22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In the light of the recent announcement that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will erect a steelworks and provide ancilliary services at Whyalla, in South Australia, can the Minister let me know whether the Commonwealth will assist this great project by constructing a standard gauge spur line to link the Commonwealth railways at Port Augusta with Whyalla? I point out that at present Whyalla is not served toy a government railway system.
– I have heardwith very great pleasure, of course - of the developments at Whyalla, but all I know as yet of a proposal that may toe made to the Commonwealth Government in respect of the construction of a railway is what I have read in the press. That report has indicated that the Premier of South Australia has either seen, or will shortly see, the Prime Minister about the matter. Until the outcome of such meeting is known, I am not in a position to give the honorable senator any information about the matter.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a public statement that citizens of localities where unemployment is rife have been forced to dispose of their insurance policies at surrender values in order to meet the demands of hire-purchase companies? Would it not be possible for these unfortunate people to be helped financially by the Government per medium of the Commonwealth Bank?
– I have not read the newspaper report to which the honorable senator has referred, but I can assure him that the Government is not unmindful that there are certain pockets of unemployment. Very effective action to remedy that position has been taken, as the honorable senator will ascertain if he reads the statement recently made by the Prime Minister.
– The question that I wish to direct to the Minister for National Development relates to the Tariff Board’s report on the copper-mining industry. I understand, Mr. President, that the Tariff Board has considered this matter. My question is as follows: In view of the continually deteriorating conditions of the copper-mining industry, particularly in relation to small mines such as the Ravensthorpe mine in Western Australia, can the Minister inform the Senate whether the report has yet been completed? If it has been completed, can he say when it will be available to the public?
– I am aware that the Tariff Board has completed its inquiry into the copper-mining industry, and that it has presented its report to my colleague, the Minister for Trade, who has referred it to two or three government departments for analysis. I expect to get that analysis shortly, and am hopeful that the Government’s decision will be made, and the report tabled, in the comparatively near future. However, I remind the honorable senator that this has been a very important inquiry, and has occupied a considerable time. It is the second which the Tariff Board has made into the copper-mining industry. Moreover, the Tariff Board has only just made its report. I am sure that every honorable senator would want the Government to look at that report carefully and exhaustively, and not come to a hasty conclusion upon such an important matter.
– Can the Minister for National Development inform the Senate whether the Government expects any disruption of, or interference with, Australia’s oil supplies as a result of the confused situation developing in Sumatra? If so, what steps is the Government taking to ensure continuous supplies of oil for Australia?
– The fuel section of my department is in close touch with the oil industry on the Indonesian situation. Approximately 40 per cent, of our oil comes from Indonesia, Borneo and that general locality. The petroleum industry has assured the Government quite definitely that there is no danger of oil supplies being restricted, and that arrangements for obtaining oil supplies from alternative sources, such as the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, are already well in hand. There need be no cause for concern that a shortage of oil will occur even if there is a complete shut-down in Sumatra or anywhere else.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he is aware that when accommodation on the direct air service between Adelaide and Sydney and Sydney and Adelaide is fully taken up, airline companies direct passengers to travel on the alternative route via Melbourne, and compel them to pay an extra £1, despite the inconvenience and loss of time that they have suffered. Will the Minister take the matter up with Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. and request that the fare for the shorter journey, £18 17s., apply in both cases, provided there is no break of journey at Essendon airport, and passengers travel by the first available connecting plane?
– I will be pleased to inquire into the circumstances and let Senator Critchley know what information I obtain from the airline companies concerned.
– My question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport relates to an earlier question. Senator Laught asked the Government to consider the building of a railway to link Port Augusta with Whyalla. Obviously, a request will be made for some such line to be built, but will the Minister also consider the fact that it might be wiser to build instead a wide, all-purpose road so that motor transport could undertake any necessary movement of goods between those two centres?
– I suggest, with very great respect, that, whilst these questions are interesting, they must be regarded as premature until such time as the
Premier of South Australia has put certain proposals before the Government. I have no doubt that in considering his request for a railway line, if such a request is made, the comparative economics of road and rail transport will be examined.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister administering the War Service Homes Division. Will he say whether the Government is prepared to make special provision, through the Commonwealth Bank, for advances to be made to applicants for war service homes finance who wish to buy existing properties? At present, such applicants have to wait from fifteen to eighteen months for advances from the division, during which time they are at the mercy of financial sharks who charge anything from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, interest on temporary loans. Will the Government consider making special provision, through the Commonwealth Bank, to help ex-servicemen whose applications for loans for the purchase of existing homes have been approved?
– The Government has already done what the honorable senator suggests, except that instead of asking the Commonwealth Bank to make the money available, the Government itself has made the money available by increasing the war service homes allocation from £30,000,000 to £35,000,000. The increase of that allocation has already had the result of eliminating the waiting time for those who wish to build houses.
– It is still from fifteen to eighteen months in the case of those who want to buy existing properties.
– 1 know, but the extra allocation has already eliminated the waiting time for those who want to build houses. We are now commencing to get the benefit of the increase in other classifications, and I hope that eventually the waiting time will be reduced in all cases. The honorable senator suggests that the Commonwealth Bank should make special arrangements for those who are buying homes. As I understand it, the Commonwealth Bank already makes special arrangements for a proportion of the applicants by giving them finance for a period of time. 1 am not in a position to say whether the Commonwealth Bank would be willing to extend that arrangement, but 1 do say to the honorable senator that when he suggests that the majority of those who are obtaining temporary finance are paying the rates of interest that he mentioned, he is over-stating or exaggerating the position. Inquiries by the Government disclose that the majority of those who are obtaining temporary finance are obtaining it at the ordinary, normal bank rate of interest. I know that honorable senators opposite have a vested interest in trying to make things appear worse than they really are.
– My question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport relates to the recent announcement by the Minister that the Government has decided to subsidize the building by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Whyalla of a 30,000-ton oil tanker for Ampol Petroleum Limited. This decision, I need scarcely say, has been received with great enthusiasm in South Australia, and I congratulate the Minister for his part in it. There are obvious advantages to all con.cerned in having some continuity of policy in relation to such undertakings, which involve large capital expenditure, not only on the enterprise itself, but also on the provision of a large number of homes, electricity supplies, water supplies and other services. Is the Minister in a position to say that serious consideration will be given by the Government to any subsequent requests for similar treatment if the company desires to build more tankers? In other words, does the granting of this subsidy represent Government policy so far as the building of vessels of this type is concerned? Can the Minister say whether Ampol Petroleum Limited has indicated that, it is its intention to build more ships of this kind at Whyalla?
– When I made a statement in relation to this matter I said that the decision represented an important extension of the Government’s policy of supporting the shipbuilding industry, and that similar applications received in the future would be considered sympathetically by the Government and would be treated on their merits. I point out to the honorable senator that also available to the Government is the more normal procedure of reference to the Tariff Board for the extension of government aid for shipbuilding generally. That avenue has not escaped my attention. As to Ampol’s future plans, I have received no direct advice from the company, but I did see a statement which was attributed to the managing director, Mr. Walkley, to the effect that, if this venture were a success, the company would consider the construction of additional ships in Australia.
– Has the Minister for National Development noticed a recent press report to the effect that South Australia is to have a new steel industry which will cost approximately £30,000,000? I understand that the decision to establish this industry was arrived at because large additional deposits of iron ore had been discovered by the South Australian Department of Mines. In view of the existence of large deposits of iron ore, chrome and manganese in Western Australia, and in view also of the high cost of freight on imported steel, will the Minister consider encouraging overseas steel manufacturers to come to Western Australia with a view to establishing a similar industry in that State?
– I am sure that we all would be delighted to see a steel industry established in Western Australia and that every member of the Government would do all he could to assist the attainment of such a worthy objective.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, relates to a recent press statement that more liberal terms were being offered in connexion with the erection of country telephones. Will the Minister ask the Postmaster-General to make a fuller explanation of the more liberal departmental work that it is proposed to carry 0U in the erection and installation of privately owned telephones in rural areas?
– I shall be very pleased to get the information from my colleague, the Postmaster-General, as early as possible and let the honorable senator have a report.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I have asked a considerable number of questions relating to the European free trade area, and on the last occasion on which I did so I was told something about “ closed doors “. That was rather like the flowers that bloom in the spring - it had nothing to do with the case. I am very serious about this matter, and quite a number of people who support the Australian Labour party also are very worried about what is to happen in relation to the European free trade area. I now ask the Minister whether he will open the doors. In various countries, conferences are taking place regarding this important proposal. For example-
– Order! What is the question?
– I shall come to my question in a moment, Mr. President. I am now explaining it. The Minister does not seem to understand the matter, and I am trying to explain what it is that should really concern him. Nevertheless, with due respect to you, Sir, I shall ask the question.
Last month, representatives of industrial associations met in Paris, and a week later, seventeen countries of the Organization for European Economic Co-operation discussed the matter. In London, approximately 150 leading bankers and industrialists discussed the issues informally. This week, the report of the committee on certificates of origin will be discussed in Paris, with Mr. Maudling, the British Paymaster-General, in the chair.
– Order! I again ask the honorable senator to come to his question.
– I am coming to the question now. So far as Australia is concerned, there are many controversial issues, and I again ask the Government to consider the reasonable proposal that I made almost a year ago: That it convene a meeting of interested Australia-wide organizations, many of which are worried about the much-publicized dislocation of traditional trade and the difficulties which would arise if the common market became a high-tariff area.
– I do not know exactly what that statement adds up to, and I am quite sure that the honorable senator himself does not understand it, either; but I assure him that Australia’s interests, in regard to the negotiations that are going, on, are being well looked after. Australia’s case is being well put. When I referred earlier to closed doors, I meant that there are types of negotiation which are conducted, sensibly, at all events byresponsible people, not on the footpath or on the kerbstone, but in the conference room. If any success is to arise from very delicate and intricate conferences, it is most important that such conferences be carried on in such a way and in such an atmosphere that what is said cannot possibly be misunderstood or confidences be betrayed.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that the frequency modulation transmissions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Melbourne appear to be drawn exclusively from the programme material of Station 3LO, and that this results in a great deal of speech and overseas relay matter being transmitted which, of its very nature, cannot take advantage of the superior frequency response of frequency modulation transmission? Is there any technical or economic reason why the programme material of Station 3AR could not share the Jolimont frequency modulation transmitter with Station 3LO? If not, will the Minister discuss with the A.B.C. the possibility of removing much of 3LO’s talks and news broadcasts from the frequency modulation transmitters and replacing them with 3AR’s musical programmes, for which the frequency modulation transmitter is so much superior?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster-General. I am sure that he will go into the matter and let me have a report at an early date.
– Does the Minister representing the Postmaster-General know that air mail, received at Canberra Post Office from Western Australia and southern
States at 2. p.m., is not delivered at Parliament House until the following morning? As all air mail is urgent - otherwise the surcharge would not be paid - will the Minister investigate the position in order that such mail may be delivered, not only to Parliament House, but elsewhere in Canberra, on the day that it is received at the post office, without the surcharge of 9d. for special delivery, which is additional to air mail charges? Can the Minister explain why it should take only fourteen hours for letters from Western Australia to travel nearly 3,000 miles, while in Canberra it takes upwards of nineteen hours for letters to travel about 300 yards?
– I am not aware of the position relating to the mail from Western Australia, to which the honorable senator refers, but I shall bring her question to the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster-General, and ask him to have the case investigated and give me a report at an early date.
– 1 apologize if my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport probably falls into the category which he described as premature, but I excuse myself with the reflection that in dealing with the Premier of South Australia there is only the thinness of a razor’s edge between being premature and being too late. My question is: If and when the Premier of South Australia proposes to the Minister for Shipping and Transport that the Commonwealth should build a 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge railway from Port Augusta to Whyalla, will the Minister closely link the discussion of that matter with a discussion of the proposal to build a 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge line between Port Pirie and Broken Hill, a proposal which at present the Premier does not appear wholeheartedly to support?
– I shall keep the matter in mind.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. During the Queen Mother’s visit here, we read a great deal about a telecast in Sydney of a function in Canberra. Can the Minister tell the Senate whether the Government is contemplating the adoption of any methods for making possible the reception in Canberra of television programmes? If it is, will he explain to the Senate just what steps are being taken in the matter?
– I am not able to answer the honorable senator’s question immediately, but I shall bring it to the notice of the Postmaster-General and ask him to give me a considered report, a copy of which I shall let the honorable senator have.
– I submit to the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question relating to the present grave situation in Indonesia, and in particular to the apparent danger of Australian citizens in that country. Can the Leader assure the Senate that adequate measures - I emphasize the world “ adequate “ - are in hand for the protection of not only the persons of Australian citizens but also their property in the event of the situation in Indonesia deteriorating still further?
– I know the honorable senator would not expect me to make an extempore statement on a matter of very great delicacy, but I can assure him that the Government, and in particular our colleague, the Right Honorable R. G. Casey, are watching the situation with the utmost care.
– As the telephone services of the Huon Valley are in a chaotic condition, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state a definite time when the position will be rectified? Will he take immediate steps to engage more staff to overcome the lag caused by technical difficulties so that reasonable communications may be carried on during the apple season?
– This, again, is a matter upon which I cannot give an immediate answer, but I shall get the information from my colleague, the Postmaster-General.
– In view of the wide interest on the part of ex-servicemen in particular who desire to build homes under the war service homes scheme, can the Minister for National Development indicate what are the rates of interest which returned servicemen are required to pay when they seek temporary finance?
– In view of the disbelief with which my earlier remarks were greeted, I made inquiries of the War Service Homes Division and have received a reply in connexion with this matter. I am not relying on my memory for what I am about to say; I am giving the Senate the message that I have received from the War Service Homes Division since the previous question was asked on this matter.
I am told that 23 per cent, of the applicants had to pay interest at the rate of 5i per cent, for temporary finance. Twentythree per cent., or almost one-quarter of them, get the money at normal bank interest rates. Seventy-five per cent., or threequarters of them, get it at rates ranging from 5£ per cent, to 10 per cent. Altogether, 98 per cent, do not pay any more than 10 per cent, per annum, so that only 2 per cent, of them pay more than 10 per cent. That is the official estimate that has been made by the War Service Homes Division. Those figures show how grossly unfair is the imputation that was made in an earlier question.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the fact that the Victorian Housing Commission authorities claim that their present plans for clearing 50 acres of slums in Melbourne in the next four years would have been bigger had sufficient finance been available, will the Minister impress on his tight-fisted colleague, the Treasurer, the urgent need to make more money available in all States to provide all the people living in slum areas with decent homes?
– The amount of money that each State appropriates for housing is entirely a matter for that State and nobody else. Each State government can make its own decisions on the proportion of money it will devote from its total loan moneys to housing. Irrespective of the amount that each Stale appropriates for housing, the Commonwealth Government subsidizes the interest rate on that amount. Therefore, whether or not a State govern ment has enough money for housing is a matter primarily for its own judgment and decision.
– I wish to preface a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General by complimenting the Australian Broadcasting Commission on the additional facilities it has provided recently in South Australia, particularly in the country areas. Will the Minister ascertain which regional stations of the A.B.C. in South Australia at present lack the full complement of reporting staff? Will he ascertain and state by what dates it is proposed to bring to full establishment any stations which are at present deficient in reporting staff?
– I shall be very pleased to obtain the information that the honorable senator has requested.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that a father and son were recently thrown out of the Waterside Workers Federation and, consequently, out of work, for refusing to pay a special levy, over and above the normal union dues, which was struck for the express purpose of assisting the Evatt Labour party? Does the Minister consider that this treatment is in accordance with democratic principles of freedom of action? Is the Minister prepared to allow these communistic tactics to continue? Will the Minister guarantee protection to persons such as these who are victimized through arbitrary treatment by this or any other Communist-controlled union?
– I can conceive no worse fate to befall any person in a democracy than to be called upon forcibly to pay a financial tribute to support the Evatt Labour party.
– Has the
Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen a statement by the president of the Bread Manufacturers of Victoria, Mr. Neville Carter, that Victorians would have better bread if the Australian Wheat Board would separate soft wheat from hard wheat? Is he also aware that the Australian Labour party country conference which met last week-end urged that only high-protein flour be used for bread-making? If the Minister is aware of these statements, will he inform the Senate whether the Government proposes to take any action to ensure that only best quality wheat is supplied for the manufacture of bread? If the Minister is not aware of these statements, will he examine the matter and furnish a reply to my questions?
– I am aware that the quality of soft and hard wheat and the relative protein values of both varieties are matters of great disputation in the industry and among technical men and users of flour. In view of those facts, I prefer the question to be placed on the notice-paper so that I may get for the honorable senator a reply from the responsible Minister.
– I desire to direct a question to the Minister for National Development. During the last sitting of the Senate, I asked him whether the Government had decided to take any steps following the drastic fall in the world price of copper, and he informed me that the matter was then under consideration by the Tariff Board. As there is a disparity of approximately £150 Australian a ton between world parity and the Australian price will the Minister inform the Senate whether all copper produced in Australia is sold at the Australian price of £330 a ton? If it is sold at that price, is this attributable to any action that has been taken by the Government? If it is not so attributable, how was the figure of £330 a ton arrived at?
– The question asked by the honorable senator is too difficult for me to answer fully without notice. As I recollect the situation, the greater proportion of Australian copper is being sold at the Australian price rather than world parity. My understanding of the position is that the Australian copper mines, by and large, are being helped very materially indeed by the operator of the Mount Isa copper mine, which is selling a substantial proportion of its output overseas at world parity, thus making room for other Australian copper mines to get the Australian price. In other words, the Australian production of copper has now reached a stage at which it exceeds the Australian demand and some proportion of the production has to be sold overseas. Of course, this is a very vexed question. We are all awaiting with very great interest any proposals that the Tariff Board makes towards providing a solution. When the Tariff Board’s report becomes available, the Government’s views on the board’s proposals will be announced.
