreign affairs generally and, in particular, to inquire into matters referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs. (2.) That thirteen members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve on such committee. (3.) That the Minister for External Affairs shall make available to the committee information within such categories or on such conditions as he may consider desirable. (4.) That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the persons appointed for the time being to serve on the committee shall constitute the committee notwithstanding any failure by the Senate or the House of Representatives to appoint the full number of Senators or Members referred to in these resolutions ;
the committee shall have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of four or more of its members; and to refer to any such sub-committees any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine;
the committee or any sub-committee have power to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament;
the committee and its sub-committees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret unless the Minister at the request of the committee otherwise directs;
(i) one-third of the number of members appointed to the committee for the time being constitute a quorum of the committee, save that where the number of members is not divisible by three without remainder the quorum shall be the number next higher than one-third of the number of members for the time being;
three members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that subcommittee;
the committee shall, for considerations of national security, in all cases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, but on every occasion when the committee forwards a report to the Minister it shall inform the Parliament that it has so reported; except that in the case of matters not referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall not submit a report to the Minister nor inform tile. Parliament accordingly without the Minister’s consent. Provided the Opposition is represented on the committee, copies of the committee’s reports to the Minister for External Affairs shall be forwarded to the Leader of the Opposition for his confidential information ; ag) subject to the Minister for External Affairs being informed, the committee shall have power to invite persons to give evidence before it; :h)’ subject to the consent of the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall have power to call for official papers or records;
subject to paragraph 4. (<l), all evidence submitted to the committee, both written and oral,, shall be regarded as confidential to the committee; (/) the Senate be asked to appoint seven of its members to serve on such committee.
.- I move-
The terms of this resolution, are largely the same as- those contained in the resolution which constituted the Foreign Affairs’ Committee of the last Parliament. Only one change of substance has been, made, namely, to clarify the provisions regarding invitations to persons to give- evidence before the committee.
The resolution provides that the Senate may appoint seven members to the committee.. The House of Representatives has already adopted a resolution providing’ for the appointment of thirteen members. The total, membership will thus be twenty members.. This will allow for the appointment of twelve members from the Government parties and eight from the Opposition. That is to say, the Government members will increase by one, but the Opposition representation will remain tire same. Im view of the readjustment of the numbers that has occurred in another place as a result of the recent election, I suggest that that is a very fair arrangement. The representation in the
Senate will remain the same1 - namely, four Government representatives and three from’ the Opposition.
I hope that honorable senator* on the opposite side will give earnest consideration to joining the committee1. The Government would greatly welcome the cooperation of the Opposition in the work of the committee. I believe that the problems, with which this country is faced in its international relations are- too- grave to be made the subject of merely partisan dispute. There will, of course, always be honest differences of opinion,, but. I am convinced that, given goodwill and a proper understanding of all the issues involved, broad national agreement could be readied on the. basic elements in Australia’s foreign policy.
The Foreign1 Affairs Committee provides the members appointed to it with, an opportunity to. become intimately informed, on international affairs, and to form their own judgment as to the course Australian policy should’ take. Responsibility for policy must, of course, remain with the Government, but my colleague the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), is always happy to receive the advice and suggestions of the committee. Moreover, the committee has a very important- function to perform in passing on to the Parliament the benefits of the increased understanding of foreign affairs which I am sure participation in the work of the committee must bring.
The amendment which has- been made to the resolution enlarges the- powers of the committee to a small, but notunimportant, degree. Sub-paragraph 4 (g) of the resolution now states that the committee may invite any persons to appear before it. The resolution of the last Parliament stated that the committee could “ send for “ persons,, subject to theconsent of the Minister for External Affairs. The phrase “ send for “ has been felt to be ambiguous, in that it. implied that the committee might enforce.1 the attendance of witnesses. The new wording makes it clear that all that is intended is that the committee should invite persons to give evidence, rather than compel them. The Minister for External Affairs is prepared to give the committee full discretion in the issuance of such invitations, aa he is concerned that they should seek information from as wide .a field as possible. The requirement that his prior .consent should be obtained has, therefore, been deleted, and all that is required is that he should be kept informed. Invitations to officers of the Department of External Affairs are, of course, a special case. From “time to time the committee will, no doubt wish to invite such officers to give evidence, and I am sure that it will always find them anxious to co-operate. Before accepting such invitations they will, however, first seek the Minister’s approval - which is the normal procedure when permanent officers are invited to make statements or speeches or to give official advice to any but the Minister to whom .they are responsibie. I expect that, in most cases, consent would be readily given.
Two new sub-paragraphs 4 (h) and 4 (~i) have been added to the resolution, but these are consequential upon the alteration to sub-paragraph 4(g), and do not embody any changes of substance.
The Committee for Foreign Affairs has been in existence for nearly five years and it has proved an undoubted success, notwithstanding the lack of co-operation .of the Opposition. It has provided an excellent means for a free exchange of ideas between the Minister, the Department of External Affairs and the committee. It also provided a means whereby distinguished visitors to this Government could speak frankly and intimately to representatives of this Parliament; and perhaps, not less important, has provided opportunities for members to talk frankly to such visitors.
During the last Parliament, the committee adopted the practice of appointing sub-committees to study especially important problems, with the object of making reports and recommendations to the full committee and, in some cases, to the Minister. For example, subcommittees were appointed to consider Malaya, labour relations in South-East Asia, and press and information matters in South-East Asia. The election interrupted this work, but I hope that it will be resumed by the new committee, as I consider that it is a very sensible and practical procedure.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 23r.d Feb.ruary (vide page 68) on motion ‘.by Senator BUTTFIELD -
That the ‘following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May st P.i.ease Youn EXCELLENCY :
We, ihe Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament .assembled, desire .to express 0111 ‘loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank your Excellency for the Speech which you ha-ve been .pleased “to address to Parliament.
.- When the debate was adjourned, I had pointed out that members of the Senate were elected on party lines but that k was altogether wrong to contend,, therefore, that there was no room for independent action in .this chamber.. I wish to inquire into a number of matters that this chamber could do irrespective of what had been done in another place. For example, a number of bills are introduced into this .chamber .and I, for one, would like ‘to see a much larger number introduced here. For that reason, I differ ‘from two honorable senators “who .have stated that they would like
Ici see ‘no Ministers at all in the Senate. That, of course, would make ‘the Senate :! chamber of review ‘only, but if the bills ai-e introduced here - and, -necessarily, if Government business is to be introduced, there must be Ministers here - we debate the matter first. When we do that, ‘we cannot be accused of merely lie-hashing what ‘has teen said in another place.
I wish to refer to a number of .such bills that have been introduced in the Senate. A bill for the consolidation of the statutes was introduced by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer), and it was debated at considerable length by “the lawyers in this chamber. The rest of us listened and followed as well as we conk. I believe that that particular bill might we’ll have been referred, not merely to a committee of the whole House, but to a’ select committee. While I was very satisfied with the opinions that I heard from the eminent legal men on both sides of the , chamber. I should ‘have ‘liked to see a much fuller inquiry, and that could have been done only by a special committee. Another bill introduced in the Senate was a bill on patents, and that was even more difficult to follow than the bill consolidating the statutes, because it appeared to be a very special branch of law. The point I wish to emphasize is that this is a coordinate legislative chamber, and not merely a house of review. Legislation should be initiated here and should receive its first debate in this chamber. The debate could be more leisurely, and I think, more effective than if it were rushed through another chamber.
To-day, the amount of government legislation is so vast that a great deal of it receives very scant attention, particularly that which is rushed through at the end of the parliamentary sessions. It would really take the full debating strength of both Houses to have anything like a proper discussion of such measures. There is another type of bill which, although government business, is not party business. A great many statutes are brought in simply to suit the exigencies of some department. They are fully framed in that department, probably by some subdivision of it, and probably the only persons who are greatly interested in them and know all the details are the people in that subdivision. If it should happen that the Minister concerned is too busy to give his attention to it, and the permanent head of the department is also too busy, we might receive a bill which is virtually an expression of the desire of some very obscure government official. It is a good thing that such a bill should be fully examined here, should be debated in leisurely fashion and, later, criticized in committee.
That is not at all a party matter because again and again we have heard the Leader of the Opposition (Senator (McKenna) rise and say, “ The Opposition does not oppose this bill, and agrees with it in every detail “. But often in such a case, the bill goes through without any discussion or criticism at all and, from the party point of view, that is tin; best thing. Nobody can get kudos out of it, nobody on either side wants to criticize it, and the bill receives little attention here, in another place, or in the press. Very often that is the sort of bill that requires closer scrutiny, because it may express only the views of some not very important public official. That, too, might very well go to a special committee.
There is another sphere in which this chamber could do a great deal - that of throwing light on those matters which are accepted by both parties. I might call them the sacred cows of politics ; the things that hardly anybody dares to criticize because to do so is to put oneself up as a crank or a person out of step with the majority of persons in the country. That would be a very deplorable position to be in.
I wish to mention three such matters : Immigration, the Federal Capital and arbitration. To take the third first, ‘ I know that there is plenty of argument about the detail of arbitration, plenty of demand for reform, and plenty of criticism about whatever is done. But the whole subject of arbitration has never, so far as I know, been reviewed since it was introduced. We say that we favour arbitration, and the Opposition says that it favours arbitration. So far as I know, the only party which gives definite opposition to arbitration is the Communist party. So far as the Senate and the House of Representatives are concerned, arbitration is the settled policy of the country. Nevertheless, I think that the whole working of it requires the closest investigation and criticism. Of course, that might be the kind of thing that best would be done outside this chamber, but I merely suggest that it is the kind of thing that a Senate select committee could consider, because whenever an attempt has been made to reform the arbitration system, particularly as between the State and Federal systems, the party making the attempt has suffered.
As honorable senators know, attempts have been made, by both Labour and non-Labour governments, for 45 years to alter the relations between the States and the Commonwealth. The late Mr. Hughes tried to do so more than once, when he was leader of a Labour government, and also when he was leader of a non-Labour government. Mr. Bruce, as he then was, tried to do the same thing, and there have been some attempts since then, but all have failed. It would be a fine thing if we could get some measure of agreement on this subject.
I shall not discuss the position regarding the Feederal Capital, because I hope to discuss that matter at a later date, on another motion. I come now to immigration, a most important matter. As everybody knows, the immigration programme was begun when the Opposition was in power, and I think we have always given full credit to the Minister who began it. The programme has continued in much the same way since that time. I have attended one of the conferences that are held each year, at which there is a good deal of discussion and at which opinions are put forward which help the Minister to formulate policy. But immigration also has become something that everybody accepts, despite the fact that, related to it, there are grave matters which affect our economy and which should be inquired into.
Nobody knows how many immigrants we can assimilate. Nobody knows whether we are getting quite the best type of immigrant. Nobody knows whether we should, or could, alter the ratio of particular races, and so forth. All of those are matters of fundamental importance. Finally, nobody knows how the immigration programme is affecting our economy. We know that inflation is the constant pre-occupation of the Government. We also know that unpopular things have been done in the past to prevent further inflation. If it is true that, in the short run, this immigration policy is highly inflationary, what are we to do about it ? It may be that we should continue at the same rate; it may be that we could increase the rate, or it may be that we should reduce it. Perhaps we should, like a boa-constrictor, digest a certain number of immigrants and then rest for a while. Those are things that are open to debate, and to a debate which is not on party lines. I suggest they are the kind of questions that a fact-finding body from the Senate could inquire into.
There is a tendency, particularly in the less responsible parts of the press, to decry any kind of parliamentary inquiry or committee. If honorable senators follow the whole history of the Parliament they will find that parliamentary committees have led to unforeseen, and sometimes startingly important, results. In the main, I think they have led to beneficial results. In the early eighties of the eighteenth century, two parliamentary committees were set up to inquire into India, one, under Mr. Henry Dundas, the uncrowned king of Scotland, who at that time was virtually the leader of an unofficial Scottish party, and the other under Edmund Burke. Those two committees dug up evidence which altered the whole policy of the British Government towards India and led to the taking away of a great deal of power from the East India Company and the vesting of it in Her Majesty’s Government. They led to the trial of Warren Hastings and to one of the most beneficial things that happened in the history of India. Mr. Henry Dundas afterwards became a member of the Cabinet under Pitt, and he saw to it that a very large proportion of the public servants who went to India came from Scotland. The advance of India, under sound administration, into the nineteenth century was very largely due to that fact. Committees of the Senate, of the House of Representatives, and of the various State parliaments have led to very beneficent results indeed. I advocate the use of such committees, and this is a matter in respect of which nobody can deny that I practise what I preach.
I now approach rather dangerous ground. Naturally, those who support a ministry in office are very reluctant not merely to criticize that ministry, but also to use words which could be interpreted as criticism, because we know that reporting is, shall we say, rather spasmodic. You get a sentence here and a sentence there. You do not get the full context, and what I say possibly could be misinterpreted as “ Senator attacks Menzies Government “. I want to point out to the Senate the danger of a bureaucracy arising. By “bureaucracy”, I mean an irresponsible public service. I do not mean a corrupt public service, or a bad or inefficient public service, but an irresponsible one. The more incorruptible and the more efficient the public service is, the greater the danger it is to our liberties. Honorable senators know that many bills arise in the. departments.. They are presented’ by the appropriate Minister who: reads a speech, probably prepared in the) department concerned. If. there is a. sufficiently servile majority in the Parliament,, at. bill can go through with virtually no. discussion and no criticism of any kind. That; is’ a danger that is; present,, whatever party or’ whatever government, is in. power. It? is not a> new danger, but’ iti iff an increasing one1, because of the1 growing’ complexity of government. I think that to-day Ministers, generally speaking; probably are more, efficient thanfey were1 50 years- ago1, but there are so many more things for them to attend’ to-. There being only 24 hours in- the day, they have little time to go into detail’s, so that in many matters they act simply as the mouthpiece of their departments’. 1 suggest that we could arrive at a position in which not only this chamber hut also, Hie pl’ace on the other side of King’s’ Hall’ would be mere shams1 and’ mere registering’ houses.
