22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform the Senate whether it is a fact that a recent application for salary increases by senior officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission was heard by the Public Service Arbitrator in the board room of the commission in Sydney instead of in one of the conference rooms of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? Is it also a tact that no representatives of the press or members of the public attended the hearing? Is it further a fact that Mr. Moses, the general manager of the commission, argued the case against salary increases, and that the arbitrator rebuked him several times for his hostile attitude towards the witnesses? Will the Minister table the transcript of evidence taken at the hearing, for the information of honorable senators? Will the Minister also direct the commission that there is to be no victimization of any member of the commission’s staff as a result of evidence given before the arbitrator for higher salaries?
– I am not prepared to give an undertaking that I will table a record of the proceedings. I do not think that would be proper. I shall take up with the Postmaster-General the other matters that have been raised by Senator Amour, and when I get a reply from him I shall furnish it to the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has he read item 150, at page 101, of the Auditor-General’s report, in which reference is made to a government airline - presumably, Trans-Australia Airlines - and the accumulation of large sums of money for unused travel tickets? Does the lack of reference to any privately operated airline indicate that no similar problem exists in relation to it and that the great bulk of airline passengers using govern ment vouchers travel by T.A.A.? If this is so, could it indicate that this Government’s policy of giving freedom of choice to voucher holders as to which airline they may travel by has not been widely and continually made known within the Commonwealth Public Service, the armed services and business undertakings? Will the Government ensure that its policy of freedom of choice is widely publicized?
– I have not read the Auditor-General’s report but I have seen press reports about the matter to which the honorable senator has referred. I read the press reports with more than passing interest. They referred specifically to government airlines, so I assume that only government airlines were involved. As to what action should be taken, I do not know. The Government has, I think, made it more than plain that it is a matter entirely for the passenger to choose the airline by which he is to travel. For my part, I nominate and make plain the airline by which I wish to travel. I think the remedy is for each public servant and member of Parliament to do the same thing.
-I preface my question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General by stating that some time ago I asked a question regarding the possibility of direct telecasts to Canberra from Sydney. At that time, in view of the direct reception of television in Sydney from Canberra during the Queen Mother’s visit, I asked whether the Government would explore the possibility of making permanent television reception available to Canberra and the surrounding areas coming within the scope of reception. Since then, I have been informed by technicians that permanent reception could be obtained by the erection of relay or booster masts at a cost of something less than £200,000, which amount would soon be recouped by the revenue received from the thousands of new licences which would be taken out. I now ask whether the Government has pursued the question of arranging television reception in Canberra. If so. with what result? If not, will the Government make the necessary investigations? I understand that very soon there will be an influx of public servants from
Melbourne who are accustomed to television, and naturally, in addition, it would be a great boon for the residents of Canberra and the surrounding areas if television reception were possible in the Australian Capital Territory.
– I have no doubt that the matter raised by the honorable senator has received, is receiving and will continue to receive the attention of the Postmaster-General. I do not know at what stage the matter now stands, but I shall endeavour to ascertain the position and will advice the honorable senator.
– I direct my question to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that recently an agreement was reached between the Commonwealth Government, the United Kingdom Government and mining companies’ operating in the South Alligator River field, for the sale of a’ substantial quantity of uranium oxide at a good commercial price? Can the Minister advise whether the price of uranium oxide has fallen over the last two years? If so, what is the percentage of the fall? What is the position in respect of other companies anxious to produce uranium oxide in Australia? Can they go ahead confidently, believing that the whole of their production of this mineral will be sold at satisfactory commercial prices?
– It is true that a contract was recently completed between the mining company operating on the South Alligator River and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Commission. The price at which the uranium will be sold is a matter between the vendor and the purchaser, and does not concern the Commonwealth Government, nor is it within the Government’s province to make any statements or give any information about it. This is an ordinary commercial contract, and it is the business of the parties. It is true that the price of uranium oxide on a world parity basis has fallen, but I would not be willing offhand to attempt to estimate the extent of the fall.
As to other companies anxious to produce uranium oxide, the Commonwealth Government is encouraging in every way possible the search for uranium. We should like to see more large-size deposits discovered. At this stage I cannot state what arrangements will be made for its purchase, or whether the Government will guarantee to purchase up to a certain amount, but I give the assurance that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission will do everything it can to help any one who discovers a good uranium deposit.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is he aware that Vickers Viscount aircraft with which Trans-Australia Airlines is almost fully equipped have met with great success, as is proved by the popular support they have been given? Is he aware that many T.A.A. flights using the Viscount are completely booked out and that overflow traffic is passed on to other airlines by the T.A.A. staff? I might mention that I have been unable to get a booking on a T.A.A. Viscount on the last three occasions when I have travelled from Launceston to Melbourne on my trips to Canberra. Will the Minister have inquiries made to find out whether T.A.A. can handle, with its present limited fleet of Viscounts, the business available to it? If it cannot, will the Government allow T.A.A. to order more Viscounts and so give the general public the right to choose the type of aircraft in which they fly?
– I am not aware of the full details of the matter raised by the honorable senator, but I shall be very happy to bring the question under the notice of my colleague on his return.
– On 6th August, Senator Hendrickson, referring to a question addressed to me on 11th March last regarding the distribution of the Australian Encyclopaedia, asked me to take the matter up with the Minister for External Affairs. In reply to Senator Hendrickson’s question on 11th March, I promised to make representations to the departments concerned with the supply of the Australian Encyclopaedia to the places suggested by the honorable senator. This has been done, with the following result:-
The National Library, over which I preside, and which is responsible for the provision of Australian reference libraries to the 44 Australian posts abroad in 31 countries, had already arranged to supply to each a set of the ten volumes of this comprehensive and, indeed, indispensable work of reference on this country.
I should like to assure Senator Hendrickson that the interest he has taken in this matter, and the suggestions he has made, are warmly appreciated by myself and the Ministers concerned.
-I should like to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. It relates to the contentious subject of the law of the sea. I have previously asked questions relating to the continental shelf and allied matters, and the answers given have indicated that the Australian Government adheres to the antiquated 3-mile limit, although most other nations disagree with that point of view. Some months ago two Victorian fishermen were fined £50 each because they were fishing outside the 3-mile limit. That appears to me to be somewhat of a contradiction. At the recent Geneva Convention no proposal relating to the breadth of territorial waters was adopted1. In view of the discussions which took place, and of
Australia’s attitude, may I ask whether it would be appropriate to review the present Commonwealth licensing arrangements, which appear to me - a layman - to be ultra vires?
According to press statements issued by the Government, Australia’s delegation to the United Nations conference on the law of the sea comprised - with one exception - public servants who had no experience in, or knowledge of, this matter. Will the Government, when selecting representatives to attend conferences of this character, which consider such subjects as safety at sea, registration of shipping, the pollution of the sea and the laying of cables and pipe lines on the sea bed, include in the delegations legal officers, representatives of shipowners and representatives of maritime unions, who possess a profound knowledge of these subjects?
– Conferences of the type referred to by the honorable senator are, of their very nature, highly technical. Because a man is a good practical fisherman, it does not mean that he would be a valuable man to have at a fisheries conference where highly technical matters are discussed. At the conference to which the honorable senator has referred we were very strongly represented by the SolicitorGeneral.
– What about the two £50 fines? That is a little thing I should like you to explain to the Senate.
– I will have that aspect of the matter investigated. As the honorable senator knows, the States claim their territorial limit of up to 3 miles. The Commonwealth claims sovereignty over the extra-territorial waters surrounding Australia. I shall have the matter examined.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
Will the Minister make available to the Parliament the whole of the evidence on which he authorized an increase of 2d. per lb. on the price of butter and1d. on the price of cheese on 1st July. 1958?
What are the names and occupations of the persons who comprise the Dairy Industry Investigation Committee?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Chairman - Sir Alexander Fitzgerald, public accountant and chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission;
Member - Mr. J. P. Norton, dairy farmer, of Capel, Western Australia;
Executive - Mr. H. C. Clark, officer of the Department of Primary Industry.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation has refused to accept all the proposals in the new wheat stabilization plan submitted by the Australian Agricultural Council, will the Minister indicate if he proposes to call an early meeting of the agricultural council to review the two major points in dispute - the yield divisor and the profit margin - so that the position may be clarified prior to the incoming harvest?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer: -
The Australian Wheat Growers Federation refused to accept as a whole the new wheat stabilization plan approved by the Australian Agricultural Council at its meeting on 10th July. The select committee which has been negotiating on behalf of the federation sought reconsideration by the council of the two points of the plan mentioned by the honorable senator.
At a special meeting in Sydney on Friday last, the Australian Agricultural Council considered the further representations of the select committee on these two points. The council decided to adhere to all features of the plan it had approved on 10th July. The council also agreed to reconsider, without commitment, the question of the inclusion of a higher profit margin in the home consumption price before the 1959-60 wheat season commences.
The Wheat Growers Federation select committee have accepted the council’s decisions and have requested that the legislation for the new plan should be introduced in the Commonwealth and all State parliaments without delay. The select committee has also informed the council that a ballot of growers is not necessary, and the council has accepted the recommendation.
-I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Erection of Automatic Telephone Exchange and Post Office Building, Potts Point, Sydney, New South Wales.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Unshelled peanuts, peanut kernels and peanut oil.
I also table Tariff Board reports on the following subjects: -
Wristlet watch cases and movements,
The last three reports do not call for any legislative action. The board’s recommendations have, in each instance, been adopted by the Government.
Senator O’SULLIVAN (Queensland-
Vice-President of the Executive Council and Attorney-General) - by leave. - The Senate, I am sure, would wish to be informed that to-day, in another place, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) indicated, in reply to a question without notice, that it was the intention of the Government to arrange for the dissolution of the House of Representatives and for an election on the following time-table: Dissolution, 14th October, 1958; issue of writs, 22nd October, 1958; nominations, 31st October, 1958; polling, 22nd November, 1958; and return of writs, 20th January, 1959.
Words Used in Debate.
Debate resumed from 19th August (vide page 66) on motion by Senator Benn -
That the ruling of Mr. Acting Deputy President (Senator Pearson) - That words used by Senator Vincent, and objected to by Senator O’Byrne, were not offensive - be dissented from.
– The motion before the chamber is that the ruling of the
Acting Deputy President be dissented from. To make that comprehensible, it is necessary for me, Sir, to take you to happenings in the Senate yesterday when debate was proceeding on a motion that certain papers be printed. The papers in question represented a statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), and repeated in this chamber by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan). The statement largely concerned itself with the international crisis in the Middle East. That whole debate, Mr. President, it is necessary to understand, was highlighted by references to the threat that was poised by international communism at world peace and at the democracies, and that theme pervaded the whole of the debate. With that introduction, perhaps I may recount very briefly the events that led to the motion.
I quote from the speech of Senator Vincent during which, at one stage, he said -
If we are not prepared to employ armed force to keep the Middle East clear of Communists, we should say so now and get out, because I firmly believe that the only solution to preservation of peace in the Middle East is a good bayonet with a rifle on the end of it.
At that stage of Senator Vincent’s speech he was interrupted by an interjection from Senator O’Byrne, who said, “ The old sabre rattler! “ Senator Vincent then replied -
That is called sabre rattling by interjectors like Senator O’Byrne, who preaches the Communist doctrine in this Senate at every possible opportunity.
Objection to that remark was taken by Senator O’Byrne, who asked that it be withdrawn. The ruling of the Acting Deputy President, in your temporary absence, Sir, was -
I rule that there is nothing really offensive in the statement, and I think that Senator Vincent is in order.
That is the only part of the record to which I need advert.
I should like to look, first of all, in three ways at the statement made by Senator Vincent, in reply to Senator O’Byrne’s interjection. First, I want to examine its literal meaning. Next, I should like to state what I consider to be the proper inferences to be drawn from the statement. Then I propose to invite the Senate to look at the international background and the run of current events in which that statement was made, in order to put the statement in its proper context.
When it is said of an honorable senator that he preaches the Communist doctrine in this Senate at every possible opportunity, that plainly means what it says. It means that Senator O’Byrne takes, not some opportunities, not frequent opportunities, but every possible opportunity to preach, and the word “preach” has an implication of advocacy, and of urgency. He takes the opportunity to preach what? He takes the opportunity to preach the Communist doctrine, not any part of it, but the whole of the Communist doctrine. I am not referring now to what, in my view, was in Senator’s Vincent mind, but that is plainly the literal meaning of the words used.
I turn now to the second point - the proper inferences to be drawn from a statement of that kind. While I detail them, I am not suggesting that all or any of them were in Senator Vincent’s mind when he made the statement that he did and which I have just quoted. At least that statement means that Senator O’Byrne was doing the work of the Communists in so preaching communism from this high platform at every possible opportunity. I submit that is a proper inference to be drawn from the statement. I think it is a proper inference flowing from that, accordingly, that he is a Communist.
– I suggest that is a proper inference to be drawn from the fact that he takes every opportunity in this chamber to preach the Communist doctrine. I think it is even worse than that, on a cold analysis, because it means, if I am right in putting that as a proper inference - and I do - that Senator O’Byrne, as a member of the Australian Labour party, is living a lie, and that, in truth, he is a hypocrite because the Australian Labour party requires of its members that they shall have no membership of any other party. The Australian Labour party has recorded its completely implacable opposition to communism.
– About two weeks ago!
– One date that occurs to me is 1948. Senator Kendall will find the manifesto against communism was decided -long before -then, but it was decided with great particularity in 1948; so that when the -honorable ‘senator suggests <it was only about <two -weeks ago, he is -neither accurate nor fair. There have been many pronouncements about the matter.
I return to the point I seek to make - that sit is a proper .inference that the honorable senator to whom the remark was addressed is -an undercover Communist, and that attributes i0 him the act of really living a die in this Parliament and in the Australian Labour party, it means, if he advocates the Communist doctrine, that he believes in the principle of the .overthrow of society by revolution.
– You are drawing on your imagination quite a lot.
– No; I am seeking to be quite objective in this matter, and I am putting to the Senate what, in my very strong view, are the clear inferences. The honorable senator has just interjected that I am drawing on my imagination when I point out that an inference to be drawn from the promulgation of the Communist doctrine is the overthrow of society by revolution. Surely that is the Communist doctrine. Surely it is the first plank in the Communist doctrine. The Communists do not believe in proceeding by evolutionary or constitutional means; they are openly revolutionary in their approach to achieving their ends.
– There was never any suggestion of that.
– Not in actual words, but when an honorable senator is presented in this chamber as advancing or preaching - preaching is a much stronger word than merely advancing - the Communist doctrine, and no exception is made with respect to any particular part of the doctrine, then it relates to the whole of the doctrine, and that doctrine at least includes revolution. It plainly includes revolution.
I am putting this as a logical argument; I am not seeking to be imaginative, and I submit that any honorable senator who listens to me with objectivity must concede that the Communist doctrine does include, first, revolution, and secondly, the destruction of religion, which, in other words, means atheism, or the destruction of all that Christianity stands for. Those are the two main elements. There -is no need for me ‘to pick out any -elements other than those two in order to demonstrate how exceedingly serious an allegation of -this nature can be to anybody who addresses his mind objectively to ‘it. In view of all the talk of indirect aggression by the ‘Communists - and that communism exists all over the world is not denied - Senator O’Byrne is accused of being part of the softening up process - part of the advocacy of the cause of communism in >this country. In effect, he is accused ‘Of being false not merely to his party, not merely to his oath, but to his country. Those are, I would submit, four inferences which may be drawn from a statement that the senator in question has, on every possible occasion, preached the Communist doctrine in this chamber.
The next point I make is that words change their meaning in accordance with changes in world affairs.. Time was when it was regarded as unparliamentary to refer to any one in this chamber as a “ Prussian “ or a “ German “. It was offensive in the context of the first world war, and honorable senators who used those expressions were obliged to withdraw them. But I venture to say that in the context of current affairs - with the Germans as the partners of the democracies in Nato - thenuse would not be regarded as at all offensive. I recall myself accusing some one of jack-booted Prussianism because of some government procedure which I did not like. No one objected to that expression, though there would have been the strongest objection to it in the context of the 1914-18 war. To-day such remarks are allowed to pass.
Let us consider now the attitude to communism in the world as it is to-day. We have had the hot war; we have had the cold war. We have a world disturbed, at the instigation of international communism, from one end to the other. Communism is, in the view of the democracies, the one great threat to peace. The expression “ communism “ is associated with unscrupulous methods, with spying, with infiltration, and with sabotage of the most ingenious kind that the world has ever seen. So that when, in a country such as ours, any person is accused of preaching the Communist doctrine in the context of present events-
– Is the Communist party an illegal organization?
– As the honorable senator knows the answer, I can only assume that his question is purely rhetorical.
– Who made it a legal organization?
– The electors of Australia.
– I am not to be diverted by such interjections, hut Senator Hendrickson has supplied the answer that the honorable senator seeks. Senator Kendall will also recall that six out of the seven High Court justices declared .the Government’s attempt to outlaw the Communist party to be unconstitutional. In fact, they tore up -the Government’s legislation completely, not even leaving it the title. Therefore, my answer to the honorable senator is that .the Communist party is a legal organization because of the provisions of the Constitution. The honorable senator and his Government attempted, through the people of Australia, to achieve the result which their bill had been designed to attain.
I remind the honorable senator that it was the people of Australia who rejected that particular opportunity.
– The Opposition played a part
Senaor McKENNA. - I take the very greatest pride in saying that I played a substantial part in the campaign against that particular bill. I took my stand with the High Court and with all those people who believed in upholding the Constitution. Since I am asked about it, I will go ahead and say that every time I feel a little bit bankrupt spiritually in this Parliament and concerning my performance in politics, I console myself with the thought that at least I played some part in preventing Australia being turned into a police state, because that was what was involved, and it was on that basis that the people of Australia rejected what this Government proposed should be done. But I did not start out to talk about that. I am afraid, Mr. President, that the honorable senator’s interjection diverted me from the particular matter under consideration.
I refer now to one other ruling which was made back in 1918 or 1919.
I thought the interjection which gave rise to the ruling was a fairly mild one. The interjection was that a senator was associated with a party advocating repudiation of loan obligations - particularly overseas obligations. I do not have to argue, surely, to this chamber that compared with the allegation under consideration now that a man is preaching the Communist doctrine at every possible opportunity, the repudiation of obligations to repay loans was a relatively mild matter; yet that was held to be offensive and the Chair ordered that it be withdrawn. It stands as one of the presidential rulings governing considerations in this Senate. If the Chair could order that such a remark should be withdrawn as offensive, who will stand up and say that the allegation made against Senator O’Byrne is not infinitely more offensive in its nature, having regard to all the factors I have outlined?
I should like to spend a moment or two in considering the matter at this stage, apart from the particular facts, to try to pinpoint just what is the position regarding offensive statements. Standing Order 418 deals with it, of course, and states, amongst other things, that -
Well now, in the context that I previously explained in this particular matter, there is the gravest of imputations against the conduct and the integrity of Senator O’Byrne, and I personally could not imagine anything more offensive. If one refers to “ Australian Senate Practice “ for the various rulings of various presidents, it iscompletely clear that the practice - -it is called the rule in some of the books upon the subject - is for an honorable senator who makes a personal allegation against another to withdraw it when the senator against whom the allegation is directed claims that he finds it offensive. That has also hardened into a rule that the President always favours the person who is aggrieved. It must be for .the President to determine, in tact, whether a particular statement is or is not offensive, but he very properly, almost as a matter of rule, does uphold the request for withdrawal when an honorable senator claims that he finds it offensive. There are two rules to which I advert, or practices that I claim have hardened into rules. They are that a senator ought to withdraw a remark when another senator finds his statement offensive to him personally, and that the President always will lean strongly to the aggrieved senator in those circumstances. The broad practice that governs parliamentary institutions is set out in “ May “. 1 quote from the sixteenth edition, at page 458, where, under the heading “ Allegations against members “, this appears -
Good temper and moderation are characteristics of Parliamentary language. Parliamentary language is never more desirable than when a member is canvassing the opinions and conduct of his opponents in debate.
