22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator McCALLUM presented a petition, signed by 29,460 citizens, expressing uncompromising opposition to the granting of Commonwealth aid to denominational schools.
Petition received and read.
Senator COLE presented a petition, signed by 8,124 citizens, praying that the Parliament will take action to relieve the plight of pensioners in Australia to-day.
Petition received and read.
– When will the Minister for Shipping and Transport be in a position to announce the rates to be charged for cargo carried by the new Bass Strait ferry, which is now in the course of construction? It is hoped that an early announcement will be made, because the new ferry could attract a lot of traffic if the rates were less than those charged for cargo carried by the present cargo ships. If the rates are to be more reasonable, freighting companies on the mainland and in Tasmania will want early advice, because the construction of special trailers may be warranted.
– I regret that at this juncture it is not possible to provide the honorable senator with the information that he seeks. Naturally, the freight rates charged will depend upon factors such as the capital cost of the vessel and the operating cost when it goes into service, as well as upon port dues, which are now under discussion insofar as they are affected by the construction of new port terminals. I appreciate, however,, that the matter is of vast importance to people who will be using the ferry, particularly as some of them will be considering the construction, of special vehicles for use on the ferry. The honor able senator may be assured that the matter will be kept in mind. I shall get the information he requires as soon as possible, but I repeat that it is too early yet to provide information of that sort.
– I direct a question, in four parts, to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. How many Commonwealth River class ships are operating in Australian waters? How many, if any, have been built since 1953? Do they operate on other than coastal trade routes? Are the freight rates favorably comparable with those charged by British vessels engaged in similar work?
– Speaking from memory, there are thirteen River class vessels in the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission’s fleet. None of them was built since 1953. From memory, the last of them went into service in about 1947 or 1948. From the time they went into commission until early this year they have been operating on Australian coastal routes, but since the early part of this year the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission has accepted a number of overseas charters for which some of the River class ships have been used. The ships have gone, in the main, to India, Pakistan and Japan, principally with cargoes of flour and barley. Freight rates on the coast are fixed, as the honorable senator is aware. The River class ships engaged in overseas trade were let on a charter basis on the open market, which meant that the freight rates charged were competitive with those charged by the vessels of other countries chartered at or about the same time.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services by quoting the following extract from the booklet “ Commonwealth Social Services “, issued in November, 1956:-
Free medical treatment of a general practitioner nature and free pharmaceutical benefits are available to all age, invalid, widow and service pensioners (and their dependants) whose pensions commenced before 1st November, 1955. Pensioners’ whose pensions’ commenced on or after that date may participate in the Pensioner Medical Service provided their income from other sources does not exceed £2 a week.
In view of the extra hardship imposed on pensioners whose pensions begin on or after 1st November, 1955, because they are subjected to a means test, will the Minister give consideration to removing this injustice to a large number of struggling pensioners?
– The matter to which the honorable senator refers was the subject of legislation which was debated in this Senate. It is a matter of Government policy. It means, as the honorable senator says, that the free medical service is available to a very appreciable proportion of pensioners, but not to all pensioners. The overwhelming majority receive the benefit of it, but there is a means test restriction.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. In view of the great number of new telephone services being installed daily throughout Australia, amounting to many thousands annually, and in view of the buoyancy of telephone revenue, will the Minister consider printing supplementary telephone lists in each State at six-monthly periods, dating from the annual issue, which is available for distribution in August of each year? This will not only give an improved service to subscribers, but may result in considerable saving to the department. .
– I shall be very pleased to bring the honorable senator’s question under the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster-General, and ask him to let me have his views on the matter.
– My question to the Minister for Civil Aviation concerns a matter that has been in the news recently relating to the predicament of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. This is a matter of some concern to most Australians. As the Minister knows, an arrangement was made about 1951 to rationalize the operation of airlines in Australia. It was the subject of an agreement between A.N.A. and the Australian National Airlines Commission, which is a government instrumentality. That agreement related to competition between airlines, and it was to operate for fifteen years. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether the agreement was signed by the Australian National Airlines Commission? Has the Minister made an assessment of the impact of the agreement on the running of the private airline and T.A.A.? If so, does he propose to make a statement to the Senate on his assessment of the situation?
– The arrangement under which A.N.A. engaged in competitive business with T.A.A. was the subject of an agreement made in 1952. It was incorporated in the Civil Aviation Agreement. Act 1952. I must confess to the honorable senator that I am not sure who signed the agreement, whether it was signed by the Australian National Airlines Commission or by a representative of the Government. As to the effect of the agreement, 1 inform the honorable senator that I am prepared to examine the matter. Subsequently, 1 shall advise him of my assessment of its impact on A.N.A., T.A.A. and on airline operation generally.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform the Senate whether the Government has made any attempt to have established in Australia a plant to convert uranium into power? Will the Minister inform the Senate how much uranium ore has been mined in Australia and how much uranium has been exported from Australia?
– The honorable senator simplified the problem very much when he spoke of “ a plant to convert uranium into power “. First, the ore has to be turned into concentrate. Then the concentrate must be converted into oxide, and the oxide must be converted into uranium metal. Having got the uranium metal, we are only at the commencement of the fission process which results in the generation of power. There is no such plant in Australia at present, and there are no firm plans for such a plant. There are possibilities - quite distinct possibilities - that a plant may be purchased by mining companies for use in mining fields in the next few years.
As lo the amount of uranium ore mined !in and exported from Australia, 1 do not keep the figures in my mind. I refer the honorable senator to the last annual report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission which contains the information and presents it in an interesting way. I am certain that it would be more to the honorable senator’s advantage to look at that report than it would be for me to give figures of the quantities of ore that are mined at Rum Jungle and Radium Hill and are expected to be produced in the future at Mary Kathleen.
– Will the Minister : representing the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether it is a fact that poliomyelitis experts from the leading countries of the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom and European countries, North American countries, including the United States of America and the Soviet Union, met at a recent conference of the World “Health Organization at Geneva? Is it a fact that those experts agreed that there is a new live-virus vaccine which can be taken by mouth and which may well eventually completely eliminate all virulent forms of poliomyelitis in a much more spectacular and dramatic manner than has the Salk vaccine which is a ‘ dead-virus vaccine? Will the Minister inform the Senate what action is being taken in Australia towards the development of this new type of livevirus vaccine?
– I understand that such a conference did take place at Geneva, but 1 am unable to furnish the honorable senator with the details. I shall bring his question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Health, and ask him to furnish a detailed statement.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation be good enough to inform me whether an ex-serviceman who returns to his home to convalesce after receiving hospital treatment is entitled to receive, during the period of convalescence, both a war pension and a social service allowance?
– It is rather difficult for me to supply a short answer to the question on the details that the honorable senator has given. Irrespective of an exserviceman’s rate of pension before entering hospital, as soon as he is admitted he receives pension at the 100 per cent. rate. Likewise, his wife and other dependants receive the 100 per cent, rate from the time he enters the hospital. If the ex-serviceman remains in hospital for three months, he goes on to the totally and permanently incapacitated rate, or the special rate, and his wife and dependants receive that rate also. If the medical officer certifies when the ex-serviceman is discharged from hospital that he is still unfit to resume work and that a period of rest at his home is essential, the J 00 per cent, pension is payable during the period of essential rest. If the exserviceman is over 60 years of age, he is entitled to apply for a service pension, subject to the social services means test. The social service pension would be payable in addition to the war pension. In that case, he would receive a war pension, at the 100 per cent, rate, of £4 15s. a week and a social service pension of £4, making a total of £8 15s. a week. His wife, also, would receive a pension of 35s. 6d. a week. The combined pension income of the exserviceman and his wife would thus exceed £10 a week. I trust that I have answered the honorable senator’s question to his satisfaction, but if I have not done so and he desires further information, I shall be only too pleased to obtain it for him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is he in a position to inform the Senate of the final voting figures in relation to the question concerning the stabilization of the dried fruits industry that was submitted to the dried fruits growers by ballot? Since the vote was taken, has the industry indicated a desire to submit to the Government any further suggestions for the stabilization of the industry? Might I be permitted to say that my reason for the question is that although a large number of growers voted in favour of the plan, the number of votes so cast did not constitute an absolute majority of the growers who were entitled to vote.
– The Commonwealth Returning Officer who conducted the ballot has supplied the relevant figures to the Minister .for Primary Industry. Those figures indicate that, of the total number of votes cast, 2,951 were in favour of the scheme proposed by the Commonwealth, and 731 were not. A substantial majority voted in favour of it but, as Senator Pearson has indicated, less than 50 per cent, of those entitled to vote did so, and therefore the participation requirement was not met. The leaders of the industry, having failed to obtain a 50 per cent, vote in favour of the scheme, are not prepared to recommend to the Government that a stabilization plan be proceeded with. The Minister for Primary Industry has received a letter from the Australian Dried Vine Fruits Association seeking particulars of the vote at the various polling places so that it may study the implications and assess what further action may be necessary.
Proposed Visit to Australia
– I should like to direct a question without notice to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It relates to the forthcoming visit to Australia of the Prime Minister of England, Mr. Harold Macmillan, and Lady Dorothy Macmillan. In view of the fact that they are to be in Australia during one of our hottest periods, namely, 28th January to 11th February, would it be possible to arrange their itinerary in order to avoid: (1) Too many engagements during any one day; and (2) The need for excessive travel over dusty roads? Will the Minister also assure me that they will have ample time in which to visit Western Australia?
– I am sure that all the very important matters that Senator Scott has raised will be taken into consideration by those who are responsible for the comfort of the British Prime Minister when he visits this country.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether, since last week when the decision was given in the uniform tax case, the Commonwealth Government has received a request from any State Premier for a conference on the subject of Federal-State financial relations.
– I am not aware whether any such communication has been received, but if it has I will let the honorable senator .know.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether he will inform his colleague that there is grave dissatisfaction among Tasmanian flour-millers concerning the poor-quality wheat being shipped to that State from South Australia. The Bread Research Institute of Australia has certified that in some bakeries, because of the low protein content of the wheat, difficulty is being experienced in producing good-quality bread. Will he request a full inquiry with a view to at least the necessary percentage of premium wheat being included in shipments to Tasmania, so that the flour produced will be of sufficiently high standard?
– It will not be necessary for me to inform my colleague in another place of the dissatisfaction in Tasmania to which the honorable senator has referred. Apparently it has already been brought to his notice. He has informed me that the Australian Wheat Board has explained that the wheat shipped to Tasmania is the normal f.a.q. wheat sold within South Australia, where supplies of so-called premium wheat are not available. Apparently, because of adverse conditions during the growing season, the South Australian crop has suffered a loss of protein, and this has given rise to the complaint in question. However, I assure the honorable senator that the wheat sent to Tasmania is of the same quality as that used for consumption within South Australia itself. The Minister further informs me that supplies of premium wheat from New South Wales are just not available for Tasmania.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General indicate what plans the Australian Broadcasting Commission, or the Postmaster-General himself for that matter, has for extending television services to the other capital cities of Australia? If there is a firm plan, will the Minister indicate when applications will be called from prospective operators of television stations?
– 1 understand that plans for the extension of television services are under consideration at the present time. I have also been informed that it is the intention of the Minister to make a statement to the Parliament on the subject at an early date.
Formal Motion for Adjournment
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Honorable Sir Alister McMullin). - I have received from Senator O’Byrne an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate, for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The rising growth and threat of unemployment in Australia.
Senator O’Byrne (Tasmania) [3.32].- I move -
That the Senate at. its rising- adjourn till tomorrow at 11.30 a.m.
– Is the. motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places),
– I submit this motion for the purpose of drawing the attention of the Senate and the people of Australia to the growth of unemployment in this country. I feel also that the Opposition must restate its attitude to the growing tendency of the Government to relate its information regarding unemployment to cold, hard, statistical figures, rather than to the very deep human values that are involved when a man is no longer able to go home to his wife and’ children with sufficient money to pay for their bread and butter, clothing and shelter. That situation faces upwards of 100,000 working men in Australia to-day.
I am bringing this matter before the Senate because the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), on a previous occasion, cited figures supplied by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) and apparently regarded them’ as providing an answer to all the criticism of the Government on this matter that had come from this side of the Senate. At that time comparisons were made of figures shown in the statistics. On 31st December, 1955, 16,266 people were registered as actually unemployed throughout the Commonwealth. That was not considered to be a very large number, because about 16,000 is only a small proportion of the total work force. However, the statistical figures showed that on 31st August, 1956, 35,000 people were registered as unemployed throughout the Commonwealth, an increase by 1 00 per cent, of the previous figure. We find that on 30th July of this year 53,000 people were registered as unemployed, an increase by 200 per cent, of the first figure. We of the Opposition ask the Menzies-Fadden Government what it intends to do to stop this dangerous trend and to place those who are out of work at present in gainful employment. Until we are given a satisfactory answer to that question, we shall adopt every means possible to fight this system of giving out figures which mean completely nothing as far as human values are concerned.
The Government can no longer dismiss the grim reality of the unemployment situation by twisting statistics. A recent survey of the national economy by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) showed that it was in bad’ shape in several critical directions. The signposts of depression are very evident in New South Wales. Recently in Tasmania we had the spectacle of the Esperance Council making representations to members of the State Parliament to alleviate unemployment in that area. When the Premier referred to the appropriate figures, he discovered that there was no record of unemployment in that fruit-growing area, but the councillors who represented it knew that there were growing pockets of unemployment.
Throughout Australia, as in that local area, there are pockets of unemployment in country towns where no records are kept and where,, because a means test is applied to a man before he can obtain unemployment benefit, unemployed men do not necessarily register with the Commonwealth Employment Service. Many people do not know of the existence of the Commonwealth Employment Service,, and many meD are too proud to admit that they are unemployed for the first time in their lives and feel that, time will heal the situation. I emphasize to the Minister and to the Government that time is not healing the situation. Rather’ is it worsening considerably week by week and month by month, and tae Opposition wants te know what will be1 done about if.
Let us examine the position throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in New South Wales, lt is all very fine for the Commonwealth Government to pass the matter off, but in the final analysis it is responsible for the overall policy. There are pockets of unemployment on the coalfields. We recognize the fact that mechanization, electrification and dieselization have had a revolutionary effect on transport, with consequent reduced orders for coal. Recently many miners have engaged in stay-in strikes for the purpose of showing to the Government how desperate is their plight. They were prepared to stay down in the bowels of the earth simply because they had no other means of demonstrating the gross injustice that existed. Through no fault of the miners, industries have changed from one kind of fuel to another; but no effort is being made by the Government to retain these men or to establish alternative industries in the areas affected. That is not good enough in a country such as ours.
I believe that we can never restate too often the reasons why we of the Australian Labour party and of the Opposition insist on full employment in Australia. When the Labour party was in office, all its members pledged themselves to adopt the basic principle of full employment as stated in the Atlantic Charter. I now wish to restate those great principles to which we subscribed and to which I believe the overwhelming majority of the Australian people still subscribe. I shall read first the preamble to the Declaration of Human Rights - rights which belong to every Australian and every other democrat throughout the world. In restating these principles, I shall be reminding the Government that, when we are dealing with a subject of such deep social importance, we are not dealing with ciphers, figures, robots or automatons; we are dealing with human souls. The fact that human souls are affected is the great tragedy of unemployment wherever it exists. The preamble reads -
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed! as the highest aspiration of the common people-
On the matter of unemployment, the declaration reads -
Everyone has the right to work, to free choiceof employment, to just and favourable conditionsof work and to protection against unemployment.
Everyone, without any discrimination, has theright to equal pay for equal work.
Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration, ensuring for himself and. his family an existence worthy of human dignity,, and supplemented, if necessary, by any other means of social protection.
Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
At the present time those basic human rights are not available to 100,000 Australians. The situation has been allowed todeteriorate because of Government policy.
The figures that have been presented by the Minister for Labour and National Service for public consumption are proving to be so much “ flapdoodle “. Close examination has proved a large proportion of them to be more or less propaganda, as I shall endeavour to illustrate. Ministerial statements about the number of people who are in receipt of the unemployment benefit and about unemployment trends are designed to rationalize the situation and to excuse Government policy rather than to give a true picture of the position. Even within the last 24 hours, the Minister has stated that it is stupid and mischievous to direct attention to the unemployment situation in Australia. The Minister is stupid and mischievous when he tries to pull the wool over the eyes of the people and to frustrate the attempts of the Opposition to bring this very important matter before the Senate and the Australian public.
Yesterday, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in reply to a question about the Japanese Trade Agreement, said that there was a tendency to scare people about it, but I have in my possession a document which is signed by Mr. A. L. Hoare, State secretary of the Australian Textile Workers Union and a man of very high integrity, which states that 70 of that union’s members residing at Hobart have already received notice of termination of employment. There is no scare about that; it is a fact. Next Friday, those people will not be able to go home to their wives and look them in the eye and say, “ Here is the money to keep our home going “. That is a terrible thing to happen, and something must be done by the Government to prevent a continuation of the situation. We have before us the figures, which are just brushed aside each time this matter is raised in the Senate. On 31st December, 1955, 16,000 unemployed persons were registered; on 31st August, 1956, 35,000 were registered, an increase of 100 per cent.; and on 30th July last, 53,000 unemployed were registered, which is an increase of 200 per cent, on the 1955 figure. But the situation is passed off as being only seasonal! The Minister says that there are slight signs of instability. It is all very well for the Minister to say that when he has a very fine home and a regular and secure position, but it is of no good to the people who are unemployed through no fault of their own.
– Mr. Deputy President, I direct your attention to the fact that the Leader of the Government in the Senate has been talking incessantly ever since Senator O’Byrne rose to speak. I ask you whether he has a right to do so, particularly when such an important matter is being discussed. I think it is most offensive.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! Everything is under control.
– Perhaps it was my fault. I came to the table to see the Minister on a departmental matter. I should have seen him about it in his office, and I make my apologies to the Senate.
– The raising of this point makes my task very difficult. It wastes my time and interrupts the continuity of thought, which is so important. I shall conclude my reference to the position in Tasmania by saying that a large percentage of these employees were engaged in fabric printing. They have already felt the impact of the Japanese trade agreement, because customers are withholding orders. When I say that to the Senate, I am dealing in facts. People are losing their jobs as a result of Government policy. ‘
It is useless for the Government to disseminate propaganda each month in the form of ministerial statements, intended as sops to allay the workers’ fears that they will soon find themselves in the ranks of the unemployed. Soothing assurances in the form of news releases appear in an endless stream. There is no doubt that they contain an element of truth. That is a recognized feature of advertising. Advertisements of toothpaste, refrigerators and other commodities always contain an element of truth. Those things are of service, but each manufacturer says that his product is better than the others. The essence of capitalist advertising is that there shall be a pill of truth, covered with sugar.
I put it to you, Mr. Deputy President, that that is all that these news releases are. They cover the true position in relation to unemployment in Australia. Their primary purpose is not to tell the whole truth, but to sell the Government’s policy, which is designed for the benefit of those people in the community whose only purpose is to make profits, who are concerned only with greed, and not with the needs of the community. The most important people in the community are the individual humans for whom the community exists. In a young and growing country such as this, when the interests of the ordinary people clash with the interests of the profiteers, the profiteers should be curbed, and Government policy should be so directed that every man who is able and willing to work will be given an opportunity to use his labour to increase the total production and so bring more leisure and greater dignity to his fellows. I make my condemnation of these ministerial news releases as strong as I can. Unemployment is being concealed so much that even we in the Parliament are becoming complacent. We have to accept the Government’s statistics, except insofar as we can compile statistics relating to our own areas. The people are offering no resistance to the Government. Unless we take opportunities such as this to bring the matter forcibly before the Government, the people will be inclined to resign themselves to the consequences of this great tragedy in our midst.
