22nd Parliament · 1st Session
THE PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator COLE presented a petition from approximately 20,000 electors of the State of Victoria praying that the Parliament take action to rectify a social anomaly by increasing child endowment.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Leader of the Government, or the Minister under whose jurisdiction the Tariff .Board functions, when the Tariff Board’s report will be made available to honorable senators. Can the Minister say whether the Government will give the Senate an early opportunity to discuss the report?
– I regret that 1 cannot inform the Leader of the Opposition when the printed annual report of the board will become available, but in view of its importance I shall make inquiries and let him know. As to whether an opportunity will be made available to the Senate to discuss the report, I should like to confer with my leader before giving a reply.
– I desire to inform the Senate that I have received a communication from the Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics transmitting an appeal to parliaments of all countries of the world on disarmament.
For the information of honorable senators, I am arranging for the letter and its enclosure, together with translations, to be placed on the table of the Library.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Navy, and preface it briefly by saying that I am convinced that everything possible should be done to increase enlistments in the Royal Australian Navy. Is it a fact that at each
registration of national service trainees in Tasmania, over 300 apply for training in the Royal Australian Navy but, generally, only about 35 are chosen because of the lack of adequate training facilities on the mainland? As it is natural that the youth of an island State should be sea-loving and eminently suitable for training in the Royal Australian Navy, will the Minister make full inquiries as to whether it would be in the interests of general recruiting for the Royal Australian Navy for H.M.A.S. “ Huon “ at Hobart to be provided with the equipment and personnel to train all eligible Tasmanian national service trainees seeking to join the Royal Australian Navy?
– At the present time, enlistments for national service training come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labour and National Service. The various services do not themselves make the allocations. In the scheme of things, I am aware that considerably more apply for enrolment to do their national service training with the Navy than can be allotted to it; but I shall take the matter up with the Minister for Labour and National Service and see if the honorable senator’s wishes in the matter can be met, to some extent, anyhow.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether he is aware that a shipment of 11,000 bags of potatoes was deliberately held up at Darling Harbour by merchants who imported them from Tasmania so that potatoes then in the markets could be sold for £160 a ton, which is an excess price of £30 a ton. Will he indicate what action he proposes to take to prevent merchants from using Shylock methods to maintain the extremely high price of potatoes?
– I recollect seeing a report to that effect in the newspapers, but I am not in a position to say whether it is accurate. I do not know what power the Commonwealth has available to it to force the discharge of a ship’s cargo, or to force the owner of goods to sell them. I agree with the honorable senator that if the facts are as stated by him, this is a matter about which we should all be very critical, and in connexion with which we should be ready to undertake whatever action may be available to us. Because I hold that view, 1 snail refer the matter to the Minister for Trade and see what he can do.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development with reference to the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year ended 30th June, 1956, tabled by him in the Senate last Thursday. Will he direct the Treasurer’s attention to paragraph 19 of that report wherein the board asserts that the costs of production from old plant are generally higher than costs from new and modern plant, and that any impediment to the provision of modern plant should be removed? The board suggests, as a remedy, the granting of increased depreciation allowances in the assessment of income tax. Would the Minister care to comment on the assertion that pay-roll tax is an example of a government impost right at the base of the cost and price structure which might be considered for removal?
– I think we all suffer from the disadvantage that such an important document as the Tariff Board’s report is not available to us to read. I am in the same position as other honorable senators. All I know about it is what has been published in the newspapers. The two matters raised by the honorable senator are questions of high government policy indeed. I should like to see exactly what the Tariff Board says in connexion with depreciation of plant. I have a very high regard for that board’s findings, but this is a matter of important government policy. Honorable senators will remember that a parliamentary committee investigated this very matter and made certain recommendations to the Government. It is true that the purchase of new plant means an improvement in manufacturing efficiency, but we are now in a position in which we have to decide what incentives should be given for the installation of plant for certain purposes without setting off, as it were, a big demand for a great deal of plant to be used for purposes which are perhaps not of top priority and which could cause unnecessary drawing upon the resources of our economy The second matter raised by the honorable senator, the pay-roll tax, is, of course, continually before the Government from budget to budget. It is not a matter that can be decided offhand. From memory, I think this tax yields from about £40,000,000 to £46,000,000 a year. If we were to cut out that tax, the revenue now derived from it would have to be obtained from other sources. We should need to be satisfied that the transferrence of the tax from one category to another - we certainly cannot do without the revenue obtained from it - would not have the effect of increasing costs in the same way that the pay-roll tax increases costs.
– I preface a question to the Minister for the Navy by reminding him that he told a deputation that I and other members of Parliament introduced in relation to dismissals from Garden Island and from the Williamstown dockyard that he would very favorably consider the appointment of a representative of the men working in either of those places to a panel to solicit orders outside the Department of the Navy. Has the Minister yet decided whether he will appoint a representative of the employees at Garden Island and/ or the Williamstown dockyard to a panel to solicit orders outside the Department of the Navy, in order to obviate the issue of further dismissal notices to employees in both places?
– My impression of that interview was that the representatives of the men concerned were going to submit to me a formal proposition in writing. I have not yet received a letter from them. On the same day that I received the deputation I made inquiries of the Department of the Navy, and asked for a report on the matter. It has not yet come to hand. When I receive a letter from the men’s representatives, and the departmental report, I shall . discuss the matter further with the honorable senator.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen the report for the half-year ended 31st August, of the oldest savings bank in Australia, the
Launceston Bank for Savings, which was founded in 1835? If he has seen it, did he note the following paragraph: -
The Commonwealth Government could perhaps consider the issue of a special loan, where bonds and s.ock could be acceptable at face value for probate duties, both S.a e and Federal which loan would be attractive to many who at pr-s.n do not subscribe to ordinary loans.
Will the Minister consider this suggestion, which has the merit of emanating from an organization with over a century of expert financial experience?
– My attention has been directed to the statement in the report of the Launceston Bank for Savings to which the honorable senator has reffered I am not in a position to express an opinion about the proposal mentioned. 1 know that the Government has considered similar proposals in the past and found them unacceptable. However, in view of the source from which the present proposal emanates, I shall make a special reference of the matter to the Treasurer, and obtain his views upon it, so that I may supply them to the honorable senator for transmission to the bank mentioned.
– Will the Minister for the Navy inform the Senate whether dismissals are being made from naval establishments for the purpose of justifying an alleged reduction of expenditure, although the defence vote is being maintained at the level of £193,000,000? Is it a fact that public money is being squandered on such work as the renovation of the antiquated “ Hobart “ at a time when this money, together with the modern machinery and equipment at naval establishments, could well be utilized for the construction of modern ro!l:ng-stock for our railways, so that full employment could be maintained in the naval establishments?
– The policy of this Government has been clearly stated in regard to employment; it ls the maintenance of a state of full employment in this country. Work on “ Hobart “ was stopped some considerable time ago. Naturally, the Navy’s expenditure is restricted to its share of the defence allocation. The honorable senator knows that his own party has for a long time been urging the Government to reduce its defence expenditure.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, refers to the scrap steel trade which, as the Minister will recall, is controlled in all the eastern States except Tasmania. Has it come to the Minister’s knowledge that there has been very heavy buying of scrap steel in Tasmania by the Japanese during the last week, and ships are now loading very large quantities of scrap steel from Hobart? This state of affairs is having a damaging effect on the steel industry of Tasmania. Have -these facts come to the notice of the Minister and will he give urgent consideration to them with a view to controlling the scrap steel trade in order to protect the steel manufacturers of Tasmania?
– I am aware that the export of scrap steel from Tasmania was quite unrestricted at a time when it was restricted from the mainland States, but it is my recollection that that position continued in Tasmania because there was not a demand for scrap steel within that State. The honorable senator has now put a case to me different from the position as I understood it. I shall inquire about this matter from my colleague, the Minister for Trade, and inform the honorable senator of the result of my inquiry.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Army aware that because of the limited number of training courses available with the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy, youths becoming eligible by age for national service training who indicate a desire to train with either of these services are required to sign an undertaking to serve overseas as a condition of their training? Does not the Minister think that as national service training is compulsory, and as many youths are naturally more adapted to naval or air force training than to army .training, conditions should not be imposed on them requiring them to volunteer for overseas service? Does the implied warning mean that if they do not volunteer for overseas service they cannot enter the Navy or the Air Force, and that, therefore, we are introducing conscription by the back door?
– I am not completely familiar with the facts of this matter. I know that vacancies in the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy are far fewer than the number of applicants for them. That being so, if it is correct, as stated by the honorable senator, that applicants are asked to volunteer for overseas service, I consider it to be an eminently suitable arrangement. What is the use of a lad being trained in a specialist service to the detriment of those who desire similar training, if he is not prepared to undertake that, in case of necessity, he will put that specialist training into effect to the benefit of the nation?
– Does the Minister representing the Prime Minister agree with the statement made by the Prime Minister that Australia’s internal economy is badly battered, as the Labour party has been contending for years?
– 1 subscribe generally, whole-heartedly and most cordially to the remarks of the Prime Minister.
– Has the
Leader of the Government seen a reported statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service to the effect that the Government favours a wages policy based on the capacity of industry to pay, and that the body most competent to decide what industry can afford to pay is the Commonwealth Industrial Court? ls that a correct statement of the Government’s views? If it is, is the Leader of the Government aware that since the automatic cost of living adjustments were suspended by the court in 1953 the cost of living in Victoria has increased by 28s. a week, but that the capacity of industry to pay, as determined by the Arbitration Court, is only 10s.? Does he not regard as a shocking censure of both the Government and the free enterprise system which the Government fosters, the fact that, at a time which the Government claims is one of record prosperity, industry cannot afford to pay enough even to maintain living standards at their former level?
– Speaking;, broadly and generally, I should say that the; capacity of industry to pay should be the: best test of fixing remuneration, and I think an independent judicial tribunal is. much more capable of determining that than is a legislative chamber.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Is he in a position toreport to the Senate on the position that arose in the Postal Department, particularly on Saturday last, when a large number of postal officials ceased, work? If he is. not in a position to make such a report,, are honorable senators to regard pressreports of statements attributed to the PostmasterGeneral as being official and> accurate? ‘
– From what I can, gather from the honorable senator’s question, he is querying whether the PostmasterGeneral issues correct statements. I can. only say that I believe that when the Postmaster-General gave statements to the press in regard to the strike that is now over he did so in all honesty and according to his knowledge of the situation at the time. I do not think that the PostmasterGeneral would issue a statement that was. not true.
– Apparently, the Minister has not understood my question. 1 shall put it in another way: Concerning the trouble that has arisen recently in the Postal Department, will he undertake torequest the Postmaster-General to make a report which he himself can submit to the Senate?
– I shall be only too. glad to ask the Postmaster-General whether he is prepared to submit such a report. 1 point out to the honorable senator that the unfortunate trouble that occurred in the Postmaster-General’s Department is now over, and I do not see that any good purpose would be served by now issuing a report that might be the means of again stirring it up. However, I shall put the honorable senator’s question before the Postmaster-General.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. During the last two or three weeks there has been circulated the annual report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1954. I ask the Minister whether it is possible to have these reports at least brought up to date. Atomic energy is something in relation to which movement is so rapid that reading so belated a report of the commission is like reading last week’s newspaper for to-day’s news. Is it not possible to bring such reports up to date and distribute them much more quickly than has been done in this instance?
– I shall refer the question to my colleague, the Minister for Supply.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Navy. Is it not a fact that helicopters are being used in the navies of the world to a greater degree than ever before? How many helicopters are attached to the Royal Australian Navy? If there is a number of them, are they in good order?
– It is quite true that helicopters are being used much more now in naval service than they were previously. From memory, I believe there are six in the Royal Australian Navy at present and, to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are in good order and working condition.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate noticed that considerable criticism has been directed at the waste involved in the duplication of government departments? Has the criticism that was voiced by a former colleague of the Minister been brought to his notice? The former colleague said that the Department of Supply, the Department of Defence Production and the Department of the Army should be amalgamated, and that the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Customs and Excise should be amalgamated. In view of the urgent need for economy throughout the community, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate state whether there is any possibility of achieving economies by the amalgamation of those departments? Will the Minister inform the Senate whether it is true that the Department of National Development has been given the administration of the War Service Homes Division to keep it from putting its fingers into other people’s pies?
– I am quite sure that all the matters raised by the honorable senator are important, and that most of those matters, if not all of them, have already come under consideration by the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
– The Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence Production has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice: -
– The Minister for Trade and the Minister for Primary Industry have advised me as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice - ls it a fact, as reported in the press, that 600 Italians have left Western Australia owing to the lack of employment, approximately 300 migrating to the other States and the balance returning to Italy?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following information: -
The press reports referred to by the honorable senator were apparently based on a statement made on 13th August, 1956, by the secretary of the newly-formed Italian Friendly Society in Perth. The statement claimed that 80 Italians had left Fremantle for Italy in the vessel “Neptunia”. Actually the total number of persons booked by this vessel from Western Australia was 80. Of these only 36 were Italians and all but six of them indicated that they intended to return to Australia. The statement also claimed that 100 Italians were booked to leave in the vessel “ Australia “. Actually, the total bookings by this vessel from Western Australia al the dale in question were only 35, of whom 25 were Italians. Although precise figures are not available, it is known that some Italians have moved to other States, but interstate movements of workers are and have been commonplace in the conditions of full employment prevailing in Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has advised as follows: -
Formal Motion tor Adjournment.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
The growth and threat of unemployment in Australia.
Senator COOKE (Western Australia) [3.391.- I move-
That the Senat e, at its rising, adjourn till 11.30 a.m. on Thursday, 20th September, 1956.
– Is the motion supported?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– I have submitted this motion in order that the subject of the growth and threat of unemployment in Australia may be discussed, and it has been introduced in accordance with a decision reached by the Opposition in this Parliament, the Australian Labour party. Members of that party are very mindful of their responsibility and would hesitate to move the adjournment of a House of the National Parliament except to discuss a subject of grave concern. As one of the major parties in this Parliament, the Labour party is deeply concerned about the growth of unemployment in Australia. That concern has been heightened by the ugly and unusual pattern which this growth is taking at the present time. I shall trace the efforts of the Labour party to obtain some acknowledgment from the Government that it, too, is concerned in a real and practical manner about the unemployment that exists in the Australian community, and to discover whether the Government is prepared to apply some remedy or give some assistance by offering employment on Commonwealth developmental works, or by providing the States with enough money to carry out developmental works and approved services.
On numerous occasions, members of the Opposition, both here and in another place, have asked of Ministers questions dealing with specific features of unemployment in their various States, but they have received only evasive replies. Ministers have belittled the administration of the government of the State concerned and have relied on the argument that there is only a small percentage of unemployment in Australia, a percentage that should be acceptable to the Opposition. The Opposition does not contend, nor has it ever contended, that the whole of the work force offering for employment can be employed at any one time. There is always a certain amount of fluctuating seasonal unemployment, and a small percentage of unemployable people - workers who are ill but unable to obtain the invalid pension, or who are not sufficiently skilled to engage in a trade, or who are not capable of working in a capacity which will provide them with continuous employment.
It is obvious, however, that the unemployment from which Australia is now suffering is that of skilled artisans and tradesmen, as well as of semi-skilled workers who, in normal conditions, should be absorbed in industry. The Government has boasted that Australia is going through an era of such prosperity that it has reached the point of embarrassment, and is causing inflation. The fact is that unemployment in Australia has increased with alarming rapidity, and has doubled over a period of six months. The Government says, however, that it is still not concerned, because when the figures are converted into a percentage of the total work force they reflect a satisfactory position. The Opposition is not prepared to accept that answer. I shall not spend a great deal of time telling in mournful numbers how many workers are unemployed in Australia, but I shall illustrate my point with figures which show that over a period, the number of unemployed has doubled. On 31st December, 1955, official figures show that persons who, when they registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service, claimed that they were unemployed, and were regarded as unemployed, totalled 16,266. On 31st August, 1956, the number had grown to 35,107, which was an increase of 100 per cent. That figure does not represent the true unemployment position throughout Australia; it is merely an indication of the lowest number of people who, after having made every endeavour themselves, have been unable to obtain employment and whom the Government have been unable to place in employment. It represents the number of people who, if the Government does not do something to rectify the position, will become a charge upon the taxpayer in that they will become recipients of the paltry amount of relief that is payable.
In Western Australia, 50 per cent, of builders are without productive work. They have no credit and are using their reserves to engage in speculative building. They have made a magnificent effort to retain their trained personnel, and it must be admitted that it would be most detrimental to the interests not only of builders but also of the State itself if these skilled workers were lost to the industry. It is because of that factor that many builders are retaining men on unproductive work or on small part-time jobs. A somewhat similar position exists in other industries. For instance, many sawmills have had to close down. That, in turn, means that vast numbers of trained sawmill workers are without employment. Before closing down, the millers did everything possible to keep going. They cut and stored timber until all storage was filled to capacity. I know of my own personal knowledge that some of them borrowed money at high rates of interest in order that they might help other people to store timber which they cut in the hope that this Government would eventually do something to enable the Australian worker to enjoy his right to work for the benefit of the country.
This position is not peculiar to Western Australia although that State appears to be the hardest hit. South Australia is in a somewhat similar plight. There’ have been heavy dismissals from the motor industry there. We do not suggest that those dismissals have been caused by any one person; but the motor industry asserts that the present position is largely the result of this Government’s policy of credit restrictions, increased sales tax and’ other recent impositions. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan) has told us that the Government’s policy is one of full employment. That is also the policy of the Opposition, but we believe that full employment is achieved only when every man who is capable and willing to work and produce is in employment, whereas the Government has reiterated time and again that a state of full’ employment is reached so long as the percentage of unemployment does not exceed a certain figure. That is not a true state of full employment.
Reverting to the position in Western Australia, the figures available to me disclose that as at 1st September, 1956, there were 4,433 males and 790 females registered as unemployed in that State, whilst the number drawing government relief included 2,087 males and 122 females - and 1 remind honorable senators that unemployment relief is not payable until a person has been unemployed for some time and has exhausted all likely avenues of obtaining employment. The vacancies listed with the department as at 1st September, 1956, were 539 for males and 445 for females. In the main, the conditions offering in the positions vacant are not such as would induce unions to ask members to accept them. In the main, they are part-time positions and certainly are not such as would accord any person an opportunity to re-establish himself in industry. The unemployment position in Western Australia is desperate. The Premier of that State has made representations to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in connexion with it; and the Treasurer has stated publicly that he was very impressed with those representations. Of course, he could not help but be impressed, because the case presented on behalf of Western Australia was based on solid facts and sound premises. The unfortunate part about it all is that the Treasurer, in replying to a question asked in the House of Representatives by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), sought to impose certain conditions upon the Western Australian Government before granting any assistance. No doubt, similar demands will have been made upon the Premiers of other States who may be seeking similar assistance. When replying to a question asked by the honorable member , for Stirling, in the House of Representatives, on llth September last the Treasurer said -
It is regrettable that the honorable gentleman has been selected as the representative of Mr. Hawke, the Premier of Western Australia, in this matter. The position is that, quite voluntarily, at the last Premiers’ conference, during consideration of income tax reimbursements to the States, I was so impressed with the case advanced by Mr. Hawke, on behalf of Western Australia, that I obtained the permission of the other Premiers for the Commonwealth to give special financial consideration to the financial disabilities of Western Australia - many of them brought about by the Western Australian Government itself.