That is the position that governs the question of allegations in debate throughout the whole of the British Commonwealth.
Let me carry it one step further. When an honorable senator makes an allegation against another, and that other claims that it is offensive to him, I suggest the first senator is faced with three positions if he declines to withdraw. The first position is that he does not think that the honorable senator in question is really offended. That is one position, and I will come back to it after a few moments. His second position is that he is indifferent as to whether the senator is offended or not. That is not a good stand. And we come to the third position, which is that he means to be offensive. I put it to the Senate that that would be an exceedingly bad standard.
– You have missed the point also that he might be justified in being offensive.
– I take leave to say to the honorable senator through you, Mr. President, that the rules of this chamber require that at all times no senator shall be personally offensive to another. There can be no circumstances in which a senator would be justified in being personally offensive. None at all! That is the first point I make. I would take Senator Spooner to task on the second point that he made, too, that Senator O’Byrne interjected and said, “ Sabre rattler “. I do not think there is anything particularly offensive in that. I was not present when it was said by Senator O’Byrne, but having an ear cocked for some of his very bright interjections from time to time, I know the manner in which he would have spoken the words. I am sure that was as much jocosely as otherwise. I do think in these debates - I say this without hesitation - that when another senator says, “ Let us get bayonets and go in and deal with them “, it is a perfectly apposite remark to say “ sabre rattling “ which, in effect, is a comment. It does not justify what followed.
– You do not refer to remarks other than interjections.
– All I can say is that I was not in the chamber. I did not hear the speech.
– But you have quoted from “ Hansard “.
– I have quoted from “ Hansard “, but that does not mean I have read the whole speech. I take it that I would not be out of order if I confine myself to the matter on which the Acting Deputy President gave a ruling. I should like to say that there have been rulings in this Parliament before on this type of thing.
– We deal with a matter out of context if we take one incident and ignore others.
– All I can say is that that could be. I did not hear Senator O’Byrne’s speech. I have read no portion of it other than the part that is relevant to this particular motion. I am not in a position to answer Senator Spooner when he says that there were other comments. If there were, all I say to him is that they are not in issue on this motion. If any honorable senator on the Government side thinks other interjections by the honorable senator were relevant, and if his view is upheld by the President, I shall be interested to hear them. At this stage I do not know what those other interjections were.
This kind of allegation has been considered in this Parliament on quite a number of occasions. I refer honorable senators to the “ Hansard “ for the House of Representatives of 28th February, 1952, at page 557, in which this interjection by Sir Eric Harrison, then Mr. Eric J. Harrison, appears -
Mr. Eric J. Harrison. But I am concerned that the honorable member should be mouthing Communist catch cries.
That phrase has far less force and impact than the one used by Senator Vincent. Mr. Speaker instantly required the honorable member to withdraw the remark, and he did so.
I turn now, Mr. President, to a more recent matter in this chamber when, in “ Hansard “ of 6th May last, at page 812, you are recorded as having said -
So far as I am concerned, the use of the word “ Communist “ directly applied to any honorable senator is objectionable. I am prepared to accept Senator-‘ s explanation of the way in which he used the words - that he did not apply them directly to Senator- . If he had applied them directly to the honorable senator, I should direct that they be withdrawn.
The phrase we are concerned about on this occasion is: “ who preaches the Communist doctrine “ - not merely the use of the word “ Communist “. Who could preach the Communist doctrine except one who favoured communism, who upheld communism, and who was masquerading in this Parliament as a member of the Australian Labour party? The honorable senator concerned is shown to be a complete hypocrite and prevaricator and a man of no integrity or honour. The honorable senator is shown in a most dishonorable light.I have now read to the chamber two clear rulings on this matter, one by Mr. Speaker and one by you, Mr. President.
Senator O’Byrne, in one way, is fortunate. Honorable senators on both sides, who are now present in the chamber, were named in documents that were discovered in the Russian Legation or brought out by Petrov, as persons to be courted or cultivated.
– Put on a short hook!
– I am not quite sure of the term. That matter was investigated by the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia, and if ever a man were given a complete clearance in relation to any suspicion of pro-Communist activity, that man was Senator O’Byrne. Senator Vincent’s allegation could not have been clearer. To refresh the minds of honorable senators, I shall quote paragraph 668 of the report of the royal commission. It is in these terms -
Senator O’Byrne was elected a Member of the Senate in 1946 and is still a Senator. He and other members of his family have fine records of service to Australia in the last war. He served as a Pilot Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force and in 1941 was shot down over France and captured. He was imprisoned in prisonerofwar camps in Germany and Poland, and made several unsuccessful attempts to escape. He learned some Russian while a prisoner.
I point out to honorable senators that Senator O’Byrne was a member of the first Australian squadron that took part in the Battle of Britain. In addition, members of his family served at high levels in the armed forces of Australia all over the world. Paragraph 669 of the report reads -
His only association with the Soviet Embassy or its officials consisted of attending, along with many other guests two official Embassy receptions. At the second, in November, 1951, he spoke a few words of greeting and thanks in Russian to one of the Embassy employees who served him with refreshments. Possibly this is an explanation of the fact that his name was reported to the Moscow Centre. As we have mentioned elsewhere in this Report, the mentality of the M.V.D. is such that even a slight sign of interest in anything Russian, particularly when displayed by a man in public life, appears to have been sufficient to make him the subject of a report to the Moscow Centre and to arouse its interest. The direction to Pakhomov to “study” Senator O’Byrne was not carried out and he gave no information, wittingly or unwittingly, to the M.V.D.
I shall now quote an extract from page 2612 of the transcript of the proceedings before the royal commission -
Mr. Windeyer. ; Having regard to the last statement by Senator O’Byrne, I take it that Your Honours do not require him to attend to give evidence on oath, and in whatever sense he speaks of a vindication, I would assume ; it is a matter for Your Honours - that he has it.
– Yes, he has it. There is not a tittle of evidence or suggestion that he has acted improperly. I am not surprised that he feels indignant at the fact that he is quoted as a person worthy of study. . . .
There is the man, indignant at the bare suggestion that he was worthy of study by the Communists. There is the mancleared by three judges who had the resources of the security forces of this country at their disposal - and everybody in this chamber knows the raking over and the combing that was given to every person named in the papers that were discovered. Senator O’Byrne, more than anybody in this chamber, stands pre-eminently cleared of the smear of communism. One has only to look at his magnificent war record, and at the record of service of his family, to know that the allegation that has been made is completely undeserved. The harm it does him personally, politically and in his church, is unbelievable seeing it was made in this place. How does one overcome that position? I put to the Senate with all sincerity that we have a moral responsibility in this matter. I do not suggest for one moment that all the inferences I have quite properly, I think, put to the Senate were in Senator Vincent’s mind when he spoke. I have been in this place long enough to realize that an interjection is made quickly; the reply is the. first thing that enters one’s head, and no prior consideration is given to any implications that may follow. Obviously Senator Vincent did not have the opportunity to sit down and analyze the matter coldly and logically as I have attempted to do. One just throws out his interjection, and if it is a little offensive to the person to whom it is made, that is just bad luck.
I repeat that I do not suggest for one moment that Senator Vincent had in his mind any of the points I have mentioned, but I have taken his statement, referred to its literal meaning and have shown its clear implications. I feel very strongly that those implications cannot be denied. I am perfectly certain that had Senator Vincent had the opportunity to consider every aspect of his interjection, he would never have made it.
I submit with the greatest respect that the Acting Deputy President also did not have time to give the matter ample consideration. I am sure, Mr. President, that your own ruling on 6th May last was not in his mind, and I venture to say that if the Acting Deputy President of yesterday had heard one quarter of the material I have offered to-day, he would have recognized that the statement made was of a very serious character and most offensive to the person against whom it was directed.
Senator O’Byrne’s reaction of the utmost indignation to the suggestion that he was to be studied has been shown. The offence he took at the suggestion is real, and I hope that Senator Vincent, even at this stage, seeing the implications of the statement, and having that sense of justice which I know he, as a lawyer possesses, will take some steps to remedy the position: I should think that, having regard to the prestige of this chamber and to other important factors that should, be considered, it would be appropriate if at this stage he indicated his readiness to withdraw. If he did that, the motion of dissent would be instantly withdrawn.
I suggest that that would save a great deal of embarrassment. It would save, for a start, what I think would: be a. quite: obvious conflict between rulings from theChair in this chamber. What would be the position otherwise? Would we abide by the President’s ruling or by the Acting. Deputy President’s ruling? Would a decision depend on who is in the chair at a particular time? A decided embarrassment would arise there. How could a far lessoffensive statement made in the House of Representatives be regarded as unparliamentary and the statement made here not beso regarded? We would get to a contradictory position in the Parliament, and that would be bad for the parliamentary institution.
I suggest there is a very high standard of behaviour in this chamber. I have derived some delight and amusement by reading what went on in earlier debates. I am prepared to say, from my perusal of those debates, that the Senate has improved out of sight in regard to its behaviour. I hope that those who seek some amusement will turn back to some of the earlier debates, and read particularly the incident of the senator who was accused of associating with a party pledged to repudiation. I am delighted to say that the Senate has improved out of sight. Our debates may not be as amusing or as raw as those of former days, but they are better.
I feel, Mr. President, that it would be a very happy solution to the problem if Senator Vincent were to withdraw his statement. None of us on this side is happy at any time to dissent from a ruling of the Chair. That is never a pleasant matter; it is always unpleasant. I put it very seriously to the Senate that a very grievous attack was made on Senator O’Byrne. When one explains the charge and draws it out into its proper meaning, I am sure we see that it was never intended to be made.
I conclude on the note that if Senator Vincent follows the course I suggest - I appeal to him to do so - he will not lose stature in this chamber. Rather will he gain in stature. His action would avoid a conflict of decisions. The very grave injustice which has been done, not only to Senator O’Byrne but also to his family, could be rectified easily and the Senate could, get back to the well-ordered, even tenor of its ways.
– There are a couple of matters upon which I agree entirely with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). First of all, I agree with him in regard to the personality, character and courage of Senator O’Byrne. I regard Senator O’Byrne as a personal friend of mine. We have seen quite a bit of one another outside the Senate. I do not believe that he is a Communist, any more than I believe that I am. I pay tribute to his very gallant war record. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition on that. I also agree with him that it is most desirable to maintain a high standard of debate in this chamber. During the years that he and I have been here, we have, for the most part, enjoyed a very tough, very hard, but very courteous interchange of views from time to time. I do not remember in my time here any senator casting personal reflections from one side of the chamber to the other. I join Senator McKenna in hoping that the present high standard will continue.
It is about there that I part company with him. I am quite satisfied, having regard to the ruling given by you, Sir, on 6th May last, that if Senator O’Byrne had been called a Communist by Senator Vincent, Senator Pearson, the then Acting Deputy President, would have insisted on an immediate withdrawal, had Senator O’Byrne so requested. But he was not called a Communist. It was only the type of argument that is used from time to time in this chamber by Senator O’Byrne which Senator Vincent attacked. I propose later to refer to some of those arguments. I assure the Senate that in my view Senator Pearson would have had no hesitation in insisting upon an immediate withdrawal had Senator O’Byrne been called a Communist, because that would have been something which, to the knowledge of us all, was quite untrue and quite false. Let me read the relevant passage again. It is -
– The old sabre rattler!
– That is called sabre rattling by interjectors like Senator O’Byrne, who preaches the Communist doctrine in this Senate at every possible opportunity.
Allowing for a certain amount of rhetorical licence, Senator Vincent, I am quite sure-
– What about the chap who is singing out “ Fisho “? I would not think he was selling rabbits.
– I will refer, not to rabbits, but to what Senator O’Byrne has persistently advocated for many years now. Senator McKenna argued that because Senator Vincent had said that Senator O’Byrne preached the Communist doctrine, the whole of the Communist doctrine is thereby involved. That is quite absurd. There was also the phrase “ on every possible opportunity “. In these matters we must allow for a certain amount of rhetorical licence. What Senator Vincent .conveyed to me, anyhow, was that the Communist line, time and time again, has found a very eloquent and a very militant supporter in Senator O’Byrne. I think that that is very sad, because he is a very gallant gentleman and a friend of mine. I have been amazed, and I am quite sure other honorable senators have too, by his verbal intemperance and by the extravagant language that he has used from time to time. On the sixth of this month he asked1 me a question in regard to New Guinea in the most intemperate language. That question was based completely on false premises.
– What rot!
– That is what I think. It is a pity he did so. Let us have a look at the most intemperate and extravagant language he used on that occasion.
– What has that to do with this?
– lt has this to do with it: It was a question based on falsity, that would have given pleasure and comfort only to the Communists and those who think like them. Only yesterday in this chamber, speaking about the Suez Canal, Lebanon and Jordan, Senator O’Byrne advocated precisely the line of the Communists, as I have read it from time to time in their “ Tribune “. He was grossly critical of our allies and friends, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and, by inference, most cordial to the Russians. At all events, he was advocating and pleading precisely the Communist line. That, was as recently as yesterday. I had the pleasure of reading his speech just a while ago.
The Communists are against the Seato, Anzus and Baghdad pacts. Senator O’Byrne is against them too. He is most critical of them. I refer honorable senators to “ Hansard “ of 9th April, 1957, at page 402. The Communists want us to recognize red China. So does Senator O’Byrne.
– That is the British line.
– I am speaking about Senator O’Byrne’s having from time to time adamantly and consistently supported the Communist line. His attitude in regard to red China appears in “Hansard”, of 8th September, 1955, at page 103. We know that the Communists frequently like using the word “ colonialism “, and that they apply it in a sneering kind of way to us and our friends. Senator O’Byrne has done likewise. I shall not go through all the details, but Senator Vincent was not far from the mark when he said that Senator O’Byrne followed the Communist line. I refer the Senate to the following references in “ Hansard “: - 29th September, 1954, at page 532, 11th May, 1955, at page 329, 29th November, 1957, at page 1362, and 19th November, 1957, at page 1326. They show that Senator O’Byrne has persistently used the word “ colonialism “ in a sneering way, and in a context similar to that in which it can be seen in the “ Tribune “. It is sufficient to add that it was used in the context in which the Communists use it when they attack our friends and allies.
The Communist party has conducted a campaign entitled “ Ban the Bomb “. Senator O’Byrne pursues a line which is identical with that followed by the Communists, as will be seen in “ Hansard “, of 19th September, 1956, 24th October, 1956, and 23rd March, 1957. Let me quote another example, which is consistent with the Communist line. On 20th November, 1957, Senator O’Byrne asked me whether I was aware that the National Commissioner of the Australian Red Cross Society, Mr. A. G. Brown, who had just returned from the Nineteenth International Conference of the Red Cross at New Delhi, had stated that 84 governments had supported the Red Cross ban on nuclear weapon attacks against civilian populations. The Prime Minister’s reply, which was published in “ Hansard “ of 5th December, 1957, shows that no such resolution had been passed. That, of course, could be found in the Communist “ Tribune “.
The Communists have a certain line of approach to summit talks. Senator O’Byrne’s approach is identical. That can be ascertained from reference to “ Hansard “ of 12th March, 1958, at pages 133 and 134. Reference to those pages will show that Senator O’Byrne was very critical of America and the Secretary of State, but, by inference, was not ill-disposed towards Russia. I am mentioning just a few examples to show where the Communist line runs.
– It is a case of smearing me by slander.
– No, it is not. I have referred to the honorable senator’s own words. I am not speaking from hearsay, but am quoting chapter and verse in “ Hansard “ to establish to the satisfaction of any one who cares to read it that over the years Senator O’Byrne has persistently and consistently supported the Communist party line. The last matter to which I refer is the sending of troops to Malaya. The Communist party thinks that Australia should withdraw her troops from Malaya. So does Senator O’Byrne, as can be seen from reference to “Hansard” of 11th May, 1955, at page 329, and of 8th September, 1955, at pages 103 and 104.
I have said, Mr. President, that I am quite sure there is no inconsistency between the ruling given by Senator Pearson yesterday and that which was given by you on 8th May last. Debates in this chamber would be severely handicapped if analysis, scrutiny and criticism of people’s ideas and arguments, such as they are, could not be made.. There is not the slightest suggestion of moral turpitude against Senator O’Byrne; his character is not assailed. If ideas are expressed here from time to time and we on this side of the chamber are to be restrained from criticizing those ideas, no matter how foolish and extravagant they are, the purpose of debate will be defeated. Similarly, if we on this side of the chamber - God forbid that it should be so - became so sensitive when our policy or arguments were criticized that one of us rose to a point of order and said that the criticism of our arguments was personally offensive, debate would be brought to a stand-still.
In conclusion, Mr. President, I repeat that I have the highest personal regard for
Senator O’Byrne. I am not unmindful of his war record. But, if a bird walks like a duck, walks with ducks, and quacks like a duck, he cannot blame people for mistaking him for a duck.
.- I propose to support the ruling under discussion, but I think for entirely different reasons from those which have been advanced from the other side of the chamber. I support it because, consistent with ordinary standards of good taste, I believe in the utmost possible freedom of speech in this chamber where any honorable senator who is attacked has the right to rise in his place and defend himself.
It is possible that my view on this matter is coloured by my previous experience, which has been gained largely at trade union conferences, trades hall councils and Labour party branches, where the custom has always been that, if a person is attacked, he does not appeal to a chairman for protection but rises in his place and replies to the person who attacked him in the same kind of language as that person used. That is the atmosphere in which I have been brought up and I repeat,, that consistent with ordinary standards of good taste, I propose to support that outlook.
I can appreciate Senator O’Byrne’s feelings and the view he takes in objecting to the statement that was made. I think he is entitled to protest. Although relations between us have not been the best, I am prepared to say straight out that I believe he is not a Communist. But I add that Senator O’Byrne, in his discussion of topics in this chamber, pulls no punches. He at no time waters down his language. In the circles in which I have moved, if one is prepared to give it, one must be prepared to take it. I have sat in this chamber and heard most remarkable statements made about me, my colleague and the party that I represent.
– They have been eulogistic.
– They have not all been eulogistic. I have never at any time appealed to the President or the Chairman of Committees to defend me. In the circles in which I have been brought up I have received a liberal training in how to defend myself. ‘ When I have sat here and been described as a fascist; when members of the Parliament have said that I am engaged in organizing a fascist dictatorship in this country; when it has been said that I am a stooge of the Liberal party, and that 1 am in no sense imbued with Labour principles; and when it has been said, even as recently as last week in another place, that I am a paid hireling of the oil companies, I have never said to the Chairman or the President. “ Please defend me “, because I have always been taught and trained to defend myself. Therefore, whatever is said about me from this side of the chamber, or from the other side, I am happy to hear it. I will digest it and I shall reply to it.