Business people, who are being protected by this Government, sponsored the Government parties and put them into power. They are too busy to look at the social and moral consequences of unemployment. They have to meet their shareholders every year and present favorable balance-sheets. A little while ago, Senator Wright mentioned that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited could make a profit of only 1 .6 per cent, in competition with Trans-Australia
Airlines. Of course, a profit of 1 .6 per cent, is not sufficient for big capital. Capitalists could not care less about air services for the travelling public, so they are withdrawing their capital from that concern and are leaving the undertaking to any one who wants to carry it on. They have no feeling of moral or social responsibility for what may happen as a result of their withdrawal of capital. The same kind of thing happens throughout the whole of private enterprise. Since 1949, the order of the day has been an open slather for private vested interests, for the profiteers and the greedy, and disregard of the needs of the ordinary Australian who fought so hard during the war to defend this country.
That raises an important point in relation to the financing of public works and the allocation of funds to each State to develop its natura] resources. How much may one State have for hydro-electric undertakings? How much may another have for water conservation works or mining development? The Premiers have to cadge from the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) sufficient funds for their developmental works, but in war-time, when the big war industries are under way, when the international armaments manufacturers are demanding their share of profits, never a word is said about how much money is needed. Ample money is always available then. That is the position as the Australian sees it. If money can always be available in war, money must also be available in times of peace for the development of the country. Australia is crying out for development. It could be regarded as a deadly sin that able-bodied men are denied their fundamental human right to a job.
Let us look at the position as disclosed by the statistics for civilian employees in the Commonwealth. In May, 1955, the total number employed was 2,732,000. In May, 1956, the total was 2,788,000, an increase of 56,000 for the year. That was good. In May of this year, the total work force was 2,790,000, which represented a further increase of 2,000. In May of this year, 2,000 more people were working than were working in May of last year. But what happened to the 90,000 immigrants who came to this country?
– They are walking about looking for work.
– Yes. I have some figures which have just been released by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). They comprise another part of the propaganda machine. Special social services are available to immigrants to Australia. Immigrants are not included in the figures showing the total number of people receiving unemployment benefit. They are not regarded as unemployed. They are paid special benefits, so that their numbers will not appear in the total. Yet Mr. Athol Townley goes round, with a smile on his face, saying, “ Bring out a Briton “, and Mr. Harold Holt trips round the world, saying, “ Come on, Germany. Come on, every one else “. They are covering up the situation which exists right here in our midst.
The number of jobs increased by 2,000 in the last twelve months, but we received 90,000 new immigrants in that time. Where does the Minister for Labour and National Service get his figures? I want to nail him on this. I hope that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) will answer that question. He will have to do a lot of talking to convince me that there is not a cover-up, or smother-up, somewhere or other in relation to the number of persons entering the country each year and the increase in the total number of jobs. The same thing applies to immigration. The only figures available to us relating to arrivals, departures and excesses are those published by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. They show that the total quarterly excess is in the vicinity of 22,000, which bears out the average of from 88,000 to 90,000 immigrants for the year.
The next point is what action the Government is taking to alleviate the position of those whom it recognizes in its hard, soulless figures as being unemployed. What is being done, for instance, about the dislocation of the lives of process workers by the introduction of automation? Only the other day we read of a new automatic installation on the wharf of a waterfront in Queensland, an installation which, when worked by 40 men, could do the work previously done by 400 waterside workers. What is to happen in the homes of those 360 men who will be dismissed as a result of the installation of that new automatic plant? Problems such as this are not being tackled by .the Government. On 28th July last .the following -news .item appeared in the “ Sydney Morning .Herald “: -
More and more -workmen are :seeing this sign, “ No ‘vacancies “. .Unemployment in Australia is causing concern to leaders of industry and thousands of men and women are hunting for jobs. Industrial observers believe the number of unemployed is far -greater than that shown in the official figures- 52,225 at the end of .June. This is because thousands of recent migrants are not included in these figures.
That bears out the ‘figures I quoted as appearing in the statistics published by the Government. The article continued -
Many single persons losing jobs are inclined to “ look around “ for a few weeks before registering. Large numbers of married women have lost their jobs, but have not registered because they are not entitled to unemployment relief.
The article also stated -
Messages reading, “ No Vacancies,” “ No Hands Wanted,” on newly .painted signboards are appearing in greater numbers on the factories, mills and construction jobs around Sydney.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) himself must have seen -those signs. Having .had such an important position during,the depression years of 1930 and 1931, he must arnell in the atmosphere the very conditions that existed in those days. He must realize that unless definite action is taken by the Government we could have a repetition of those conditions. So far as I can see, the only thing about which this Government can be pleased is the fact that it is retrieving the position that existed in 1949 when we had an overseas trade balance of £600,000,000. That was the figure when the present Government attained office, and that is the only direction in which this Government has achieved any degree of stability. But -stability has been achieved only at the cost of many headaches to industry and importers. I refer to such things as stopandgo tactics in connexion with import licensing and so on. Australia now has an overseas trade balance of between £550,000,000 and -£600,000,000. But at what price has that been achieved? The price .paid is the dislocation of many industries, and increased costs caused by uncertainty in production because -of the stopandgo nature of orders. It seems to .me that ;the :sole .objective of this Government :is to retrieve .its international credit position, and that is the only direction in which it can claim to have been successful. But that -success ‘has .been .achieved -at tremendous .cost, a (cost ‘which has given -rise to many ugly situations in our economy.
Now let us look at the banking .position. Here .again the Government’s policy has led to unemployment in the country. A recent survey by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) discloses that trading banks advances fell by £27,000,000 during the year while the banks increased their holdings in Government securities and less ‘liquid assets by £28,600,000. It discloses further that during the April .quarter of this year permits ‘for private building in the six metropolitan areas ‘fell away to £1 1,200,000 as against £15,800,000 during the same quarter of the previous year. This means that despite the influx of an additional 100,000 or more immigrants the number of homes .being built :in the Commonwealth has declined by at least one-third. This is all the result of the Government’s policy. I hate to think of -such a policy. I hate to think that any government could be so inhuman as ;to pursue a policy designed more strictly to discipline the workers, .to get more - out of a man’s brain or muscle by holding over .him the fear of unemployment by having men waiting at .the factory gates ready to .displace him .from his job. Irrespective of whether that , is bad or .good business, it is certainly not my idea , of .good social conduct. My belief is that the people of Australia did not give this Government the mandate that was claimed by the Minister for “National Development when he quoted the following passage from the Government’s policy speech for 1949 -
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.
He also stated that this was - . . part df 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 contrasted that with the objectives at which the Labour party itself aimed.
That statement is not borne out by the position existing to-day. We, on this side, are greatly .concerned at the drift that has taken place. We believe that the creation of new employment opportunities is the immediate and direct responsibility of this Government.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the honorable senator in opening the debate. The first point I want to make is that there is no need for Senator O’Byrne, or any other honorable senator, to quote extracts from the Declaration of Human Rights, or any other document, in relation to employment. We should start a debate such as this upon the foundation that the policy of this Government and the objective of this Government are the maintenance of full employment. Unless we start with that foundation, we are building our house upon sand.
I am indebted to Senator O’Byrne for his quotation of extracts from our policy speeches of 1949 and 1953, because I had not included them in the notes I have prepared. I emphasize that I stand completely behind the statements as quoted. If this debate is to be conducted intelligently, or if it is to be a good debate, it should be conducted not upon the principle of full employment, but upon this Government’s success in being able to carry out its policy. If we approach the matter on the ground that it is an easy task to maintain full -employment in a society, we do not pay the subject the proper respect that is its -due.
I make one short answer to the criticism of the Government’s maintenance of full employment. It is that in respect pf the -whole seven and one-half years we have been in government, nobody can fairly say that there has been any significant level of -unemployment in the community, certainly not to any extent approaching that to which we were accustomed in days gone by, during pre-war years. Do not let us, as members of this Senate, walk away from the situation -that recent gallup polls disclose - that support for this Government is as strong to-day as it was in 1949. We hear it said frequently that the Labour party cannot win with Dr. Evatt, that the Labour party is disunited, and so on, but in my opinion, for what it is worth, the reason why this Government still stands so high in the eyes of the public after seven and one-half years of office is its success in maintaining the level of employment in the community. That applies from top to bottom.
The honorable senator has spoken in terms of the businessman looking only for profits. He is living in days gone by. The businessman knows to-day that his greatest asset is a government that maintains a high level of employment and gives him a market for the goods he wants to sell. He is more concerned to see a government maintaining a prosperous community with a high level of employment than he is with any other factor.
One matter upon which I should criticize the honorable senator unkindly is the statement he made to the effect that the Minister for Labour and National Service was playing around with the statements he made and the figures he issued. The honorable senator’s words were: “ The statements he makes contain an element of truth “. The fact is that the figures that are produced and made public in this connexion are prepared on exactly the same basis as those that were produced by the Labour Government when it was in office up to 1949. It is nonsense to claim that the figures now issued are this, that or the other. They are the best figures that the Public Service can produce. It is for honorable senators on the Opposition side and for me, claiming the privilege to help govern Australia, to interpret those figures. That is the crux of the matter - the interpretation of the figures.
– The figures do not include all who are unemployed.
– Senator O’Byrne said that the figures are falsely presenting the position. I will turn shortly to an examination of the figures so far as I am able to do so, but do not let us start on a basis of throwing doubt on the figures that are presented. If honorable senators throw doubt on the figures and the policy involved in producing them, they create circumstances which are averse to obtaining the results we want.
The honorable senator has spoken in terms of the level of employment only. Let me take the matter a step farther. We cannot just talk about employment in isolated terms. You cannot say, “We stand for full employment “ and then throw your hats into the air and clap your hands. You must have an intelligent policy that will yield that happy result in the final analysis. There must be a high rate of development within the nation and within the community. There must be a policy aimed at the extraordinarily difficult circumstances which face a progressive community - development and the elimination of inflationary processes or, at least, their restriction. If a government can weld those two things together - the rate of development and the restriction of inflationary processes - it then gets full employment in the circumstances in which full employment is wanted. That is, in truth, the art of government in the world in which we live to-day.
It is necessary frequently to review economic trends and to examine the trend of the employment figures. It is traditional to-day for us to review conditions in the economy with the presentation of each budget, and to do such things as governments can do to correct any trends that need such attention. The objective is a proper balance between the demand for employment and the labour that is available for employment. That is not easy to achieve, and nobody can attain that objective completely. I think this Government is entitled to take great pride in the fact that we have got so close to the target at which we are aiming. 1 refer to an intelligent interpretation of the figures available and the information that is supplied.
Senator O’Byrne spoke of employment trends in the coal-mining industry. I am certain that Senator Ashley will agree with me that the real problem in the coalmining industry is not, as Senator O’Byrne has said, a decline in markets. Actually, we are producing and selling more coal in New South Wales, but the industry is becoming increasingly efficient. It has more plant and machinery and is producing more coal with a lower work force than it did in years gone by. That is a situation that we must handle in the most intelligent and best way we can.
– Did the Minister not say previously that the miners had nothing to fear, and that they could produce as much coal as they liked?
– I do not recollect having said what the honorable senator has attributed to me. The quantity of coal produced last year from underground mines in New South Wales was an all-time record. The figures for this year so far are better than those for last year. In these circumstances, Senator O’Byrne should not try to take some set of figures in isolation. This is the National Parliament and we must adopt a national outlook. We must look at events and conditions as they apply throughout the nation.
As a national parliament we can take great pride in the fact that the pressure of costs and prices that was so evident at the end of 1955 has largely disappeared. We have, in fact, a more stable economy. The shortage of supplies which determined the level of employment is now non-existent. We can get nearly all the materials we want. There has been a substantial and very satisfactory increase in the output of industries upon which employment basically depends. They are fuel, power, materials, and so on. All efforts in that direction are bearing fruit, as the honorable senator has admitted. Wool production is increasing. The export trade is expanding and we are reaching the stage of relaxing import restrictions.
That is the background that provides employment for the Australian work force of 3,930,000 persons. As a national government we must try to create conditions that will provide employment for that work force. We have to determine what is the level of unemployment within that grand total of 3,930,000 and what we can do about it. We have to start with the knowledge that there is no way of determining the precise level of unemployment. When Senator O’Byrne took a figure of 100,000 he plucked a figure out of the air, and there is no foundation for the statement he made in that connexion.
Only two sets of figures are relevant. We must take those figures and put our own interpretation upon them. They relate to the number of persons receiving the unemployment benefit - now 20,291 - and thenumber at present registered for employment - 53,000. One person can interpret those figures quite differently from somebody else. The total of 20,291 is the lowest level, the absolute minimum level, of” unemployment.
An unkind statement made by Senator O’Byrne was to the effect that we were: slanting the figures. I take great interest in the statements that are- issued by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, each- month about the unemployment level, because I- see in them an earnest desire and an intelligent effort to pinpoint the reasons for the level of unemployment and to ascertain how we can do- better. During the last twelve months, the number of persons receiving the unemployment benefit has increased from 9,L64 to 20,291. For the information of the Senate I see no harm in saying, though the figures are against me, that, the highest figure we have had- for unemployment relief benefit in the post-war- years was 42,033 in June, 1955. How do we interpret these figures? One interpretation that I think the Senate might well consider is’ that th& 20,291 people who are now receiving the unemployment benefit represent only one-half of 1 per cent, of the labour, force in- Australia.
– But 100 per cent, in the case of each person who is unemployed.
– With respect to the honorable senator who has just interjected, I say that is a spurious, argument. It is not right to create an atmosphere of lack of. sympathy for those who are in that predicament. We have tried to deal with the matter overall, and I emphasize that only one-half of 1 per cent, of the work force in Australia is receiving the unemployment benefit.
– I think Mr. Haylen mentioned that.
– It is unkind to recall’ that. I well remember that during the campaign preceding the election at which we were returned’ to power, Mr. Leslie Haylen, who is a leading member of the Australian Labour party, announced with great gusto and with great pride that one of Labour’s objectives, was to reduce unemployment to 5 per cent, of the work force. But after, our seven and- a half years of government we. are able to point to the fact that unemployment during that period has never exceeded three-quarters of 1 per cent, of the work force.
– That is not true, because- the figures do not relate to the actual number of people out of work.
– I am speaking, in terms of the only figures on which we can rely. But let me get back to my argument.
As I1 have said’, only one-half of 1 per cent, of Australia’s work force is at present receiving the’ unemployment benefit. As we know, all figures are comparative. The trouble in- this particular task is that we have difficulty in arriving at a true basis on comparison.
Opposition, senators interjecting,
– I know that honorable senators opposite do not- like to hear these arguments, but they must face the position. What makes them so angry is that we have on our. side a commendable record of truth, logic and- good effort, and the public realize that-. I again emphasize that, in Australia to-day, only one-half of 1 per cent, of the total work force is receiving the unemployment benefit. This compares with 1.2’ per- cent, in the United Kingdom, 4.7’ per cent, in- the United States of America and’ 3.3 per cent, in Canada. Those three countries are prosperous in the eyes of the world, yet Australia is in a better position regarding employment than they are. If Australia’s figures were doubled, or even redoubled, our position would be better than that of either’ Canada or the United States.
Of course, we have trouble in particular places. Senator O’Byrne. has referred to a certain textile company in- Hobart. By the same: token, I could relate a very different story concerning the circumstances of that company. Silk and Textiles Limited, is. in the process of virtually doubling its productive capacity. It Has made arrangements to bring- out employees from the United Kingdom. I think when the gentleman who runs the company has a story to tell, it loses nothing in the telling.
– The Minister should hear his latest story.
– I have no doubt that, if it suits the Opposition, honorable senators opposite will produce it. What we want in the National Parliament is not the statements of pressure groups, but a fair presentation of the facts so that we can reach a proper conclusion. Nobody can be 100 per cent, perfect, and I concede that although our present rate of unemployment is only one-half of 1 per cent., there must be patches in various parts of the country which it is- difficult- to get at. We are not 100 per cent, perfect, but I claim that we are pretty close to it. One does not have to rely on poetic licence to arrive at the conclusion that, if one one-half of 1 per cent, of our work force is in receipt of the unemployment benefit, 99.5 per cent, of the people who live and work in Australia are enjoying comparatively prosperous conditions.
V/e have to look at this matter on a wide front. Senator O’Byrne has apparently taken exception to my contention that it is wrong to create a scare. We know that nothing succeeds like success. As a nation, figuratively speaking, we have put our hands to the plough to do certain things. We have committed ourselves to a situation in which we contemplate increasing our work force by some 60,000 persons each year by natural increase and immigration. Above all things, if we are to progress, we must not lack confidence to carry our task through to a successful conclusion. During the period of seven and one-half years that this Government has been in office, there has been practically no unemployment in Australia. Why, almost on the eve of the presentation of the budget, bearing in mind our record, has the Opposition seen fit to create these scares and so make our task more difficult?
As I said previously, during the last twelve months the number of persons in receipt of the unemployment benefit has increased from 9,164 to 20,491. It must not be forgotten that, during the same period, about 60,000 immigrants have come to Australia. We have to face the situation that, during the last twelve months, the demand for labour has not increased commensurately with the increase of the work force.
– What is the reason for that?
– Australia is developing rapidly. In view of our expanding economy, and the fact that Australia is enjoying highly prosperous conditions, an endeavour must be made to balance the situation. If, on the one hand, we prime the pump too much, we might create a condition of over-full employment and the consequential evils that lead to inflation.
– Is that why the Government has concluded a trade treaty with Japan?
– As I stated last night, in order to maintain an increase of 60,000 people a year in the work force, we must assist our manufacturing industries to gain additional strength and virility. Our manufacturing industries are the biggest absorbers of the goods that we import. Unless we increase our exports, we will not be able to pay for the goods that we import. We are hopeful that the recent trade treaty with Japan will lead to a greater export income for Australia. That is why we have had such good results from the gallup poll. Senator Courtice’s question shows that honorable senators opposite do not understand the basic problem. They want to isolate one aspect of it and gain political advantage by ignoring the remainder. We must consider the matter on a broad basis, and deal with the programme as a whole.
– My interjection was prompted by the Minister’s statement that he was afraid of the evils of full employment.
– I said that I was afraid of the evils of over-full employment, and I would be surprised if the honorable senator did not realize the difficulty of avoiding the ill effects of that. We must face the facts, refuse to exaggerate the difficulties, and resolve that we shall not fall victim to any-
– “ Scares.”
– “Scares” is the right word. Senator Sandford and I would understand each other if we said, “ Don’t let us be old women. Let us go ahead with some degree of confidence in our immigration programme for this year, having in mind the likely natural increase “. Our work force will probably increase by another 60,000 this year, and if honorable senators opposite want us to hold back progress because one-half of 1 per cent, of the work force is receiving unemployment relief, they can count me out.
Let me conclude on this note: The budget will be brought down within a week. I do not intend to refer to its terms, but I would remind the Senate that the Government has already indicated its approach to the present problem by the extent of the tax reimbursements and loan moneys available to the States this year. The end of the winter is approaching and with the coming of the new season the demand for labour will increase. Honorable senators should not forget that this has been a very difficult winter. In recent months the primary producing areas have experienced very dry patches, and these have rather held up developmental work. The mild winter in the metropolitan areas has resulted in a low level of retail sales. People have not bought winter clothes to the same extent as usual. The effect of that is felt right back in the manufacturing and importing fields. The statistics show that the position now is a little worse than it was twelve months ago. We believe that the figures are somewhat distorted - a little below normal - as a result of seasonal conditions in both the country and the metropolitan areas.
