22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Televising of Opening - Diplomatic Galleries in Senate Chamber.
– I should like to ask you, Mr. President, a question without notice. Have you read a report that the United Kingdom Government has agreed in principle to the provision of facilities for televising the State opening of the British Parliament and that Her Majesty the Queen has been pleased to grant her consent to that procedure? Has consideration been given to the televising of the opening of the next Commonwealth Parliament, which will presumably take place early in 1959? If no discussions on the official level have been initiated, do you not feel that the time is opportune to have all aspects of the question considered and an official decision ‘announced prior to the prorogation of the Parliament?
– Yes, I have seen a report that Her Majesty the Queen has agreed to televising the opening of the British Parliament. Discussions along similar lines have taken place here. They have not gone very far yet, but as soon as finality is reached I will inform the Senate. I expect that will be within the next fortnight or three weeks.
– I, also, would like to ask you a question, Mr. President. As you know, in another place there is a diplomatic gallery, and it is usual for the Parliament and the Government to extend special courtesies to the representatives of other countries. Would you consider placing in this chamber a special gallery for high commissioners, ambassadors and other representatives of other countries?
– I shall be very pleased to go into that matter. I am aware of the need for and importance of a diplomatic gallery in the Senate, and I sincerely hope that ample facilities for that purpose will be provided in the new Parliament House.
– The Minister for National Development has informed me that he has a reply to a question that ‘I asked in the Senate on 6th August relating to the road transport of freight and goods for the Department of the Army from Nungarin, in Western Australia, to the eastern States. I asked whether the freight and goods could be satisfactorily transported by the State and Commonwealth railway systems. The Minister promised that he would have an investigation made and inform me of the Government’s policy. I should be grateful if he would give the answer which he now says he has.
– Before the Minister replies to the question, I think we need to look at the way in which questions are asked and the way in which replies are given. I have on my sheet a note that Senator Spooner has a reply to this particular question. I feel that we should first deal with questions to which honorable senators wish to have an immediate reply. We could then deal with questions that have been asked on notice. If we follow that practice a little more closely in future, I feel that at least we will have a more interesting question period.
– I should like to preface my reply to Senator Cooke by saying that the fault in this matter lies not with Senator Cooke but with me, because I said to him before proceedings opened that I now had an answer to his question. The Minister for the Army has now forwarded the following information: -
In April of this year it became necessary to move Army equipment, which was urgently required by the Regular Army Brigade Group, from Western Australia to Sydney. The Brigade Group was undergoing concentrated training in Eastern Command and 30 half-ton trailers held at Nungarin, Western Australia, were needed. Movement of the trailers from Nungarin was arranged with Thomas Transport Proprietary Limited, which is a commercial firm engaged in interstate transport.
The trailers were freighted by road to Kalgoorlie where the complete vehicle was transported by rail to Port Pirie. From Port Pirie the journey to Sydney was completed by road. This method of transportation was chosen, not only because it was cheaper than normal movement by rail, but because delivery could be made available up to fourteen days earlier.
It is the policy of the Department of the Army to use the various railway systems as far as practicable. In fact, wherever it has been possible the quantity of freight moved by rail has in recent years been increased provided cost and transport times permit this to be done.
Recently the various State and Commonwealth railway authorities introduced a combined road and rail system. This system has been utilized by the Army over the past nine months and it permits commercial operators to collect freight from an Army depot and deliver it to the nearest convenient rail goods yard. The freight is then moved by rail and on reaching the rail destination the goods are transported by road to the intended Army depot. This system results in lowered freight charges, a speedier transport service, and is beneficial both to the railway authorities and to the user.
There is always a normal interstate movement of small quantities of Army freight. This will, as in the past, be undertaken by rail transport, either by direct arrangement with the railway authorities or through a combined rail/road arrangement.