Senator O’Byrne is very vocal in this chamber. There are few senators who speak more often than he does. He is able to put his case and he pulls no punches. He never waters down his language. He is an opponent of mine, but I respect one who fights. I should have thought more of him on this occasion had he come straight back at Senator Vincent - he did so in his own speech a few minutes later - rather than say to the Acting Deputy President, “ I have been attacked. Please defend me “. It had been said that he was putting the Communist line, a statement which he claimed was offensive and ought to be withdrawn. I have been accused of putting the Liberal line, except when the banking legislation was on. I have been accused of putting the fascist line, and I have been accused of putting a lot of other lines. I do not mind that; it is part of the hurly-burly of politics. Why worry about it? Senator O’Byrne must have sufficient confidence in his own integrity to feel that the people of Tasmania are not going to be unduly worried because of something said in the course of a debate. After all, the Communist party is a legal party, and honorable senators on this side of the chamber have fought to maintain the right of that party to be considered a legal party.
– The honorable senator believes in free speech, does he not?
– I was a member of the Australian Labour party at the time, and I believe in free speech as well. Since we have declared that the Communist party is a legal party, how can it be offensive if somebody says that a member of the Parliament is putting the Communist line. and how can it not be offensive to say that another member is putting the Liberal line when he is not a member of the Liberal party?
– The honorable senator is not quoting what Senator Vincent said.
– I am quoting what he said. I am disappointed that Senator O’Byrne, whom I have seen put up some good fights in this chamber, should have taken the attitude that he has taken.
I repeat that if you are going to give it, you have to be prepared to take it. It probably would be better if things of that kind were not said at all. It probably would be better if honorable senators did not accuse others of being fascists, Communists, and so on, but I suppose such statements add to the light and shade of debate and brighten things up a little. I. have always been in favour of tough debates and strong debates rather than weak debates. I do not believe in attacking people. I came into this chamber in somewhat unusual circumstances, but I came in with a determination that, although I had been associated with a very nasty and unpleasant row, I would not, if possible, make this chamber a platform on which to fight out old battles and old struggles. My attitude consistently has been that I would not be offensive to other members unless they were offensive to me first.
As I say, I have been brought up in a school which teaches, “ If you are in a fight, go in and fight it out. Do not ask for any protection from outside sources.” In this case, I am compelled to say that I do not believe that Senator O’Byrne is a Communist; but I say that if members of this chamber are going to say that other people are fascists, that they are tools of dictators, and that they are the paid hirelings of oil companies; if they are going to say, of people who do not belong to the Liberal party, that they are carrying out the dirty work of that party, and things of that kind, T do not propose to support them. If they ask the occupant of the chair to defend them when something of the same kind is said of them, I intend, to support the Chairman’s ruling.
– The first thing that I desire to say is that I appreciate the argument that the
Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) put forward in relation to the present motion. I agree with some of bis argument, but unfortunately I do not agree with the background or premise from which he started. Senator McKenna suggested that three inferences could be drawn from the words that I used. He said that the first inference to be drawn was that Senator O’Byrne was doing the work of the Communists; the second inference was that he was a Communist; and the third inference, a far more serious one, was that he was a Communist and, at the same time, ostensibly a member of the Australian Labour parry, thus living a double life. I think that that expresses Senator McKenna’s propositions.
There is a fourth inference, which Senator McKenna forgot. It is just as important, and, I think, a more readily understandable one, a simpler and more obvious one. It is that the words that I used mean exactly what they say, and that is, that Senator O’Byrne at every possible opportunity - 1 emphasize the word “ opportunity “ - preaches the Communist doctrine. There is only one inference to draw from that. The words mean exactly what they say, and with the very greatest respect to Senator McKenna, there is no other meaning attachable to them. If I had meant to say that I believed Senator O’Byrne was a Communist, I would have said so. I did not say that, and I no more believe that Senator O’Byrne is a Communist than I believe that Senator McKenna, Senator O’sullivan, or anybody else in this chamber, is a Communist. To suggest that I inferred that is both wrong and unfair. I said exactly what I meant, and while I have a great personal respect for Senator O’Byrne, I still mean what I said - that on every possible opportunity the honorable senator preaches the Communist doctrine.
Senator McKenna then proceeded to argue the technical weakness of the Acting Deputy President’s views, and I want to say a few words about that. Senator McKenna suggested, although he did not argue it strongly, that the Chairman should have upheld the motion for dissent, because Senator O’Byrne felt that the words were offensive, or believed that they were. We have had’ this argument in the Senate many times. All I want to say on this aspect of it is that I do not think Senator McKenna really presses that argument strongly: The words must do more than make the honorable senator aggrieved; they have to be offensive per se, as it. is called or in themselves; otherwise you get the most impossible and outrageous situation: in this chamber that at any time any honorable senator can take exception to any expression that is used by rising, and saying that that particular expression is offensive. Why, if the proposition1 that Senator McKenna is arguing is correct, some honorable senator could rise now and say that the very words I am using at the moment are offensive to him and therefore I should withdraw them. I do not think Senator McKenna really presses that proposition.
– But it rests: with the President to say” whether they are offensive.
– Senator McKenna is not saying that; he is saying that if the aggrieved senator feel’s that the words are offensive’ they should be withdrawn. I am arguing that that is a wrong construction fo put on the standing order which merely says -
No Senator shall use offensive’ words against either House of. Parliament or any member of such House.
Senator McKenna seeks to interpret that standing order thus -
No Senator shall use offensive words which, in the opinion of the aggrieved Senator are offensive.
That is the construction that Senator McKenna is endeavouring to place on the standing order. With great respect, I say that the only possible construction that can be placed on this; standing order is that which follows from the President regarding the words completely objectively - naturally he makes the decision: - and taking their per se or ordinary meaning in the context in which they are used, irrespective of who thinks what about them.
We have had that, argument many times in the Senate; but I put it forward again in answer to Senator McKenna’s argument that there was merit in the motion because Senator O’Byrne felt that the words used were offensive. Senator O’Byrne probably felt very upset that I had used the words, but this is a House of Parliament, and, as Senator McManus so ably expressed it, “ If you give it, you have got to be able to take it “. If Senator O’Byrne deserves to have those words said about him,, and if they are true, I think he has got to be able to take it or contradict them.
That brings me to my final’ proposition: in this argument.. I have said - and I believe it to Be true - that Senator O’Byrne preached the Communist doctrine in this chamber: JJ do not for a moment believe that he- is a Communist,, and I have not said that he is, but I believe he preaches the. Communist doctrine.
I went through some recent debates in* which Senator. O’Byrne has taken part, and-. I found that in the short space of three: years - after all, that is not such a long, period - whenever aspects of foreign affairsand high politics were discussed in this chamber, Senator O’Byrne had, in fact, supported the Communist doctrine on ten, occasions. I will mention them now.
In the first instance, Senator. O’Byrne argued that no troops, should be sent to> Malaya. That is a Communist doctrine.
– We all support that statement.
– And you did’, toot: Let me interpolate here that I am not singling out Senator O’Byrne in connexion, with this debate.. He is- a very faithful! adherent to the left wing policies of the Australian Labour party, and that is why he is now in trouble.
I have given the first example of Senator O’Byrne’s Communist doctrine. Thesecond is that Senator O’Byrne advocated’ the recognition of red’. China. That is a Communist doctrine. Thirdly,. Senator O’Byrne has advocated unrestricted tradewith Communist China. That is a Communist doctrine. No one can deny1 that. The fourth example is that Senator O’Byrne has on every occasion advocated’ a cut in the defence vote. This is another Communist doctrine.
As a fifth example, I mention that Senator O’Byrne advocated the abandonment of compulsory military training. So did1 the Communists. Not only did Senator O’Byrne advocate its abandonment, but heobjected to it ab initio. Again, Senator O’Byrne advocated the smashing of the A.L.P. industrial groups, and so did the Communists. He has advocated that nc* organized fights should be made against Communists in the trade unions. So have the Communists. Senator O’Byrne has advocated and supported the elimination of the secret ballot provisions from our arbitration laws. So have the Communists.
He has supported the action of the Soviet Union in its rape of Hungary. So did the -Communists. Finally, Senator O’Byrne has attacked the British policy .in the Middle East, and so have the Communists.
There are ten examples. If Senator O’Byrne wants to argue this one out, he should follow Senator McKenna’s advice and stand up and argue it. He should not complain to a higher authority that his policies are being attacked.
That is all I have to say on this argument. I believe that Senator O’Byrne is merely complying in a very vigorous way with the expressed policies of the Australian Labour party, and if those policies tend to fall right alongside the policies of the Communist party on these matters, that is just too bad for the Australian Labour party. It has got to talk this one out.
.- I have entered this debate even though I am satisfied that Senator McKenna has ably presented my case and proved complete justification for the motion of dissension from the ruling given by the Acting Deputy President yesterday in interpreting Standing Order 418.
During the course of his remarks this afternoon, Senator Vincent resorted to distortions and half truths in an endeavour to prove his points. I challenge him to prove some of the things he has said. For instance, I challenge him to prove that I have ever advocated full trade with red China, that I have opposed the banning of Communists, or that I have opposed any attack against the Communists taking charge of trade union activities. His remarks are typical of the smear campaign that is being carried on.
Let me now show my consistency in connexion with these matters. I am prepared to take whatever is coming to me, but I object to what is being done on this occasion. When I submitted my case to the Royal Commission on Espionage, I pointed out that this mention of my name in the press and over the radio was damaging to me. I said -
The mere publication of my name in such a context will subject me to a degree of doubt, suspicion and even odium with a substantial section of the community. A finding by the Commission wholly favorable to me will not correct this position.
Towards the end of my statement to that royal commission I said -
All these and many others-
I mentioned a number of people who were involved - must be gravely affected by the wholly irresponsible and unjustified reference to me - a reference which I strongly resent and which I interpret as a direction to explore the possibility that I might unwittingly give information of value to a foreign power to the detriment of Australia.
I pointed out that I belong to a family with a good religious background, to a family of honest Australians who have always stood for things Australian. I have been the victim of a scandalous and libellous detraction. Not only should it be punishable by law, but it is highly reprehensible from a moral point of view. I believe that I am the one to say who was offended. Senator McManus spoke about fighting on the same level, but I ask him what the Standing Orders are for. I have had recourse to those Standing Orders, which provide that no senator shall use offensive words against another senator. I believe that I am the one to judge whether certain remarks are offensive to me or not. I still maintain that the words used were highly offensive, and I still believe that I am morally entitled to ask that they be withdrawn. Plainly, they were made with slanderous intent.
Perhaps Senator Vincent merely wanted to get his own back on me, but he has quoted half-truths and has suggested that, because my views are different from his, they can be lined up with those of the Communists. By suggesting that persons who differ from him are following the Communist line he is himself following the McCarthy line. That sort of approach was referred to in a leading article which appeared in the “ Newcastle Morning Herald” on 16th August last. The article read -
While professing willingness to be judged on their administration of national affairs over the past nine years the Government parties in Canberra are actually planning another “ Red Menace “ election campaign. McCarthyism, no longer a reputable cult in the U.S., is to be given full rein. This method of electioneering was highlighted by the infamous McCarthy interpretation of history entitled “Twenty Years ot Treason” . . .
Senator Vincent has himself just recited a history of treason supposedly committed by me and I resent it very deeply - by which it was proved that right through the years of depression and the war, until the republicans took over from President Truman, the government of the country had been in the hands of people consciously selling out to Russian and Chinese communism. In Australia the technique is different. The method here is to identify the Labour party with communism and to suggest that the Australian Labour party policy . . .
That is exactly what Senator Vincent has tried to do - . . both nationally and internationally is essentially communistic. That is no more true of the A.L.P. than it was of the American Democratic administration under Roosevelt and Truman. The falsehood, though it poisoned the atmosphere and sapped the foundations of justice in the U.S. for years, carried its parent . . .
In this case the parent is Senator Vincent -
Most honorable senators, and many of those who were listening to the broadcast of this debate, will have realized that Senator Vincent very badly needs cutting down to his proper dimensions. However, the judgment of the Chair has not done that. I consider that it was ill considered; that the standing order which cuts a man down to size if he makes objectionable statements concerning another honorable senator should have been applied. The article continued: -
In Australia McCarthyism still pays handsome dividends at election time.
We have just heard an announcement that an election is to be held. I read further -
It is an old weapon. But every time it is used successfully the foundations of the two-party system are shaken and the Government that employs it becomes less responsible to the people for its actions. These are serious consequences that politicians of genuinely democratic outlook should fear to impose on the nation. That they combine to do so is not the result of desperation. It is done because politics in Australia are a dirtier business than they need be - dirtier than the people should be prepared to tolerate. It is about time the electors ignored the smoke screen, and showed their contempt for those who would hide behind it.
That is my defence. I believe that Senator Vincent has acted largely from political motives in this matter. His purpose has been to try to discredit me, to discredit the Australian Labour party, and to create a smear, and I intensely resent that fact. On behalf of those who hold me in respect I feel it my duty to stand up here and ask that such an objectionable imputation against me should not have the support of this Senate.
– We have just listened to Senator O’Byrne making a rather impassioned defence which would have been to some purpose if anybody had called him a Communist. His defence was along the line that he was not himself a Communist. It would have been to some purpose if any one had called him that, but every one on this side of the House has been at pains to make it clear that, neither last night, now, nor previously, have we said that he was a Communist, or a member of the Communist party. The seeking of sympathy, by saying that one has been called something which one has not been called is not, in my opinion, a proper method of debating. It is true that Senator McKenna asked the rhetorical question. “ Who could preach the Communist doctrine except some one who was a Communist, or some one who was a hypocrite ? “ The answer is that a doctrine of that kind could be preached by some one who was neither a Communist nor a hypocrite but who was too murky-minded to know what he was preaching. I believe that in this case Senator O’Byrne - a good man, a wellintentioned man, a good-hearted man - has been too murky-minded to know what he has been preaching.
I want to direct the attention of the Senate to some of the projects which the Communist party, as such, has sought to carry out, and to some of the ideas that the Communist party, as such, has soughtto impose upon the Australian people. One of the major objects of Communist attack has always been the Australian security service. The party has sought to denigrate that service, because it has always been a thorn in the party’s side and has done its best to prevent Communists from penetrating into important positions in the defence or policy making fields.
– The Australian Labour party set up that service.
– The Communist party has always made it an object of attack.
– But we set it up.
– The Australian Labour party did set it up, and it has been the object of attack by the Communists, who wanted to denigrate it in the minds of the Australian people. They attempted to do this by comparing it with the secret police in Communist-dominated or fascistdominated countries. They attempted to persuade the Australian people that the Australian security service, as set up by the Australian Labour party - and not materially altered since - has powers of arbitrary imprisonment, of arrest, of entry without warrant such as are possessed by the secret police of the fascist and Communist countries. Honorable senators will agree that that service has been the object of Communist party attack and that Senator O’Byrne - unwittingly, I know - has furthered that Communist attempt. If you read the debates we have had on the security service - I think they occurred about two or three years ago - from which I have taken that extract, it will be seen that he does equate the Australian security service with secret police organizations of that kind. And that is one example I give of the way in which I believe he has unwittingly furthered in this place that which the Communists wish the Australian people to believe. On other occasions - indeed, Sir, yesterday - he made a statement by way of interjection, which I do not believe he believes in for a moment. But it appears in “ Hansard “, and it can be quoted, and I believe it will be quoted by the Communists to further their ideas. Senator Vincent was speaking about the possibility of Russian troops entering the Middle East, and he said -
I do not believe for a moment that the Russians would be marching in for the purpose of maintaining the sovereignty of the State.
– I did not say that.
– I am reading what Senator Vincent said, and you interjected -
That is what they did in Hungary.
– I said that was their excuse for going into Hungary.
– A little later you said that. You interjected -
Their excuse was that they did it to uphold the sovereignty of Hungary.
Can any one know whether you accept that excuse? Can any one say from that interjection that it could not be used by the Communists to further their ideas? You did not mean it, I know, but you said it. Those are only two instances that I would give - I need not give any more, because many others have been given - to show the background that I believe lies behind it.
I only have this other thing to say. I do not believe there is any person on the Opposition side of the chamber who is readier to call senators on this side warmongers if their opinions are different from those of Senator O’Byrne, and to call senators on this side fascists if their opinions are different from those of Senator O’Byrne, than is Senator O’Byrne himself; and I am compelled to think that there is some force to be placed on the argument that was put forward by Senator McManus that those who are prepared to dish it out ought to be prepared to take it. But there is this difference in this case: There is not one scintilla of evidence of any kind that those on this side called warmongers want war, or those called fascists help the fascists; but there is evidence in this case that Senator O’Byrne, though not a Communist, has over a period of time on matters of foreign affairs - not all matters - and matters concerning the security service, preached the same line as the Communist party was then preaching. That is all that Senator Vincent said, and that is a matter of public moment and ought to be a matter for discussion, but not invective.
– As one who stands on his own in this chamber, I think it is important for a separate point of view to be expressed on the matter under consideration. It is not my purpose to go into the merits or the demerits of the allegations and counterallegations concerning Senator O’Byrne. The two points to which I shall confine my contributions to this debate are possibly within a narrow compass.
Looking through the precedents - the rulings of Presidents in the past - I find that there was a much greater sensitivity and resentment, and, therefore, a much wider definition of offensive terms in previous years than there is to-day, and I think that that is a good thing. While agreeing that in the ebb and flow of debate argument might be advanced with force, and refuted with equal force, I do not know that going beyond a certain point is necessarily in the interests of this chamber. All of us have a duty to preserve the standard of debate and the decorum of this democratic institution.
When I look at these precedents to which I have referred, I feel that our predecessors had a greater concept of the necessity to preserve that standard than perhaps we have to-day. My stand in this debate, therefore, is actuated by the thought that that sensitivity should be revived whilst allowing for the ebb and flow of debate, allegation and counter-allegation.
The terms which have been used by Senator Vincent against Senator O’Byrne are quite specific terms, and it is on the specific nature of that expression that I take my stand. To say that a person is a Communist, of course, is to make a very definite allegation of an embracing character, but there are many ways in this community in which the same allegation can be made without using that express term. I am one who, in his own conscience, has a very great regard for the character of all other people. I have often been asked, “Do you think so-and-so is a Communist? ‘ To such a question I am most scrupulous in the reply I give. Terms such as “ following the party line “ and things like that are, in the minds of most people in Australia to-day - because this thing is such a tremendous evil and works with such subtlety - alternative terms to the allegation that a person is a Communist and can be interpreted in almost the same way.
I think, therefore, that we in this chamber should show a sensitivity to the terms in which we describe each other, particularly in regard to communism, a sensitivity perhaps greater than is enjoyed by the rest of the nation. We should be particularly scrupulous not only of the characters of one another but in our choice of terms to see that nothing derogates from the standing and the character and the status of every one of us.
When I look at the precise terms in which Senator Vincent made his allegation against Senator O’Byrne, I cannot help feeling that, in the concepts of any expressions which are current in Australia, that could be given an interpretation which v/ould he very little less than a direct allegation that a person was. a Communist. I am quite sure that Senator Vincent did not think that in his own mind. In his speech to-day in relation to Senator O’Byrne, he expressly denied that the idea was in his mind, and said that he would not make such a suggestion because he does not believe it to be true. Nevertheless, his words were dangerous and could be interpreted in that way. As I say, this Senate has a particular responsibility in respect of the choice of terms we select in such a dangerous field as this, and when we are dealing with the very sacred character of other members of “the Senate behind the impregnable wall of parliamentary privilege.