I submit that, in the face of our record during the last seven and a half years, it is unduly pessimistic to speak as if there were at present a serious unemployment problem. We can only watch the position month by month. The honorable senator who proposed the formal adjournment motion should, instead of criticizing my colleague, have been appreciative of the Government’s endeavour to keep right on top of the problem and avoid creating an undesirable situation. The Government is committed to a policy of full employment and, with the greatest respect to honorable senators opposite, we have put that policy into effect with a greater degree of efficiency than they would have done if they had been on this side of the House.
– The Minister has no justification for stating that.
– I have every justification for stating it, when I see the level of debate on this matter, the calibre of questions asked by honorable senators opposite, and the Labour party’s completely biased approach to the Japanese trade treaty. We admit that, at the moment, there is some slack. Our aim is to take it up and create conditions which will enable the growth in the work force to continue without overfull employment, inflation and unemployment.
– It must be disheartening, if not distressing, for the 20,600 people who have been unemployed for at least a fortnight - perhaps months - to hear the Minister’s unsympathetic approach to their plight. On 19th September, 1956, when I proposed the adjournment of the Senate so that this, matter might be discussed, the Government chose to refer to this figure of one-half of 1 per cent, as representing the unemployment level. To-day, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner)’ does likewise and says that he is happy with the position. He is proud of the Government’s record! Notwithstanding the Minister’s assurance that there is no employment crisis, we can all agree that every breadwinner who returns home at night with theknowledge that he cannot support his family has a crisis of the first magnitude on his. hands. The Minister tells us to analyse the figures, and cloaks them in a story of government success over recent years, but, in* fact, he is saying that there are only 20,600- breadwinners out of work. If we multiply that figure by the statistical family of three, we are left with more than 60,000 Australiancitizens in misery.
– The percentage is still; the same.
– I know that thehonorable senator is a bachelor, but he ought, to have been married long ago. The deviceof dealing in percentages and not total’ figures has been used again and again until it is threadbare.
As the Minister has summed up Labour’sattack in two points, I shall sum up hisreply in the same way. One-half of 1 per cent, of the work force represents 20,600- breadwinners on the dole and more than. 60,000 souls in misery. We are told that, that is a satisfactory percentage, and that, the position will not become unsatisfactory until the percentage increases to 3 per cent. Doubtless, six times that figure will still beregarded as satisfactory by the Government. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) told us that wemust not get into a panic. Incidentally, though the Minister for National Development takes the credit for warning us against. “ scares “, the present scare really emanated from the Minister for Labour and National. Service, whose comment was published in. all the newspapers. The Minister said then that the situation was not bad and that, although it was becoming grave, it had not reached scare proportions. He also used’ the figure of one-half of 1 per cent, and added that even 3 per cent, would not bebad. He further intimated that Australia’s- position was still comparable with that of the western nations. What is, in effect, the degree of unemployment which this Government would regard as satisfactory? lt takes the view that unemployment would be at a reasonable level as long as we were a little better off than those countries which are suffering misery due to unemployment. That is not the Opposition’s theory of full employment.
I can cite from “ Hansard “ the Minister’s statement on the last occasion we discussed unemployment. At that time the position was desperate. Each State had applied to the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance to relieve the misery due to unemployment, but the Commonwealth Government did nothing in the matter except that the Minister gave the answer to which I have referred. This Government denied to Western Australia the money that the Western Australian Government needed to expand its comprehensive water scheme, although it was obvious that that was necessary to maintain employment in that State. This Government also refused to spend Commonwealth money to expand capital works although at the same time it was spending overseas millions of pounds on defence equipment. That money could have been used to provide employment for people in this country. The Government refused and, still refuses, to spend money on the extension of capital works.
The argument from the Government’s point of view has developed into a cold, hard business of percentages. One of the points made by the Minister is that the Government is quite happy because a gallup poll has disclosed that it still has the support of the people. His attitude is, “We =are all right. The misery of one-half of 1 per cent, of the workers in the community does not threaten our security. There is no crisis of unemployment. We are still well supported “. The Opposition looks at the other side of the picture. It looks at 120,000 unemployed - the 3 per cent, which would still be a satisfactory figure, if we accept the Minister’s argument. The Opposition does not want to see unemployment grow to that extent.
The Minister asks for figures. I shall :give him figures if I have the time. On two occasions, first at the airport by the “Minister for Labour and National Service, and later in this chamber by the Minister for National Development, the reply given to questions about the misery of the unemployed people has been, “ One-half of 1 per cent.” The Minister for Labour and National Service maintains that no crisis exists. There is no crisis for him, because there is no challenge to the Government by the community. The people who are suffering from poverty do not represent a threat to the Government because an equal number, or more, are quite satisfied to live on their poverty and misery, to exploit them. The Government is satisfied because it is safe, or thinks it is safe.
The Minister for Labour and National Service also made the statement that onethird of 1 per cent, unemployment in our work force is as close to full employment as we can reasonably get without moving into the position of having an excess demand for labour. We find that such statements are made continually both in the Senate and outside. The Government takes the view that an excess demand for labour in a country such as ours would be a tragedy. The Minister has compared the position here with that which exists in America and other countries which are at the ceiling of their production. He cleverly twisted his argument in an illogical way to prove that we must expect such a position in a young expanding country such as this. The true position is that Australia is a developing country with a huge potential. A great job has to be done, and there should be no unemployed people here. There should be work for every citizen. If the Government did its job properly, that would be the position, but it has fallen down on its job.
Let us examine the trend over the last decade. In 1947, 6,000 people were drawing unemployment relief. In 1948, the figure was 1,838. It is now 18,071. That is still satisfactory as far as the Government is concerned! It is only a small percentage of the total work force. But the Government forgets that it represents individual suffering and misery and that many husbands cannot support their wives and families. This fraction of 1 per cent, of the people does not present a threat to the Government. It covers a section of the community which has no influence.
– The Minister did not say that.
– He- did not say it but that is what, he meant. He does not realize what is happening, because he has never been: in the position of the people who are without work.
– The honorable senator should not get too excited. He should talk, sense.
– I am not excited. Interjections of that kind arc inane and dishonest. So we find that over the period of a decade the Government has been able to force the unemployment figure up to 10,000 greater than it was during the second worst period in our history, in June, 1952. The figure has risen from 1,800 to 18,071, yet the Minister says that the position is quite satisfactory. We have immigrants in this country living on a special dole in camps. They, too, are seeking employment and housing, but they are not included in these figures. Thousands of young men have not registered as unemployed because they hate to do so. A young man from Kalgoorlie told me that he had been dismissed from the mines but, instead of registering for unemployment relief, he had gone into the back country in an attempt to find work, as such men frequently do. He then came back to the city and made his first application for unemployment relief. He did not, however, hand in his certificate of earnings, but went back into the country looking for employment. When he eventually came back to the city he told me that he had lost the paper he had been given and did not know what to do. He said that he was ashamed to have to apply for unemployment relief. Many of the people now included in the figures cited by the Minister are men who up to the present have never felt the sting of unemployment, unlike many of us who went through the depression and know what unemployment means. These 1 0,000 people mean nothing to the Minister, because they represent only one-half of 1 per cent.
Then there are the new Australians, who are becoming disappointed. They seek employment but cannot obtain it with the same expedition as the Australian citizen who knows his way about and has friends to help him. It is surprising that the Minister should stand up and, in a suave way, tell us that there is no crisis. There is no crisis for the- Minister, because, in his view, these people are not influential and represent only one-half of 1 per cent of the work force, but percentages of that kind have made and unmade governments.
I desire now to quote a. few newspaper comments that have appeared’ during the period- we are considering. In June, 1956, we had the headline, “ Rise in Unemployment Worries Trade Unions “. In the view of the Minister, the position was satisfactory then. Unemployment was less than one-half of 1 per cent. In. the Melbourne “ Herald “ of 13th July, 1956, we read the headline, “ Warning, on Jobs Crisis “. In the “Sydney Morning Herald” of 10th July, 1956,. there appeared another headline, “ Dismissals in Line with Government Policy “. That was quite satisfactory to the Minister. He desires to maintain a margin, so that there will not be overfull employment. That is in line with Government policy. In the “ Age “ of 3rd August, 1956, there appeared the heading, “ Unemployed Worry W.A. Shop Union “. That appeared at the time when a censure motion was moved in the Senate, but the Minister told us then that unemployment represented only a fraction of 1 per cent. The Government gave £2,000,000 to the Western Australian Government to rehabilitate that State, but it did not achieve that purpose. It is quite obvious that this Government’s policy is still keeping Western Australian people out of employment. The Government is rejecting proposals that have been put to it by the Premier of Western Australia. It has taken no interest in a report on the development of the north of Western Australia which has been before it for twelve months. Government senators have moved hypocritical motions in sympathy with those things, but nothing has been done about them.
Let us consider government expenditure in Western Australia. It is parsimonious and low and cannot be compared with expenditure in the more developed States, which have some resilience, because of developing industries. The Government has shown a thorough disregard for the unemployed people of Western Australia and for the development of that State. One would expect a suggestion that there must be unemployment in a young, fast-developing country with great potential to come, not from a fool, but from an idiot in an asylum. As 1 said earlier, there is no reason why one person in this- country should be out of work in the sense that he is out of work for at least a fortnight or a month and is then placed on the dole in order to get soup money for his family. I cannot see any logic in the Minister’s argument that there is no unemployment crisis. Every supporter of the Government- must realize that there is a serious crisis and that, because of the Government’s policy, it is developing and will continue, to ‘develop until it is six times worse than it is now.
THe ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I cannot understand the attitude that has been adopted by the Australian Labour party in bringing forward this adjournment motion, because if honorable senators opposite look at the figures they will discover that the percentage of unemployment to-day is far less than it was when Labour was thrown out of office in 1949. We have only statistics to guide us, and we must take note of them.
The Commonwealth employment agency was established after the last war, and I believe that the figures that have been supplied by it are as accurate as it is possible to make them and that they must be accepted by both the Opposition and the Government. Australia now has a work force of 3,930,000 persons. Twenty thousand people are receiving the unemployment benefit, 53,000 are registered for employment, and there are approximately 18,000 vacancies. If we take 20,000 people in receipt of the unemployment benefit as a percentage of the total work force of 3,930,000, we note that about .5 per cent, of the work force is unemployed.
Now let us ascertain’ what happened when the Labour party was in office. In 1947, 3.2 per cent, of the work force was unemployed. In the September quarter of 1949, which was- the last quarter during which Labour was in- office, of the 776,000- persons who were members of trade unions 43,000, or 5.5 per cent., were unemployed. Yet honorable senators opposite rise in- this chamber and criticize the Government because at the present time .5 per cent, of the work force is unemployed!
I remind the Senate that this Government,, even during the period, of greatest employment, when there were three positions vacant for every person who was unemployed, has never been able to establish a state of affairs in. which every person has been working. Even when there were 100,000 positions vacant, more than 5,000 people were drawing: the unemployment benefit. So, despite what any government wants to do, we cannot employ all our. work force.
The position in Australia compares very favorably with that in the United Kingdom, which has 1.2 per cent, of its work force unemployed. In the United States of America, 4.7 per cent, of the work force is unemployed, and in Canada 3.3 per cent. They are the wealthy nations of the world, yet this Government is being- criticized to-day because .5 per cent, of Australia’s work force is unemployed!
In no other period of Australia’s history has there been anything like the development that- has- occurred during the last four or five years. As a nation, we are going ahead in leaps and bounds. Australian industrial development during the last five years has been dramatic and staggering. We are now exporting’ goods which have been manufactured by our secondary industries, and our export income is approaching £1,000,000,000 annually. We are prosperous-. We have an overseas credit balance of more than £550,000,000. But, in spite of all these facts, the Opposition adopts the irresponsible attitude of criticizing our employment figures.
Australia’s population has risen to more than 9,000,000 persons. Our wool clip was 3,000,000 bales after World War II., but the estimate for the clip- for next season is 4^900,000 bales. The Government has had to accept the responsibility of trying to regulate employment and to keep the whole economy stable. I do not think we can ever reach a state of 100 per cent, employment, but we should ensure that any one who wants a job is able to get it.
The Labour party- is not the only party that has adopted a policy of full employment. The Government parties, too, believe in full employment and in the need to regulate economic policy so that there are not the two extremes - over-full employment on the one hand, and, on the other hand, too many people unemployed. I believe that that balance has been fairly well preserved since this Government assumed office in 1949. The position has certainly been much more stable than when Labour was in office, because no honorable senator opposite can produce statistics to indicate that since 1949 more than 5 per cent, of our work force has been registered as unemployed.
Senator O’Byrne said that the Labour party had adopted a great principle - the principle of full employment. I concede that, but I point out that it is one of the principles that have been adopted by the Government, too. One of the members of the Labour party, Les Haylen, said in another place, in 1945, that when a nation got its percentage of unemployed down to less than 5 per cent., to all intents and purposes it had full employment. During the term of office of this Government, the percentage of unemployed has never risen to that figure. So, according to Leslie Haylen, we have full employment at the present time.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator must not refer to an honorable member in that way.
– We know, of course, that 20,000 people are receiving the unemployment benefit. It seems to me that we shall have to ensure that something will be done to reduce that number. I have no doubt that the Government will take the necessary action. We hope that it will be taken in the budget, because it is our responsibility to preserve a balance. The figure may be getting a little high. If so, we shall reduce it.
Responsibility for full employment does not rest entirely on the shoulders of the Commonwealth Government. We must consider the position of the State governments. In the last twelve months, Western Australia has had a higher percentage of unemployment than any other State. I should like to take honorable senators back to the slight recession which occurred in about 1952, when the number of unemployed rose slightly. In Western Australia, percentage of unemployed was the lowest in the Commonwealth. That was because a Liberal government was in office there. To-day, after a change of government, the
Western Australian figures are the worst in the Commonwealth. That point is worth remembering.
We have been criticized by Senator Cooke for not giving help to the Western Australian Government. When permission was obtained from the other members of the Loan Council, this Government provided an extra £2,000,000 to relieve unemployment in Western Australia. But how many more people did the Western Australian Government employ? Just after that £2,000,000 was granted, quite a number of persons were dismissed by the Western Australian Government, which is the major shareholder in Chamberlain Industries Ltd. That government did not employ any extra persons; it dismissed some.
Senator Cooke says that more money is needed for water schemes in Western Australia. I believe that Western Australia needs all the money that can be made available to it for that purpose. Since 1947-48, in a period of almost ten years, the total contribution made by the Commonwealth to Western Australia on a £l-for-£l basis has been about £2,700,000. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has now come forward and said, “We will contribute on a £l-for-£l basis a further £2,300,000 to help the Western Australian Government to provide the necessary water for its agricultural areas “. With that in mind, the Western Australian Government can go straight ahead, without any restrictions, and spend that money, together with the equivalent amount which it provides, on the completion of a water scheme which has been long delayed. The responsibility for the delay does not rest entirely on the Commonwealth Government. There have been shortages of material, labour and finance. Most of the blame for the delay lies on the governments that have been ia power in Western Australia, and I do not mean only the Labour government. They had the opportunity to complete that water scheme many years ago.
I want to conclude on this note: We, as a government, realize our responsibilities. We have kept employment stable during our period of office and we shall continue to do so. I have no doubt that the persons looking for work will get work. Australia is more prosperous than ever before, and I believe that while this Government is in office it will remain prosperous.
– I am very pleased that the Opposition has seen fit to move the adjournment of the Senate to discuss unemployment. We have heard speeches from the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and from Senator Scott, but I do not think that in their remarks can be found any justification for the fact that, even on the figures supplied by the Department of Labour and National Service, about 60,000 persons in Australia are unemployed. The Minister said that that number represented only one-half of 1 per cent, of the total work force. One-half of 1 per cent, of a small number is not much, but one-half of 1 per cent, of the millions of workers in Australia represents rather a big figure. How would the Minister like to be one of the persons comprising the one-half of 1 per cent.? This country owes to all of its citizens the right to work, and it should make work available to them if they are well and able to work.
The Minister said that a recent gallup poll indicated that the Government was still in favour with the people of Australia. That may be so, but it is not because of the Government’s record. It is due to the propaganda that has been used to distract the minds of the people from matters from which their minds should not be distracted. In the columns of the daily press we read that the Liberal party commands the support of a certain percentage of the population, and the Australian Country party some other percentage, but in none of the gallup polls which I have seen recorded has either of them ever had as high a percentage as has the Australian Labour party. The people who support our party are not satisfied with the administration of the affairs of the country by the Government, and they comprise a big percentage of the population.
Senator Scott made a comparison with the position obtaining some years ago. I do not want to delve into the past, because I believe the job of the Senate is to look to the future. Senator Scott claimed that in 1947 3.2 per cent, of the workers of Australia were unemployed and that the percentage rose to 5.5 in 1948. That was for only a short period.
– Who was in office?
– A Labour government was in office.
– The percentage was 5.9 in 1949.
– I remind Senator Scott that a Labour government took control in Canberra in 1941, after an anti-Labour government had been in office for a number of years. There were over 1,000,000 persons unemployed in the Commonwealth.
– That was the figure for the early part of the depression.
– There ‘ were only 250,000.
– I do not mind the honorable senator making his own speech. That number was unemployed in the early part of the depression. Let me remind the Senate of the fact that the figure quoted by Senator Scott related to the position as it stood two years after the cessation of hostilities. His figure of 3.2 per cent, referred to the year 1947, but we cannot ignore the fact that the federal Labour party, in addition to taking over the reins of government in 1941 after ten years of depression under an anti-Labour government, was faced with the task of carrying this country through five years of war.
– Be a bit accurate.
– That is correct.
– It is not correct.
– Then I invite the honorable senator to show the Senate that it is not correct. I repeat that the Labour government took over the reins of office in 1941 after this country had suffered ten years of depression under an antiLabour government. I emphasize that the Labour government successfully conducted the affairs of this country from 1945 onwards, and I point out that our task then was not merely one of sending men back from the Army to employment in industries in which they had been engaged previously; we had to re-open those industries which had closed down in the ‘thirties during the regime of the anti-Labour government. We had to do that to provide employment for those people who had been engaged in the Army and in munitions factories during World War II.
– During the depression, the Labour government even cut pensions.
– We are now -‘debating unemployment. As I have done on many other occasions in this Senate, I shall -have something to say when the opportune time arrives about why pensions were reduced in 1931. What 1 want to emphasize is that although the figure may have been 3.2 per cent, in 1947, as mentioned by Senator Scott, the fact is that the Labour government, which governed in the federal sphere from 1941 to 1949 had to conduct the war effort of this country for five years. I repeal that after the cessation of hostilities in J 945, our task was not merely one of putting men out of one industry into another; it was the problem of demobilizing almost 1,000,000 persons in the services and finding industries in which they and many hundreds of thousands of men and women from munitions works, could be employed. What did the present government inherit? It inherited an era of full employment.
– We inherited 5 per cent, unemployment in 1949.
– Let me point out to the Senate that the land on which .all the new factories are situated in Victoria was purchased in 1945 and 1946 by the companies which are now operating them, and that was planned not by an antiLabour (government, but by a Labour Government.
– The Labour Government did not plan the factories.
– They would never work if Labour had .planned them.
– I am pointing out that under the scheme laid down by the Labour Government between 1941 and 1945 the people who now control and operate those factories bought the land on which they are now situated. I emphasize that it was impossible to buy factory sites on the eastern side of Melbourne as far back as 1947.
The point I am making is that the present Government can claim no credit at all for the healthy employment -position in this country over the last eight or nine years. On the contrary, its record, which dates back to the ‘twenties and ‘thirties, discloses that although it had full control of Australia jiri those years, it did not plan at any time for full .employment. I repeat it is because of the planning of ‘the Curtin and Chifley Labour ‘Governments during and after the waT years that we are enjoying the success we do to-day with our various industries throughout the Commonwealth.