I propose to. read to the Senate the; following very interesting passage from little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, chapter 10, at page 116 of the New Oxford Illustrated Series. It is; -
Sometimes, angry spirits attacked1, the. Circumlocution Office. Sometimes,, parliamentary, questions were asked about it, and even parliamentary motions mad’e or threatened about.’ it, By demagogues so low and. ignorant as t’o> hold that; the real recipe of government was>. How- to do, it. Then- would the. noble lord, or right honourable gentleman;, in whose department it was to defend the. Circumlocution Office put an orange in his pocket, arndt make- a regular field-day of the occasion. Then would’, lie come down to- that house with a slap upon, the table,, and. meet. the. honourable, gentleman Toot to foot. Then would lie. be there to tell that honourable gentleman that the Circumlocution Office not. only was blameless i.n> this matter,, but was- commendable- iii, this, matter,, was extollable to the skies in this matter… Then would he be there to tell that honourable gentleman, that, although the Circumlocution Office* was invariably right tmi wholly right: i-E. never was so right ag in this matter. Them would he- be there to tell that, honourable gentleman that, it would have, been more to nita, honour, more to his credit, more to his good taste, more to- his good sense, more’ tohalf the dictionary, of commonplaces:,, if he had: left the Circumlocution. Office alone, and never approached this matter. Then, would he keep nne. eye upon a coach or crammer from, the Circumlocution Office sitting below the bar, mid! smash the honourable gentleman with the.’ Circumlocution: Office- account of, this matter..
We have- done something like that. I. hasten to ad’d1 that although, those, words were written- mi the nineteenth century, whan public servants were chosen by patronage, and not by. public examination,, and when, they used to, devote the little. time they could, spare from the adornment of. their person to neglecting, their duties, and although things- have altered, inasmuch as- to-day public servants are chosen by competitive examination, and they are. most efficient, the same thing. could happen again. I contend, that it is more likely to> happen, now, and it could be more dangerous to our liberties than in those days:. It is one of the functions of the Senate to protect the community from, that contingency. If we find that: a Minister is< merely accepting a departmental’ point of view - of course, we give’ ar new Minister1 six months or so tb1 learn’ about his department because we do not expect a gentleman who has just come into, office to know all. the details- during his more or less probationary period - and presenting us. on every occasion, when, replying to questions, with, only the departmental- point of view, then we - friend and foe alike - must take up the matter. That, is one of the. reasons why select committees- appointed by this; Senate- are adivisable. I should mot like it to be thought that that action is. always, taken- because of hostility to a Minister or a- government department., It is very regrettable that this Senate- has-‘ only used its power to the full on, occasions when there has: been a; majority in opposition. Thos© of us who° can. recall events^, or have: referred, ta Hansard on other- records, know what has- happened in. the past;, they know that there- wei;e only three periods during- which the Opposition im this> chamber had a majority:. One1 was- when Mr. Cook worn the election im 1913’, another when Mr. Scullin won elections, in. 19 2D’ and 1931, and the other- occasion was’ when this Government came to office in- 1949. On aid of those1 occasions, the1 Opposition acted with more spirit and more energy than it customarily does and took business out of. the hands of the Government bymoving for. the appointment; of select committees, or. by summoning a witness to the bar of the Senate which expressed opinions hostile to the Government. I do not blame the Opposition - whether Liberal or Labour - for doing that.
I think we should consider whether something similar could be done by the parties now in power - whether a. committee might be set up, not to attack a. Minister but to help him. It is very difficult for a Minister to escape from the departmental point of view. In order to perform his duties conscientiously, he must of necessity spend, many hours, both by day and by night, with the officers of his. department. He gets to know the official point of view. I. am in a particularly good position to know how the minds, of various public servants work. I happened to be a member of a head, office staff for some ten years. I was what, the union which continually criticized the Minister used to call on© of the> bureaucrats of Bridge-street. I remember writing a report on one occasion. The gentleman to whom it was, addressed, subsequently came to. me and said.,. “ Would you mind’ altering your re post toread so and. so? “ I said, “ I cannot see any reason for that “. He said, “ I would, like you to< alter it “. I said, “ Why ?: Can yow point out any material difference between what I have, written and what yon suggest?” He said, “No, but we have used that formula for- 30 years and it has never got anybody into trouble”.
That is the sort of. thing that goes on in all. public departments. Stereotyped methods of doing things and of answering questions are adopted,, merely because they have not got anybody into trouble down the years. It is a very courageous Minister who will break through that routine and alter it. I think, a Minister who would do so needs the support of members of Parliament. After all, we are ant like persons who are sent on errands. All of us come here with, certain ideas about public matters, and our collective knowledge is worth something. I think i.t would’ be a. very good thing if there were a number of committees of the Senate appointed expressly for the purpose of gathering information and offering opinions to Ministers, but having, no other power. If a Minis tei” did not like a committee’s advice, he could, disregard it.
Of course, there is a case for joint committees,, but I think that perhaps members of this chamber who are not tied down to the affairs of one particular locality, and who have leisure, are better placed to give advice and to offer opinions than are members of the other House of Representatives. One committee that 1 favour is that which deals with regulations. As I and other honorable senators have repeatedly pointed out, much o.t our public administration to-day is carried on through regulations. There was a time when, outside the common law and the statutes, the individual was free. To-day, the individual is bound by a network, of regulations. Nobody knows the full extent of them; nobody knows why many of them were framed; and often the unwary citizen knows nothing about them until he falls over them as he might fall over a hidden wire. I consider that the number of regulations should be as few as possible, and every conceivable step should be taken to see that they do not hamper unnecessarily the freedom of any individual. A Senate committee appointed for the purpose of reviewing regulations could do a great deal of work. The time is coming when more than one such committee will be needed.
I think it will be found that the scope of legislation is so large that committees to deal with particular problems will be needed. It may be necessary to have one committee to deal with arbitration matters alone. Another might be needed to deal solely with matters relating to social services. Fortunately,, owing to the division of powers, federal legislation does not cover the whole field. That is one of my main arguments- against unification -r if all power were centred here, tyranny would be immensely greater. If this sort of thing is done in both Federal and State spheres, the liberty of the individual i.= guarded to a greater extent.
The decline in the status of the Parlia ment and of the respect in which it is held is very dangerous to democracy. The business of the country could be carried on without Parliament. Laws could- w framed in the departments by a parliamentary representative, and the Parliament as such could disappear. It could become like many of the ancient bodies which, like an appendix which was once useful, have ceased to have any foundation at all. Let us consider the Privy Council. As such, it is no longer an effective body. It was once the King’s Council; it was the Government of England. Now, some of its committees, such as the Judicial Committee, have some value, but the Privy Council as a whole is a purely fictitious body. It never meets as a whole. It meets on the occasion of the accession of the Sovereign, but because many Privy Councillors are overseas it has never had a full attendance. Parliament could become as insignificant as that. They are not the friends of Parliament, whether they sit in it or not, who attack this House. If this House is abolished or made so contemptible in the eyes of the people that no one will have any respect for it, the other House will fall into contempt also, and the way will be paved for dictatorship.
I am greatly disturbed at the growth of bureaucratic government which has been developing for a long period in my own State of New South Wales. Recently, the Public Service Board, and particularly the chairman of it, have been subject to a great deal of public criticism. This has not come entirely from the Opposition in New South Wales. A great deal of it has come from members of Labour leagues and one of the principal critics, to my certain knowledge, is a leading member of the Labour party who engages in active campaigning at election times. It has been alleged that the Public Service Board, set up originally to prevent partisanship and patronage in the Public Service, has become a body which virtually controls the whole Public Service in New South Wales. I recall one occasion, before I entered this House, when I asked to interview a Minister as the head of a particular department. I was told, “ You are wasting your time if you talk to the Minister of that department. There are only two men in the State who can do anything in that matter - the Premier and the chairman of the Public Service Board “. If that were true, such administration is not in accordance with constitutional government. It is for private members in both Houses and of all parties to assert their full rights to prevent a government instrumentality from becoming virtually the constitution of the country.
One of the reasons for the comparative unimportance of the Senate has disappeared, that is, the old system of voting. Honorable senators will” recall that until the election of 1949, though two different systems of voting had been tried, each had the same effect - that of electing to the Senate every candidate put forward by the party which obtained a slight majority. It was a system which pretended to be not proportional representation, but preferential voting. It had the same effect as if an elector placed crosses on the ballot-paper, and if everybody voted for the candidates on the party ticket the whole of that party was returned. Honorable senators will recall two ludicrous results of that system. In the 1930’s only one Labour senator was elected to this House, and the remaining members represented the two non-Labour parties. In the period from 1946 to 194!> there were three non-Labour senators, and the remainder of the Senate were supporters of the Labour party. In those conditions one could not expect reasonable debate. Those conditions have disappeared because, under the present system of voting for the Senate, the principle of proportional representation is broadly observed.
But another danger has arisen, that of an equally divided Senate, and it is possible to have thirty representatives of one party and thirty of the other. It is almost certain that in the event of a double dissolution and a general election, such a result would follow. Of course, the coming in of smaller groups might, to some extent, prevent it from happening. But I am referring to the two principal parties in the House - the Labour party and the non-Labour parties, and when a matter was to be resolved on party lines, the Senate could be equally divided. However, that danger has been greatly exaggerated, and the consequences of such a situation would be not nearly so bad as from that in which one party had an overwhelming majority in the Senate. I am confident that the possibility of an evenly divided Senate can be faced with equanimity. I am confident also that an easy solution could be found in the case of disputes between the two Houses.
My main point is that since the parties in the Senate are now fairly evenly balanced, thus making this House a reasonable debating chamber, the opportunity has come to use the powers of the Senate in the public interest. I shall briefly recapitulate my suggestions of what should be done. In the first place, every matter should be fully debated. Honorable senators are aware that members in Opposition often say that and those in government generally deny opportunities for full debate. Let us set up a convention of understanding in this chamber which will last, and under which all matters will be debated at reasonable length. Some matters have been discussed at unreasonable length. In every session that I have been here I have noticed an enormous waste of time at the beginning of speeches which introduced no fresh thoughts, whilst later vital bills were hurried through without adequate consideration. It is essential that there should be full and leisurely debate on each bill at both the second reading and committee stages.
Secondly, I urge that amendments should be considered on their merits. I can appreciate the difficulty with which a Minister is confronted when he is presented with an amendment. He may not know all the implications of it. It may appear attractive and as though it could fit into the bill and alter one part only. Nevertheless, it may involve far-reaching consequential amendments. But if a reasonable argument is put forward in support of any amendment, the Minister should at least adjourn the debate on that matter so that honorable senators might give careful consideration to it.
– The Minister will do what he is told irrespective of which party he represents.
– I can imagine nothing less helpful than Senator Donald Grant’s interjections. He is always dogmatic and always right. There is nothing to do about his interjections except to contradict them flatly, and that, of course, does not help the debate.
– I am doing the honorable senator an honour by interrupting. I shall not interject again, because his speeches are not worth interrupting.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, I ask for a withdrawal of that remark.
– I withdraw it. The honorable senator’s speeches are worth interrupting and I shall continue to interject.
– The position may be different when Labour is in government but there was a time when that was not so. One former Labour Prime Minister carefully considered amendments and courteously sent for Opposition leaders and members when they suggested them. Not infrequently also, he accepted them. I refer to the late James Scullin.
The committees of this House now in existence should address themselves much more strenuously to their tasks than has been the case. Some committees have never done anything, and it may be considered that they are unnecessary and the best thing to do would be to abolish them and set up another committee to deal with another subject. I suggest that some use should be made of select committees. Their work should, as far as possible, be done in friendly relation with the Ministry. That is an appeal I make in respect of the general tone and temper of the Senate. I do not think we should assume that every honorable senator on either the Opposition or Government side has some unworthy motive or is a mere puppet of some force outside this chamber. I know that such stupid things are said in debate, but I do not think that the people who say such things really believe them. There is room for a great deal more flexibility and a great deal less of the factious spirit, and it is for this chamber to show the way to the other chamber. The other chamber is caught up in the rush and hurry of tactical manoeuvres which have the aim of changing the Government. These are highly out of place in this chamber, where such manoeuvres cannot alter the position of the Ministry. Members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives may be quite justified in taking advantage of the forms of that
House, because, after all, the main object of an Opposition is to oust the party occupying the treasury bench and to put itself in office. However, nothing that we in this chamber can do, with the exception of throwing out a budget, which no one has yet done or has ever thought of doing, can alter the position of the Ministry. Therefore, we should not model ourselves on the people on the other side of King’s Hall. We should try to improve the standard, and I suggest, honorable senators, that the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves if we are underlings.