The second point is the use of the word offensive “. I do not know whether it must lie in the term being offensive per se. I think that the word “ offensive “ must be construed rather as whether a term is reasonably capable of an offensive meaning and, of course, if that would not apply I think the argument goes out completely, and I would expect the President to rule that an expression was not offensive in any specific circumstance unless it could reasonably be capable of an offensive meaning. But with anything less than that, I think it rests with the person who feels himself aggrieved to take the stand that it is offensive to him; and if we are to preserve the standard of debate in this chamber, I think that that stand having been taken, resentment having been expressed, and a request to withdraw having been made, it is very wise for the person making the statement to withdraw it.
I know that Senator Vincent and other honorable senators face a difficult situation which has already been canvassed. It was mentioned by Senator O’sullivan. These are allegations about ideas and the conflict of ideas, and it is not easy to debate whether a person expressed an idea and somebody expressed a contrary idea or challenged the first expression. But I think that by the application of good sense and commonsense in this chamber by all honorable senators, it will be possible for a completely free and untrammelled debate to proceed without any unreasonable impediment to the discussion, while keeping within the confines and the boundaries that I have suggested. The third point I make is that in this case I feel bound by precedent, and by the ruling which has already been handed down in relation to a direct allegation that a person is a Communist. In the ordinary concept of the people to-day the terms in which the offending words were expressed lie so close to a charge that a person is a Communist that they are tantamount to such a charge. In my view the ruling in the previous case might well have been applied in this instance, and because that was a ruling of the President himself, as distinct from what may be described, perhaps, as a court of lesser jurisdiction, though for the time carrying the President’s jurisdiction and status, it would be wise for us to regard this allegation, having regard to the terms in which it was expressed, as being tantamount to the allegation on which the President previously ruled.
For those reasons, Mr. Deputy President, I support the motion for dissent without canvassing in any way the merits or demerits of Senator O’Byrne, whose character and position have been cleared completely by all honorable senators on both sides of the chamber who have contributed to the discussion.
– When I was in the chair of the Senate yesterday afternoon in the capacity of Acting Deputy President, I gave a ruling which is the subject of debate at the present time. I am not required to give my reasons for any ruling, and I would not have attempted to do so on this occasion had Senator Hendrickson not interjected a moment ago and said that the ruling of the Chair yesterday implied -I am not sure of that word - that Senator O’Byrne was a Communist.
-I am glad the honorable senator confirms what I thought he said.
– Or a fellow traveller, which means the same thing.
– If it is inferred from that remark that I, as the occupant of the chair yesterday, was a party in any way to a smear campaign against Senator O’Byrne, I hasten to say that I would not be a party to anything of that kind. I believe that Senator O’Byrne is not a Communist, and I say that Senator Vincent did not accuse him of being a Communist. Had he done so, he would have been required to withdraw the remark and, if he had not withdrawn, he would have been subjected to the extreme penalties provided under the Standing Orders.
However, I do not believe that Senator Vincent either called Senator O’Byrne a Communist or implied that he is a Communist. I held that opinion yesterday, and for that reason gave the ruling I did. I believe that my opinion is strengthened by what has been said to-day.
.- Mr. President, I propose to inform your mind on a few simple facts relating to the motion now under discussion. On 7th August, a debate commenced in this chamber upon a certain motion relating to the printing of a paper. That debate took the form of what is commonly known as a debate on international affairs. On that day, at least two speakers contributed to the debate, which was adjourned until Tuesday last, 19th August. When the debate was resumed a change in temperament and demeanour on the part of honorable senators was evident, and the reason for that change was very easy to discover. During the period from 7th to 19th August, when the Senate was not sitting, the United Nations had discussed the very problem that was before the chamber on the 7th August. Every honorable senator was fully aware that the United Nations would establish a proper tribunal to deal with the Middle East, and to date at least some of the 81 members of the United Nations have participated in that debate. The representative of Lebanon mentioned the problems of his country; the representative of Jordan mentioned the problems of his country; and other prominent representatives, such as General Eisenhower and Mr. Selwyn Lloyd also discussed the subject.
Every honorable senator who took part in the debate yesterday was fully aware that he was engaging in a futile discussion and that he may as well have been talking about a fishing club.I am sure those honorable senators felt like the people who set out to look at turbulent flood waters in the district but. on arrival at the bank of the stream find that all the waters have passed away to the sea. Honorable senators were manufacturing and introducing foreign ideas into the debate and were completely lost. Most of them were wool-gathering and did not know what they were talking about. lt was in that setting that the incident now before us occurred. Had the debate taken place in this chamber before the United Nations dealt with the matter, 1 am sure this unpleasant incident between Senator Vincent and Senator O’Byrne would not have occurred. However, we must deal with the facts as we know them.
During Senator Vincent’s speech Senator O’Byrne made the mild interjection: “ The old sabre rattler! “ Senator Vincent did not take any objection to that remark but said -
That is called sabre rattling by interjectors like Senator O’Byrne, who preaches the Communist doctrine in the Senate at every possible opportunity.
Senator O’Byrne then rose in his place and said -
Mr. Acting Deputy President, I ask that that remark be withdrawn. I resent it very much.
The “ Hansard “ report then continues -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Pearson). - Order! ls Senator Vincent prepared to withdraw that statement?
Mr. President, reference to the Standing Orders will reveal that Senator Pearson, who was then the Acting Deputy President, had no authority whatever to ask Senator Vincent - or any senator for that matter - whether he was prepared to withdraw the statement. That opportunity is not offered on a plate to any senator. In my view the action of the Acting Deputy President showed a deliberate weakness on the part of the Chair. The “ Hansard “ report then continues -
– No, I am not prepared to withdraw it. I believe that it is a true statement. If Senator O’Byrne disagrees with the proposition, I shall welcome it if I* will get up and disprove it. I suggest there is nothing unparliamentary-
I have told you, Sir, of the conversations which occurred. I have told you of the objection which was raised by Senator O’Byrne to the statement made by Senator Vincent. Those are things that you must consider when deciding whether the statement was offensive or not.
Let us look now at the Standing Orders. The Standing Orders applicable to this matter are Standing Orders 418 and 438. Standing Order 418 reads -
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
Was a personal reflection on Senator O’Byrne made by Senator Vincent? That, I submit, is the only question that has to be answered by the Senate. The issue is not whether Senator Vincent called Senator O’Byrne a Communist. What did Senator Vincent say at the particular time? He said that Senator O’Byrne is always preaching the Communist doctrine.
I turn now to Senator O’Byrne. I must analyse him somewhat to see whether such a statement would be offensive to him. This is what I find. Senator O’Byrne has had a Christian .upbringing and a careful Christian education. He is devoted to the principles of his church. Every one knows that you cannot be a pagan and a Christian at the same time; you cannot practise the principles of your religion and at the same time preach paganism. You are preaching a form of paganism if you preach the doctrine of communism. Senator O’Byrne is a member of the Australian Labour party, which is a political reform party. To say that he preaches the doctrine of communism is to say, in effect, that he supports revolutionary methods for the correction of economic and social problems, that he believes in the extirpation of all religious bodies and in the persecution of teachers of religion. Has any one in this chamber, or any one in the Commonwealth, ever heard Senator O’Byrne preach such things?
Preaching the doctrines of communism is not just replying by way of interjection now and again to something said in respect of legislation that this Government has brought in on various occasions. It does not mean that a man is preaching the Communist doctrine if he shows vocally that he is opposed to legislation of the Government. This charge goes further than that. I am sure that Senator Vincent did not realize the seriousness of his statement when he made it. He said, in effect, that Senator O’Byrne stands for the mass murder of those opposed to him politically. If he preaches the Communist doctrine, he must preach along lines similar to that. If he is a supporter of the Communist doctrine, he must also support the separation of wives from their husbands, the removal of children from the care of their parents and the concentration of all in conscripted labour camps. Will anybody assert that Senator O’Byrne preaches that that is the doctrine to be implemented in the Commonwealth, or anywhere else in the world?
I have pointed to the seriousness of the statement of Senator Vincent, and I turn now to what may be termed the penal machinery associated with Standing Order 418. Standing Order 438 provides -
If any Senator -
uses objectionable words, and refuses to withdraw such words . . . the President may report to the Senate that such Senator has committed an offence.
I submit that at present Senator Vincent is charged before the Senate with having committed a breach of Standing Order 418, and that his reply to the charge made against him is far from satisfactory.
I now turn to some of the comments that have been made. It is rather humorous to review some of the statements that have been put forward to-day in extenuation of Senator Vincent’s stand and in order to distract attention from the incorrect ruling, as I submit, given by Senator Pearson yesterday afternoon. What the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’Sullivan) had to say to-day was paltry piffle. I have never in my life heard such stupid replies made to such a serious question. As a matter of fact, I find myself in the position that I have nothing to say in respect of his speech; I brush it all to one side. I feel sure that not one point he made has remained in the minds of honorable senators.
I now turn to what Senator McManus had to say. I totally disagree with him, just as all other honorable senators on this side disagree with him. You cannot introduce the law of the jungle into the Senate. This is a parliamentary chamber. If a man attacks you, you should nothold that in the back of your mind so that on some future occasion you can attack him. If we were to adopt that as a principle, we would never be able to conduct our affairs in this chamber. It happens frequently that a man who has spoken is attacked by a subsequent speaker and has no opportunity of replying until another occasion. Are we to move around Canberra, or wherever we may be, carrying a grudge in our minds, with a fixed determination that when we get an opportunity we will attack the senator who attacked us? That is not the Australian spirit. I leave Senator McManus’ remarks at that. I now come right down to Senator Vincent.
– You will have to get pretty low.
– He got so low in making his reply to-day that it is impossible for me to get down to the same level to answer him. Do not make any mistake about it; he was determined, by hook or by crook, to smear Senator O’Byrne, and he succeeded in doing it. He still is not aware of the damage that he has done to a man’s character and the injury that he has done to the man’s family, because to-day, when he is up in court, as it were, in respect of his statement, he says, in effect, “ I said that, and I am saying more now that I have the opportunity to do so “. He went right back into the past and said that Senator O’Byrne had said this and that on various occasions. Are we to judge this matter in that way? By going back through “ Hansard “ I could lay charges against every honorable senator in respect of some statement he has made. I could smear each honorable senator by referring to what I had found in “ Hansard “.
Senator Gorton introduced one of those “ flash Gordon “ statements which one does not understand. He said most deliberately, most impressively, that Senator O’Byrne was not a Communist. Later he repeated’ the statement. Methinks he protesteth too much. Why single out a man and say, “ I do not think he is a Communist “? Does not one smear that man by using the words in that sense? Of course one does! That is what has happened to-day. Honorable senators opposite were not satisfied with the injury that was done last night but have proceeded to add to it to-day. Senator Gorton said of Senator O’Byrne, “ He is not a Communist. He merely preaches the doctrine of communism “. To say that is to make the situation worse.
In conclusion,. Mr. President, I come back to the matter at issue. The statement made by Senator Vincent was offensive and would have been offensive if directed against any other honorable senator on this side of the chamber. It was particularly offensive to Senator O’Byrne, and he asked for a withdrawal of it. It was then that the Acting Deputy President fell down on his job. He did not call on Senator Vincent to withdraw the remark but offered him the opportunity to do so. Senator Vincent said, “ No Mr. Acting Deputy President, I will not withdraw it “. There the matter rested. On the evidence that I have submitted, the Senate must find the Acting Deputy President guilty of not having correctly ruled in this matter last night.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 5th August (vide page 16), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following papers be printed: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1959;
The Budget 1958-59 - Papers presented by the Right Hon. Sir Arthur Fadden in connexion with the Budget of 1958-59; and
National Income and Expenditure 1957-58.
.- The motion before the Chair, which seeks to have the papers in question printed, serves no purpose other than to enable the Senate to fill in time. The Government has no legislation to bring before the Senate. It does not matter whether or not the motion is agreed to, because in fact the papers have already been printed. No amendment that may be agreed to will have the slightest effect on the Government’s financial proposals for the year, because at the moment there is no appropriation bill before the Senate.
I take advantage of the opportunity presented to say that the Government’s Budget proposals are utterly unacceptable to the Opposition. Accordingly, on behalf of the Opposition, I move -
At end of motion add the following words, viz. - “ but that the Senate is of opinion that their provisions inflict grave injustices on the States and on many sections of the Australian people - especially the family unit, and that they make no contribution to correcting seriously adverse trends in the Australian economy “.
At this time, it is as well for us to have a look at the economy of the nation and to compare it with the economy that was handed over to this Government when it assumed office some years ago. Since then, we have had, perhaps, eight of the most bountiful seasons that any people could have. Prices for our export commodities, in some instances, have been higher than we ever dreamed they would be. The only year in which we were unfortunate enough to strike a partial drought was last year. When the economy was handed into the custody of the present Government, economic conditions were expanding and the Budget had been balanced.
– The Budget was not balanced.
– It was balanced in 1949. There were high overseas reserves. Now, we find that the economy is contracting. There is growing unemployment, exports are declining, and there are almost permanent import controls. I suggest that one is justified in claiming that the position to-day is the most dangerous since the 1930’s.
Let me turn to the promises that this Government made shortly before it came to office, including the famous, or infamous, one about putting value into the£1. Of course, the Government parties also promised to get rid of all controls. I have often wondered, in recent years, whether the supporters of the Government have not been sorry that they made that promise, particularly those who are interested in the rural industries of Australia. Surely they must appreciate what that undertaking, followed by action to eliminate controls, has entailed. According to the price indexes, the value of money to-day is only half what it was in 1949. In 1949-50, the C series index figure was 1,669, whereas in March this year it was 2,907. Therefore, despite all the good seasons that we have had, the economic position to-day is worse than at any time since the bad years of the depression.
Let us see what this Budget does so far as the States are concerned. We all recognize that the States have important work to do. For instance, they control education, health, agriculture, roads, railways and housing, all most important services for the people. Instead of the Commonwealth treating the State as partners, from a financial point of view it treats them as competitors, although they are serving the same people.
– How would the honorable senator’s party treat them? Ti would wipe them out altogether.
– I will let the honorable senator make his speech in his own way, as I propose to make mine. Since we have already wasted considerable time this afternoon, I shall take all the time to which I am entitled. This year, the States will have available £14,000,000 less for works than they had in 1951-52, despite a cost rise of more than 50 per cent. On the other hand, the Commonwealth will spend £18,000,000 more on its works than it spent in 1951-52. The Commonwealth is the gatherer of the money, and it seems that this Government certainly has looked after itself to the detriment of the States.
In respect of the same period, let us consider the public debt. The State public debt has increased to an alarming figure, while that of the Commonwealth has decreased. The Commonwealth debt at June, 1951, speaking in millions, was £1,771,000,000. In 1958, it was £1,589,000,000, a decrease of £182,000,00. On the other hand, the debt of the States in 1951 was £894,000,000, but it has since risen to the stupendous amount of £1,965,000,000, an increase of £1,071,000,000. Is it a»y wonder that people say that the policy of this Government, in relation to the States, is wrong? lt makes one shudder to think that the Commonwealth, which has the right to gather practically the whole of the money that is used for governmental purposes, both State and Federal, has forced the States into the position that I have indicated. In the period from 1951 to 1958, the Commonwealth has been able to pay at least £180,000,000 off its debt, while the debt of the States has increased by £1,071,000,000.
In recent years, the ruling rate of interest has been charged on the amount by which the Commonwealth has supported the loan programmes of the States. This year, however, there will be a deficit of £110,000,000. The money that the Commonwealth Government receives from the Commonwealth Bank and from its deficit financing at 1 per cent., in turn will be lent to the States for their works programmes at between 4 per cent, and 5 per cent. On that deal alone the Commonwealth Government is making a profit of something like £4,000,000 at the expense of development in the States, despite the fact that we all belong to the one nation. In those circumstances, one can readily appreciate the attitude taken by the States towards the federal system of government. It is time to review the whole practice under which loan moneys are expended on State works and funds from revenue are provided for Commonwealth works, and make a fairer allocation in order to prevent the curtailment of development in the States.
Let us now examine the injustices being done by this Budget to the families of the nation. The Government still makes no attempt to bring child endowment up to a level at which it will have real purchasing power. There can be no half-way measures about child endowment. The Government either believes in it, or does not believe in it. If the Government does not believe in child endowment, it should say so, and should not seek to take advantage of the inflationary spiral to deprive the mothers of the nation of the benefit of a child endowment with real value. After all, child endowment was introduced by the Government in the first place to protect the employers against having to pay a reasonable basic wage to the workers. Just before its introduction, Mr. Justice Beeby told the government of the day that if some system of family income were not introduced he would be compelled to award a very large increase in the basic wage.
Further, the Budget makes no provision for increasing the maternity allowance, although I have no doubt that when the Appropriation Bill 1958-59 comes before us we shall see that £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 is provided for immigration. The majority of members of this Parliament agree that the best immigrants this country can have are our own children, yet, despite mounting costs, the Government does not indicate any intention to help the mothers in this direction.
On perusing the Budget I find no provision for improved health and medical services, despite the fact that there can be no doubt that those who are unfortunate enough to become ill and need such services find the cost crippling. Only last week I received from the secretary of the Swan Hill Hospital, in Victoria, a letter in which he said that although the Government’s policy is to provide free hospitalization to age and invalid pensioners, it pays to the hospital only 12s. a bed a week whereas, according to him, the weekly cost of a bed is £4 4s. Id. If this Government really believes in free hospitalization for age and invalid pensioners, surely it is only reasonable that the Government should bear the full cost. It should not be content merely to espouse the policy, take unto itself the plaudits for such a policy and then place the onus for meeting the cost, first, on the States and secondly on the shoulders of charitable organizations and charitablyminded persons.
The Budget makes no provision for improving the housing position. If there is one vital need in this country it is the provision of houses for the people. Only recently, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) was very happy to answer in the Senate a Dorothy Dix question about the housing position in Western Australia, but he did not say anything about the housing position in New South Wales or Victoria. No extra provision is made for housing the men for whom this Government, for political reasons, promised to provide houses upon their return from service in defending their country. Although the Government may point to the fact that £35,000,000 has been spent on war service homes, the true position is that there is still a cruel lag ot between eighteen months and two years in the granting of applications. During the period between the time of making application and the time of the granting of the loan, the unfortunate soldier-applicant is required to pay as much as 10 per cent, and 12 per cent, interest for temporary accommodation.
– Up to 20 per cent.!
– That figure has not been brought to my notice, but I have reliable information to the effect that it is as much as 10 per cent, and 12 per cent, in Melbourne.
The actual housing position is much more serious now than it has been for years. Although 20,000 houses were commenced in 1951-52, only 17,000 were commenced during the year ended 31st March, 1958. According to the May bulletin of the Bureau of Census and Statistics, the number of houses completed in 1952 was 20,300 whilst for the year ended 31st March, 1958, it was only 17,627. Those statistics further disclose that whereas the value of building work undertaken in 1951-52 was £81,000,000, it is now only £54,000,000.
If further confirmation of the deterioration in the housing position is required, it is to be found in the fact that for the year 1955 there were 216,000 people employed on building construction while for the quarter ended 30th April, 1958, there were only 205,000 so employed.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was giving the quarterly figures of houses commenced, completed and under construction, and the number of people engaged in the building industry, between June, 1955, and April, 1956. The official figures showed a drop in the number of persons employed, even in June, 1957, to 212,000. This was followed by a drop in April of this year to 205,000. I pointed out that as the proportion of nonresidential building was increasing rapidly, especially in the main cities, one could truthfully say that the home building rate was declining even more than was shown by the figures.