– I desire to ask the Minister for National Development a question that is supplementary to the one asked by Senator Sandford. When replying to that question, the Minister said that money could be made available on the advice of his department. If I furnish the Minister with particulars of instances in which ex-servicemen are paying interest at the rate of 10 per cent. and higher for temporary financial accommodation pending the availability of war service homes loans, will he undertake to ensure that the rate of interest payable is reduced to the ordinary bank rate that he mentioned in the Senate to-day?
– I do not understand the purport of the honorable senator’s question. The previous question addressed to me on this subject contained a greatly exaggerated statement to the effect that a substantial proportion of ex-servicemen awaiting war service homes loans were paying an exorbitant rate of interest. However, in view of the importance of the matter, I gave to the question the courtesy that it warranted. I caused special inquiries to be made of the War Service Homes Division and I was assured that the statement was grossly exaggerated and that only 2 per cent. of the applicants are paying interest in excess of 10 per cent per annum. As this matter is regarded as important, during the last two years test checks have been made to ascertain the rates of interest that are being paid, and consideration has been given to what can be done. This is a free country.If applicants for war service homes loans believe that it is infinitely better for them to obtain temporary finance instead ofwaitingfortheloanmoney to be made available, they are at liberty to make the necessary arrangements. I believe that everybody, with the exception of members of the Australian Labour party, believes that the division is doing its best in this connexion.
– I desire to direct a question to you, Mr. President, and I believe that I shall be given a reasonable reply. If you do not know the answer offhand, I am sure that you will make inquiries and let me know the position in due course. To-morrow, the Australian Book Fair will be opened at Melbourne, and I understand that the display will feature the works of Australian authors, both past and present. The National Library has greatly assisted this praiseworthy project. During the fair, the opportunity will be taken to launch the new Encyclopaedia on Australia. I have not been able to obtain an advance copy of the publication, which comprises ten volumes, but I have read an excellent summary of it. If the high hopes of the publishers of the encyclopaedia are realized, I ask you, Sir, to arrange for a set of ten volumes to be provided at the Commonwealth Parliament offices in the capital cities in this country. In the national interest, too, I think that a copy of the encyclopaedia should be sent to each Australian mission throughout the world, and that presentation copies should be sent by the Australian Parliament to parliaments in Asian and Near East countries.
– I am pleased to inform the Senate that the Librarian, Mr. White, will be attending the Australian Book Fair in Melbourne and that he will receive a gift copy of the excellent publication to which the honorable senator has referred. An immense amount of work has gone into it, and I believe it to be one of the finest publications by Australian authors for many years. I shall cause representations to be made to the appropriate departments concerning the honorable senator’s other suggestions.
asked the Minister - representing the Minister for Health, upon notice - 1.. What was the contract date originally set for the completion of the chest hospital now being erected in Perth?
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has furnished the following reply: -
I have continued to follow closely developments in regard to the matter of indemnity payments.
That such have been made has been confirmed by the A.C.T.U. Report which condemned the practice and directed that it should cease.
Only last week the A.C.T.U. re-affirmed its view on this matter with the individual maritime unions concerned in discussions which took place in Sydney and which arose out of the finding of a large sum of money on the person of Mr. Elliott when arrested on a charge of drunkenness. I am advised that the money in Mr. Elliott’s possession related to the sale of “ Bonalbo “ and that the arrangements involving the payment in that case were negotiated before the A.C.T.U. Report was published, even though the actual payment was made subsequently.
My colleague has brought the known facts to the attention of the Commonwealth law authorities who have advised that no breach of the Commonwealth law has been disclosed in the payments revealed.
However much the Government might deplore this practice it takes the view that it is primarily the concern of the A.C.T.U. to deal with what might be broadly described as the ethical practices of trade unions and with unions that disregard its directions.
The Government has not dismissed the possibility of a public inquiry but as at present advised it does not see any usefulness in conducting one if its only object is to confirm what is already publicly known.
If, however, the honorable senator or any one else can bring to the notice of the Government any other facts that are not already known which would appear to warrant the Government giving further consideration to a public inquiry the Government will give prompt consideration to those facts.
– by leave. - I desire to inform the Senate of the arrangements made for the disposal of the assets of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool. Tenders for the sale were invited through the machinery of the Department of Supply on 22nd June, 1957, and closed on 23rd July, 1957. Bids were sought under three categories or groups of assets -
The tenders received under categories (i) and (ii) were generally disappointing and regarded as being far toolow for acceptance. The three highest tenders under category (i) were as follows: -
Tenders under category (iii) were -
Melbourne branch, £51,000. Terms: Cash.
Brisbane branch plus Queensland agencies, £200,000. Terms: 25 per cent, deposit, balance by equal quarterly payments over ten years with interest.
Brisbane branch only, £170,000. Terms: Similar as for Brisbane and agencies.
The only tender prices accepted were those submitted under category (iii) by the port authorities at Gladstone, Cairns, Rockhampton, Launceston and King Island. In view of the unsatisfactory quotes it was decided to invite the highest tenderers under categories (i) and (iii) to submit revised, higher bids for the assets remaining after disposal of the agency holdings specified above.
Representatives of the tenderers were interviewed and invited to submit revised offers under category (i). for the remaining assets of the three branches, plus those at Townsville and Mackay, plus small remaining assets at Devonport. They were informed that it was proposed to sell the other agencies to the respective port authorities. The offers received were -
In the interim, negotiations were concluded with other agencies for purchase of their holdings, and also the Victorian Housing Commission for the purchase of a Lorain crane seriously damaged while on hire to the commission. This crane was withdrawn, in order to be sold, from the assets of the Melbourne branch.
The financial results of these transactions, figures being given to the nearest £10, were as under: -
The offer of £650,000, with a deposit of £6,500. will be dealt with later in this statement. The other offers were regarded as insufficient. Further discussions took place with the parties and they were invited to submit offers for the branches separately, on a cash and/ or terms basis.
Liberty Motors submitted a tender of £60,050 for the Melbourne branch, setting a closing date for acceptance at 16th December, 1957. Another tenderer previously interested in the purchase of the Melbourne branch decided not to submit a further offer.
A decision on the sale could not be reached by the 16th December, and Liberty Motors was informed that its offer could not be accepted. Liberty Motors’ subsequently submitted an offer of £59,000 cash for the Melbourne branch.
The original highest Queensland tenderer was asked to re-offer for Brisbane and Townsville, but the new figure submitted was also unacceptable and the offer was discarded.
The firm which had previously submitted a tender for the purchase of all the remaining assets of the pool for £515,000 confirmed by letter its verbal advice that it did not wish to tender separately for the assets in Sydney and Brisbane, but would prefer to leave its offer as it stood then for the whole of the remaining assets at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the remaining agencies. This company also confirmed in its letter a new feature, previously mentioned in discussions, to the effect that the company, if successful in its tender, was willing to discuss with employees a scheme under which it would issue shares to employees entitling the holders to 10 per cent. interest in the profit of the company. The company was also willing for selected employees to subscribe for ordinary shares up to 10 per cent. of issued capital.
New offers received from another tenderer were as follows: -
These prices were submitted by Dickson Primer, whose offer of £485,100 for Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville and Mackay was finally accepted. Each of the above offers was made on a deposit of 25 per cent., the balance being payable over three years.
Disregarding the offer of £650,000- with its £6,500 deposit - as lacking sufficient monetary support, it was evident that the best result could be achieved by accepting the following tenders: -
During the course of these lengthy negotiations, questions have been asked, and an occasional newspaper reference made, to the proposals for purchase made by the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool Co-operative. I now propose to refer to the offer made by the co-operative and to the subsequent negotiations which took place with that organization.
The original tender submitted by the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool Co-operative was an amount of £500,000 for the whole of the plant and assets of the pool, including agencies, and was on the following terms: -
No reference was made to paying interest on the unpaid balance of the purchase price, and it was believed at that stage that payment of interest was not contemplated. The co-operative’s offer was not the highest received.
After it was decided that the tenders received were too low, an approach was made to the higher tenderers with a view to obtaining new offers for the assets remaining after sale of agency holdings, referred to elsewhere, had been effected. As a result of this approach, the co-operative submitted a revised offer of £650,000 to be paid as follows: - Deposit, £6,500; within 30 days of acceptance, £50,000; balance over a period of eight years. It was stated, in making this offer, that the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank would advance £100,000 against first charge over the assets required by the society as working capital. It was stated also that negotiations were taking place with a private company to obtain a loan to be used for purposes of meeting the initial payment of £50,000 referred to previously. Negotiations with the private company broke down, however, and this phase of the co-operative’s offer was apparently abandoned, as nothing more was heard of it.
Correspondence from the Commonwealth Bank indicated that the bank was prepared to advance £100,000 as a first charge over the assets, subject to -
The society believed at that time that it would enjoy the benefits of division 9 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936-1956, freeing it as a co-operative society from payment of income tax. The co-operative was informed by the Commissioner of Taxation that this was not the case and, subsequent to the interview with him, it submitted the following proposals in relation to its tender for £650,000:-
The co-operative’s proposal to acquire the pool at the figure of £650,000, with a nominal deposit of only £6,500, and involving on the part of the -Commonwealth the continued ownership of depreciating assets for a period of up to eight years, together with the acceptance of a liability by guarantee of £100,000, constituted an offer which would not have received any consideration at all had it been received from any other tenderer. In fact, the proposal meant that the Commonwealth would not be selling the assets of the pool at all, but hiring them to the co-operative for eight years, and, in addition, would be guaranteeing the advance of £100,000 to the co-operative in order to support the hiring arrangement.
To be successful, the co-operative’s plans to acquire the pool would have required that for a period of eight years the affairs of the organization should not have been subjected to any of the vicissitudes of trading which this type of business might normally expect to encounter. With the liquid funds position already stretched far beyond normal standards, and having in mind the need to provide at least partially for replacement of constantly ageing equipment, the Government felt that the hiring proposal was not one which could be regarded as being competitive with the other tenders submitted. It might also be added that the proposal of the co-operative contemplated an immediate increase of 2s. 6d. an hour in the hiring rates and an estimated saving in expenditure of £30,000 per annum to be brought about by staff reorganization and related matters.
All things considered, the possibilities for success of the co-operative’s proposal might - to put it at the lowest level - be considered as very doubtful. Having regard to all the circumstances involved, and particularly to the interests of the proprietors - the taxpayers of Australia - the Government concluded that the only course to follow was to accept those offers which would ensure the highest cash return for the assets to be disposed of. The purchasers have stated that they propose continuing the conduct of the pool as a hiring agency and that they will, as far as is practicable, retain the present staff in employment..
Debate resumed from 27 th February (vide page 59), on motion by Senator Kendall-
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- On 27th February, before this debate was adjourned, I had the opportunity of discussing several subjects. I was about to say that the Menzies Government had just about reached the end of its life, and to point out that at the next general election, for very good reasons, a new government will be elected by the people of Australia. This Government has witnessed the sunset of its life and is now faltering in the twilight. It has no clear idea of what action it should take to remedy the sad unemployment position which exists in the various States, nor is it sure of what action it should take to provide adequate housing facilities for all. It has neglected to solve other problems to which I referred on 27th February.
I look forward with great keenness to the next general election, because after that election the people of Australia will have a different type of government. I know that between the present time and the next general election the Government will do its utmost to retain power after the election. It will use the provisions of the budget to buy its way into the good graces of the people. I can tell honorable senators some of the provisions of the next budget. Social service payments will be increased slightly. Pensioners will receive an increase of from 2s. 6d. to 3s. a week. An increase in pensions will not be the only sop given to the people. Company taxation will be further reduced for the reason that companies will then contribute more freely to the funds of the Liberal party and Australian Country party than will any other section in the community.
– Will the Government reduce sales tax?
– I am glad the honorable senator mentioned that matter. The Government will reduce sales tax but in such a manner as once more to deceive the public of Australia. It will certainly reduce sales tax, but the overall collections will be greater than the collections for this year. That is my reply to the interjection of Senator Kendall. We went through this once before. I know how sales tax rates can be manipulated, how charges can be decreased, and how the Government can collect more from the community. This Government has made itself a specialist in the imposition of indirect taxation.
There are other things that the Government will do. It will also reduce the income tax that is payable by private individuals. I know how that can be done, too. One has only to examine the reports of the Commissioner of Taxation to see the various groups and what they contribute. Once more the people of Australia will be deceived into believing that there has been a substantial reduction of taxation. But there will be no actual reduction. I am telling honorable senators now what the Government will include in the next budget in an attempt to buy its way back to the treasury bench.
I new refer to another matter, which is very important - the Constitution Review Committee. Now and again various problems arise and we are informed both in this chamber and elsewhere that the Government has not the power to deal with the problem because of the provisions of the Constitution. One such matter - the payment of sums of money to certain maritime unions - was again brought to light here to-day. I do not know whether the failure of the Government to take any action on that matter is the result of a flaw in the Constitution. If it is a result of such a flaw, the Government is absolved; but, if that is not the reason, the Government stands condemned. The committee has been investigating the provisions of the Constitution for quite a while. I am one of those persons who mind their own business, and I have not inquired of any member of the committee about what it has discussed or what it proposes to discuss. I am sure that a report will be furnished in due course. When I use the words “ in due course “, I believe that a report will be furnished before the next general election. But I should like to see an interim report furnished in order to learn how far the committee has progressed with its investigation.
I wish to advance a suggestion for the consideration of the committee. 1 have not approached any of the Opposition members who are members of that committee about the matter; rather do I propose to raise it quite openly so that all may hear what I have to say about it. I believe that section 44 of the Constitution should be amended by the addition of the following or similar words: -
Should senators or members absent themselves from the Parliament on sitting days to engage in any work, practice or activity for private gain, they shall be incapable of sitting as a senator or as a member of the House of Representatives.
– That will rule you out.
– That is quite all right. Those who own selections and are growing wool will be absolved, because the wool will grow while they are sitting in this chamber or in another place. We should not countenance any member of the Senate or the House of Representatives deliberately absenting himself from a sitting of the Senate or the House of Representatives for the purpose of engaging in what was his normal occupation prior to his election to the Parliament. This matter could be freely investigated by the Constitution Review Committee. The committee could obtain evidence from the Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives and investigate the whole question of absenteeism. Then the matter could, and should, be further pursued, because the occupation or profession of each member or senator prior to his election to the Parliament would be known. For a senator or member to absent himself should be an offence under the provisions of the Constitution. For a man to engage in what was his normal occupation and to receive fees or payment therefor, and at the same time receive a parliamentary allowance, is a low form of robbery.
The question of sales tax was raised a little while ago. I make a plea to the Government on behalf of some good people in the community who devote their Sunday afternoons to taking sacred gramophone records to mental hospitals and playing them to the patients. Those people must pay a high rate of sales tax on those records. The Government could easily exempt sacred records from the schedule of sales tax. Perhaps some of us, as we go about our daily chores, say that the patients do not understand the records, but the fact remains that they do get some enjoyment from listening to sacred music. By reducing the rate of sales tax that is payable on sacred records, the Government could encourage these good people who are prepared to devote time to this activity.
– At the beginning of my remarks, I should like to associate myself with honorable senators who have already spoken to the motion and to express my personal loyalty to the Crown, and also to thank His Excellency, the Governor-General, for the Speech that he delivered at the opening of this session of the Parliament. By a happy coincidence, we have also enjoyed a visit by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. As far as I am able to understand, that visit has been a tremendous success throughout Australia. The visit to Canberra was of an outstanding nature and gave very great satisfaction to the people of the Australian Capital Territory. Speaking on behalf of my own State of South Australia, I should say that the programme in that State was probably unexcelled elsewhere in the Commonwealth. Her Majesty was received with great enthusiasm by the people of South Australia. I wish to express my very great pleasure at the fact that such a visit was made possible. We hope that Her Majesty the Queen Mother, on her return to England, will report to Her Majesty the Queen that her visit to this country was an outstanding success. We all remember very clearly her previous visit to Australia in 1927, and the tremendous development and progress that this country has made since that time must have been made quite manifest to her. ] refer also to the recent visit, as was mentioned in His Excellency’s Speech, of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Macmillan. We had the pleasure of listening to a speech that he delivered at a dinner that was arranged in his honour, during which he touched upon many matters that were vital not only to Great Britain and Australia but to the world at large. The visits that we have had from the leaders of Asian countries, particularly those by the Prime MinisterofSouthVictNam and the
Prime Minister of Japan, have been extremely valuable. As a result of such visits, we get to know the outlook of the countries from which the visitors come, countries with which Australia is vitally concerned. The visit to Australia of the Japanese Prime Minister was followed by the visit to Japan of Australian members of Parliament. Such visits will be of benefit to our relations with Asian countries generally.
I am not going to suggest that the Speech that was delivered by the Governor-General was of an unusual nature. The fact is that it covered a tremendous range. It referred to many activities of the Government and to the Government’s past and present programmes. In fact, Sir, it recapitulated many of the events that have transpired during this Government’s term of office, particularly in recent years, and enunciated some of the desires of the Government and the policies that it hopes to carry out in the immediate future. It would be impossible for me to cover all the ground that was covered by His Excellency’s Speech, but I want to refer to some of the remarks that have been made by honorable senators opposite in the course of the debate.
I think it can safely be said that those honorable senators opposite who have spoken have seized on one or two items in the Speech with the idea of attracting the attention of the Australian public and gaining some support as a result of their attacks on the Government. I refer, first, to that part of the Speech which dealt with unemployment. The supporters of the Opposition have seized on that one paragraph and have made particular reference to it. They have evinced a certain degree of cynicism when they have discussed the statement that the Government is continuing to keep under the closest scrutiny the question of unemployment. I do not know what is wrong with that. The Government always has kept the question of employment under its closest scrutiny, and I say without hesitation that the record of this Government, in the field of employment, has not been equalled by that of any previous government.