I began by saying that a great deal of criticism of the Senate and the agitation for its abolition is misplaced and has no justification whatever. It is our duty to see that there are no grounds whatever for such criticism. If this chamber assembles for only a short time, if it meets on the average half the time, or less than half the time, the other chamber meets, and if all the bad things that are done in the other chamber are repeated in this chamber, such as rushing through legislation without debate and indulging in factious fights which are quite unnecessary, then this chamber cannot command the respect of the people. However, as I have said that has not been the normal temper of the great majority of honorable senators since I have been here. Certain interjections seem to give the idea that Senate debates are nothing better than party dog fights and that everything must necessarily be said to injure the Opposition and benefit the Government. I would say that both the party leaders in the Senate have set a very high example in this regard and that no member of the Senate has shown a better example on the matters I have mentioned than has the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna).
– I am somewhat loath to follow the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat (Senator McCallum). I shall probably refer to his remarks later. First of all, I feel I should compliment Senator Buttfield as a fellow South Australian. Although we are of different political faiths, she made a valuable contribution to this debate. Several matters she mentioned, particularly immigration, are of national importance and because of her active participation in immigration she spoke with authority on that subject. However, I must candidly confess that I disagree with her when she suggests that money should be made available for “ pubs “ instead of houses.
– I did not say that.
-The honorable senator did not altogether express herself in those words, -but that is the impression she gave. No doubt, she had in mind the obsolete hotels at which overseas tourists are obliged to stay when they are visiting this country. Although there may be room for improvement in hotels I shall never be a party, under the existing licensing laws of South Australia, to the granting of public money to brewers or publicans to improve hotel premises. Although I differ -with the honorable senator on that point, nevertheless she made a very fine speech, particularly on the subject of immigration. Senator Maher, who seconded the motion now before the Chair, seemed to hit wherever he saw a head, but we in this chamber are getting rather used to him.
In the Speech which the GovernorGeneral was pleased to read to the Parliament, one looks in vain for a forecast of anything of a practical nature being done in the near future. One’s opinion in that respect is fortified by the knowledge of this Government’s activities during the time it has been in office. Nothing has eventuated in the past from promises made in any .similar speeches delivered to the Parliament during this Government’s term of office.
Referring to a speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), His Excellency said -
The Prime Minister recently made an appeal not only to the public generally but to representatives of many sections of industry for restraint in expenditure; a restraint which would do more to preserve the value of earnings, by counteracting inflation, than any other single factor. Tt is not yet clear how far these appeals have been successful, but my advisors want to make it clear that, limited as their powers may be, they will be prepared to use them to them to the full to counteract an inflation which threatens to inflict deep injury upon our true prosperity.
The Government has increased its Ministry. 1 am not one who says that was unnecessary, but I believe that no man should ‘ hold more than one portfolio in any government. This country is rapidly developing its industries and production, and is rapidly increasing its population. Were those facts given proper prominence in the press there would be very little criticism of the Government’s action in increasing the Ministry. I make bold to say, in spite of what Senator McCallum has said, that there .should be an improvement in the conduct of the Senate. Perhaps, my opinion is fortified by the fact that I have been here for ten years. I was here when there were only three senators in Opposition, as was mentioned by the honorable senator; I have also seen what has taken place since the present Government took office in 1949. I have seen all that, and I agree with him when he says that not enough time is devoted in this chamber to measures that come before us. Nothing that the honorable senator said will shake my conviction that the Senate, as it is at present constituted, is a useless chamber. So useless does the present Government think it is, that although it has increased the number of Ministers, no additional senators have been included in the Cabinet. When the Senate consisted of 30 members, five Ministers were appointed from this chamber, but now, with a Senate of 60 members, there are still only five senators in the Cabinet. I am forced to believe that other people, not of the same political persuasion as myself, are inclined to think that this chamber does not count for much. Those are the facts of the ‘matter, and I believe that they bear out my contention that the position of the Senate should be examined along the lines that I have indicated. I contend that it was quite wrong not to give the Senate additional representation in the Cabinet because, as I have already stated, the number of Senators has increased in proportion to the number of members of the House of Representatives over the same period of time. That is an anomaly that should concern the Government.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has promised that his increased Cabinet will use all its power to counteract the effects of inflation, but despite the increase of the size of Cabinet, the Prime Minister has recently appointed a group of economic advisers to the Cabinet. I do not feel competent to question the opinion of the Government which, of course, is floundering economically, that there is no course open to it effectively to deal with our economic problems other than to appoint heads of departments and other persons as economic advisers, but I can recall the time when a Labour government also appointed economic advisers. That was done when this country was at war, and was continued into the post-war period. Members of the present Government, who were then in Opposition, assailed the Labour Government from all sides, and asked whether we appointed those advisers because we could not run the country. I again point out that at the time the Labour Government did appoint economic advisers, our economic and strategic position was far more difficult than it is at present.
It should also be noted that some of the men whom this Government has appointed to advise it are identical “with the advisers appointed by Labour governments. Even in the face of that fact, the Government, has the temerity to say that the Opposition is always playing politics. I am not alone in my attitude towards the Government’s actions because I have read in the Argus an interesting article from which I intend to quote. The writer of the article wants to know why the Cabinet has sought the advice of eleven men who comprise a brains trust of economists, public servants and businessmen. The article continues -
Why has Federal Cabinet sought the advice of an 11-man “brains trust” of economists, public servants and business men?
There a>re two obvious, .ominous answers :
The Government ls out of touch with national economic trends.
It is looking for scapegoats for unpopular anti-inflation measures.
Surely the Menzies-Fadden Ministry, after six continuous years of rule, has more than a rough idea of Australia’s economic problems and the means of solving them?
Surely Treasurer Fadden, and other senior Ministers have plenty of competent, experienced departmental heads to keep them “ in the picture.”
Last month Mr. Menzies created an “ inner “ Cabinet of 12 “ to concentrate discussion and to speed up decisions on policy matters.”
The effect of this streamlining must be nullified by the creation of an “ outside “ advisory body. it’s a safe bet that if these 11 experts are given our economic problems to solve they’ll come up with 11 different answers every time.
In view of that article, and in view of the opinions that I have expressed, I respecfully ask whether any honorable senator can tell me of any occasion when economists have agreed about anything. I believe that they have never agreed. The Prime Minister has organized his Cabinet into two groups in order to obtain speedy decisions on important matters. There is a first part and a second part of the Cabinet, and in addition to those bodies, there is now an advisory committee or a brains trust. That organization leaves one to doubt very sincerely whether we can take it for granted that all is well with the internal economy of this country. As the article which I have just read points out, surely after six continuous years of office the Government must have more than a smattering of knowledge about the conditions that operate in Australia.
At present, the Premier of South Australia is facing a general election, and in contrast to this Government’s attitude, his election slogan may be said to be “ do not let us be afraid of prosperity “. I suggest that very few could find fault with that attitude. This Government says, in one breath that all is well with Australia, but it says in the next breath that it must set up a brains trust to advise it about our economic position. If this brains trust is required, then one very glaring matter that has been overlooked by the Government is that the great industrial and trade union movement should have been represented on it. I shall withdraw that remark only if I can be shown proof that the industrial and trade union movement has been approached and has refused to have any part in the brains trust.
The industrial movement manages the affairs of organized labour of this country, and the people in that movement have just as much right to live here as any other section of the community. Yet, their representatives have not been invited to give the Government the benefit of their experience on the advisory committee. I believe that in the ordinary rough and tumble of life and in their contact with rents, housing and so on, the representatives of the industrial movement have far more experience than some of the persons who have been appointed to the committee to advise a government which has been in office for six years. T believe that the omission of representatives of the trade union movement is a grave and serious error which, I hope, will be remedied by the Government as soon as possible.
In several States, general elections are in the offing, and, in fact, some campaigns are at present being conducted. In view of that situation, and our past experience of the playing of politics by supporters of anti-Labour governments, one is led to believe that the steps which the Government intends to take in respect of our economic position - which will amount to hardship legislation - will not be taken until after the State elections, some of which will occur within a few days and others not for a few weeks.
Honorable senators have heard it said repeatedly that when Labour governments are in office, they adopt the principle of “ fortune favours the brave “ or “ spoils to the victors “. I suggest that such statements would be humorous if they were not so serious, because, for example, a number of the officers from the Public Service who were appointed to advisory positions by the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments during the last war, have also been appointed as advisers to this Government. Labour governments have been continually badgered because it has been said that we have always given positions of any importance to men who have been actively concerned in the Labour movement. I say that the same criticism can apply, but far more decidedly, to this Government. I go even further, and ask whether there is anything wrong with that principle.
If a government is satisfied that a certain individual, because of his record of service to the community, is worthy of some recognition, is there much wrong with according him recognition? Because of the frequency of attacks made on the Labour party, representatives of which are here in this chamber as Her Majesty’s Opposition, I should like to remind the Government of its record of appointments to important positions since it has been in office. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) and a former Minister for Air, Sir Thomas White, have represented Australia in London. Sir Thomas White still occupies the position of High Commissioner. A former Minister for External Affairs, Sir Percy Spender, is Australian Ambassador to “Washington. The former Minister for the Army, Mr. Josiah Francis, has been appointed Consul-General in New York. Mr. de Burgh Smith, a former editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, was appointed Ambassador to The Hague. Sir John Teasdale, a prominent Australian Country party supporter, has been appointed chairman of the Australian Wheat Board. Brigadier D. M. Cleland has been appointed Administrator of Papua and New Guinea. Mr. Paul Maguire, a friend of Government supporters, was appointed Minister to Italy. Moreover, the number of Liberal party and Australian Country party supporters who get knighthoods is growing enormously. According to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, we appear to be living in a state of emergency. We are told that the Government will meet the situation that confronts it with all the force at its command. I sincerely hope that, instead of playing politics, as it has accused the Labour party of doing, the Government and its supporters will look in the mirror and examine themselves, and that as a result they will refrain from continuing any longer as they have been do:ng.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) told us that things were not so bad in connexion with housing as they were some years ago. I do not know what he meant when he used the words “ not so bad “, because I see very little improvement in the housing situation. Indeed, the position is worsening in connexion with war service homes, I am at a loss to understand what is happening. For some time there has been an arrangement between the “War Service Homes Division and the South Australian Housing Trust under which, subject to certain requirements, including tli-3 examination of buildings, homes are allotted to approved ex-servicemen through the
War Service Homes Division. As a result of inquiries I have made from many angles, I have ascertained that the amount owing to the South Australian Housing Trust by the War Service Homes Division is such that applicants have to wait from twelve to eighteen months, and even as long as two years, before getting houses.
I congratulate you Mr. Acting Deputy President, on your occupancy of the chair, and am pleased to be on my feet addressing the Senate while you occupy such an exalted position. However, I suppose that I had better proceed with my speech before you call me to order.
I have stated the position in South Australia, and I could give many instances of ex-servicemen whose applications for war service homes have been approved but who are still waiting for houses because the South Australian Housing Trust cannot get finance to build them. Short-term loans for the purchase of homes are almost unobtainable in South Australia, except at exorbitant rates of interest. I have made representations to the Minister on behalf of a number of ex-servicemen, and am still awaiting his reply. In passing, I express my disagreement with the arrangement under which the Minister for the Interior is in control of war service homes. The provision of houses for exservicemen should be in charge of the Minister for Repatriation, a Minister whom I am pleased to see in his place because of his interest in ex-servicemen.
Because of the financial arrangement that exists between the Commonwealth and the States, with 95 per cent, of the obligation to find money for homes resting on the Commonwealth, many ex-ser vicemen whose applications have been approved will still have to wait many moons before getting homes. It is all very well for the Government to say that the money that had been allocated for this purpose has been expended. That has been the case since the war ended, but if men who are eligible to obtain homes have to wait much longer they will be using walking sticks to get about and it will then be too late for them to gain anything. God forbid that Australia, should ever be engaged in another war, but the only- hopes that the Government lias, of getting out of its predicament isthat there should be another war.
The position in South Australia is so serious that it justifies an immediate inquiry into the matter. I know the situation in that State, and I assume that conditions in the other States are somewhat similar, because I have heard honorable senators on both, sides of the chamber question the Minister on the subject.. Many of the men concerned hold responsible positions in the- community, and numbers of them have young familites. They are all good citizens. It is wron» for any government to continue on the statute-book legislation that does not meet the requirements of these men. After all, the home life of the people should be the concern of any government, irrespective of party.
I pass on to deal with matters relating to education. It would appear that the time is ripe for more frequent conferences between the Commonwealth and the States in matters relating to education. L sincerely believe in the truth contained in the adage - “ As the twig is bent, so the tree will grow “. Notwithstanding the energy and ability of the Minister for Education in South Australia, some lamentable happenings occurred in that State when the schools resumed after theChristmas vacation. The South Australian press contained numbers of pictures of children going to school, at school and returning home. I do not place all the blame for the present unsatisfactory state of affairs on existing governments. The growth of our population has made a difficult problem much more difficult, but the fact remains that, next to the home-life of the people, the education of the children in the community is the most important feature of. our national life.. It is not well that there; should be so much, wrong- with our education set up. If it were not for the fact that large numbers of children, attend private schools-, the position would be well, nigh hopeless-. The Government will soon be forced to take action. As I have. said,, an early conference between the Commonwealth and the States in matters relating, to education might help to solve this, problem!.. In. South Australia, to my knowledge,, and also’ I believe in the- other
States, it is not unusual for teachers and1 young children to be crowded into rooms which are as old as the education, system itself. Such conditions are not conducive to the development of a proper outlook on the part of children, nor is it fair to their parents. I, therefore) hope that something will be done to remedy the existingunsatisfactory state of affairs in the neatfuture.