Now we have arrived at the same position as we were in 1926. Indeed, we are in a more serious plight to-day, because Australia is much more densely populated. A depression was coming upon the people of Australia in 1926. We warned the government in those years, just as the members of the Labour party are warning the Government now.
– They were warned by the Jeremiahs.
– They were not Jeremiahs then. The depression came upon us then because the government had no plan for the full employment of the people of the Commonwealth. Whatever the views of honorable senators on the Government side may be, I remind them that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) is incorrect when he says the present Government has the confidence of the people of Australia. It has never gained the confidence of the electors in respect of any of its administration since 1949, because it has never carried out its promises made to the electors in 1949. The success being enjoyed by this country is the result of long-range planning laid down by the Curtin and Chifley Governments during and after World War II.
– Then why criticize it?
– We are offering criticism because we want to warn the Government of the impending position despite its claim that there are only 60,000 unemployed. I emphasize that the figure of 60,000 does not include wharf labourers. On many occasions in this chamber I have heard honorable senators on the Government side criticizing the Waterside Workers Federation and calling it autocratic because it would not take in more members. We who know the ramifications of the industrial side of Australian life have explained that you cannot take men into an industry unless they are needed in it, and that as they were not needed in the waterfront industry at that time the union was adopting the right attitude. But what do we find to-day? With the use of mechanical means for the handling of cargoes on the wharfs, and perhaps because of a decline in- some cases in exports and imports, there are some days when 2,000 waterside workers are unemployed in the ports of the Commonwealth. Those men are not included in the Government’s figures, but the taxpayers foot the bill in the form of increased capital costs and higher transport charges for primary products.
Other persons are not included in these unemployment figures. For instance, a week or two ago a certain person brought to my notice the fact that he wanted domestic assistance, that he had been to the labour office and that office could not supply any assistance. He stated he inserted an advertisement in the Melbourne “ Age “ and that the following morning he received eighteen applications. This proved- conclusively to me that, like the waterside workers, who are not allowed to register, these people were not registered as unemployed. There are also many people in other categories who, because of the means test, are not allowed to register as unemployed. In addition, the immigrants mentioned: by Senator O’Byrne, the people who are subsidized and kept in camps by the Government, are not registered as unemployed.
We on this side view the position with’ alarm because the situation is even’ worse to-day than conditions in 1926 when the government of the day refused to accept its responsibility to make work available for those people in> the Commonwealth who ware able and willing towork. That is why we say now that this Government must bring down some measure to indicate how it intends to ensure that, in future all industries will be in such a posi-lion that there will be no unemployment in the Commonwealth. Let me emphasize, for the benefit of the Minister for National Development and the Senate, that every person is entitled to the right to work. If the Government does not want overemployment, and reaches a point where it has jobs available only for those who are seeking work, it should provide an unemployment benefit at least equal to the basic wage. If a man is fit and willing to work, and if he has given years of his life fighting for Australia, he has a right to employment.
– How fit is the honorable senator?
– This matter is not serious to the big pearl fishers such as. Senator Scott, but it is serious to those who are dependent on a weekly wage.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - Order! The honors able senator’s time has expired.
.- I am inclined to think that the real purpose, behind the motion of urgency that has been brought before the Senate by Senator O’Byrne is to provide a smokescreen tocover up the disruption in the Australian* Labour party. That party presents itself to the people of Australia as one which is disunited in the extreme. For some time; the Australian Labour party has been looking for something which it could fling’ before, the Government and1 the people so that the people’s minds would be taken off the troubles within the party. We know that the supporters of the Australian Labourparty are in for further turmoil. Four executive officers have given instructionsthat two more members must be expelled because they dared to criticize their leader. Apparently we are reaching a state similar to that in Soviet Russia, where the people dare not criticize the leaders of a political’ party. I did not think that we, in Australia, would ever get within cooee of such- a totalitarian state.
Because of the situation that has arisen, within their party, honorable senators on the Opposition side have submitted this urgency motion. They are trying to play upon the sorry fact that a certain number of persons in Australia are out of work. Supporters of the Australian Labour party are trying to create the impression that they are alone in their concern for the welfare of those whom they term the workers. Everybody who is in a job is a worker, but some are employers and others are employees.
I know that it has been a principle of the supporters of the Australian Labour party to foster the idea that they alone have the interests of the workers at heart, but it is a false impression. They present it in various ways. They try to create an impression that they would give the people higher wages, but any thinking person knows that the wage structure in the Commonwealth and the States of Australia is established by the arbitration courts. Mr. E. James Harrison, the honorable member for Blaxland in another place, stated in my home city of Mackay in 1953 that if the Liberal-Country party coalition were returned to office, it would cut wages by one-third and that the process would be repeated at the next opportunity. That is the sort of nonsense we hear from supporters of the Australian Labour party. At the previous State election in Queensland, I heard Mr. G. W. Wallace, now the honorable member for Cairns, state that if a Liberal-Country party government were returned in Queensland, all wages would be cut. That is silly twaddle.
Supporters of the Australian Labour party in this chamber are now trying to give the impression that they are the only people
Who are concerned with the needs of those Who should properly be termed employees. Actually, the Opposition is acting to the detriment of the employees of Australia. When persons go around calamity howling they cause unemployment and depression. If everybody has a buoyancy of mind and a feeling of prosperity, there is freer spending in the community. We must recognize the human factor. If people have planted in their minds the impression that things are bad, they tighten up their spending. That, in turn, tends to create unemployment.
That is what honorable senators on the Opposition side do when they howl calamity. They tighten spending and cause unemployment. They are doing a grave disservice to Australia. That has been the tendency of Australian Labour party policy for many years. In the federal general election in 1953, when the economy was buoyant, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), told the people of Australia that if this Government was returned to office there would be mass unemployment! His one regret has been that such a calamity did not follow the re-election of this Government. And notwithstanding the proven fallacy of his statement, he repeated the same utter nonsense at the next federal election. Anybody who can read or thinks intelligently recognizes the worthlessness of such statements.
Honorable senators on the Opposition side are damaging the very structure that they pretend to support. We should create confidence in the minds of the people. One of the reasons for the present little ripple of unemployment in Australia has been the slight tightening up in the spending of the people. That is apparent in the shops. Mackay, in North Queensland, is a tourist centre. This year the tourist business has been quieter because the people have not been spending so freely. They have been influenced by talk such as that we have heard from Opposition senators to-day. We should try to build a confident outlook.
I remind honorable senators of the different attitude that was adopted by a former Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin. When I was mayor of Mackay, in common with other civic leaders I had an appeal addressed to me by Mr. Scullin to arrange for speakers in cities and towns to tell the people that we were turning the corner economically. Why? Mr. Scullin wanted us to stimulate confidence in the minds of the people so that they would spend more and increase employment. We did not take the view that has been adopted to-day by supporters of the Australian Labour party in this chamber. We did not try to gain paltry political advantage at the expense of those who are out of work. It is most despicable to do so, and we did not adopt that mean and petty outlook. We spoke over the radio and had our speeches published in the press in an endeavour to stimulate confidence. It is a fact that, from that point onwards, there was an increase in employment in Australia. I believe that was because everybody was saying that we had turned the corner. There is a lesson in the past for the future. If honorable senators on the Opposition side would keep that in mind, they would do more to provide employment than they are doing by presenting the sorry spectacle we have seen to-day.
Various factors cause unemployment in certain areas from time to time. In north Queensland, the sugar industry has a slack season from the early part of the year until the middle of the year. When the crushing season begins, unemployment practically disappears. Before the crushing season got under way, there was unemployment in all the cities and towns along the Queensland coast. When I made an investigation only a few weeks ago in Mackay, I found that unemployment had almost disappeared.
As Senator O’Byrne has said, there was cause for considerable unemployment in Mackay. Only a month or two ago, a bulk sugar-handling terminal was opened there and it has displaced about 300 waterside workers. Despite that, I can honestly say that the employment position is quite good in Mackay, and it is excellent right along the coastline. Some time ago, a number of men came from Italy to work in the cane-fields. Because they could not be absorbed immediately, there was talk of mass unemployment among them. Last week in Brisbane Mr. R. Muir, secretary of the Queensland Cane Growers Council, stated that the sugar industry was looking for 200 cane-cutters. This is seasonal work. There was some unemployment, but now there is reasonably full employment.
Another factor has been affecting Australia for some months. It can be truthfully said that there are drought conditions, or dry conditions, existing over a large part of Australia. We all know that such conditions in rural areas create fear in the minds of the people. In consequence, they tighten up in their spending and that, in turn, can cause some unemployment. But I honestly believe that as soon as good seasons return to those areas there will be an improvement in the employment situation.
Let us be sensible about the matter. Taking into consideration not only those who are receiving the unemployment benefit, but also the people who are registered and waiting for certain jobs, I do not think that we need be greatly disturbed about the situation. After taking into account the number of people who are waiting for certain jobs, there is still only a little more than 1 per cent, of the work force unemployed. When the various factors I have mentioned are taken into consideration, that is a very good state of affairs. I know something of local government administration. From now on, local authorities throughout Australia will be moving on to particular projects that have been held up awaiting the allocation of loan funds. This, I believe, is a very big factor in relation to employment.
I say to the people of Australia that they can cure overnight the position arising from the shortage of loan funds by subscribing more liberally to both Commonwealth and State loans, from which source money is made available to local governing authorities. In turn, as more money is made available, the local governing authorities could absorb all unemployed persons, and before long they would be calling for more and more unskilled as well as skilled labour.
In conclusion, let me say this: We as a government are as keen as anybody on the preservation of human rights. 1 believe that the people in industry are just as keen in this direction as the members of the Opposition. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party recognize the basic rights of human beings, whether they be employers or employees. Industrialists do not want to see unemployment; they want employment, because employment creates greater spending power. In turn, this increases the ability of the community to purchase the goods that they manufacture. Both this Government and industry want employment to be provided for the people, because, in turn, that makes for the happiness and prosperity of every individual in the Commonwealth of Australia.
.- I believe that the introduction this afternoon of this motion by the Opposition has served a very valuable purpose, because it has directed attention to a very disturbing trend in the community towards unemployment which demands early and urgent action by both the Government and the community generally if it is to be alleviated. I agree that there is no need to panic in regard to the matter, and I am entirely in accord with the people who say that we should have confidence in the ability of this great country of ours to overcome what we all hope will be only a temporary situation. But those of us who have seen a depression know that if there is one thing which contributes to a depression it is the snowballing effect of unemployment. For that reason, I trust that the measures which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), for example, has suggested, and which the Government proposes to undertake in the future through the budget and in other ways, in order to attempt to take up the slack in unemployment, will be adequate and that they will achieve the desired effect.
Nobody who moves around the community to-day can deny that there is definitely a trend in the direction of unemployment. If you talk to a businessman you will be told by that gentleman that he is not sure how long he can retain his present staff. If you talk to trade union officials, as I have done in ‘the past few weeks, you will be told that there has ‘not been a period for years in which so many men have come to the union offices in search of work. I have been told by them that in many instances they are able to find employment for those seeking it. Some of them have told me that the great majority of Australians are able to find employment, and that the biggest measure of unemployment at the moment exists among new Australians, particularly those who are unable to speak English, or who do not speak it very well because, for obvious reasons, employers who are forced to retrench usually commence by dismissing these people. I have no doubt that that is one of the reasons why the Department of Immigration has found it difficult to place a considerable number of Hungarian refugees who have been brought into this country.
If there is one reason why I urge the Government to take early and urgent action in regard to the trend towards unemployment, it is this: If the situation becomes worse, it could interfere very definitely wilh the immigration programme which my party and I believe to be essential for the future development of Australia and which is even more essential from the stand-point of security. Therefore, I hope that early action will be taken. The present situation is not irremediable. It .must be tackled. The Opposition, in directing the attention of the Government to the position, and in asking for action, is carrying out its obvious duty. I hope that the Government will take action in regard to a number of factors which, in my opinion, have contributed towards the .present situation.
I believe that import restrictions have contributed to ‘the present position. Credit restrictions and rising interest rates have also contributed to a .considerable degree.
I believe that inflation due to sales tax and the pay-roll .tax has had something to do .with it, and that hire-purchase has had a lot to do with it. I hope that, if the Government is -directing its attention to measures to deal with -the situation, it will have a good look at the import restrictions which, I regret to say, I feel are being manipulated by certain sections of industry to their -advantage as against the advantage of -the whole community. 1 think .that something should be done to stimulate the release of credit. 1 believe that sales tax and the pay-roll tax ought to be dealt with because they are definitely inflationary and they press heavily on the poorer sections of the community. Hire purchase is reaching a situation where, if it is not dealt with, it will gravely damage the whole economic structure of this country. Of course, private industry must accept some of the responsibility .for the present situation. During the last ten years or twelve years, first under a Labour government, and latterly under a Liberal and Country party government, private industry has enjoyed bonanza profits. I do not believe that a proper proportion of those profits has been set aside for the provision of improved machinery, and the promotion of better relations between worker and employer. Private industry has adopted the attitude that the good times will last for ever, and has made no attempt to put something aside for the inevitable rainy day.
I believe that the excessive growth of hire purchase, especially in regard to television, has had a lot to do with the increase in unemployment. Hire purchase, with its exorbitant profits, has soaked up the spending power of a large section of the community. Money which would normally have been .spent upon clothing, food and consumer goods - the greatest source of employment - has been spent upon nonessentials, among which I would give television a prominent .place. I .can say, without fear of contradiction, that this is one of -the .chief causes of the present unemployment - especially in the clothing trade. The truth is that we were not ready for television and that, in introducing it, we made a grave mistake. It is worthy of note that a broadcasting journal of some repute, which in recent years has been agitating for the introduction of frequency modulation, has now stated that this improvement will have to be postponed for at least five years because television has soaked up all the available spending power. Indeed, television has soaked up much of the money that ought to have been available for other purposes.
The present unemployment is very much a matter for concern. We may talk about 1 per cent., 2 per cent., 3 per cent., or 4 per cent, of unemployment, but the loss of a job is a 100 per cent, disadvantage to the man or woman who suffers it. In the circumstances, I am one of those who look to the Government to present a budget that will at least .appear to deal with this serious question. I suggest that the budget should -make concessions to those who would spend the .proceeds of such concessions almost entirely upon .consumer goods. I refer to the pensioners. The pensioner is not .in a position to put aside any extra money he is given, in order to -earn interest on it. It will inevitably be devoted to the purchase of food, clothing -and other necessaries. The result of such a concession in the budget would be the -stimulation .of demand and, consequently, of employment. The Government has an opportunity, not only to perform a philanthropic act towards those who have suffered from a lack of justice over the years, but also to stimulate the economy and increase employment. 1 (trust that instead .of 7s. 6d. a week, which the press tells us is ‘to be offered to the pensioner, the .concession will prove to be a much larger sum. Here is an opportunity to be generous and, at the same time, help the business community to provide more employment.
While unemployment continues we should take into consideration the plight of those who suddenly find that their income has -been cut .off, and that -they are obliged to exist on a sum which, by .any standards, is entirely inadequate. The unemployment benefit ‘has not been varied for some -years. Probably, in conditions of full employment, or near full employment, the Government felt that no variation was necessary - the position of the unemployed was not felt to be serious. But now there is a strong trend towards unemployment, and if the Government does indeed intend to take remedial action in the budget it should in the meanlime relate the unemployment benefit more closely to the present cost of living. If it has confidence in the success of the measures that it proposes to take, it can raise the unemployment benefit in complete confidence, knowing that it will not have to pay the ‘benefit for very long.
As I said at the outset, this motion has served a very valuable purpose in directing attention to a situation which, while not giving cause for panic, if allowed to develop could take us some distance along the road to depression. It is the obligation of every government to provide, to the greatest extent possible, for the health and happiness of all its citizens, and I urge this Government to look at -what is happening now and see what can be done.
During last week I spoke to a man who is engaged in a small way in the manufacture of boots. His is one of those very desirable small businesses in which there is .a close and kindly relationship between the employer and the -60 or 70 men whom be .employs. He spoke to me with considerable -emotion. «He said that for the first time in years - within ‘the next month - -he would have to .dismiss from his employment men who, in some cases, had been -with -him for -more than twenty years. He told -me that a serious ‘situation existed in the trade. I conclude by saying that if that kind of thing -is happening, urgent -remedial measures .are obviously necessary.
Sitting suspended from 5.44 to 8 <p.m.
Senator VINCENT (Western Australia) T8.0]: - I welcome -this -debate mainly because it gives file -Government and its supporters an opportunity to point to the Government’s very fine record in relation to the all-important subject of full employment. The Menzies-Fadden Government can point with pride to the fact that throughout its eight years of office never has it been faced with a serious threat of unemployment. That record, 1 suggest, is one of the finest ‘that any government of any of the democracies ‘has achieved during the post-war years. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) cited this afternoon interesting figures comparing unemployment in Australia, Great Britain, Canada and the other democracies. It must have astonished the listening public and the Opposition to learn that Australia’s unemployment figures are far smaller than those of the other English-speaking democracies, and have been so for eight years.
– The trouble is that those figures do not show the true -position.
– I realize that the honorable senator who has interjected must rely on some fallacy to support his argument. Although he claims the figures are not correct, He has no authority for saying that, nor has he given the Senate any reliable figures to support his contention. The figures presented by the Minister are figures computed by a reliable government authority. They show that only one-half of I per cent, of the labour force at the moment is receiving unemployment benefit. That is a very proud record.
Incidentally, I have noticed that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and his deputy (Senator Kennelly) have taken no part in to-day’s debate and, I understand, that they do not intend to take part in it. That suggests that the Opposition is not very serious in putting forward the proposition that the present level of unemployment represents a threat to Australia. There have been no arguments presented this afternoon to suggest there has been such a threat, although there has been a lot of hysterical talk about the unfortunate unemployed. I, for one, would never suggest that members on this side are unconscious of the situation of the few unemployed people, but no threat to Australia exists. There is a position that, I expect quite hopefully, will be corrected in the forthcoming budget. After all, a debate like this, immediately before a budget is brought down, is surely somewhat premature because no one on the other side of the chamber, and very few people on this side, are in any way aware of what is in the budget and, therefore, cannot speak with any authority as to the measures that the Government may be taking in its budget to rectify a situation that exists in Australia at the moment.
I shall refer to one or two other matters which affect this question. The first point I want to make is that it is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government only to do something about unemployment in Australia. Responsibility also lies squarely and fairly upon the State governments. The other point I wish to make is that there are some parts of Australia where there is relatively no unemployment and other parts where there is a relatively high degree of unemployment. One of those latter parts is the State of Western Australia.
As I have said, responsibility for dealing with this problem does not rest entirely on the Commonwealth Government; the State governments also have a responsibility. The Commonwealth Government has a responsibility to maintain a high level of employment through avenues of public investment, but, having said that, 1 suggest - and 1 think every one will agree - that the respective State governments must accept responsibility for seeing that that money is spent wisely. Let us see what the Commonwealth Government has done in the field of public investment in the various States. I have some figures which I wish to cite, covering the payments made to the States in respect of the financial year 1956-57. The figures are in respect of taxation reimbursements, supplementary grants and grants for all other purposes, other than, of course, loan funds. The State of Tasmania received £11,500,000, which represents £34 lis. per head of population. South Australia received from the Commonwealth the sum of £26,000,000, representing a per capita payment of approximately £30. Queensland received £35,000,000, representing £25 14s. per head of population. New South Wales received £79,000,000, or approximately £22 per head of population. Victoria received a total of £54,000,000, or £20 16s. per head of population. Then we come to Western Australia, which received a total of £30,000,000, representing a per capita payment of £44 15s. 8d. In other words, Western Australia received more than twice as much per head of population as New South Wales or Victoria, and a good deal more per head than any other State in Australia.