We deplore the fact that there are some people out of employment, but when we think of the number of people who, unfortunately, are unemployed to-day, we have to remember, as a background to the employment situation, that the record of the Government stands without equal, both, from the point of view of the total number of people employed and the volume of employment that has been made available to the people of Australia during its term of office. I thought that Senator Scott spoke very well on this topic. In answer to some of the statements that had been made in this chamber, he gave some cogent facts in regard to unemployment. Incidentally, I am glad to note that there has been a drop in the number of registered unemployed. The latest monthly figures indicate a decline. Senator Scott pointed out that the total number of unemployed in the Commonwealth represented only 2 per cent, of the work force. We must consider that fact in relation to the months and the years of over-full employment while this Government has been in office, when there have been more jobs than men to fill them - a state of affairs which has contributed substantially, of course, to the inflationary trend that has existed.
As Senator Scott said, when this Government came to office in the SeptemberDecember quarter of 1949, 5.7 per cent, of the registered unionists in Australia were unemployed.
– Was not there a strike at that period?
– There may have been a strike, but unemployment cannot be dissociated from strikes. If a man is on strike, he is out of a job, is he not? We have to analyse the figures. I think it was in 1945 that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said, as Senator Scott reminded us, that, for effective purposes, 5 per cent, of unemployment could be classed as full employment. We cannot overlook such things. The record of this Government has been far superior, in the matter of employment, to that of any previous federal government. We have been able to keep the people fully employed. In fact, as I have said, at times there have been more jobs than men to fill them. When honorable senators opposite say that, at the present time, there is a slight recession in the employment field, can they wonder that we answer them by saying that the figures they give do not take into consideration the factors that are operating in this country at the present time? Do they not appreciate that the unemployment figures they cite could well be the result of the extreme drought conditions that have prevailed in Australia during the last twelve months? Surely they must know that when a national income from primary production is reduced by between £150,000,0000 and £200,000,000, that must have some impact on the employment of the work force. I think it is remarkable that, having regard to the adverse conditions that have been experienced by primary producing industries throughout almost the whole of Australia, there should be only the small number of 74,000 unemployed in Australia to-day.
I agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) who, when speaking at a gathering during the recent Parramatta byelection campaign, said that the Australian Labour party was indulging in psychological warfare on this question of unemployment. As far as I can see, it is Labour’s fervent hope that economic conditions in Australia will further deteriorate and that additional unemployment will result from that deterioration. I can come to no other conclusion than that Labour sees in unemployment the way back to the treasury bench; that with an army of unemployed in Australia it will have a better chance at the next general election. In this respect, I am reminded of Senator Benn’s remarks to the effect that the Government can see its sun setting. He also said that a new government, a Labour government, will come into office after the next election. I suggest to him that his statement is only indicative of the wish being father to the thought. If the people of Australia listen to the type of rubbish that is being uttered by the Labour party about unemployment, they will be sadly disillusioned.
Senator Scott said that the responsibility for preventing unemployment does not lie solely at this Government’s door. As I have said already, if we are to look to governments to provide full employment in every walk of life, then we may as well socialize the country. We know, of course, that socialization is Labour’s policy, and that the Labour party would keep the people in employment by socializing the country. We also know that this Government relies on the confidence of the ordinary man in the street to provide employment. We rely on great private industries like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the thousand and one other organizations that provide for the people of Australia much more effective employment than can be provided by any socialist government. lt cannot be denied that we can play our part in this matter, and 1 say without any hesitation that this Government has played its part. This Government has provided in Australia an economic climate which enables those great organizations to which I have referred, and all others engaged in private industry throughout Australia, to keep the economy on a sound basis, and to expand their production of those articles which we require for the development of this great country. We have provided that economic climate by legislative and fiscal means, and I can only say that all this talk by the Labour party about unemployment is designed principally to destroy the confidence of the people of Australia.
I should like now to read from “ Hansard “ an extract from Senator Scott’s speech in this debate. I looked it up when Senator Benn was speaking. During his speech, Senator Benn quoted a statement by a church dignitary from Queensland - I think it was Archbishop Halse - and I quote the following report of a statement by Archbishop Halse as quoted by Senator Benn. The statement appeared under the heading “ Jobs for All, Church Aim “. I do not know exactly what Archbishop Halse knows about this question. I do not know whether he is an economist or an authority on unemployment, but this is the report of his statement -
Unemployment should be eradicated entirely and not made a question of economics, Archbishop Halse said yesterday.
He said this had been the unanimous view of delegates to the annual meeting in Sydney this week of the World Council of Churches, Australian division.
The Archbishop returned to Brisbane yesterday after having attended the meeting as a Queensland representative.
He said delegates had flatly rejected the suggestion from some quarters that a small percentage of unemployment was “ good for the country “.
We, too, reject that policy. We have never adopted any policy other than one of full employment. We believe in full employ ment, and do not subscribe to the theory suggested in that statement. We do not agree with those in our midst who recommend a small percentage of unemployment.
Senator Benn, who was criticizing Senator Scott at the time, went on to say -
The employment of every individual in the community must stand the profit lest. If the employment of a person cannot yield a profit for his employer, the employment of that person must be terminated. I think that it was Senator Scott who said on Tuesday last that employers must have confidence in the economy.
I interjected -
That is perfectly true.
Senator Benn then went on to say ;
It is plain rubbish.
I should like to know how Senator Benn would get on, if he were an employer, and if he adopted the principle he has enunciated that economics do not enter into the question at all. I do not know whether Senator Benn is> an employer, but, knowing him as1 1 do, I cannot imagine him employing a man if he were going to show a loss on the employment of that individual.
– Has he ever employed one?
– I do not know, but it seems to me absolutely fantastic that a man can dissociate economics from the question of employment. If one cannot employ a man profitably, one simply cannot employ him, and that is all there is to it. If one attempted to employ people unprofitably, one would simply go irrevocably and hopelessly into debt; in fact one would go bankrupt. The same applies to a country. It may certainly make provision to alleviate the condition of the unemployed, but it cannot economically employ a man if it makes no profit from his employment. I condemn Archbishop Halse. I do not claim to be any greater authority than he is, but I cannot see the sense in his suggestion that the question of unemployment should be divorced entirely from the question of economics.
I should like to quote now a statement by another expert.
– In addition to Senator Scott?
– In addition to Archbishop Halse. This statement appears in one of the daily newspapers, and quotes
Professor R. 3. Downing, who, I understand, is Ritchie Professor of Economic Research at the Melbourne University. Addressing the Summer School on Business Administration, he said that Australia was in the twilight between full employment and inflation, and that was just where it would want to be. He also said that the present increase in unemployment is pathetically small when we look at our total work force, and that it is less than in Britain and the United States. That view has been supported by Mr. Monk, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, who has stated publicly that the economy is well based and that unemployment has not yet reached a figure at which we can be alarmed.
– It is alarming for those who are out of work.
– I do not deny that it is alarming for an individual to be out of work, and this Government is seeking to rectify the position that obtains at present.
– I will tell the honorable senator.
– You said it was not the Government’s responsibility?
– 1 deny that. 1 said it was not the Government’s full responsibility. I said that, by fiscal and other means, this Government had provided the economic climate. I made that perfectly clear. The unemployment slack is being taken up and will continue to be taken up. The States have been given substantial grants in recent weeks. There is a direct grant to them of £5,000,000, and a further £3,000,000 of loan money will be available to local-government authorities for the remainder of this financial year. In addition, this Government has released from special accounts at the Commonwealth Bank the sum of £15,000,000. This, of course, is money belonging to the private trading banks, but for the short period between now and the end of the financial year the huge sum of £23,000,000 is to be infused into the monetary system of Australia. If that does not have the desired effect, I shall be very surprised indeed, but I feel confident that the infusion of that money as a result of the financial steps taken by the Commonwealth Government will give a tremendous fillip to employment.
Let us examine the situation in South Australia. I cannot express adequately my pleasure at the announcement that was made last Friday that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited would spend £32,000,000 on the establishment of a steel mill as Whyalla. That will mean a tremendous step forward in the industrial development of South Australia and I cannot speak too highly of the enterprise of that wonderful organization, B.H.P. The Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, who, incidentally, is a Liberal Premier, has patiently undertaken long negotiations with the company. Intensive drilling has been conducted by the South Australian Mines Department in the Middleback Range in Eyre Peninsula and this has established that vast iron ore reserves are untapped in that area.
The establishment of the new steel mill at Whyalla is part of a huge programme involving expenditure of £100,000,000 that is being undertaken by B.H.P. This development more or less relieves Senator Armstrong of the need to proceed with the motion that he has on the notice-paper regarding steel production. The new industry will be of tremendous benefit to South Australia. Whyalla was a mushroom town during World War II. The district has been the source of iron ore for a long while. During the war, water was made available to Whyalla by a pipeline from the Murray River. Blast furnaces and shipbuilding yards were established and Whyalla has become an important component of South Australia’s industrial life. It will be expanded considerably by the erection of the new steel mill. Hundreds of homes will be required and the South Australian Government has indicated already that it will build many of them. Additional facilities will be required to serve Whyalla. I do not doubt for a minute that the water pipeline from Morgan across country to Port Augusta and Whyalla will be duplicated.
Additional employment will be provided. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) has already referred to the extension of the railway from Port Augusta to Whyalla. Whether that spur line will be constructed is a matter for future consideration. The new mill will give a fillip to the industrial life of South Australia and will be another move towards the decentralization of industry. The area at the top of Spencer’s Gulf will grow in importance as an industrial centre, lt includes a big smelting works at Port Pirie and a plant for the treatment of uranium. There is a big electric power station at Port Augusta, which is also the head-quarters of the Commonwealth Railways. Whyalla will be almost doubled in size.
All these developments have been brought about by the economic climate that this Government has established. Investors in other countries have infused new capital into our industries because they have confidence in Australia. As Senator Scott has said, the Australian Labour party is setting out to destroy that confidence. There is quite a possibility that a new oil refinery will be established in South Australia. I do not know whether that will be brought about, but negotiations have been proceeding for a long time, and in view of the industrial developments, it is almost certain that an announcement along the lines I have suggested will be made before long.
I wish to make one more point: What about the Australian shipbuilding industry in Whyalla? Have honorable senators on the Opposition side heard about the new 30,000-ton tanker that is to be built there by Ampol?
– By Ampol? By the Government!
– By Ampol.
– The Government proposes to build the tanker with the money it obtained from the sale of its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
– The Government does subsidize shipbuilding in Australia, but this tanker is to be built for Ampol.
– It is being built for private enterprise with our money.
– Nothing of the sort. With your money! Senator Hendrickson knows that the Australian shipbuilding industry has to be subsidized.
– Of course it does. That process is being repeated at Whyalla. The construction of a tanker in the yards at Whyalla will provide a lot of employment and expand industrial activity there.
Honorable senators opposite have made a point of attacking the Government’s housing record.
– I agree with Senator Scott that such an attack is ridiculous. He is a man of common sense who knows what he is talking about, and that is more than I can say of members of the Opposition. Senator Scott spoke well on this matter earlier in the debate and cited some figures on housing. I endorse his statement about this Government’s housing programme. We have nothing to be ashamed of. Senator Sheehan said that the Government had done something towards housing, but he deprecated its programme and its achievements. He said that this Government has only carried on legislation that was brought down by the Labour government. He was referring to the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement. I do not deny that the Labour government made quite a good agreement, but this Government has improved it. The Labour government had an agreement but was not achieving much with it. Its housing programme was lagging when this Government was elected to office. Why?
– Tell us why?
– Because the people could not get the materials they required to build houses.
– The reason is patent to anybody who can remember conditions in 1949. I recall the great strike in that year. In 1950, due to a shortage of coal supplies, there were frequent electricity blackouts and the people had to blunder their way home in the darkness. The Labour government that went out of office in 1949 had a poor record in relation to coal production. Indeed, there was a degree of industrial disharmony during that government’s regime far in excess of what has happened during our period in office. The Adelaide “ News “, in referring to figures that were released recently by the Minister for Labour and National Service, stated in a sub-leading article in last night’s issue -
Australia lost less time in industrial disputes last year than in any year since 1942, the time of our gravest war-time peril. Figures released by the Minister for Labour Mr. Holt, show that 1,103 stoppages equalled only .096% of total working time.
Compare the present position in relation to man-hours lost with the position that existed during the last few years of the Chifley Government.
I do not know whether Australia’s fine record of industrial harmony is attributable to our arbitration machinery, but the fact remains that we are achieving good production in consequence of our sound industrial relations. I am referring, of course, to the industrial relations that have been developed since this Government came to office, because it will be recalled that industrial relations were far from good prior to 1950. Many raw materials urgently required for housing were in short supply. That is the reason why the Labour government could not provide the houses that were needed at that time. Immediately after coming to office, this Government set about removing the causes of industrial disputes, and consequently building materials are now in good supply. We take pride in our record for maintaining industrial harmony.
At this stage, I should like to say that I agree with the statement by Senator Pearson during his excellent speech that the Menzies-Fadden Administration has been courageous. Of course, it is acknowledged that there are problems associated with prosperity, as with a lack of prosperity. This Government has faced its problems courageously, and has not hesitated to adopt unpopular methods when the occasion demanded. In the main, we have used budgetary methods to overcome difficult situations. When necessary, we have applied heavy taxation and import restrictions. These measures have benefited Australia as a whole. I think that the people realize that certain- unpalatable measures were applied in the best interests of all concerned. 1 believe that they have confidence in this Government, because it has never failed to face its difficulties, and whenever it has been necessary to adopt an unpopular course of action, the people have taken their medicine more or less cheerfully. The result has been a triumph for the Government. Australia is now enjoying very great prosperity. Therefore, I do not think that Senator Benn’s prediction that there will be a change of government at the end of this year will come about.
I have recently devoted a considerable amount of time to refreshing my memory on the various measures that have been adopted by this Government, by reading speeches that have been made on the Budgets introduced during the years that this Government has been in office. I shall not weary the Senate by referring to all of the things that this Government has done. It is sufficient for my purpose to remind honorable senators that the Chifley Government, in its last year of office, had a deficit of £25,000,000.
– What is the honorable senator’s authority for that statement?
– That amount of deficit was mentioned in the Budget figures recorded in “ Hansard “. This matter should be of great interest to Senator Hendrickson who, as we know, has a keen interest in figures. Revenue for the year ended 30th June, 1950, totalled £567,000,000; the expenditure in that year was £592,000,000. The Labour government budgeted for a deficit of £35,000,000, and the actual deficit was £25,000,000.
– Who told you that?
– I do not need to be told these things. All I need do is to consult the official records. Although I am not a betting man, if Senator Hendrickson wants to make a wager on the accuracy of my statement, I shall be willing to accommodate him. I emphasize that this Government at the commencement of its term of office, faced an unsatisfactory financial situation. There was a deficit of £25,000,000 at 30th June, 1950.
– What will be the amount of the deficit at the end of this financial year?
– Frankly, I do not know, but I do know the Budget estimate. There have been some pretty substantial surpluses during this Government’s term of office, about which I am not altogether happy, as will be seen from my later remarks. In 1949, the people were far from satisfied with the state of the economy, and threw the Labour government out of office. In setting about to rehabilitate the economy, we had to do some very startling things. Although I do not like to revive discussion of those measures, I do want to remind honorable senators opposite that this Government got petrol flowing again into the country.
– But at what price?
– At a price probably cheaper than anywhere else in the world. Furthermore, we did what we could to stifle the activities of the Australian Communist party, in relation to which Labour had a most inglorious record. I remember very clearly that, during the debate in this chamber on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, the Opposition performed a political somersault at the direction of its outside executive.
– Outside executive?
– Yes, outside this Parliament. That executive dictated to the Parliamentary Labour party. Did any one ever hear of such a state of affairs? As I mentioned before, Labour’s production record was rotten. The production of coal was hopelessly inadequate to meet demands. That was typical of the legacy that was left to us by the Labour government. The very day that we assumed office we began to tackle these problems with sincerity and courage. We have continued to do so in the years since, refusing to be deterred by mere considerations of popularity or unpopularity. At times we have had to do things that I, myself, have not altogether liked. The year after we took office, wool prices soared tremendously and we were obliged to seek pre-payment of wool tax. The Australian Labour party said that we were imposing an unfair, sectional tax, although, in fact, it was merely a counterpart of provisional taxation. Without it, any measures to deal with the economic situation would have been hopelessly inadequate. Wool-growers have since come along and thanked us for what we did. They have said, “ It was the best thing that you could have done “. I am going back a few years, but it is none the less true - and we have continued along those lines down through the years since.
I could give honorable senators opposite the figures for the seven succeeding budgets, but I am afraid that it would take some time. I was particularly interested to note some of the surpluses for which the Government had budgeted over the years. Its economic advisers have considered this necessary because the States have been up against it financially. While I believe that a government should raise only sufficient money to enable it to operate effectively, I agree that sometimes” it is ‘ advisable to budget for income very much in excess of requirements. The Government has done this from time to time and has placed the surplus to the credit, not of the States - as I had thought was necessary under the Constitution - but of trust funds.
I was very interested to read the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the trust fund. Few of us are sufficiently well versed in financial matters to appreciate every detail of such a report. However, in glancing through it I came upon a very readable explanation of the purposes of the trust fund. I had thought, in my simplicty - perhaps ignorance - that under the Constitution the States received moneys surplus to the Commonwealth’s’ requirements, but apparently Commonwealth governments down the years have placed those moneys in trust funds, and have then used them very effectively. Labour and other governments have done this ever since 1908, when legislation authorizing the establishment of such funds was brought down.
The following appears at paragraph 9 on page 6 of the committee’s report on the trust fund: -
In the first place, Your Committee have been anxious to obtain facts about the Trust Fund. The Trust Fund has been associated in the minds of many people with various forms of financial juggling, even if not with actual financial mismanagement.