There we see the intrusion of party politics rather than consideration of a case which the Treasurer admits is based on solid facts. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
The Premier of Western Australia was requested to put his case before the Government in order that I could put it before my Cabinet.
That was in relation to the giving of relief. He continued -
Certain matters were received, and certain provisions have been carried out by the Cabinet, but we are a responsible Government, and there is a responsibility on the Western Australian Government with regard to its own financial position. As I expected to be asked such a question as this, Mr. Speaker, I have prepared a note on the subject. I say that my colleagues in the Government are not unwilling to assist Western Australia, but they insist that the primary responsibility is on the State Government itself to use some means of remedying its own financial situation. Further, Cabinet will not decide the amount, or form, of help it will give until itknows what the Western Australian Government proposes to do. I have requested the Western Australian Government to supply me with information about what it intends to do itself with regard to its own budgetary position. Until we receive that information, we shall reserve our decision. We are not here to dole out the money of the Australian taxpayers in an irresponsible way.
That was just another evasion. Mr. Hawke had quite clearly informed the Treasurer what he was prepared to do and, in order to relieve the situation, the Commonwealth Government had been requested to approve of the export of minerals from Western Australia. That matter is now receiving consideration by the Treasurer. Subsequently, the Premier of Western Australia again wrote to the Treasurer about steps which, under duress, Western Australia was prepared to take in order to relieve the position. Under pressure, the Premier of Western Australia agreed to increase freight rates. He will also do other things, including the raising of charges for services provided to the people of Western Australia. The opinion of the Australian Labour party is that these steps will not correct the present inflationary situation, but they are being taken because Western Australia, if it is to obtain relief, must accept the conditions fixed by the Commonwealth Government in relation to economic measures designed to discipline the Australian people. Western Australia is being held to ransom by the Commonwealth Government, which has the money. In effect, the Commonwealth has said to Western Australia, “ Unless you conform to our ideas, we will not grant you relief “. That is a desperate situation, and if the Senate, which is the States House, accepts it, 1 believe that we shall not be doing our duty under the Constitution. We should not allow the States to be insulted. My requests for the tabling of the papers in connexion with this matter have been refused.
One of my colleagues on this side asked what 1 thought was a very reasonable question concerning the calibre of the unemployed persons in Western Australia. He wanted to know whether they were trained. In the main, they are good, employable working persons. They are well worthy of employment, and quite a good percentage of them are trained. I am referring to those who are actually out of work. In addition, we must remember that many employers are striving desperately to retain the services of skilled tradesmen, who are difficult to obtain when things are anywhere near normal. The workers in the building industry, who were the first to suffer, are still bearing the brunt of unemployment. In August about 350 carpenters were seeking jobs. They are registered members of trade unions, and all are skilled tradesmen. Other unemployment figures supplied by the trade unions last month show that 30 painters, 47 bricklayers, 30 solid-plasterers, 25 plumbers and 30 builders’ labourers were out of work.
– I should like some more information about those figures.
– I know that Government senators do not like to be confronted with these statistics. Of course, unskilled men who were thrown out of work were distinctly a minority. That is understandable, because unskilled men, such as builders’ labourers, if dismissed from one job can go somewhere else. Nevertheless, ultimately they come onto the books because of their inability to get employment More than 300 brickyard employees, and about 560 timber workers have been put off in the past six months. As anybody with a knowledge of the timber industry will agree, a labourer at a timber mill performs semiskilled work, because of the inherent danger. Those men live under hard conditions. They are the real workers of the community. They are cut off from the amenities of city life, but they are prepared to undertake this work in order to provide for their families. Before I left Perth about a month ago, the secretary of the timber workers’ union told *»e that the position in the industry was desperate Many timber workers who have, been thrown out of work have refrained from seeking unemployment benefit of £2 10s. a week, but have gone to other parts of the State seeking employment. Yet, some supporters of the Government have sneeringly referred to those men as unemployable. Their continued employment ls vital to the Australian economy.
The position in the motor industry has worsened in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and elsewhere. In Western Australia, about 100 employees in the .motor “dustry have been stood down since the little budget in March increased sales tax, and raised the degree of uncertainty in the industry. Since then, there has been a noticeable shortage of both ready money and credit. About 50 musicians have lost their employment in Western Australia. I remind honorable senators that I am citing unemployment figures that have been furnished by the various trade unions. About 60 barmen and barmaids are out of work because, since the little budget was brought down, the people are drinking less of alcoholic beverages. No fewer than 158 members of the cleaners’ union are unemployed. Many of them are not drawing unemployment relief, but are trying to establish themselves in other callings. The clerks, also, have been affected. Many applications have been received from both Dutch and English immigrants for clerical work. In the furniture trade, 54 workers have lost their employment. Last month, there were twenty butchers, twelve bakers, twenty engineers, twenty fitters and turners and sixteen bootmakers temporarily unplaced. They were stood down from their employment in certain firms which stated that, if business improved, they would be again employed. However, the position that has developed cannot be corrected merely by Government supporters saying that it is transitional and that things will come good again. The attitude adopted by some honorable senators opposite is that it is the responsibility of the States to handle the unemployment problem. The restriction of bank credit has had a very serious effect on employment in Australia, particularly in Western Australia. I understand that the restriction of bank credit is in line with Government policy. That is one of the methods by which the Government hopes to correct the present state of inflation. However, because the banks have restricted credit, borrowers have been forced into money markets where they must pay more than bank interest rates. In order to continue in business, borrowers are prepared to buy money at a rate of interestmuch higher than should be the statutory rate in Australia.
I know builders in Perth who have contracted to build war service homes. The amount of money available for the building of those homes dwindled away, and more was not made available by the Government. The period between the time of application for a loan and the time of allocation of the loan is much too long. There are many persons to whom it is vitally necessary that they should obtain homes. Consequently, not being able to obtain loans from the Government, they get interim loans elsewhere at very high rates of interest. The Government is well aware of that position, and is well aware that those high interest rates will continue until government loans are granted to the applicants. But even that expensive money market has now dried up, and people are not prepared to lend money at .all for war service homes. Consequently, very few of those homes are now being built in Western Australia. The Government is pledged to assist in the building of those homes; it has the money, but will not make it available. That being so, the Government has forced many applicants to pay very high interest rates, and has given an impetus to inflation. Even so, many war service homes cannot be completed.
This Government has imposed heavy sabs taxes and other taxes on industry, and those taxes have had a severe effect on many industries, including the motor industry. The taxation policy of the Government has caused many persons engaged in the motor industry to lose their employment. That does not apply, perhaps, to General MotorsHolden’s Limited, but it certainly applies to other large motor concerns. The Government must take into account the effect of its taxation policy on industry, which is prejudicing fall employment and driving industries into difficulties. Many industries that have been established by hard work and against strong opposition are now being forced into difficulties by the Government’s taxation policy.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator SPOONER (New South WalesMinister for National Development) 14.9]. - A Minister is under some disadvantage in replying to an adjournment motion, particularly where he is not the responsible Minister, but is acting for a colleague. That applies with particular force to an adjournment motion of the kind at present before the Senate, which relates to the level of employment, something that is, of course, one of the fundamental issues affecting the prosperity and happiness of the community as a whole. The Senate does well to discuss this issue, but it should discuss it with reasonable brevity. Senator Cooke criticized the Government on three main scores. The first was that there is a doubt about the sincerity of the Government when it claims that its policy is one of full employment. Secondly, he criticized .the competence of the Government to maintain a high level of employment; and, thirdly, he dealt with the position in some detail in his own State of Western Australia. I propose to join issue with the honorable senator, and to establish that he is wrong on all three counts, leaving to my colleague, Senator Paltridge, from Western Australia, to carry the war into the enemy’s own quarters in greater detail as far as the matter affects Western Australia.
When an honorable senator makes a statement about a government which is committed to a policy of a high level of employment, or full employment, or whatever the term is, and says that the Government does not make a human approach to the matter, and refers to people as unemployable, I think that he does scant justice to his own cause. If one is going to attack anybody upon a question of principle, sincerity and bona fides, he cannot deal in generalities. He must quote chapter and verse and establish his case, or what he says is not an argument - it degenerates into mere abuse. 1 want to consider this matter very carefully because it is a matter of deep concern to the Government. Indeed, full employment was one of the planks of our policy upon which we were elected to office in 1949. In the Government parties’ policy speech of 1949 the following appears: -
The aspiration of full employment is no monopoly of the socialists. We are all human beings. We shall confidently devote ourselves to full employment and the avoidance of depression.
That was part of the policy upon which we were elected, and in our policy speech delivered before the general elections of 1953 we pointed with a great deal of pride to the progress we had made and the stability of employment, and contras ed that with the objectives at which the Labour party itself aimed. That is a matter of considerable importance. Everybody stands for a high level of employment, and the material point is the level of employment that can be maintained. In the 1953 policy speech we carried the war into the enemy’s camp by saying -
We still have a better record in maintaining employment than the most powerful free countries in the world.
We also said -
Perhaps the Labour party has forgotten that itsexecutive colleague, Mr. Haylen, said in the House of Representatives on 15th May, 1945, “ I realize that there cannot be total employment, but if we can get down to 5 per cent, of unemployment, for all practical purposes that can be regarded as total employment “.
I speak subject to correction, but I think that never at any stage since this Government assumed office in 1949 has the level of unemployment stood at 5 per cent.
I refer also to the blueprint of the policy of full employment contained in Professor Beveridge’s book, the title of which is a household term, in which he said that the best unemployment level we could achieve in a community was one of 3 per cent. 1 again speak subject to correction when I say that since 1949 the level of unemployment in Australia has not been as high as 3 per cent.
– Well, the professor was wrong.
– The world is moving on, but the Australian Labour party is not moving on with it. There has been no less progress in the science of economics and government administration than in relation to medicine and other sciences. One of the great things that is happening is that we are becoming more experienced, more skilled and better able to maintain a satisfactory level of employment, lt is not the result of accident. Senator Cooke made some caustic remarks about replies by Ministers to questions relating to the level of employment, but 1 remind the Senate that, whenever a question is addressed to me as representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, I am in a position to rise and to give particulars about the number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit, the number seeking employment and the number of vacancies each week in each State. I suggest to the Senate that, the mere fact that that information is readily available shows the sincerity of the Government’s effort in this direction, and that the responsible Minister has his finger well on the pulse and is able to deal promptly and efficiently with variations from State to State. Also available week by week are dissections of the figures in relation to males and females and to various industries.
I refer in particular to the coal-mining industry, with which Senator Ashley and I are familiar. I think he will admit that that industry is becoming more mechanized and increasingly efficient. As a result of increased efficiency, the total number of employees is falling, but great efforts are made by committees consisting of representatives of the union, the owners and the Government to find positions for those employees who are displaced. There is a substantial body of opinion which believes that we have succeeded in maintaining a level of full employment only because of certain economic conditions and that the theory that full employment can be maintained has yet to be proved; but whatever the future holds in that direction - I believe we can maintain the level - I am not one of the pessimists who hold the view that it is the result of exceptional circumstances. The fact is that this Government has been successful in this particularly important sphere of its activities.
I repeat that all things are comparative. Senator Cooke cited figures showing the number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit, but the 1947 census showed that in that year, when the Labour party was in office, 83,000 persons were in receipt of unemployment relief. Never since this Government assumed office has that level of unemployment been reached in Australia. The figures I have before me show that, on 28th August, of a total number of 2;788,000 wage-earners in Australia, only 10,416 persons were in receipt of unemployment benefit.
– How many were registered?
– I join with honorable senators in saying that that number is too high. But the question to be answered is this: Can we do better than that from time to time as different circumstances arise? How can we reasonably complain when we consider the limits that we thought could be reached and the statement of a senior member of the Labour party who said that he would be satisfied with an unemployment level of 5 per cent., and when we remember that Professor Beveridge said that, if we were able to maintain the level at 3 per cent, we would be doing something worth while? Yet, the figures I have before me show that at a slack period of the year only .3 of 1 per cent, of the total number of workers in Australia were in receipt of unemployment benefits. These statistics also show that 35,243 persons, or 1.2 per cent, of the total work force, wanted employment, and that 28,784 unfilled vacancies were available for them. Of course, it cannot be said that those two figures can be related; they include males and females, tradesmen and unskilled workers. They do show, however, that by and large the position is balanced almost on a knife’s edge. 1 think Senator Cooke will agree that it as quite impracticable to have 100 per cent, employment. In seeking a solution of this problem, we must avoid excited, exaggerated criticism which only leads to lack of confidence and increases the magnitude of the problem. Quite recently, when there was -a spate of very pessimistic statements about a decline in the building industry, I asked me Department of National Development to analyse the position. We came to the fair conclusion that it was a passing phase which resulted from the new housing agreement, the transfer of moneys to building societies, wet weather in the eastern States, and a number of other influences that I listed, and that there was every probability that the -situation would improve within the following few months.
I have never believed in writing estimates -of future profits into prospectuses. I do not like to put on record what I think might happen in the future, but I believed “that a public service had to be performed by saying that those trends existed. I stand :by my statement. I expect that it will prove to be correct over the next few months. If my forecast is wrong, I shall be accused of “being inefficient, but I believe that it was necessary to make that -statement because it was desirable to strike a note of con”fidence. If we do not have a confident and co-operative effort, things will deteriorate.
I agree with an interjection that was made by Senator Ashley in this chamber some time ago. I had referred to unemployment, and I said that the figures were small. He interjected, “ It is 100 per cent, for the man affected “. I accept that remark as expressing the truth of the situation. There is no more important factor in human happiness and a high standard of living than the maintenance of a high level of employment. It is far more important than the level of wages. When men suffer periods of unemployment, a high wage level becomes nominal instead of real. If I did nothing else, I would be satisfied if I persuaded the Senate that the maintenance of employment is an. objective that this Government rates very highly, and is making an earnest endeavour to achieve. It believes that it can maintain a high level of employment in the future.
I now direct my remarks to the position -in Western Australia, upon which Senator
Cooke spoke with some authority. At the outset, I make it clear that Senator Cooke has no right to put all the blame for the situation in Western Australia upon the Commonwealth. The Western Australian Government is more culpable in this matter than is the Australian Government. The Western Australian Government has shown an extraordinary degree of inefficiency and irresponsibility in its approach to this matter.
– The people of Western Australia did not think so.
– Let us examine the position in Western Australia. That State had a great boom period. There was heavy expenditure on the Kwinana refinery, new steel mills, a new power station and activities in the search for oil. It would be reasonable to expect the Government of Western Australia to know that vast expenditures on the Kwinana refinery, powerhouses and rolling mills could not be expected year after year. It would be only prudent to earmark some resources for the maintenance of a stable level of employment, and to prepare against the time when the high level of activity would decline. That is what a responsible government would have done.
What did the Government of Western Australia do? Employment depends heavily upon housing construction and, in that connexion, Senator Cooke cited statistics relating to tradesmen who are out of work in Western Australia. What happened was that the Government of Western Australia in an election year, increased the expenditure on government housing by £1,200,000, knowing that it did not have the money to meet the bills when they came’ in. lt knew that, when the bills were submitted for payment, it would have to ask the contractors concerned to take lOU’s in settlement of the claims. The Government of Western Australia was completely irresponsible in its approach to this matter. It took its housing expenditure from £4,000,000 in 1954 to £5,200,000 in 1955. Having overspent by £1,200,000, automatically it had to reduce its housing expenditure in 1956. In that year, its expenditure on housing dropped back to £3,900,000, and it then asked the Australian Loan Council for special assistance.
This Government believes that it is a government for the Australian people. If a State government asks for assistance, this Australian Government looks beyond the State government, irrespective of its political colour, to the people of the State concerned. When the Premier of Western Australia made a plea to the Loan Council for special assistance to relieve unemployment in Western Australia, this Government said, in effect: “ Yes, of course we will give the request favorable consideration. Put a proposal to us, and we will see what we can do “. That is the position at present. Contrary to what Senator Cooke has said, the Premier of Western Australia has not put forward a reasonable proposal. Senator Cooke made great play on this matter. He asked why the Commonwealth imposed conditions on the State. He implied that it was a dreadful thing that the Commonwealth Government wanted to know what the State Government was going to do, but we as a government1 represent the people of all States. The Western Australian Government has behaved most irresponsibly. It overspent its allocation deliberately and wantonly iri an election year so that it could obtain election support It gave no consideration to the position of those who depend on the building trade for employment. In the circumstances, I say that the Commonwealth Government has a responsibility to ensure that it gets, in specific terms, from the Western Australian Government what the State Government wants to do and proposes to do. In short, this Go- vernment must sse that the Western Australian Government runs its affairs on. a businesslike basis.
Senator Cooke has suggested that this Government told the Western Australian Government that it would get money only if it increased railway freights in Western Australia. He is completely and utterly wrong. There has never been any suggestion by the Commonwealth Government to the Western Australian Government that it should do that. The Western Australian Government has never accused the Commonwealth Government of making that suggestion. The first I heard of it was the statement made by Senator Cooke in the Senate to-day. I completely and utterly disbelieve it. I do not believe that the Western Australian Government has made such an accusation against the Commonwealth Government, let alone the Commonwealth Government attempted to exact such a condition. This is a matter of great importance. Even if honorable senators may criticize the Government upon the results it has achieved they should realize that the Government has most seriously bent its efforts to obtain the best results in this direction because it considers the problem has such profound consequences to the Australian community as a whole. That is the first point I make.
The second concerns the results we have achieved. Nobody can guarantee 100 per cent, full employment and, of course, nobody makes such a claim. From month to month seasonal variations occur which cannot be combated. However, the results that the Government has achieved in the six and a half years it has been in office far exceed those which the text-book writers and practising politicians ever thought possible of achievement before 1949. I invite honorable senators opposite to challenge that statement. I have no quarrel with Mr. Haylen when he said that 5 per cent, unemployment was full employment, because that was 1947 thinking. Most people back in 1947 thought that such a result would be first-class. Back in 1937-38, a great number of people would have been satisfied with 10 per cent. However, the position is that in 1956 the figure is .3 of I per cent. If that is not a result of which a government can be proud, then I should like to hear to the “contrary.
In regard to Senator Cooke’s third point, his approach to this problem from the point of view of Western Australia is not what I would call exactly impartial. He has put his best foot forward in difficult circumstances, but 1 suggest to him that the best remedy he can find in Western Australia is to throw out the present Government and put in a Liberal government A Liberal Government in Western Australia would tackle this problem just as efficiently and just as well as this Liberal Government tackled it in the federal sphere.