I have repeatedly referred in the Senate to the number of undesirable motion pictures which are exhibited in Australia. Sometimes they border on the immoral. From time to time I and other honorable senators have asked questions of Ministers about these pictures. Generally we are informed that the matter is a State responsibility or that the parents have the responsibility of ensuring that their children, do not see the wrong sort of motion picture. I asked the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) about the position in. the Australian Capital- Territory, and he replied that action would be taken. It is time the Australian Government took notice of. this, matter.
Yesterday, I checked the advertisements for picture theatres in a newspaper published in an: Australian capital city. Ninety picture shows- were advertised in various theatres. Of the. programmes, 45 pictures were marked “:Not suitable for general exhibition “,. four were advertised as “’ Suitable for adults, only “ and six were marked “Not suitable for children “. It is all. very well for the leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan) to state, as he has done repeatedly,, that the responsibility lies with the parents; I am not a purist, by any means, but I believe- that the responsibility for giving children an opportunity to become decent citizens rests, in the first place, with the National Government. This is- the fourth time that I have raised this question in the Senate, and I hope that it will not fall on deaf ears. We cannot be proud of the figures I have cited in connexion with the classification of motion pictures for public exhibition in Australia.
I was pleased to receive to-day from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) a definite statement upon plans for the psychiatric block, at- the Springbank Expatriation Hospital. The statement was in reply to a. question I asked om the loth February, and the Minister knows very well that- I have asked a similar question many times previously. Now the Minister has informed, me that the block, when incorporated in the hospital, will include the latest planning for psychiatric treatment,, and will prove a valuable asset to the institution. Hestated that a considerable, amount of designing and planning was necessary for a project of this size. Drawings had been completed, specifications were’ nearing completion and bills of quantities would, be drawn up at an early date. The Minister added that on completion of those preparations, tenders would be called. He has assured me that the preliminary work has been carried out as expeditiously as possible, and that the actual construction work will’ commence at the earliest possible date. r am glad to have that assurance. 1 say emphatically however - and I include. Ministers for Expatriation in previous Labour governments in my remarks - that if it takes as long to, complete the building, as it has taken for me to get this assurance from the Government, everybody interested in the new block will be dead. While it is comforting to know that at last some definite steps have been taken towards’ the construction of the psychiatric block at the hospital, every Australiangovernment that has held office stands’ condemned for having allowed former servicemen in some States who needed attention to be incarcerated in mental institutions. They were a national responsibility. The Australian- Government could have overridden State acts. When the men went away to1 war, the Australian people did not expect- that those who* suffered nervous disorders would be put: into mental institutions. Hope springs’ eternal in the human breast. For nearly nine years I have been asking for a. psychiatric block at the Springbank hospital. I have now received an answer to. a question asked 6n the 15th February, 119.56. If I have to> wait for some tangible proof of the erection of the building, at Dawes-road, I am. afraid I shall be a. patient there myself or else I shall be within, the pearly gates.,
Very often honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have been dissatisfied’ with the way in which they have been treated when they have asked questions. Very often we have been snubbed. Questions have been completely ignored, and if. some of the helpful suggestions that have been advanced by Senator McCallum were put into effect, there might be an improvement.
Another matter about which. L am concerned is the provision of television rights in South Australia. It is very difficult to ascertain the actual position from the Government.. Honorable senators- from South. Australia on both sides of thechamber have asked questions about the difficulties and the problems that confront businessmen in South. Australia. Many of their technicians have been made tempting offers, to go to other places where television licences have been granted and where they will be paid high salaries and’ given an opportunity to qualify as, television technicians: Honorable senators from South Australia, and from other States.’ which have received similar cavalier treatment, object to the lack of information on television that has been supplied by the Government. I read in the press that a former Minister of the Crown bad been elected to- the directorship of a company of television manufacturers. I hope that, as a result of his experience in this Parliament, he will insist that the Parliament be advised on all developments that are taking place in television in Australia. I hope also that something will be done for the States which have not been granted a licence so far, and’ appear to have little chance of getting one immediately.
I come now to the matter of overseas markets’, a problem which has been exercising the minds of the Australian Government, and members of the Parliament’ of all political complexions, for- the past three or four years: Numerous agents and trade repr esentatives have been appointed, to overseas posts,, but to my knowledge, no report has been tabled in this Parliament concerning the results of those incursions into the places where markets for Australian products might, be found. It is high time that this Government at least took the Parliament into its confidence and explained the present position.
Like many other people, I regard with some fear and trepidation the future of nuclear weapons. I was very pleased to hear the remarks of Senator Kennelly, who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, in this chamber recently, and to note the warning that he issued to the Government on this matter. I join with him in doing so. I appreciate that a degree of secrecy must be observed in relation to atomic weapons, but, at the same time, I am firmly convinced that, without the human element, no civilization can survive. It is the responsibility of all governments worth their salt to prove that the welfare of the people is their primary consideration. Despite my limited study of the position, from numerous conversations I have heard as I have journeyed about the country, I believe that the fears of the people are real. I do not know what the Government could do at this stage to allay those fears, but I do know that it is wrong for the Government not to dispel those fears if it is possible for it to do so. I also know that it would be wrong and immoral for the Government to fail to make the ground upon which we live free from contamination as a result of atomic explosions, if it were possible for that to be done. Having regard to the short distance from Australia of the site of these atomic explosions, what scientist could give an assurance that the people of Australia will be immune from danger? I should not care to be a member of the Government, should harm or injury occur to even a small section of the community at the result of atomic tests. It is the duty of the Government, in these circumstances, to reassure the people as much as possible. To date, I have read only one vague report, and that from a scientist, which might help to dispel the fears of the Australian people in this matter. That scientist said that he believed the fears to be premature and that, as far as he knew, there was no reason for public alarm. In these days, when distance seems little, such an assurance is valueless to a people who have lived to see a material change in the methods of waging war. The Australian Government has a great responsibility in this regard, and it should appreciate the nature of that responsibility. I repeat that the onus will be heavily on the Government should harm of any kind come to the Australian community as a result of these atomic tests.
In conclusion, I hope that a merciful Providence will continue to assist the business section, and also the working people, of this country, because I am convinced that such assistance is needed now more than ever before. We all remember how, in 1949, the supporters of this Government promised that, if they were elected, they would restore value to the £1. Although it is almost six years since that promise was made, nothing has been done to put value back into the £1, and without the help of a merciful Providence, God knows where we would be to-day.
.- May I be the first to congratulate you, Senator Hendrickson, on your occupation of the chair, at the moment, as Acting Deputy President? May I also express the hope that you will remain there for a long time, because when you are there you are unable to indulge in your customary habit of interjecting in an unmistakable voice. With respect, sir, may I say that we would rather see you in the chair than in the place where you usually sit. I also wish to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) on his re-appointment to that position. The honorable senator is a fellow Tasmanian. During an election campaign, honorable senators hear a good many comments concerning the chances of re-election of members of this place. During the recent general election campaign I was the first to deny that there was any doubt about Senator McKenna returning to the Parliament, and I am glad to see that my confidence was justified. It gives me pleasure to see him back in charge of the Opposition in this chamber. I also want to congratulate the new star who has risen somewhat rapidly in the Australian Labour party, Senator Kennelly, who is now Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber. I propose to reply to certain points made by the honorable senator in his speech in the Senate recently, and I am sorry that he is not present at the moment.
The first matter with which the Governor-General’s Speech deals is the constitutional problem concerning the relationship between the two Houses of the Parliament, a matter which has been dealt with adequately by many honorable senators during this debate. I do not altogether agree with Senator Critchley’s contention that the Government has overlooked the Senate in the matter of Ministerial representation, nor do I agree with the honorable senator that the Government regards the Senate as of no importance. At the present time, we have five Ministers in the Senate, of a total of 60 senators. There were five Ministers in the Senate when the total number of senators was 30. Senator Critchley contended that although the number of members of the House of Representatives was then 60 and is now 124, the proportion of Ministers from the Senate remains the same. I am one. of those people who believe that we should not have any Ministers in the Senate at all. I feel that the Government side of the Senate suffers from a distinct weakness when five of its members come into the chamber as members of the Cabinet, and, therefore, speak with one voice, because, as everybody knows, the Cabinet speaks with one voice. As I say, in my opinion, the position of the Government in the Senate is weakened by the presence of Ministers in the Senate.
– Why ?
– Because five of them are already committed to government policy before that policy ever comes into the Senate, and if the voice of five honorable senators is taken away from » total voice of 26 or 27 senators, it means that the independent views of a large portion of the experienced senators are lost to the Senate. I should go even further and say that, of the many suggestions that have been made to resolve the differences between the two Houses of the Parliament, the one I disagree with most is that which holds that the two Houses should meet together as one House and take a majority vote before a double dissolution of the Parliament. I disagree with that suggestion entirely, because I think that its adoption would place the Senate completely under the domination of the House of Representatives. Under the system of proportional representation we shall always have, T trust, very close equality on both sides of the Senate. Therefore, in a combined vote, the majority on one side or the other would be so small that it would be swamped by the majority in the House of Representatives. Adoption of the suggestion that difference of opinion between the Senate and the House of Representatives should be solved in that way would mean, in my opinion, relegation of the Senate to the direction of the House of Representatives.
– What is the honorable senator’s solution?
– I remind Senator Brown that an all-party committee is in the process of being set up to inquire into the relationship between the two Houses. Doubtless, he will give evidence before it, because he has been a member of this Senate for many years and should, by now, be able to place his ideas before the committee. Another aspect that has been dealt with during this debate is the question of the abolition of the Senate.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable senator who has interjected belongs to the party which formed the Government of this country for many years but did not attempt to abolish the Senate. Although the abolition of the Senate is a plank of Labour’s platform, Labour governments of the past have not attempted to abolish this chamber, and now, when I mention the matter, Senator O’Flaherty interjects, “ Hear, hear ! “ Well, well ! I am a representative of the small State of Tasmania. That State is represented, all told, by ten senators, and five of the 124 members of the House of Representatives. Let me say that it will he the hardest proposition in the world to sell to Tasmania and other less populous States the idea of abolishing the Senate. It should not be forgotten that it was the horse-trading that took place in the days before federation that brought about the introduction of the bi-cameral system in the Federal Parliament. As a condition of their agreement do federation, the numerically smaller States insisted that there be established a House in which all States were equally represented. The spirit of the prefederation days still exists. This chamber will be abolished only over the dead bodies of the representatives of the less populous States. I remind honorable senators that it would be necessary for a majority of the electors in all States to vote in favour of the abolition of the Senate before it could be abolished. It is easy for representatives of New South Wales and Victoria to advocate its abolition. The reasons why the biennial conference of the Labour party re-affirmed as Labour’s objective the abolition of the Senate are worth remembering. The principal reason why this plank of the platform was retained was because the smaller States, having a majority of voices in the Senate, could vote against, and throw out legislation designed to benefit the States of New South Wales and Victoria. As a small States man, I shall never be a party to permitting Sydney and Melbourne to dominate this country. That is the position that would be brought about if this chamber were abolished. However, it will never be abolished. Honorable senators opposite may console themselves with the thought that it would not be practicable, politically, to abolish this chamber.
I shall now mention one or two points to which Senator Kennelly, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, referred during his speech. In many ways, it was an interesting speech, but the honorable senator made the kind of remarks which a person experienced in the upper house of a State, but new to Federal politics, might be expected to make. In the course of his diatribe against this Government, and the alleged inaction of the previous Menzies Government between 1937 and 1940, the honorable senator attempted to write down the foundations that were laid by that Government for our great war effort. At the time, I asked the honorable senator, by interjection, whether he could name one industry which was actually started by the Labour Government that came into office in 1940. All that he could do was to state that Labour had established the Royal Australian Navy in 1906. It is a fact that the Navy was established by a Labour government, and we should pay a great tribute to that Government for so doing. However, I remind the Senate that the Labour party of those days was motivated by the ideal of the cultivation of an Australian sentiment. But the Labour party of 1940 was motivated by an entirely different ideal. Gone was the great ideal of the cultivation of an Australian sentiment; in its place was a socialist-Communist ideal - the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. So it was that the Labour Government of 1906 was responsible for the establishment of the Royal Australian Navy, but the Labour Government of 1940 opposed tooth and nail the establishment of a graving dock in Sydney at which repairs to naval vessels damaged by war could be carried out. When one reads the reports of speeches that were made in this Parliament during the critical years immediately preceding “World War II., and realizes that Labour opposed the provision of funds for the defence of Australia, it is obvious that Senator Kennelly should not have made the criticism he did so soon after entering federal politics, and before he had studied the federal position fully.
During his speech, the honorable senator appeared to be searching for something that Labour had done. I made what I thought was a helpful interjection ; I said that I thought the most constructive thing that Labour did was to yell for the Yanks. The honorable senator then rather berated me for what he called my ingratitude to a great people once the danger had passed. 1 thought that he selected a most unfortunate phrase, because if any party was ungrateful to the Americans once the danger had passed, it was the Labour party. Honorable senators will recall the great tragedy of Manus Island. Before the blood of the Yanks which was spilled in its defence had dried, Labour ordered the Americans out. Labour said, in effect, “We cannot have foreigners on Australian soil “. America offered us that great naval base for a mere token, the only condition being that in the event of future trouble the base should be available for use by both American and Australian troops for our joint protection. But the Americans were told to get out and go home! The equipment of the base was then sold to persons who were told that unless it was removed by a certain date, it would be destroyed. That was one of the greatest tragedies in Australia’s history. I am sorry that Senator Kennelly is not present in the chamber to hear my comment on his remarks.