I, too, have always felt that the trust fund was a somewhat snide method of salting away federal surpluses which, in fact should be returned to the States. As I have mentioned, the 1908 legislation was brought in to enable these surpluses to be placed in trust funds of various kinds. I may add that these funds total some £821,000,000 - an amount approaching the expenditure provided for in the annual Commonwealth budget. The trust funds are used for various purposes, but I do not want to go into that aspect very deeply. The report of the committee gave me the satisfaction of knowing, to some degree at least, the use to which the funds are put, and the benefit of the system. I am fortified by the committee’s clear finding that suspicions concerning the establishment and use of trust funds are, for the most part, unfounded. Over the years trust funds have been used by this -Government for various purposes. I refer to such funds as the Strategic Stores and Equipment Trust Account, Defence Production Materials Trust Account and the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. A number of other funds are an integral part of Commonwealth finance. They are all used for the purpose of effectively carrying on government, and supplement the budgetary proposals which are brought down each year. The Public Accounts Committee has done a very fine job since its Inception. After reading its report, I am quite satisfied that the trust funds are fully justified, and necessary for the effective exercise of the Government’s financial measures.
– That settles that! “Senator HANNAFORD. - It does, so far as I am concerned. I do not propose to set myself up as an authority in opposition to financial experts such as the chairman of the committee, and some of the committee’s members. A great deal of evidence was taken from leading Treasury officials, and even a cursory perusal of the report is of great value. One could refer to this matter at great length but the debate on the Address-in-Reply, which is an important feature of our parliamentary life, enables us to touch on other important matters referred to by the Governor-General.
I should very much like to say something about Australian railways, for I have taken great interest in their development. I was so fortunate as to be a member of the rail standardization committee which was appointed by the Government parties. I understand that Opposition members set up a committee on the same subject. Mem”bership of the committee gave me a much better insight into railway administration. 1 am not at all happy about the position of the railways - far from it. I am aware of the tremendous cost of Australian transport compared with that of countries such as the United” States of America and the United Kingdom, and the great proportion of our national income which transport costs absorb. More than anything else, I am disturbed at the tremendous losses sustained by our transport services. The last edition of the “ Commonwealth Year-Book “ discloses that the deficits of the State railways together amounted to £25,000,000. There must be inefficiency somewhere, although it is true that certain railways serve uneconomic areas; they help to develop those areas, but the revenue obtained does not cover the costs involved.
Australia is handicapped to a tremendous degree by railways with different gauges. One cannot come to any conclusion other than that with the various transfer points that are necessary, there must be inefficiency and financial loss. I commend the Government heartily for the step it has taken in helping to provide a standard-gauge line from Wodonga to Melbourne. That is a vital rail link. I agree with the policy of the Government, as announced by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge). We will wait with interest to see the results achieved when this standard-gauge line, which will cost about £10,000,000, is in operation.
I have read the adverse report made by the South Australian Railways Commissioner on the proposals affecting South Australia put forward by the Wentworth Committee. I cannot help but have some sympathy with him in the position in which he finds himself. There is in existence the 1949 railways agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government, providing for the standardization of South Australian railway lines, but South Australia cannot see its way clear to embark on that standardization scheme until Victoria has agreed to standardize its lines. For that reason, I cannot help but be sympathetic to the viewpoint expressed by the South Australian Railways Commissioner. He would be confronted with great difficulties if he were to embark on a standardization scheme and Victoria did not carry out a similar scheme.
– Is South Australia committed by contract?
– South Australia is committed by act of parliament to standardize its railway gauges. The 1949 agreement provides that the scheme be carried out on a proportional-cost basis.
– Under a contract with the Commonwealth Government?
– That is so. It is known as the Commonwealth-State railways agreement. Something of the same kind is required in relation to Victoria. South Australia’s standardization problem would be eased tremendously if Victoria would agree to undertake the standardization of its lines. Victoria has seen the light in regard to the Wodonga-Melbourne line, and I urge the Commonwealth Government to use its influence with the State government in an attempt to get it to embark on a policy of standardization. It would not be such a great task.
– A lot of new track would be required.
– The new track would be in addition to the old track, which would remain in operation. A third line is not effective where the two gauges are not dissimilar. With a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line, it would be quite a simple job to add a third line, giving the standard 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge, but with a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge - which is not much narrower than the standard gauge - a third line would give rise to many technical difficulties. A third line is not the answer to the problem in that case.
– The only difficulty is at the points.
– That may be true, but the points, if I may say so, are the main points in railway running. If a railway does not have an efficient points system, it will not be very efficient.
– We saw three different gauges in South Australia.
– I am reminded by Senator McCallum, who was present when we made our trip to Port Pirie, that we saw three different gauges in one railway yard. There is the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge of the South Australian railways, the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge of the Commonwealth railways, and also the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge which the South Australian railways use to bring ore from Broken Hill. Our committee made a strong recommendation that the line to Broken Hill should be standardized, but the South Australian Railways Commissioner has reported that he sees all sorts of difficulties in the proposal. I am not sufficiently well versed in railway matters to contest his statement. However, I do feel that Australia is at a great disadvantage because of its varying rail gauges. If the problem could be solved by the Commonwealth Government taking over all the railways, I would be in favour of that.
– That would be unification.
– Unification of railway gauges would be a very good thing. If it will bring about an efficient transport system, I believe in the principle.
– What about the Mount Isa railway?
– The rehabilitation of the Mount Isa line is necessary. We know something about the potential of the line from Townsville to Mount Isa. It runs through an enormous tract of fertile country, and near the Mount Isa end of the line is to be found the richest mineral country in the world. The present line is totally inadequate to handle the traffic that could be developed if the Mount Isa district were to be developed to its fullest extent. Unfortunately, owing to a drop in metal prices, there has been some curtailment of the developmental plans for Mount Isa. The urgency now, perhaps, is not so great as it was, but we must remember that this railway serves a vital area of Queensland. The committee of which I was a member has made a special investigation of this line, and in due course will present its report to the Government.
I was very glad that the Government has decided to do something about the development of the north-west of Western Australia. I do not wish to discuss Western Australia at length, as I do not know very much about it, but let me say that when I made a trip through this area I was impressed by its potentialities. The Government has made £2,500,000 available to the Western Australian Government for the development, in one way or another, of this important part of the State. It is an isolated area, but it has great potentialities. The Commonwealth Government is not unaware of the difficulties associated with the development of the area, and has been extremely generous in making the sum 1 have mentioned available to be used by the “Western Australian Government in the way it determines. 1 understand that a good deal of the money will be spent in providing harbour facilities at Derby. Money can be spent to great advantage on that port.
I have seen something of the work that has gone on over the years in oil drilling, in the pastoral industry and in the development of rice-fields in the north-west of Western Australia, and I know that this money will be well spent on the development of that area of this great State. To pass through as I did does not qualify one to express an authoritative opinion on these matters, but I think that the Western Australians who are members of the Parliament will appreciate that the Government is doing what it can to develop that isolated and vulnerable, but important, part of Western Australia.
I have enjoyed listening to those honorable senators who have already spoken during this debate. The fact that the Government has implemented a realistic programme of development, to the maintenance of which it has pledged itself, speaks well for it. I have no doubt that in due course the people of Australia will acknowledge that fact.
– In rendering my contribution to this debate, let me say immediately that I subscribe wholeheartedly to the expressions of welcome that were extended to Her Gracious Majesty the Queen Mother. We appreciated her coming amongst us and mingling with us and the community. Her presence created an enthusiastic display of public interest and practical demonstrations of sincerity and loyalty by all sections of the people; so much so that I should say that no section of the community had a monopoly of personal tribute to and recognition of the monarchic symbol of those institutions, customs and qualities that are inherent in our democratic way of life.
If I were asked, on the other hand, to offer some criticism of Her Majesty’s visit, I should immediately say that her programme was much too strenuous and hectic. In the short period that she was amongst us and visited all the capital cities of the Commonwealth, she was called upon to make an almost superhuman effort in attending the multitudinous engagements that were expected of her. Moreover, she was expected to put up with the most rigorous climatic conditions. 1 do not know who were the planners of her tour, but 1 sincerely suggest that, if Princess Margaret visits Australia next year - we all sincerely hope she does - the planners will consider a much more leisurely tour and at a more appropriate season.
I have perused the Speech that was delivered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, Field-Marshal Sir William Slim, on the occasion of the opening of this, the third session of the twenty-second Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, on 25th February, and I have divided it into three sections. His Excellency, in his introductory remarks, directed the attention of all honorable senators to the fact that they had been called together to deal with matters of national moment. My interpretation of those words is that all honorable senators were called together to perform important duties in the execution of the matters to which His Excellency referred in his Speech. The first of the three sections into which I have divided his speech is that which deals with the visit to Australia of the Right Honorable Harold Macmillan. and its implications. The second matter which is of paramount importance is the reference to world economic trends and the decline of export prices. The third section is the reference to the menace of unemployment.
His Excellency stated that receipts from export prices were lower but that the decline had coincided with unfavorable seasonal conditions over a large part of our countryside. We all regret the unfortunate circumstances that prevailed throughout Australia during the recent drought. Doubtless one result was reduced production; but, to my way of thinking, that was not the paramount factor in the decline of prices for our export commodities. If we were realistic in our approach to the question and were to look for the real reason for the decline of export prices, we should ascertain that the world’s markets have been oversupplied. All countries have rehabilitated their internal economies, are increasing their primary production and are developing their secondary industry techniques. It is for those reasons that the world’s markets have been flooded, with a consequent reduction of prices.
As I see it, that state of affairs calls for action in two directions. With the development of automation and the streamlining of methods of production within the next decade, we shall be confronted with the need to look elsewhere for markets. Those markets will be found only within our own shores and in undeveloped countries. Our economy must be adjusted to meet the superabundance of production that will result from the development of automation, not only by the democratic countries, but also by all other countries that streamline their methods of production.
Let me outline to the Senate some of the things that I observed in relation to the primary industries of England during my recent trip abroad. While there, I investigated the sale of Australian commodities on the English market, with particular regard to such matters as publicity displays, prices and transport facilities. I say advisedly that I was astounded by the lack of public knowledge of Australia and Australian goods. On several occasions, English people of average intelligence voiced the idea that Australia was inhabited by black people. I suggest that there is something wrong when such an idea can be held.
– Was the suggestion made in a jocular spirit, or did those who made it mean it?
– I shall answer that question by saying that the people concerned were very sincere in their inquiries about Australian conditions. The fact that such people have the idea that Australia is inhabited by black people indicates the lack of knowledge of Australian conditions.
I searched in vain for public advertising of Australian goods. On the buses, in the tube railways, in the newspapers and in television broadcasts, the only advertising of Australian goods that I could find was that done by a socialist concern, the great co-operative movement throughout England. 1 think that the primary producers of Australia should be grateful to this socialistic organization for purchasing Australian products so extensively. No matter where 1 went, whether to the south of England, the Midlands or Scotland, I saw signs, about 2 feet long and 8 inches wide,, saying, “ We sell Australian sun-raised: goods “. On the other hand, the volume of advertising for New Zealand goods must be seen to be appreciated. Wherever I went I saw advertisements for the sale of New Zealand butter and cheese, and in butchers’ shops throughout Great Britain may be seen the sign - “We sell New Zealand lamb “. Naturally, the British housewife asks for New Zealand products. In fact, the butcher may even help her to choose them by asking, “Do you want New Zealand lamb to-day, Madam? “ The psychology of this advertising has brought beneficial results to the primary producers of New Zealand.
The small Dominion of New Zealand sends to Great Britain three and a half times as much butter as Australia sends. The proportion is even greater in relation to cheese. Is it any wonder that that is> so, when the New Zealand publicity is so streamlined and so widespread? I say to the Government: Here is a field to exploit. I make no criticism of the Government in this respect, because I have no doubt that it has its agencies operating in the United Kingdom to promote the sale of Australian commodities, but my personal investigation - and I was most critical and analytical in seeking evidence of Australian publicity - disappointed me terribly because of the paucity of advertisements for Australian commodities.
In the course of my investigation, I noted comparable prices, and in this respect I have a suggestion for the Australian Meat Board. I have not made a comparison of the volume of meat exports of Australia and New Zealand, but in the light of the evidence I gained concerning other commodities, and having regard to the intense advertising conducted by the New Zealand trade officials, I have no doubt that exports of meat by New Zealand are far ahead of those of Australia. I found that all meat prices in the United Kingdom were higher than they are here, so there is no bar to competition in this respect. I investigated refrigeration processes and ascertained from refrigeration experts that meat will travel quite satisfactorily from Australia to the United Kingdom and thus could compete on the United Kingdom market with meat from other countries. It is not a question of under-selling, because the meat prices in England are higher. Therefore, there is a meat market in the United Kingdom for us to exploit, and there is something radically wrong if we cannot do so to the benefit of Australian graziers.
The prices of New Zealand eggs, milk, cream and wine sold in the United Kingdom were comparable with those of the Australian products. I do not know how New Zealand has fared with its exports of these commodities, but, here again, I suggest that there is room for active competition and for stepping up the sales of Australian commodities. There are wonderful opportunities for Australian fruit-growers on the United Kingdom market. I am a great lover of fresh fruit, but during the four months that I was in the British Isles I did not see one Australian orange. Surely there would be no more difficulty in refrigerating an orange than there would be in refrigerating an apple. It seems to me that an opportunity also exists to promote the sale of Australian grapes in the United Kingdom. I do not know how the grapes could be presented for sale. Perhaps refrigeration could be used, or we might even can them. I was amazed by the variety of canned berry fruits available for sale on the English market. It was possible to buy, in cans, berry fruits that Australian canners would not think of canning. Of course, Great Britain, with a population of approximately 50,000,000 people, offers a tremendous market for such commodities. We all know, too, that the prices of dried fruits, cheese and butter are far below those charged for similar products on the Australian market, and in these fields again our products in England are confronted with fierce competition from the neighbouring European countries. On seeing the situation over there, 1 felt that this Government had an opportunity to give some consideration to Australian consumers. Australia is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and a loyal dominion of Great Britain, and for that reason alone, if for no other, I believe that the United Kingdom Government should give Australia’s products some preference. When we realize that 25 per cent, of Great Britain’s national income is expended in meeting the daily food requirements of the people and in purchasing raw materials for her manufacturing industries we cannot help but feel that Great Britain should exercise some preference in favour of her dominions.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the balance of trade position. It is heavily loaded in Great Britain’s favour. Latest statistics disclose that last year we purchased £100,000,000 worth of goods more than Great Britain took from us. This is a serious position and I should like to put forward a suggestion I have advanced on previous occasions. It is that this Government should stockpile certain surplus goods, especially now being sold on the United Kingdom market at low prices made possible by the fact that the Australian people pay higher prices for what is consumed on the home market. The Australian workers cannot understand why they should be required to pay high home consumption prices in order that the people of Great Britain may be enabled to buy our surplus products at a much cheaper rate. For instance, they cannot understand why Australian butter should be sold on the United Kingdom market for 2s. per lb. - it is actually 2s. 6d. when exchange is taken into consideration - while they are required to pay 4s. 6d. per lb. for a similar product on the Australian market. Instead of this unenviable state of affairs, I suggest that the Australian Government should stockpile such products as butter, cheese and dried fruits and distribute the surplus to pensioners and others in need. I know that the Government will say immediately that this could be subject to exploitation, but I point but that exploitation could be avoided if a dietitian prescribed a pensioner’s requirements of these foods each week, and vouchers for the purchase of the prescribed quantities were issued with pension payments.
Food thus stockpiled could also be distributed to the public, and here again exploitation could be avoided. The food could be made available to the general public at the low price only on condition that the purchaser also bought one of the particular commodities at the present higher Australian price. I realize that such a scheme would involve a re-arrangement of distribution, but I am also confident that if it were given a trial it would not only give the pensioners the benefit of an extra few shillings each week but it would also step up the food consumption rate in Australia. After all, the quantity of Australian goods consumed in the United Kingdom averages only about one ounce per person and I am certain that by the adoption of my suggestion that amount could be consumed by the Australian people.
– Are you suggesting that we should not export any butter at all?
– We should not export it unless there is a comparable market overseas for it. We are losing now, anyway, and we have nothing to lose by putting the surplus on the Australian market under the conditions I have suggested. When speaking in the debates on the last two Budgets, I have mentioned the decline in Australia’s food consumption, and this must eventually have an adverse effect on the health of the community. What I have suggested would solve our problem. I am confident that if it were given a trial satisfactory results would flow from it.
I should like now to refer to my mission overseas when I was proud and honoured, last September, under the worthy leadership of Senator Wordsworth, to be one of those who represented Australia at the InterParliamentary Union Conference in London. I have prepared a precis covering every phase of my trip but as I do not wish to introduce irrelevant matter, I shall refer only to those matters relating to the InterParliamentary Union Conference.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union was established in 1889 in Paris, and was attended by 49 delegates representing Great Britain, Fiance, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Liberia and the United States of America. To-day the union consists of over 50 world parliaments, with delegates representing thousands of their respective parliamentarians. The basic principles of the union are, “ The maintenance of parliamentary institutions, exercising real sovereign power for the democratic will of the people “, and the ideal embodied in Article 1 of the Statute of Inter-Parliamentary Union - “ The advancement of the work of international peace and co-operation, particularly by means of universal organization of nations “.
The conference usually meets annually, and is conducted in one of the affiliated countries. Deliberations cover such controversial subjects as social welfare, and national and economic matters. I was informed that the 1957 conference was ney exception, and I did observe the ardent manner in which all degelates made their special contributions. In particular, I noticed the overall feeling of- goodwill and the continually expressed desire to seek a way to world peace.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting wassuspended, I had started my brief account of impressions of the conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union which I recently attended in England. Before I resume, I think it is appropriate that I should say how pleased we are at the return to this chamber of my colleague, Senator Arnold, who has been seriously ill. We are glad tosee him here and trust that his recuperation will continue to be speedy and effective.