Yet we heard Senator Cooke this afternoon complaining that, in his view, the Commonwealth Government had not been sufficiently generous to Western Australia. I suggest that the Commonwealth Government has done more than any government could be expected to do in regard to this matter.
There are several reasons why we have unemployment in Western Australia, and I shall deal with them now. There are three main reasons why unemployment is higher there than in any other State in Australia. I suggest that in each case the blame can be laid fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Hawke Labour Government.
The first reason for the unduly high level of unemployment in Western Australia is that the State Government lacked the foresight to plan in advance for certain contingencies. Some years ago, a number of large projects were completed at about the same time, with the result that a number of men seeking jobs were thrown on to the labour market. The Kwinana oil refinery, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited project and a very large housing project all reached fruition at about the same time, throwing on the labour market a large number of men. The State Government knew that that was going to happen, but did nothing about it. Several years later, it sent the Honorable Lionel Kelly to America to try to find some capital, but he failed to do so. As far as I know, that is about the only thing that the Hawke Government did in regard to planning against unemployment.
The second reason why I suggest that Western Australia has an unduly high ratio of unemployment is that the Hawke socialist Government has undermined the confidence of the private investor in that State. Mr. Hawke has introduced an unfair trading act which contains a quite arbitrary provision that-
– It has been upheld by the High Court of Australia.
– Nothing of the sort. One individual - he is a very fine and honorable man, but to my knowledge he has never even conducted a pie stall - has the right to say that an undertaking is engaged in unfair trading. But no attempt has been made to define what unfair trading is. Is it any wonder that the manufacturer and the industrialist are by-passing Western Australia? Since Mr. Hawke became Premier - and this is the critical point of the story - not one substantial industrial project has been started in that State, and I suggest that there is a very good reason for it.
The third and final reason why I suggest that there is an unnecessarily high proportion of unemployed to employed in Western Australia is related to the calamity of the State railways. Perhaps I should cite to the Senate a couple of interesting figures relating to the railways. Ten years ago, Western Australia lost £1,400,000 on its railways.
– Which State does the honorable senator represent?
– Ten years laterSenator Cooke had better listen to this - the State railways lost £4,600,000, or exactly three times as much, and this year it is expected that they will lose approximately £7,000,000. My point is that every penny of our railway losses has to be found by the Federal Government and the taxpayer. But that is not the whole story, because to the extent that this monstrosity in Western Australia loses money so we contribute to unemployment. It will be necessary to find approximately £7,000,000 this year from various sources, and it surely needs no imagination - even Senator Cooke would probably understand this - to realize that, if we had that money to expend on profitable enterprises, we would not have any unemployed persons in Western Australia.
It is no wonder that 1,800 persons in Western Australia are receiving sustenance. I marvel that there are not 5,000 unemployed persons in that State, because the money that has been spent unnecessarily and which has been squandered by the Western Australian Government on its State enterprises could have maintained a much larger labour force than is at present unemployed. I suggest that the Commonwealth has played its part in public investment but that the Western Australian Government has let us down, and that that is the reason why Western Australia has an unduly large share of unemployed persons.
I wish to refer now to an observation that was made by Senator O’Byrne, who based his whole argument on the fallacy that, in some way, this Government is deriving some satisfaction from the present unemployment situation. If the honorable senator understood any of the principles of liberalism, he would know that it was to the vital interest of every believer in free enterprise that the Government should endeavour to keep employed every man possible, because every man who is working is providing purchasing power. The greater the number of people who are working the greater is the purchasing power that is created to buy the products of free enterprise. That is an elementary proposition which does not need to be developed.
I suggest that Senator O’Byrne is quite off the mark when he accuses us of being members of a party that has an interest in unemployment. On the contrary, we believe in full employment and we have done more than has any other government to establish that happy state of affairs. I congratulate the Government upon having pursued that excellent policy.
.- We are debating a motion concerning the number of unemployed persons in the Commonwealth and the threat of unemployment to many workers who are now engaged in industry. Having listened to what supporters of the Government have had to say, one would conclude that at the present time there is no unemployment in Australia, or that at least it is so infinitesimal that it is not worth bothering about. Honorable senators opposite have claimed that the Opposition is doing a disservice to the national economy and to unemployed workers by bringing forward this motion. In reply, we say that Opposition members represent the unemployed workers and also those who are likely to become unemployed in the future, and that one of our first duties is to do whatever we can to protect employment rights.
When f listened to what the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said a while ago, I thought that he was deliberately trying to confuse, not only the Senate, but also the public audience. He quoted figures relating to the number of persons who were in receipt of the unemployment benefit. We all know that unemployment benefit payments are made through the Department of Social Services and not through the Department of Labour and National Service, but the Minister did not quote any figures that had been received from the Department of Labour and National Service. We members of the Opposition, who are always prepared to fight for the rights of unemployed workers, say deliberately that the Department of Labour and National Service has falsified the figures which relate to the number of unemployed workers in the Commonwealth.
I know that it is easy for me to make a statement like that, but in making it I also issue a challenge. I challenge the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) to allow me to enter the Sydney and Brisbane offices of the depart ment to examine unemployment figures for New South Wales and Queensland. I would not require more than half an hour, or an hour at the most, to substantiate my statement. It seems that the Government feels, that it would lose caste with the electors if it came into this chamber and told us in a forthright manner exactly what the position was. lt is the duty of the Government to come to the National Parliament and tell us truthfully what the employment situation is.
– 1 rise to a point of order. The honorable senator has made frequent references to a Minister having falsified figures and having told untruths. Pursuant to Standing Order 418, I ask tha. he apologize and withdraw his statements.
– I do not think Senator Benn is out of order at the moment, although I think that perhaps he is using rather extravagant language.
– Thank you, . Mr. President. Now let us examine the figures that the Minister quoted. He said that .5 per cent, of the working population of Australia is unemployed at the present time. That is a clear admission, but I know that that figure is definitely wrong. From our own observations made throughout the countryside, we- can ascertain for ourselves whether there is more unemployment at the present time than there was last year or in previous years. It is futile for the Government positively to claim now that it has been responsible, by its own administrative acts, for the high employment levels which Australia has enjoyed in the past ten or eleven years. If it makes that claim, it must extend the claim and say that it is also responsible for the full employment enjoyed by other countries, particularly the Netherlands, West Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the Latin-American countries. Surely, the Government would not be so foolish as to claim that it is responsible for the high level of employment enjoyed by those countries too.
We know that during the war there was a cessation of manufacture of consumable and durable civilian goods, with the result that at the termination of the war there was a rush by the people to obtain those goods. So, industry had to be geared once more to the production of the goods required by the civilian population. It is only now that we are catching up with that demand, which has existed, fortunately for this Government, over the last few years. But the Government has no right whatever to claim credit for that situation.
The test will come in the future. It is easy for a Government supporter to say, “ I believe in full employment “, but what is the good of believing in it unless there is some scheme which will maintain the employment structure which has existed in Australia during the past few years? It is almost an economic impossibility for the Government to maintain the present level of employment by the schemes that have been adopted recently.
– It has been pretty good up to this stage.
– I readily admit that. As I have pointed out, although the Government has proceeded on the assumption that full employment will prevail for ever and ever in Australia, it has done nothing to provide against an alternative set of economic circumstances. Now, when we of the Opposition see that the employment structure is disintegrating, not wholly due to the fault of the Government, but-
– We have heard that story before.
– There is Senator Hannaford, with his feet in the cow-yard and his head in the clouds. Would that some power would change that situation! He is happy provided that the dairymen of Australia receive a subsidy of £14,000;000 per annum. If the dairy-farmers can keep their names on the pay-roll of the Commonwealth Government, he is happy. But, we have to think of the working population, the men who have nothing but their labour to sell. What plans has the Government for the future? Not so very long ago, the Minister drew attention to the fact that the Government is about to introduce a budget and implied that, later on, by some means, money will be made available to the States so that their projects- can be carried out at a greater pace, and that there will be a possibility of more workers being employed on public works. That is one way of doing it, but 1 know that the Commonwealth Government has- no control over the projects of the State governments, which are at liberty to spend all the money that is allocated to them, through the Commonwealth agency, on. public works and in other ways as they wish. We had the experience in Queensland of the Gair splinter government, on the ground of shortage of funds, terminating the employment of about 500 workers engaged in the building industry. The Minister denied that there was a shortage of funds. I am now in the position of being able to support him. I know that that Government was not short of funds to carry out the housing project it had in hand. I know that it had ample funds, but to suit its own purposes at that time it terminated the employment of 500 or 600 men in the building industry. That Government was in line with the Government here. It was a splinter government.
I want to point to another interesting phase of its operations. It issued an order, supposed to be dated 2nd August, the day prior to the Queensland State elections, for the termination of the employment of 754 building workers. That Government knew that all of those men, unsuspectingly, would record their votes on 3rd August, and that on the1 Monday or Tuesday of the following week they would get the sack. I am’ highlighting that’ fact to show that the Commonwealth Government has- no control over public works, other than those which it performs itself.
Other subjects have to. come into this discussion. One of the’ matters that must be highlighted is immigration. We on this side have always contended that the numbers of immigrants coming to Australia must necessarily be governed by the economic conditions prevailing here. I think that even Government supporters will support that contention. Immigration is definitely inflationary and, notwithstanding that it is likely to- create more jobs, it is an- economic evil for any government to bring immigrants to this country when we have persons unemployed. The economic position is not improving-. We must all realize that. We look to our secondary industries to absorb our working population. We want to see our industries in a flourishing condition, so that our young people can obtain employment in the trades and professions. Unless we safeguard our secondary industries we shall dissipate entirely the employment potential of the present young population.
There is another matter that I want to highlight. On occasions we hear Government supporters endeavouring to link the Australian Labour party’s policy with that of the Communists.
– Not far out, either.
– You scabbed on the Australian Labour party, and 1 have no sympathy for you over what will happen to you at the next election. If the Government wants more communism in this country, the present trend of unemployment should be allowed to continue. Let it go uncontrolled in the same way as inflation was allowed to go unchecked from 1949 to the present time. The elements of inflation are still here. If the Government wants more Communists, let it give us more unemployment-
– In the Labour party.
– You, Cole, would not know a Communist if you met one.
– Order! You must not refer to an honorable senator in that way.
– Mr. President, he should not interject.
– Order! You will refer to the honorable senator as “ Senator Cole “, if you wish to refer to him at all.
– Well, I do not wish to refer to him at the present time. I had experience of the last depression. I was in employment throughout that depression and I commanded a good salary, but one of my functions was to deal with unemployed persons in Queensland. Therefore, I do know something about unemployment. I know that unemployed persons would not receive the sympathy of some of the Government supporters who are interjecting, because they are interested only in the shipping combines. They allow them to increase their profits by increasing freights.
– Order! The honor.able senator’s time has expired.
– I think the motion under discussion has served a very useful purpose, although not the one that it was designed to serve, which was to embarrass the Government. It has given us the opportunity to show that the Govern ment has a grass roots appreciation of any signs of unemployment and makes a very sympathetic approach to the matter of the full employment of the labour forces of the Commonwealth, and for that reason, I think it has served a useful purpose.
I liked the approach made to this problem by Senator McManus. He made a useful and thoughtful contribution. He gave us something constructive, while all we heard from the Australian Labour party Opposition was the yowling of Jeremiahs about the future of Australia. This land has the greatest future of any country in the world, but we have heard nothing but yapping from these Jeremiahs opposite about more and more unemployment, something which they hope to see happen. They will be bitterly disappointed men if we do not have more unemployment. They have been talking about it for the last seven years. Every time a budget has been under discussion, they have said that we are about to have more unemployment, and that this Government is doing the wrong thing. Instead of more unemployment, what have they seen? They have seen the prosperity of this country advance year after year under this Government. They have also seen the wages and conditions of the workers improve yearly while it has been in office.
I was very interested to hear Senator Hendrickson’s references to the factories at Dandenong. I have mentioned the matter about which I propose to speak on previous occasions, and it is fitting that I should instance it again because it is something that Opposition senators have completely forgotten and it is well that I remind them of it. I went down to Dandenong. I had not been there for thirty years. When I arrived there I saw that tremendous development had taken place in the area. I went over the factory and saw the excellent conditions under which Australians are working. I also saw the pay-rolls of the men working in that factory. I came out at 5 o’clock on to the Dandenong road and saw two policemen on point duty integrating the workers’ cars into the traffic stream along the main Dandenong road as they came out of the factory gate. I said to myself, “This is a good country. It can provide jobs such as this for the workers which enable them to purchase their cars and work under excellent conditions with canteens which will compare with anything in the world.” All these great amenities have been provided by the enlightened Australian capitalism. That is what has provided these jobs and these conditions, and we Australians can justly feel proud when we see these things.
Honorable senators opposite, however, live in the past. They cannot get beyond the days when children worked in coal mines. That is the only thing about which they can talk. They do not see what is going on round about them, and they come along here prattling and trying to cry down the great development that has taken place during the last seven years under this Government. I know that honorable senators opposite do not like what I am saying. I know they hate figures. They have been trying to dodge the unemployment figures. They have been trying to make up figures of their own.
Senator Benn says that the Commonwealth Public Service of this country has falsified the figures. That is a damnable statement for any man to make in this Senate, and I challenge Senator Benn to repeat it outside for I am confident that if he does so, the Public Service will deal with him in no uncertain manner.
– I will repeat it outside - on the steps.
– The figures which the Commonwealth has are those which have been provided year after year by the authority that has been set up. Irrespective of the government in office, that authority has impartially produced results for the people of Australia to see.
– Labour set up the authority.
– It is the authority which Labour set up, and that authority which honorable senators opposite try to dodge says that at the present time there is 5 of 1 per cent, of the total work force of 3,900,000 people on unemployment relief. But we are not satisfied with that. Of course we are not! We hope we can make it smaller. Of course we do! Nobody wants unemployment in this country.
The basis of all our beliefs is private enterprise. It gives us the jobs which provide spending money which in turn enables the people to buy things which private enterprise produces. All this stupid, prehistoric talk from honorable senators opposite on this question is not misleading the people of Australia for five seconds. Until honorable senators opposite can adopt a realistic approach to this question, until they appreciate what Australia has achieved in the last seven years, until they admit that Australia has developed tremendously, until they admit the proof of what Australians have done they will get nowhere. They will go on squabbling for the next twenty years about who is to be their next leader.
Let me deal now with one or two points raised by honorable senators opposite. I was interested at this stage, when the ink is hardly dry on the Japanese Trade Agreement, to hear them attempting to link the present unemployment position in Australia with the Japanese Trade Agreement. The proper time to discuss the Japanese Trade Agreement is when it is before us. It was put before us last night by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). I shall deal with it when it is before us again, and I become annoyed when people, at this early date, before any goods have come to Australia at all, attempt to link unemployment with the Japanese Trade Agreement. To my mind, that is utterly stupid.
– Who did that?
– Honorable senators of the Opposition have done it and, unfortunately, some of the industrialists of Australia are trying to do it also.
What is the present position? If people are fair, they will admit that at the moment business is slack. Everybody must admit that. Why is it slack?
– You tell us.
– I shall try to do so, but I do not think the honorable senator will be able to understand. One of the things which has affected business is the fact that owing to the easing of import restrictions and the increasing of quotas by 66 per cent, there is no longer any necessity for the business people of Australia to carry heavy stocks. Because more goods can now be imported, there is not the same necessity as previously for them to carry stocks. For that reason, everybody has ceased buying temporarily. There is not now the same amount of buying as there was previously. Most business people have been financed by means of overdrafts, and every businessman knows that if he can lighten his stocks and cut down his overdraft his interest cost is reduced accordingly. That this is taking place throughout Australia is proved by the fact that although an extra 66 per cent, of the quotas has been made available only 34 per cent, has been taken up to date.
I think it is a pity that at this stage the industrialists themselves should approach the question in the way in which they have clone. I think that they are merely inflicting wounds on themselves. What they do not realize is that the Australian housewife is a pretty keen trader, that when she reads in the newspapers all this matter that has been put forward by the industries of Australia, she says, “ I do not think I will spend this money for a while. I think I will sit on it for a while, because, apparently, from what I read, I am going to get some cheaper goods in the very near future “. All this is having a cumulative effect because the housewife is a pretty tidy trader. She makes the household budget go round, and I do not think industry is doing itself any good service at this stage by trying to use the argument that the Japanese Trade Agreement has anything to do with the present position.
– You are the only one in step.
– If I am out of step with Senator O’Byrne, I must be right, an.i that gives me tremendous confidence.
Not only did I listen to Senator Benn defaming the Commonwealth Public Service but I also heard him say that the dairyfarmers of Australia were not workers. That will be the day! If ever he works as hard as the dairy-farmer - I am speaking of my own State-
– I rise to order. I wish to make an explanation.
– Order! The honorable senator can make an explanation at the proper time.
– I wrote down what Senator Benn said. He said that Senator Hannaford was a dairy-farmer and he did not work. That will be the day when anybody can say truthfully that the dairyfarmers are not workers. The only interest the Opposition has in this motion lies in ils desire to bring about unemployment.
That is all that honorable senators on the Opposition side want to do. They merely want to gain political advantage, and they act as though they had a proprietary interest in bringing about unemployment. Honorable senators opposite rise in this chamber as often as they can to launch motions of this character. All they try to do is to destroy confidence.
The speech that was delivered to-day by Senator Wood was an excellent one. He showed the people of Australia what action was taken by one Labour leader when he wanted to get Australia cracking. He appealed to everybody to say that Australia had turned the corner. Listening to you fellows on the Opposition side would not .give anybody any confidence. You are merely trying to destroy it. Above all things, you want to bring about unemployment so that you can get us out of office, and get into the job yourselves. You have no interest in the unemployed. You want to get to the treasury bench and you will use anybody to get there - the unemployed, the pensioners, anybody. I know that because I have seen you try it so often.
I am satisfied that the overall position in Australia as set out by the Minister for Labour and National Service is sound and is getting sounder, “but I do say that one or two soft spots have developed in the economy. We saw an example of such a soft spot last -year in Western Australia, and this Government immediately made available to Western Australia an amount of £2,000,000 to remedy it. That is the appreciation we ‘have (of the need to correct an adverse .position as soon as it arises. If that money had been wisely used in Western Australia, the State would have derived much greater benefit than it did.
In my .own State of Tasmania, we have suffered and are suffering from the effects of such a soft spot in the economy. We have a small population of 350,000. This year our apple crop brought £2,000,000 less than it did last year, and that has been a blow to our economy. The timber industry in Tasmania has been in the doldrums and some mills have closed down. Unemployment has resulted among our timber workers. This Government realizes the position that exists in Tasmania. A soft spot is developing there just as it did in
Western Australia. In view of what the Government did immediately for Western Australia, I am confident that if we on this side of the chamber do our job as Tasmanians, the Government will realize the seriousness of the situation and will assist Tasmania.
One of our problems is the fact that all our exports go from Tasmania by sea. Sea freights are very high and they detract from the returns of the Tasmanian primary producers. Those three factors that I have mentioned have led to the development of a soft spot in the Tasmanian economy.
This motion has served a useful purpose because it has given us an opportunity to show that we on the Government side of the chamber believe in full employment. We have enjoyed full employment for the past seven years. The Government will continue to support a policy directed towards full employment, We appreciate fully that a strong, healthy working force, well paid and working under good conditions, means a strong and prosperous Australia. Australia has been strong and prosperous for the past seven years. If Opposition senators continue to fail to make lip their minds who is to lead them, it seems that Australia will be strong and prosperous for another seven years.