– I wish to preface my question to the Minister for National Development by referring to a press report last week that the defeat of the Minerals Subsidy Bill in the United States House of Representatives could result in a higher duty being imposed on lead and zinc imports to that country. The bill proposed the payment of subsidies to United States producers on commercial sales of lead, zinc, tungsten and acid grade fluorspar, the provision of incentive payments for the production of beryl chromite and bolumbian tantalum, and the stockpiling of 150,000 tons of copper. If such a duty is, in fact, imposed will this affect the Australian producers adversely? If so, does the Government contemplate taking any action to protect them?
– The honorable senator refers to the fact that the Seaton plan has, to the surprise of many, been rejected by both houses of the United States Congress. In outline, it was aimed at encouraging local production by the payment of a bounty, by stockpiling, and by certain other means. We must now wait to see what alternative will be adopted, and what the general effects of that alternative will be. It is a pretty complicated matter. As only to-day I received an analysis of the position from my own department and I have not yet had a chance to study it,
I ask the honorable senator to repeat the question to-morrow, because it is of great importance. Our exports of lead and zinc are of considerable consequence not only to the mining industry of Australia but also to the economy of Australia as a whole. I should prefer to read the departmental report before expressing an opinion for the record.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration seen the reported resolution of the Lambeth conference on our immigration policy? The resolution reads -
The present unwillingness of Australia to receive non-white immigrants should as soon as possible be modified in order to allow for the controlled entry of members of any race or nation.
In the hope of preventing the passage of such ill-informed and harmful resolutions in the future, will the Minister see that the officials of the Lambeth conference are supplied with the facts concerning Australia’s immigration policy, which is, of course, already modified and does allow the controlled entry of members of any race or nation?
– I shall bring the question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, Mr. Downer, who no doubt has seen the press report on this matter. I shall ask Mr. Downer to supply an answer to this very important question direct to the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that the radio and telecast feature “ Leave it to the Girls “ is to disappear from Australian programmes? Is it also a fact that the film studios at Pagewood, Sydney, are about to close? Will the Minister take the necessary action to control the importation of cheap, canned and foreign film material, which is doing so much to prejudice the future of the Australian theatre and the jobs of artists?
– I shall have great pleasure in referring the honorable senator’s question to the appropriate Minister, and I shall ask him to furnish an answer direct to the honorable senator in due course.
– The question that I direct to the Minister representing the Treasurer relates to the forthcoming British Commonwealth Economic Conference to be held in Canada, to which the Minister for Trade has recently departed. I preface my question by referring to a rather interesting fact that has recently emerged from a debate in the British Parliament at Westminster concerning the possible discussions in Canada on the setting up of a Commonwealth Bank for sterling. Can the Minister comment on the advantages of such a proposal, particularly as to whether the establishment of such a hank could have the effect of releasing some portion of the enormous sterling reserve that Australia is forced to keep in Britain in the absence of such ,a bank?
– I think it would be a wise Minister who would refrain from commenting on the proposal at this stage. As I understand it, this matter is on the agenda for consideration at the Montreal conference, having been placed on the agenda by the United Kingdom delegation. This is a very interesting proposal, and the final result of the analysis remains to be seen. I suppose the pertinent question is whether the establishment of a British Commonwealth bank would increase the volume of financial resources for the development of British Commonwealth countries. Would we do better by pooling our Commonwealth resources, having regard to the fact that it is admitted and acknowledged that the great volume of money available for development is in the United States? Would we do better to superimpose our own organization upon the existing two organizations? There is in existence at present a British Colonial Development Bank and a development bank to which the British Government and British industries contribute. The latter bank was established as a result of the 1952 conference. The big question is whether a new institution would obtain additional resources which could be used throughout the Commonwealth. I think that is all I can say until the matter is examined at the Montreal conference. The Australian delegation will look at the proposal with a very open mind, anxious to do what is best all round.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army by saying that I am aware that the administration of the tramway services in Victoria is a matter for the State government. The chairman of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board is a prominent member of the Australian Army, and is called upon to divide his time and talents between the two activities. Will the Minister ascertain what time has been spent by the chairman of the board on military work each year for the past three years? Is the board reimbursed by the Department of the Army for the time the chairman devotes to military duties? In view of the unsatisfactory financial position in regard to trams and buses, which has necessitated the imposition of higher fares, thus adding to the inflationary spiral, would it not be in the best interests of all if this high-ranking officer were transferred to the reserve of officers, thus affording him an opportunity to devote all his time and talents to improving the important transport activities administered by the Melbourne tramways board?