The 1957 conference of the InterParliamentary Union was no exception to its predecessors. I was interested to note the ardent manner in which all delegates made their contributions. I was impressed by the overall feeling of goodwill and the expressed desire to seek a way to world peace. I joined with my colleagues in supporting the union’s objectives. After attending that vast assemblage of men and women of all nationalities, classes and colour, I was convinced that all of them wanted to live in peace and security, and to enjoy freedom from fear and want. All had a passionate desire to harness all nuclear power for the benefit of mankind everywhere.
The union is a power for good, and I believe that ultimately it must accomplish its ideals. It was an education to attend the conference and I hope that the union will continue its meetings and its crusade to bring hope and better conditions to mankind instead of war and destruction.
On numerous occasions I visited Parliament House in Westminster and I shall never forget the first time that I entered the sacred precincts of the Mother of Parliaments. A thrill pervaded me when I pondered on all that this Mother of Parliaments represented, lt was the basis of democracy, and we have done well to follow its pattern. Portion of Parliament House was destroyed during World War II., but the Mother of Parliaments has lived on to maintain the traditions that have been handed down to the British people since the first charter of their rights was signed at Runnymede in 1215.
The freedoms of speech and association are exercised through the Mother of Parliaments and those freedoms are publicly demonstrated within the shadow of the Marble Arch. There, on the pavements adjacent to Hyde Park, many people gather every day to listen to the orations of speakers who present every philosophy and ideology under the sun. The police mingle quietly with this concourse and the speakers are free to criticize our way of life and express their opinions so long as they are not seditious or treasonable. The speakers are both white and coloured, and those meetings demonstrate perfectly the exercise of freedom of speech.
The people of the United Kingdom are more politically minded than are we Australians. They value the parliamentary system more ardently than we do. In the parliamentary system of government as it is exercised in the United Kingdom, we see the genesis of the high ideals of the InterParliamentary Union which are designed for the maintenance of our parliamentary institutions and the exercise of sovereign rights through the democratic will of the people.
I was deeply impressed by the ceremony that is performed regularly in the precincts of Parliament House when the Speaker proceeds from his chamber to the House of Commons to open the proceedings of the Parliament. This grand spectacle is watched each day by members of the public who line the corridors and halls. The procession is led by the Clerk of the House bearing the Mace and followed by other officers who accompany the Speaker. A minister of religion, who also accompanies the Speaker, conducts prayers at the opening of the parliamentary proceedings.
One day when I was watching the procession, I heard the cry down the corridors, “ Take off your hats! Take off your hats! “ The stately procession had almost reached me when a policeman leaned across and told a spectator to remove his hat. The spectator was an Indian wearing a turban, and he was quite confused and embarrassed. I do not know whether he was permitted by the laws of his race or religions to re move his headwear. His embarrassment subsided when the procession passed on, and the turban was not disturbed.
Several years ago, Senator Brown gave the Senate an interesting dissertation on his return from a visit to his native land. He spoke of the revolutionary reforms that had taken place since he left England as a youth. He said that all these reforms were the outcome of an evolutionary process in the parliamentary system. I found that many of the social and economic reforms that have taken place in Great Britain since World War II. were introduced by the first Labour government that ever occupied the treasury bench in the House of Commons. That was the Attlee Socialist Labour Government. Labour brought about many reforms in Great Britain. Its principal reform was the institution of the policy of full employment. It also nationalized industries, including the transport industry. Having had the benefit of seeing the British transport system in operation, I think that the nationalization of the transport services was beneficial. One must see the efficient and expeditious manner in which the vast travelling public of Great Britain is transported to realize the superb administrative machinery that exists under nationalization. During the peak hour between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on week days, trains pick up and set down passengers at the tube stations at an average rate of one train a minute in both directions. Steam trains travelling at a mile a minute go right into the heart of London, and they carry enormous numbers of people daily.
A Labour government in Great Britain nationalized the steel industry of that country, but a subsequent Tory administration restored it to private enterprise. Labour also introduced reforms in relation to health services and child welfare. A system was introduced under which all school children in Great Britain were provided with a hot meal daily. As Senator Brown has pointed out, some of the reforms instituted by Labour were revolutionary. I am pleased to say that subsequent Tory governments led by Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, and the present Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Macmillan. have adopted the reforms instituted by Labour, to the overall benefit of the British community.
After the conclusion of the conference that I attended, I had an opportunity to engage in sightseeing, and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting many historical places and buildings. The magnificent scenery that abounds in England, combined with evidence of centuries of tradition at almost every turn reminds the traveller of our great and glorious heritage richly steeped, as it is, in priceless achievements. The wondrous national shrines commemorate the achievements of the British people down the centuries in their advance towards the attainment of freedom by our parliamentary institutions, freedom which is inherent in the rule of law and in our democratic way of life.
T am firmly of the opinion that many more politicians, Labour officials, other public persons and business men should visit Great Britain in order to obtain experience at first hand of the economic and social life of that country and so engender closer trading and industrial relations. Such visits would pave the way for co-operation in attaining a fuller understanding of developments within the British Commonwealth of Nations and enable related problems to be resolved to our mutual advantage.
His Excellency referred to the menace of unemployment, and charged this Parliament to exercise care in its deliberations, for the true welfare of the people of Australia. Several supporters of the Government have carpingly criticized honorable senators on this side who have reminded them of the Government’s obligation to discharge its mandate. The Government is charged with the responsibility of maintaining, not partial employment, but full employment. When Labour was in office it evolved a formula to cope with any deterioration in the economy. All that it is necessary for the present Government to do in order to maintain full employment is to adhere to the formula. I remind the Senate that Australia was a signatory to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which imposes a duty to maintain full employment. We must stand religiously behind that declaration. I speak with a full knowledge of the devastating effects of unemployment. During the depression of the ‘thirties I was the secretary of the Bakers Union of South Australia. During that period, about one-third of the members of that union - excellent tradesmen - were unemployed; they could not obtain a day’s work, or even an hour’s work, because jobs were not available.
– Was a Labour government in office at the time?
– At various times, Labour and non-Labour governments were in office. There is no excuse for the present unemployment situation. The resources of the Commonwealth Bank could be used to prevent unemployment in the community to a large extent, and to cushion its effects.
– Was a state of full employment ever achieved under a Labour government?
– Yes. A Labour government introduced full employment for the first time in this country. When the Curtin Labour Government came to office in 1941, there were 200,000 people out of work. Honorable senators opposite may check the veracity of this assertion by referring to the official records, and those who follow me in this debate will have an opportunity to deal with the matter. John Curtin harnessed all of the resources of the country to provide employment, and a condition of full employment prevailed for the remainder of Labour’s term of office-
– What about Labour’s attitude towards unemployment of 5 per cent, of the community in 1949?
– The honorable senator refers to a situation caused by strikes; it was not permanent in nature. The circumstances then operating were entirely different from the circumstances that obtain to-day. Supporters of the Government have prated about industry enjoying a peaceful period. The present Government has disturbed that state of affairs and now, figuratively speaking, unemployment is raising its monstrous head to disturb our community life.
My answer to those supporters of the Government who have carpingly criticized the Opposition for ventilating grievances is that we are exhorting the Government to do something to relieve unemployment in the community. The Government has a mandate - a human mandate given by the people of Australia - to exercise in the interests of the true welfare of the people. My answer to carping senators opposite is that the Opposition has a right to ventilate the grievances of the people- In that respect, we are in good company. We hear Government supporters making similar protests and asking that something practical be done to remedy the situation. For once - a very unusual circumstance - Labour has the press on its side. Government supporters claim that fear, engendered by continual protests about unemployment, is causing the present situation. Our answer is that the fear is being engendered by a slackness in the economic machinery caused by shortage of finance and spending power. The Government, to its credit, has attempted to do something practical to remedy the trouble. The States have been granted by the Australian Loan Council permission to borrow greater sums - specifically for building purposes - and also the right to raise a still further loan in specific terms - though I doubt that it will be fully subscribed. Also, last week the Government announced that £15,000,000 was to be released from the special accounts of the Commonwealth Bank.
One or two honorable senators on the other side of the House were to be heard prating of the Government’s courage. One might have expected the Government to yield to the representations, not of the Australian Labour party, but of its own supporters, and further encourage the building industry. That would have been most logical and practical. The Government would have been killing two birds with the one stone. It would have been helping to provide homes to meet the ever increasing demand, not only from Australians newly married, but from families newly arrived in this country. Instead of acting courageously, the Government was content to say that the normal practices of the private banks would be followed. Even the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ said -
The Central Bank’s release last Friday of £13,000,000 from “special account” to the private trading banks was not designed specifically to boost housing loans, Federal officials said today.
The purpose of the release was to maintain the general liquidity of the trading banks’ funds for all purposes, officials said.
Instead of the Government giving a positive direction to the private banks to use this additional finance in a specific way, it permitted the private banks to follow their normal practice, and thus defeated the whole purpose of its action - the relief of unemployment.
The Government has not given practical attention to the welfare of the Australian people. This Parliament is charged with the responsibility of deliberating upon matters of great national moment. Those matters should be dealt with in such a way as to ensure the welfare of the Australian people. Only when that happens will the sovereign power of Parliament have been exercised for, and by, the democratic will of the people of Australia.
.- 1 should like to say how very much 1 appreciated the interesting and informative addresses of the mover of the motion for the Address-in-Reply, my colleague from Queensland Senator Kendall, and of the seconder, Senator Pearson of South Australia. I have noted with interest and very sincere appreciation the advancement of the Minister for Shipping and Transport an-.l Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) to higher Cabinet rank following the vacancy created by the appointment of Mr. Howard Beale as Australian Ambassador in Washington. Senator Paltridge has risen rapidly since he entered the Senate a few short years ago. From my observations, his success has been based on industry, ability and good sense. I think that we all appreciate his fitness for higher office and also the great courtesy which he accords all members of this Senate. I offer him hearty congratulations and hope that his promotion is only a precursor of further successes in the days to come.
The Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, Field-Marshal Sir William Slim, in this chamber, in opening this session of the Parliament, coincided with the visit to Canberra of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Her visit here brought back many happy memories of the Royal visit in 1927 when she stood beside her husband, then the Duke of York, at the inauguration of the Federal Parliament in Canberra. No one then thought - 1 suppose least of all Her Majesty - that she was destined to becomeQueen of England. Her progress throughout the various States during her recent tour has been marked by triumphal, scenes and widespread demonstrations of love, affection and loyalty on the part of the Australian people. Her winning smile and great charm have captured all hearts. It was a great joy to us all in this Parliament to have the privilege of being presented to Her Majesty, and to come under the influence of her bright and cheerful personality. 1 am sure that every one joins in wishing Her Majesty good health, great happiness and all God’s manifold blessings.
My reference to the Queen Mother’s visit reminds me that the Department of Territories arranged for the visit to Canberra, in order to meet Her Majesty, of five children from Hall’s Creek in the far northwest of Australia. Among their number was a pleasant, intelligent and well-behaved little aboriginal girl named Ruth Daylight. When I was travelling to Darwin with the Public Works Committee two or three weeks ago these children were on the same plane, and 1 had every opportunity to observe them. It seemed to me a pity that this little girl, who has been so well educated, should be burdened with the name Daylight. These young aboriginal children who are being educated at State and mission schools should be given their correct tribal names. The authorities should not accept the nicknames which are sometimes conferred upon these children. I am sure that it gives the children an inferiority complex, and that they are made fun of by white children because they possess odd names. On inland station properties in north-western New South Wales and western Queensland, almost since white settlement commenced, it has been the custom of white station hands to confer weird and jocular names upon aborigines working on the properties. In the district where I have lived over the years aboriginal stockmen rejoiced in rather striking names. A few that I recall are Jackie Midnight, Billy Moonlight, Jimmy Flourbag, Tommy Tumbledown and Terry Tarbrush. One old Irish grazier had an aboriginal stockman whom he called Paddy O’Possum. Then there were a couple of lubras with the names of Susie Sugarpop and Mary Snowdrop. Those names, of course, were accepted in good spirit by the aborigines, but the old order has changed. Therefore, I think the aboriginal boys and girls attending school to-day - it is the policy of the department in the Northern Territory to absorb them, if possible, into the white blood stream - should be designated by their correct tribal surnames, as is done with the natives of New Guinea.
The very fine aboriginal actor in the movie picture “ Jedda “ had the name of Robert Tudawali, which, I assume, is his correct tribal name. 1 think he would have lacked the glamour of his part in the picture if he had been introduced to the Australian public, or, indeed, to the world public, as Robert Flourbag. I therefore suggest to the Minister for Territories that native boys and girls, when they enter school should be given their correct tribal names.
In Queensland an effort is being made to revive the cotton industry. In pre-war days a lot of cotton was grown in Queensland, but during the war planting fell away. When planting was resumed after the war, high costs made it very difficult for growers to make a profit. I have heard recently from representatives of the cotton-growing industry in Queensland that talks have taken place between the cotton industry leaders and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) with the object of securing a new cotton agreement to replace the existing one, which expires on 31st December of this year. The cotton industry leaders in Queensland would be satisfied with a new agreement spread over five years, ensuring the existing bounty rates of 14d. per pound for seed cotton and an incentive allocation as between first and second quality cotton to bc left to the discretion of the members of the Queensland Cotton Board. The members of the Queensland Cotton Board are capable of making an adjustment that would be fairer and more satisfying to the growers than if the adjustment were left to any governmental authority. They are capable of providing an incentive to encourage the growing of first-grade cotton.
The Queensland Cotton Board and the growers are most grateful to the Commonwealth Government and the Minister for Primary Industry for the encouragement and the financial assistance which has been given, and they look forward to a satisfactory outcome of the present talks on the subject of the renewal of the agreement. I do not wish to say any more at this stage, because I think the matter is being sympathetically handled by the Minister for Primary Industry. 1 should like to raise a matter which was discussed in a recent issue of the Brisbane “ Sunday Mail “ in a very interesting article by Mr. Harold Cox, one of our very capable senior parliamentary journalists’ in Canberra. The article referred to a recent population survey undertaken by the Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Carver. The survey showed that for the year ended 30th September, 1957, Queensland received only 2,113 of the 78,500 immigrants who arrived in Australia during that period. I want to emphasize that. According to this survey, Queensland received only 2,113 of the 78,500 immigrants who arrived in Australia during the year ended on 30th September, 1957.
– We get them all in Victoria.
– Compared with the 2,113 immigrants credited to Queensland, Victoria is shown as having received 31,000, New South Wales 23,000, and South Australia 14,000. For good measure, the Australian Capital Territory was credited with the absorption of more immigrants over the same period of time than Queensland.
– There is something sinister in that.
– I do not think that. I think the method of calculation is at fault. I am reasonably certain that more than 2,113 immigrants were added to the Queensland population during the year ended on 30th September, 1957. I am sure that the Queensland Premier, Mr. Nicklin, will be concerned as to the accuracy of those figures. As .the survey stands, it is plain that State finances can be adversely affected if Queensland’s population is being understated from year to year by the Commonwealth Statistician. T wish to make it clear that I do not think that is being done intentionally, but that a mistake has been made because of the method of making the calculation. If the Queensland population were understated, there would be a proportionate decrease of the taxation reimbursements to Queensland and a proportionate increase of the taxation reimbursements to Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.
Mr. Cox believes that a strong case exists for another census, as widespread population changes have occurred throughout Australia. He claims that the basis upon which the Commonwealth Statistician works is out of perspective. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) might be able to throw some light on this subject. It would be of interest to know from what source the Commonwealth Statistician draws his figures. Some effort should be made by the Commonwealth and the State Governments to ascertain the facts. If it could be established that Queensland is not getting credit by way of tax reimbursements to cover its total immigrant population, that wrong basis ought to be put right.
I desire to draw attention this evening to the strange attitude of the Russians. A telegram from Moscow published in yesterday’s Australian newspapers states -
Russia warned Pacific countries not to allow themselves to be linked with Western aggressive plans.
Asian members of Seato were warned that distance from other theatres of war would not save them. How do we reconcile all this donner und blitzen - all these warlike threats - with the constantly expressed Russian desire for peace? For weeks now the Russians have been calling out loudly all over the earth for a summit conference. Many people believe that the Russians are not looking for a peaceful solution to world problems, but want merely to create the impression amongst the peoples of all nations that they are the apostles of peace and that all those outside the Communist countries are warmongers.
In my experience of life, peaceful people go about their daily tasks without shouting threats at their neighbours. If the Russians wanted a peaceful outcome to a summit conference, surely they would refrain from attacks and threats against all and sundry at this time when they are most loudly demanding a summit conference. Surely they would not be making those attacks and threats against all and sundry in an area in which Russia has no sphere of influence and where peace reigns, that is, in the Pacific area, except for the present civil commotion in Indonesia. Of course, the Indonesian Government has set itself against any foreign interference, and that goes for Russia as well as any other country. In my judgment, the Russian statement is designed to create mischief and to stir up trouble at a time when, paradoxically enough, she is trying to convince the world of the need for a summit conference to establish peace throughout the world. Is it any wonder that millions of people all over the world gravely doubt Russia’s bona fides?
I hold with the American viewpoint as expressed by the Vice-President of America, Mr. Richard Nixon, when he said that past history showed that the road to war was paved with conferences that had failed. A summit conference means a lot of propaganda and a lot of trumpet blowing. High expectations are raised. If the conference were to fail - in the present circumstances, I feel that it would - tension would increase rather than decline amongst the frustrated and disappointed people of the world.
– What is the honorable senator’s solution?
– If the Russians are sincere in their desire for peace, let them try a little of the milk of human kindness by joining with the free world in promotion of world welfare and betterment. If the Russians ceased bellowing their warlike threats, attacks and snarls for a whole year and snowed a friendly face to the rest of the world, I could have more confidence in a summit conference that emerged from -such an atmosphere.