, - I am rather disappointed with the speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). What the Senate was hoping for was not a series of platitudes and excuses but some “tangible proposal that the Government had in mind to correct this most serious position; but we did not get that. I direct attention to some of the statements made by the Minister. He first of all repudiated the claim by Senator Cooke that a coldly statistical approach to this matter was being exhibited by the Government; and, then, he repeatedly dealt with percentages as they related to the employment position in Australia. I think events have proved that both the Minister for National Development and the relevant Minister in another place have adopted a cold and statistical approach to something that has very deep human implications. What does it matter to the .3 of 1 per cent., who are unemployed, to be told that it is only an infinitesimal matter? What comfort do they obtain when they are told in cold statistical terms the number of their fellows who are out of work? What they are concerned about is whether they can get a job. That is the only point they are worried about and all this talk of percentages and other things means little or nothing to them.
It seems to me that the Government, during the last few months, has adopted rather an extraordinary approach to some of our national problems. For instance, we were told only a month ago that this country. was suffering from too much prosperity; but while we are in that condition, not only are the living standards of the Australian workers being lowered, but also unemployment is growing week by week. It appears that this Government has performed the extraordinary feat of so reversing the processes of economics that now one goes broke in a boom instead of in a bust.
I shall now deal with the matter as it affects my own State of South Australia. I understand the position is acute in Western Australia; I have made some examination of the situation there.
– The Minister does not think so.
– The Minister does not think there is any unemployment in Australia at all. Dealing with the position in my own State of South Australia, at present somewhere in the vicinity of 600 men are out of work. That may not sound many.
– It does not sound as many as the 600,000 people affected by unemployment in Australia in 1949.
– -That may be true, but unless the Government can bring forward some plan we will reach a situation within twelve months approximating the depression of the 1930’s. That is not an impossibility if this Government continues along the lines of talking in figures and statistics instead of bringing in some practical plan to deal with the situation. I return to the position in South Australia where, as 1 said, approximately 600 people are unable to find work. If one firm in South Australia happened to strike trouble at the present time the South Australian position would very quickly approximate to the position that exists in Western Australia. I refer to the firm of General Motors-Holden’s Limited which employs thousands of Australian workmen Whether I am right or wrong 1 believe tha; that firm is enjoying at the moment a condition ot employment which is not norm:1 because of the fact that it is producing a car for which, at the moment, the demand cannot be satisfied. When the position arises - and 1 believe it will within the next twelve months - that the market for the company’s production is satisfied to some extent, the position in South Australia will le just a.* bad as that in Western Australia. I do not think that anybody can challenge hat statement.
When that position arises, will tie Minister for National Development, who was so busy attacking the Labour Premier of Western Australia, suggest that his friend, Mr. Playford, in South Australia exhibits a similar degree of incompetence as he suggests Mr. Hawke is now exhibiting in Western Australia? Of course, he will not. The Minister is playing politics. He started off in a tone of sweet reasonableness by suggesting he would deal .with the matter in a practical and reasonable manner, but he finished up with a burst of open political spleen the equal of which I have not heard in this chamber for some weeks. Let us forget about the .3 of 1 per cent, and deal with the matter in numbers of human beings. Thirty-five thousand people in this country are jobless; but it does not end there. More than 100,000 people are affected when one considers the families ot those out of work. Any person who can say that that is a good position and one of which we should be proud ought not to occupy a seat in this chamber.
– What did Mr. Haylen say in the House of Representatives?
– I repudiate the claim that any senior member of the Labour party has said that 5 per cent, unemployment could be regarded as satisfactory. It is easy enough to say that these statements are made, without going into the circumstances surrounding the debate in which they are made. Honorable senators opposite are very adept in quoting, out of their true context, statements made by honorable senators on this side. I repudiate the claim thai any such statement was made.
I direct attention to what I consider to be a very serious position developing in this country when one considers the rapidly developing unemployment position and relates it to immigration. I have seen in the office cf the Australian Workers Union in South Australia batches of Greek immigrants vainly trying to find work. That can be verified by communicating with the South Austalian secretary of that union.
– It is happening in every State of the Commonwealth.
– That is so. If we continue ;o bring immigrants into Australia while unemployment exists, racial problems will develop. If the stage is reached at which Central European and other immigrants are competing with Australian workers for jobs in the open labour market in this country, and somebody has to be the loser, serious trouble will arise. The Government must recognize that danger. When the Minister has spoken on the subject, he has repeatedly referred to what he calls, “A high level of employment “. On the last three occasions when the Liberal party went to the electors it did not talk in terms of a high level of employment, but of full employment. It is a different situation when a few people are out of work. The ideal is not then full employment, but a high level of employment. I suppose that if, within the next three months, 20,000 or 30,000 more workers lose their jobs, the Government will talk about “ a fair level of employment “. That is in keeping with its attitude on this matter.
It is not hard to find the causes of unemployment. Because of the economic measures which the Government has introduced in the last three years, the responsibility rests fairly on its shoulders to cure the unemployment that has resulted. Its credit restrictions have caused a reduction of home building and other economic activities, and a curtailment or suspension of vast developmental works that are urgently needed. Unless the Government relaxes credit restrictions and embarks upon a greater programme of public works, unemployment will increase within the next six months. The Government has been fortunate in being able to maintain some level of employment, but it has never planned to do so. It has never set out to formulate a plan to guarantee the Australian worker permanency of employment. Now, it is faced with a situation in which unemployment is growing daily, and all that it does is excuse itself and talk in terms of figures and percentages. Not one suggestion has been given to the Senate to-day as to what course the Government proposes to follow to remedy a situation which could cause as much misery in Australia as did the depression in the early . 1930’s. I await with interest a statement from the Government as to how it proposes to deal with the unemployment problem. The Labour party will continue to press for action to re-employ workers who have been displaced from their jobs as a result of the laisser-faire economic measures of the Government. Repeatedly, the Government has promised that it will maintain full employment, but I say again that it has not produced one plan to implement its promise. The reasonable degree of employment that has existed has been the result more of accident than design. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have realized that unless they pinpoint the causes of unemployment, and flog them with all the vigour at their command, the position will become worse.
Every person with a sense of responsibility must regard with disquiet the fact that within the last twelve months the number of workers without jobs in Australia has more than doubled. Surely the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), with his cold, statistical approach, must recognize some signs of impending trouble. The Government has adopted an irresponsible attitude towards the effect of its import restrictions. In South Australia, the firm of Chrysler Australia Limited, which employs many thousands of workers, is to-day suffering because it has no protection in respect of the importation of component parts of cars. Unless the Government gives it some protection many of its employees will lose their jobs, lt may be a matter of interest to the Minister to hear that this firm has had to dispense with the services of more than 1,200 of its staff in the last eighteen months. This fact pinpoints the folly of the Government, and its contribution to the unhappy employment situation.
The Labour party recognizes the fundamental right of any citizen of Australia who wants to work to have a job, provided for him and it will not rest, until such a situation is restored, lt can be safely said that it was the Curtin and Chifley Labour governments which for the first time in the political life of Australia, established a system of full employment. History repeats itself, and to-day the Liberal-Australian Country party Government is destroying that condition as well as the future welfare of the Australian worker.
– When Senator Cooke, on behalf of his party, introduced this motion for the adjournment of the Senate he said that he and his colleagues were acting with a due sense of responsibility in that they recognized the seriousness of that action. I heard nothing from either Senator Cooke or Senator Toohey to convince me that the Opposition had any sense of responsibility in moving the adjournment. Unemployment is a serious matter, whenever and wherever it. occurs, and most of all to the person who is unemployed. The Labour party has no monopoly of a sense of concern about any worker being out of a job.
Senator Toohey, my colleague from South Australia, is, I think, senior vicepresident of the executive of the Australian Labour party, and 1 wish for him that some day he will become president of that organization. He has just said that his party will never rest while one worker in Australia is unemployed. That is a laudable resolve, for which honorable senators on this side applaud him. because the policy of the Government, too, is full employment. However, it is easy for the honorable senator to make such a statement while he is sitting on the Opposition side - and he will be there for a long time - but it would be an entirely different matter, were his party in government, to see that every man and woman seeking employment was given a job. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) cited unemployment figures for the period prior to 1949 during the regime of the Labour government. I shall not repeat them, but I remind Senator Toohey, in the light of his statement that his party will not rest until every worker seeking employment is given a job, that his government could not live up to such an ideal and, indeed, fell much shorter of it than this Government has done during the six years that it has been in office.
Senator Toohey, following the line of thought of the Labour party by forecasting, in gloomy speeches in this place and outside, a trend towards chaos and terrific unemployment, has seen fit to refer to some of the large industries in South Australia. General Motors-Holden’s Limited has been mentioned once again, and I hold a different view from Senator Toohey about the prospects of that company. He sees chaos ahead for it.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– I do not want to do Senator Toohey an injustice, but he tried to create the impression that in the very near future even General MotorsHolden’s Limited could be faced with a serious unemployment problem. I remind the Senate that this company has just produced a new model car which will stand up to any competition in this country or outside it.
– I agree with that
– Then, for once, we are in agreement. This company is producing a popular car which, as its sales figures prove, it has no difficulty in selling in this country. Further, it is building up an export industry, the limits of which neither Senator Toohey nor I can forecast with any accuracy. In those circumstances I am surprised that Senator Toohey should suggest that unemployment will develop in this company. He certainly must be hard put to it to state a case when he seeks to support it by citing one of the major employing industries in South Australia. He is merely another apostle of gloom sitting, in Opposition forecasting unemployment. The Opposition has been doing that for years. Month after month, year after year, we hear members of the Opposition predicting unemployment; but their prophecies are never fulfilled. On the contrary, the figures and facts disclose that we have had no real unemployment problem iri this country since 1949.
Senator Toohey cited the figures relating to South Australia. He said that there were 684 people unemployed in the City of Adelaide. That does not indicate any trend at all. So far as the general unemployment position in Australia is concerned, it is remarkable that having brought over 1.000,000 migrants to Australia we have been able to absorb them and, at the same time, have experienced no difficulty whatever in finding employment for those immigrants and our own people. That is an amazing achievement - so much so, that Senator Toohey can refer to only 684 people as being in receipt of unemployment benefit in the City of Adelaide. 1 agree with him that perhaps that does not indicate the total number of people who may be seeking work; but, if we examine the figures month after month, we must realize that the total number of people registered as unemployed must be reflected in two or three months’ time in the number who qualify for unemployment benefit. The fact is that the number of people registered as unemployed throughout Australia from time to time remains comparatively constant. In those circumstances, who can say that we are going to have a large number of people drawing unemployment benefit in three or six months’ time? One is a guide to the other, and 1 cannot accept as a fact the statement that we are heading towards a large unemployment problem in this country.
We are accused of having no programme to absorb the unemployed in this country, because we do not plan employment. How the Labour party dearly loves this planning theme song! Since we have been in office, we have established an atmosphere in which industry has been able to thrive. Of course, as soon as we say that, the Labour party accuses us of allowing industry to become 100 prosperous. The fact that industry has been and still is prosperous is the best possible ground for believing that the future of this country holds every promise of full employment. Nobody can deny that this Government has created that atmosphere in which industry has been prosperous. Nor can anybody deny that during our regime we have achieved and maintained a state of full employment and that our unemployment figure has been well below the 3 per cent, which Lord Beveridge, whom the Labour party loves to quote, regards as the permissible amount of unemployment in a state of full employment.
But it is not enough simply to put people into jobs and on the pay-roll. Perhaps, it is the Labour party’s philosophy that if people can be placed in jobs and on the pay-roll that constitutes full employment and all is well; but something more than that has to be done. In addition to being put on the pay-roll, people must be given employment which is productive. Otherwise, we shall only add to the burden of inflation. The Labour government rather fell down in this direction when it was in office, as is proved by figures issued by Professor Copland, a man of some standing in the eyes of the Labour party and an adviser of the Labour government. He pointed out that in 1949 industry was producing to only 70 per cent, of its capacity. He mentioned that the steel industry was producing to only 65 per cent, of its capacity, that coal was in short supply and so on. That picture has been changed completely during the regime of this Government. Not only have we achieved a state of full employment and a position in which unemployment is lower than the percentage Lord Beveridge says is permissible in a state of full employment, but industry also is producing to its capacity. Further, not only is our steel plant producing to capacity; it is also increasing its capacity to produce and this, in turn, must create opportunities for further employment. Again, we have got rid of all the shortages which confronted the country immediately after the war.
Senator Cooke is a couple of months late in introducing this matter. 1 have examined the Western Australian figures and I find that the trend there is towards a reduction of the number of people looking for work. For example, the Western Australian Housing Commission, which plays a big part in building operations there, is now re-employing people, and there is renewed activity in the building industry generally. Apparently, there was some slackening of activity in Western Australia at one time, and it would seem, as the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has stated, that this was due to the foolish policy of i:he Western Australian Government. But apparently the building industry has had. funds made available to it for this financial year, and so it is going on. However, I shall leave that aspect pf the matter to the Minister for Shipping and Transport to deal with.
I want to conclude on this note: The Labour party has proposed this motion without a due sense of responsibility in this matter. The speeches that have been made by honorable senators opposite have been surely calculated to destroy confidence in industry and to convince the people of this country that they are on the verge of unemployment. Things such as that tend to make the people become afraid. That is the result of motions like this in the Senate. But such is not the case. There is no such prospect, and no such intention. T deplore the fact that the time of the Senate has been occupied with a motion of this kind, which cannot do any good for the general well-being of the people who are interested in employment in this country.
– Before proceeding to comment on an interjection that was made by Senator Maher during Senator Cooke’s speech, I want to deal with two or three statements that were made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in his opening remarks. First, I think that the Minister went right to the bottom of the barrel when he quoted what a member of Parliament of less than, two years’ standing had said in 1 945. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was elected to the Federal Parliament in 1943. Evidently, the statement that Mr. Haylen made in 1945 was the only one in the whole of the “ Hansard “ record of the proceedings of this Parliament from 1945 to the present time that suited the Minister’s book. Senator Spooner gained very rapid promotion in the Liberal party. I assure him that one does not become a senior member of the Australian Labour party in less than two years from becoming a member of the Federal Parliament. In quoting Mr.
Haylen’s statement in 1945, the Minister relied on the words, not of a senior member, but of a very junior member of the Labour party. He then referred to what Professor Beveridge said in a report that he produced at a time when the whole world, particularly Great Britain, was demanding that people should not be required to fight wars and then return to the squalid conditions in which working-class people lived in many European countries. He brought that out as a theoretical approach to what has been termed, with various inflections, the welfare state. Senator Armstrong interjected to the effect that Professor Beveridge had been proved wrong. On occasions, members of the Liberal party have attacked me because of some of the actions of the former British Labour Government, based on the Beveridge report. However, I do not want to deal at length with this aspect of the matter because, no matter how either the Minister or Senator Pearson juggles the unemployment figures, the people of this country know that Labour’s policy of full employment means exactly what the phrase connotes, and not a given percentage of unemployment here, there and at other places at certain times.
I want to make one other point and, when I have done so, I think the Minister will withdraw what he said. He attacked Senator Cooke on the ground that the honorable senator had said that Federal Cabinet had decided that some condition should be placed on the State governments, such as an increase of freights, before anything would be forthcoming from the Federal Government. Senator Cooke did not say that. What Senator Cooke said was that the Commonwealth Government was withholding funds and that, in the interim, Mr. Hawke had made some effort to bridge the financial gap in his own budget by taking certain action. He did not say that a condition was imposed on the State government.
– I quoted what the Treasurer said in reply to a question in the House of Representatives.
– As Senator Toohey has mentioned, the Minister finished his speech in rather an outburst, in which he commended a change from the Labour Government in Western Australia. As a campaigner, I can say that we in
Western Australia welcome federal Ministers during State election campaigns. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) visited Western Australia during the last State election campaign, following the introduction of the little budget in the Commonwealth Parliament in March, and Labour won that election with a record majority. I assure the Minister for National Development that his appearance in Western Australia during any election campaign would be most welcome. I regret that I have had to take the Minister at least mildly to task. I should far rather, in a debate like this, 4ry to find common ground with the government of the day because I think that, as the Minister said, this is a No. 1 problem. I was very pleased to hear him say that he agreed that the rate of unemployment to-day is too high and that, as far as he was concerned, this is the No. 1 problem. 1 should rather approach the subject on that level than get, down to a consideration of who is right in this matter, because, -as Senator Ashley said, it is a 100 per cent, problem to the person who is out of work.
Senator Maher made, 1 thought, rather an intelligent interjection when he asked “Senator Cooke what were the causes of these things that had produced unemployment in Western Australia and which were threatening the whole of Australia. It is not a case of being pessimistic or gloomy, but of facing up to the facts that confront Ihe citizens in general and parliamentarians in particular. I rather regret the attitude that was adopted by both Senator Scott and Senator Vincent, who jeered and yahooed when .dealing with this very important problem. Senator Scott mentioned, as also did Senator Pearson, that there was unemployment in 1949. They should tell the whole truth in relation to the matter.
– There was unemployment when Labour was in office.
– Senator Scott has been making similar statements for the last three weeks. If we refer to the “ YearBook “ - 1 should prefer the information contained in that publication to that offered by honorable senators opposite - for the June quarter of 1949, in order to ;be completely honest about the matter it as necessary to read the footnote to the relevant statistics, which says that a certain proportion of unemployment was directly attributable to those unions reporting which were indirectly affected by the coal strike in that year. In these circumstances, logically supporters of the Government cannot cite the 1949 figures for comparative purposes. Of course, as Senator Ashley has said, this is a 100 per cent, problem for the men who are out of work, but honorable senators opposite should not adopt a dishonest approach to the problem. They have made a political approach to it by saying that this Government has maintained this and that, and that the Labour government did not do anything else.
In the short time at my disposal, I now want to deal with Senator Maher’s interjection, in which he asked what were the underlying causes of the present position. The first cause that I shall mention has nothing to do with this Government or anybody else. Although I am not an economist, I believe that what I have to say, based on sheer common sense, is pertinent to the subject. At present, we are approaching the end of a buying boom. For a long time, plenty of people were ready to accept one’s cheque the moment it was written out. In Western Australia, many people who previously did not even know where the stock exchange was located, began to buy shares following the discovery of oil a few years ago. The moment they wrote out a cheque for shares or household goods, due to the buying boom and the ample credit that was available, the cheque was met. The supply of finance during the boom following the war period had been sufficient to absorb increased costs, but that period was coming to an end. That problem had nothing whatever to do with this Government, and it cannot be laid at the door of the Government. The mistake that this Government made was that it reversed the policy that had become standard budgeting practice throughout the world. When a government starts to cope with a decline, it commences a propping up movement, but it tends to flatten out boom periods. The Government reversed that practice. It may have been a bold experiment; if it was, it has learnt one very important lesson and it will not repeat the experiment. The little budget of ‘last “March, which was the forerunner of the budget that we are now considering, instead of providing an impetus, gave a downward pull. That was apparent, as Senator Toohey has mentioned, because of his trade background, in the motor industry. It was obvious in Western Australia, where a sharp kick was evident. The Swan Brewery for the first time had to put off nearly 100 employees. Its usual practice has been to 3>ut on people about this time of the year who, in the following summer, become permanent staff. That was the first sharp kick of the little budget. It is true, as the Minister for National Development said, that when the construction of the Kwinana project ceased, about 3,000 building tradesmen were thrown onto the market. The little boom which gave employers confidence died down. This Government has raised the question of what it calls the terrible Government of Western Australia overspending its allocation for housing. When that was mentioned by Government speakers the best interjection came from Senator Ashley who said: “ I wish to God every government in Australia had done the same thing “. The trouble with Senator Spooner is his profession. Because he is -an accountant he has got the 30th June complex, and unless everything balances on 30th June he thinks there is something wrong. If I remember rightly from my -school days, a year is the time taken for the earth to travel round the sun. I do not understand what that has to do with everything finishing on 30th June.