T pass now to the following passage in His Excellency’s Speech: -
As an immediate measure, my Government imposed further import restrictions, but such restrictions are not in themselves’ a complete cure. li want to deal briefly with one or two aspects of import restrictions, because I believe the time has come for an overhaul of the system of import restrictions and a new approach fro the many anomalies that exist under our .present licensing system.
– Hear, hear!
– On the Rialto, as much as 33f, per cent, is being offered far the use of these licences by people who wish to import imitation jewellery and similar items.
– It is a shame!
– It is a shame. I think we should have a look at this matter. As much as per cent, is being offered there in respect of imitation jewellery, and 12-J per cent, is being- offered in any of the States for the use of the licences.
-. - The Minister denied that, but it is true.
– I believe that ifr is true- and it is one of the matters which should be examined.. It is one of the growths that has developed out of restrictive policies. I hope that when the new Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has delegated to him responsibility for formulating a new policy of import restrictions, he will examine it carefully. A further development as a result of import licensing is- that firms are being offered huge sums for the goodwill of their businesses, when the only goodwill they have is their import licence. As much as fi for £1 has been offered, so that if. a firm has import licences to cover £50,000 worth of goods, that sum is offered for its goodwill.
Perhaps the soundest policy on import, restriction I have heard was that statedby a housewife, in the simple and practical way that only a housewife can adopt. She said, “If my husband came home and told me that our income was reduced by £5 a week, I would make sure that what was left to us out of his wages would be spent on necessaries. If we had a little over, that amount only would be spent on non-essential commodities. But. under your import licensing system, although you may not use all the nonessential articles you would like, you must use a proportion of them, and get, perhaps, 70 or 75 per cent, of essential commodities.” I like a practical approach to these matters. If we have only a certain amount of money to spend overseas, all of it should be spent on essentials, even though we may have to forgo some of the luxuries of life. As an example I mention the importation of fancy cheeses. We have plenty of good Australian cheese. Under our immigration policy, many New Australians are being brought to this country and they are capable of making consumer goods not now made in Australia. This is another reason why nonessential imports should be curtailed.
Our import licensing- policy is noi resilient enough. Many changes in production are taking place. I mention the change in the supply of fish as an example. Import licensing is based on imports in the period 1939-41. In those days the importation of frozen fish was unknown and only canned fish was imported. A half-pound tin of Canadian salmon is retailed for about 4s. 6d. but a whole pound of frozen fish could be purchased for the same amount. It is not possible, however, to obtain a licence to import frozen fish,, and so the public- are deprived of a real, benefit. It is absurd to ask people to pay 4s. 6d. for a half pound tin of canned fish when they could, obtain twice the quantity of frozen fish for the same money. There are many anomalies in respect of import licensing which should be examined so that the import restriction policy could be placed on a more practical, basis.
Sitting suspended from 5. SO to 8 p.m.
– I was discussing import restrictions, and I had dealt with some aspects of the subject. I shall deal with another anomaly which has occurred because the import restriction system is too rigid. I have mentioned fish. I now refer to the commodity know as sausage skins, or hog casings, the scarcity of which has caused a great deal of trouble in every State in Australia. I point out that we are, in fact, denying ourselves the export of sheep casings which command a much greater price on the American market than do hog casings. We are denying ourselves that market because we have to use sheep casings in Australia although they are not a commodity which the Australian people like. On the other hand, they have a market in America at a high price. If we were allowed to import sufficient hog casings into Australia to meet the local demand we would be able to earn far more dollars than would be expended on the importation of such casings. The last time I looked at the figures I found that the cost of a bundle of hog casings was 1 0s. 6d. sterling which is roughly 13s. 6d. Australian.
– How many pounds of sausages go to a bundle?
– There are about 105 or 110 lb. in a bundle of American hog casings. Each bundle is costing us about 13s. 6d. and that bundle is the equal of 24 bundles of sheep casings and we get 153. a bundle for sheep casings in America. We are denying ourselves an export price amounting to £2 2s. 6d. for the sake of saving 13s. 6d. It is bad finance and bad politics and is something which should be looked into. Complaints in this respect have come from every State in Australia.
It may seem silly to some honorable senators, who do not know the butchering trade, that commodities such as hog casings should be a subject for major discussion, but it is very important to primary industry and to the primary producers of Australia. If a butcher buys a beast in the open market he naturally assesses the amount he will get from that beast. He knows a certain amount will be sold as sausage meat. However, if he cannot get the casings into which to put the sausage meat, a large proportion of the beast has to be reduced to tallow at a much lower price. Consequently, when the butcher is buying in the open market he bids a lower price because he knows he cannot obtain an ample return from a beast unless he can procure the quantity of hog casings he requires from America, Ireland, New Zealand or Canada. It is in the interest of primary producers to obtain this particular commodity, and I bring the matter before the Senate because of its importance.
The next matter I bring to the notice of the Government relates to the Postal Department. Quite recently a deputation waited upon some members of the Liberal party in Tasmania. It consisted of men of long standing in the Public Service who held the service in very high regard. They were particularly bitter because virtually no recruits were offering for the postal service. Once upon a time the postal service was looked upon as a worthwhile career, but to-day the Public Service cannot obtain sufficient recruits no matter what it does. This deputation quoted instances and prepared a case for us which has great merit and is worthy of the fullest consideration. It gave us examples of postal clerks, classified in the third division, who, having passed their examinations, and having qualified to fill the position of postmaster, reached a maximum salary of £908 a year and remained on that salary for six or seven years waiting for further promotion to become available. Those men are fully qualified, having passed their examinations, and their position cannot be compared with a comparable situation in private enterprise. When I was a member of a local council we were confronted with a similar problem and we overcame it by providing a base rate for a position, increasing the remuneration after one year’s experience, and increasing it further after two years’ experience and so on up to five years. The salary was based on years of experience. No such arrangement has been made in the postal service, and, as a result, men are not being attracted to it. The whole matter should be looked’ into, because we cannot afford to have our Public Service breaking down.
I was most heartened, when a deputation of Liberal party senators met the Postmaster-General, to learn that he was fully seized with the situation and had prepared a case on the very subject that we presented to him. He assured us that he was taking all the steps that he could to rectify the position. However, honorable senators should be fully acquainted with the situation, because I am sure that we all agree that we cannot have a breakdown in our postal services or a lowering of the standards of those staffs. We have a duty to the community to see that they are maintained at the highest possible level. In order to attract good types of young men an incentive must be offered. I know that my friends on the opposite side do not like the word “ incentive “ very much ; but if we do not offer some incentive to attract the right type of man - and the monetary incentive is the only one most people understand - we shall be in danger of having those services dislocated.
– There was an incentive until the honorable senator’s party debased the currency.
– Well, provide an incentive in to-day’s currency. However, I understand that honorable senators opposite are against any incentive in any currency.
The next matter I wish to bring before honorable senators is the subject of immigration, particularly with reference to the naturalization of people coming to Australia on temporary permits. I had a case brought to my notice a little while ago of an Australian who had married a girl of another nationality and who brought her here on a temporary permit which can be renewed every five years. I wrote to the department and asked it whether there was any possibility of that woman becoming a naturalized Australia, as was her desire, after she had completed her six years residence in Australia. The department said that the act made no provision for anybody who is on a temporary permit to become an Australian citizen. I feel that is wrong. This was a case of an Australian serviceman who married a girl from another country and brought her home as his wife. They are very happily married and her one ambition in life is to assume the same nationality as that of her husband. But there is no provision for her to do that because she is here on a temporary permit. If we made the period of the permit six years in ordinary cases, we could provide for a probationary period of ten years to enable a person to qualify to become an Australian citizen. I ask the Minister to give some thought to that suggestion, which I believe has some merit.
I now desire to address myself to the economic situation of this country, and to one or two points in connexion with economics that people have been discussing during the last few weeks. I noted with some interest that various economic kites have been flown by a certain band of professors. One of their suggestions was that perhaps one way in which we could overcome our difficulties was to draw off some additional hundreds of millions of pounds by way of taxation. That sum appears to have been drawn out of the hat, because it does not seem to be related to any chain of reasoning. I disagree completely with such a proposal as a cure for our economic ills, and I believe that Lord Keynes admitted in his economic writings that if a government takes money from the people by way of taxation, it does not always deplete their spending power. People have a habit of jacking up against such governmental action, and of attempting to take steps to bring about the opposite result to that which the Government is seeking.
If we take £100,000,000 from the people in additional taxation, when the ordinary wage-earner discovers that he will not have as much money to take home as he had previously, he will tell his wife to cut down on housekeeping expenses, or will try to cut down his general expenses in some other way. The general reaction will tend to be not to pay the grocer, or the butcher, or the baker for perhaps a week, and to remain a week in arrears. In that way the wage-earner will accumulate a little extra credit. Of course, he will pay all his debts in time, and I am not suggesting for one moment that he will not pay them, but he will have a little extra credit to use in order ito maintain his existing standard of living ‘for jas lone as possible. 1 do not blame -tuc people for doing .that because I know that when “their incomes are reduced their first reaction is to try to maintain their standards of living.
Then the .traders, upon whom the wageearners will lean a little more heavily, in their turn will lean on their suppliers, and the suppliers will lean on the banks. It may be argued that the banks cannot give any additional credit because it has been made cleaT that they are not to do so. But every trader has a little bank credit which perhaps he has not used to cbe limit. When he is leaned on by the persons to whom he supplies goods, he will use more -credit - perhaps he will use it up to the limit - and all that additional credit “will swell the pool of credit before the standard of living of the people is affected.
There are also pressure groups. Another reaction of the wage-earner, when he finds his “wages reduced by taxa tion, is to approach his union secretary and tell him that he cannot live on the amount nha t he receives because of the additional taxation, and ask ‘him to do something to increase wages.
Senator O’FLAHERTY. That is happening at present.
– That is quite true, and I believe that these practical things which 1 have Deen detailing to honorable senators are things that the professors have never come up against. In such matters theory is completely in opposition to cool, calm practice. Therefore, if immediate steps are to be taken to correct our economic position, an attempt to skim off £100,000,000 from the income of the people will .not be a beneficial short-term policy. I bring that matter also to the notice of the Government. Quite recently I read a fairly good analysis of the position in the .chairman’s address in the 97th Annual Report 1955 of the National Bank of Australasia Limited. One or two passages of that report are revelant to the subject under discussion, and I shall therefore read them. They read -
In some quarters, the fashion is ‘to attribute our balance of payment problems and our inflationary ‘tendencies to the existence of what is termed “ excess demand “ which, it is said, from time to time “.spills over “ into imports. Some who adopt .this superficial explanation also Offer a -superficial cure. Heavier taxation, they say - and the figure -of an -additional £HH> millions per annum has been bandit”! about - would “ skim off “ this “ excess demand “ and bring us back into balance.
Faith in such a proposal is merely wishful thinking; wishful .thinking which is very close *o the socialistic line. Heavier taxation would mean a contraction in the capacity of private enterprise to operate - taking this phrase in its broadest meaning - and an expansion in the capacity for government activity. . . in the long run, 1 believe that the incomes of the community must be related to the real value of the effort .made. In our case this value must be in line with the .true comparative efficiency of our overseas trading associates and competitors; otherwise -Ave shall not attain our objectives. Failing definite improvement in the true worth of .our productive efforts, the real .value of incomes may be reduced by further inflation.
There is overwhelming evidence that we have arrived at a position where economic realities have caught up with us and “where artificial measures will prove useless. Tin truth, a somewhat greater effort on all front!” within the Austraiian economy for less in the way of immediate reward .is the only way out.
That analysis is offered by a very competent authority, a man of great practical experience and one who has had to deal with practicalities all his life. I would much sooner listen to what he has to say and take his advice, than I would listen to and take the advice of, less practical members of the community who have perhaps far more theoretical experience than he . has
– Those remarks do not apply to us.
– They do not apply to the .honorable senator who interjected. I .am talking about those who have hem offering general advice. Another suggestion is that sales tax might bn increased. Such an increase would increase the prices of commodities, .but I suggest that it will not affect the purchasing power .of the people. If a person intends to buy something, -the fact that the sales tax has been increased by 10 ner cent, and that he will have to pay £5 or £10 more, wall not stop him buying it if he has made up his .mind that he wants it. While we - have an expanding system of hirepurchase, if sales tax is increased most oi the persons who buy goods will only have ro pay a few more instalments in respect -of them. Therefore, the people will buy what they want just as if sales tax had not been increased. But, as I have been reminded, increased .sales .tax will have hh effect on the cost-of-living figures and the Q .series index. I do not like the suggestion that taxes should be increased, particularly because increased taxation tends to destroy the incentive to take industrial risks. I have .a high opinion of the industrialists of Australia who have taken great risks in the development of industries which now provide employment for a vast number of Australians. Every honorable senator knows that industrialists will not take those risks unless there is a prospect of ultimately reaping the reward for their ‘enterprise and the acceptance of risk. I was, therefore, greatly perturbed to see the line taken by the Opposition in the recent election campaign, particularly by the leader of the Labour party, Dr. Evatt, who attacked one of the greatest industries in this country; I refer to General MotorsHolden’s. The right honorable gentleman enunciated a very short-sighted policy, ft might have had the immediate effect of winning him a few votes, which he needed, but his attack on that great enterprise was an indication of the kind of man he is. He succeeded in getting a few miserable votes, which his opponent did not receive, but that does not make me think any more of him, or of the line adopted by him when he attacked that great industry. Did he take into account the position we would be in if we did not have such industries in Australia and war broke out? Without them, where would the machines of war come from? We earnestly hope that Australia will not again be engaged in war, but if, unfortunately, war comes where would we be if such industries could not supply us with our requirements? They constitute a great defence potential. The reason why the Labour party did its best to prevent their expansion .and bring about their destruction is that many of its supporters hate more than anything else the great industrial record that these concerns have in the treatment of their employees. Those who work for these industries are doing well, and are protected in their employment. Indeed, industries like
General Motors-Holden’s are an example of the best to be found in modern industry; and that is something that the Opposition does not like to see. Many supporters of the Opposition have preached class hatred for so long that the example set by these industries in the treatment of their employees is likely to rob them of their chief topic of conversation and argument. Those who preach class hatred are living a3 if conditions today were the same as they were 50 years ago, whereas, in fact, we are now living in enlightened days in industry. I suggest that honorable senators opposite .should visit some of our great industries and talk to the men employed in them. .Some of them have not come in contact with employees in these industries for a long time, although they claim to represent them in this Parliament. I go among them regularly. I visit them at lunch-time, and sometimes when they are having their morning tea.