– I doubt the wisdom of highlighting the employment problem in Australia at present because it is likely to .build up in the people a fear complex. In .addition, if the employers feel that .unemployment is growing, they are likely to tighten up their activities more than they would otherwise do .in order to safeguard what they have made in the good years. The -result will be more unemployment. We hope that it will be shown that the current unemployment has been caused :by seasonal factors. 1 trust that the motion will have some beneficial effect by awakening the ‘Government to the possibility of unemployment in Australia if it does not push on with the national development that is needed. It was appropriate that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) should have replied to this urgency motion on behalf of the Government because, having regard to our developmental requirements, we should not have any unemployment in Australia for 200 years at least. We have so much to do and, having regard to international developments, so little time in which to do it.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! The time allowed under Standing Order 64 for this debate has expired.
– by leave- I have to announce to the Senate that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) is leaving for abroad to-day to attend to several matters overseas connected with his ministerial duties. During his absence, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will act as Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) will act as Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill ( on motion by Senator Paltridge ) read a first time.
– I -move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to establish a Wool Testing Authority to control and administer a wool testing service in Australia. The legislation is the result of many months of investigation by a committee of wool-buyers, brokers, scourers, fellmongers, and carbonizers, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and officers of the Department of Primary Industry, which examined in detail the possibilities of starting a testing service -in Australia, the need for which has been felt for many years. The Australian Council of Wool-buyers was . largely instrumental in the formation of the committee, and wide support for the proposals has been evident all through the negotiations. The committee also received invaluable advice and assistance from Mr. J. E. Duncan, Wool Supervisor of the New Zealand Department of Agriculture, who has been closely associated with the successful operation of a wool testing scheme in New Zealand. Mr. Duncan visited Australia last year at the invitation of the Commonwealth Government. Honorable senators will recall the authority with which the Central Wool Committee spoke for the industry during the war years, and it is important to note the view expressed by that body on this subject in its 1941-42 report in the following terms: -
In the past history of the Australian Wool trade, and during the present scheme to date, all carding types, whether scoured or carbonized, have been sold on the basis of a maximum yield of 100 per cent., and, where the moisture content in the wool has been less than the Bradford Standards, it is obvious that there has been a delivery of bone dry wool in excess of the weights called for by the said Standards. It is now felt that if the actual moisture content of each lot of treated wool reappraised by the Central Wool Committee could be accurately determined such wool could thereafter be sold on the actual contents of the bale.
It is the hope of the Central Wool Committee that official Conditioning Houses will eventually be established in Australia, whereby Australian standards of percentage moisture regain may be determined which will be in line with normal Australian atmospheric conditions, and that scoured wool, carbonize.1 wool, tops, noils, wastes, yarns and cloths, can thereafter be dealt with locally and/or be exported on the certificates of the Australian Conditioning Houses.
The principal function of the testing service will be, initially, to test the moisture content of scoured and carbonized wool. Through this operation, exporters of these classes of wool will be able to ensure that the wool is shipped in accordance with internationally accepted standards of moisture content. Apart from avoiding claims for financial adjustments for variations from invoiced weights, which are at present a feature of this type of trading, the service, to the extent it is availed of by the trade, will also assist in avoiding the loss of export income which can and does arise from wool being shipped with a lower moisture content than is permitted by the accepted standards. This means that less wool is paid for than is actually sold.
The bill provides for the setting up of a statutory authority, to be known as the
Australian Wool Testing Authority, to conduct the scheme. The authority will consist of one representative of each of -
The Australian Council of Woolbuyers;
The National Council of Wool Selling. Brokers of Australia;
The Wool Scourers, Carbonizers and Fellmongers Federation of Australia;
The Australian Wool Bureau;
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization;
The Department of Primary Industry and one additional Government representative recommended by the Minister for Primary Industry.
It is to be noted that the trade itself requested this form of controlling body.
The investigating committee advised that in setting up a testing service in Australia, it would be worthless to establish a controlling body whose certificates would not receive recognition by the International Wool Textile Organization, which is an affiliation of wool textile bodies in various countries that has adopted a set of “ International Regulations for the Conditioning (or Testing) of Wool “. Certificates issued by a testing service must conform with the standards laid down in the regulations before the certificates will be recognized by the International Wool Textile Organization. It will be seen from this that an Australian exporter of scoured or carbonized wool would not benefit at all if his customer overseas would not accept the certificate of moisture content because it lacked recognition under these international standards. Since 1933, when its regulations on this subject were first introduced, the basic principle of recognition of wool-testing certificates adopted by the International Wool Textile Organization has been that the testing must be carried out by a publiclycontrolled organization. The Government therefore decided that a statutory authority was the most satisfactory means of administering the testing service, first, because it is essential that the form of the administering authority should be acceptable by international wool textile standards, and secondly, it was desired that the wool trade in Australia should have the maximum possible participation in the venture in those circumstances. The industry did not wish - the Government wholly concurs in this - to see the activity carried out by a government department, as is the case in New Zealand.
I mentioned that, during its preliminary investigations, the committee ascertained that an authority such as is established by this bill would be acceptable to the International Wool Textile Organization and the British Wool Federation. As to the powers and functions of the authority set out in the bill, a question which may occur to honorable senators is, perhaps, the size of the authority’s board in relation to the proposed somewhat limited initial activity of the authority. However, it is planned to expand the functions of the testing service to embrace, eventually, the wide variety of tests it is usual to provide in similar overseas establishments to cover wool and wool products as and when such tests are desired by the industry. These would include the testing of various characteristics of wool tops, clean yield of greasy and slipe wool, residual matter in scoured wool, fibre diameter measurement, and yarn tensile strength. Whilst at present it is intended that testing centres will be established initially in Melbourne and Sydney, it is envisaged that ultimately the service will be extended to other important wool-selling centres in Australia. The Melbourne centre will be set up first, in order that experience of technical difficulties may be gained before other centres are established.
I wish to make it quite clear that there is no suggestion that the proposed testing scheme will be compulsory in any way. It will be purely voluntary, and the service will be available to those Australian firms who wish to use it. In its examination, the investigating committee based its calculations on a 40 per cent, usage by the trade in respect of tests for moisture content of scoured and carbonized wool during the first year of operation. However, it is fully anticipated that this usage will increase substantially as the service becomes established and more widely known. It is intended that the authority ultimately will be self-financing. Initially it will operate on an advance from the Treasury of £40,000, which is estimated to cover the original outlay for the establishment of the two centres in Melbourne and Sydney. The investigating committee estimated that for each centre a capital outlay of £10,000 would be required, whilst an additional £10,000 for each centre would be necessary as a provisional fund to cover running expenses to tide over the period until income is received by way of fees charged for the issue of certificates.
As to repayment of these initial advances, it has been estimated by the investigating committee that the capital expenditure element should be repaid in approximately five years, while the advance in respect of running costs should be repaid in approximately three years.
The question of financing the centres to be established after Sydney and Melbourne will be the responsibility of the authority, and provision has been made in the bill for the authority to negotiate further loans.
Ali in all, it was considered by the Government that the establishment of the wooltesting service will provide a need which has been recognized by the wool industry in Australia for some time and is necessary to the improved marketing of Australia’s wool and wool products. It will benefit all sections of the wool industry - not only exporters and processors of scoured and carbonized wools but wool-growers also.
By enabling a more precise assessment and invoicing of the moisture content of scoured and carbonized wool to be made, it will put processors and exporters in a position to bid with greater confidence for wool in the greasy form in the auction room. This factor will, of course, operate in favour of the wool-grower.
The wool-testing scheme, as envisaged by the bill, will allow Australia to participate, with full international recognition, in a commercial practice that has been operating for many years in most of the significant wool-processing countries.
It has been estimated that the early stages of the scheme - the testing of scoured and carbonized wool - could add a significant amount to our export income annually. When the scheme is expanded to embrace the testing of wool tops, the conditioning certificates issued by an internationally recognized Australian testing authority would be clearly beneficial to the Australian export trade in wool tops.
It is not possible at this early stage to make a precise estimate of the eventual amount that could be added to our export earnings when the scheme is operating fully for all wool and wool products. However,
I venture to say that the benefits whichwould accrue to Australia could be in the vicinity of £1,000,000 each year as a conservative estimate.
The inauguration of this Australian testing service represents another practical demonstration of the Government’s determination to give every possible assistance to the wool industry. In particular, this measure meets a request from the industry for facilities which have been required for some time. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1st May (vide page 535, vol. S.10), on motion by Senator O’Sullivan -
That the following paper be printed: -
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, dated 2nd April, 1957.
– It is rather a long time - several months - since the paper which we. are asked to debate was first presented to this chamber. It is rather disappointing that; despite the globe-trotting of our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), during a recess which has extended over several months, the Government has been unable to tell us anything new on this subject. Although so many Ministers have been flying around the world like mutton birds we have been told nothing that we did not know before.
Probably the Prime Minister has not yet got over the shock that he received when he last presented a paper to this Parliament. It contained, almost solely, an account of the part that he played in the Suez crisis. That part reflected no credit on either the Prime Minister or this country. The turn of events in the Suez dispute was exactly as had been prophesied by Dr. Evatt and other members of the Labour party. Events proved beyond doubt that Great Britain was the aggressor, and that in this mistake it was backed by the Prime Minister of Australia. The action of Great Britain and France cost the countries associated with the United Nations organization many millions in both trade losses and contributions to the cost of repairing the canal. I do not suggest that this great mistake was not honestly made, but at least the Australian Government was warned beforehand by the leader of the Labour party, who had. had the benefit of many years’ experience in international affairs and a close association with the United Nations organization. Millions of pounds, spent in clearing the canal and maintaining foreign troops on Egyptian soil, could have been saved if Britain and France had not acted as they did. Who won in the end? Nasser got everything that he asked for. He did not miss out on a single trick. If the matter had first gone to the United Nations, millions would have been saved and at least Nasser would not have been any better off than he is now.
Probably the Prime Minister had nothing to say following the Commonwealth conference of Prime Ministers in London because that meeting dealt largely with the Suez mess. When the crisis first occurred I said that the Prime Minister was acting as a messenger boy for Great Britain and France. In doing so he did not make any friends for Australia. I am not saying anything now that I did not say then. The Prime Minister certainly did not increase Australia’s prestige in the Middle East or anywhere else.
That brings us back to a. problem that is closer to home. We may be said to live in the Asian sphere. We have a small population of white people - about 9,500,000 in all - and are situated in the midst of a population of 1,200,000,000 or 1 , 400,000,000 Asiatics and coloured people. If Australia is in need of friends anywhere it is in the Asian sphere. We cannot afford to offend any nation within reasonable distance of this country. The only touring Minister who has brought us anything back at all has been Mr. McEwen, and I am not in the least impressed with the message that he has. That is a matter for debate on another occasion, but I cannot help remarking that it is very strange that he should have passed by some of our finest allies in the last war and concluded a trade agreement with one of the most brutal and callous enemies that the world has known. Apparently he now refuses to recognize the existence of the Chinese people.
Neither I nor any other member of the Labour party is concerned with the form of government that operates in a particular country. That is no concern of ours and I would certainly resent interference by any country in the form of government that we have accepted for Australia. I would not exchange our form of elective representation for the method of government adopted in any other country. I want to make that perfectly clear at the outset, lest some one should try to misconstrue what I have to say. During the last war we praised China for the fight that she put up against Japan. She removed a substantial burden from our shoulders, and I remind Government supporters that there are millions more Chinese than there will ever be Japanese to buy our goods. China has a government of which I do not approve. 1 do not know whether this Government approves of it or not - I should not think so - but it suits the Chinese people. Their form of government is no reason for brushing them to one side and preferring to deal with the Japanese, who proved such brutal opponents in war. I speak with some feeling about the brutality of the Japanese because of stories that were told to me by people who came very close to me - people who fought the Japanese, risking their lives on more than one occasion in bombing raids on them. 1 know of the brutality of that particular nation. I do not say that other countries, had they been in the same position as Japan, would not have been as bad, but they were not in that position. That is -my point. We have no such experience -of these other countries. Therefore we cannot condemn them on the same basis as we can condemn the Japanese. Crimes were not committed against us by those other nations.
Just because China does not have a certain form of government, we should not, so to speak, wipe that country off and have nothing to do with it. According to some of my colleagues who have just returned from China, the people of that country are quite happy with the government that they have. Perhaps Government senators are not prepared to believe my colleagues, but I suggest that they should have shown a more friendly spirit to China, a country with a population of 600,000,000, and accepted the invitation to send some of their colleagues to see for themselves the position there, in the same way as they accepted an invitation to visit Formosa, or Nationalist China.
– They did not tell us anything about that country.
– They told us nothing about it, probably because they saw nothing there that would impress the Australian people. The Government should have extended the same courtesy to China, in an attempt to promote friendship with that country. That is the:point I wish to make. A desire for friendship, whether .genuine or not, would have been shown by accepting that invitation and giving Government members an opportunity to have a look at China for themselves, just as some members of the Australian Labour party did. Now that our delegates have returned, Government members should at least accept what they have to say about what they saw in China, whether it is good, bad or indifferent.
– How many members of the delegation could speak Chinese?
– If my friend had accepted the invitation, he would have found that he was provided with an interpreter wherever he went, just as I was provided with an interpreter when I visited Africa. He would also have met a number of educated Chinese who could speak English just .as fluently as he speaks it or can ever hope to speak it. He would not have needed a knowledge of the Chinese language to see what was going on in China. I suggest that if he had gone to China, opened his ears and listened, he might have become a little wiser than he is now.
I consider that it would be to the advantage of Australia if a trade pact could be negotiated with China, so that we could supply the Chinese market with some of our surplus products, just as, apparently, we hope to supply the Japanese market and import more Japanese goods. The only statement on that subject that has been given to us by any of the Ministers who have returned from overseas, is the statement by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). He has said that he is not happy with the ratio of ten or eleven to one in our favour, and apparently he wants it to be reduced to a less favorable level. According to what I have heard, that is the intention. If we ‘had negotiated trade agreements with other countries such as Indonesia or China, probably we could have obtained better terms . from them than we have obtained with our late enemy, Japan. It amazes me that so soon after we have entered a time of peace the first nation with which our Government negotiates a trade agreement is the nation which was the worst enemy we ever had in our history.
It seems to be customary for this Government to insult the leaders of other countries which have not exactly the same form of government as we have. That is the frame of mind which brought about the insult to Nasser. The same applies to Soviet Russia. But we do not hear of insults being offered by the Government to the Spanish dictator. I wonder when his turn will come. If the Government intends to insult all dictators, it is time that it put the Spanish dictator into the same category as the dictators of China, Russia and other countries. It would be to the advantage of Australia if the Government - not only this Government, but any government that happened to be in power - were to send delegations comprising members from both sides of the Parliament to visit various other countries to see what is going on there. The countries visited should include the countries of Asia, as well as Russia and any other countries of interest to Australia.
We are living in times when peace is more necessary than ever before. We shall never obtain peace by provocative statements and threats of force. Nasser was told that force would be used against Egypt if he did not bow to the wishes of Great Britain and France, as delivered to him by Mr. Menzies. I say that if this Government and any other future government wants peace in the world it must attempt to obtain it round the council table, not by force. The latest report is that Soviet Russia has a missile which, if fired from a certain spot, could reach any part of the world. The position is becoming serious when weapons of that kind are developed, and this Government must play its part in seeing that such weapons will never be used. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) went to the United States of America, but on his return he told us nothing about the results of his visit. All we know is what we have read in paragraphs that have appeared in the press, stating that he has purchased some uptodate fighter planes. We should be easier in our minds if he had been able to tell us that the English-speaking races and those allied with them were making plans for defence against attack by long-range rocket missiles. If we fail in our discussions round the council tables, we must have resort to the development of weapons which science can put into our hands. If a missile such as the new Russian missile were in our hands - I do not doubt that it will eventually be in the hands of Great Britain, the United States of America and other nations - then, from sites in Australia, central Africa and other places, we could combat any rocket missiles that might be used against us. We could then go back with some confidence to the peace conferences.
What have we been doing and what has Great Britain been doing for peace in the world? We have held a strategical position, but how have we developed it? We have allowed dog fights to go on within the Commonwealth. I refer to a dog fight that has been going on for a number of years between Pakistan and India and which has not yet been settled. I refer also to the Mau Mau problem in Africa. It has been stated that the Mau Mau movement has been stamped out, but according to reports in the daily press it has not been stamped out. Let us not make any mistake about the fact that that problem was created by the English people themselves. The Africans can see the mistake that has been made, and they have tried to rectify it.
I refer, also, to the position of South Africa. People talk about dictators; but, if there is not a dictator in South Africa, I have never seen a dictatorship anywhere. No other country has a worse dictatorship than has South Africa, and no other country is using its dictatorship to a more intolerable degree than is South Africa. If the authorities there thought that one said something which savoured of racialism, they would charge him, and they are charging people by the hundreds. I venture to say that the bone has just been pointed at people, that they have been herded into compounds, and have had to stand trial for treason. That is followed by cries of “ This is European territory; out you get “. They expect the Indian people there to suffer it without saying anything in retaliation. South Africa, a country with a white population of 2,500,000, has for years insulted India with a population of 350,000,000. I remind the Senate that that country is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Is it not time that the powers that be gathered around a conference table in order to establish peace? If nobody else is taking the initiative, the Australian Government, through the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), should take it and try to establish a state of peace within the British Commonwealth. We talk about building up arms to fight potential aggressors because we do not like their form of government! A much greater part could be played by Australia in bringing about a more peaceful state in the world than exists at the present time. Before we talk about defence against foreigners, let us direct our attention to the upsets that we have within the British Commonwealth. What about the Ku Klux Klan in America?
Government Senators. - Oh!
– That is all right. How did Hitler start? He started with a small band. In America, these bands come out into the open and boast about the tens of thousands - they will soon be boasting about the hundreds of thousands - that they can muster at a minute’s notice. I have not noticed any one contradict the allegations of brutality that is being perpetrated by the members of the Ku Klux Klan. Is the Government of the United States of America taking any action to curb them?
– Goodness me, that happened 30 years ago.
– The honorable senator is so much behind the times that he has not read the papers for the last couple of months. Information published reveals that within the last few months they have appeared in England. I challenge any one in this chamber to point out in the various countries, whose forms of government we do not like, anything that is more brutal than the acts which are being committed by the Ku Klux Klan, the South African Government and persons in the Mau Mau squabble. Honorable senators cannot point to any such thing. That is why I say that the time has arrived when the Australian Government should take the initiative and bring these matters before the United Nations so that the parties can be brought to a conference table in order to establish a more peaceful state of affairs in the world.
One other matter that I wish to touch on briefly was brought to my mind in the previous debate during which the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) nearly set fire to himself in his excitement. He brought to my notice something about which I have been drumming this Government over a number of years. During the recess, I read in the press that the Government was congratulating itself upon the success of a small dollar loan which it had floated in America in addition to other loans totalling 400,000,000 dollars. The Government added that that loan would be followed by further dollar loans. Of course it will be followed by further loans. Exactly the same thing happened in England in the 1920’s. Senator Henty admitted quite clearly that there had been a tightening up of cash everywhere.
The Government has been telling us that this country cannot be developed if we do not obtain money from other countries. The Australian Labour party says quite the reverse. Labour did not have to import money from other countries when it was in office. I propose to quote from a budget speech of a former Prime Minister to support what I am saying. The Right Honorable J. H. Scullin, in his budget speech for the year 1930-31 said -
Upon the flow of overseas loan money becoming interrupted we were faced with a shortage of London funds with which to meet our external commitments, and to pay for services and goods purchased abroad.
Let us not forget that. He continued -
This was the most critical problem facing the present Government when it came into office.
Let us not forget that fact, too. Mr. Scullin further said -
We have contrived to meet the position temporarily by arranging short-dated accommodation from the bill market, advances from the Australian banks, and by overdrafts in London from the Commonwealth and Westminster Banks. But a more permanent solution of the London position must be found.