Senator Spooner has said that this Government does everything better than every other government in Australia can do it. If Western Australia had not cured its housing troubles, Senator Spooner would have been entitled to rap that State over the knuckles, but the Hawke Government in Western Australia said that that State produced the best timbers in the world, or timbers equal to the best in the world, and there was no excuse for the Government to allow miserable people to live on back verandahs and so on - and then set about housing them.
The Western Australian Government’s activities in the housing field were not designed as election winners, this Government’s little budget won the elections for us in Western Australia. The mere fact that that State Government did not balance up by 30th June had nothing to do with the last Western Australian election, unless it impressed the people that the Hawke Government was a good government. I suggest that there is nothing wrong in the Government admitting that it has made a mistake, because by so doing it is admitting that it is a little wiser to-day than it was yesterday.
The Government says that there are only about 5,000 unemployed in Western Australia, but the serious point about that unemployment is that it has been steadily increasing since last Christmas. People are usually thrown out of employment over the Christmas holiday period, but after the third week in January they usually start to become integrated into the employment structure again. This year that did not happen. The brewery employees were put off in the winter, and then in the south-west building tradesmen lost their employment, and the unemployment continued to grow. To-day it is not a question of the number of the unemployed in Western Australia; it is a question of why the number has been increasing since Christmas. It should also be remembered that that situation is found not only in Western Australia but also throughout the Commonwealth, and therein lies great danger. We should not bandy words across this chamber about the unemployment in Western Australia. We should attempt to cure this unhappy state of affairs.
I appreciate the points that Senator Toohey has made in this debate, and I hope that to-night during the debate on the Estimates and Budget Papers I shall have an opportunity to deal with immigration. If the Government continues as it is doing and does not deal with unemployment, it will destroy the immigration programme because the Australian people will not continue to take immigrants into their homes, their hearts and their industries, when Australians are unemployed. If unemployment develops, people will become hostile to the immigration policy when people with foreign names have jobs and Australians have not.
The Government’s lack of vision in this matter worries me considerably. Australia is a young, expanding country and our manufacturers and producers must look forward to obtaining markets away from our shores. The United States of America and
Canada have been able to build up great industries employing many people because of their overseas trade, and the newly constructed Department of Trade should develop our overseas markets to the greatest extent possible. If we can do that, we can overcome unemployment. 1 do suggest that this Government should not advise State Labour governments to resign, because the same difficulty is being faced in Sou,h Australia where there is a nonLabour government. This Government had an opportunity to nip in the bud unemployment in Western Australia, and if it had taken the opportunity, that would have been a clear indication to industries and employers that it was the Government’s policy to prevent unemployment.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Senator Willesee was at some pains to emphasize that the policy of the Labour party was full employment. I suspect that he hoped that anybody listening to him might read into that statement an implication that that was the policy of the Labour party and of no other party. I say quite emphatically that the record of this Government in relation to employment - that is, full employment - gives the lie direct to any belief that might be engendered that this Government does not believe, even more than the Labour party, in a policy of full employment.
It might be appropriate if I quote from an interesting address on Labour and its economic policy, given by Professor Arndt al the Melbourne University early this year. That address was the Chifley Memorial Lecture, and the professor’s statement is as follows: -
There is no longer any serious dispute between Labour and anti-Labour parties about the desirability of the objective of full employment without inflation, and no one can persuade me otherwise. The important differences are about methods of securing that objective, because different methods impose sacrifices and confer benefits in different directions on different sections of the community. 1 ask honorable senators to note that Professor Arndt, who is held in high regard in the Labour party and has so been for a number of years points out emphatically and categorically that the policy of the
Liberal party and of the Australian Country party is a full employment policy. 1 am sorry that the statement made by Professor Arndt causes some discomfort to those on the opposite side of this chamber, because it is on record and cannot be denied.
– Who is Professor Arndt?
– He is the Professor of Economics at the Canberra University College, but it does not surprise me that the honorable senator has not heard of him.
– He is a longhaired professor that I have not heard of.
– There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the honorable senator’s philosophy.
– Dick Casey sent him a fiver.
– I am sorry thar that statement which I quoted gives no comfort to Senator Ashley. I notice that ii does not carry a foreword by Dr. Evatt and Mr. Chamberlain, as does a recent publication by Dr. Burton. Professor Arndt’s statement is contained in a publication to which a foreword has been written by the president of the Melbourne University Australian Labour Party Club.
Particular emphasis has been given in this debate to the employment position in Western Australia, and I suspect quite strongly that one of the purposes of the Labour party in supporting this motion is to provide something of a smoke-screen around the Labour Premier of Western Australia who is at this moment feeling increasing discomfort because the results of his own maladministration are now catching up with him. He can now no longer conceal from the people of Western Australia the fact that unemployment in that State stems from his own mismanagement of the State’s affairs. I am only repeating what I have said for a number of years when I suggest quite seriously that the policy adopted by Mr. Hawke shows that, not only does he not understand the economic treatment that he should be giving to Western Australia, but also that he is completely unable to diagnose its economic condition.
The position has been put briefly by my colleague, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). For a period after the last war, there was a spate of development and an incursion of capital investment into Western Australia the like of which we had not known before in our history. That inrush of capital investment was encouraged on the federal level by the Menzies Government and on the State level by the McLarty-Watts Government, lt was patent to any one who could look at the situation unbiased by party politics that Western Australia needed the investment of greater amounts of capital, and Mr. McLarty realized that fact when he went out and obtained private investment capital. The Kwinana oil refinery, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited’s activities, the Cockburn cement undertaking, and similar projects were rushed into operation in a brief post-war period of six years, and surely the policy to be adopted by any government was one that caused that government to go in active pursuit of investment capital. But such a policy was not pursued in Western Australia. It is a pitiful fact that, since the coming into office of the Hawke Government, the inflow of capital into Western Australia has dwindled from a torrent to a mere trickle. Quite belatedly, after four years in office, Mr. Hawke, having seen the progress that had been made in other States under more enlightened premiers and better informed governments, decided that he should send some one overseas to try to attract capital to Western Australia. He sent one of his Ministers, Mr. Kelly. I have the highest personal regard for Mr. Kelly and I think that, if any one were likely to be successful in such ‘ a mission, it was Mr. Kelly, lt seems possible that in sortie small way he might be successful, but unfortunately, during his absence, Mr. Hawke has announced a form of legislation that will have the direct result of diverting from Western Australia even the capital that Mr. Kelly might have attracted to it.
Let me say something about expenditure on government works and the policy that has been pursued by the Western Australian Government. It is an incontrovertible fact that during the last financial year, for the purpose of creating a favorable election atmosphere, the Government in a spirit of complete irresponsibility, took the lid off everything, and in the first six months spent its total housing allocation and in the latter part of the year followed the unprecedented course of giving 1 0 U’s to builders and traders. The result was that the price of houses rose to such a degree that Mr. Hawke when questioned recently in the Western Australian Parliament was compelled to admit - and I ask the Senate to note this fact - that the price of an ordinary twobedroom house to-day is from £200 to £300 less than it was at the peak eighteen months or two years ago when his policy, which has created an artificial competition for labour and materials, was forcing up prices.
I refer now to the application for special assistance that has been made by Mr. Hawke, because, with great respect, I say quite emphatically that Senator Cooke misrepresented at least some aspects of it. 1 do not say that he did so deliberately; my regard for the honorable senator is such that it would prevent me from doing so. This matter arose, of course, at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council at the end of June, when five State Premiers agreed that the Commonwealth should give some consideration to the circumstances in Western Australia. Arising from that conference was an exchange of information between the Commonwealth and the State. That exchange of letters revealed that Mr. Hawke entered the financial year 1956-57 with deferments totalling more than £4,000,000. The Commonwealth, before committing itself to any amount or form of expenditure, quite rightly inquired about the intention of the Western Australian Government in relation to setting its own house in order. . I emphasize that I am quoting from correspondence that Mr. Hawke tabled in the Western Australian Parliament when I say that Mr. Hawke replied that, in view of the assurance that the Commonwealth had given, he was amazed when a request in the terms stated was received from the Commonwealth.
He was then informed that no assurance had been given and, further, that the Commonwealth Government, acting as any responsible government would be expected to act, wanted to be assured that Western Australia was taking some steps to put its own house in order and to prevent a repetition of what had occurred before it felt justified in releasing the taxpayers’ money to that State. I suggest that that was the only course that any prudent or responsible government could be expected to follow. Mr. Hawke is at this moment, and for some weeks past has been, going about Western Australia trying, as only Mr. Hawke can, to influence the public of that State to believe that the condition of unemployment over there is . the result solely of Commonwealth policy. I have only one minute of my time left, but I take advantage of the opportunity to say emphatically that, if there is any delay in the relief of unemployment in Western Australia, it has been Mr. Hawke’s delay in furnishing the particulars for which he was asked that has prevented the Commonwealth Government from considering the matter. If the Premier of Western Australia wants the matter considered quickly, he would serve his own interests best by giving the Commonwealth Government all the information he can as early as possible. The Premier has not only refused to give that information to the Commonwealth Government, also he has not been prepared to state in the Parliament of Western Australia when he will introduce his budget. He is not making the information available to the Commonwealth Government or to the State parliament. He would serve his own ends best by making the information available immediately and thus allowing the Commonwealth Government an opportunity to consider his request for unemployment relief. As this question has been canvassed widely, I move -
That the question be now put.
– May I not have an opportunity of speaking on this matter?
– Order! Senator Harris will, resume his seat. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has moved that the question be now put, and I now put the motion to the Senate.
Question put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon.
A. M. McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 11.30 a.m., on Thursday, 20th September, 1956.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 5.47 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Repatriation Act 1920-1955, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time. Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read. a second time.
Since this Government came into office six and a half years ago, it has kept under constant review the benefits provided for exservice men and women who suffer from war disabilities. In every budget that has been introduced since that time, increases - some of them considerable - have been made to pensions and allowances payable under the Repatriation Act. Other rates have also been increased., whilst new benefits, such as the payment of a re-marriage gratuity to a war widow, and the setting up of the disabled members and widows’ training scheme have been established and eligibility for some benefits has been widened. The present budget provides particularly for further benefits to totally and permanently incapacitated members and war widows, by way of increased allowances to children who qualify for assistance under the soldiers’ children education scheme. It also provides for increases in training allowances under the rehabilitation training schemes.
Many people are apt to think of repatriation in terms of war pension only, but that is only a part of the story. To alleviate as far as possible the suffering of those disabled through war service and to restore to health the ex-service men and women so that they may resume their normal life in the -community, is all part of the repatriation plan. To this end a high standard of medical treatment has been provided in repatriation hospitals and through the local medical officer scheme. Where specialist treatment is recommended it is made available; also, the repatriation artificial limb factories in the capital cities provide a ready and highly-skilled service for those who need it.
Perhaps, the shortest summary of what this Government has done for ex-service men and women can be found in a comparison between the amounts provided for war and service pensions in 1949 and at the present time. Within that time, the total amount provided for war and service pensions has risen from £20,500,000 to an estimated expenditure for the current financial year of £50,283,000, which is, well over two and a half times the amount that was being provided when this Government took office. Present Government policy has been to pay particular attention to the needs of those who have suffered most - the totally and permanently incapacitated members and their families, the war widows and their children. At the same time, it has recognized the claims of the less seriously ‘ incapacitated. The result has been to provide an overall balanced scheme of compensation.
To refresh the memory of honorable senators, I should like to give a few brief details of increases over recent years in repatriation benefits before proceeding to detail the benefits covered by the budget. Over the past six and a half years, the special rate pension for total and permanent incapacity has risen from £5 6s. a week to £9 15s. The general rate pension has risen from £2 15s. a week to £4 15s. Over the same period, the war widows’ pension has increased by 30s. a week and domestic allowance by £1 7s. a week. The combined pension and domestic allowance payable to a war widow is now £6 4s. 6d. compared with £3 7s. 6d. a week.
Increases over the same period in the rates of allowances under the soldiers’ children education scheme have also substantially increased the family incomes of war widows and totally and permanently incapacitated members, all of whose children from the age of twelve years upward are eligible for these allowances and for other forms of assistance so long as they are pursuing a course of education or training under the supervision of the soldiers’ children education board in the State where they reside. Provided a child has the ability to cope with the course, educational assistance is granted right up to the completion of a university degree or diploma. This Government reduced from thirteen years to twelve years the age at which payment of allowances commences and also provided for the continuation of the domestic allowance payable to a widow for so long as she has a child undergoing education and training and not in receipt of the adult wage. Previously, domestic allowance ceased when the youngest child attained the age of sixteen years, and was not restored unless the widow became unemployable or until she reached the age of 50 years.
Under this Government, sympathetic consideration has been given to the service pensioner and he has benefited, first, by the increase in the rate of service pension from £2 2s. 6d. in 1949 to £4 at the present time; secondly, from the easing of the means test; and, thirdly, from the repeal last year of section91 A which, since 1948, had imposed, in addition to the ordinary means test, a further limit, or ceiling, rate on the amount of service, age or invalid pension which could be received in addition to a war pension. In addition, pensions payable to wives and children of service pensioners have been increased.
The bill now before the Senate extends to certain categories of service pensioners certain increases being provided this year under the Social Services Act, that is, a service pensioner classified as permanently unemployable, who has more than one child under sixteen years of age, is to receive 10s. a week additional pension for each child except the first. This is in line with the Government’s policy of helping, in particular, the family unit. In introducing the bill to amend the Repatriation Act last year, I placed great emphasis on the permanent beneficial effects which the removal of the ceiling rates would have on war and service pensioners. I direct the attention of honorable senators to a practical example of whatI then said. As there are now no ceiling limits, apart from social services means test, service pensioners eligible for the increase of 10s. in respect of a second or subsequent child, which I have just mentioned, will receive that increase in full.
This bill also amends the definition of “income “ as it applies to the means test in relation to service pensions. The amendment provides that the allowance of £120 per annum paid for the recreational transport of a seriously disabled member or for the maintenance of a motor vehicle provided for such a member and the amount of a decoration allowance are not to be taken into account as income when applying the means test.
I should like to draw the attention of honorable senators to one particular provision included in this bill. Clauses 11 and 12 of the bill not only give the increase in service pension, which I mentioned earlier in my speech, but they also provide that, in the application of the means test to service pension, the income of the pensioner will, in future, be assessed on an annual basis instead of a fortnightly basis as at present. The remaining provisions of the bill can be more conveniently explained, where necessary, in the committee stage.
I now give to the Senate the full details of the increases in the rates of allowances payable under the soldiers’ children education scheme and of the margins in allowed incomes provided in this year’s budget, and explain to honorable senators just what those increases will achieve both in assisting immediately the family group and in securing the future of the children who come under the scheme. I refer to the children of members whose deaths were due to war service; of members who are totally and permanently incapacitated or blinded, or who are in receipt of the maximum rate of pension under the second schedule for tuberculosis, and are likely to remain on that rate of pension for three years.
As I said earlier, these allowances become payable when the child reaches the age of twelve years, but I point out to honorable senators that, prior to that age, eligible children, from the time they commence school, receive valuable assistance by way of reimbursement for the cost of books, fares and equipment. Allowances are paid in four groups, according to age and the stage of education which the child has reached. Where it is necessary for the child tolive away from home, a higher rate is payable. The increases in the weekly rates provided in this year’s budget are as follows: -
Group A - 12-14 years:
At home - from11s. 6d. to. 16s. 6d., an increase of 5s. a week.
Away from home - from £2 to £2 15s., an increase of 15s. a week.
Group B - 14-16 years:
At home - from 15s. to £1 5s., an increase of 10s. a week.
Away from home - from £2 to £2 15s., an increase of 15s. a week.
Group C - 16-18 years:
At home - from £2 to £2 15s., an increase of 15s. a week.
Away from home - from £3 5s. to £4 5s., an increase of £1 a week.
Group D - Professional:
At home - from£ 12s. 6d. to £3 15s., an increase of £1 2s. 6d. a week.
Away from home - from £4 2s. 6d. to £5 10s., an increase of £1 7s. 6d. a week.
In addition to the allowances paid to a child under Group D, the Repatriation Commission meets the cost of all fees, books, materials, equipment and fares. Not only are substantial increases being given in the rates of allowances under the scheme, but the margins of allowed income are being raised. The present margins range from £1 18s. 6d. to £1 a week for the “ at home “ rates and from £1 15s. to £1 2s. 6d. a week for the “ away from home “ rates. Not only did these margins apply inconsistently, but generally they had the defect that the margin became less as the child grew older. In the future, to overcome these defects, there will be a flat rate margin of £2 a week in all cases.
Assistance to apprentices, which was once a feature of the scheme, has, in recent years, declined. Because of the substantial rises in the wages of apprentices, few allowances have been payable within the allowed income limits. The position has been reviewed and in future the same allowed income limits will apply to apprentices as apply to professional students, namely, £5 15s. a week for an apprentice living at home, and £7 10s. a week for one living away from home. The: amount of assistance will, of course, vary according to the wages paid in a particular trade or calling.
On the average, it will mean that the approximate rates of allowances in the first year of apprenticeship will be £1 a week for the child living at home, and £2 a week for the child living away from home, these amounts diminishing in succeeding years as the wages of the apprentice rise. The overall effect will be that the apprentice living at home will have a guaranteed minimum income of £5 15s. a week and the one living away a guaranteed minimum income of £7 10s. a week.
These concessions to apprentices will have two important results; they will encourage children to undertake callings leading to the higher skills, thus givingthem a higher standard of living and greater economic security, and they will bring apprentices as a body back to active participation in the soldiers’ children education scheme, where they will have the advantage of the guidance and assistance of the soldiers’ children education boards. The boards, which are established in every State, are representative of all phases of education; primary, secondary, professional and technical, and of organizations which have . a special interest in the welfare of children of deceased and incapacitated exservicemen, and I should like to record once again the thanks of the Government and all concerned with the administration of the. scheme for the good work which these boards continue to do.