The Budget fails to help the family man in another way because it makes no provision tq attempt to cope with the hire-purchase problem. It may be doubtful whether the Commonwealth has jurisdiction in the matter, but when the last Budget was debated it was pointed out that if the Government were keen to do something it could sanction the entry of the Commonwealth Bank into this field. It was further pointed out, that the Government could at least have called a meeting of the State Premiers and attempted to tackle the problem of high interest rates.
– A referendum could have been held.
– That is the normal way in which the Constitution is altered, but one can understand why this Government should be reluctant to suggest the holding of a referendum which might affect the interests of its supporters.
What worries me more than anything else is the way in which the indebtedness of the people increases month by month. The hirepurchase figures are staggering. In June, 1955,. the outstanding balance amounted to £182,000,000. In June, 1956, the figure was £202,000,000. In June, 1957, it was £235,000,000 and in June, 1958, it rose to £293,000,000. That represents a very big increase in public indebtedness. The “ Institute of Public Affairs Review “ suggests at page 55, volume 12, that hirepurchase instalments now absorbed between 6 per cent, and 7 per cent, of all personal income remaining after tax has been deducted. The effect on the family can be seen when it is realized that household goods worth £67,200,000 were obtained on hire purchase in the year 1957-58. That figure does not include the expenditure on motor vehicles, which was £25,500,000 more than the previous year’s figure.
I admit that I would not favour the abolition of hire purchase for that would create chaos in industry, but at least something should be done to regulate it. If that is not done, the public will have to accept a debt burden which will produce tremendous hardship in time to come. Future governments, irrespective of their political colour, will have to meet a social service bill of staggering dimensions. The present trend seems to be for retail firms, by clever advertising, to persuade people to owe twice as much, as they earn, content in the knowledge that they can get the credit they need. In 1920, about 56 per cent, of persons eligible in age for social services were found to have sufficient means to care for themselves, but in recent years the figure has dropped to as low as 33 per cent. The hire-purchase racket is so rampant that we will some day have to meet staggering social service burdens.
As has already been pointed out in another place, the basic wage earner with two children will, under this Budget, pay in tax 5s. 6d. a week, or 5 per cent, more than he paid in the year 1954-55. I remind honorable senators that in the immediate postwar years such persons paid no tax at all. The government’s failure to check inflation has resulted in wages chasing prices. Wages have not, of course, won the race, but the average wage-earner has, in the process, been carried into a higher income bracket. The single basic wage earner now pays in income tax from 1 0i per cent to 1 1 per cent, of his wages. In 1954-55 he paid 9£ per cent. A family man on the basic wage will pay 5i per cent, this year, as against 4i per cent, in 1954-55. And remember, this was after the Government’s promise that taxation would be reduced!
Let us have a look at the injustice to age and invalid pensioners because they, in common with other recipients of social services, are entitled to expect the purchasing power of their pensions to be kept abreast of increased costs. If the age pension had been maintained at its relative 1948 value, it would now be £4 17s. 6d. a week. All that the Government is doing in this Budget is to give an increase of 10s. a week to certain pensioners who are paying rent. What will that mean? It will mean increases of rents. Even the Liberal Government of Victoria ha9 already increased by 2s. 6d. a week the rent of housing commission premises occupied by age pensioners.
– The increase is 2s. a week.
– This move is equivalent to giving the green light to rapacious landlords, and it will encourage all landlords to increase the rents payable by these unfortunate people. While it is true that rent control operates in some
States, it has never been applied successfully in respect of rooms where some services are given. Therefore, while the increase will help the few, it will do injustice to many. All that the Government can give to the age and invalid pensioners out of this huge Budget is about £3,000,000. One wonders.
– Do not forget that farm incomes have fallen.
– I shall deal with that matter in a moment. Government supporters, in order to win an election by fooling the people, advocated the abolition of economic controls. Since then the price of land has risen tremendously, and our products have been priced out of the export markets.
– That is not responsible.
– It is responsible as far as the cost structure is concerned.
– It is not responsible for the fall of overseas prices.
– I did not say that it was the cause of the fall. All I am saying is that we have priced ourselves out of .the overseas markets. I shall speak further about that matter before I conclude my speech. One would have thought that in these times some semblance of justice would be given to those who are lea9t able to fend for themselves.
Let us have :a look at the injustice that is being done to the small businessmen and the middle businessmen in the community. I know that Government senators are not interested in these people because they do ‘not contribute to their parties’ funds. Between now and 22nd November, the only people they will be interested in are those who are prepared to dip deep into their pockets to contribute to electoral expenses. Last year, company income fell by £9,000,000, although monopolies like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, General Motors-Holden’s Limited, hire-purchase companies and big retail organizations made record profits. In the result, the small businessmen are being driven out and replaced by big concerns. I know that Government senators are not interested in the small business people, but at least they are part and parcel of this nation and, in their small way, they have helped to build this nation. It is not too much to expect the Government to treat them justly.
Let us consider the injustice that is being done to the farmers. The income of farms not registered as companies was £359,000,000 last year, compared with £448,000,000 in 1949-50 and £756,000,00.0 in 1950-51. In fact, farm income last year was less than half what it was in 1950-51, and it was the lowest for nine years. Furthermore, money is worth only half what it was worth in 1950-51. The income of farmers last year was £390,000,000 compared with £426,000,000 in 1948-49 and £707,000,000 in 1950-51. This Budget makes no attempt to help the farmers. The Government is not worried that to-day the dairy farmer has to sell a proportion of his produce at less than half the cost of production. It is not helping him at all. What is more, the Government recently connived in an increase in the price of butter by 2d. per lb. Statistics, show that less butter is now consumed in this country than for years past. Therefore, it seems that more butter will have to be sold on the export market although, as I have pointed out, it is selling on that market at about half the cost of production.
I come now to a consideration of falling export incomes, leading to falling international reserves and necessitating, probably, drastic import cuts in the near future. A review of the prices of exports in June, 1958, shows that wool was down 33 per cent, compared with June, 1957; butter was down 42 per cent.; meat was down 13 per cent.; sugar was down 26 per cent; and metals were down 16 per cent. It is true that in the same period overseas prices for wheat increased by 14 per cent., for dried fruits by 3 per cent, and tallow 4 per cent. The overall export prices for all commodities were 24 per cent, lower than last year.
The fall in prices is reflected by a ‘fall in our overseas trade balances. Between May, 1957, and May, 1958, our overseas balances fell by just over £200,000,000. For every month of this year, except March, we have had an unfavorable balance of imports as against exports. Here are the figures. In January, 1958, the unfavorable balance was £10,700,000. Up to July this year, the total deficit was £38,000,000. These figures do not take into account freight and insurance payable on imports which, according to the Commonwealth Statistician will amount to £125,000,000 for 1957-58.
Other factors that have to be considered in relation to balance of payments are gold production, overseas payments of dividends, profits, interest, royalties and overseas investments here. As we had an adverse balance of payments of £178,000,000 last year, at the present rate of imports and exports the adverse balance of payments this year will be between £250,000,000 and £300,000,000. Since current reserves are only about £500,000,000, further drastic import cuts are certain while this Government remains in office.
– What happened in New Zealand? Tell us about that!
– The honorable senator can talk about New Zealand if he wishes, but let us look at the position from an internal point of view. We have overproduction and under-consumption, a classic indication of bad times ahead. Our factories are reaching the stage at which they are not working at full capacity simply because the consumers do not have the money to buy the goods produced. The secretary of the textile union in Victoria has informed me that most of the factories in that State are working short time. That statement is borne out by an article in the April issue of the Department of Trade survey of industry which states -
In some fields, capacity for the present exceeds current demand levels . . . Recently the gap between potential and actual production has been widening in many industries.
What factors folow a curtailment of production in a factory? Either the working hours are reduced or a proportion of the workers is dismissed.
The August news release from the Department of Labour and National Service includes this statement -
The department’s monthly survey in some 2,500 larger private factories showed a reduction of 1,687 (1,008 males and 679 females) or about 0.3% during July.
If the number of unemployed is so high in the larger factories, what must be the position in the smaller and medium-sized factories that have not the resources of the large organizations to carry them over the lean periods? To-day, although the people are crying out for the goods that our factories produce, they cannot buy them, and as long as this Government remains in power that state of affairs, unfortunately, will become worse.
– We have heard this sort of statement year after year.
– That may be so, but surely the honorable senator will not say that he is happy about the position forecast by the Budget that has been presented.
Let us look now at the unemployment position. It is admitted that to-day approximately 70,000 people are looking for jobs but, according to the Government’s official bulletins, there was a slight fall in the number of unemployed in July last due to seasonal work in Queensland. The Government has admitted that 30,000 people are receiving unemployment benefits, but of course there is a much greater measure of concealed unemployment in the form of, for example, married women who previously were employed but now are not. So the figures quoted by the Government do not give a true indication of the number of unemployed in Australia.
Over the last few years our population has increased by between 200,000 and 220,000 persons a year. In normal times the work force from that number would be between 60,000 and 70,000 a year. In the period between June, 1954 and June, 1955 the number in employment rose by 91,000, while in the period between June, 1957 and June, 1958 the number in employment increased by 21,000 over the previous year. Those figures indicate conclusively that neither the natural increase in the work force of between 60,000 and 70,000 persons, nor the usual number of young people who leave school to go to work, was absorbed into industry.
In 1949, Mr. Menzies, in his policy speech, when dealing with the subject of employment, said -
The aspiration for full employment is no monopoly of the socialists . . . We shall confidently devote ourselves to full employment . .
That is small comfort to the people who are now out of work.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) said in another place that we cannot improve the position in Australia until things right themselves in the United States. He was speaking on that occasion about our export markets and the prices we were receiving for our exports, which have a great bearing upon the unemployment position in Australia, because if the farmer receives a reasonable price for his products, not only on the home market but on the export market also, the factories in the cities in turn reap the benefit.
– What is the position in the United States?
– How are things in the United States? Only 12,000,000 unemployed! According to an article I read in a publication issued by the Congress of Industrial Organizations in the United States, the Government of that country does not expect to be out of trouble until 1961. If, as the Minister for Primary Industry said, we have to wait until the position in the United States is rectified before we can return to normal, we shall certainly have to wait a very long time. The article to which I referred was based on very reasoned thought, but let us hope its forecast is wrong. So far as the primary producers are concerned, the position seems to bring to mind the old saying, “ Live, horse! and thou shalt have grass “.
Honorable senators opposite know that they have outside of the Parliament vehicles of propaganda, such as the press and radio, by which they can put their half-truths over during the election campaign, but we have here a medium by which we can put the facts to the people. I defy any honorable senator opposite to query one figure that I have quoted. If he does so, he will be querying a figure taken from the Government’s own official publications.
Summing up, let me say that this Budget has been presented by a government that has been in office for too long. It inflicts injustice on the States, on the families, on wage-earners, and, particularly, on the farmers. It fails to take account of serious trends in the economy of the nation. Farming income is the lowest for nine years, and in real terms is only one-half of what it was in 1949-50. The rate of home construction is greatly below what it was seven years ago. Honorable senators opposite attempted to convince the people that more houses were not being built because there was not sufficient man-power and materials, but they got away from that excuse pretty quickly when it was proved conclusively that the only factor retarding home construction at that time was that the Government would no provide enough money.
We have growing unemployment. The situation is worse than it was last year. We have a contracting economy, with falling consumption.
– We have an expanding economy, and you know it.
– If the honorable senator wants to argue about that, let him argue with the officers of the Government departments; let him have if out with them. It was reported in the Melbourne “ Sun “ of 26th June that the Prime Minister had had this to say -
Australia is at the beginning of what will be its most wonderful period of development.
Ask the farmers, the pensioners, the people who want homes, the people who are on short-time at work, particularly in the textile industry: Is this a period of an all time high prosperity? Let me say in conclusion that it is fortunate that in the next month or so this Budget will be judged by the people.
– We will take their verdict.
– We will take their verdict too, as we always have done. All I say is that if they return the Menzies Administration to power, they will be greater gluttons for punishment than I ever thought they were.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly). I have heard the same things from him and from his leader - particularly from his leader - for the last eight or nine years, but we have only to look at what has happened in this country to realize just how ill-founded their continual pessimism has been.
Senator Kennelly used some rather extravagant phrases in his speech, and I shall refer to one or two of the things he said before I forget them. He referred briefly to election funds, but he forgot to mention that some people get their election funds by compulsory levies.
– Where is that?
– Do not tell me you have changed your mind this week and that you are not now in ‘favour of them. The Labour party has a different policy almost every day. I realize that, and I am not sure that it is in favour of compulsory levies this week. Last week and the week before that, it was. A couple of fellows have been pretty badly treated because they would not pay a compulsory levy.
– Why did not the Government pass legislation to deal with the matter?
– That is one way to deal with it.
– You ran away from it.
– Out of courtesy, we listened to you for an hour and five minutes.
– Not for an hour and five minutes. It was two minutes under the hour.
– There are two things in this Budget of which I am very proud indeed.
– Particularly two.
– Let us hear them.
– I will tell you about both of them, because they are great landmarks. The fact that we are prepared at this juncture to use £110,000,000 worth of central bank credit is one of the most interesting features of the Budget as far as honorable senators on this side are concerned. It has been said that our parties are all right in good times, but if ever we were faced with a position like this we would never use bank credit. It has been said that rather than do that we would reduce wages and kick people out of their jobs. But the Opposition is now faced with the fact that, confronted with adverse world conditions, we are prepared to use this type of finance.
– World conditions have nothing to do with it; it is due to maladministration.
– We have been blamed by the Opposition for many things in this country. Now we are blamed for the drought, for the drop in the price of base metals, for the drop in the overseas price of butter and other farm products. We are prepared to carry on our backs the responsibility for the things that we do in Australia, but we cannot be held responsible for droughts.
– Where is the drought?
– You would not know. You have been in the luscious City of Melbourne and you do not know what is going on in the country. We have just been through a drought which has sadly affected the incomes of the people of Australia.
– Let us have the other point.
– I would not miss it for the world. I will even write it down for you, if you wish. The other thing of which I am proud is that in this Budget, the last budget which Sir Arthur Fadden will present to the people, he resisted what must have been the very great temptation, in an election year, to go out with flying colours, making all sorts of promises to the people. That must have been a very great temptation. It stands to the credit of our great Treasurer that, because of the financial position of the country, he has resisted that temptation and has given us a sound, solid and stable Budget.
I was interested in Senator Kennelly’s amendment. He did not refer to it very much. Still, he moved it. I will say that much for him.
– I do not think he did.
– He did. I heard him read it. I refer to the following words in the amendment -
I shall deal with the other parts of it in a minute. I wish to stop at that point, because I think it is most important. Let us have a look at what the Government has done for the States this year in addition to their ordinary allocations. At the meeting of the Australian Loan Council on 13th February, an additional £5,000,000 was made available to the States for the period ended on 30th June last. That was equal to £15,000,000 for a full year. At the same time, local government authorities were given permission to increase their borrowings by an additional£3,000,000.
– When will they get it?
– They have some of it.I shall tell you in a minute how they will be getting the rest of it, if you will wait. At the meeting of the Loan Council in June, the six States were given an additional £23,000,000 to spend on works and housing. That is not just chickenfeed, you know. I beg your pardon, Mr. President; I should not have used the expression “ chickenfeed “. That is not a small amount; it is a considerable sum of money. An additional£2,600,000 has been made available from the Commonwealth Aid Roads Fund, making a total of £35,000,000 for the year. An additional £4,000,000 has been made available to universities, bringing their total to £7,150,000. Altogether the six State governments will have received £510,000,000 of Commonwealth revenue and loan money to spend mainly on works and housing. Those figures represent large increases. That is some indication of what we have done for the States. In addition, I can show Senator Kennelly how the States will receive £30,000,000 this year in addition to their tax reimbursements. If that is an injustice to the States, it is the kind of injustice that I would like to have a little more of.
– How many Premiers have written letters thanking you for it? What have Sir Thomas Playford and Henry Bolte said?
– It is funny that you should mention Sir Thomas Playford and Henry Bolte. I do not think South Australia and Victoria are showing any signs of going backwards under those good Liberal Premiers. I should have thought they were going ahead pretty fast.
– They are not too happy about the Loan Council. What about increased light charges and increased fares?
– Oh, shut up!
– We want to listen to the Minister. You have been talking continuously.
– He is a Minister and we want to hear from him-
– Hold your tongue!
– The good old empty vessel always makes the big bang-bangs. Now I wish to refer to the next section of the amendment. It reads - their provisions inflict grave injustices on the States and on many sections of the Australian people …. they make no contribution to correcting seriously adverse trends in the Australian economy.
Let us have a look at the contribution that the Government is making to the Australian economy. In March of this year, it released a further £15,000,000 to the trading banks from the special accounts for credit purposes.
– For hire purchase.
– You seem to have a very good idea about how this goes on.
– We read the newspapers.
– I would not be surprised if you had a good idea about hire purchase.
– If I had not, I would be foolish.
– I think that is right. During the week ended 21st March, the Commonwealth Trading Bank made a further £500,000 available through building societies, 80 per cent. of it being earmarked for the building of new homes and 20 per cent. to purchase existing homes.
– Where are they being built?
– He knows the answers, all right! There is no need to worry about him! In the week ended 25th April, the Government advanced from central bank funds another£20,000,000 for credit purposes, in the week ended 23rd May an additional £15,000,000, in the week ended 27th June another £15,000,000, and a further £10,000,000 at the end of July. Altogether £75,000,000 of additional credit has been pumped into the economy since February this year. Yet the Opposition has the audacity to move an amendment to the effect that the Government is doing nothing to correct adverse trends on the Australian economy! What utter nonsense! I repeat that within those few months we have pumped into the economy an additional £75,000,000 of bank credit.
– What for?
– I have never known the people of Australia not to be able to use all the bank credit that can be made available to them, and to use it to good purpose. Moreover, an additional £80,000,000 from war loans will be paid back to the people in cash to spend as they will. The Government is also making available an additional £1,000,000 in the form of a copper bounty. That interests my State of Tasmania, where there is a very large copper mine. Instead of adopting the Tariff Board’s recommendation for a duty on copper, the Government is making provision for a duty and a bounty, the bounty being designed particularly to offset the social problems. that arise in a mining centre when a mine is in difficulties. The bounty of £45 a ton is designed specifically to help mines like those at Mount Lyell and Mount Morgan. The provision of that bounty is a great step forward. The measures to which I have referred have been taken by the Government swiftly. Yet the Opposition comes here with this charge that the Government is making no contribution to correcting the trends in the economy!
Senator Kennelly chided us for having paid back £180,000,000 worth of treasurybills over the last few years. I should have thought it was good, sound, prudent business to pay back borrowings when things were going well so that when a rainy day came you had something to put aside. Where would we have been if the people had listened to all the nonsense that was spoken in 1954 when the Australian Labour party tried to bribe the electors with its policy about the means test, and other promises which, if given effect, would have meant squandering every penny that we had put aside for a rainy day? Where would we have been if we had accepted all those gilded promises? It does not matter whether this Government or a Labour government is in office; it cannot stop a drought, nor can it prevent overseas prices from falling. Where would we have been if honorable senators opposite had been in office and had squandered all that money? The Australian people know you only too well. Consequently, they would not give you the opportunity to govern, in spite of those terrific promises. The people want stability, above everything else, and that is what they have had over the last few years.