– When did the honorable senator last visit a General Motors-Holden’s establishment ?
– I am a Tasmanian, and am responsible primarily to the electors of Tasmania. I visit the enlightened electors of that State. Honorable senators opposite will not be able to find any fault in the treatment of the employees of General Motors-Holden’s Limited by the management, yet they try to destroy this and other industries on the ground that they are making too much profit. Their criticism would find no response among the men employed by the company. They know they are well looked after, are paid good wages, and given incentives to do their best. I suggest that honorable senators who criticize these concerns should get in touch with their employees and ask them how they are treated. If they do so, they will find that they cannot preach class hatred to them. These satisfactory conditions in industry are being developed more and more throughout Australia. Honorable senators opposite are disturbed because they know that the more harmony in industry develops the more quickly they will lose their theme’ song. They have lived on class - hatred for 50 years. In days gone by the predecessors of honorable senators opposite did a great job. They did much to bring about a gradual rise of prosperity and improved conditions for the under-dog. I commend them for it. But to-day, those who follow them do not realize that more enlightened conditions exist in industry, and that they can no longer succeed by preaching the doctrine of class hatred as was the case 20 or 30 years ago. It is pitiful to see people so behind the times. Unless they wake up and realize what is going on, they will sit in opposition in increasng numbers.
In concluson, I wish to read an extract from a publication entitled Canberra Comments issued by the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. In the issue of the 15th February last, Don Taylor, writing under the heading, “ What pattern for Australia ? “ says -
A million new migrants, a miraculous expansion of secondary industry, a launching of development schemes on a major scale - and all done without any real disturbance to a standard of living which rates as one of the highest in the world. To the outsider Australia’s postwar performance seems almost a defiance of economic theory. It would certainly be unwise to let a proper and creditable national pride obscure the fact that the performance has owed a good deal to luck in the way ot a succession of drought-free years, high prices for wool, and a flow of “ hot money “ from outside at the very time when it was most needed.
– What does the writer mean by “ hot money “ ?
– He referred to money which came to Australia because investors regarded Australia as a safe place for investment. The money came from many places. Perhaps some of it was earned in ways that were not honest ; there are rogues in all countries, including Australia. As the writer of the article mentioned, it came to Australia at the very time when it was most needed. One of the things that we must do is to look at our national development programme, and tell the States that there must be a clearer understanding of what is meant by the federal system. We must tell them that they cannot continue to plan to spend immense sums on State works, and then come to Canberra and ask the Commonwealth Government to supply more money than they know it can provide. It is useless for them to keep on telling the people that they would do this and that if the Commonwealth Government would provide the necessary funds. We must understand that unless we work together we are not operating a federal system. We must also agree on a system of priority of works, and that means the drawing up of lists by the Commonwealth and States in the light of the limited capital resources available, so that the money will be expended on the things that are most important. I do not blame any State Premier for playing politics. If he decides to construct a bicycle track, or something else that he knows will win votes, that is good politics, and he is only keeping his eye on the next election. That time has gone temporarily. We must have a proper priority system for works, and it must be honoured by the States and the Commonwealth. We must make that system work within the limited capacity of the capital that is available in Australia now.
– We told the Government parties that in 1949.
– It is of no use for the honorable senator to tell me that. He should speak to the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Cahill. He has consistently refused to co-operate. The honorable senator should speak to the Premiers of Victoria and Tasmania. The State governments have to watch this matter. We cannot force them to do it because the Australian Government has no jurisdiction over the States. Senator Hendrickson knows that as well as any one does.
– The Government does not believe in controls.
– We have no control over the States to ensure a priority of works. We cannot tell them what to do. I believe that we shall have to damp down slightly our developmental work, and introduce a priority system. We have to examine the immigration scheme to determine how many immigrants we can absorb in Australia. While we had overseas capital coming in, we were able to take 1,000,000 immigrants in ten years. That was a great and creditable performance, but I do not believe that we shall be able to maintain that pace with the overseas investments that are coming into Australia now. It would be regrettable if we had to reduce our intake of immigrants, and I trust that we shall not have to do so, but I believe that we have to study both developmental and immigration plans closely to help overcome the present shortterm financial crisis. After all, Australia is fundamentally wealthy. It is sound.
– From the ears down.
– No, from the ears up. Australians showed intelligence at the last general election. They recognize a good government. I hope that we shall go forward to meet the economic crisis with a proper appreciation of what we can do within the capital resources available to us. It may be a short-term remedy, but it will pay ample rewards.
– The Governor-General stated early in the Speech he delivered at the opening of the Twenty-second Parliament -
The election has left my Government with a substantially larger majority in the House of Representatives but with a Senate in which the Government will by July not have a majority. This brings into sharp relief the very important constitutional problem of the relationship between the two Houses - the problem of producing a workable parliament.
I submit that, under existing conditions, the Parliament is becoming more and” more unworkable. No matter how many pious proposals the Government advances, they in themselves will not make it more workable. That position does not apply only in Australia. In the United Kingdom, the Parliament is becoming more divided against itself. In the United States and in Europe, the parliaments are becoming more and more unworkable, as a close and critical study will show. This Government has not yet suggested how this Parliament could be made more workable. The reason is that the economy of Australia, like the economy of other countries, operates on the principle of maximum production and profits for the owners of capital, and minimum consumption for the non-owners. The nonowners are mostly wage and small salary earners, and the minimum is reduced just to the extent that they become more productive. If the Government wants to change that state of affairs, it will have to put the economy in reverse gear. “What is the position of the workers of Australia? They work longer and faster than ever they did before for their food, clothing, housing and other essentials. That may appear to be wrong, but it is true. Last month I was in Fremantle, and I addressed the waterside workers there. I told them that they were receiving 8s. lOd. an hour, but their purchasing power was less than it was when they received ls. 3d. an hour. “When they received ls. 3d. an hour, they could buy a substantial three-course meal for 6d. To-day, in Fremantle they get an indifferent meal of two courses for 6s. At one time they could purchase the best meal in Fremantle for ls., or less than the equivalent of one hour’s work. The same meal to-day would cost 10s., or more than an hour’s work.
That applies to clothing, also. The waterside workers work a 40-hour week. When they worked 48 hours, they could buy a ready-made suit of clothes with the proceeds of 24 hours’ work. To-day, they receive £17 for a 40-hour week, and they have to work 40 hours for a suit. In former days, they could get a better tailor-made suit than they get now, with an extra pair of trousers, for 48 hours’ work. To-day they have to work more than 60 hours for such a suit. Therefore, they work longer and faster than they ever did before. When wheat was loaded in bags, they did not complete their loading as expeditiously as they do now. The position of the workers in Australia, as in other countries, has not improved. It has deteriorated. The effect of this is reflected in government institutions, which are becoming more and more unworkable. In addition, dissatisfaction is becoming more and more widespread. The supporters of the Government are aware of the facts, but they have yet to learn a good deal about the causes of these problems and the extent to which the workers are being fooled, ruled and robbed. As I have said thousands of times when addressing workers, that process continues from the cradle to the grave. Tradesmen are in the same position. If I were working at a trade in Western Australia or Victoria to-day, I would be receiving £17 for a 40-hour week, but with that £17 I could not purchase as much as I could buy when 1 worked for1 £3 for a 48-hour week. That is- a fundamental contradiction that has yet to be understood by the Supporters of the Government.
That contradiction works on the principle, as I have said, of maximum production and maximum profits for the owners of capital, and minimum consumption for the- non-owners. To the extent that competition is being superseded by combinations in. the form of private monopolies, the position will deteriorate and go from, bad to worse. Honorable senators opposite may say, “But the people have child endowment;, they have full employment; and they have paid holidays “. Maybe they have those things, but I suggest that they represent only a small premium in return for which they are being reduced to a lower level of existence. The owners of capital are becoming wealthier and fewer in number. As competition is superseded by combinations, the smaller men, both primary and. secondary- producers, are becoming almost a dying race in practically every country.. Therefore, while the owners of capital are becoming wealthier and fewer in number,, the nonowners of capital are becoming poorer and increasing, in number.
Senator Henty referred this afternoon to class hatred, but in my opinion the problem is not so much one of class hatred as of intensified conflict of economic interests. After all is said and done, the strongest point of unity between man and man is danger faced in common. That is found to be so in every war. When we all are faced with a common danger there is1 unity where, previously, there was disunity. The second strongest bond is needs in common. The trade union movement has come into existence not because the people concerned really wanted such a movement but because they had needs in common which could not be satisfied unless they combined together and used their combined strength in order to improve or maintain their economic status. The truth of that contention is reflected in the results of legislative polls. Therefore, to speak about the Parliament being made unworkable simply because, in theory, the various political parties agree today is so much nonsense; so much political eyewash. The
Government parties will divide against themselves-, just as they have divided against themselves- in England and in practically every other country of the world. That position has to be faced, but it is not being faced in this- Parliament, nor, so far as I can see, is it being faced in other parliaments.
Senator McCallum referred this afternoon to the need for the Senate to be a non-party House.
– 1 said the exact opposite-
– How can we have a non-party House when the electors are divided irreconcilably against one another? If this is to be a non-party House, there must be members who represent people with interests in common, not. people whose interests are diametrically opposed. If. you are to have member? representing people who have interests in common,, the whole basis of parliamentary representation has to be changed.. Instead of having representation based on territories or electorates, the basis of representation must be on occupations or vocations. Then, we would have in Parliament, or in an administrative or governmental capacity, people with interests in common, and they would ha.ve something- to- gain by working with one another. But the Labour Opposition here has nothing to gain by working in common with, the anti-Labour parties-, because those parties in this country, as in other countries, represent monopolyinterests which constitute an economicdictatorship outside the Parliament. That position exists today to a far greater degree than it did in the past, and possibly in the near- future it will exist to an even greater degree. In such a situation, the real government is in the hands of the boards of directors of the major monopolies, who are not responsible to the electors at all. They decide and control conditions of living and employment most effectively. According to the latest figures issued by the Victorian Housing Commission, in December last there were 8.000 families in that State who were living in houses which had been declared unfit for human habitation. There were 9,000 applicants for housing commission homes.
– What, after the Cain Government had been in office for so long?-
– That was not due to the fault of the Cain Government. It was the fault. o£ this Government and of the State governments which operate on a similar policy. What is true of Victoria is true also of other States. Senator Kennelly stated in the Senate recently that, in the whole of Australia, 80:00( houses are needed: The people want reasonably decent houses in which to live, but? this Government and the State governments of a like political colour say nothing about how they intend to remedy that position. Despite that shortage of houses, millions of pounds are to be spent on the Olympic Games and on the construction of palatial hotels and factories. In other words, money can be found for anything which, will make a profit. Only today, the newspapers referred to the proposed expenditure- of £3,000,000- on the erection of luxury hotels, but there was no reference, to proposals of the AustralianGovernment, or of State governments which are similarly disposed and which give effect to the- same policy, to do something for the people- on whom they depend to- produce the wealth. They receive only the minimum: amount of food and clothing, and inadequate housing, in order to enable capitalist concerns to make huge profits. Yet supporters of the Government parties pose as the saviours of the public. The Prime Minister has referred to a state- of unprecedented prosperity. His remarks were true- in relation, to the owners of capital, but quite untrue as far as the workers are concerned. Under the present system of economic dictatorship, the Arbitration Court decides the conditions of employment of the workers. Quite justifiably, the waterside workers recently went on strike rather than be coerced by the Government. They refused to be misled by the false propaganda that was published in the press. The Government has condemned them for that action. Had I been working on the waterfront, as I did years ago, T should have advocated a continuance of the strike.
– referred to- arbitration. I remind, him, that arbitration in. practice is quite different from the kind, of arbitration envisaged in the Conciliation and. Arbitration Act. There can be- arbitration, among equals around a table, whether they be employers or employees, but the manner in which the court operates to-day does not result in arbitration in: the true sense. The court may increase wages, but the purchasing, power of. wages is determined by those who control the production! and distribution of- commodities that arc needed by the workers. That savours of make-believe,, rather than, arbitration.