The increases in allowances and margins will operate from 1st January, 1957. This budget also provides for increases in the training allowances payable to trainees under the rehabilitation schemes. For an unmarried trainee the rate is being increased by 12s. to £6 12s. a week, while for the married trainee with one or more children, it is being increased by 16s. to £8 16s. a week, and in the case of a married trainee without children, by 15s. to £8 6s. a week.
This Government is proud of what it has done to honour the obligations of the nation to those who have suffered and also those who have died in the defence of their country and to their dependants. This is what the Government promised on assuming office and it has been faithful to that promise. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
Senator COOPER (Queensland - Minister
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to raise, on and from 1st October, the ordinary fee for broadcast listeners’ licences from £2 to £2 15s. a year in order to bring revenue closer to the expenditure incurred by the Government on the overall control of broadcasting generally and the maintenance and operation of the national broadcasting service. Due to inescapable extra costs, there is now a difference of £1,721,000. The present fee was introduced on 1st January, 1952. At the same time, an important change was made in the conditions. Formerly, an extra licence-fee of 10s. was charged for each additional broadcast receiver but from that date a single licencefee covers any number of sets in the one family circle, including portable receivers and those installed in motor vehicles. This concession will be continued.
There are now just over 2,000,000 licences in force. A small proportion, about 12,500, relate to receivers in areas which are more than 250 miles distant from a national broadcasting station. The range of selection of programmes in these outlying districts is limited, and, therefore, the present reduced fee of £1 8s. will not be increased. Certain classes of pensioners enjoy a concessional fee of 10s. in areas within 250 miles of a broadcasting station and 7s. elsewhere. Altogether, there are approximately 171,000 such licences. These charges will be left unaltered. As at present, free licences will be issued to blind persons over the age of sixteen years and to persons, or authorities, conducting schools.
During the last five years the- national broadcasting service has expanded in accordance with the long-range plans of the Government to give the best possible coverage throughout Australia. There has also been a notable improvement in programmes, particularly those relating to educational, cultural and rural features. There are 69 national stations operating. As honorable senators are aware, national and commercial television services will soonbe operating in Sydney and Melbourne, but i is expected that there will be an overall increase in broadcast listeners’ licences of more than 35,000 in Australia by the end of the current financial year. It is estimated that the application of the additional 15s. on the full licence, as is now proposed, will increase revenue for the nine months commencing on 1st October by about: £1,100,000. The new fee of £2 15s. willstill be small indeed in relation to the scope and variety of programmes. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13 th September (vide page 316), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following papers be printed: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and other Services involving: Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1957,
The Budget 1956-57 - Papers presented by the Right Hon. Sir Arthur Fadden in connexion with the Budget of 1956-57, and
National Income and Expenditure 1955-56.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof: - “ the Estimates and Budget Papers 1956-57 tabled in the Senate are unacceptable and should be rejected because they seek to implement policies which are seriously detrimental in their effect on the interests of Australia and for which the Government deserves to be censured “.
– When the debate was adjourned last week, I had dealt with certain aspects of the budget and, in order that my comments to-night shall have continuity,I shall recapitulate some of the pointsImade then. I directed attention to the fact that the budget envisages a surplus of £108,700,000 and that this fact had evoked some comment and criticism from the Opposition. I also pointed out that during the current financial year something like £259,000,000 in loans will need to be floated or reconverted and that this surplus of £108,700,000 must be held in order to avoid recourse to treasury-bill finance in the event of the requisite loans not being raised. I also directed attention to our overseas balance and mentioned that during the year under review, in spite of import restrictions, we finished with a deficit of something like £73,000,000 on the year’s trading, that our overseas reserves stood at approximately £335,000,000 and that we would be well advised not to go below that figure.
I also dealt with the need to increase production rather than to seek to balance our overseas position by the implementation of import restrictions..I directed attention to the difficulties arising from bad CommonwealthState relations and suggested that they constituted a tremendous factor in our present inflationary circumstances. I pointed out also that in the fields of marketing and production whilst, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth has certain marketing powers the responsibility for production rests largely in the hands of the States. Up to the point of the adjournment of the debate, the main burden of my argument was that the State governments were a big contributing factor to our inflationary problems. I referred to the particular problems of the juggling of wages and quarterly adjustments in New South Wales and to wasteful public works expenditure: in that State which caused a heavy demand and competition for materials and labour and, in addition, resulted in large sums of public money being tied up in non-productive projects, thus contributing further to inflation. I referred to the exorbitant costs of socialized electricity and public transport. I also mentioned the failure to promote increased productivity, and, in particular, I referred to uniform taxation. Every businessman knows that the main causes of inflation are rising wages, increasing freights, electricity charges and taxation. Those are all fundamental factors which are largely under the control of State governments.
Turning from those points, I proceeded to examine in part the alternative proposition put forward by the Opposition. As I understand it, the Evatt Labour party’s alternative to the present problems of overseas balances and inflationary tendencies is a controlled economy. It suggests that the Government should have an all-over blanket control of profits, that it should have control of wages and of capital issues. Although honorable senators opposite did not actually say so, I presume they believe that the Government should have control of wages as well. They certainly suggest that it should have control of profits and prices.
However, we know that under the Constitution the Commonwealth has not power to exercise such controls. We know the story of previous attempts to obtain such power from the people. On at least two occasions, when Dr. Evatt was AttorneyGeneral, the Labour Government attempted to persuade the electors to vest such power in the National Parliament. The only other way that the necessary power could be obtained by the Commonwealth would be for each of the States to so refer it. Some of the States have already indicated quite clearly that they are not prepared to do that. Therefore, the alternative that the Labour party has suggested has been offered by honorable senators opposite speaking with tongue in cheek.
The real cause of inflation, as everybody knows, is that more money is being paid ins wages than there are goods available for purchase with that money. Quite clearly, if prices and profits were controlled, production would be restricted, because industry could not be expected to produce more in the face of restraints and restrictions. Therefore, I say that Labour’s plan, if it were constitutionally possible - and it is not - would accelerate rather than arrest inflation. If we placed restrictions on development, obviously we could not expect development and increased production.
On the subject of profits, which seem to be the bogy of the Labour party, 1 should like to read what the Minister for National. Development (Senator Spooner) said during a previous debate in this chamber. Referring to the White Paper entitled “ National’. Income and Expenditure 1955-56”, which is readily available to all honorable senators, the Minister said -
The White Paper referred to shows that company profits were estimated at £550,000,000 last year. That was an. increase of 4.9 per cent. on the previous year. That increase of 4.9 per cent. fell substantially below the 6.1 per cent. increaseof the national income. and the 8.9 per cent. increase of total wages and salaries paid. The point is that, in an expanding economy, profits earned by companies did not increase proportionately to the increase of the national income and total wages and salaries paid.
I do not think that we can emphasize that toomuch. It is quite a dangerous thing for people to think that the solution of all our problems lies in attacking private enterprise or those fields which provide the great source of our national income, and which most certainly provide employment for our people. It is also interesting to reflect upon the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year ended 30th June, 1956, which was tabled in this chamber some days ago. The Tariff Board, having given full consideration to all of the problems associated with our economy, stated in paragraph 19. al page 8 of its report -
Some countries with which Australia is competing assist their industries by generous depreciation allowances, and the Board believes there is a strong case for similar treatment to our own industries. . . . Pay-roll tax is another example of a government impost right at the bass ot cost and price structure which might be considered for removal.
This is an instance where, far from attacking profits, the Tariff Board, after considering all economic factors, believes that industry should be given some additional assistance. That, of course, is in direct conflict with the attitude of the Labour party, which suggests that we should start to attack industry because of the huge profits that it is allegedly making.
I come now to the subject of prices control. I should like to say that a cure for inflation will not be found by controlling prices or profits. On the’ contrary, such controls would be likely to set off a new burst of inflation of increased intensity. Prices control has been tried, and it failed badly. It is based upon the cost-plus system. By this device, the price of a product is determined by. a percentage profit margin on costs. Hence, the tendency is for manufacturers to let their costs run wild so that they can get a greater profit. Prices control pours petrol upon the fires of inflation. The incentive to earn profits produces efficiency in industry. If the profit incentive is destroyed or dampened down, there is a resultant decline in efficiency. When efficiency declines, costs automatically rise. If a government decides to skim off the profits, industry will decide to earn less profits, since the profits will be of no use to industry. This results in less output and lower living standards. When inflation is caused by the existence of more money than goods, the answer does not lie in skimming off the money so. as to equalize it with the goods. That is socialism in all its unimaginative barrenness - in its very worst form.
The practical answer lies in producing sufficient goods, so that all persons can enjoy the money that they possess. The practical answer, therefore, lies in increased production.
As 1 said prior to the suspension of the sitting, many of our economic difficulties stem from our constitutional relations with the States. I believe it is true to say that if an issue is a popular one, it is a State matter; if it is an unpopular one, it is blamed on the Commonwealth. We had a glorious example of that in the adjournment motion that was moved in the Senate this afternoon.. As soon as things begin to become difficult for a State, the tendency is to shift the burden of it on to the Commonwealth. That is a large factor in our problem of inflation. I do not think that we will solve it until we realize the necessity to, make a proper arrangement with the States in relation to uniform taxation. At the present time, we have neither a federal system nor a unitary system. As I< have said before, we have the worst features of both, and the virtues of neither. I believe that, if this country is to go forward to its rightful destiny, we shall have to make sure that the problem of CommonwealthStates financial relationships is settled for all time. In settling it, I honestly and sincerely believe that we shall do much to solve the problem of inflation.
.- Senator Anderson has told us in mournful and apologetic tones of the difficulties of the Government, of the bad relations between the Commonwealth and the States, of the inflationary difficulties facing the Government and of the marketing problems which beset the Government. He has passed the buck of inflation on to the States, instead of placing it fairly and squarely where it belongs - on the shoulders of his own Government. He attacked the New South Wales Government because of the increased charges for electricity and fares in that State, but those increases are the direct consequence of the tragic economic policy of the Menzies Government which has allowed the wild horses of inflation to run riot in this country. He attacked controls, and yet joined with the Government in agreeing to the imposition of the most savage control of imports that has ever been levied on business people in peace-time in the history of Australia. Finally, he referred to the difficulty of obtaining constitutional powers to deal with inflation, but he personally, and other supporters of the Government, fought bitterly to deprive the Commonwealth Parliament of those powers on the numerous occasions when the Labour party has put the issue before the people in the form of referendums. 1 am not here to apologize for the sins of commission and omission of the Government; my purpose to-night is to speak in support of the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), in the following terms: -
That the Estimates and budget papers . . . are unacceptable and should be rejected because they seek to implement policies which are seriously detrimental in their effect on the interests of Australia and for which the Government deserves to be censured. 1 heartily support that motion, and if any further evidence was needed to warn the Australian people of the economic bog into which the Menzies-Fadden Administration has allowed and encouraged the social, economic and political affairs of this country to flounder, it falls from the lips of the great white master himself, none other than the Right Honorable Robert Gordon Menzies. It must be cold comfort indeed to the ministerial colleagues of the Prime Minister and their henchmen on the Government side here and in another place, the Government’s backers from the highly profitable monopolies and combines of this country and the great numbers of deluded electors throughout the Commonwealth, to hear our internal affairs described as “ my rather battered domestic affairs “. The faces of honorable senators on the Government side must be very red indeed, after having put up with such a performance of back scratching and sham defence of these budget papers, now to find their leader telling the world that their administration is at fault. Yes, our domestic affairs are battered and bent and, indeed, almost broken. One could really call this a battered budget. It reminds me of the batter that the cook puts around the ‘scrappy ends of the weekend roast. [Quorum formed.] It must be cold comfort to Senator Cole to hear this exposition of the Government which he treacherously left the Labour party to join, even though he takes advantage of the forms of the Senate to call for the presence of a quorum when the: other remnant of his party is not present. Most of the time Senator Cole is absent from the chamber, and if honorable senators look at the records of attendances over the last four or five years, they will find that his absences have been more frequent than have those of anybody else in the Parliament. This budget could be called a battered budget; it reminds me of the batter that the cook puts around the scrappy ends of the weekend roast. The roast was the balanced, confident and progressive economy of the Chifley regime, and the scraps of this budget are all that is left of the Chifley roast after the profiteers, exploiters, monopolists and stockbrokers have feasted their full. To go into detail on this budget would take more time than is available to me at present, and I therefore wish to make a very brief comparison of various aspects of the economic situation which can be understood by anybody.
After World War II., Australia occupied a distinguished position in being the most favorably situated country in the Western world with regard to inflation. At the present time, it is in the worst position, and its inflation is becoming greater than that of the other Western countries. Can the Government derive any satisfaction from this state of affairs? I am sure that it cannot, even though it is responsible for this position. The Government has had three years of tolerant treatment from employees, wage-earners, salary-earners in industry throughout this country, and from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court during the period of price control over the labour of the men and women of the Commonwealth as the result of the freezing of the basic wage by the court. But what happened during that period of grace? What effort was made by big business to play its part in combating inflation? Was there any effort at all. No fear! The balance-sheets and published reports of companies during that period show that record profits were made and record reserves were put aside those, in turn, are reflected in increased costs to the consumers. Then, of course, those costs were reflected in the cost of living. It is rather convenient now for the Commonwealth Industrial Court to set aside the traditional cost of living adjustments and apply a new formula for wage fixation according to what is called the capacity of industry to pay.
II recall a brilliant speech made by Senator Byrne during the present debate, in which he traced out what he called the process of the economic logic of this Government. He summed the whole matter up by saying that he had shown conclusively that the history of trie Menzies-Fadden regime was no more than a series of stopgaps to meet a particular situation, or, at the worst, was inspired by a desire to meet a current political situation in election years. That is all that can be said of the economic logic of this Government.
During March of this year, the Government introduced a little budget, and to-day the community at large is groaning under the burden of a £15,500,000 sock in the eye imposed last March. Whether it is good or not for a man to have his glass of beer, that should be a matter for the man’s own choice. Upon the man who is sick of hoping that this Government can ever do anything, and takes a few beers as a means of escape, the Government savagely imposes an increased tax in the form of additional excise on beer which automatically increases its price. The same thing applies to tobacco. The enjoyment of smoking has been taxed unmercifully by this Government. When these tax slugs were being considered by the Cabinet, I can Imagine Sir Arthur Fadden asking, “ Do the workers really like their beer and tobacco? “ I can imagine an interjector replying, “ Of course, they do “, and then Senator Spooner saying, “ Well, it ought to be stopped. That is far too good for them.”
To-day we heard references to the effect of the sales tax on the motor car industry. The replies that were given to statements made on this side of the chamber indicate the degree to which supporters of the Government are out of touch with the reality of the situation. They fail to see the effect of the sales tax on second-hand car businesses which are crammed with unsaleable cars. Do they realize that they have priced cars out of the reach of many thousands of Australians who for many years have cherished the hope of owning a motor vehicle? Because of the excessive sales tax and the inroads of inflation, the capacity -of many people to purchase cars is rapid!) diminishing.
This Government has repeatedly commended the approach that is being made by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to the question of wage determination. In an effort to check inflation, the freezing of the basic wage in 1953 was aided and condoned by this Government. Let us examine what has happened since 1953. Wages have been pegged. Most people realize that tha: has meant that their standard of living has had to remain at its 1953 level. But company profits rose from £378,000,000 in 1953 to £550,000,000 last year. In 1952-53, £92,000,000 was paid in dividends, but last year dividends totalled £120,000,000. In addition, undistributed profits, totalling £213,000,000, went into reserves. The Government decided that it must peg the incomes of salary and wage earners; but profits were sacrosanct. 1 ask the Government and the people of Australia, is that fair? Is it just? That is a kindergarten question. The Government allowed bank interest rates and hirepurchase charges to rise, and it imposed import controls without thought for the small businessman, who has to suffer.
During its period of office, this Government has lost £821,000,000 on overseas trading. It has begged and borrowed from every known overseas source. Worst of all, it has stolen the value from the pensioners’ paltry pittance. Having been elected on the promise to put value back into the £1, it has failed the pioneers of this country miserably. What a record! What an indictment. It is no wonder that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has referred to what he describes as “ my rather battered domestic affairs “. I wish Senator Hannaford would get some “ Y-Cough “ for his cough. He is the person who is always making that kind of noise during the broadcast of debates. Many complaints have been received about the continual coughing and snuffling that occurs during the broadcast of parliamentary debates.
– Will Senator O’Byrne mind his own business? I should like to see him refrain from coughing when afflicted with a cold. It is like his impertinence to speak like that.
– As I was about to say before I was rudely interrupted, the present industrial unrest throughout the Commonwealth brings into sharp notice the short-sightedness and political folly of honorable senators opposite. Senator Anderson spoke about the need for amendments of the Constitution and for power to be made available so that in some way or another Federal and State awards could be brought into unison. That would be a very desirable move. I am reminded of the time when it was necessary for a previous government to pui: before the electors of Australia in the form of a referendum certain applications for extra constitutional powers, particularly in relation to terms and conditions of employment. No Government supporter, particularly Senator Anderson, can avoid his full measure of blame for the widespread and growing resentment of wage and salary earners who find that there is so much disparity between State and federal awards. Employees working alongside one another but under different awards are smarting under a deep feeling of injustice.
With the passage of years, much of the short-sighted attitude of honorable senators’ opposite in relation to certain referendums has shown them, without exception, to have been wrong. They now find that the proposals that they bitterly opposed when the Australian Labour party presented them to the people would now provide the key to stabilizing the economy. Such proposals would enable this country to advance, to develop its resources, to conserve our water, and to establish other great projects like the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme which we were able to implement only by the skin of our teeth following an agreement reached after 50 or 60 years of negotiations between certain States. All these matters bring very clearly before us the need for a complete revision of the Constitution and for the granting of the necessary powers to enable us to co-ordinate our activities so that progress can be made.
As I think that Senator Anderson was guilty of double talk when he spoke about the need for agreement between the States and the Commonwealth, let me refer to the arguments that the Labour party advanced to the people on the occasion of the referendum in relation to industrial employment.
– When was that?
– I am referring to the referendums that were taken in 1946 in relation to social services, the organized marketing of primary products, and industrial employment. The Prime Minister in a speech that he made in the Parliament in 1938, said -
It seems curious, looking back on the matter at this stage, that the Constitution should have conferred upon this Parliament power to control the problems of customs and excise, power to control the whole fiscal policy of the continent, and made it an exclusive power, and yet, at the same time, should have refrained from granting to this Parliament power, the ancillary power, as I would have thought, to deal with the wages that should be paid and the conditions that should be observed in the great industries which were bound to be established and fostered tinder the fiscal policy of the country . . . That anomaly is one which will continue to exist until more effective treatment of it is made possible by giving complete industrial power to the Commonwealth of Australia.