I was also interested to note that Senator Kennelly chided us about having run down our overseas balances. I have never thought that having £700,000,000 or £800,000,000 in banks in London was of much good to us. I like to see money transformed into capital goods that are brought out to Australia to provide employment for our people.
Where have honorable senators opposite been during the last few years? Have they been asleep? Have they not seen the development that has been taking place in Australia? I could take Senator Hendrickson to his own City of Melbourne and show him many things that he apparently does not know about. Does he know where Dandenong is? Has he ever been there and seen the factories and the way in which development has been taking place? Has he seen the factories in South Australia and New South Wales? He should go into them and see the modern machinery in them. Where does he think that machinery came from? You do not bring it from overseas by keeping £700,000,000 or £800,000,000 in a bank in London. You get it by turning overseas earnings into capital goods. To-day, the factories of the Commonwealth are better equipped to employ our people than ever they were before.
If honorable senators opposite get out of the cities and go about the countryside, what will they see? The face of Australia has been almost completely changed in the last ten years because of the importation of modern machinery which has been responsible for great increases in the area of pasture land, the construction of dams and irrigation systems, and so on. Where do honorable senators opposite think that the capital equipment to do those things came from? It came, of course, from the money which our primary producers have provided for us overseas. They do not want to see the money kept in banks over there. Of course, we want to keep sufficient funds overseas to make sure that, with our exports, we can always pay for our imports, to the ceiling of £800,000,000 that has been set.
– Why do you have import restrictions? Tell me that.
– I have just said that the ceiling of imports is £800,000,000, but I do not expect you to understand. I said that all that we want to do is keep sufficient money in our London banks so that that money, plus the earnings from our exports, will finance our imports.
– How much worth of imports?
– To the extent of £800,000,000 a year. That is the ceiling we have had on for quite a while. It is rather interesting to find that we are now being chided for not keeping money in the banks in London far in excess of our immediate needs. I think that what we are doing is good business and that in this respect we have done a magnificent job. As I have said, we have changed the face of Australia.
I want to spend the last few minutes of my time in answering the awful pessimism that we have heard from the other side. Australia, in the last decade, has developed into the eighth greatest trading nation of the world. That has been achieved with a mere handful of people - fewer than 10,000,000 - and despite the tremendous job of development that we have had to tackle. The fact that we have become the eighth greatest trading nation is no mean achievement. In fact, it is an achievement of which any young nation could be proud.
– That has been possible under a good government.
– The essential, of course, is to have a stable economy.
– Like there was in 1939.
– Keep quiet. I am sick of the sound of your voice.
– I am not sick of the sound of his voice in the slightest, although it never stops but just goes on and on. You learn to live with a nuisance and eventually take no notice of it. The great achievements and developments that I have mentioned cannot be hidden. Senator Hendrickson might like to be able to put a handkerchief over the beautiful I.C.I, building in Melbourne and pretend, until after the election, that it is not there, but it is there, and so are many other huge buildings in that city. If he goes to Adelaide he will see other great buildings and factories. Let him go to Sydney and have a look at the tremendous development there. You cannot hide these facts from the people. Propaganda will not take them away. Every week-end you see streams of motor cars all over the place. You cannot hide those motor cars, because every one can see them. You cannot hide from the workers of Australia the fact that to-day a great percentage of workers travel to work and go home in their own motor cars. Bless them! I wish they all could do that. Why should they listen to these dismal Jeremiahs opposite who try to say that Australia has not developed in the last eight or nine years? I have never heard such arrant nonsense in all my life.
– We laid the foundations for the development, and you could not stop it.
– Those are facts which you cannot dismiss with propaganda, much as you might try to do so, and no matter how often you get on the platform and say this and that, run the country down and preach that the Government is to blame for this and to blame for that. You just cannot get away from the fact that Australia has never grown so rapidly in every sphere as it has during the last few years.
– Even hire purchase has gone up 100 per cent.
– Here he comes back on the hire-purchase story. If you people over there have any real interest in stopping unemployment you will be very careful before you damage something that is providing a tremendous amount of employment in Australia, which in turn provides the wherewithal for the goods that are purchased under hire-purchase arrangements. If you have any sincere and honest wish not to cause further unemployment, be a bit careful. I believe quite sincerely that it is time that the State governments had a look at the interest rates. I was rather interested to hear it said that we should tell the State governments what to do. I thought that the State governments were quite capable of running their own show; but I understand that the Opposition, if returned, is going to tell them what to do. I say that we have no authority to tell the State governments what to do, but in due course they will, I hope, pay attention to this matter. The evil of hire purchase lies in its abuse.
– That is what we say. We say it is a matter of usury. We are not opposed to hire purchase. The Labour party has never said it is opposed to hire purchase. We are opposed to the usurers.
– Be very careful in damaging this thing.
– I am telling you.
– I had to listen to you for far too long.
– I am the quietest man in this Senate.
– I had to listen to yo.i when you were President. You were the worst President that ever sat in the chair. I have always said that, without any discount.
Whatever else we say about Australia, we must admit that, with a modest population of about 10,000,000 people, it has made tremendous headway in the last eight or nine years, and it will go on in that way. We have to face the fact that next year, probably, our incomes will be no greater than they have been this year.
– What will be the cause of that?
– I do not think that the overseas price of metals is going to rise, nor do 1 think that the price of wool will rise to any great extent. I cannot see that world conditions are going to improve in the coming year. All that we have done during the last eight or nine years, in the clays of prosperity, has prepared Australia for a rainy day, and it has been with great pride that I have seen us doing that. I have no fear about what the people will do at the forthcoming election. They have resisted the golden promises of Dr. Evatt and his party before, and they” will resist them again. I realize, that this occasion is regarded as Dr. Evatt’s swan song. For him it is go or bust this time. There is no doubt that it is a case of Sydney or the bush with the Labour party’s leader. If he does not make the grade this time, then outskil That being so, there can be no doubt that the elector will be tempted with a tremendous number of promises which, if fulfilled, would wreck the finances of this country. Fortunately, however, the Australian people are as wise to-day if not wiser than they were in 1954. They will not take any notice of the tommyrot the Labour party puts over. Just as they did on a previous occasion, they will vote again for stability. Next November, they will return a government which has proved that it can develop the country, a government which has developed Australia at a greater pace than ever before in its history.
– The Budget under review has made no impact upon the nation. It gives nothing, and it takes nothing away. The Government claims that it is a budget of economic necessity brought about by falling markets. As a national budget, it is an abject failure. It does not take into account our national well-being, especially in the light of our present perilous position in South-East Asia. National development and increased immigration are essential to our future welfare. We have the man-power and the materials available, and now is the time for unprecedented national development. I have no desire to see this Government retire into its shell just because of a cool deflationary breeze. Controlled inflation means progress, and we want progress in this country at the present time. We must not be afraid to gamble with Australia’s economic future. If we are afraid, if there is no development, we shall not be able to hold this island continent for very much longer. It is essential that we plan for eventualities, that we do more than just hold the status quo. But, in my view, this Budget does no more than seek to hold the status quo. We cannot afford to allow this young country to stand still. As I pointed out earlier, we are in too perilous a position as a SouthEast Asian country to stand still, but I am afraid that this Budget seeks to do no more than have Australia stand still.
Having made those general observations, I should like now to particularize. I take social services first, not because they are the most important consideration - we know that the maintenance of Australia as a free country is the most important of all considerations - but because I think that this is one direction in which the Government could have done something to raise the standards of our needy people. Australia . feels let down, and this failure to do anything in this direction emphasizes to me and to the people of Australia the utter futility of the Evatt Opposition in this Parliament. Honorable senators know the feelings of my party about social services. Suffice it to say that when the social services legislation comes before this Parliament the Government can expect short shrift from us.
We are in rather a quandary about the whole matter. The Government has introduced a Budget which does nothing to help the pensioners and which does nothing to help progress, and, in view of the fact that this is an election year, such a Budget puts us in a quandary. Because the Budget seeks to do nothing, my party has to weigh the position and decide which is the lesser of two evils - the economic policy of the Government or the Evatt party’s foreign policy.
I should like to state here and now that it is impossible for my party to support the Evatt Labour party, especially under its present leadership and management. We have several reasons for that decision. The first is that the Evatt Labour party’s policy follows pro-Communist lines.
– Tell us how.
– I will tell you in a very few moments. First, we know that there are Communists within the Labour party. Second, I am afraid that the Australian Council of Trade Unions is falling very strongly under the influence of the Communist party.
– Four against twenty!
– But those four have many followers and the A.C.T.U., through its summit conference, will dictate the policy of the Labour party at the next election. That policy will have the backing of such Communists as Healy and others in the A.C.T.U.
– Why does not the Australian. Workers Union send representatives?
– The A.W.U. refused to join in a summit conference. It refused to join with the Communists in the A.C.T.U.
– What about the Australian Labour party?
– It will have representatives there, but the policy decided upon will be that dictated by the Communist members in the A.C.T.U.
Finally, we have the unity tickets.
– What have they to do with it?
– Those unity tickets will help the Communists to take charge of this country. Senator Ormonde interjected a moment ago. Recently, I noticed in the press an article written by him. In it he says that there are no unity tickets; that these would be dealt with by the New South Wales executive, of which he is a member. To-day, I received a letter which shows just how unity tickets are being used within the Australian Labour party. The letter was written by Mr. J. N. Lynch, the secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, who is also a member of the Australian Labour party. It reads -
I have enclosed a letter from Senator J. Ormonde to the Sydney Morning Herald.
I feel you might be interested in some of the details concerning unity tickets in the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, having regard to Senator Ormonde’s statement that when members of the AX.P. are found to have knowingly stood on unity tickets with Communists they are expelled.
This, he says, has been his experience during the twenty five years of his membership of the A.L.P. Executive and three years as a Vice President of the N.S.W. Branch of the party.
Here are the facts concerning the unity ticket led by Mr. P. P. Lowe who, at the 1958 N.S.W. conference of the A.L.P., was elected to the executive.
Mr. Lowe, was a candidate for General President of the Union, and again in 1957, led an A.L.P. Communist team in the A.P.W.U. elections.
I remind honorable senators that this letter is from the secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union. It continues: -
A charge was laid against Mr. Lowe for his offence in 1956, but no attempt was made to hear the charges.
When Mr. Lowe committed the same offence in 1957, charges were laid against him and the following A.L.P. members, by Mr. N. R. Mayell, Assistant Secretary of this Union; D. A. Hepher, Crows Nest Branch A.L.P., S. V. Bollard, Collaroy Branch; L. J. Martin, Darlinghurst Branch; J. W. Downing. Narrabeen Branch; N. W. Walters, Lidcombe Branch; J. N. Finneran, Redfern Branch; N. A. Hawkins, Auburn Branch; R. Bennington, Yagoona Branch; J. W. Edmond, Miranda Branch; J. Kaslar, Smithfield Branch; J. Bolen, Como Branch.
This ballot closed on 21st September. J957. The charge against them was that they had stood on a unity ticket with the following self-declared and well known Communists -
C. Baker, W. J. Ryan, B. T. Carey, C. Cummin, E. J. Berg, C. L. Miller.
While these charges were laid in 1957, no attempt was made to hear them. Finally, under pressure from me, an inquiry began in May, 1958. This inquiry however, was never completed and Mr. Lowe and his colleagues remained members of the A.L.P.
One month later, June, 1958, the same Mr. P. P. Lowe was elected as a member of the Central Executive of the A.L.P.
– It was an accident.
– The honorable senator says that it was an accident. The letter continues -
When it was announced that Mr. Lowe had been successful in the ballot, and prior to his taking office, I pressed the party officers, one of whom was Senator Ormonde, to proceed with the case against Mr. Lowe and his colleagues However, nothing was done.
Maybe Senator Ormonde has an explanation as to how, during his term of office as Vice President, the Party Executive determined whether or not a person had “ knowingly associated with Communists on Unity Tickets in union ballots” when no attempt was made to hear charges like those I outlined.
Might I say, Sir, that the case of the Postal Workers Union is by no means an isolated one A.L.P.-Communist Unity tickets, since the Federal intervention in the A.L.P. in N.S.W., have become an accepted fact.
During Senator Ormonde’s term of office as
Party Vice President, Unity Tickets were run in unions such as the Ship Painters and Dockers, A.E.U., A.R.U. and of course, the Waterside Workers Federation.
Perhaps Senator Ormonde has the answer too, as to why the A.L.P. acted so promptly against the President of the Clerks Union, Mr. P O’Toole whose name appeared on how-to-vote ticket with members of the D.L.P. in the Federated Clerks Union elections held in March this year. There was no long and protracted hearing, nor was there any waiting for charges to be laid. Mr. O’Toole was summarily expelled, during the course of the ballot, without being given a hearing.
It may be merely coincidental, of course, that the person opposing Mr. O’Toole was a Mr Michael George Whinfield, a Party Organiser, appointed by the Executive during Senator Ormonde’s term of office as Vice President.
Having heard those statements, honorable senators will see why it is impossible for my party to support the Evatt party in any election while it is under that management and leadership, and while it is following those policies. We have to choose the lesser of two evils. That is why we are in a quandary in this matter.
I pass now to the social service field. The Budget offers a pittance, in the way of rent assistance, to the single pensioner. It is something, but as even the State governments propose to filch some of it, I cannot imagine what will happen when the landlords get to work. At this point,I would like to state my own party’s policy - a policy which I have put forward in two successive Budget sessions, but which has never been supported by the Evatt party. Our policy is that pensions should be taken out of the realm of politics. They should not be used as electioneering propaganda year after year. An independent tribunal should be set up to ascertain the needs of the pensioner if he is to have a reasonable - not a luxurious - standard of living. That done, it is the Government’s duty to find the money. Moreover, if, as a result of inflation, the cost of living rises, the necessary adjustments must be made to keep the pension effective and provide a decent way of life for the pensioner. I hope that when we move to introduce the appropriate legislation we shall at least have the support of the Evatt party.
There has been a small increase in war pensions, but no effort has been made to accede to the very reasonable requests of the partially blinded soldiers. The means test must be liberalized. In fact, it is high time that legislation providing for the complete abolition of the means test was introduced.
To-night, I wish to put forward a scheme which,I believe, would have far-reaching effects.It follows the policy that my party intends to pursue if ever it gains the treasury bench, and the chances are that that will come about. If it does, my party will introduce a national dependants assurance trust, embodying age, widows and invalid pensions, funeral allowances, and pensioners medical payments.
The method in operation to-day of providing allowances for those members of the community who are aged, widowed, or invalided and not able to provide effectively for their everyday needs - they are, in fact, dependants of the nation - has been proved and recognized as being totally inadequate to cope with the fluctuating wage and living costs structure. Probably the most iniquitous part of the pensioners’ plight is due to the fact that the relatively few and insufficient increases of pension have usually followed a general election. The pensioners’ need for justice in the way of increased pensions has been used by electioneering politicians as a means of securing votes from unsuspecting pensioners on the promise of pension rises.
As a prelude to outlining the plan for a national dependants assurance trust, I consider that a review of some facts and figures will be of benefit to honorable senators in understanding the benefits that are at present available to the Australian citizens.
The national income in 1956-57 was approximately £4,686,000,000. The Commonwealth revenue for the same year was £1,312,000,000 - approximately 28 per cent, of the national income. Pension payments in 1956-57 totalled £121,400,000, or approximately 10 per cent, of revenue. In view of the economists’ opinion that income taxation of individuals has reached saturation point, it can be seen that there is little likelihood of a rise of any consequence in the present pension rates under the existing system.
A further guide lies in the following figures. There are to-day a number of businesses that recognize for the benefit of their own well-being the advantage to be gained by offering a measure of security to their employees on retirement. To this end, the businesses are operating private superannuation schemes. In all, 61.3 per cent, of private businesses are providing for 388,600 persons out of a total work force of approximately 2,750,000. The average pension paid was £5 9s. a week, or £1 9s. a week more than the Government can provide, while those on retiring’ allowances averaged £6 10s. a week, or £2 10s. a week more than the Government pays.
The total assets of these private superannuation funds totalled £168,000,000, and in 1955-56 the income from those assets was about £26,500,000. Of this income, the employers contributed about 50 per cent., amounting to £13,750,000. The employees contributed £5,700,000, or 21.5 per cent. The remainder of the income, amounting to £7,300,000, or 28.5 per cent., came from investments. The most impressive aspect of the figures that I have cited was the return from investments in that period of twelve months of £7,300,000, or 28.5 per cent.
To explain the plan, I point out that figures were collected from life assurance offices superannuation schemes in existence, and the Commonwealth Statistician. A general average of these has been applied in the following. It was established that the average weekly wage in 1956-57 was £18 9s. In order to provide a pension of £10 10s. a week at 65 years, prior death, or total permanent disablement, a man at the age of 30 years would need to pay a weekly premium of £1 14s., or 9.2 per cent, of the weekly wage. The prinicpal. or sum assured, £3,094, plus bonuses or interest at the present rate of 2.2 per cent., will provide a capital amount of £5,457. It is proposed that the weekly premium of £1 14s. required - or better still, 9.2 per cent, of the weekly wage - should be provided by three groups, namely, the employer from profits, the Federal Government from revenue, and the employee from savings. In that order, the share of responsibility would be: Employer, 5 per cent., the Federal Government, 3i per cent., and the employee, .7 per cent, of the weekly wage.
These percentages were based on the average amounts that employers are contributing to the various private superannuation schemes, the Federal Government’s contribution average of pensions to wages, and the employees’ contribution to private superannuation schemes, taking into consideration ability to pay. This is measured by the fact that employees under private superannuation schemes are, in the main, in the higher wage groups, while in the national scheme consideration must be given to the earnings of men on the lowest part of the wage structure. At the same time, every person should be encouraged to increase his own contribution if he is able to do so.
It is suggested that the method of operation of this national dependants assurance trust should be through the medium of the mutual life assurance offices, as these organizations are non-profit-making and they are set up to put the scheme into immediate operation. This would also allow those businesses which have private schemes to come in with the Federal Government and employees in their contribution without costly transfer of their schemes to another body.
The interesting point about this scheme is this: Housing and the subsequent finding of rent represent probably the greatest problem of pensioners, both present and future, under the present system coupled with the existing and the foreshadowed further housing lag, caused entirely by lack of adequate finance being available to the average wage-earner. It is seen that the finance will be available to cope with this problem through the national dependants assurance trust. Sir Douglas Copland, at the the National Housing Convention convened by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, pointed out that Australia was still short of 100,000 houses and he suggested that a building rate of 75,000 houses a year, increasing to 82,000 in three or four years, would overcome the problem within five years if based on the anticipated marriage and birth rate, and a net capital cost of £3,000 for each house, or an overall cost of £22,500,000.
It will be seen, therefore, that the financing of housing is well within the scope of the national dependants assurance trust inasmuch as the income of the trust, based on an average contribution of £1 14s. a week, or £88 8s. a year per person, for a work-force of 2,750,000, would amount to approximately £243,000,000. The sum of £22,500,000, as envisaged by Sir Douglas Copland, would not present any problem. On the contrary, it is felt that his estimate of £3,000 a house is more than a little conservative. There is no reason why the full amount of £4,557 required to build a house should not be provided through the national dependants assurance trust.
The borrower would be required to repay the loan by amounts equivalent to the contributions paid, plus an interest charge to maintain the 2.2 per cent, rate required to sustain the ultimate pension. By means of this scheme loans at a low rate of interest would be available for housing. The present Government could well implement the scheme, which would not only eliminate the pensions means test, but would also help greatly in relieving the housing shortage in Australia.