Over the last few months, there has been a rather bad down-turn in our economy because of widespread drought which has reduced production in important primary industries. Prices of wool, butter and cheese in particular on the overseas markets have seriously declined. To make things worse, there has been a severe fall in the value of our base metals, particularly lead and copper. There has also been a partial failure of the wheat crop throughout Australia, and some States that formerly grew wheat for export are now in the unhappy position of having to import wheat from overseas and other States that have had better harvests. Of course, all that has its effect.
When people complain about unemployment, they should look for the basic cause. It must be evident to honorable senators opposite who say there is much unemployment that the causes of it lie in the facts I have mentioned. Obviously, if a farmer’s -wheat crop fails he is unable to employ men on machines such as reaper-threshers, and bag sewers and hauliers are affected. Railwaymen lose employment because a smaller quantity of wheat is transported. That condition spreads throughout the whole industry.
Not only have we suffered the frustration of lower incomes because of lower world prices, but also the sugar industry in the Bundaberg and Maryborough districts of southern Queensland has suffered from the effects of drought, with a resultant early termination of the crushing season and unemployment. They are the basic causes of the unemployment. Men are not thrown out of employment by any act of a government. Rather is it because the industries upon which they depend for their livelihood have suffered in some way, or because of lower prices for their products on the world’s markets. However, I am pleased to say that in the sugar areas of northern Queensland conditions were much better than in the south and that this year the industry will contribute about £35,000,000 in export income to the Australian economy.
The industry, under the guidance of its very able executive management, is geared to meet Australia’s full requirements and to enlarge the immense opportunity that has been opened up in overseas markets by the International Sugar Agreement. The sugar industry provides the one bright spot on the export horizon for primary production for 1957.
– In Queensland?
– In Queensland, yes, and to a lesser extent in the northern part of New South Wales. I should like to offer a few comments on the subject of wool values. I note that Mr. Mooloman, a leader of the South African wool industry, is again raising the question of a minimum price for wool at the auctions. Some years ago, but since the coming to office of the Menzies-Fadden Government, this question was put to a vote of Australian woolgrowers, but I regret to say that they voted for a continuation of the existing system of wool auctions.
Values have reached a very low ebb indeed within the last few months, and I feel that it is high time something was done to meet the situation. The price of wool is now averaging only about 60d. per lb., but in most parts of the Commonwealth the industry cannot be conducted profitably at such a low price. Several thousand bales of wool were withdrawn from sale by owners at the Sydney wool auctions last week.
– How many?
– I said several thousand, but I think the exact quantity was between 13,000 and 14,000 bales. The owners withdrew that wool from sale because to sell it at existing values would leave them on the wrong side of the ledger.
– That is what the workers say - that they cannot live on their wage.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Order!
– It is my view that a minimum price equal to at least the cost of production of wool should be imposed.
– You always say that when the price is low; you never say it when the price is high.
– We have had high prices, admittedly.
– It is the old story.
– But we are not obliged to sell our wool at below the cost of production.
– And the workers should not be obliged to work for a wage that they cannot live on. Always remember that.
– The worker benefits when wool is bringing its proper price.
– Say we insist on a minimum price for producers. What would there be to prevent buyers agreeing to impose a lower maximum at any .time?
– It is open for them to do that, but I do not think it would work out that way. We impose a minimum price to cover the cost of production.
– A floor price.
– We impose a floor price, as Senator Scott has said. The auction proceeds from that base. Then the buyers can decide what they will pay in excess of the cost of production to which, as I said, the wool-grower is entitled.
– It is all right for the wool-grower, but no good for the worker.
– Of course it is good for the worker.
– Is it?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order!
– The important point that I want to make is that all the statistics prepared by wool-brokers which have come under my notice from time to time have indicated that the world requires all the wool that is produced, not only in Australia, South Africa, the Argentine and New Zealand, but in all countries. There is no such thing to-day as a bank-up of surplus wool. Every bale of wool that is produced is being consumed throughout the world from year to year. Wool is being purchased by representatives of countries whose currencies are strong enough to pay much higher prices than those that are now ruling.
The wool-buying countries, generally speaking, are forcing deflation on Australia because wool is the sheet anchor; indeed, it is the mainstay of the whole of the Australian economy. I do not say for one moment that the wool-buyers from the various countries who come here are forcing deflation on us with deliberate intent. Not at all. They are keen traders; they want to force conditions in which they can obtain our product at the lowest possible price, but the effect is the same. The Australian economy is being progressively deflated because of the eagerness of buyers, by means of lot-splitting and other methods, to gain our richest product at cheap prices.
– How does the honorable senator explain the low prices, if there is a demand for all the wool that is produced?
– Of course, all kinds of arguments can be adduced, but there is no argument that can stand against the plain, honest fact that every bale of wool that is produced is going into use. If there were a bank-up of wool, or a surplus of wool, and wool-buying countries had grown poor and could not afford to pay the prices asked, I should say, “ Let well enough alone “. But as it is, I say that the wool-buying countries, in my opinion, can pay a higher price than they are paying for the wool. In addition, there is the fact that all the wool is being used.
All the wool is going into consumption. That is the strength of the point 1 am making.
So I say that it is unfortunate that the present unpayable price’s for wool should coincide with a period when, for the last eight or nine months, wool-growers in most parts of Australia have lost hundreds of thousands of sheep through drought and have been forced into heavy debt to pay for fodder in an effort to save their sheep. It will take a number of years for many of the graziers to recover from their experiences in the recent season. The fact that the wool industry has been so heavily hit will force them back into the old debt system from which many have been struggling, for the last ten or fifteen years, to recover.
The quantity of wool which goes into manufactured fabrics of all kinds is infinitesimal, and I am satisfied that all wool-buying interests could pay much more than they are paying for our raw wool and still show a high profit. As the wool-buying countries push the value of wool down, the Minister for Trade in Australia in turn is obliged to raise the level of the import bans on merchandise from other countries. He is obliged to do so because we lack sufficient overseas funds. In other words, he is obliged to prevent merchandise from coming into the country because of the likelihood that we will not have sufficient overseas funds to pay for such merchandise. In this way trade, both import and export, is stifled. Shipping begins to dwindle from port to port and the world poverty competition begins. Some people say that the wool-grower must reduce costs, but I invite anybody to show how costs in the pastoral industry to-day, apart from wages paid to pastoral employees, could be reduced. Furthermore, I am dead against any attempt to reduce costs by forcing pastoral employees and bush workers, who work hard, to bear the burden. When the grazier has to buy a motor truck he must pay the price that the manufacturer asks. When the grazier goes along to buy a motor car he cannot bargain or haggle; he has to pay the £2,000 that is asked for the vehicle. In respect of railway freights, haulage rates, fencing wire, barbed wire, wire netting, engines, windmills and so on - all of them things which are essential to the man on the land - he cannot fix his own price. He cannot say to the manufacturer, “ Your price is too high. I am going to force down the level of values for your products.” He cannot do that. He has to pay the price demanded. But when he puts his wool on the market, although the world wants to buy it, he is expected to take what the wool-buyers like to offer him.
– The auction system is stupid.
– I do not say that it is stupid. I agree with the auction system in principle. It is a good system, but I am standing up for a continuance of the auction system with the basis of a floor price, being the price agreed upon in the wool trade as the cost of production.
There is urgent need at this time for talks between the representatives of the Commonwealth Government and wool-growing organizations on this critical matter of wool values, before Australia runs up against serious trouble with its London funds. I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
– in common with other honorable senators. I agree with the sentiments expressed in the opening words of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, in which we thank the Governor-General for having delivered the Speech in Parliament. The exact words used are -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
I do not know whether His Excellency actually was pleased to address the Speech to the Parliament. I think that perhaps that may be an assumption on the part of the Government. If His Excellency was pleased to deliver the address to the Parliament he was about the only person who was pleased with it, because in the Speech there is nothing to give heart or encouragement to anybody in Australia.
Of course, the most important matter at the present time is the growing unemployment, a question which the Government cannot evade. The position has been deteriorating since last year until to-day we have an army of 75,000 people unemployed.
– At least!
– At least. That is the number of registered unemployed. There are thousands of others who are not registered, so that the total unemployed force in this country to-day is not less than 100,000 people. Yet, on every occasion that honorable senators on this side of the chamber ask questions about the matter, the responsible Ministers tell us not to mention the subject and not to attempt to create panic. To-night the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is to deliver a speech in answer to the denunciation by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) of the Government’s attitude to the unemployment problem. The Prime Minister of Australia, the person to whom the people of this country look for a tangible lead, accuses the Labour party of exploiting the unemployed. According to an article published in the Melbourne “Age” on 18th September, 1957, the Prime Minister accused the Leader of the Opposition, and the Labour party, of exploiting unemployment for political purposes. He also challenged Dr. Evatt to define his attitude towards Western disarmament proposals. At that time, the Prime Minister was speaking on the Budget and the ironical thing about his speech was that he diverted attention from this most important and pressing problem in Australia by making the stupid statement that one guarantee for mass unemployment throughout Australia would be for Dr. Evatt to form a Labour government with all sober-minded Australians purged away to Mongolia or Siberia. Any person with any common sense or with any sense of decency must admit that this was a stupid statement by the Prime Minister of Australia, the person to whom the people look for some guidance and some indication of definite action calculated to remedy the position.
Now I come to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt). In an article published in the Melbourne “Sun” on 23rd January. 1958, he is reported as saying that the jobs slump need not cause alarm. Why, the position has deteriorated from the conclusion of the last parliamentary session in 1957 when the number registered as unemployed was about 58,000! To-day the unemployed number about 75,000, yet, as late as 23rd January, 1958, the Minister said that although the current unemployment in Australia did not permit of complacency it certainly gave no cause for alarm. He claimed that unemployment, even on the present Australian scale, would be envied by most countries.
I suggest that all reasonable people will agree that it is of no satisfaction or consolation for those who are unemployed to be told that they form only a small percentage of the total work force. That is a most callous and inhuman attitude for this Government to adopt.
We were told recently that in order to ease the unemployment position the Commonwealth Bank had released £15,000,000 of reserve funds to the private trading banks. The Prime Minister appealed to the private trading banks to divert that money to housing, which is an acute problem in every State. But the true position is that once that money is released to the private trading banks this Government has no control over what the banks do with it. My prophecy is that most of thai £15,000,000 will be channelled by the private banks into the more lucrative field of hire purchase where the maximum period of loan is generally for three years and where in the main the rates of interest range to as high as 20 per cent, and 25 per cent.
Why did not the Government release money direct from the Commonwealth Bank for housing? T could suggest many avenues in which unemployment could be eased and the people put back to work. We all know that throughout the whole of the Commonwealth the housing position is more acute to-day than it has been for many years. In 1957 there were fewer houses built than in any year since 1951-52, which was the year of the “ horror “ Budget.
In addition to housing, there are other urgent State and national projects that could be undertaken and by which the unemployed could be absorbed. I mention such things as water conservation, irrigation and the extension of electricity, but every time we refer to these projects the Government says they are State responsibilities. Even though they may be State responsibilities, it has to be remembered that the States depend upon the Commonwealth for funds. It should be realised also that with every reservoir constructed and with every acre of land that is irrigated w are creating revenue-producing national assets, all of which are essential to the national well-being of Australia. It is futile, it is simply evasion, for the Government to ny that such works are the sole responsiblity of the States, especially when we ?now that the States depend upon the Commonwealth for their funds.
Of the 45 paragraphs in the Speech delivered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, only one mentions unemployment. It says -
There has been some increase in unemployment, some part of which was undoubtedly attributable to the less favorable seasonal conditions. It still represents a relatively small proportion of our total work force;
On every occasion the Government endeavours to evade this very important question by reducing the unemployment figures to percentages. The paragraph in His Excellency’s Speech continues - nevertheless it is a development which my Government continues to keep under closest scrutiny.
For many months now we have heard it stated in reply to questions asked in the Senate that the Government is watching the position. I suggest that the members of the Government should be fitted with bifocal spectacles so that they may keep a better watch on the position with a view to doing something tangible to correct it before it gets out of hand. As I said earlier, it is of not the slightest use telling those who are unemployed that they form only a small percentage of the total work force. It is not much good telling a person who has lost his job to go home and say to his wife, “ Well, darling, I have lost my position, but, for goodness’ sake, do not mention it to anybody for if you do it will cause a panic and embarrass the Menzies-Fadden administration “.
Senator Hannaford said today that we on this side speak of only one or two matters. He mentioned unemployment and said that this Government’s unemployment figures are better than those of any other government in the history of Australia. I think he said that in answer to an interjection by Senator Scott, but, let me say for his benefit, that the only time we ever hari full employment in Australia was between 1941 and 1949 under a Labour government.
– Just give us the year when that happened.
– That was theperiod when a government formed by thehonorable senator’s party and led by the same leaders as to-day deserted Australia. I refer to the year 1941.
– What do you mean when you say they deserted Australia? They are still here and always have been here.
– They abdicated from the government of Australia. They could not carry on.
– Give us the date when we had 100 per cent, employment.
– We had 100 per cent, employment for almost the whole of that period. The only time when it was not 100 per cent, was in 1949 when there was temporary unemployment due to the coal strike of that year. That was the only time that there was any unemployment when a Labour government was in office. Senator Hannaford has spoken of this “ courageous Government “. I suggest that we turn our minds back to 1941 when the Menzies Government was in office. After two years of total war under the Menzies Government-
– That was not this Government.
– No, you called yourselves the United Australia party then. I believe the initials stood for unemployment and poverty. At all events, that is all we had under that government. At the end of two years of total war, there were almost 300,000 unemployed when the Curtin Labour Government took office in 1941. This Government is always talking about over-full employment. Its supporters never admit to sponsoring full employment. They say they believe in a high level of employment. What that means depends upon what they consider to be a high level of employment. As I have stated, the Minister for Labour and National Service was quoted in the Melbourne “ Age “ as having said that a job slump was no cause for alarm. According to the Melbourne “ Sun “, of 14th February -
Both the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) did not agree at the Loan Council meeting that there was any cause for alarm in the unemployment figures
They claimed that the slack could be taken up through monetary policy alone.
The Commonwealth view was that if some unemployed labour and additional materials were available for works, the slack could be taken up better by increasing loan raisings for semigovernment authorities, who could provide work immediately on the spot.
Sir Arthur Fadden specifically indicated that in favoring some loosening of the position for municipal councils, it was expected that pockets of unemployment would disappear.
Those statements directed attention to the fact that the States are dependent on the Australian Loan Council for finance to undertake essential projects. If sufficient money is not available through the private banking system, the Commonwealth Bank has to make the advances. These statements were contained in the editorial of the “ Canberra Times “ on 26th February last -
In the Governor-General’s Speech in opening Parliament yesterday, three of the 45 paragraphs referred to the economic situation in Australia, and one of these mentioned unemployment. This reference was a disconcerting understatement and the implication seemed to be that unemployment was not regarded anxiously by the Commonwealth Government. . . .
At least one thing that might have been imported into the Speech was some sympathy with those who are the victims of rising unemployment. . . .
It is neither sufficient to leave the solution of unemployment to others or to point to the failures of other agencies without doing something positive towards procuring or enforcing a remedy
There is only one credit policy in Australia, public or private, namely, that which is directed or influenced by the Commonwealth either in its own right or through its capacity to influence Central Bank Policy.
That is the only way to deal with the position that faces us to-day. It is very serious. According to the Melbourne “ Age “, there were 50,000 more persons seeking jobs than there were vacancies at the end of 1957. I remind honorable senators that the number of registered unemployed does not represent the total number of unemployed because thousands of persons who are out of work do not register for employment. It is useless to say that we are causing panic when we mention these facts. They cannot be ignored and they are the responsibility of the national Government.. It should do something to remedy the situation. The Melbourne “ Age “ of 19th September, 1957, stated in an attack on the
Commonwealth Government and the Prime Minister in particular -
If taxpayers expected that the Budget issues in dispute would be clarified in debate, they have been disappointed. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did not take matters very far - except for an eloquent but irrelevant vocal excursion to Siberia and Mongolia.
The position is serious and we must try to spur this Government on to do something tangible to correct the situation. Warnings have been given of a recession in (the United States of America. It is fashionable now not to use the old word “ depression “ but to try to soften the facts by referring to a “ recession “. The meaning of the two words is the same.
Immigration is tied irrevocably with the unemployment situation. The immigration programme as we know it now was inaugurated by a Labour government. The first Minister for Immigration in Australia was the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). Under his administration, large numbers of immigrants were brought to Australia, but a balanced immigration policy must be related to the prevailing economic position. It is not enough for somebody to think of a number and for the Minister for Immigration to double it and pronounce that that is the immigration target for the year. If we want to bring a certain number of immigrants to Australia, we must be sure that the conditions are suitable for their absorption. It is not good enough to turn them loose at the port of disembarkation. Closer attention should be paid also to the screening of immigrants. In the past few years, vicious crimes have been committed by immigrants.
At the recent Citizenship Convention in Canberra, references were made to many sinister influences that have been at work in connexion with immigration. Those influences were at work in London for a long time in the selection of certain types of immigrants. They were put into operation by threats and promises, not from the top but from the bottom.
We should try to ensure that the big majority of immigrants to Australia come from Great Britain. Unfortunately, the latest figures available show that of 665,627 assisted immigrants who were brought to Australia between 1947 and 1957, only 284,197 or 42.7 per cent, were from the United Kingdom. These are matters to which the Government should pay immediate attention. In all States, there are Portages of housing, and additional water conservation and irrigation schemes are needed. These shortages are so desperate in every State that the Government has a responsibility to see that they are overcome, particularly the lag in housing, because the building industry is the barometer of employment and prosperity throughout the country. Of course, these shortages are related to the monetary policy of the Government, and we know that up to the present time the Government has acted under the directions and dictates of the private banks. That was evidenced during the last session. When the Government introduced the banking bills in another place, they were declared urgent measures and a time-table was laid down for the completion of the various stages of the bills. But, as we all know, after leaving the other House the bills were not immediately introduced into the Senate. When they were, they were defeated in this chamber. Now we have been told by His Excellency that the Government intends during this session to re-introduce the banking legislation. Ironically enough, towards the end of his Speech, His Excellency indicated that the Government hopes, by the Grace of God, to get the legislation through the Parliament on this occasion.