Those were the views of the present Prime. Minister in 1938. Our complaint is that the Constitution is the same as it was in 1900. It leaves authority to the separate States, and we have no chance of getting unanimity on wage and salary matters, or contentment in industry, until we can get uniform federal awards for all industries throughout Australia. Industrially, Australia has developed as a nation and not as a collection of States, and there should be a common rule for an industry wherever it operates in Australia.
Recently; the Prime Minister referred to his “ somewhat battered domestic affairs “. Those affairs have been battered most fiercely by this controversy over wages and salaries and industrial conditions. Instead of a united nation, inspired by ideals and prospects for the future, we are divided by discontent over living standards, inequalities and injustices in relation to wages. I strongly urge the Government to take immediate steps to obtain an overall power to settle this vexed problem. We have had examples of what is to come. When we see an industrial dispute settled by a temporary compromise, we are reminded of a person who puts sticking-plaster over a gaping wound. The only way to effect a cure is to get to the source of the trouble. As long as we have divided State controls over industrial awards and wages, we shall have difficulties.
I direct my attention now to international affairs, because I believe that Australia has been left almost completely in the dark about the external affairs policy of this
Government. Provision is made in the budget for huge expenditure of public money for defence. Money has been voted generously for the Department of National Development and the Department of Supply o support this Government’s defence policy, but the people have been left in the dark about the major incident in foreign affairs which is closest to our minds. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) recently made a statement on behalf of the Australian Labour party which indicated a line that I believe this Government should follow. Unless something of that sort is adopted by the Government, we may find ourselves involved in Europe and Asia in a situation that could get beyond our control.
The matter that is exercising our minds currently is the proposed formation of the Suez Canal users’ association. The Australian Labour party believes that the decision to form that association has accentuated the danger of war. It justifies the warning that has been given by the Labour party against the use of force, the threat of force or the show of force in international affairs. The Prime Minister has said that force was never contemplated in connexion with the Suez Canal dispute, yet, in a televised interview before he went to Cairo, the right honorable gentleman did everything to close the door to negotiations. The rattling of sabre was heard throughout the world, particularly among the nations where we should be showing an example of international co-operation for the settlement of disputes by referring them to the United Nations, and by making a sane and Christian approach to them.
– Is the honorable senator referring to Russia?
– The interjection by the honorable senator indicates how heavily the Government relies on fear of a smear campaign. We should be able to look after our own affairs without having Russia or communism or charges of red sympathies thrown at us. These whispers are spread, and we are supposed to quiver back into our corners. These tactics have worn so thin that they do not make any difference now.
Whether we like it or not, we must refer the very delicate Suez Canal dispute to the United Nations. The longer we defer that step, the worse the situation will become. The Australian Labour party believes that not a moment should be lost in referring the dispute to the United Nations. The Government has a duty to the people of Australia to ensure that that is done. If we rattle the sabre and form the provocative Canal Users Association, such actions will be tantamount to the use of force. In the long run, the jurisdiction of the United Nations organization cannot be by-passed. The United Nations must be given firm support. That is the unwavering policy of the Australian Labour party. It is determined to do everything in its power to prevent a third world war.
I should like to direct the attention of the Senate to a matter which is exercising the minds of most Australians - the atomic bomb. I shall read to the Senate a letter that was published in the Adelaide “ Advertiser” on Saturday, 28th July last. This letter was signed by the following persons associated with the University of Adelaide: - Dr. H. G. Andrewartha Reader in Zoology; Dr. T. O. Browning, Lecturer in Zoology; Dr. S. J. Edmonds, Department of Zoology; Dr. P. G. Martin, Lecturer in Biology; Professor W. P. Rogers, Department of Zoology; Dr. L. M. Thomas, Senior Lecturer in Zoology; Dr. R. M. Fry, Cancer Research Department; and Drs. G. M. E. Mayo and M. J. Mayo, Lecturers in Genetics. They said -
We are perturbed about the article by Professor Titterton published in “ The Advertiser “ on 20/7/S6 under the heading “ Scientist says Weapons Tests Safe”. Especially do we wish to query his attitude towards the risk of accumulating hereditary defects that may be transmitted to one’s children and through them to future generations.
Most of our information about the harmful effects of radiation on heredity depends on experiments done with flies and mice. When animals are exposed, in the laboratory, to the sort of radiations that are generated by the explosion of an atomic or hydrogen bomb, the exposure causes harmful changes in the heredity of the animals. Most of these changes cannot be detected immediately, but their effects become apparent in future generations. These defects are built into the hereditary constitution of the population. There is no known threshold below which radiation is ineffective; i.e., the smallest amount of radiation that can be applied in the laboratory theoretically does its quota of damage.
The effect of. radiation is cumulative, i.e., the ill-effect is much the same whether the population accumulates a dose slowly, from a small radiation spread over a long period, or quickly, from a large radiation experienced during a brief exposure. Mice are about IS times as susceptible to radiation as flies. It :is any one’s guess how much more susceptible men are than mice.
These are facts. Thi; question, “Are the bombs safe? “ can be answered only with a plain “ No “, because it is quite clear that the explosion of an atomic or hydrogen bomb anywhere in the world, just like all the industrial and clinical sources of radiation, constitutes some risk to populations of men, and indeed all living things anywhere. The questions that should be asked are “ How great .is the risk? “ and “ Is this a reasonable price to pay for the knowledge gained by the explosions? “ There may be no precise answers to be given to these questions. But Professor Titterton cannot ignore the fact that some risk must be taken.
In the absence of evidence it is best to err on the safe side, especially when one is guessing about something that might cause not only physical but also mental illness, for many generations to come.
In conclusion, I should like to quote a very learned man of deep wisdom, Bertrand Russell. Speaking on this stark, inescapable problem, he says -
Here, then, is the problem which I present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war? People will not face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war. The abolition of war will demand distasteful limitations of national sovereignty.
He concluded -
I cannot believe that this is to be the end. I would have men forget their quarrels for a moment and reflect that, if they will allow themselves to survive, there is every reason to expect the triumphs of the future to exceed immeasurably the triumphs of the past. There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? I appeal, as a human being to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, nothing lies before you but universal death.
– To the formal motion which came from the Government “That the papers be printed “ the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) moved an amendment, the last words of which are that the papers “ should be rejected because they seek to implement policies which are seriously detrimental in their effect on the interests of Australia and for which the Government deserves to be censured “. I propose to speak against the amendment. I do not propose to reply at this stage to the points that were made by Senator
O’Byrne. By and large, those that relate to the budget papers follow the pattern of previous speeches, and I hope to take them up logically as I progress. I propose to confine my talk to budget matters proper and, therefore, will not venture into excursions into other matters he mentioned which are outside the financial proposals now before the Senate.
Before embarking on my enterprise 1 crave the leave of the Senate to pay tribute to the three maiden speeches that we heard in the Senate last Wednesday night. It was an important occasion for the Senate. I am one of those who hold the view that the work of the Senate will become increasingly important as time goes on. Because political opinion is so evenly balanced in Australia, party numbers in the Senate will also be evenly balanced on the basis of proportional representation. Therefore, the give and take of political debate will become increasingly important in this chamber. The three maiden speeches to which I refer were first-class. We have, I suggest, on both sides of the chamber, the common desire to see the level of Senate debates raised; and it is a good thing, obviously, to see three good men from three different political parties to join our ranks. We shall wish good luck to the fourth senator who has yet to make his maiden speech, hoping that he will maintain the level set by his predecessors.
Turning to the amendment contained in the traditional resolution that has been tabled in the Senate, which assumes the nature of a censure motion upon the Government, my first point is that the amendment is not deserving of support because, it is fair to say that, in the speech which the Leader of the Opposition made when he proposed it, and in the supporting speeches of members of his party, virtually no attempt was made to analyse the present economic position that confronts the nation let alone any attempt to make any constructive proposals, or very few constructive proposals, setting out what the Labour party thinks should be done to improve upon the budgetary proposals the Government has submitted. That is a very important point which those who take an interest in political matters might well consider.
The budget speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is without doubt the most important economic and financial statement that emanates each year from any direction on the state of the economy. It traverses the state of the economy, gives a short historical sketch of the financial events that have happened during the year, and lays down the policy by which the nation’s affairs on the economic side are to be governed and controlled for the ensuing year. It is a very grave weakness in this debate, so far as the Labour party is concerned, that in the speeches made against the budget very little attempt has been made to analyse the present economic conditions that confront the nation or to express opinions as to whether the Government’s views are correct or incorrect, let alone bring, forward any comprehensive plan in substitution for that advanced by the Government.
I think that I fairly summarize the views of the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters in their various contributions to the budget debate when I say that this is the tenor of what they had to say: A series of criticisms have been levelled at the Government based on political issues, some of which have been related to the budget and some of. which have not. A determined effort has been made to establish that the cause of the inflationary conditions that now confront us is due almost entirely to profiteering. From various quarters a savage attack has been made upon the commercial community and upon employers generally. A strong claim has been put forward for increases in social services benefits above those that are provided in the budget and an attempt has been made to create an impression that unemployment exists, that the Government is responsible for it and is unmindful of the interests of the average member of the community. That, I suggest, is a fair analysis of the speeches that have been delivered during this budget debate.
– Surely the Minister is not expecting us to accept his interpretation of those speeches!
– In reply to the honorable senator I can only say that I am submitting a fair comment and interpretation. I am not putting up aunt sallies for the purpose of knocking them over. If I am proved wrong in my interpretation, I will withdraw and apologize. One of the sad aspects of the debate is that the speeches of Labour senators showed no indication of any knowledge of the profound influences upon the economy of the Government’s programmes of development, immigration, defence and full employment. Each of them makes a strong contribution to the inflationary conditions with which we are now faced. It is utterly wrong for the Labour party, in criticizing the budget, to make no attempt to take to pieces and examine these influences and comment upon them, and to fail to say what it thinks the Government should do in substitution for the policy it has followed. I do not say that the Opposition is not aware of the effect of these influences. Evidently, the Opposition refuses to face the fact of the prevailing difficult economic conditions, and will not look below the surface to find the causes. Consequently, no ‘constructive contribution has come from the Opposition side as to how the affairs of the nation can be remodelled.
I have said before in debates that it is the duty of Her Majesty’s Opposition to oppose, and if I stay here I shall probably say it again. But Her Majesty’s Opposition cannot fairly expect public support if it does not make constructive suggestions as well as voicing opposition to the Government. One of the ablest speeches in the debate was that of Senator Byrne. I read it with great interest. It was a good, analytical examination, but it was all retrospective. It contained no appraisal of the current financial position, and advanced no constructive proposals for future policy. But in spite of these shortcomings, it was a very good speech.
The amendment to the motion must fail because, literally, the Opposition has advanced no policy to replace that of the Government as set forth in the budget speech. The country cannot be governed in a vacuum. No alternative to the Government’s proposals has been advanced by the Opposition; consequently its only logical course is to withdraw its amendment and support the budget.
Basically, the Labour party believes that better results would be obtained by a greater measure of control than is now imposed, but, significantly, no amplification has been made of that point of view. Obviously, the case for controls has not been thought out or examined. The Labour party advocates prices control, but it does not say whether it is agreeable to prices control without rationing; without the need to limit materials or resources. But where would a policy of controls finish?
The Labour party has advanced no sustained argument in support of its suggestions. I remind honorable senators that in the six and a half years since the Labour party was last in office economic conditions in Australia have undergone a vast change. A tremendous increase has taken place in the Australian population, and in manufacturing activities, and a great inflow of capital has come from overseas. The problems which the country now faces are completely different from those which confronted the Labour party at the close of the war years when it was last in office. The tenor of this debate has shown that the Labour party has done little basic thinking upon national problems; consequently, it has nothing to offer in substitution for what the Government is doing. The Labour party evidently still thinks that the nation is at war, and if it came back to power to-morrow it would clap the economy of Australia in irons as it: did during the war years.
If that is an exaggeration, I say again that the debate has shown no other approach by the Labour party to current economic problems. As Australians, we have to remember that the inflationary conditions confronting us are largely the logical result of the conditions that most Australians want to see continued in this country. All Australians want full employment to be maintained. With apologies to Senator Toohey, I use the expression “ full employment “ and not “ high level of employment”. However, I prefer the term “ high level of employment “ to the expression “ over-full employment “, because the latter has an obnoxious implication which is rather derogatory. Most Australians want to see full employment maintained; most Australians want to see the immigration programme continued at as high a level as is safe. Further, most Australians know that our defence programme has to be continued. They also want to see social services continued at as high a level as is practicable and, because they have pride in their country, they wa.nt to see as high a level of developmental works being carried out as is possible. But the simple truth of the matter is that each one of these items makes a contribution to the inflationary conditions that confront us. Each one makes its demands upon our resources, our labour and our materials and, when the demand exceeds our resources the position is exemplified by rising prices, greater demand for imports and other things that contribute to inflationary conditions. The whole art of government in Australia to-day is to maintain the conditions that most Australians want to see prevailing while, at the same time, reducing the inflationary trend as far as it is possible to do that in a practicable way. To suggest that the present inflationary condition is due principally to profiteering is to argue irresponsibly. That suggestion is just as irresponsible as was the policy enunciated by the Labour party before the last election, at which it was defeated, when it promised extra benefits and proposed other undertakings which would have added no less a sum than £188,000,000 to budgetary expenditure. The Labour party’s proposal to spend that extra £188,000,000 in 1955 and an additional £328,000,000 in 1954 simply adds weight to my assertion that it does not view this nation’s problems in proper perspective.
It is as well to emphasize that we are in many ways a young nation in a hurry, that we are trying in many ways to go too far and to go too fast. What is perhaps even more important is the fact that as a nation we have not yet learned that the privilege of enjoying a high level of employment is accompanied by responsibility, that we can expect to enjoy no privileges unless we accept responsibilities with them. In Australia, we are claiming all those privileges that go with prosperous conditions without accepting any of the responsibilities that accompany them. Here, it is only fair to say that the entrepreneurs, the employers in Australia, have yet to learn that they should exercise some restraint in their capital investment and in the expansion of their activities. Unless they do that, they will merely contribute to the continuance of a state of affairs under which governmental expenditure cannot keep pace with the- development that is occurring in the private sector of our economy. I am not one of those who are prepared to attempt to justify every £1 spent by the Government but there is a good deal of misinformed criticism of our governmental expenditure, criticism that is offered without any realization of how difficult it is for the Government to develop such services as roads, power, hospitals, sewerage, schools and all other essential amenities at a pace equal to the extraordinary development that has taken place throughout the community. On the other side of the picture, the employees have yet to learn that, having attained this high level of employment, the next step in promoting higher living standards for the average man and woman is to produce more. We must have a greater volume of productivity, and I repeat that it can never be said that this Government has failed to maintain a state of full employment.
I join issue with the Leader of the Opposition on many of the things he said. I repeat that it is merely superficial argument to suggest that profiteering on the part of companies has been a major factor contributing to our present inflationary circumstances. Not only is it superficial; but also it is dangerous to spread that doctrine throughout the community, because the real fact is that a high level of employment does not depend solely upon governmental activities. The Government employs 25 per cent, of the people in the community and looks to private employers to give employment to the other 75 per cent. Unless we create such conditions as will instil in employers a feeling of confidence, a feeling that they have a place in the sun, we cannot hope to encourage them to make their contribution to the national well-being. In those circumstances it must be admitted that in laying down a barrage against employers and against companies we are merely doing ourselves a disservice. I very strongly resent the attack by the Leader of the Opposition upon the oil companies, the newspaper companies and what he chose to call “ the hungry shipowners “. That type of argument is the old Labour propaganda of 25 years ago. It is as dead as Julius Caesar. It makes no contribution to the solution of our problems except insofar as it induces a substantial proportion of the trade union .movement to return this Government to office.
I do not propose to deal with what I look upon as a misleading action on the part of the Opposition when it attempted to relate the additional profit earned by companies to wages. It is of no use whatever saying that company profits have increased by a certain figure unless, at the same time, the figure showing the total increase paid in wages is also quoted. To present the case in the way in which the Leader of the Opposition put it can mean only one of two things. It is either the result of muddled thinking, or it is an attempt to mislead. I am not directing my remarks against the Leader of the Opposition personally, because the most unfortunate aspect of the matter is that this has been the theme of the Opposition’s remarks in both Houses. In my opinion, it is an utterly dishonorable approach to the problem. I also cited in rebuttal of this argument figures in relation to the profits of companies. I propose to repeat them quickly. I have before me a tabulation of profits of manufacturing companies showing the percentage of profits on shareholders’ funds.
– By whom was it compiled?
– lt was compiled by the Institute of Public Affairs, Victoria. There are two significant facts revealed by the tabulation. The first is that in the five years’ period, 1951 to 1955, there was no increase in the profits of companies expressed in relation to shareholders’ funds before provision was made for taxation, which is the only fair way in which to express profits of companies. In 1951, manufacturing companies in Australia earned profits of 18 per cent, on shareholders’ funds; in 1952, 16 per cent.; in 1953, 16 per cent; in 1954, 17 per cent.; and in 1955, 18 per cent, on shareholders’ funds. It is fair comment to say that, over that five years’ period, company profits as shown by this tabulation did not increase at all. Yet the Opposition has asserted that the main cause of inflation is excessive company profits.
The second significant point that emerges from this tabulation is that company profits in Australia are lower than in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and in Canada. Indeed, they were considerably lower in each year covered by the tabulation. Therefore, the alleged facts put forward by the Opposition were wrong. Honorable senators opposite started off on the wrong foundation. It is quite wrong to ascribe the present inflationary situation to the making of undue profits by companies.
I want to take this argument a step further. I have always held the view that companies should divide their shares into the smallest possible denominations, so that there could be as many Australian shareholders as possible. I have always been pleased to see a large company split its £1 shares into 5s. shares, because I hold the view that an Australian citizen has as much right to be proud of the progress that is made by our great manufacturing companies, our great banking, insurance, pastoral, and mining companies, as we have to be proud of our public works. It is a good thing to see more and more Australians putting their savings into Australian enterprises. On a previous occasion, I quoted in this chamber, with great satisfaction, statistics in relation to shareholdings. 1 propose to quote them again. I have before me a survey which shows that 704 companies employed 449,676 persons - a not inconsiderable number - and there was a total of 1,060,892 shareholdings. In other words, there were two and a half times as many shareholdings as there were employees. Therefore, when the Opposition engages in this nonsense of attacking public companies, and honorable senators opposite read out long lists of directors, what it really does is to attack fellow Australians, because there is no longer a situation here in which big enterprises are not owned substantially by the Australian people - Australian citizens of a good stamp who save their money and invest it in public companies. I give them credit for the contribution that they have made.
In conclusion, I think that the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition should be rejected, because the speeches that have been made by honorable senators opposite in support of it have revealed no understanding of the economic conditions that confront Australia. The Opposition has advanced no constructive proposals as alternatives to those put forward by the Government, and such criticisms and comments as the Opposition has made during the course of the debate were based predominantly on fallacies and prejudices. The full employment policy that this Government has applied, would be undermined if the Labour party had an opportunity to put its ideas into operation.