Senator Maher condemned the Australian Workers Union, and said that true arbitration operated years ago - that is, before inflation occurred and before the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was passed’. When I first appeared’ as an advocate Before the Arbitration Court’ in Western Australia, conditions- in industry were examined in order to assess wageclaims. To-day, they are assessed on a quite different basis by economists and’ statisticians. Immediately- the tradesunions express dissatisfaction with or suspicion of the present system, they are charged with being communistically disposed. Referring to Mr. Davis, the secretary of the Riverina branch of the Australian Workers Union, Senator Maher stated that, under its present leadership, the union was swinging across to the Communist dictum of directaction and collective bargaining, and that the union had sold out the principle- of arbitration which had been observed since the turn of the present century. That is quite the reverse of the truth, lt is the Government that placed the legislation on the statute-book that has sold cut arbitration. Because members of the trade union movement have expressed a natural reaction to that legislation, they have been accused of being communistiM 11 v inspired. Those who have so accused them are cither very ignorant or very malicious. The attitude of men who make a calm and dispassionate examination of the position is quite different. The ignorant senators to whom I have referredwere handicapped by- their inability to. reason.
Supporters of the Government should realize that they cannot continue indefinitely to smear nien, and survive. I was smeared long before the Russian revolution of 1917. I was classed as a revolutionary anarchist, then a Sinn Feiner and subsequently a revolutionary socialist, by Sir George Reid, who. had a legal training. Men who act in that way cannot expect to be accepted at their own valuation. Inevitably, they are discarded, as certain members of this chamber will be discarded in the near future. After the Russian revolution, members of the Labour party were called bolsheviks, and subsequently Communists or fellowtravellers. Certain opponents of Labour, who claim to possess academic qualifications, trade on the ignorance of the masses in these matters. As the English press has stated, it is time that the Australian Government got down to tin tacks instead of resorting to red smears. I am trying to convince honorable senators opposite that they are not masters of the situation to the degree they imagine. Far from it ! Perforce, the trade union movement in this country, as well as in other countries, will determine the issue. I remind Senator Maher that I knew many of the men who represented the Australian Workers Union in the past, and I know most of the representatives to-day. They are far better men in every way than those who have tried to discredit them. I can remember the old shearing days in Queensland when trade unionists were gaoled and placed in leg irons, but the time is fast passing when that sort of treatment can be given. I say, dogmatically and emphatically, that the leaders of the Australian Workers Union are among the finest men I have met. They have had the moral courage and audacity of purpose to stand before the authorities and demand rights for the workers. To a large extent they have succeeded, and they will have still further successes.
Senator Henty referred to the manufacturers of Australia but he did not remind the Senate, as I can from actual experience, that the manufacturers, particularly in the engineering industry, were 60 years behind the times in 1939. After the fall of Dunkirk, in 1940, the Australian Government received a devastating cablegram from England to the effect that in future we would have to rely on our own resources. For example, we could not depend on England to supply us with engines for our aircraft. The war had the effect of accelerating secondary production in Australia and within a short period, as a result of the splendid teamwork of many men who had been condemned as Communists, Australian secondary production increased to a hitherto unreached level. The splendid achievements in the Department of Aircraft Production were equalled in the Munitions Department and other similar departments. This country would never have had the opportunity to do those things but for the war. Instead, it would have been kept in economic subservience to overseas countries.
Senator Henty, in reflecting as he did on people whom he regards as those who foster class hatred, has no realization of their background. He said that he had talked with the workers in industry, but if he wants to understand the workers he should work for two or three years on the waterfront, two or three years in a mine, and two or three years in some other industry, and talk with his fellow labourers. He would find the position to be very different from what he would have the Senate believe it to be. There is an old saying to the effect that practical experience is a hard school, but fools will learn in no other. Many writers have expressed the sentiment that practical experience without theory is blind, and theory without practical experience is futile. In Parliament and in the social world people must have balanced minds - that is, practical experience and a sound theoretical knowledge. To deal with the present economic situation the Government has sought the advice of eight professors. The Age newspaper, on the 23rd February, had this to say -
Many people will be more dismayed than inspired to fresh hope by the Federal Government’s decision to transfer consideration of the country’s financial economic problems from the Cabinet room to a specially appointed advisory sub-committee.
That is economic dictatorship. The Government has delegated power to outside persons to determine what it should do. A majority of the men on this special sub-committee may have academic qualifications, but outside their special knowledge, in which they may excel, they are only babes in the wood in the world of politics and economics. A somewhat similar position obtained in the ‘thirties. The principal difference is that then there was more unemployment, and inflation bad not reached the present high level. The government of the day appointed an advisory committee consisting of Professor Copland, Professor Melville, the late Professor Shand and the late Professor Giblin, and about a dozen other economists. On the 21st May, 1931, they submitted a plan supported by Sir Otto Niemeyer, Professor Gregory, and others from the Bank of England, for the reduction of wages and social services and of government expenditure. The result of that plan was that more than 500,000 Australian workers were forced to work virtually for the dole. From the 25th May, 1931, until the 11th June of that year the heads of State governments and Commonwealth representatives conferred on the suggested plan, and then decided unanimously to accept the dictum of these people outside. Disastrous results followed. When my esteemed comrades were elected to the Senate in 1938, between 400,000 and 500,000 unemployed workers were receiving the dole. My colleagues and I appealed to the government of the day to do what was both politically and financially possible for those men, women and children whose homes had been forfeited, who had lost their equity and everything else, and whose family life had been broken. We might as well have appealed to a wooden god because nothing was done. The Government’s attitude was “ leave them to it “. War came in 1939, and then it was discovered, without any difficulty, that the men, women and children who were left to starve in the depression years could now be adequately fed, clothed and housed. Why was that? Tt was because huge contracts for war materials and equipment were let, and the Government found it possible then to do for these people what it could have done for them long before the war. That is the state of affairs which existed then and the same state of affairs i3 likely to exist in the immediate future. I am of the opinion, based on a good deal of experience and knowledge, that if the Government attempts to do, within the immediate future, what was done in 1931, or attempts to do what Sir Anthony Eden is trying to do in England, it will find itself in the same position as he finds himself in now and with much stronger opposition than it had in 1931. If this Government is prepared to act as it should, its policy will need to be very different in the future from what it has been in the past.
The Governor-General mentioned two very important points. He said -
In the session of Parliament which I am now opening, there will be two important groups of matters which will call for consideration.
The first embraces foreign policy and the related defence measures which can make that policy effective.
He had this to say on foreign policy -
By the establishment of overseas posts, particularly in Asian countries, it has sought and will continue to seek friendship, goodwill and understanding.
Let us suppose that the J apanese, or even the Americans, as they did in England, established posts, ostensibly to combat communism, but in reality to protect their investments. Let us suppose that Americans were domiciled here with extraterritorial rights similar to the extraterritorial rights exercised by Americans and Germans in China some years ago. What would we say? The policy of this Government of stationing armed forces in Malaya and other places is precisely the same. Yet, it talks about seeking “friendship, goodwill and understanding”. I listened to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech very attentively, and I thought his attitude, while he was speaking, showed that he would have liked to have torn up the whole thing.
The most important science in life is the science of man; but it is the least understood. The psychological reaction of the Governor-General to the Speech that he read suggested to me that he was sick and tired of the whole thing. It suggested rank hypocrisy on the part of the Government to be talking about friendship and goodwill while, at the same time, it was sending occupational forces to foreign countries. There will never be friendship and goodwill while that is done; but that is the policy of this Government.
The next matter to which the GovernorGeneral directed attention was the economic problem. His Excellency said -
The second can be described broadly as the economic problem.
What is the economic problem? No explanation is given. I suggest that a way to solve the economic probem is to abolish poverty and war, but that is the very last thing “this Government is attempting to 4, <or has ever attempted to do. I*t will be done by a courageous and well.informed ‘Labour government which is well supported from outside. Then, there will be no poverty or war. In any country where representation is on an electoral or territorial basis is any attempt being .made to abolish poverty and Avar? Let us consider America, the richest country .in the world. By that I mean the richest country for those who own it, not for those who merely lave an it.
A recent visitor to Australia was -a (gentleman who can be described as a private owner in America, which is much the same as a private owner in Australia. He was Mr. Clement D. Johnston, a gentleman who occupies the very privileged and prominent position of chairman of the board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America. In a brochure, he has .given us the benefit of his impressions, what I like about him is that he is forthright and honest. He admits his ignorance, which is something many honorable senators do not. Dealing with surpluses of primary products held m storage in America, ‘this is what he had to say -
That matter is lying -heavily on our hearts and also on our pocketbooks.
– Does he say that, or is the honorable senator saying that?
– He says it. He goes on -
We have in storage in the United States, now, the property of the Federal Government, over 7 -billion dollars of agricultural products and it is costing the government 750,000 dollars a day just- to pay storage on those products. Many of them are not improving with age. 4n certain lines it represents a full year’s production. Certain of those products, like cotton, are pretty handy to have as a war measure, but certain other things like grain wu do not know what do with, and yet, under our price support programme, it is high enough to encourage our farmers to continue to plough up marginal grasslands and pile up more and more of these surpluses that overhang the market and we cannot find anything to do with it.
That is precisely the position we a-re in to-day. ‘In this land ‘there are millions of bushels of wheat and other primary products and the ‘Go’vernment does -not know -what to do ;about the matter-; it is mentally ‘bankrupt and has readied a dead-end. ‘It ls just waiting for something ‘to happen. Mr. Johnston goes on to point out exactly what I ‘have pointed out ‘in reference ‘to Australia. He says-
It might interest you to know that we have ‘in ‘the States today 25 per -cent, fewer (armors than >we ;had ‘.ten years ago and thu trend is still down, and .yet these .agricultural surpluses are st’ill our .greatest .problem. These agricultural implements that are be’ing put out ‘in such ‘numbers are tremendously efficient so .that we require fewer .and fewer ‘farmers.
That is what ls happening in Australia. The whole population is unbalanced. Our rural population is being reduced to zero, while our urban population is increasing. The ‘Government does not know what to do about it. Senator McCa’llum spoke about immigrants, but if he were to read the last report of the Institute of Public Affairs he would find that immigrants cannot be employed .on the land as there ls no place there for them. A survey has revealed that during the period from 1942 to 1952 the rural population of Australia declined by 70,000. But the productivity of the man on the .land, because of the mechanization of farming, increased during the same period by 50 per ,cent.
This Government carries the responsibility for our economic difficulties, and on the hustings it .has told the people that it is capable of .governing ‘the country properly. Irrespective of that undertaking, the Government has done practically nothing. It has allowed things to drift until our economy has gradually reached a parlous condition. What does the Government intend to do about inflation? I suggest that it should first define what it means by inflation, and then try to do something about it. I have read all the newspapers that I can obtain m which reference is made to inflation, particularly financial journals and bankers’ statements, .and I have found that while much is said in them, in a superficial way, about inflation, in not one of them has anything been ‘said about the way we should attack inflation. The real inflationists in this country are the
Treasury and .its collaborators, the [private banks. The only difference between inflationists who have obtained millions of pounds worth of .goods and .services £or almost worthless bits of paper, and counterfeiters -who have done the same, is that the counterfeiters ?are sent to gaol while the inflationists remain in this Parliament ;as supporters of the Government. The ‘Government does not know what to do- about inflation; neither do ;the authorities in America .know bow Ito counter inflation in that country.
The Minister for Trade (Mr. Mc’Ewen) recently condemned ‘Great Britain for not giving Australia a better ileal over our primary products. If we condemn Great Britain, we might as well condemn the starving Asians who do not buy our wheat because they cannot afford to buy it. A similar economy operates in the East and in the West, although its results are more disastrous in the Ea3t. The principle of our economy is that there shall be maximum production and maximum profits for the owners of capital, but minimum consumption and minimum profits for the rest of the population. The less the people can live on the less they get, and ‘that has always been the position in this country.
His Excellency’s Speech dealt exhaustively with the perfectly obvious and with i he ideal, but it said nothing about the cause of our troubles. This Government has decided that it is in a difficult position and that, therefore, it will increase the number df Ministers in ‘the Ministry, and give four senior ministers an additional £500 a year each. The Government has also decided to call on eleven professors, bankers and businessmen to advise it, but those gentlemen, irrespective of their special qualifications, are as competent to deal with our economic position as is the man in the moon. ‘This Government has never attempted to do anything constructive.
– Even after six years of office.
– Tha t is so. I can only put that down to an ignorance of its own ignorance, or the fact that the Government is afraid to admit the truth even to .itself and to carry on with the job that must be done if o.ur economy is to be placed -upon a sound basis. I am looking for specific proposals from the Government ,as .to what should be done, but J. have .heard nothing of that kind as yet. lt .gives me no satisfaction to speak as I am now ‘speaking, because unfortunate men, women and children have -been starving on .the bread-line, waiting for the Government ,to do something to .protect them, .Such people .may be found in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities of this country, hut there is nobody to speak on their behalf within the councils of the Government.
A test of the Government’s courage and audacity occurred last week when a certain measure was before the Parliament, but the Government cracked the whip .’and all its supporters fell into line. The Government has not the moral courage to do -what it knows should be done, or even to follow the lead given by Great Britain. Quite often.in the British House of Commons .the supporters of the Government challenge Government proposals and their .views are given attention. All I can say is ‘that unless .a change is made for the better, this Government and its supporters will lapse into a rabble, just as a government of :the same type did in 1941 when the supreme test o’f war came. All that the then government could do was quarrel within its own ranks, and its members blamed each other for their own shortcomings. No constructive effort was made to organize the resources of the country for ‘the great war .effort that was ‘required, and there was no audacity or courage or purpose in that, government at all. It was left to -a Labour team to carry on with the job and succeed where the non-Labour Government had failed.