The banking policy of this Government has been dictated to it by the private banks. We all know that it is alimost impossible for the average citizen to obtain finance. A gentleman in Victoria to whom I was speaking recently was una ‘ ie to obtain an advance of £3,000 from his bank although he has assets worth between £60,000 and £70,000. The funds of the private banks are being channelled into the lucrative hire-purchase system, –here they are lent for short terms - up to three years - at rates of interest varying from 10 per cent, to 20 per cent.
These things are irrevocably tied to the employment situation in Australia, and it is “ up to the Government to do something tangible to remedy the present state of affairs. The Liberal party, instead of exerting its efforts towards solving these problems, is more concerned with misleading the immigrants who have become naturalized. I have before me a copy of a letter that is apparently sent by the Liberal party and the Australian Country party to all new Australians who become naturalized. It congratulates the person to whom it is addressed on becoming an Australian citizen. It states that one of the many advantages conferred by naturalization is the right to take part in the elections of Federal and State governments. A portion of the letter reads -
If you are interested in taking an active pan in our Organization, please fill in the form at the foot of this letter and return it to the above address. We will then advise you of the nearest branch of the Party and how you can join it. The membership fee of our Party is not less than 2s. 6d. per annum. Wishing you every success as an Australian citizen-
The letter does not mention the maximum fee. I also have before me a little booklet, which must have cost a lot of money to produce; probably the cost was borne by the private banks. It is entitled, “ We fight Communism “, and it contains a lot of statements in a foreign language that I cannot read. It sets out the names of the various political parties in Australia. There is a heading at the top of each page, with which honorable senators opposite are probably familiar because no doubt they help to distribute the booklet. One of the headings reads, “’ How the unionists were helped “. Another is, “ What the Liberal Party stands for “. Yet another refers to quarrels in the Labour party. It is a pity that supporters of the Government do not look after their own quarrels and try to get a bit of unity in their own parties. Remember what happened in Victoria. Some people were not too happy when the Hollway party broke adrift from the Liberals not so long ago. 1 do noi know what the position is with the two parties in Canberra. Some in Victoria are not too happy with the Country party, called the cuckoo party, because its members are prepared to perch in any nest.
The title of another rather elaborate booklet that I have before me is “ How you can have your say in Australia’s future “. Most of the booklet is devoted to an attack on the Australian Labour party, instead of telling the immigrants what the Government proposes to do for their benefit. If the Government had any thought for the welfare of the immigrants, it would say something about the unemployment position.
I come now to the matter of foreign policy. Senator Maher devoted the greater portion of his time to dealing with Russia. Apparently the honorable senator sees a little red rabbit in everything to which he directs his attention. We must acknowledge that communism is in the world to stay. If we are to attain peace, international freedom and co-operation, we must devise a peaceful co-existence. Recently, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Macmillan, visited Australia and was. feted by this Government. I am not suggesting that he should not have been feted. The point I am making is that we have been frequently told that we should tune in with the British Government. That Government recognized red China and has traded with that country for years. Now, America is coming to the conclusion that it will have to recognize red China.
We talk glibly about aggression. I have had the privilege and the opportunity of visiting Bombay. In view of the indescribably intolerable conditions under which the people of that city are living, they could not be blamed if they embraced communism or any other ism. What have the Western countries ever done to keep the Asiatic countries from turning Communist? It is not so very long ago that Shanghai was ringed with international settlements. The British. French and American settlements in and around Shanghai were not there for the good of the Chinese people. Millions of Chinese were dying of starvation outside the international settlements every year yet the inhabitants of the settlements exploited the Chinese all the time.
The ironical aspect of it all is that no country can endeavour to assert its rights under the Charter of the United Nations, or under the Atlantic Charter, without being branded as under Communist influence. Just because the people of Malaya sought their national rights we regarded them as Communists, or at least as being inspired by Communists1. We shall defeat communism only by giving underprivileged people something more than communism can offer them. Over the years we have done nothing but exploit them.
We talk about aggression in Hungary. I do not stand for aggression anywhere - whether by the dictatorship of the left or of the right. Both are anathema to me, and to the members of the Australian Labour party. However, we must be realistic. Not one of us’ would stand for the aggression which occurred in Hungary, but did not the United Kingdom use aggression in Egypt during the Suez Canal trouble? It was no less aggression because it was perpetrated by the United Kingdom. It could be justified no more than could aggression in Hungary. The British aggression took place without the United Nations being consulted in any way. The dispute between Israel and Egypt was made an excuse for Britain and France to bring armed might to bear upon the settlement of the Suez Canal dispute between the great vested interests and the people of Egypt.
At that time Australia’s Minister for External Affairs, Richard Gardiner Casey, otherwise known a? the “ Bengal Tiger “ or the “ Repatriated Rajah “, was with the Australian Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in Great Britain. The task of negotiating with Nasser should have been his, but the Prime Minister, in order to seek personal kudos, decided to do so himself. We all remember his ignominious1 retreat from Cairo. We all remember how dismally he failed to carry out his task and how, subsequently, aggression came to a halt only because of the influence that the United Nations brought to bear on Britain and France.
Let us be realistic, also, when we speak about summit talks. Every proposal that is made by the Soviet Union - and I am ‘not endeavouring to whitewash that nation - is met with suspicion. Surely to goodness progress cannot be made unless people get together in conference. The meeting of another person in conference does not imply agreement with what he believes. Even the British Government is now in favour of summit talks. If we are ever to have peace in this world we must have such talks. As I have already said, whether we like it or not, pious resolutions or statements will not, of themselves, prevent the spread of communism to the poorer countries of the world. Every country which has been overrun by communism has had low living standards. The people of those countries have had nothing to lose by adopting communism. If one has a starving wife and family one is prepared to take anything that is offered. One. has nothing to lose and everything to gain by making the change.
We must meet our potential enemies in round-table conferences. The imagination cannot encompass the horrors that would be let loose upon the world if there were another war on an international scale. It would mean the end of civilization, and to obviate that we must talk things over with those who would be our enemies in any war. We must realize that the people of the Soviet Union - whether we like their system of government or not - are a force ia the world which cannot be discounted, li we are ever to devise a method of peaceful co-existence - as we must - we must meet them around the conference table.
– With unity tickets, of course.
– If the honorable senator spoke more sense I would answer him. He has not the foggiest idea of what is implied by unity tickets. Moreover, that has nothing to do with the necessity for summit talks. The failure to have such talks will have results for civilization that are too terrible to contemplate.
– Does the honorable senator not think that preparations should be made before the summit talks take place?
– That is a matter for discussion, but the talks should still be held. Whether there is pre-planning or not, there should be talks. Such talks can do no harm. One need not agree with what is put by the other side. It would certainly be better than discarding the idea altogether.
– Why meet when you have nothing to talk about?
– If we took that argument to its logical conclusion we could say that there would be nothing for a preparatory meeting to talk about either. We might say that a preparatory conference on a Foreign Minister level would have nothing more to talk about than would a meeting of the heads of the various nations. In truth, there is everything in the world to talk about. First, there is the banning of nuclear weapons, and of nuclear bomb testing in the Pacific and other areas. Might not Russia be equally suspicious of our motives when we are at such pains to display our might through atom bomb tests in the Pacific - regardless of the damage done by fall-out to the Japanese and other people? It is futile and ridiculous to say that summit talks cannot take place unless there is first a preparatory meeting.
– If the talks do not succeed we shall be worse off than ever.
– We cannot succeed if we do not try.
– You cannot succeed unless you know what you are to discuss. There must be an agenda.
– It is merely a matter of common sense. If you meet on the summit level it does not matter two hoots whether you have a preparatory meeting or not. There is no doubt about what you will discuss. You will talk about the possibility of banning nuclear weapons, and of arriving ultimately at some method of peaceful co-existence - the only salvation for the world. The alternative to coexistence is the calamity of a third world war, and the end of civilization.
– And we will have Krupp with us here, too.
– There has been some discussion about Krupp coming to this country. I have no- more time, for him than has any one else on this side- of the chamber. I know the enormous amount of damage that such people have done in the past. However, we should not forget that we have persons of that kind in our own midst also. Honorable senators will recall that Australian soldiers on Gallipoli were mown down with Vickers machine guns made in England. We have to remember, too, that at the 1931 disarmament conference held in London representatives of Bethlehem Steel in America were sent there specifically to ensure that the conference would not succeed. Let honorable senators take their minds back to the time when Sir Basil Zaharoff was regarded as the traveller in death. He used to adopt the nationality of the country in which he happened to be. He sold Vickers machine guns to the various countries of the world. Let us come nearer to home and remember the time when the Japanese were knocking at our door in 1942 and wages were pegged. An agitation was made for profits to be pegged as well. What was the result? A meeting of leading business people was held in the Melbourne Town Hall. With the Japanese knocking at our door, the meeting resolved that any interference with profits would adversely affect our war effort. That was at a time when we were in immediate danger of invasion by the Japanese. The position is that we have miniature Krupps here in Australia. In saying that, I do not want anybody to think that I am in favour of Krupp.
We have only to read the book by Hilaire Beloc entitled “Bloody Traffic” and another entitled “ Cry Havoc “ to realize the tie-up between armaments firms throughout the world. We can read about how the financial house of Warburg in America financed both Germany and England during the first World War. It had one brother in America financing the Allies, and another brother in Berlin financing the Central Powers. We remember when Montagu Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England, sat on the board of the International Bank of Settlements at Basle in Switzerland, alongside Herr Schacht, the Chancellor of the Reichbank of Germany. They sat together on the board throughout the war. That shows quite clearly that finance knows no barriers and has no patriotism.
I have dealt with these matters very briefly. 1 could raise many more. I did want to say something about repatriation, but that subject will keep until a later and, perhaps, a more favourable opportunity. I have some curly ones to wheel up to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) on the onus of proof. I have dealt briefly with the unemployment position in Australia to-day. It is serious. No amount of argument in which Opposition senators are told they are creating a panic or scare will do anything to put men back to work. There are 75,000 registered unemployed, together with thousands who are not registered. With their dependants, they form a big army of people in anybody’s language, and it is not sufficient to say that they form only a small percentage of the total work force. That is no solution, in the eyes of the people who are unemployed. If the Government has the courage, the facilities are available to put every one of those people back to work. We are not short of men or materials. All we are short of at present is money, and we have a Commonwealth Bank which could make that money available to the various States.
I visited country areas of Victoria last week. Many areas are crying out for more water for irrigation, and many country towns want an extension of electricity and sewerage services. There are a hundred and one different things that the people in those places want. They are all essential to the people, and they would all be revenue-producing national assets.
I have dealt briefly with the fact that this Government is obeying the dictates of private financial interests, which have been endeavouring for years to undermine the strength and the power of the Commonwealth Bank. I have dealt briefly, too, with immigration and have pointed out that an immigration scheme has to be properly conducted and balanced. When we bring immigrants to this country, we must make sure that we have accommodation and work for them and that they can be absorbed into the Australian community. It is not sufficient to let them loose at their ports of disembarkation and then say that it is the responsibility of the State governments to make provision for them.
I have dealt briefly with foreign policy, indicating that we have to get down to facts. We have to face reality and do all we can to bring about summit talks by the heads of the various countries of both the East and the West. In this clash of ideologies there is no alternative to summit talks. We must get together with our opponents and discuss world problems with them. We do not agree with their ideologies, but they represent many millions of people. Rather than keep the East and West divided, with the possibility of war developing, it would be infinitely better for the leaders of the countries of the East and West to get together round a table to see what can be done to bring about peaceful ‘ coexistence and, particularly, the banning of nuclear weapons. Those are matters to which this Government must pay immediate attention.
It is not sufficient for the Liberal party to send out letters, at great cost, to new Australians when they become naturalized, without offering to these people something tangible in its policy. It is not sufficient to send them letters criticizing the Australian Labour party. If the Liberal party wants to do any good, it must offer them something tangible in its own policy.
Naturally, Liberal party members will not tell the new Australians anything about the history of their party, because if they were to recount the history of the party throughout the years, under its various aliases, they would not attract anybody to their ranks.
I put it to the Government that the main thing to be considered is unemployment. The Government can solve that problem if it has the courage to adopt the proposals that it can, and should, adopt in order to put people back to work and establish a system in this country that will enable us to look forward to full employment all the time.
The Government should consider the result of the Parramatta by-election last Saturday. This is an indication that the people have just about had it. Of course, since 1949 the Government has been able to bring out of the hat a little red rabbit at every election and in that way has been able to pull the wool over the eyes of the electors, but that will not continue. Parramatta should be a warning to the Government. I suggest that, not only in its own interests, but also in the interests of the people of Australia, the Government do something tangible to solve the unemployment problem.
– I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Gover norGeneral’s Speech, so ably proposed and seconded. I join with other honorable senators in expressing my great pleasure at the recent visit of the Queen Mother to Australia. I think her tour was a revelation to the people of Australia, who realized the graciousness of Her Majesty. Her visit followed that of the Queen only a few year’s ago and the visit by Prince Philip to open the Olympic Games. Those visits have cemented the loyalty and affection of the Australian people to the Crown far more than anything else could have done during the previous years.
In addition, we had the unprecedented occurrence of a British Prime Minister, in office, coming to Australia. These events tend to give Australia added status in the world. They cement our loyalty to the Throne and give us a better understanding of the ruling people in the Old Country. The only regrettable feature of the tour of Her Majesty the Queen Mother, and also of Her Majesty the Queen, was that they should have been brought out here in the hottest months of the year. For a woman especially, a visit here in February or March is an ordeal. I cannot say whether the statement was true, but it was said by some one that the Queen Mother was eager to avoid a Scottish winter. But she certainly came here in the other extreme of weather.
I was extremely disappointed at the shortness of the tour, and I hope that the Government will take that matter into consideration in the future. There are people in Western Australia who have never had the pleasure of seeing the Queen, Prince Philip, the Queen Mother, or any other member of the Royal Family. 1 refer particularly to people who live in the important centre of Geraldton. If members of the Royal Family are brought out to Australia, it is only fair that the people should be given an opportunity to see them.
– And the members of the Royal Family would see the countryside, too.
– That is so. The people of Geraldton and the hinterland who wish to come down to Perth undertake a journey of 400 or 500 miles. The Queen Mother was rushed from here to there, and it was a marvel that she was able to stand the strain and be so gracious on every occasion. I hope that during future visits by members of the Royal Family, the people of Australia will be able to see them, and vice versa.
There was not very much of importance in the speech of Senator Sandford. I did not think I would ever live to hear a person compare the horrible and shocking atrocities in Hungary with the Suez Canal crisis. To talk about co-existing with people who slaughtered and murdered people willynilly, and on whose word one cannot place any value, is simply shocking.
– Yet, you take Mr. Krupp’s word!
– You will get your chance to speak later. Following the action of Egypt in illegally seizing the assets of a company fifteen years before the appropriate agreement terminated, the Australian Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was asked to interview Nasser to see whether he could find a satisfactory solution of the problem. The Prime Minister did his best. Every one agreed that he did a very good job. But I repeat that I never thought I would hear any one compare the shocking atrocities1 that were perpetrated in Hungary, Poland and the other countries that are held down by Russia, with the Suez Canal crisis.
The matter that I particularly wished to raise, and which has been giving me some concern for a considerable time, is the relationship that exists between our exports and imports. Obviously, unless we can substantially increase our exports there will be no immediate termination of the restriction of our imports. An aspect of the matter that is giving me some concern is the policy that has been adopted by the trade authorities in regard to overseas trade. 1 think that a trade delegation is about to go overseas. Periodically delegations proceed to other countries with a view to extending our trade with them. I recall that not very long ago a delegation went overseas and we were told that members of the delegation returned with their books full of orders. I understand that that delegation went to the Near East countries, but there is not much evidence of an increase of trade with those countries. On the contrary, there is any amount of evidence in support of the belief that we are losing our markets overseas.
Within recent months the Australian Apple and Pear Board has increased its levy from Id. to lid. a case, the extra money raised to be used for overseas publicity. The Australian Canned Fruits Board also has increased its levy by id. for the same purpose. The Department of Trade has had a bevy of women in England for some time for the purpose ot advertising Australian products. I have noted that this year the department is spending £450,000 on trade promotion. In addition, in England we have Australia House, where approximately 350 people are employed, and our State AgentsGeneral, and there are also our trade commissioners in various countries. It seems to me that a co-ordinating authority is required. For all these people to be making apparently isolated attempts to increase our trade seems to be absurd.
Surely it should not be very difficult for our trade commissioners to tell us whether there is any possibility of our increasing our trade with the countries in which they are posted and, if there is no such possibility, what is the reason. I think I mentioned last year that in Japan some New Zealand second-grade meat had been advertised as Australian meat but that our representative in Japan knew nothing about it until he read about it in the New Zealand press, lt seems that our representatives there were not very active in looking after our interests.
Another very important matter is the way in which our products are packed and put on the market. I recall that during World War I. 1 asked certain people in England with whom 1 came in contact what they thought of Australian jams and preserved fruits, and I discovered that they knew nothing about them. They are accustomed to having their commodities served up in glass containers; they will not buy them if the commodities are in tins. When all is said and done, if we want to sell our product to a customer we must give the customer what he wants and not what we think is good enough. A friend of mine told me quite recently that when he was coming back from England he asked people at the table on the ship what they thought of Australian wines and he was told that they did not think we made wine in Australia. So he asked the steward to put Australian wines on the table, with the result that those people were loud in their praise of our wines. Surely some effort should be made to persuade the shipping companies to place Australian wines on the table in order to advertise them and so we may sell more of our product. I also recall that on one occasion I directed attention to the fact that on the Trans-Australian train only South Australian wines were served. I think I was instrumental in getting the Commissioner of Railways to serve Western Australian wines as well.