Having dealt with the ills of the social service legislation, and having provided what we think is a cure, I now stress the position of the family man. The whole of our economic thinking is based on the family, and that is why we say that socialization will not cure the ills of our economic system. The State should be subservient to the family, not the family subservient to the State.
With our present wage policy the single man receives the same wage as the family man who does the same job. I cannot see any way in which that system can be altered to provide for a man being paid according to his responsibilities. The only solution is to increase child endowment and provide marriage loans. The plan of the Australian Democratic Labour party is to increase the child endowment for the second, third and fourth children from 10s. to £1; for the fifth child to 22s. 6d.; for the sixth child to 25s.; for the seventh child to 27s. 6d.; and so on, until the maximum of 40s. is reached. Thus, a family with six children would receive £5 12s. 6d. child endowment instead of £2 15s. as at present.
– You mean when your party gets into office.
– Yes, and the way the Australian Labour party is heading now, I am practically certain that we will oust those who are backing the Communist party, and that the Labour party then will return to what it was previously: We bring forward this child endowment scheme for the sole purpose of helping the family man to discharge his responsibilities.
On the matter of marriage loans, we know that in the early stages of married life, before children appear on the scene, newly married couples experience great difficulty in setting up a home, so we advocate a marriage loan of £500 for a period of ten years, the loan to be remitted at the rate of £100 for each child born to the marriage. The loan will be wiped out when the family consists of five children.
– Who will provide the money for this scheme?
– That is quite a reasonable question, and in a moment I shall tell honorable senators how we would provide the money.
– Will the scheme be made retrospective?
– That is a very sensible suggestion, but I do not think the country would stand the cost. I should like it to be made retrospective in my own case.
Full employment is an integral part of our economy. We know that unemployment is wasteful, particularly in a young country like Australia. The only way to stop this long-term unemployment is to step up our national development to take up the slack that cannot be taken up by private enterprise. Automation has already been introduced into Australia, particularly in the boot factories in Melbourne, and steps must be taken to overcome the displacement of labour that has followed. To halt the rise of unemployment, it is essential that co-operation exist between the Federal Government and the State governments. The Australian Democratic Labour party suggests that the Government should train, or re-train, displaced factory workers who may have been employed on a certain job for 10, 20, 25 or 30 years, and equip them to take their place on some other job.
Legislation must be introduced to ensure that the purchasing power of our incomes increases proportionately to the increase in production. Automation has been introduced into Australia and its use will be widened as time progresses. We want to initiate moves to ensure joint consultation between employers and employees, with the object of planning the introduction of automation. Where unemployment arises as a result of the introduction of automation, displaced workers should be compensated at least to the extent of the basic wage. Automation will mean greater production and greater profits, but we cannot sit idly by and allow people to become unemployed and eventually live in squalor and then die, as happened during the industrial revolution of the last century. If automation is coming we must be prepared for it and ensure that the profits obtained from it do not go to only a few. We must also ensure that it causes no hardship to workers.
Before leaving the economic aspects of the Budget, let me say that the family man must be protected against the hire-purchase racket that is absorbing our national income. I was asked a moment ago how the benefits I have been suggesting could be financed. At present our public works have to be financed from revenue because money that should be going into loans is pouring into the hire-purchase companies, due to the attrac tion of the high interest rates that can be obtained. The result is that loans are not being filled, so the Government has to finance from revenue national works that will be used by the people of the future. Seeing that these public works will advantage people in the future, those people should carry their share of the financial responsibility. National projects are generally revenue earning and thus will enable the people of the future to meet their commitments. The hire-purchase racket is absorbing money that should be going into national development. I understand that last year only about £19,000,000 went into government loans, and that the rest of the loan money required by the States was supplied by this Government from revenue. I believe that if the diversion to hirepurchase companies of money that normally would go into government loans could be diminished, the social service benefits I have suggested could be financed from revenue now given to the States to make up their loan money deficits. I also suggest that additional money could be made available by curtailing governmental administrative expenditure.
I now wish to deal with the very important matter of defence. This Budget provides the usual £190,000,000 for defence. That is not a large defence bill. My party is in agreement with such a vote, provided that the money is expended wisely. On a percentage basis, we are not spending nearly as much on defence as is spent by other countries, especially America and Great Britain. If there is one thing we need in Australia, it is adequate defence. Without it, we could find ourselves left out on the proverbial limb in the Pacific.
We must be prepared to meet local contingencies. Australia, of course, will not be involved in an aggressive war, but at any time in the not far distant future we could find ourselves involved in a defensive war. That defensive war would be fought with conventional weapons, so it is essential that our training should be along conventional lines and that the weapons we buy or make for our Air Force, Navy and Army should be the conventional weapon. We do not want to waste time on developing nuclear weapons. If a nuclear war comes, it will be just too bad for the world. We must, however, be prepared for the outbreak at any time of a conventional war in the South-East Pacific.
Our expenditure must be devoted to those things that are necessary. I understand that the 25-pounder gun is becoming obsolete, and that there is talk of introducing the American 105 mm. howitzer. The trouble is that the 105 mm. howitzer is becoming obsolete in America. I believe that the Australian Government should consider the use of the 4.2-inch mortar, which has a range and a fire-power equivalent to those of any of these other weapons, and at the same time has greater mobility. It has no need for motor transport. Those are matters that should be considered when equipping our forces.
As far as our Air Force is concerned, I believe that we should have some of the best fighters that America and Great Britain can produce. At present we rely on the Sabre jet, but we should be considering the kind of opposition we would encounter in a more or less localized war. We have Sabre jets, but nations to our north may have some of the faster Russian planes. Even though I think that the quality of our pilots would enable them to overcome that disadvantage, they should not be in a position where they had to do so. They should be able to meet an enemy on equal terms as far as machines are concerned.
We completely approve of regional pacts and agreements such as Anzus and Seato. We realize that they are essential to the wellbeing and security of Australia, and we are wholeheartedly in agreement with them. We believe that there should be a great determination to make the maximum possible contribution to our own and to regional defence. We support the system of national service training, which has been cut down considerably by this Government. We believe that national service training is something worth while as a means of preparing the youth of this country for any eventualities. We think it essential that the system be re-introduced and that it embrace the Navy, Air Force and Army. Under conditions of modern warfare, it is essential that there should be complete co-ordination between the three services and that every effort should be made to eliminate rivalry. A Ministry should be established to supervise and co-ordinate the development of all aspects of Australian defence and to eliminate the needless waste of public moneys.
I should now like to say a little about Dutch New Guinea. 1 understand that last night in another place the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) delivered a very fine speech on this subject. I advise all honorable senators to read what he had to say. He, too, realised that we were up against a very grave danger in South-East Asia. In spite of that, people say we must ship everything we can to red China and must recognize the Government of that country. If we adopt that policy, we will be cutting our own throats. We read in the press the other day that the Lysaght organization, a subsidiary of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, was sending steel to red China. But I have not heard any expressions of disgust from the Government about that.
– They will not be paid for it.
– More than likely they will not be paid for it. I hope they will not be paid, because I do not believe in any kind of trade with red China. I understand that that steel consists of galvanized and flat steel. What will happen to it? It will be manufactured into finished articles which will be distributed in the South-East Asian countries at a price that will undercut Japanese goods. As honorable senators know, the Japanese have a very large trade in that area. But the future trade will not be competitive. The Peking Government will send its representatives to that area, as it has to Australia, and they will ask the South-East Asian countries, “ What are you paying for these various articles you are receiving? “ They will be told the price, and they will then say, “ We will give them to you for 25 per cent, less.” In other words, there will be a cold trade war. Red China will not care if it loses money on the proposition; but the Japanese will be forced out of those markets.
How will that affect Australia? That will be discovered at the next wool buying season. The Japanese will not have the necessary finance to enter competitively into our wool market. If that happens, all because of a measly £1,500,000 worth of steel, what will we do? We will lose millions of pounds on our sales of wool. Once the Japanese are forced out of Australia’s wool market, we will be in for great trouble and the level of unemployment will rise. We must remember that Australia still depends upon the product of the sheep’s back for her livelihood.
I have not noticed any reference in the Treasurer’s Budget speech to recognition being given to Formosa, otherwise known as Taiwan. It is time that the Government realised its responsibility to Australia to establish a diplomatic post or even a trading post in Taipeh. The Formosans are our friends; yet we are afraid to recognize them. I believe that the Government is doing a great disservice to this country by its continual refusal to recognize the Formosan Government. Formosa is part of the bulwark that is protecting, and will continue to protect, Australia against attack. Moreover, Formosa is America’s outer line of defence. If that line is breached, America can pull back to her inner line of defence and we will no longer be necessary to America from the defence viewpoint. Once again, we will become the lonely island in the Pacific.
Australia’s population, numerically, is very small. Time and time again I have emphasised that it is absolutely essential for Australia to be populated, even if there is to be a cool blast of unemployment. If we want to hold this country, we must populate it. Therefore, we must make sure that the rate of immigration is increased and not reduced. If the Evatt Labour party’s policy on immigration were to be adopted, the intake would be cut to the bone with the result that, when the time was ripe all that would have to be done would be to hand over Australia to any Communist invader. We would not have the will, the power or the numbers to fight against our attacker. We must carry on with our migration scheme, and I am pleased to note that the Government is doing so. Indeed, I should like to see the Government step up the migrant intake.
Let me outline the immigration policy of the Australian Democratic Labour party. We declare that the maximum encouragement should be given to the migration of family groups; that special encouragement should be given to those people who are best fitted to assist in national development, with particular emphasis upon meeting the needs of rural industry; that the progress of European migration should be continued without regard to criticsm based on racial and political antagonisms; that the present effort to obtain a more reasonable balance between the sexes should be intensified; that particular efforts should be made to obtain migrants with special and technical skills; that the Government should campaign vigorously to obtain all the necessary sponsorships for migrants; that the moral, physical and mental standards of migrants should be ensured by efficient medical examinations and screenings, the authorities to have power to exercise discretion in special cases of hardship; that migration, on a community basis, of complete industrial undertakings should be encouraged: that chain migration of relatives of migrants already settled in Australia should be assisted actively as being the most effective means of happy and permanent integration into the Australian community.
Finally, Mr. President, I should like to deal with the question of housing. We have an abundance of materials, and we have the necessary labour. Those things have been available for quite a long time, but we have not sufficient finance to go with them. I think that it is time the Government did something about this matter. In the short time at my disposal, I want to bring before the Senate the housing policy of my party, a policy which I hope that the Government, when it is re-elected at the forthcoming general election, will introduce. We want to foster a housing programme that will enable every family to own the home that it wants, at an economic cost not exceeding the average weekly rental. We propose that the Commonwealth Government should through the appropriate agency, such as the permanent co-operative building societies-
-Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– For the last hour we have listened to the policy of the Australian Democratic Labour party, in the shadow of an impending election. This is, of course, hardly the occasion to take that policy apart for examination. After all, we are engaged in a Budget debate and we have limited time. but briefly, Senator Cole, in giving us the policy of his party, gave us a panacea and promises which probably would cost the economy hundreds of millions of pounds. In answer to an interjection as to how all the things that he promised were to be financed, we were told, “ You will get that later.” We had from the honorable senator the proposition that all the suggestions that he put forward were to be financed by drawing off money now spent on hire purchase. I want to remind the honorable senator, and also the Senate, that whatever else may be said about hire purchase, it cannot be said that it does not in fact provide the opportunity for the humble man, the low income man and, indeed, the middle class man, to buy consumer goods.
– At a price.
– At a price. If you draw off the finance that is provided for hire purchase through a free economy you threaten the livelihood and the very existence of the hundreds of thousands of people who are engaged in the manufacture and sale of consumer goods. We have heard talk in this chamber, and also in another place, regarding the interest rates charged by hirepurchase organizations. I remind the Senate that in New South Wales, a Labour government has already introduced legislation to fix interest rates for hire-purchase transactions. It is a rather extraordinary thing that the ceiling rates that it has fixed are higher than the rates that are being charged by all the bona fide hire-purchase companies in Sydney. So that we should be very careful when we start to dabble in this problem of hire purchase. It is something that needs to be looked at very carefully indeed.
Senator Kennelly, who led for the Australian Labour party, made some extraordinary statements. Quite frankly, I found it difficult to follow him and to accept what he said. Often, he seemed to be arguing against himself. I have time only to make two references to his remarks. Since he led for the Opposition, I think that he rates that degree of attention. The honorable senator went to great pains to try to establish that he was quoting from official documents. Almost the very first thing he did was to quote figures regarding unemployment. He said that he was quoting from official information and official documents. The Senate may remember that he said that the registered number of unemployed was more than 70,000. Totest the accuracy of his statement, I have obtained and have in my hand a release from the Department of Labour andi National Service dated 18th August last. This document states, in part -
The number of persons registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Servicefell from 67,144 on the 27th June to 65,903 on the 1st August.
So that the honorable senator, leading for the Opposition, and trying to establish that he was quoting official figures, was approximately 4,100 out in his basic figures.
Senator Kennelly went on to refer tohousing. In relation to the housing of exservicemen, he stated that they were being called upon to pay usury rates of interest and that there was a long waiting time before they could obtain houses. Here again, I have a document, issued under the name of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), which deals with this very subject and is dated 13th August last. It states, in part -
The ex-servicemen in the community receive housing privileges and housing facilities not available to any one else. The ex-serviceman not only has the full facilities of War Service Homes, an organization expressly created for his benefit, but he is also given preferences for rental housing constructed under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreements. Last year, the actual allocation of war service homes was increased from £30,000,000 to £35,000,000. This enabled 14,719- ex-servicemen to obtain homes, about 2,000 more than the previous year.
Another £35,000,000 is provided in this Budget that we are dealing with.
I should like the Senate to note particularly the paragraph that I am about to read, because it highlights the point of my criticism of the statement made by Senator Kennelly. It is as follows: -
If he is ready to build, he gets his war service home loan immediately, and he pays only 3i% interest. There is no waiting time at all for those ready to build.
Other matters are referred to in the document, but lack of time will not permit me to deal with them. However, I stress the point that I have just made, because it is in direct rebuttal of Senator Kennelly’s comments.
If I were looking round for something on which to base my contribution to the Senate Budget debate, I think I could find it in the final paragraph of the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) where, after referring to his impending retirement and his record term as Treasurer, he said -
Time and time again in these difficult years the Government has had a choice of doing the thing that might have been popular or of doing the thing that appeared to be sound and responsible. Each time it has taken the harder but more responsible course. . . .
This Budget is not designed to appeal to the mercenary instincts of the community. Quite clearly, it is not a vote-catching attempt by the Government, despite what the Opposition has said. The date of the next general election has been declared; nevertheless, the Government has not seen fit to bring down a Budget deliberately designed to catch votes. Instead, the Budget has been based on a proper appreciation of the state of the nation and of its economic position. It has been designed to maintain and hold the degree of prosperity and stability that Australia enjoys and which is the envy of every other country in the free world. We have heard all sorts of subjects discussed. We have even had a speech on foreign affairs, from Senator Cole, despite the fact that we had a debate on that subject and are now discussing the Budget. In view of that fact, I feel that there is need now for a re-statement of some of the basic principles and facts connected with the Budget.
During the financial year just concluded, the value of our exports fell by £164,000,000. This drop was caused partly by the drought experienced in a number of the States, but mainly by the heavy drop in the prices overseas for such products as wool, wheat, meat, butter and the base metals. It is true to say that as a result of these things, and other influences, the income of the Australian farming community dropped by no less than £180,000,000. This has obviously meant that the taxes paid last financial year were lower than in the previous year. It also means that during the current financial year the people will pay approximately £40,000,000 less in ordinary taxation.
Here, it is appropriate to point out that the previous Budget gave concessions of the order of £50,000,000, and it is only during this financial year that the full effect of those concessions will be reflected in the amount of taxes paid by the people as well as in the amount of taxes paid by companies and other organizations.
Despite this fall in Commonwealth revenue, the Commonwealth expenditure for the year 1958-59 is expected to rise by approximately £71,000,000. The reasons for this are not hard to find, but, in view of the attack that has been made upon the Government’s proposed expenditure, I think those reasons should be re-stated.
First of all, we should realize that expenditure on both war and civil pensions, indeed the expenditure on all payments from the National Welfare Fund are estimated to increase by no less than £28,000,000 during this financial year. This increase is the result of the concessions this Government gave in the last Budget as well as the increase in the number of persons eligible to receive benefits through the fund. Surely no one suggests that there should be a reduction in this amount? If the Opposition believes that there should be such a reduction, then honorable senators opposite have the opportunity to say so here and now.
Payments from consolidated revenue to the State governments are to increase by £16,900,000 this financial year. This is due partly to the amount which they are paid by way of tax reimbursements under the Commonwealth-State agreement and partly to the payment of an additional £15,000,000 to some States in which severe drought conditions prevailed.I do not think anybody would suggest that we could reduce that amount. If the Opposition believes that it should be reduced, now is the time to advocate such a reduction.
The question of the redemption of loans also invites consideration. During the year, war loans amounting to something like £337,000,000 in Australia and another £26,000,000 from overseas will fall due. There might be a short call of something like £80,000,000 for renewal and conversion of those loans. Provision has to be made for that. Our national solvency depends upon our making provision for it. If we did not make that provision, Australia would become a bankrupt country. For that reason, nobody can challenge that provision.
The approved programme of borrowing for State works and housing is £10,000,000 greater than that of last year, and I do not think the increased provision can be challenged. The Government proposes to budget for a deficit of £110,000,000 on this occasion. To have done otherwise would have necessitated either increased taxation or substantially reduced expenditure. I suggest that either course would have caused unemployment and lack of confidence in a period of deflation, and could have laid the foundations for a period of recession.
We should all have regard for what is happening in other parts of the world, and we should all realize that as our economy is based on the vast primary industries, we are dependent upon what happens overseas. It has been suggested that a sneeze in Wallstreet has a serious effect upon Australia’s economy. On Senator Kennelly’s figures, about 12,000,000 people are unemployed in the United States at present, and Canada’s unemployed total something like 7 per cent, or 8 per cent, of the work force. Great Britain herself is passing through a very difficult economic period. New Zealand is also confronted with all these difficulties. If I have the time, I want to make special reference to New Zealand, a country which is on the brink of disaster.
The situations in other countries have a bearing upon our economy but, despite that bearing, Australia can boast a standard of living, a standard of enjoyment for the people, a state of prosperity and opportunities for work which are the envy of every other country in the free world.
Reference has already been made to unemployment. I have pointed out that, as shown by figures quoted by the Minister for Customs and Excise, the position in Australia is becoming stabilized and, indeed, is improving. We all hope that it will continue to do so.
Our housing policy has been mentioned. The rate of building construction in Australia is recovering, as is proved by the fact that the number of houses completed for the year ended 30th June, 1958, was 74.333, an increase of 8.6 per cent, over the figures for the previous year. These things are pointers to the present Govern ment’s success during a period in which every other part of the world has experienced great difficulties.
Within the framework of the economic position, the Government, in its Budget, has met some very special situations. I shall state them briefly. The totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners are to receive an increase of 10s. a week There is to be a supplementary pension payment of 10s. a week to certain age and invalid pensioners who are in difficulties about the payment of rent. Every encouragement is being given to investment capital employed in prospecting for oil. We all realize that the one thing we need to set us right on top of the world is to discover oil in this country. At present, we have to find something like £100,000,000 each year for the purchase of crude oil overseas, and this Budget makes special provision for the encouragement of the discovery of oil in the same way as the Government made special provision for the establishment of oil refineries which have resulted in reducing by something like 50 per cent, the amount we have to pay for oil imports.