That is the way in which a previous Liberal government intended to develop Australia. That government claimed that Australia could not be developed without bringing outside capital into the country. So it continued to borrow until the time arrived when, as was stated in the budget speech that I have just quoted, it could not borrow sufficient funds to pay the interest and to pay for goods that had already been bought in England.
Did the present Government borrow money from overseas to develop Australia to its present state? I invite Government supporters to tell me what money was borrowed overseas after the 1930’s. Perhaps a few million pounds were borrowed, but very few. Australia had no credit overseas. Then came the period of the last war. Did we borrow money overseas to develop Australia during World War II. or to fight the war? We did not borrow a penny-piece. Did we borrow money from overseas from 1945-46 to 1949 when Labour went out of office? Did we borrow money overseas for development at that time when the greatest development in the history of Australia occurred? We did not borrow a penny-piece overseas.
The value of our assets has been raised by hundreds of millions of pounds, but this Government tells us that we cannot develop Australia unless we borrow further money from overseas. Very often history repeats itself. Rising generations forget what has happened in the past. If history repeats itself, we will be in exactly the same position that we were in in the 1930’s. Being unable to borrow funds in Great Britain or any of the other nations of the British Commonwealth, this Government goes to the United States of America to borrow dollars from the hard currency area. I can tell honorable senators opposite that Australia will find it mighty hard currency if the Government does not cut out that practice in the very near future.
.- Tonight the Senate is debating the statement on foreign affairs made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) in April last. I find it a somewhat humiliating experience to continue the debate, having regard to the level of the contribution that we have just heard. We listened to Senator Aylett spluttering from his lava bed on topics going round the globe, but obviously very ill-informed on all of them.
It is saddening to learn that there are people in responsible positions here who do not realize that the presentation of this country’s external affairs policy is of such importance that it ill becomes us to promote petty party differences- when dealing with it. A notable feature of the honor able senator’s speech was his sad, dulling silence on the anguish of Hungary. There was not one word of reference in his speech to that most tragic incident, about which I expect to have an opportunity to speak later, but not tonight. I want to make only one further reference to what Senator Aylen said, namely, his obvious preference for relations to be established with red China rather than with Japan. We shall be dealing with the Japanese Trade Agreement, I understand, next week. It involves most important considerations. 1 expect that everybody in this chamber, except Senator Aylett, will prove himself to be capable of rising above the level of seeking to gain favour with the people by parading the anguish that was caused by the brutality of the Japanese during the war.
– You did not experience it.
– You are imputing that my war service was inferior to yours. I resent that. My war service will stand any examination.
– I know that.
– It will never, I hope, be compared with yours. Wars, fortunately, come to an end, and peoples of all races are entitled to live in peace. We, as Australians, whose forces so gallantly fought against the Japanese, will promote the prosperity of our nation by entering into proper commercial relationships with all nations with which we are at peace.
I shall say nothing further on that subject. I wish to devote myself to a consideration of an incident which I believe to be of such importance in British Commonwealth history that it ill becomes any of us not to go on record at the appropriate opportunity with the responsible opinion that we have formed of it. I refer to the Suez incident. I find that in Australia there is quite a tendency to be indifferent to the subject of foreign affairs. As an isolated people, hitherto accustomed to the protection of that great and gallant nation which it seemed to be the pleasure of Senator Aylett to disparage - Great Britain - we forget that we are growing to a stature at which we shall have to accept the responsibility of independent nationhood.
We have to devote our earnest and anxious. attention to all the external relations of this country over the critical next 30 years, because our very existence as an independent nation may be imperilled if our international affairs are not guided aright.
The incident that occurred between July and November of last year will, I believe, take a place in the history of the development of the British Commonwealth of such importance that anybody who occupies a responsible place in this Parliament should, contemporaneously with that incident, record his judgment of it. I had the most anxious thoughts, as events unfolded themselves. Momentous decisions were being made by those in positions of responsibility, whose duty it was to speak for this country. On occasions we knew not whether there would follow the next day, or in a short time, incidents involving war. I thought that that was a time when the lesser members of the Parliament should exercise restraint and also - as 1 did, with some of my better informed colleagues - counsel restraint. At such a time the ordinary member of the Parliament is not able to satisfy himself that he is fully informed about the vital documents that are passing to and fro, and he has not the advantage of the intimate discussion that takes place at the international conference table. His understanding must grow as the events of the time are revealed by the subsequent production of records. Therefore, I make not the slightest apology for discussing this incident at a distance from its close of some eight or nine months. It is, in my view, the appropriate time, because, as both Sir Anthony Eden and our own Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in their speeches at that time and just afterwards, the lessons to be learned from the incident are pregnant with importance. We must view the incident from the viewpoint of the guidance that can be obtained from it. I deem it to be my duty to speak now, because if there is to be a repetition of the error which I sadly think was made on that occasion, involving no less an issue than war- or peace in an atomic age for the whole of the Englishspeaking peoples and others, those who are charged with responsibility then should know whether or not support will be forthcoming.
I remind the Senate that it was on. 19th July of last year that the United States of America announced to Egypt that financial support could not be expected for the building of the Aswan dam. On 20th
July, Great Britain, made a similar announcement. On 26th July, Colonel Nasser announced the expropriation of the Suez Canal Company’s property. I mention that aspect of the matter, because the divesting of a company of its property is a right of every sovereign state, if the expropriation is accompanied by proper compensation. Not only was that compulsory acquisition of property involved in Colonel Nasser’s act. Also involved were a forceful expulsion of company personnel, and an exertion of force in taking control of the Canal Company’s undertaking. That had’ a different aspect, and it might well be that it involved an infringement of the international obligations of the convention of 1888.
Before making comments on the- subject, I want to indulge in what I am afraid will be a somewhat dull recital of factual events collected from various quarters. It is satisfying to my mind, and. I hope it will not be uninteresting to the Senate to have them put in the sequence in which they occurred.
Following that act of expropriation, Sir Anthony Eden went on record as saying that Great Britain’s attitude was that no arrangement for the future of this great waterway could be acceptable to Her Majesty’s Government which would leave it in the unfettered, control of. a single Power which could,, as recent events have shown, exploit it merely for purposes of national policy. You will see, Mr. President, that the emphasis is placed upon that aspect of Nasser’s act of expropriation, of property.
That was followed by a. rather ingenious statement by Colonel Nasser immediately affirming that he intended to abide by all the obligations of the 1888 convention. Whatever might have been the position in respect of the forceful expulsion of the canal personnel’ being an infringement of the convention, he did his best to put himself right there-.
Following that, between 29th: July and 2nd August, there were, talks: in: London on this, subject by representatives of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France-. Then, it. will be remembered, an international conference.- was summoned in, London, which, was, attended by, I think,, the representatives, of some eighteen powers. That concluded on 28th August. Arising from, it was- the mission headed by our own Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to Cairo to present proposals to Colonel Nasser. This took from 3rd to 9th September, and it will be remembered that the talks concluded with a rather truculent rejection by Colonel Nasser of any idea of negotiation.
Then, as the papers that have been made available by the Stationery Office in London, setting out the correspondence exchanged between Mr. Bulganin and Sir Anthony Eden, disclosed, on 11th September, Mr. Bulganin addressed Sir Anthony Eden and referred to the British military preparations that were taking place in the Mediterranean. The letter contained this passage -
All this is accompanied by official declarations of the readiness of Britain and France, on the pretext of defending their interests, to lead thenforces to the Egyptian territory and infringe Egypt’s national integrity and inviolability.
The letter, subtly impregnated with Communist propaganda - and I abstain from further reference to it - closes with a warning that a continuation of these preparations would be fraught with the most dangerous consequences. That was two days after our Prime Minister returned from Cairo.
Then, it will be remembered, Sir Anthony Eden replied to the Russian Prime Minister and pointed out that Colonel Nasser had used military force. He said that the premises of the Suez Canal Company were occupied by troops, that its assets were forcibly seized, and that the foreign employees of the company were threatened and he added, “ This act of force, which has created a state of tension in the Middle East, has not yet evoked any expression of disapproval from Russia “. That was on 16th September.
From 19th to 21st September, a meeting took place in London at which Mr. Foster Dulles put forward a proposal to establish the Suez Canal Users Association - a proposal which, I think, was very badly muddled. If it were proposed as a liaison between the users of the canal and the new de facto control of Nasser, the services of such a liaison committee would have been very valuable; but if, as it was presented by the international press, it were a garnishee instrument whereby the revenue from the canal users was to be intercepted and kept in pawn so as to prevent Egypt from controlling the canal, that was, of course, an assumption of control that no user of the canal, even when associated with another user, was entitled to take. That proposal was rather frowned upon by most of the statesmen of the day. I remember certain laconic references to it even in our own country, and it does not surprise me that it proved completely ineffective.
That brings the narrative to 21st September. On 28th September, Mr. Bulganin wrote another letter to Sir Anthony Eden, in which he refers to the situation and says that it goes without saying that the discussion of this matter by the United Nations Security Council could help its peaceful solution only if Britain, France and the United States gave up their efforts to put forward ultimatum demands to Egypt and to accompany them with threats of the use of force. The letter finished with a rather pregnant warning that “ he is to be counted amongst those who cannot remain indifferent when a breach of peace and aggression are in question “.
Then we come to Sir Anthony Eden’s reply on 6th October, in which he said that the military preparations in the Mediterranean were precautionary measures which fell far short of any act of force. He gave the assurance that the matter had been listed on the agenda of the United Nations and expressed the hope that co-operation would be forthcoming from the Communists in dealing with it.
Then, on 13th October, the United Nations Security Council made its famous statement, issuing its views as to the six principles upon which the Suez Canal dispute should be decided. They were - The absence of discrimination; the recognition of Egypt’s sovereignty; the complete insulation of the operation of the canal from the politics of any country; the fixing of tolls to be a matter of agreement between Egypt and the users; a fair proportion of the dues to be held for the development of the canal; and any differences on those subjects to be a matter for international arbitration. That was on 13th October. On 23rd October, Bulganin concluded that part of the printed correspondence with a note expressing some satisfaction that the matter was in the hands of the Security Council. He added -
Any method to deal with the matter other than through the Security Council would be fraught with dangerous consequences.
That brings us to 23rd October. On 25th October, the establishment of a joint military command in the Middle East by Egypt, Jordan and Syria was announced. Then this development followed, on the authority of a speech made by Sir Anthony Eden in the House of Commons on 30th October, and I quote from it so that there will be no mistake -
Meanwhile, President Eisenhower called for an immediate tri-partite discussion between the representatives of the United Kingdom, France and the United States of America. A meeting was held on 28th October in Washington and a second meeting took place on 29th October. While these discussions were proceeding, news was received last night that Israeli forces had crossed the frontier and had penetrated deep into Egyptian territory.
The Prime Minister of Great Britain stated that early that morning his Foreign Secretary had discussed the situation with the United States Ambassador and he intimated to the House that Britain and France had issued an ultimatum to Egypt and Israel to cease fire within twelve hours or war would start. Although these consultations were actively going on between the United States, Great Britain and France, in Washington at two meetings on 28th and 29th October, and although Sir Anthony Eden had sent an ultimatum to Israel and France on 30th October, and the matter was listed on the Security Council agenda and was under consideration, nobody but Israel arid Egypt was advised, before the transmission of that ultimatum, of the decision by France and Britain to deliver it.
That is a most disquieting historical fact. The nations were engaged in a consultation on a matter of transcendent world importance involving the risk of a third world war with a partner whose alliance had assisted to stave off defeat in two world wars, and yet there was no evidence even of a notice to a partner before delivering an ultimatum. As we know, the sad history of the affair is that Israel and Egypt did not heed the ultimatum and did not cease fire. Great Britain gave the order to march. There was air activity from Cyprus towards the Suez Canal, but an actual land invasion did not take place until 5th November. Those five days are pregnant with significance because it was on 30th October that the United Nations Security Council had before it a proposal to cease fire which had been introduced by Mr. John Foster Dulles. As he himself said when introducing it, he mounted the rostrum with a heavy heart, realizing a want of confidence that was stunning. As honorable senators know, the only reason for rejection of that resolution calling upon all members of the council to refrain from the use of force was the veto used by Great Britain and France.
Events moved swiftly. The United Nations Council having failed to reach any resolution, the General Assembly of the organization was in session on 2nd November. It passed a resolution to the effect that it was timely that the United Nations should take over. Sir Anthony Eden delivered a broadcast on 3rd November in which he said that he was a man of peace, but it was a time for action. He had seen occasions when the time for action had been made a matter of compromise. He felt - quite genuinely, as we all concede - as the gallant statesman he has proved for England, that it was a time for action.
However, the General Assembly of the United Nations on 5th November, at the instance of Canada, resolved, by a vote of 58 to 5, that the cease-fire should be called off, that international troops should be organized, that an international commanderinchief should be given command and that the Secretary-General should be authorized to make such administrative arrangements as were proper. It was on that day that British and French troops landed in the Canal zone. It was on that day also - 5th November - that a note was delivered from Russia to Sir Anthony Eden. To my mystification, it is not among the printed papers from Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. It was a note that made my blood curdle because it contained an ultimatum which brought us to the brink of atomic war - a third world war involving our whole population and our existence as a nation. That note stated -
War may spread to other countries and become a third world war. We are fully determined to crush aggressors and restore peace in the East through the use of force. We hope at this critical moment you will display due prudence and draw the corresponding conclusions from this.
Unfortunately, when one makes a grave international mistake one may arouse a ruthless brutal aggressor who is trampling on every right of freedom that the individual man can claim. One gives him the opportunity, in such circumstances, of taking the other side of the argument. Through the joint effect of that stunning ultimatum from Moscow, which was identical in effect with the resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on the same day, Britain and France agreed to withdraw if Egypt and Israel accepted a cease-fire.
Having stated that recital, Mr. President, I wish to conclude by simply making my humble comments on it. First, one recognizes the devotion of a gallant statesman, Sir Anthony Eden, to the preservation of Great Britain and the peace of his country. Secondly, as to the importance <of the commercial interests involved in the Suez Canal, one Labour member of the House of Commons said that the oil supplies upon which England was dependent would be cut off and the industrial machinery, which gave the English workmen their livelihood, would grind to a standstill for want of oil. Thirdly, one recognizes the increased economic loss by the cutting off of those supplies. One recognizes the patience of Great Britain and France over these months, first of all by international conferences, and secondly, by the submission of the matter to the United Nations as early as 6th October. One recognizes particularly the courageous preparations that they made if the responsibility became theirs alone to meet the contingency.
But, Mr. .President, on 30th October the mistake was made of sending an ultimatum, : inevitably to be followed by hostilities, without consultation with America, despite the fact that we were then closely .engaged in international conference on this particular subject, and without consultation with the dominions over the two months during which these preparations were taking place. If a decision to engage in hostilities were to be considered, the English-speaking units of the Commonwealth should have been consulted, or at least notified.
Fourthly, the decision to invade was as precipitate as the implementation of the decision was dilatory. Mr. President, if I find a burglar in my home, I am entitled immediately to grab him, suppress him and control him, but not to murder him. Therefore, if on the night -the ultimatum expired a land force ‘had been sent to assume control df the Suez offices without more bloodshed than was necessary and to establish a de facto control, this incident would have passed by as just another /British achievement in her own usually skilful way. But despite these pregnant facts, all the time between 30th October and 5th November, which was the day upon which Moscow sent that threatening ultimatum and the .day upon which the United Nations General Assembly resolved not only that we should withdraw but that it should establish a force and appoint a United Nations Commander, was occupied by bombardment. By one of the ironies of history, a land invasion took place on that very day.
Fifthly, Mr. President, it does show that given resolution you can summon the United Nations Security Council, as was done in this instance on the very day of the ultimatum. Negative action was followed ‘by a meeting of the assembly on 2nd November, and resolute action was taken before 5th November. It makes us dwell upon the fact that this organization must not be discarded. With all its limitations and frustrations, it must be employed. It was resolutely used on this occasion by those who wished to stem invasion, and it showed itself capable of shedding the lethargy .that it had shown for some two months. It stirred to .action. The United Nations insisted that it was only in circumstances described in Article 5.1 of the Charter that any member of the United “Nations was entitled .to use force, that is, :the exercise of the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if armed aggression occurs against a member of the United Nations, and only :in that instance.
I am most obliged to my leader, who has just indicated to me with his usual courtesy ‘that I may ‘take a further minute or two beyond my time. ‘I desire to do so in order to express this thought: The lesson that we must learn from ‘this mistake - a mistake for which in the traditional manner of British parliamentary proceedings, tragically and sadly I say it, Sir Anthony Eden was quite prepared to pay his personal sacrifice in-order to allow his country’s interests ‘to go on in the spirit in which the British mould their foreign affairs - ‘is that the peace of this world depends upon union between the Englishspeaking empire. Forget the idea of the British Empire, or even the British Commonwealth of Nations. The national boundaries that divide the British people are insignificant when it comes to our ultimate purposes, which can be promoted only by peace. We speak of the English-speaking peoples without drawing even instinctively the slightest division between our purposes and traditions. Confidence must at all Costs be maintained between them, and no one single unit of that great fraternity can venture to disrupt the peace of any part of this globe without formal mutual consultation, and concerted action. The units must have complete confidence in one another. 1 do not exclude, in (he slightest, the cooperation which we know will be forthcoming from those units that are Englishspeaking units by the adoption of our language. I refer, of course, to South Africa, India, Pakistan and Ceylon. It is imperative that we stand together in the spirit to which I have referred if we are to maintain the freedom of the world against the dreadful Communist aggressors who have been able to take advantage of our mistake by presenting themselves as the protagonists of peace through the United “Nations, and if we are to curb their sprawling avalanche that is coming down to us through China in an attempt to destroy freedom.
– I congratulate Senator Wright on his contribution to this debate. The only thing that spoilt his speech was a sarcastic reference to the contribution made by an honorable senator on this side of the chamber. Every one who speaks in this Senate does so sincerely, and although some honorable senators may disagree with him, his contribution should, at least, be recognized as being honest. If Senator Wright has been reading the statements that have been made by his colleagues in recent months, he will realize that he could be severely castigated for what he has said to-night. Nevertheless, we appreciate the speech that he made. The Suez crisis is now history, but it was a very critical time indeed. The explanation given to-night by Senator Wright was, in every way, similar to that given by our leader, Dr. Evatt, six months ago. lt is rather late in the day to discuss the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on international affairs. The Parliament has been in recess for some months, and in the interim we laymen have learned much more of what is in the mind of those who might control warfare in the future. One of the most urgent questions facing us is not whether Australia can defend itself - because we all must admit that in an atomic war we would be defenceless - but whether we can co-operate to organize civil defence in the interests of those who may be spared atomic destruction. Many Government supporters have admitted that, as a result of the Government’s present defence policy, we are not at the moment adequately defended. We have been told by very prominent members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties that the Government is starving the defence of Australia. No amount of expenditure will save Australia if there is an atomic war. I wholeheartedly agree with Senator Wright that the only hope for the salvation of the world is peaceful negotiation.
Those who condemn the United Nations organization have never presented this or any other parliament with any alternative. The United Nations was set up after World War II. with aims similar to those of the League of Nations. We know that the League of Nations failed because of intrigue, and inability to carry out its covenants. We hope that, this time at least, the countries of the world will unite and, as far as is humanly possible, try to keep the peace and avoid a shooting war. Most of us can vividly remember the last two world wars. What have we gained as a result of them? One honorable senator to-night criticized the trade treaty with Japan. Senator Wright criticized any idea of trading with China. Other honorable senators have criticized trade with Russia. The two world wars have solved nothing, because there must be world trade - from which no nation can be debarred.