– I have listened with very great interest to the speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). As I came into the chamber, he was inviting the Opposition to examine the four fundamental reasons contributing to inflation to-day. He asked the Opposition to examine and comment upon them, and to make some constructive suggestions. The Minister said that it was our duty not only to criticize, but also to re-model, the affairs of the nation. I should like to take up the Minister on those high-sounding phrases. He went on to say that he did not think that we had devoted any serious thinking to the matter. As the Minister continued, I wondered whether that statement was intended to apply to honorable senators on this side, or to the Minister himself. I hope, as I proceed, to deal with the four fundamental reasons contributing towards inflation to-day.
First, I should like to say that I think that the speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) was, above all things, an admission of failure, because it is a far cry from 1949 when the Government parties rampaged around the countryside saying that controls were the root of all the evils that were besetting Australia. The Minister for National Development has just said that the Government knows that it could get greater efficiency in the economy by the introduction of more controls. He directed the whole of his remarks to what has been called a stand-still budget; it certainly does stand still on the position that was brought about by the- little budget in March. Although this Government professes not to believe in controls, it now relies very greatly on imports control and credit control. Indeed, had the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers a couple of months ago been successful, the Government would also have been relying very considerably on wages control, by whatever name it was called. Had the Treasurer succeeded in getting the State Premiers to agree to abolish quarterly cost of living adjustments there would have resulted, virtually, wages control. I shall not venture an opinion as to whether or not that will come about within the next few months. I merely make the point, at this stage, that this Government, which promised to rule without imposing controls, is to-day relying to a very large degree on controls of its own creation. There have been some quite silly speeches made by senators on the Government side about these controls. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) charged the Opposition with not thinking this thing right through. The Labour party does not want to have controls for the sake of controls, but it wants this Government to be quite fair in its attitude towards our economy. If the Government had said that it believed in an open economy and would not control anything at all, we should have found very little on which to disagree with it. We say that if the Government wants an open slather economy, that is all very well. Also, if the Government wants to have a closed economy, that is all very well. But we say that this Government cannot have an open slather in one section of the economy and controls on wages in the other section.
If the Government pursues its policy towards controlling wages, as it has done since it assumed office in 1949, it will continue to have opposition from this side of the chamber. To-day, our economy is controlled to a greater degree than it was in 1949. There are controls on imports and on credit, and the Government is now attempting by all sorts of devious means to introduce wages control. If success attends the Government’s efforts, then there is no doubt that our economy will suffer from a far greater degree of control than it ever did under the Chifley Government. In the Government’s economic survey of last March it was stated that excessive demand is causing inflation. The Government tried to overcome that excessive demand by introducing swingeing taxes on some sections of the economy in the March budget. Import restrictions were reimposed, and they are just as effective controls as any controls that were introduced by Labour governments.
We cannot divorce the present budget from the little budget of last March. The little budget indicated a completely dishonest approach on the part of the Government, because in the preceding year it was afraid to impose the heavy taxes that it imposed in March, in view of the general election that was imminent. After the general election £30,000,000 or so was required quickly, and so last March the Government brought in its supplementary budget and taxed beer, tobacco and other things which would bring in a quick return. Therefore, it is wrong to call the budget at present before us a stand-still budget. It is no more than a budget which is standing still on the position to which the Government had previously retreated.
The Minister for National Development said that we on this side of the chamber did not have any idea of the profound influence that our immigration programme had on inflation, but, later, he said that we did have some ideas about it but did not face up to our beliefs. The immigration programme is the gravamen of this mistaken budget, because members of the Cabinet fought among themselves as to whether that programme should be reduced. The section of the Cabinet that believed it should be left as the great untouchable apparently won, because the reduction of a few thousand in the intake of immigrants mentioned in the budget speech does not really make much difference to the programme. I suggest that now is the time when immigration can be largely postponed. Immediately after World War II., Australia, by accepting immigrants, was doing a humane service to people in displaced persons’ camps throughout Europe. That is not the position now, and it would do no harm to bring in, in two or three years time, the people we are bringing in at present. The Opposition cannot reduce the immigration programme because it has not the power to do so. That is a responsibility of the Government.
It may be implicit in the Minister’s remarks that he believes that immigration should be reduced and that if it were reduced we need not go ahead with our developmental projects and could reduce government spending in other ways. However, as immigration has been made the great untouchable, the Government must go ahead building schools, hospitals and so on, in order to serve our population, which is expanding rapidly because of the numbers entering this country. Consequently, any retrenchments of workers and any unemployment which may arise as a result of the measures of the Government will fall within the private sector of the economy because there will be no reduction of government spending.
I suggest that the Government, by a reduction of the immigration intake, would be able to do all those things which it has wanted to do for many years. It has been said that inflation stems from the fact that we are a young country and need to develop quickly; but I believe that if we reduce our immigration programme such action would have an immediate and powerful effect on our inflationary condition by reducing consumptive demands.
– Higher standards of living also enter into the matter.
– That is so, but the
Minister asked the Opposition to think this matter through, and having thought it through I have come to the conclusion that a reduction in immigration is necessary. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said in his budget speech that we should not judge immigration according to its effect on our economy. I believe his words were that we should not judge immigration solely on economics. That is a .fine-sounding phrase, and 1 am sure that no honorable senator wishes to see the immigration scheme succeed more than I do. Mr. Arthur Calwell can certainly be proud of the fact that in the face of public opinion he founded the great immigration policy which has been carried through to this day. If it had been suggested before 1939 that we should have a large number of immigrants, our people, with their insular outlook at that time, would have considered it an insane suggestion; but since the war ended they have accepted it as right and proper that this country should accept as many immigrants as possible.
I sympathize with the members of the Cabinet who believe that we should not tinker with the immigration scheme at this stage, but I believe that in order that it should ultimately succeed we should reduce our present intake substantially.
As Senator Toohey has already pointed out, when there is more unemployment in this country and when this Government takes unpopular actions which it will be forced to take sooner or later, the people will turn against immigrants. That will cause a lack of confidence in the countries from which we are at present drawing new settlers, and that, in turn, will have a bad effect on the immigration scheme as a whole. Therefore, the Government should take the present opportunity to reduce the number of immigrants. Moreover, as I said before, such an action will help combat inflation and will assist in the development of this country. * The attitude of this Government is that everybody except the Government has to bear the brunt of inflation and our economic problems-. That is shown because the Government is not reducing its expenditure but is requiring the private sector of the economy to do so. Therefore, the Government is striking not only at the wage-earners but also at the people and interests that it always claims to represent.
I have never believed that we could have a completely open slather on imports. The imposition and the withdrawal of import controls must be the very devil to any person who is in business. The Government, by its action, is building up a false barrier for those persons who are producing for and selling on the home market, and is developing a costly home market, because it is freeing them from competition about which it is always talking.
We also again come up against the problem of the Government’s budgeting for a surplus, which seems to have become a hardy annual. All that that surplus will do will be to increase inflation. I shall not remind the Minister for National Development of his famous first statement about budget surpluses. By budgeting for a surplus, the Government is making another demand upon people who are already hard pressed. The Government, by not working to a balanced budget, is making a bigger grab from the private sector of the economy instead of reducing its own expenditure. One of the reasons why the Government is doing so is that, following the failure of past loans, it is afraid that it will have to step in to support future loans. The failure of government loans is the result of the forcing up of interest rates and the refusal of the Government to accept the Chifley dictum of cheap money. It thought that expensive money was the way out, but it has got itself into a mess. I should have thought that the “ little budget “ introduced in March last was so devastating in its effects that the Government, in introducing this budget, rather than seek to bolster the effects of the “little budget”, would have sought to produce the opposite effect.
I did not intend to talk about the question of employment, but, as the Minister has again referred to full employment, I must refer to it. In moving towards that question, I remind the Senate that even before last March a falling-off in the purchase of such items as motor cars, and its effect on the motor car industry, could be seen. That occurred because of a fallingoff of farm income, credit restrictions, and buyer demand gradually running down. As soon as the Government applied its extra swingeing taxes in March, there was a tremendous decline in motor car purchases. As has been pointed out this afternoon, that is one of the points at which mounting unemployment occurred. The problem of unemployment will not be confined to that field alone because, as a result of the increase of taxes, the problems associated with the lessening of demand for motor cars will be experienced in other industries.
The Minister also spoke in criticism of employees. He said that now we had reached a state of full employment - and that is a matter over which a question mark will hang until after next Christmas - employees had reached the next stage of their responsibility, namely, the doing of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. Over the years, I have said in this place that one problem that does not receive sufficient attention in Australia to-day is that of industrial relations. To try to level all the criticism at the employees is wrong. I believe that the Australian worker is one of the best types of person in the world, but he must be well led. If good management is not provided, the desired production will not be obtained. Unless he is . provided with the proper machines and proper factory organization, he cannot be expected to compete with other people in the world. I agree with the Minister’s statement that this is a vital problem. I repeat that it is one to which none of us has ever given sufficient consideration. But let us not level all the criticism at the employees, because management in Australia is not what it should be. As soon as we have good management giving a lead to good Australian workmen, we will reach the stage where a lot of our production problems will be overcome.
He referred also to the question of confidence. I point out to him that it is not a question of blaming us for raising the question of unemployment, and saying that that displays a lack of confidence in employers. These men are not fools. They know that what we are saying is true. They have seen a gradual increase of unemployment in Western Australia over a period of nine months, they see it spreading into South Australia, and they know that the underlying economic causes will spread to other States. Those things will destroy their confidence far more than anything we say in this place. The implementation of these stubborn proposals that we are now considering will destroy confidence. Once that happens, neither this nor any other government will be able to control the unemployment spiral.
After the introduction of the little budget in March, which led to a heavy increase in the price of beer, the Swan brewery in Western Australia had to put off 75 men and foresaw the possibility of having to put off another 24 employees. The union and the employer immediately got together and established an unemployment fund. The Swan brewery put in £1,000 and a similar amount was paid in by the union. The union has an excellent secretary and committee, and the Swan brewery is an excellent employer. I suggest that the establishing of that fund has set an example to every other big employer in Australia who finds himself in the position of having to dismiss employees. Those employees did not become dependent upon government sustenance, but were made to feel that they were wanted in industry.
– What pay did they receive under that scheme?
– I do not know exactly, but it was probably approximately the same as the basic wage. They were paid out of the fund until they were able to obtain gainful employment in another industry. Rather than restrict imports and strike at industry as it did in the March budget, and work back towards the centre of the circle, the Government should make it possible for industry to employ more people.
The question of the depreciation allowance, which the Government abolished when it assumed office in 1949 and which. its own committee has recommended should be reinstated, should be tackled almost immediately. The Government has increased company taxation, which means that less money is being ploughed back into industry for expansion, and at the same time, by not allowing for initial depreciation, it is not encouraging the installation of more machines. Is it not obvious that, if the Government wishes to pursue its immigration scheme, we should have a developing rather than a contracting economy? I believe that we should look for wider horizons for Australian exports. We have heard a lot about pricing ourselves out of world markets, but the secret behind the expansion of trade in other countries has been a faster development of factories and the installation of bigger machines with the .consequent production of cheaper goods. We have completely overlooked the markets that lie to the near north of Australia. In South-East Asia there is a tremendous market for Australian products. This Government, by employing the means I have suggested, should be encouraging Australian manufacturers and exporters to look for wider horizons. We were told recently that it is impossible to find wider horizons because we must compete against coolie labour. A visit to South-East Asia shows that our competitors are not coolie labourers, but Americans and Canadians. Tomato sauce and other manufactured products on the tables are made in Canada and the United States of America where the labour is not cheap. On the contrary, wages there are higher than ours. I know that selling on world markets is not simple, but I suggest to the Government that it should get the co-operation of Australian manufacturers and exporters to develop markets that will give employment to more people, and enable the Government to achieve the objectives that are implicit in this budget by standing firm on immigration and development.
I direct the attention of honorable senators to the situation in which Japan is placed. It must import about 80 per cent, of everything it needs. When a nation imports, some other nation has to export to it. We are missing out in potential markets because our new Department of Trade has not been geared to reach into areas like Japan and compete with other nations.
I wish to refer now to wages policy. Recently, for the first time in the history of the Post Office in Australia, there was astrike of postal workers. That is an indication of the problem that is facing us because of our crazy wage policy. Wages are pegged under Commonwealth awards, while they are racing away under State awards. I notice that the Government has been very silent on this matter during the budget debate. Unless the existing arrangement is altered, there must be more trouble. I should have thought that the trouble in the Post Office would have caused the Government to call the State Premiers together earlier.
Provision has been made in the budget for tax concessions in A and B zones. The proposal must be a disappointment to members of Parliament, particularly those in Western Australia, who have been fighting the cause of the undeveloped areas of thai State. All that can be said is that the Government has recognized that the late Mr. Chifley adopted the right measures in an endeavour to assist those undeveloped areas. Proposals that have been on the Prime Minister’s desk for five years have been shelved, and not enough has been done for the north-west of Western Australia.
I direct the attention of the Government to a report by Mr. S. B. Dickinson, Director of Mines in South Australia. Mr. Dickinson reported on provision that is made in Canada for the encouragement of new mining operations and the development of mineral exports. He stated that there had never been a period in Australian history which was more favorable than the present to the development of mining. He referred to the economic crisis and made a statement to which I direct the attention of the Government. Referring to mineral deposits, he said -
AH that is required, for the most part, to develop them quickly is the application of a more enlightened taxation policy for new mines.
Mr. Dickinson said that the rapid rise in the export of minerals from Canada had been achieved by giving mining operators a three-year holiday from taxation. In those three years, either the mine was proved to be no good or it was developed satisfactorily, and yielded revenue to the government. If the Australian Government would examine that proposition in connexion with the north-west of Western Australia, it should find a way to develop those parts. I suggest that it should give serious consideration to Mr. Dickinson’s report. It is comprehensive and enlightening, and it could provide the answer to the problems associated with undeveloped areas. Mr. Dickinson’s proposals, if adopted, would be of more benefit than merely altering the zones by a few yards, and giving an added tax concession. The Minister suggested that honorable senators should consider defence. The Opposition has given much attention to defence policy over the years. Broadly, all we have sought was information upon how the Government was spending the money it voted for defence. The Government has been budgeting for a yearly defence vote of £200,000,000. The Australian Labour party has never said that Australia should be left undefended, but we have continually urged that there should be some sort of balance-sheet to show what has been done with the money voted for defence. All sorts of suggestions have been made about likely avenues for obtaining money for pensions. I suggest that there could be no complaint if the expenditure on defence were reduced, and the money so obtained diverted to the pensioners.
The budget shows that the Government has no vision. It was drawn up by people without vision at a time when we need far-sighted men. We must develop projects that will provide employment, develop the nation and give the people wider horizons. At a time when we need vision, we have a budget that lacks that very quality.
– I rise to support the budget and to congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the presentation of his ninth budget. I also congratulate the three senators who delivered their maiden speeches last Wednesday. The quality of their speeches was very high, and I am sure that, coming from Victoria as they do, they will make a valuable contribution to the debating strength of the Senate. I agree with the Minister for National Development (Senator
Spooner), who said that the budget was a most important document. I also agree with him that the Opposition has not put forward one constructive proposition in relation to the economic difficulties with which Australia is faced. The Treasurer admitted those difficulties when he said that, while some relief had been obtained from the pressures which afflicted our economy in the last few years, we still had not reached a fully balanced economy.
Honorable senators opposite have raised many side-issues in this debate, but not one of them has been able to deny convincingly that, if we are to arrest inflation, stimulate our export income and hold prosperity, we must get more capital and greater production. First, I should like to speak of the problems associated “with the raising of more capital. Senator Henty spoke of this matter recently. He said it was almost impossible to raise capital anywhere in the world to-day. I appreciate the difficulty, but the plain truth, so far as Australia is concerned, is that it is impossible for us to raise all the capital we need inside our own country. Largely through the efforts of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who has so greatly enhanced the prestige of Australia abroad, we have been able to obtain large overseas credits from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and from private lenders. In fact, Australia to-day is the largest borrower from the International Bank. The need for capital raising was emphasized by the Treasurer in his budget speech, when he referred to the importance of preserving in Australia such sound and stable economic conditions as would encourage the investment of more overseas capital on both private and public account. Speaking of the need for capital investments the Treasurer .said that we should - encourage it not only to come here, but to stay here and leave its earnings for investment here.
The reason why we need more capital for both the public and private sector of our economy is because the introduction of more capital into the private sector will assist the expansion of interprises already existent in Australia or the creation of new ones. In any case it immediately creates pressures for additional capital in the public sector. Let me explain what T mean by that by using the State of Victoria as ari example. Supposing a company from the United Kingdom or the United States of America decides to build a factory costing millions of pounds to produce an article necessary to Australia - necessary to conserve our overseas funds and necessary to the Commonwealth as a whole. It immediately places the State government in the position of having to provide additional services such as roads, power and a dozen and one other facilities which are necessary for a new factory. How can the State meet the everincreasing demands that are placed upon it when this demand exists for money in both the private and public sectors?
Senator Anderson tonight referred to the relationship existing between the Commonwealth and the State governments as the result of uniform taxation. It is as the result of uniform taxation that my State of Victoria feels that it is suffering the gravest disability. Through wise management of its revenue and loan .funds Victoria to-day is the most attractive State in the Commonwealth from the point of view of overseas capital investment. This was recently proven by the very successful trip abroad by the Premier the honorable H. E. Bolte. However, if Mr. Bolte is successful in obtaining overseas capital - and I have no doubt he will be - Victoria will not benefit alone from that extra .capital. The net value of the extra production will be of benefit to every State in the Commonwealth. One believes therefore that Victoria provides a strong case for the proposition that where a State attracts private capital it should have that capital matched by an extra amount, either from taxation reimbursements or loan funds. But the position as it exists in Victoria at the present time would be that taxation’ reimbursements and loan funds will be allocated generally in the same proportion as in the past, and therefore my State will face increased pressure in the public sector of its economy in the way I have already explained.
So we find that under uniform taxation no incentive is given to push ahead with expanding services to meet the needs of developing a new industry or extending an existing one. These difficulties, and the consequences that flow from State extravagances, are not unknown to the Commonwealth Government. They were recognized by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when he called to the States to introduce an order of priority in their public works. This appeal was not heeded in some States, particularly New South Wales. As was pointed out by Senator Anderson last week, and again to-night, State governments have proceeded to litter the country side with public works for political ends. Amongst these public works Senator Anderson mentioned the Glenbawn dam project. I should like to refer honorable senators to an article which appeared in the “Sunday Telegraph” of 26th August, 1956. It was written by Alan Reid, and under the heading “ A waste of ?12,000,000 “, he said-
On the Hunter River, out of place in a thinly populated, undeveloped land of marsupials, sits a huge mammal introduced by man - a white elephant.