Senator MATTNER (South Australia.’) T9.27].- I congratulate the mover and the seconder of the motion for the adoption o’f the Address-in-Reply. It is pleasing to South Australian senators particularly, and perhaps to every one in Australia generally, that the selection of Senator Buttfield to fill a casual vacancy in the Senate was confirmed by the South Australian electors last December. We fellow South Australians tender our sincere congratulations to the honorable senator. and we believe that not only will that State be well represented by her for the next six and a half years, but also that Australia generally will benefit by the honorable senator’s knowledge.
I believe that the seconder of the motion, Senator Maher, gave a true summary of the conditions that face us in Australia to-day. He dealt fully with the matters contained in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, and also set out clearly some of the steps which he believes, and which many of us believe, should be taken by this Government to maintain the prosperity of Australia. “We have just heard a remarkable speech by Senator Cameron. It was remarkable because for more than an hour he apologized for the failure of the Labour party to come to grips with national affairs during the last 50 years. I suggest that he did that most effectively. However, the point which the honorable senator missed was that when he started to compare prices and conditions of years gone by with present-day prices and conditions, he overlooked the fact that although goods were relatively cheap in the old days, the great mass of the people were unable to buy them beccause they did not have sufficient money. Things are quite different to-day. Although our prices may be high, people have the money to buy the goods to-day, and they do buy them. There is much nonsense talked about the terrible sufferings of people who are living as members of what is termed the labour force, but I have yet to be convinced that there is much poverty .in our community. In view of the fact that about £225,000,000 was spent by the people during the last twelve months on beer, wine and cigarettes - that is about £25 a head of the population - there cannot be too much poverty about. The consumption of liquor averages 25 gallons a year for every man, woman and child in Australia. In spite of all that has been said about housing, I do not think that the people of Australia have ever been housed as well or as effectively as they are housed to-day. If, in the past, some houses were built on faulty foundations, or were otherwise unsatisfactory, it perhaps could be said that the plumbing was at fault, although Senator Cameron, who has some knowledge of plumbing, did not say so.
In the other legislative hall, the Twentysecond Parliament is already in existence, and it is interesting to see on the Government benches a large number of young and able men who, I am sure, will add to the strength of the Government. In this chamber and elsewhere members of the Opposition are moving further to the left each day. The steps taken at the last Labour party conference at Hobart set the pace for that party to follow in this Parliament; its aim is the socialization of everything by legislative action. In three great vital matters affecting Australia - trade, commerce and defence - the stated policy of the Labour party runs parallel to, and is almost identical with, the policy of the Communist party.
Senator Kennelly and others on the Opposition side extolled the war effort of the Labour Government which was in office from 1941 to the end of the war. I do not desire to take from that Government any credit for what it did, but let us examine its war effort. It is a common practice for people who want to damage the reputation of past Liberal governments to blame them for failures and disasters for which they were not responsible. If we examine the Labour party’s war effort we shall find many points upon which we agree. I ask honorable senators to correct me if I am wrong in saying that we are all agreed that a successful war effort requires both men and materials. Let us consider first the fighting men. Did a Labour government alter the method by which men for the fighting forces were recruited; did it change the system adopted by the previous Government ? The answer is “ No “. How many divisions did the Labour Government equip and send overseas? Did it alter the leaders who had been appointed ? Did it change the staff officers ? Again the answer is “ No “.
– The Labour Government made it possible for them to be maintained in the field.
– The Labour Government pushed the “Brisbane line” further north.
– Did not the Government which Labour condemned institute the national register, which Labour opposed ? I know the answer that honorable senators opposite would like to give, but it was from that national register that the Civil Construction Corps was formed. Did the Labour Government make any alteration in connexion with the Navy or the Air Force, either in regard to recruitment or equipment? Once again the answer is “ No “. That is the position in regard to man-power; the Labour Government followed step by step every procedure laid down by its predecessor. If the Labour Government’s efforts were so good, then Labour senators, if they are logical, must give credit to the previous Government for what it did. Senator Cooke mentioned the equipping of the men in the field. Will he, or any other honorable senator opposite, tell me of one factory or industry that Labour set up after it came into office?
– There were dozens of them.
– When the previous Government went out of office every factory and munitions plant which was operated during the Labour Government’s term of office was either already in operation or had been planned.
– Nearly all of them were closed down in 1939, when some of our troops went abroad in sandshoes.
– I have given a fair summary of the position, and honorable senators opposite have no answer to what I have said. The plain facts are that all these factories were either already in existence or had been planned when Labour came into power. It is time that Labour senators admitted these indisputable facts, and gave credit to the previous Government for what it did.
One of the worst things ever done for the fighting forces was the establishment of two separate armies by a Labour government. Every fair-minded Australian will agree that the divisions which were sent away from Australia by the previous Government saved the Suez Canal and Egypt for the Allies, maintained the integrity of India, and kept Japan out of the war until late in 1941 - a remarkable achievement indeed.
Mention has been made of the “Brisbane line”. When Singapore fell, and, later, when Rabaul fell, members of the Labour Ministry would have capitulated to Japan had it not been for the chiefsofstaff in this country.
– Who were they?
– The honorable senator may find that out for himself. One member of that Ministry is still in the other chamber where, from time to time, he has a good deal to say about the “ Brisbane line “. It is interesting to reflect that when the previous Government went out of office Japan had not entered the war. It was not until Labour came into office that Japan struck, and we heard of the “ Brisbane line “. I ask honorable senators opposite to show in what way Labour’s defence policy has changed from that day to this. I ask them to say whether they now believe in sending men outside Australia to defend this country if it was necessary to resist an attack from without. I suppose they would retire immediately to the Brisbane line. When the Labour party declares that it would not send one man outside Australia, it is referring to the Navy and the Air Force as well as to the other armed services. Those are some of the points that should be considered. If the Labour party believes that its war effort as a government was worthy of praise, it should remember that it was built on the foundations laid by a previous government, and should acknowledge that fact.
I believe that every effort should be made to expand our trade and commerce. The Government may be able to assist in some ways, but I believe that this ia a matter more for individual effort by the people of Australia. I believe that we shall get that individual effort. Already the people are recognizing that the cost of production must be tackled. That also is the duty of the individual. A government can make certain provisions and give assistance, but the decision to work is one for individuals.
I have often heard honorable senators on the Opposition side talk about the bad condition of our trade balance overseas. They are simply condemning the workers of Australia. I have a better opinion of the working force in Australia than honorable senators opposite have. I believe that eventually the workers will face up to the task nhat lies ahead’. Buring the general election campaign, the Government was condemned’ because our trade balance overseas had declined. The trade balance never, belonged- to. the Government. Trade balances are not created: by any government, Labour or Liberal. The spending of trade balances is not the province of any government The private traders deplete trade balances,, and. the producers increase them. If the trade balance is so vital to the economy, why has the Labour party tried to destroy i’r, on every occasion? Recently, we had ai disastrous waterside strike. No one knows what it cost the producers, both primary and secondary, or how much it affected our overseas trade balance. Not one word was said, about that by the Opposition, yet the strike sabotaged the balance of payments which honorable senators opposite believe to be sacred. In addition,, the strike revealed a, sinister, move to sabotage the arbitration system. If the arbitration system has faults, surely we ha.ve the brains to- correct them. There is no need to scrap the system and. return to the la.w of the jungle.
The great task of the Government, and one in which every Australian, should give, assistance,, is to deal with the subversive elements- in industry. Every time we have a strike holding up. trade and shipping,, the community suffers- economic loss. That is the cause of import cuts and quotas. I am afraid they are with us for some time. Certainly I believe that they need a close overhaul. I would not’ like to have the task of determining what articles shall be allowed into the country. It is rumoured everywhere that import licences are for sale. Advertisements in the press offer import licences for sale, but when one tries to gather proof of this traffic there is a stony silence. If some men have import licences far- £l!0,000j and sell them for 5 per cent. ot 10 per cent, of that amount without lifting a finger; costs must rise. I look forward to the day when that practice, if it exists, will be stamped out.
At question-time to-day, I referred to rive restriction, amounting to 7’5 per cent., that has been placed’ on the importation of ‘malathion, which is, perhaps, the most effective control of pests affecting fruit, particularly codlin moth. Malathion is the basis of many sprays, and it is nor, manufactured in Australia. If the imports have been cut by 75 per cent that is a serious blow to fruit-growers in Australia.
– We cannot sell our- fruit.
– I believe the restrictions should be examined because, in spite of the interjection by Senator Hendrickson, we can sell, and are selling, our fruit, particularly apples and pears, at very good prices. We can sell them overseas if we can load them on time.
– What, about dried fruits?’
– The market for dried fruits has improved, and prices are better. The growers have been promised a- marketing scheme, and the promise will be honoured. We can sell the- goods. What annoys us is- the refusal of the watersiders to load our products after we have grown; them and. packed them ready for marketing. We have no quarrel with, the waterside workers. We want to know why they will not load, our fruit, because the producers suffer and the effect is felt by all workers. I hope that by next September or October ample supplies of malathion will be available to* orchardists.
Another matter that is worrying us in Australia is the problem of transport, whether-‘ it be by sea, air, road or rail: Because of the fact that the Australianpopulation is- settled mainly along the coastal fringe, our industries’ also are along the coast. Having regard to the fact that our- industry is chiefly situated in this relatively narrow coastal fringe, sea transport should possess many natural advantages and should be operated as an efficient enterprise. To-day, both road and rail transport are strong’ competitors for cargo. Much of this competition is hardly fair, because the State railways offer cut-throat freight rates, with the result that many cargoes which are admirably suited to transport by sea are carried by either road or rail. I think it is fair to say that in every State of the Commonwealth the small cargo ships that at one time played such an important part in intra-state haulage have almost disappeared.
Another of our troubles, and a matter detrimental to sea transport, is the cost of handling cargoes .at the wharfs. In respect of a 2,500-ton ship, the .stevedoring charges represent 60.7 per cent, of the total freight >cost. In respect of u ‘4,000-.ton or 5;000-ton ship, the handling or stevedoring charges represent 67 per cent, of the total freight cost. Despite the mechanization and ‘improvement of our -wharfs, cargoes are being handled only half as fast as they were handled in 1938 and 193!). We have 50 per cent, more ships on our interstate routes than we had previously, but although we have a greater tonnage than we have ever had before, the cargoes those ships carry barely equal die pre-war figures. In 1939, the freight on iron ore from Whyalla to Newcastle or Port Kembla was 4s. 9d. a ton, whereas to-day it is fi ls. 3d. a ton.
Another factor which militates against son transport is the irregularity of sailings and the uncertainty of delivery dates. That also has adversely affected sea trade, with the result that we have swamped our railways and worn out our roads in the carriage of cargoes that should have gone by sea.
– Sea transport is the cheapest form of transport.
– Exactly, and it is an ideal form of transport. The very fact that so much of our cargo is not being carried by sea, as it was in the past, has had an adverse effect on our road and rail systems.
Of course, we know that the Commonwealth is vitally interested in shipping. I think it is safe to say that the Common wealth shipping line enjoys great advantages over the private shipping lines. If we look at the profit and loss accounts of the shipping companies we shall see that two of the biggest interstate companies have, during the last four years, averaged only 4 per cent, of their capital investment. It can be seen, therefore, that there is no real incentive to-day for any one to put money into ships. One of the great problems of the private shipping line is the replacement of ships. I should like the Government, to consider the granting of adequate taxation allowances for depreciation of ships, because I think that that is .necessary if these .shipping lines are to continue to operate. .In order to replace a ship, the original cost of which was £300,00.0 .a shipowner to-day would have to -find £1,170,000 over and above the depreciation allowed by the Taxation Commissioner, but if the .Government wished to replace a ship from earnings, it could do so for £470,000 ‘less, -because there would be no taxation involved. Unless something is done in this connexion, perhaps the high cost of replacing ships will prove to be the quickest way of nationalizing our interstate shipping. I, for one, do not want to see our shipping lines nationalized.
In conclusion, I wish to refer to the subject of land settlement of exservicemen, particularly at Eight Mile Creek, in South Australia. In my opinion, the overall picture of soldier settlement in South Australia is an extraordinarily good one, but at Eight Mile Creek a new type of country is being settled. Many South Australians, perhaps with oldfashioned views, believe that that kind of country can best be settled by first running beef cattle on it in order to consolidate it, long before it is considered as a dairying proposition. There is bound to be a loss on this venture, and I should like the Australian Government, which will share that loss with the South Australian Government, to deal sympathetically with the people concerned. I saw this country 50 years ago. I do not wish to appear egotistical, but I point out that I, and many others much wiser in handling stock than I am, held the view that that country was suitable for beef cattle only, and I think that events are proving that that opinion was correct.
I do not wish to see the settlers who have battled along there having to go off their blocks and then, in five or ten years’ time, after the land has been consolidated, seeing civilians go there and make the holdings pay, thanks to the efforts of the soldier settlers. I do not want to hear people say that civilians could make the land pay and that the soldiers were not a success. The settlers there are hard-working and are up against difficulties that are peculiar to that area. I respectfully ask the responsible Ministor to consider this matter carefully. He has my assurance that the settlers are doing an extraordinarily good job and are endeavouring to make a success of the venture.
I am not at all afraid of the prosperity that we are enjoying in Australia. I “wish it to continue. In my opinion, the people of Australia have never been so well off, in every walk of life. I believe that that prosperity will continue, because this Government enjoys the support of the industrious sections of the community. The industry of the Australian people will be helped and supported by a very safe and sound government for the ensuing three years and, I believe, for a good deal longer than that. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply.
Debate (on motion by Senator Hendrickson) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 February 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19560228_senate_22_s7/>.