The goods that the people of red China want, and which happen to be produced in this country, are being supplied to her, but Australia is not receiving the benefit. When I advocate trade with red China, I do not mean that we should accept the philosophy of the Chinese people. Before World War II., we traded with the Chinese. Did we then act, or live, or govern ourselves, as did the Chinese? Of course, we did not. Nations do not trade unless it is in their interest to do so. People who tell us that Japan, Russia or any other country buys our primary products because it likes the look of us, or wants to be friendly, are very much misled. Other nations buy our wool, our meat and our wheat because they want it.
When they cease to want it, they will cease to buy, it. That is exactly what happened during the depression of the ‘thirties. We cannot choose the countries with which we will trade. Indeed, all wars have been caused by the demands of trade. To-night, Senator Wright discussed the Suez crisis. If there had been no oil in the area, there would have been no crisis. England, France, the United States of America and Soviet Russia are not concerned in the slightest about the welfare of the Arabs, the Egyptians or the Israelis. Their only concern with the Suez Canal is to use it for their convenience. Had there been no oil in the Middle East, there would have been no trouble there. What we have to do is to persevere with the United Nations organization. Those people who criticize that organization are doing a disservice to the future peace of the world.
One hears honorable senators in this chamber and honorable members in another place telling us what we have to do to defend this country. In that connexion I desire to quote from the Melbourne “ Sun News-Pictorial “. Referring to a message from Moscow, that newspaper said -
Russia’s announcement of its ballistic missile test said that the missile had covered a vast distance in a brief time and landed in a target area.
The Senate must remember that. The article continued -
The Soviet newsagency, Tass, making the announcement said, “ A super long-distance intercontinental multi-stage ballistic rocket was launched a few days ago.
The tests of the rocket were successful. They fully confirmed calculations and the rocket flew at a very high and unprecedented, altitude.
Covering a vast distance in a brief time, the rocket landed in a target area.
In the event of a third world conflagration, we must be prepared for. attack by atomic weapons. I have not time to read them, but I, have statistics, here compiled by eminent professors who have proved that there is no defence against atomic weapons. Atomic war would mean* the destruction of mankind. People who are hungry for trade, who are jealous of one another’s trade, are prepared to destroy mankind in order to gain trade superiority.. Senator Kendall can interject, if he likes.
– 1 beg your pardon. I wag. speaking to my colleague.
– The honorable senator, who sails round the coast in little ships, has got another thought coming to him.
– 1 was not speaking to the honorable senator; 1 was speaking to my colleague.
– I heard what the honorable senator said. I repeat that this Parliament and the people of Australia should be made acquainted with the devastation that would occur in an atomic war. It does not matter whether we do or do not decide to trade with another country. If that country wants our products, it will certainly get them. Whether the goods go through one channel or another, they will be delivered to the people who want them and are prepared to pay the price for them. As far as war is concerned, our trading with Japan, China or Russia will have no bearing upon our position. The only way in which world trade can be dealt with is through the great United Nations organization. Every country in the world, whether it has a Communist, a fascist, a nazi or a democratic outlook, should be a member of the United Nations organization. We must do all that we can to prevent the destruction of mankind. If we do have a third world war, there will not be many of the human race left to tell the tale afterwards.
Australia, I suppose, is in the most strategically important part of the world at the present time. Fortunately for Australia, we are to have, so we have been told, a visit from the Prime Minister of Great Britain. His politics make no difference to me. He is the choice of the people of Great Britain and it is fortunate for us that he is coming to Australia to have a look at, the political set-up, in the interests, I hope, of the peace of the world. He will see the situation as it exists. A Prime Minister of Great Britain has never yet visited the Commonwealth, of Australia, and I hope and trust that when Mr. Macmillan. arrives, here he will be> given all the assistance possible - certainly he will get it from my party - by all? sections of the community. As I said before, his; political beliefs do not- matter. That- is. the attitude we adopt in Australia, because this is a democracy. We have quo parties. Honorable senators opposite- cam have their
Australian Country party and their Liberal party, and we will have our great Australian Labour party. We all believe in democracy. The only difference between us is that we have a different idea as to how it should operate.
– What about the Democratic Labour party?
– I do not know where the Democratic Labour party is.
– He has gone home.
– He has gone home; he has left us. Every one in a democracy is entitled to his opinions. We place our views before the electors and the electors decide which party shall form the government of the day. We believe in that. If we desire unity and peace, we must not accuse other people of being something that they are not, just because they have not the same views as we have on how democracy should operate. When the Prime Minister of Great Britain comes here, although he is not a Labour premier, he will be given every assistance possible by the Labourites of Australia to see the set-up of the Commonwealth of Australia. I believe that after the visit by Mr. Macmillan other countries of the world will realize the important part that Australia could play in bringing about a continuance of world peace. It is quite possible that when he returns he will make a report that will induce the United Nations organization to meet in Australia. This is the white nation closest to the peoples who are most feared as far as the continuance of the peace of the world is concerned. We are the white nation closest to the Asiatics.
We must realize that although we could not defeat the Asiatics - the Chinese, the Japanese or anybody else - by spending millions of pounds on defence, we have a hope of bringing about peace in our time if we are prepared to spend that amount of money to see that those people who to-day have faith in a way of life in which we do not believe are given the right to live their own lives, as we desire to do. If the General Assembly of the United Nations organization were to meet in Australia, we would have delegates here from all over the world. They would then see the position as it should be seen from the viewpoint of those people who are so near to us in what we call the Near East but which others call the Far East.
Possibly there are many persons who do not realize the numerical strength of the people who are so close to our shores. Figures which I examined to-day show that there are approximately 2,600,000,000 people in the world, of whom 1,400,000,000 are our next-door neighbours. They are the people with whom we must negotiate if we want to bring peace to the world. I heard the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) or another honorable member of the House of Representatives say that we shall have some aeroplanes; but let me remind the Senate that Sydney is only seven hours’ flight from Perth, which is approximately the time taken by planes to fly from England to America. That indicates just how close we are to one another in the world to-day. When one reads that guided missiles can be directed to their target thousands of miles away, as was reported in the Melbourne “ Sun-News Pictorial “ to-day, one realizes that there is no hope for peace unless the peoples of the world persevere with the great organization which brought peace to the Middle East.
Senator Wright referred to Hungary. What does he care about Hungary? He does not care if the Hungarians are hungry; he cares nothing about them. The situation in Hungary could not be settled because the United Nations organization had not sufficient strength. We had hoped that by 1957 it would have been strong enough to settle such outbreaks, and it would have been strong enough if it had been conducted as it was meant to have been conducted. The United Nations would have been able to tell Communist countries such as Russia that they could not invade other countries like Austria or Hungary and get away with it. We say that those countries should be left to govern themselves just as Mr. Attlee told India that it had the right to govern itself. Senator Wright taunts Opposition speakers with the statement that they do not refer to what happened in Hungary, but I inform him that we have as much sympathy for the workers of Hungary as we have for the workers of Japan, England or any other country. It is the policy of the Australian Labour party to fight for peace wherever possible.
I wholeheartedly support the speech of my leader in this chamber. To anybody who says that the United Nations has fallen down on its job and that we should discard it I address this question: What do you suggest as an alternative? If we rally behind the United Nations, it will be what it was meant to be - a success.
.- In supporting this motion for the printing of this ministerial statement on international affairs, I think it is pertinent to observe that the matter first saw the light of day in this chamber at the commencement of April. A great deal of water has flowed under the bridge since then, and very many events have occurred in the international theatre, most of which tend to prove the accuracy of the statement.
It was extremely pleasing to hear Senator Hendrickson indicate the welcome that the Australian Labour party proposed to give to the British Prime Minister, Mr. Macmillan. Frankly, I must say that I found Senator Aylett’s remarks about Japan very distressing. His whole policy in relation to that country was one of hate, hate, hate. Mr. Deputy President, can we build up a foreign policy on hate? The honorable senator says that we should not trade with Japan. Presumably, his remedy for the problem of those 90,000,000 highly industrialized people on a group of small islands is to obliterate them. But he is quite happy to divert such trade to Communist China. I remind him that, although Communist China has no basic wage in the sense that we understand it, the average wage paid to male adult workers in that country is approximately 40 per cent, of that which is paid to Japanese workers. I remind him that red China is so short of foreign exchange that it cannot pay for its goods, and that in dealing with the small country of Burma it has been compelled to resort to the expedient of barter in repard to 80 per cent, of its trade with that country. I remind him further that the unfortunate lesson that has been learnt by the Burmese is that, while the red Chinese have delivered some cement and hardware under the barter clauses, they have obtained Burmese rice and have then undercut the Burmese on the Ceylon market. If that is the kind of trade that he wishes the Government to enter into, I can assure him that we will not fall as suckers for that one.
It is good to note that reports indicate that terrorism in Malaya is still declining.
Australian troops have played an activepart in fighting the anti-social elementsthere, and they have received from the chief minister, Tengku Abdul Rahman, an expression of his country’s gratitude. It means, that the people of Malaya will have two> reasons for grasping the hand of friendship that we have extended. We are assisting, them to rid themselves of the so-called guerrillas, and we have made substantial! grants of machinery and provided technical: help and instruction under the Colombo plan. That is the kind of goodwill which I’ believe a government in the position irc which this Government finds itself should! build up with our near neighbours. lr should not go out of its way unnecessarily’ to insult them.
The visit to Canberra next week of His Excellency President Diem of Viet Nam is another reminder of the way in which this Government is making worthwhilefriends in South-East Asia. Honorablesenators will recall that when Ho-Chi-minhs and his Chinese Communist allies swooped1 south, fears were held that the little republic of South Viet Nam, as it ultimately became, would collapse before those hordes. But the people of that gallant little countrybelieved that they had a way of life, a cause,, and a country, that were worth fighting forUnder the resolute leadership of President Diem, after the departure of the Frenchthe little country was rebuilt. It now has as population of 11,000,000, and it sets its; face very resolutely against Communist aggression by arms and Communist infiltration. The President has built up armed1 forces of approximately 150,000 men, well trained, and now well armed. Despite overt aggression in other countries in Asia, apparently the Chinese Communists regard! this nut as being a little too hard to crack easily and they have done nothing more than abuse him. The Southern Vietnamese have a very real gratitude to Australia for the moral assistance which we gave them on the foundation of their republic in 1954.
I want to say something in relation to Japan, and I should like to speak coldly and dispassionately, not in the heat of passion as perhaps was done earlier by other persons. I think it is extremely difficult toseparate politics from trade. I am not going to say that they are inextricable, but there is a very close connexion, and it is obviously of the greatest importance to us, as an outpost of British democracy in an Asian outcrop, to help to keep Japan out of the red orbit. It is a highly industrialized country of about 90,000,000 people, and it is unable to feed itself without exporting its manufactures. We can remember, too, that a form of peaceful revolution has taken place in Japan since General MacArthur first landed there. He has wrought a peaceful revolution in the Japanese constitution and in their approach to political life. He has not worked miracles, and I do not pretend that the Japanese method of approach to politics is the same as the approach in a democratic country such as ours.
The new constitution gives to Japan a House of Representatives, and it has a Senate, which is quaintly called the House of Counsellors. The Emperor no longer possesses any legislative power, but he is still retained as a symbol of State. It is important to bear in mind that probably the strongest of all bonds in Japan is the family tie. Apart from the natural love and affection existing between children and parents, as exists all over the world, there is a form of respect amounting almost to a devotion to parents and ancestors. Because of this highly praiseworthy attitude of the Japanese, and because of the contempt which communism has for the family unit, its soulless ideology, and its dialectical materialism, it is no natural fellow of the Shintoist Japanese.
However, the Japanese must eat to live. There is no great philosophy in that. It simply means that they must trade, as they cannot grow enough for their own fodder. China was a natural market, but for various reasons, including the fact that China has very little foreign exchange, the market available to Japan in that area is very small. Hence it is of critical importance in keeping Japan from becoming an unwilling red satellite that the western nations should trade with her. Although I do not want to trespass on a matter which will be before this chamber at a later date, I do think that the Government should be congratulated upon the recent negotiations in relation to that matter. I know that it is difficult to forget the war crimes of many of the Japanese, but unless we forget them in a Christian spirit, a state of enmity will remain between us and the greatest manufacturing people on our side of the Pacific.
I gather from what I have read in the press, and also from what I heard earlier this evening from honorable senators opposite, that the official Labour party is opposed) to any dealings at all with Japan. As I have mentioned earlier, I have a feeling that this opposition is not a genuine one, based on economic grounds, but is one which has an ideological base. I feel that the same protests would not be raised if we were to conclude pacts with red Czechoslovakia, red Poland, or red China, from which socialist paradise so many of our friends opposite have so recently returned. I remind them, if their Chinese interpreter did not tell them, that Peking is so assiduously wooing Japan that scarcely a week goes by without some delegation of mayors, local dignitaries, town councillors, trade unionists and what-have-you, from Japan being feted and touring red China at the expense of the Communist Government. The whole purpose of that, of course, is to create such a feeling amongst the people of Japan that they will be able to dictate to their government on the question of recognition of trade with red China. I ask honorable senators to consider what would be the plight of this country if Japan went red, with America expelled from Manus Island, and a combined force of Japanese and Chinese red aggressors bore down on us.
To go to a different corner of the globe, since this chamber was last in session a special committee of the United Nations appointed for the purpose of preparing a report on Hungary has completed its labours. The report was prepared by a committee of five nations, of which Australia had the honour to take the chair, and the report is a memorial to their painstaking care. It is a credit to the chairman, Mr. Shann, and in the final analysis it presents the most damning indictment of any country in modern times. Some few months ago I pointed out in this chamber that the Labour party’s claim that Russia has reentered Hungary because of the British and French landing in Suez was without foundation. But what can we do, as a practical measure, on the question of Hungary? Nobody wants a global war or the risk of a global war. I do not believe that that is the only way in which we can render relief to these downtrodden people. The General Assembly of the United Nations, which must receive the help and support of all people, is reconvening on 10th September. It is convening earlier than it normally would, to discuss this report. There are two things that we can do. We can call for a careful examination of the credentials of the delegates from Hungary sent by the Kadar regime, and if the facts do not support their claim to be the lawful representatives of the government of that country they should be expelled. In the last assembly, the matter was raised, but it was not put to the vote. It will be remembered that on 3rd November, 1956, whilst the Premier of Hungary, Raman, was still in control of that country, Kadar, with the support of the Russians, formed a concurrent government which ultimately took over, Nagy having been spirited away. If the United Nations should accept those representatives, I believe a call should be made for a free election under United Nations supervision. I know, sitting in the Senate in Canberra, Australia, many thousands of miles away, that such a suggestion might sound airy-fairy and impracticable in the face of Russia’s claims, but I believe that if world opinion were shown to be solidly against the Russians even the Kremlin might temporise and allow a free election, and I do not think there is any doubt as to what the result of such an election would be.
It appears to be incontravertible that the present regime has no popular support, a fact which is strongly suggested by the character and methods by which the “ Premier “ came to power.
During World War II, Kadar was a member of the Communist cultural campaign operating in Budapest. The leader was a man called Cazlo Rajk who had worked his way up from the ranks. He was a keen student of political philosophy. In 1943, Mrs. Rajk, who had become a close friend of Kadar and who, with her husband, had inspired and helped him in his political discussions, was arrested by the Gestapo. The Gestapo was endeavouring to find the names of the two top Hungarian Communists in order to deal with them in the way in which the Gestapo was very adept. Although this resolute woman was treated in a most abominable fashion, although she was subjected to every indignity, although she was stripped, hung upside down and beaten with a rubber truncheon for a period of six weeks, she never divulged the names of Kadar or her husband. I mention that in some detail because, at a later date, the conduct of
Kadar in relation to this woman may give a fair indication of the man with whom we are attempting to deal in the United Nations at the moment.
In 1947, Kadar became a relatively popular Communist leader in Hungary, and when the Communists came to absolute power in 1948, Rakosi introduced the complete Soviet system. In 1949, after the Communists had been in power for a full year in Budapest, all friendships and loyalties were almost as strained there as they are in the Australian Labour party in Canberra to-day. The junta picked up Raik, and Kadar took his friend’s place in the Ministry of the Interior. A scapegoat was required by Kadar and, despite the heroic service which the man’s wife had rendered to him a few years earlier, Rajk was executed on Kadar’s orders in 1948.
In 1951, in the way that rogues fall out amongst themselves, Kadar himself was arrested and received the most brutal treatment from his own secret police for a period of three years. After suffering dreadful mutilations and indignities, he was released in 1 954, with 90,000 other political refugees in Hungary. That was a long time prior to the present trouble. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn tilt Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to draw the Senate’s, attention to a matter that has caused grave concern to the Greek people of Australia and to the Government of Greece, lt seems that early this month there appeared in the Sydney press a statement that the Greek Government proposed to shift the cemetery on the island of Cos, in which a number of overseas troops, including one Australian and two New Zealanders, had’ been buried. According to the press statement, the reason given for shifting the cemetery was that a woman wanted to build some housing project on this piece of land.
An official statement was made by the Greek Legation, but unfortunately the press of Australian did not print even one line of it. The statement pointed out that this cemetery was in an area in which there were tourist and entertainment centres, and it was not considered a desirable spot in which to allow the bodies of those who had been killed in the war to remain. The War Graves Commission was consulted and it was agreed that the remains of the soldiers should be removed and interred in the Rhodes Military Cemetery. The Australian representatives on the War Graves Commission agreed to this proposal and in fact appreciated the action of the Greek Government. 1 feel that the Greek Government’s action has been grossly misrepresented in Australia. A good deal of ill-feeling has been caused, and some members of returned soldiers’ associations have been given a misleading view of the incident. In order that there shall be no misunderstanding of the position, and in order to have printed evidence available in our official record of what the Greek Government proposed, I incorporate in “ Hansard “, with the concurrence of honorable senators, the following official statement, issued by the Royal Greek Legation, in Canberra, on 7th August last, on the removal of the remains of British soldiers from Cos cemetery to Rhodes: -
In view of the extremely unfair and unjustified comments and letters published in certain sections of the Australian press on the removal of the remains of British and other soldiers from the
Cos cemetery to Rhodes, the Creek Prime Minister’s Office issued recently an official statement clarifying certain points.
At the end of the second World War, a private plot of land situated in the centre of the town of Cos, on Cos island, was used for burying 32 British, 3 Indians, 2 New Zealanders, 1 South African, 1 Australian and 26 other soldiers of unknown nationality (Greek, Italian or German). Besides the fact that a military graveyard could hardly be situated in the tourist area of Cos, the vicinity of the cemetery to entertainment centres was considered by the Greek authorities to be disrespectful to the dead. Hence it was decided to transfer the cemetery to more suitable and dignified surroundings.
The removal of the remains of the 39 soldiers from the British Commonwealth and of the 26 of various nationalities, most probably including Greek soldiers, was effected with the agreement of the British Empire’s War Graves Committee, which, on behalf of all the Commonwealth countries concerned, granted the consent through the British Embassy in Athens. The remains were transferred at the entire expense of the Greek Government, following an agreement with the Embassy in Athens, to a much more suitable and dignified ground, namely, the British Military Cemetery in Rhodes. During the removal the local Greek authorities paid the honours due to the fallen soldiers. It should be finally emphasized that the removal took place in the presence and under the personal instructions of Mr. Grady, the permanent representative in Greece of the British Empire’s War Graves Committee. Mr. Grady expressed thereafter his appreciation for the services rendered by the Greek authorities.
The utterly unfounded accusations published by certain sections of the Australian press have caused a painful impression in Greece, as reflected in the comments of the Greek press. Public opinion throughout Greece has been amazed to read that, a transfer of fallen soldiers from one cemetery to another, which has occurred in several countries after the Second World War, should only in the case of Greece, be regarded as a desecration of war graves.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 August 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19570828_senate_22_s11/>.