The white elephant is the State Government’s Glenbawn Dam project near Scone. Started 10 years ago to cost ?1,500,000, it is still unfinished, and represents now a ?12,000,000 investment.
Mr. Reid went on to say that the Glenbawn dam is an almost perfect example of loan extravagance and he finished up by saying -
The ?12,000,000 could have been spent on roads which become immediately productive once the asphalt hardens.
It could have been spent on the dieselization of railways, thereby assisting to lower instead of increasing living costs. It could have been spent on schools or hospitals or homes to meet the needs of an expanding population.
That is the whole tenor of the argument. What it does show is that capital for which this country is crying out lies tied up in unfinished, non-productive works in every State. Therefore, I am afraid that we in Victoria feel that as long as some States are allowed to continue with their prodigality, then the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States to which Senator Anderson referred, will be under criticism from a State like Victoria and, indeed, from other more responsible States.
I should like, very briefly, to speak of productivity. I agree with Senator Willesee, the last speaker, that in the private sector of the economy productivity per worker has risen steadily since the war. I also believe, as he does, that given more capital, modern techniques, and a better understanding between labour and management, it will continue to rise. Some of my colleagues have stressed the aspect of greater productivity which is directly related to primary production. Senator Wright, last week, said that despite the increased volume of production, the fall in farm incomes during the last three years was considerable. Senator Henty, I think, gave the figure as £105,000,000. Senator Henty went on to deal very effectively with the situation that arises when export incomes drop and import restrictions become a necessity. We all realize that the stability of our Australian economy is related so closely to our export income that any depreciation of that income must have a serious effect on all sections of the community.
I was most interested in the speech of Senator Buttfield, when she spoke on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Whilst I do not wish to detract from this project, I should like to remind the Senate that the largest undertaking in the sphere of public works completed in Australia since the war is the Eildon reservoir, in Victoria. Figures of its water storage, the number of farms which will receive its water for irrigation, its hydro-electric output, and all the other vital statistics related to it are not as compelling as the financial return it will make. It will double production and development in the area of northern Victoria which it commands, and the financial return this will mean, linked with the system of uniform taxation, was well illustrated by Mr. L. R. East, chairman of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, when he said -
Uniform taxation will mean that the Commonwealth, which has contributed nothing towards the cost, will benefit to the extent of probably £10,000,000 per annum. Some small proportion of this, probably about IS per cent., will be returned to Victoria. The balance will go to the Commonwealth and the other States.
Many other aspects of uniform taxation could be mentioned, including the way it is retarding the progress of Victoria, but in the time at my disposal I wish to deal with several other features of the budget that I consider to be of great value. Senator Annabelle Rankin referred to the increase in the rate of education allowance payable under the soldiers’ children education scheme, and I congratulate the Government on its action. To-night, Senator Cooper introduced a bill to provide for the increased rates, and also for an increase of the allowances to students studying under the Commonwealth rehabilitation scheme.
I congratulate the Government also on its decision to increase the rate of pension for widows and invalids. As to age pensions, I am one of those who believe that it must be extremely difficult, if not wellnight impossible, for one person to exist on £4 a week. Despite the fact that this year the Government is providing an extra £11,000,000 for social services, I am convinced that the day must come when, as Senator McCallum said, we shall have to re-think our policy about social services.
Among pensioners to-day there are some whose need is much greater than that of others, and when the bill dealing with social services is under discussion T hope to be able to make some suggestions on how to provide extra help - not always in money, but in increased services. In previous, debates in the Senate I have given figures to illustrate the extent to which medical science is lengthening life and the increase in the number of people of pensionable age, in proportion to the rest of the community. All over the world, inflation has depreciated the value of savings, and has thus robbed many persons of the ability to provide adequately for their old age.
A little less than two years ago, in the State of Victoria, a voluntary organization, known as the Over 50’s Association, was set up. One of its aims is to promote vigorous and far-reaching action, now essential in Australia, to ameliorate the lot of the ageing, and to avoid the economic waste occasioned by their enforced nonemployment. Senator Robertson was one of the first to speak in this House about the wastage of human working potential. The Over 50’s Association conducted a survey covering 3,000 retired men and 1,500 women in the age groups between 60 and 90 years. The result showed that 80 per cent, of Melbourne men and women who reach retiring age do not want to retire. In the last two years, this organization has been able to find employment for more than 1,800 people, and that achievement demonstrates how much work could be done by these older folk if the Commonwealth and State authorities assisted in the finding of suitable employment for them. As Senator Robertson pointed out, on the day before they reach their 65th birthdays, they are valuable members of the business community, but on the day after their 65th birthdays, under existing circumstances, they find themselves on the scrap heap.
I commend the Government for its proposal to consult with the States with a view to introducing a scheme to subsidize on a £l-for-£l basis with the States, voluntary organizations conducting home nursing services. Senator Rankin spoke most eloquently on this matter, and I hope that when the Commonwealth consults with the States it will agree tei allow this subsidy to go towards maintenance, as well as capital expenditure, required for these services. I can think of no way in which the Government could assist the feeble and the sick better than by giving money to help our voluntary nursing services. In March, 1953, the committee of the Melbourne District Nursing Society and the After Care Hospital in Victoria, approached Sir Earle Page, who was then Commonwealth Minister for Health, and requested that provision be made in the legislation controlling hospital benefits for the payment of benefits to domiciliary patients. From that time until this mention in the budget of assistance to nursing societies in the various States, nothing has been done about that proposal.
I wish to place before the Senate some figures that illustrate the rapid growth of home nursing in Victoria,’ and I have no doubt that similar statistics could be obtained in every other State. In 1952, the Melbourne District Nursing Society visited 3,738 patients, and the number of visits for the year was 78,917. In 1953, 5,081 patients were attended, and the visits made numbered 108,835. In 1954, the patients were 5,784 and the visits. 129,695. In 1955, 6,463 patients were cared for and the visits made totalled 167,755. The most astonishing figures are those for 1956. They show that 52 trained nurses attended 9,401 patients, and made 217,118 visits. I do not need to dwell on the enormous increase in the number of domiciliary cases which, last year, were nursed, in their own homes in Victoria. The greater proportion of those 9,401 patients would have required hospital attention if the voluntary nursing society had not taken upon itself to go to their homes and minister to their needs. Its nurses have attended young mothers and men and women of all ages, and more particularly - and probably the most deserving and saddest of all cases - old persons living alone and, in many cases, depending upon neighbours for help. They have cared also for old couples, of whom one would wait on the other until the stage was reached when neither could carry on. If this budget contained no other provision - and it provides many benefits - this provision alone represents one of the most humane moves that has ever been made towards the care of our sick and aged. There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer The amount allocated for it is only £10,000, but its significance is of the utmost importance 1 have made representations about it to the Treasurer, and have spoken about it on several occasions in this chamber. 1 refer to the payment of debts by discharged bankrupts It means the removal of an anomaly and the provision of an incentive to taxpayers to voluntarily undertake the payment of debts from which they have been released. Although the amount allocated seems small in a budget of the magnitude of the one under discussion, at least its provision does show that the Government is prepared to give sympathetic consideration to proposals submitted to it and to adopt them if it believes the principle involved is right. .
In conclusion, I congratulate the Treasurer upon the presentation of this budget which, as he has stated, is designed not as a spectacular document but for the purpose of dealing with an acute economic difficulty.
– Unlike Senator Wedgwood, I have neither the desire nor any reason to congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) upon the presentation of the budget under discussion. On the contrary, I am here to bury Caesar, not to praise him, and justification for my attitude may be found in the budget itself.
One of the things that has impressed itself upon me during this debate is the excellent teamwork displayed by senators on the Government side in their contributions. Not one of them has failed to make the usual platitudinous statement that it is a splendid, wonderful and great budget. Each of those honorable senators has congratulated his or her predecessor- in the debate from that side of the chamber because of some eulogism infused into the contribution. The significant feature, of course, is that the reception given to the budget by all sections of the community throughout Australia, including industry, the press and others, was vastly different from that accorded it by honorable senators on the Government side. For instance, some of the newspapers that have been most conservative in their attitude towards politics over the years have taken the Government severely to task on this occasion. Perhaps, at some stage during the debate some honorable senators on the Government side will endeavour to show that this criticism by the press is without justification. So far, i hey have made no reference to the press criticism of the budget.
Senator Wedgwood mentioned an over50 club in Victoria. Without seeking to criticize that body in any way ; Senator Wedgwood has pointed out quite clearly that it is doing very good work ; I should like to mention the members of another over50 club. 1. refer to those people who, upon reaching the age of 50 years find it extremely difficult to obtain employment in industry in this country.
– This club is trying to find jobs for those people and to rehabilitate them.
– I do not doubt Senator Wedgwood’s sincerity for a moment, and I can only hope that she will be able to convince the captains of industry that a man who is over 50 years of age is still employable; but all honorable senators must be aware that there is a tendency in this and other countries to accept the principle that once a man reaches the age of 50 it is no longer economical to employ him in modern industry. I am very much concerned for the members of that over-50 club in Australia because the burdens they have to carry and the problems with which they have to contend are so great that these people are deserving of some recognition.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) threw out a challenge- to honorable senators on this side when he said that Labour had at no time shown any appreciation of the problems associated with immigration, defence, full employment, national development or inflation. I take up that challenge and remind him that it was a Labour government which introduced the greatest immigration programme this country has ever seen. Indeed, it can be said without fear of contradiction that Mr. Arthur Calwell has contributed more than has any other single person in this country to the cause of immigration, and in those circumstances it was a surprise to hear the Minister for National Development assert that the Labour party has not a proper appreciation of the problems associated with immigration. Again, I remind him that the Chifley Labour Government laid the foundation of the very scheme that is in operation now.
The Minister also mentioned defence. Honorable senators on the Government side should be the last to criticize our attitude towards defence, especially when we remember their most peculiar efforts in defending this country during the war. I did not intend to refer to what happened in the early days of 1940. That is history which is known only too well to every Australian, and the one great fact which emerges from it is that at a time when this country needed a strong government the parties represented by honorable senators opposite were unable to provide such a government. They had to make way for the Labour party.
– Mr. Curtin said just the opposite.
– lt was admitted at that time, in the course of the quarrels between the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that neither had any faith in the other, and, in actual fact, nobody had any faith in their parties. I had no intention of raising this matter, but when the Minister charges the Labour party with having no proper appreciation of matters relating to the defence of the country, I feel justified in reminding not only supporters of the Government side but also the people of Australia of what actually took place during the war years.
The Minister also mentioned full employment and went to some pains to reiterate the arguments he adduced here earlier to-day. In regard to the employment position, I want to say that honorable senators on the Government side avoided the real issue that was placed before them by the adjournment motion this afternoon.
– They did it deliberately.
– They did it deliberately, because the picture that we were presenting was an Australia-wide picture. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) and other speakers on the Government side very skilfully took the matter into a domestic argument as it applied to the State of Western Australia, and totally ignored the incidence of unemployment in the other States. Victorian senators on the Government side must be aware of the fact that there is a growing incidence of unemployment in their State. New South Wales senators opposite must be similarly aware that the situation in their State is not good. The same thing applies to other States. No amount of specious argument will conceal the fact that there is a growing unemployment problem in this country, and if it is not arrested, it will not only give the Government a headache, but also cause much misery and suffering among the people. I want to make it clear that when I made my contribution to the debate this afternoon I was speaking because I had a sincere belief that we must never again experience the days-
– Order! The honorable senator must not refer to the adjournment debate. He can discuss unemployment in another way, but he must not refer to the debate that took place this afternoon.
– I appreciate that point. I shall go on, leaving out the reference to the debate of this afternoon, and touching briefly on the question of unemployment because 1 feel that this is a most important subject. I think that any of the people who had to contend with the indignities, the disabilities and the tragedies associated with the last depression as we knew it in this country, would be failing in their duty to humanity if, v/hen a condition was manifesting itself that could lead to a similar set of circumstances, they did not speak up with every word at their command. That is why, on this subject, I may appear to have a somewhat fanatical approach at the moment. I assure the Senate that it is based on fear that things are drifting in a dangerous manner in the employment field.
– Does the honorable senator think that we are going back to the depression of 1930?
– The depression of 1930 started in conditions similar to those we are now experiencing. It started as a trickle, and became a flood. Unless the trickle is controlled, the flood will be inevitable. We would be fooling ourselves if we said that we could ignore any trend which indicated that there was growing unemployment in this country. The very fact that unemployment is increasing in each successive quarter should be sufficient indication to the Government that something is wrong, and that the condition must be arrested in the interests of the people and in the interests of humanity.
I take the Minister up now on the question of national development. He said that we had no comprehension of matters affecting national development. Is not the Minister aware that it was the Chifley Labour Government which initiated the greatest national developmental scheme that this country has ever seen - the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme? Surely he must be aware of that! I think he is aware of the fact that that scheme has so captured the imagination of the public of Australia that members of the Government have almost deluded themselves into the belief that they started it.
– Even though they boycotted the opening.
– That is true. But let us not go back too far into history. We are dealing . with the present and the present position is that Government members are so proud of the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme that they have deluded themselves into the belief that they initiated it.
Inflation was the last point mentioned by the Minister. I should like to ask the Government to make a simple arithmetical calculation as to what £1 would buy under the Chifley Government as against what it will buy now. When that comparison is made, there will be no need for me to tell Ministers that to charge this party with having no proper appreciation of the problem of inflation is fantastic in the extreme. I remind the Government that it went into office on that famous promise to put value back into the £1. I know that there is nothing new about such a statement. It was an election programme that the Government placed before the people for the purpose of gaining office, and there is no doubt in my mind that that glittering promise did make some impact on the minds of the electors. As a result of that, the Government may have been elected to office. What it has done to honour that promise there is no need for me to emphasize. It is all too clearly evidenced in the state of our economy. I leave that thought with the Minister and I remind him now of the challenge that he threw across the chamber this evening with respect to Labour’s attitude on the matters to which I have referred. I think that I can reasonably claim that I have given the lie to every statement that he made in regard to that challenge.
– The honorable senator was not convincing.
– I do not expect to convince Senator Robertson. At least I am doing my best. If only I could convince a couple of senators on the Government side, I would be happy.
– That is the first optimistic note that the honorable senator has struck.
– I think that history records that the statements I have made in regard to the five matters to which the Minister referred can be completely substantiated. Government senators are well aware of it. One cannot convince anybody who does not want to be convinced. I am pretty difficult in that respect myself. I am quite prepared to admit that. But when the facts and figures are there, honorable senators opposite have to give in.
I now wish to deal with the budget speech of the Treasurer. There are a couple of gems to which I ought to refer. The speech itself is an extraordinary document. It takes about 10,000 words to tell us exactly nothing. One of the gems appears in the very beginning of the speech which deals with the economic situation. The Treasurer said -
On a number of occasions in recent times, both (he Prime Minister and I have discussed the economic situation in statements to the House and to the public. Our object has been to promote understanding of the economic problems which confront Australia and to show what has to be done by governments and by all sections of the community if these problems are to be solved.
Those points really are magnificent, but what we are still waiting to hear, because we have not heard up to this late stage ot the budget debate is the answer to the question, “What are the proposals to solve the economic situation that exists in Australia to-day? “ The Treasurer went on to say, in the same gloriously ambiguous way -
To meet these problems, so far as they are capable of being met by governmental action, the Government has developed policy measures designed, on the one hand, to restrain demand. . . .
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I take this opportunity to correct a statement that has been attributed to be by the Tasmanian press, and from which another senator from Tasmania, on the Government side, gained cheap publicity. I think that it is very bad policy for a Government senator to misquote deliberately a senator who comes from the same State, but who sits on the other side’ of the chamber. I refer to a statement that appeared in last Friday’s press, in which Senator Henty wilfully and deliberately misquoted what I said in this chamber during the secondreading debate on the Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Bill 1956.
– How does the honorable senator know that he was misquoted?
– I was misquoted, and I am sorry that Senator Henty is not now present in the chamber to hear my remarks. Senator Henty’s statement, which was published by the press, reads -
Senator Aylett had stated that evidence on which the Tariff Board based its recommendation for preferential duty on New Guinea timber did not give a correct picture of the amount of native labour employed in the industry.
At no time did I make such a statement. I did quote the relative amounts of native labour and European labour that are employed in the New Guinea timber industry, but at no time did I challenge the report of the Tariff Board. Why I say that Senator Henty must have handed the statement to the press is, that although the newspaper report reads as though it was composed by a member of the press gallery, it could not have been taken by a pressman for the reason that Senator Henty followed me in the debate, and he could not have been replying to Senator O’Byrne, the next Tasmanian senator to speak, as he had not then spoken. Therefore, I claim that the press statement was given by Senator Henty to the press, and in it he deliberately misquoted me. It is a very mean action indeed for an honorable senator to try to score off another member of this chamber by making a deliberate misstatement. In the past, some senators have gloried in such tactics. They were dealt with adequately. If Senator Henty does not want to be dealt with in the same way, I strongly advise him not to misquote the statements of honorable senators in this chamber.
– I remind Senator Aylett that this chamber divided on the question of whether one senator could deliberately misquote the remarks of another senator in this chamber. Senator Aylett voted in favour of the question. Therefore, it is rather peculiar that an honorable senator who exercised his right to vote in a division of the Senate as Senator Aylett did should now complain about being misquoted..
.- I want to refute the allegation that has been made by Senator Aylett that I handed to the press a statement in which I deliberately misrepresented what he had said during the second-reading debate on the Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Bill 1956. I made no statement to the press. All that the press got from me was the copy of the “ Hansard “ transcript, which I read through and then passed on to the press. My speech, as it appeared in that transcript, is now in “ Hansard “. When I handed over the typewritten transcript to the Tasmanian press, after reading it, I said to the pressman, “ If there is anything worth while, it is here for you to read “.
For Senator Aylett to say that I deliberately misquoted him is completely untrue and false. He did not even have the decency to come to me and say, “ I feel that you have deliberately done this “, as any decent man would do if he considered that he had been deliberately misquoted.
– No one would expect him to do so.
– Did the honorable senator tell you that he was going to raise this matter on the adjournment?
– Why should I?
– Any decent man would have done so, but I would not expect Senator Aylett to adopt that course, nor do I think that very many in Tasmania would expect him to do that. At least, he should have had the decency to say that he was going to raise this matter on the adjournment so that I could be present to hear everything that he said, in order that I might refute untrue allegations. I have a perfectly open and clear conscience on this matter. For Senator Aylett to say that I made a statement to the press, when he does not know whether or not I did, was a deliberate distortion of the truth.
– I never said that you did.
– I made no statement to the press that was not made in this chamber in the open, and Senator Aylett could have heard every word that I said if he was present at the time. Therefore, I repudiate his allegation. I close on this note: I would not have expected anything else from Senator Aylett, and there are very few people in Tasmania to-day who would have expected anything else from him. If Senator Aylett wants to compare his reputation with mine in the eyes of the people of Tasmania, he is at liberty to do so at any time that he likes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 September 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19560919_senate_22_s9/>.