We have also co-ordinated the health scheme. Honorable senators will know that the present health scheme combines voluntary self-help and government assistance and also provides hospital, medical, pharmaceutical and tuberculosis benefits. The Budget proposes to ensure that these benefits will be made available in cases of pre-existing and chronic illnesses. Every one must agree that this is a very desirable and excellent step in our progress.
I want to refer to the position in New Zealand because, as I have said, that country is at present confronted with economic disaster. Also, it provides some very real comparisons with the position here in that, very recently, when an election was held, the New Zealand Labour party went to the people with an extravaganza of promises not unlike those that were offered to the people of Australia in 1954 by Dr. Evatt - and no doubt similar to those which will be offered again in the battle which is about to be joined.
Another reason why we should make a comparison with New Zealand is that it is a primary producing country. In the shadow of falling prices in primary industry, in the shadow of difficulties with overseas balances, and in the shadow of a crisis in all the other countries of the free world, the New Zealand Labour party went electioneering with extravagant promises. I have before me some details of the promises that it made, and of the result of those promises.
The first thing that the Labour party in New Zealand promised - the piece de resistance - later became known as “ Walter’s hundred quid.” The man who is now Prime Minister of New Zealand promised that the first £100 of income tax need not be paid. Honorable senators may be interested to hear the details of the Labour party’s advertisement on the subject. It read -
Return a Labour Government on November 30th and most of you can tear up your income tax demand and use the money you have set aside for income tax payments as a Christmas benefit for the family.
That was the type of political advertisement it used to win votes. In addition to that extravagant promise the party said that it did not believe in overseas borrowing, in import controls or restrictions of any kind. It promised to increase pensions and abolish the means test; increase child allowances; give equal pay to the sexes; give 3 per cent, housing loans; allow a huge depreciation on machinery, and offer extensive health benefits. It promised also to increase scholarships and so on, ad infinitum. It won the election by a very narrow margin.
It is interesting to note that retribution was not long in coming. Within a month the new government was forced to sell some of its securities in England to meet debts for essential imports. The Labour party had said that it did not believe in borrowing and would not even join the International Monetary Fund, but within two or three months it borrowed something like £20,000,000 in England. Within six months we had the spectacle of the Prime Minister of New Zealand coming to this country and in all humility asking the Australian Government - the Australian people - to provide money to help New Zealand in its hour of trouble. It is to the credit of this Government that it did provide £10,000,000 by way of credit to help overcome the trouble that had been produced as a direct result of stupid, brazen promises which could not be kept.
The real day of reckoning came on 26th June, which was later to be described as “Black Thursday”. The Budget provided for increases in income tax of up to 20 per cent. Personal exemption concessions were removed, and dividend taxation was increased by 7 per cent, in the £1, although company profits were already taxed to the extent of 10s. in the £1 at the source. Estate duty was heavily increased; government duty and stamp duties were raised substantially; sales tax on motor cars was doubled - up to 40 per cent.; and petrol tax was increased by ls. a gallon to 2s. 3d. a gallon. Cigarette duty was doubled, as also was tobacco duty. The duty on spirits was doubled, from £3 to £6 a gallon. In all, the rise in tax per head of population in the short space of six months was from £108 18s. lid. to £125 6s. 5d.
– It came from the working man.
– As the honorable senator has reminded me, the New Zealand Budget hit practically every section of the community, but placed the heaviest burden on the traditional targets of the socialists - the investors, the companies, the smokers, the motorists - in short, the humble man. That is the story of a Labour party which was prepared to promise the sun, the moon and the stars, but in the end had to send people home in the dark.
I have gone to some trouble to describe what happened in New Zealand because the policies applied there followed the pattern of those enunciated by the Australian Labour party in 1954. I know that the people of Australia will look at the New Zealand scene and realize just what would happen here if they were so innocent as to fall for such nonsense. I realize that honorable senators opposite, who are trying to interject, will be glad when 1 have sat down, because I have been hitting them hard.
In conclusion, let me say that Australia is a young and vast country with a small population, but in the short space of nine years - the lifetime of the present Government - it has taken tremendous strides. The Government has put its faith in a vigorous immigration programme. It has encouraged private enterprise to expand and get on with the job. We should never forget that private enterprise provides employment for three out of every four persons who work. As Senator Henty has said, one can see on all sides evidence of great progress and great confidence in Australia’s future. We must be at pains to maintain that confidence, because fear grows on fear. This Budget is designed to foster confidence. It is a declaration by the Government parties of their faith in Australia’s future. If we continue along those lines and adhere to the principles which we have enunciated and carried out during the last nine years, Australia will go on from strength to strength and will justify the title “ Australia Unlimited “. Indeed, Australia’s future cannot be measured at this stage. We have all the ingredients for success and only need goodwill and faith in ourselves. !f we have those qualifications there is a place in the sun for all who come after us.
– Before I proceed to deal with the Budget, may I say on behalf of the Australian Labour party that we accept the apology for that document that was offered by Senator Anderson? I shall endeavour to correct a couple of misstatements by the honorable senator in his references to New Zealand. He omitted to mention that the Labour Government in New Zealand succeeded the Holland Liberal Government which had been in office for eight years. That Government did exactly what the Australian Government is attempting to do in the Budget. Any one who cares to look through the records will find that the Holland Government in New Zealand did exactly what a Liberal government did in this country during the ‘twenties. It went out of office in 1929 after introducing a Budget similar in tone to the Budget that has been brought down in Australia this year.
I have never heard a greater condemnation of a Liberal government than Senator Anderson voiced, because the Holland Government left utter chaos in New Zealand when it went out of office. The honorable senator outlined at length what the incoming Labour government had to do in order to save the country from bankruptcy as a result of eight years under a Liberal government. I think I have said sufficient on this issue to let the listening public know the truth behind the misleading propaganda to which Senator Anderson resorted.
Let me correct the honorable senator in relation to another matter. He said that this Government had given an assurance that it would improve conditions under the national health scheme in relation to chronic cases. I emphasize that the Government said that it endorsed certain principles, but it gave no assurance at all. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said -
The Government has endorsed the principle of Commonwealth assistance to special insurance funds established by registered health insurance organizations for persons who cannot be insured at normal rates because of age, pre-existing or chronic illness.
There is a vast difference between endorsing a principle and taking action to give relief to chronic cases. There is no information in the Budget to show that the Government will do anything under the iniquitous national health scheme to assist chronic cases. It is evident, therefore, that Senator Anderson engaged in propaganda. After getting off his misleading propaganda, he jumped up and ran out of the chamber, as he usually does when a stunt is over.
Let us consider the contents of the Budget. It does not provide any check on the amount of credit that can be channelled into hire-purchase finance, or in relation to interest charges. As we know, there has been a release of credit this year. Government senators have referred to the release of £75,000,000 worth of bank credit to the general public, but there has been no stipulation that this money shall be applied to increase production and not channelled into the hire-purchase field.
We find that the Government lacks confidence to approach the general public for all the loan money it needs. Instead of going to the loan market, it proposes to utilize treasury-bill finance to the extent of £110,000,000, which amounts to a further release of credit. There is plenty of money available in Australia. Make no mistake about that! But no action has been taken to direct it into correct channel’s. Through the associated banks, the greater proportion of the available money finds its way into the hire-purchase field. We say that the hire-purchase system is a good thing, provided it is properly controlled; but at the present time hire-purchase money cao be used over and over again within a period of twelve months, resulting- in interest rates of from 70 per cent, to 80 per cent, being obtained on the payment of the first instalment. I say that this is legalized robbery. This Budget has been designed to assist the big financiers who are engaged in hire-purchase activities and things of that nature - not the general public at all. As I have said, no measures are proposed to direct the credit that has been released into productive fields. It is left to the wild imagination of the banks to decide how the money may be used.
The Government does not propose to introduce any measure to check the falling-off in home building. Senator Anderson said that home building was increasing, but a study of the relevant statistics will show that the rate of home building has been steadily declining for years, and that it is still declining. It is of no avail for government senators to shake their heads, because they cannot get away from the figures that have been published by the Commonwealth Statistician in relation to the number of building workers who are unemployed. There has been no check to the ever-increasing pool of unemployed. Responsible Ministers recently admitted that there is an increase in the pool of unemployed persons.
No measures are proposed to meet adequately the needs of the State developmental programmes. The States have been humbled and the stage has been reached at which year after year the Premiers ask the Commonwealth, “ Please, may we develop this project or that project.” Repeatedly, the Commonwealth has dictated to the States as to what projects shall be completed and those that shall not be completed. In other words, the States are being deprived of their local autonomy. They are not being permitted to govern their own affairs.
We are considering a record Budget, which discloses that £337,000,000 is required to meet maturing loans in Australia this year, and another £26,000,000 in London. An amount of £210,000,000 is required for State works and housing, and another £7,000,000 for war service land settlement. A total amount of £1,575,000,000 is needed, of which £1,302,000 will be provided from Consolidated Revenue. But the Government is not game to approach the loan market for any more than £115,000,000. This in a time of great prosperity. Government spokesmen have said that the country was never more prosperous, yet the Government is not game to try to raise, on the open market, the money that is needed. The so-called notorious Labour government in 1943, when about 40 per cent, of the population were engaged in war and in war production, asked the people to subscribe £215,000,000 in loans, and they did so. Despite the fact that this Government stated in earlier years that the issue of bank credit would cause wholesale inflation, it now proposes to resort to treasury-bill finance to the tune of £110,000,000. Instead of raising the money on the loan market at a restricted rate of interest, the Government is to channel another £110,000,000 of bank credit to the general public. That amount could be obtained readily from the peopleif they had confidence in this Government. The Government is resorting to a method of finance that it has condemned for many years.
– Mr. Menzies says he is proud of it now.
– I know that. I made a note of the things mentioned by Senator Henty. He said he was very proud of the issue of £110,000,000 of national credit, but. he did not say he was proud of the stand taken by his party in relation to the £18,000,000 worth of fiduciary notes that Mr. Theodore wanted to issue some years ago in order to save hundreds of thousands of people from starvation by giving them a meagre allowance. Not at all. The then Opposition said that the proposed fiduciary issue of £18,000,000 would bankrupt the country. To-day the Liberal-Australian Country party Government says that a treasury-bill issue of £110,000,000 will not have an adverse effect. upon our economy. Isay it will have an even greater adverse effect than would have flowed from the implementation of Mr. Theodore’s proposal.
This Government has failed to do what it has often chided the Labour party for not doing, that is, first, to control the extortionate rates of interest being charged to-day by hire-purchase companies which are crippling Australia’s economy, and, secondly, to see that the credit issue of £110,000,000 is channelled into reproductive works. Nobody can deny that the States have not been treated in such a way as to permit them to carry out their programme of developmental works, yet they are expected to absorb the increasing number of immigrants coming to this country. The works programmes of the States have had to be reduced to the 1950-51 level. If that is not designed to tripple the States, I should like to know what is.
The Budget before us brings to my mind the Budget presented in 1929 by the then Treasurer, Dr. Earle Page, now Sir Earle Page, who stated that unemployment was of no account provided the economy could be maintained at a stable level. In 1929, when the country had a pool of unemployed, the public works programme was reduced to one-third of the previous year’s programme. The Bruce-Page Government admitted that its revenue from direct and indirect taxes would be reduced, just as this Government is admitting to-day. Just as in 1929 the people did not trust the BrucePage Government sufficiently to lend it money, so the people to-day do not trust the Menzies-Fadden Administration which has now resorted to the issue of bank credit. No one could complain at that course of action provided that action were taken to ensure that the credit issued would be used on reproductive works or to control interest rates charged by hire-purchase companies. But it is not to be so used. The money will be thrown willy-nilly to the general public, and those who have much will get more, while the masses which have little will get less. That is inevitable under the Government’s scheme. Not only State public works but also Commonwealth public works have been pruned.
Government supporters say that the fiscal position will correct itself, and they quote the economic situation in other countries in an effort to dodge the issues raised by this Budget. One honorable senator opposite said that America spends 36,000,000,000 dollars on defence, which represents £100 in Australian currency per head of the American population. Does he suggest that we should spend £100 per head of population on defence? If he does, on the basis of 10,000,000 people, the amount would be £1,000,000,000, or practically the whole of the revenue the Government is budgeting for this year. That is an illustration of the stupidity of honorable senators opposite.
The honorable senator said that unemployment in Australia represented only about 1 per cent, of the population, while in America it was 7i per cent., and in Canada 9 per cent. Does he suggest that our percentage of unemployed should reach the American and Canadian figures before the Government begins to sit up and take notice of the position? It is all right for honorable senators opposite sitting in smug security to make such statements; if they were among the 67,000 unemployed they would tell a different story.
Honorable senators opposite have said that Dr. Evatt had analysed the income of the primary producers on an incorrect basis. The Government itself has admitted that the income of primary producers last year was £180,000,000 less than it was for the previous year. That reduction in income will have severe repercussions throughout the country. Senator Henty mentioned the drop in value of our overseas exports. The very same thing happened in 1929. History is repeating itself. When we say that the Government has not taken the necessary steps to remedy the position, we are ridiculed. Senator Henty mentioned the promise of the Labour party to eliminate the means test. I challenge any Government supporter in this chamber, or in another place, to quote one promise made by the Labour party during an election campaign that was not fulfilled when we came to office. Long before Senator Henty had grown his political teeth, we heard exactly the same kind of criticism from his party.
During the war years, the Labour government introduced widows’ pensions and unemployment and sickness benefits, and raised other social service benefits. The Opposition of the day laughed at us and said that the provision of such benefits was impossible, but we provided them. To fulfil the promises we now make would be as nothing compared to what we did during the war.
In order to illustrate my point regarding the economy of the country, I shall read a paragraph from an article by a leader of the Labour party of whom we all are very proud. This particular man was chided over and over again, particularly by members of the Liberal party, for his financial policies.
– Does the honorable senator propose to quote Dr. Evatt?
– If the honorable senator wishes me to quote Dr. Evatt, I shall do so. Nobody is prouder than I am to stand here as a follower of Dr. Evatt, despite the comments regarding communism that come from the mentally diseased senators on the Government side. The splendid record of Dr. Evatt and his coMinisters in the Labour government, including Senator McKenna, at the time of the greatest crisis that ever faced Australia, is indelibly written in the history of this country. Every one of them will live in history to the great credit of this country. It is with great gratification, pride and joy that I stand here, still a supporter of men who steered this country through its greatest crisis after a Liberal government had run away from its responsibility. Jibes are thrown to-day at gentlemen who have a record that still has to be equalled by the Ministers of the present Government.
When Mr. Chifley was Treasurer he would not issue unlimited credit unless he had some control over it and was able to channel the money into reproductive work. Because he kept controls on so that money could be channelled into reproductive work, he was criticised from one end of the country to the other by the predecessors of the gentlemen who occupy the benches on the other side of the Senate to-day. Although they jibed at him, nobody can say that under the financial policy of the late Mr. Chifley there was a degree of inflation in any way harmful to this country. Immediately he went out of office, inflation began to increase under the present Liberal Government, and it has been running riot ever since. It has now reached breaking point.
If this Government had been doing its job, it would by now have enough revenue stored up to enable it to meet the situation that is confronting Australia to-day. but it is not ready to meet the situation. If it were, it would immediately find employment for the unemployed.
I give a complete denial to the honorable senator opposite who said that we do not want to bring immigrants to this country. We believe in bringing as many immigrants to the country as we can possibly get. T am sure that honorable senators will agree that when we were in charge of the affairs of this country, we scoured the world for ships to bring immigrants to Australia, but before the immigrants landed here we made perfectly sure that there were jobs to which they could go. There are 67,000 unemployed people in Australia at the present time. It is certain that many of them are immigrants whom the present Government brought to the country. They were brought here under a misrepresentation. If we were in office, we would bring in immigrants up to the figure of 1 15,000 a year but we would see that there was a job waiting for each and every one of them when he arrived. Nobody can really say that we are opposed to immigration when we are prepared to do that, but we would control interest rates and channel the enormous amount of surplus cash that is available here into the right channels so that it could be used for the benefit of the country and provide jobs for immigrants and others.
asked what would have been the position if the means test had been lifted. He is proud of the fact that his Government has not lifted the means test. However, Senator Henty has been in this Parliament long enough to have checked the history of the Labour Government. He knows what Labour did during the war years in relation to social services, health services and other such things. He knows perfectly well that it would be no hardship for a Labour government to lift the means test completely. He is merely trying to get in early before the election in an attempt to ridicule the policy of the Labour party. The fact is that honorable senators opposite did promise to progressively lift the means test, but that promise will not be honoured until many of us have passed on to the great beyond, and perhaps not even then. It is one of the principles that they claim to support but which they are not prepared to put into effect.
I have mentioned the two things that Senator Henty said he was proud of. Apart from referring to those two things, he had’ little or nothin” at all to say in regard to the Budget. M-nv savings could have been made bv the Government. If honorable senators opposite read the Auditor-General’s report, they wi!’ not have to ask me where savings could he made. They could be made, for instance, in the administration of closer settlement. I am not contending that the policy of closer settlement should not be continued. I had to put up a fight here for some time on behalf of a Mr. O’Shea, whom I claimed was badly treated, and at this stage I want to thank the Minister for conceding to my request, calling the dogs off and withdrawing all his actions against Mr. O’Shea. The little bit of money that was involved in that case is a drop in the ocean compared with the money that could be saved in other directions.
I want to point out a misstatement that was made by a head of a department concerned with Mr. O’Shea’s case. He made the statement that if Mr. O’Shea had had a genuine case, the Soldier Settlers Association would have taken it up on his behalf, and he went on to say that the fact that the Soldier Settlers Association did not take up the case showed that it was not a good one. AfterI had been successful in my fight for Mr. O’Shea, and had obtained for him the kind of justice that he fought for in the last war, I received the following letter from the secretary of the King Island Soldier Settlers Association. It is addressed from Private Bag117, Pegarah, King Island, and is dated 24th June, 1958. It reads -
On behalf of the King Island Settlers’ Association I wish to thank you for your efforts on behalf of Mr. O’Shea who was a soldier settler on the Island.
King Island Settlers’ Association
That is the only communication I have had with that gentleman. I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting him, but it is apparent that he is an honest ex-soldier who believes that soldier settlers should be treated with fairness and justice.
– You had a very good win in that case.
-I have mentioned it for the purpose of conveying my thanks to the Minister for what he did for Mr. O’Shea, or not so much for Mr. O’Shea as for his wife and little children.
I want to refer to something that appeared in the press. This is the first time since 1929 that I have seen the whole of the press of Australia attack a government on its Budget. This is what the “Truth “, which has a big circulation, had to say -
The Budget gives no indication that the Government is facing the problem of mounting unemployment realistically. A few crumbs flung to pensioners represent a niggardly gesture at negligible cost.
Even the press of Australia is claiming that unemployment is mounting and that the Government is doing nothing whatever to try to check it or to stabilize the economy.-
– Two years ago I asked the Senate to withdraw permission for the broadcasting of proceedings of the Parliament, but unfortunately my motion was never brought to a vote. As I listened to the speeches from the other side of the Senate to-night, I felt more and more that I was right in my action then. It is nauseating for people to listen to such tripe and trash, which not even faintly resembles the truth.
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 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 August 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580820_senate_22_s13/>.