Those matters should concern us, because unless we present our products in a marketable way and in a way that will please our customers, we will not be able to increase our exports. And, as I said earlier, unless we increase our exports, import restrictions must remain. There are many ways in which we can increase our export trade. A prominent businessman who recently visited Singapore and Malaya to attend a conference of cooperative societies said that Australia was favorably known in Singapore but that there were very few Australian products there. He knew of the import of 10,000 tons of wheat and flour, but none of it came from Australia. He also noticed tinned meat from. Denmark and jams and tinned fruit from California, but he said that the Australian product was priced out of the market and was not as attractively presented. That fact shows that, unless we present our products in a way that will appeal to our overseas customers, we shall have little chance of increasing our exports.
I hope that the Department of Trade will take note of these matters. In fact, our trade commissioners should furnish reports telling us why we cannot sell more of our products in the countries to which they have been posted, or where the fault lies in the presentation of those products.
I am glad that Senator McCallum is present in the chamber at the moment. It is not often that a member of the Parliament from another State gets the opportunity to have a look round Canberra, but as I happened to be overbooked by two or three days on the last occasion that the Parliament rose, I was given the opportunity for a drive round Canberra. I was very pleased to see the development that is taking place, but one thing shocked me. In fact, I think it is the most disgraceful thing I have ever seen. I refer to the shocking flats that are being put up at Ainslie. In my opinion, they are a thorough disgrace to the city. They are the slums of the future. Whoever is responsible for their erection - it is not the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), because he has not been in office long enough - whether it is the head of the department dr any one else, deserves the sack.
The authorities have put up 248 flats, I think it is, in one building, surrounded by other buildings of flats. There is neither yard accommodation nor playground accommodation for the youngsters. All this in a beautiful city like Canberra, with hundreds of acres of land available! I think it is a disgrace to put up such shocking structures. Why we waste time in this Parliament appointing commissions and other bodies to watch the development of the city while things like that are allowed to go on is something I cannot understand.
– Perhaps if the National Capital Development Commission had been in existence before, that would not have happened.
– It is going on now. The flats are not finished, but are still being built. Previously, I directed attention to the flats which the Australian National University had erected at Manuka. Surely to goodness a university can be expected to set an example! Yet, the National University has erected flats at Manuka with hardly any yard accommodation. Where on earth are the children to play? Out on the street, of course, with motor traffic going by.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the flats with the laundry lines in front?
– -I do not know whether there is room for laundry lines. I am speaking of the hideous things at Ainslie or Reid. Recently, I happened to meet a prominent Western Australian who had just come back from a visit to Canberra, and the first thing he asked me was, “ Who put up those shocking flats? “. To erect structures, like those in a place which is destined to become one of the world’s most beautiful cities is a disgrace, and I think that whoever was responsible should be castigated.
His Excellency, in his Speech, referred to the financial difficulties which confront Western Australia, particularly the northwestern portion of it, and stated that the Government had decided to contribute £2,500,000 spread over five years, in order to assist in developmental work. While acknowledging this action by the Government, it should be said that the amount is altogether too small to carry out the work that it is necessary to do. I am particularly sorry to see that this money is to be expended north of the 20th parallel, which is well north of Broome, or right up in the north-west corner, in the Kimberleys region. There is a huge area in the north of Western Australia, extending from Carnarvon to Wyndham, which needs developing, but the task of developing it is quite beyond any Western Australian government administering a population of approximately 700,000 people, and with an area of 900,000 square miles with which to contend. In order to do anything with the area, it is first of all necessary to encourage people to go there and stay there. One of the worst features of its development is the isolation of the place. The people who live there cannot receive broadcasts from the Perth wireless stations. They want to get broadcasts from Perth, so that they may have the information that is of special interest to Western Australians. Of course, they receive Radio Australia broadcasts.
The coastal ports in the area are subject to cyclones, one having been experienced only recently. Because of the rise and fall of the tide, it is necessary to have jetties half a mile or three-quarters of a mile long, but after a cyclone has passed, probably there will be very little of the jetties left. Of course, repair or partial replacement of the jetties makes an inroad into the finances of the Government. The major form of transport is sea transport. The Government provides ships, but they are now becoming old and will have to be replaced. As everybody knows, shipbuilding costs are very high at the present time. If that part ,of Western Australia is to develop, 1 think i,t is .necessary to construct an all-weather road, say, from Meekatharra, the head of the railway, to Fitzroy Crossing, so that people can get to the area easily, in addition, such a road would provide the pastoralists with an alternative way of getting their stock to the market. The pastoralists complain that if their cattle have to go to “Derby they pick up tick fever, and hundreds of head of cattle are lost on the way down. In addition, ships are’ frequently held up, so that instead of arriving on a certain date they may be some weeks or a month late. That means that the stock do not get the feed they require. They get the tick while they are waiting to be loaded. If there were an all-weather road, the pastoralists could get their stock to the rail head and down to the market without the risk of losing them.
An all-weather road would provide an additional inducement for people to go to the area. Another means of encouragement would be taxation relief, at least for employees, because of the isolation of the area. I can give the Senate an example of that isolation, as the result of a recent visit to the area. The wife of the manager of a station told me that her youngest child developed eye trouble and that she had taken her to see a doctor. On the next visit, the doctor recommended that she take the child to Perth to see a specialist. She did so; the specialist examined the child and gave her a pair of glasses. He told her to come back in a month, and that he would see how she was then. The mother took her back and the doctor found that the child was all right. The point is that all that the child wanted was a pair of glasses. Yet, it cost those people £240 to get the glasses. That incident should give some indication of the difficulties which confront the people in that part of Australia.
On an adjoining station, which I intend to visit shortly, the manager is running ten sheep to the acre. There are not many properties in the more settled parts of Australia, with better climates, where that can be done.
– The honorable senator should go to Victoria!
– I am glad to hear that Victoria has some advantages. We have .just heard that Victorians cannot get water and electricity services, and that there are few serviceable roads. The fact that this property carries ten sheep to the acre indicates the marvellous achievement of the man responsible. Of course, he has accomplished it with the aid of irrigated pastures. Nevertheless, he is 260 miles from the railway. When people go out into the hinterland, develop the country and try to help Australia in that way, I think they are entitled to more assistance than they are receiving at the present time. By confining the expenditure of this £2,500,000 to the far north and the Kimberleys area, other parts of the State, which have experienced a drought for three years, will not benefit from the grant at all.
His Excellency, in the course of his Speech, stated that the remote areas of the Commonwealth demanded the provision of rapid transport and the fostering of aviation services. I may have something to say to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) on this subject shortly, because when I was in the north-west of Western
Australia I received some complaints about air services, but 1 fully appreciate that when one is going through a district individuals make complaints which may not affect the people generally. Therefore, for the present 1 shall not say anything about aviation services. I say again, however, that 1 am particularly keen on an allweather road, because such a road would be a wonderful help to the people in the north-west. I know that some people will say that, because of the heavy rain that is experienced, very long bridges would be required over some of the rivers. Why, in New Zealand it is not uncommon to see bridges 1 mile long over streams possibly not more than 6 feet wide. These high, long bridges are necessary because when the rains come and the snow melts the streams become raging torrents. If long bridges are required in Western Australia they must be built so that the country may develop.
I am greatly concerned about the decline of the pastoral area. In 1921-22 there were 3,000,000 sheep in the pastoral area and 3,500,000 in the agricultural area. By 1933-34, the sheep population of the pastoral area had grown to 5,300,000 and in the agricultural area to 5,100,000. That was the one year in which the pastoral area held more sheep than the agricultural area. By 1940-41, there were only 2,900,000 sheep in the pastoral area. That was the first year of the drought, but in the same year the sheep population of the agricultural area was 6,600,000. In 1956-57, the sheep population of the pastoral area was 3,041,140; in the agricultural area it had grown to 11,854,409.
I readily admit that much of the increase ‘ of the sheep population in the agricultural area is due to the adoption of better farming methods, pasture improvement and so on, but I am greatly concerned about the falling-off in the pastoral areas. The sheep population there is only one-third of what it used to be. This, of course, is due mainly to the big drought. In the Murchison area, there has been a drought for three years. I sincerely hope the Government will reconsider its decision as to the amount of finance it will provide for the development of the north-west of Western Australia and that it will make available something additional to the grant made last year. »I1S
Senator Pearson, who seconded the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, mentioned wheat stabilization, and I should like to speak about that subject. He told us that the present stabilization scheme will terminate this year and that any new scheme which is adopted will have to be in operation before the beginning of next season. I want to make it clear that unless I am very much mistaken, the present plan, if renewed, will not be acceptable to Western Australia. If we cannot get anything better than the present scheme, Western Australia will withdraw from the stabilization scheme because our experience this year has not been very happy. As a matter of fact, we have not been very happy with the scheme all along because the representatives of the eastern States dominate the voting on the Australian Wheat Board to the detriment of Western Australia.
We have had a very fair harvest this year - not a very good one - and we had a good deal of wheat for sale, but we were noi allowed to sell it because it might be required by the eastern States. The only complaint 1 have about that circumstance is that wheat should not be sold for stock feed because ii it not good stock feed. Wheat should be kept for human consumption. There are other grains that are far better for stock feed than is wheat.
One complaint I make is that by the end of November or the beginning of December of any year we in Western Australia can make a fairly accurate estimate of what the State’s harvest for the season will be. This year, Victoria could not tell us by February what its harvest was likely to be. Victoria should be able to do a little better than that. It is interesting to know that Japan called for tenders for the supply of wheat on three occasions, but on none of those occasions was Western Australia able to submit a tender because we were refused a licence to export wheat to Japan. Honorable senators will remember that last year Australia entered into a trade agreement with Japan and that one of the terms of that agreement was that Japan would take 200,000 tons of our fair-average-quality wheat each year. Japan has never taken fair-average-quality wheat before. The only wheat Japan had ever taken was the high protein wheat from Queensland.
If we had been able to send even a token shipment of wheat to Japan this year in order to keep that market, we should have been quite satisfied. It must be realized that after having called for tenders and receiving none from us, Japan would be forced to go elsewhere for wheat, and is it pretty safe to say that once having been forced to do so she will not come back for wheat in the future.
For those and other reasons, I should say that unless a more satisfactory wheat stabilization scheme is drawn up for the next period Western Australia will probably arrange her own wheat stabilization scheme.
– Is not a guaranteed cost-of -production price for wheat of benefit to Western Australia? It was worth about £100,000,000 last year.
– That is so.
– Is Western Australia prepared to sacrifice that?
– There are not too many things Western Australia cannot do if it sets about them; I am not at all worried about that aspect of the matter. Our great trouble was that any wheat brought from Western Australia to the eastern States attracted only the home consumption price. I take the strongest possible objection to that. I have every sympathy for the people over here, but if they want our wheat they must be prepared to pay the price we can get for it on the export markets. They should not expect to get our wheat at the home consumption price plus the cost of bagging and transport.
– What is the difference at present?
– 1 forget what the prices were at that time, but we were the losers. It is obvious that if we are forced to sell at the home-consumption price instead of the export price we must be losers.
– But the position could be reversed. Some day Western Australia might want wheat from the Eastern States.
– If we have a bad season and need to get wheat from the Eastern States, we naturally would expect to pay the export price for it.
– You would pay the export price?
– Certainly. I am not advocating that Western Australia should get the benefit of one policy while another policy should apply to other people. If we get wheat from the Eastern States, then the Eastern States must get the export price for that wheat.
I was disappointed that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech contained no reference to any relief from taxation. If we are to increase our exports, then the producer at least must be given some relief from taxation. Under the present system, if he increases his production of wool, wheat, fat lambs or anything else, all he succeeds in doing is to increase his own income tax assessment. He does not want to do that, and, therefore, will produce only sufficient to meet his liabilities and to enable him to carry on.
I know that when I suggest reducing taxation I shall be asked how that can be done. Let me suggest one method. I submit that it is high time the Government introduced a compulsory contributory superannuation scheme to which every one will contribute and from which every one will be eligible to draw. At present, everybody contributes to a fund but only a small percentage of those who contribute will ever draw anything from it. Under a compulsory contributory scheme, everybody would be entitled to draw. Such a scheme could be introduced progressively. I am not so foolish as to suggest that it should be introduced in one fell swoop. One method would be to make it compulsory for all people up to a certain age to contribute. Those above that age could continue under the present system. By the time those who are required to contribute to the compulsory system reach the retiring age, those who carry on under the present system will have ceased to exist and those about to retire will draw upon the fund to which they have contributed.
I hope the Government will give serious consideration to the suggestion, because something must be done to reduce taxation in order to give some incentive to people to produce. I think I have mentioned on other occasions that in Germany large reductions of taxation are granted to people who produce, who invest in government bonds, who engage in primary and secondary industry, indeed to any one who is producing.’ If we adopted such a system, the Australian people in the country and those engaged in business would be given the incentive to produce more and, by producing more, give us more to export.
I heartily support the motion that was submitted by Senator Kendall and seconded by Senator Pearson. I hope that, in the coming year, the important legislation to which reference was made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech will eventuate. We have heard a lot about housing and other things. The door is wide open for the introduction of the banking bills. If they are passed, the savings banks will provide money for housing. If there is lack of money for housing, therefore, the responsibility lies on the left side of the House.
– I should like to associate myself with the statements that have been made by other honorable senators regarding the recent visit to Australia of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Her visit gave a great fillip to those of us who believe in the British way of life. The Queen Mother was one of the greatest ambassadors ever to have visited Australia, but I do not consider that she was treated as she should have been treated in this country. We are part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I was told in Egypt that I should not mention the British Commonwealth but I am privileged to be able to do so here. I hope that any member of the Royal Family who visits Australia in future will select a more pleasant time of the year for such an arduous task and will be given more opportunities to meet the people.
On the occasion of the visit of the Queen Mother, the Commonwealth Government tried to do its best in the limited time available to enable as many as possible to have the privilege of being in the presence of Her Majesty. We must realize, however, that a terrific task was imposed upon her in trying to maintain the schedules for her tour. I associate myself, however, with the sentiments that have been expressed in relation to the Queen Mother’s visit by previous speakers and hope that the Government will consider the suggestions I have put forward.
I wash to correct one statement that was made by Senator Seward. He said that Senator Sandford had tried to compare the Suez crisis with the slaughter in Hungary. He misunderstood Senator Sandford. The honorable senator did not make the statement that has been attributed to him. Thanks to the United Nations, nobody could compare the Suez crisis with the horrible, inhuman slaughter in Hungary of which we on this side of the chamber wholeheartedly disapprove. All that Senator Sandford said was that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had intervened in the Suez crisis when it was actually a matter for the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). I agree with him.
I wish to direct my attention now to a matter that was discussed in the Senate a fortnight ago. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) referred to the then pending visit to Australia of the world’s greatest murderer, Herr Krupp. We were told by members of the Government (hen that they would be only too delighted to be in Herr Krupp’s company. The Melbourne “ Herald “ published a photograph of the Leader of the Government in this chamber (Senator O’sullivan) entertaining Herr Krupp.
– lt was in the “ Age “, not the “ Herald “.
– The Leader of the Government had his wishes gratified. I cannot understand how he can find any honour in dining with the most inhuman war criminal the world has ever known. I have no wish to associate with a person like Herr Krupp. As has been stated in this chamber, Krupp was convicted by one of the highest tribunals in the world of being a murderer and a war criminal. He was released from gaol, just as he was entertained here, by some spurious organization because of his money.
– Blood money.
– Yes, it was blood money. That is why he was brought to Australia. I want to say on behalf of the Australian Labour party-
– Why does not the honorable senator say it to the Labour Premier of Western Australia?
– I am not concerned with him. I am concerned about the federal policy of the Australian
Labour party. I hope that the clay never comes when this Government encourages a man like Krupp to invest his millions in Australia so that he can prepare the ovens to burn Australian workers just as he destroyed European workers during World War II. If honorable senators opposite were to give practical expression to the thoughts in their heads we would be in a shooting war at any tick of the clock. They are not prepared to accede to any reasonable conferences of any description. They want a hot, shooting war. Probably Krupp is in Australia to set up an organization to treat the workers as he treated those in Europe.
– And yet the honorable senator complains of smearing.
– Senator Gorton can have his say later. I am expressing my views now. 1 do not care who are the friends of the Government. When a responsible Minister, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) was replying to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, he said that Senator Kennelly spoke for a disrupted party or a splinter party. Earlier that day, reference was made to the death of a former senator. Who spoke in the debate on the motion of condolence? Senator O’sullivan spoke for the Liberal party, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for the Australian Labour party, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) for the Australian Country party and Senator Cole for the Democratic Labour party. Let me tell Senator Henty that the Australian Labour party is the greatest and biggest party in the Commonwealth Parliament. We obtained more votes at the last election than did any other party in this Parliament.
– Cannot the returning officers count?
– Yes, they can. I shall produce the figures before I finish my speech and the Leader of the Government might listen to them. I shall give the voting figures of the last general election. If I am wrong, I will resign my seat in the Senate provided the Leader of the Government will give a similar assurance. The Australian Labour party polled the greatest numberof votes at the last election.
– The honorable senator is counting in the votes for the Democratic Labour party.
– No. The members of that party spoke as a separate party as they are entitled to do. The Leader of the Government spoke for the Liberal party on the occasion to which 1 have referred. Senator Cooper spoke for the Australian Country party. Those are the united forces which are opposed to the Australian Labour party. The people showed that we are the greatest political power in Australia.
– Then God help us!
– Does Senator Hannan remember 1941, when we were on the eve of invasion?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir
Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 March 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580311_senate_22_s12/>.