– Not being a Victorian, I do not know the personality involved, so I cannot express an opinion. However, on the general principle, I make bold to give the answer that I would be loth to proceed along the lines suggested by the honorable senator because, if I judge the position correctly, the gentleman referred to is one of the high-ranking officers of the Commonwealth Military Forces, and I hold the view that if we can get men of capacity and ability to accept appointments in the Army - and, of course, they carry out their Army duties in their spare time - we benefit nationally. That type of man can be trusted to do the right thing by his two interests, the Army work that he does in his spare time, and the professional work which is his livelihood, much of which has to be done also in his spare time.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health refers to the prominent headlines that appeared in a leading Sydney news* paper yesterday reading, “ No Bar on Danger’ Drug”, and to the article. that states -
Preludin, a “ pep “ pill which has been described as dangerous by two British doctors, is being sold in Sydney without prescription ….
Has this matter been brought to the notice of the Minister? If not, will he cause inquiries to be made as to the correctness of the statement contained in the article, and will he advise what control can be exercised over the sale of the drug?
– I shall be happy to bring the question raised by the honorable senator to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Health, and I will give the honorable senator an answer in due course.
– After reading the Melbourne “ Sun “ this morning, I should like to direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Are the newspapers correct in saying that the taxation authorities have their eye on the prizes awarded to the footballers adjudged best of the season by independent voting, especially such winners as Allen Aylett, Ted Whitten and Neil Roberts? I know that Senator McManus will support me in this matter. As these awards are in the nature of presents and are not regular payments, will the Government see that the tax man is not permitted to be a killjoy and a nark by applying the tax rules too rigidly?
– The Commissioner of Taxation has an act to administer. He has no discretion in these matters. The test is whether the money to which the honorable senator has referred is remuneration earned by a person in following his avocation. As to whether these payments are earnings or gifts, that, I say with respect, is a matter that we have to leave to the Commissioner of Taxation, who has to interpret the act.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. I understand that the first nuclear reactor built in America produced electric power in January of this year. The plant cost approximately £23,000,000 and is producing 66,000 kilowatts. More than half the cost of the construction of this plant was borne by the American Government. In view of the need for Australia to keep abreast of modern science, and in view of the fact that many world, authorities claim nuclear power as the cheap power of the future, will the Government consider the early erection here of nuclear reactors for generating electric power? If not, will it consider complying with any request for financial assistance from a State or company that wishes to erect this type of power plant in Australia?
– The honorable senator’s question canvasses such important matters of policy that I confess I am not prepared to give him an answer now. I remind him that circumstances in Australia are different from those in the United States of America. In Australia, so far as I am aware, the central government - the Commonwealth Government - has no constitutional authority to enter into the field of power generation. It would be a very big step indeed for the Commonwealth Government to enter into that field. Speaking from recollection, I would say that the cost of providing power is one of the greatest single items in the Budgets of the State governments. For the Commonwealth Government to accept the principle that it should provide money to meet the capital cost of power stations would mean a radical change in our approach to CommonwealthState financial arrangements. I do not put forward what I have said as the final view of the Government; I am merely attempting to give an answer to the honorable senator’s question.
– I have another question to ask the Minister representing the Treasurer. For many years “The Times” of London has included in the financial pages of its daily issue a large two-column tabulated statement entitled “ World Interest Rates “, dealing with bank rates and treasury-bill rates. It generally enumerates fifteen to twenty of the leading countries of the world, but for some reason it has never included Australia, although it includes other members of the British Commonwealth such as Canada,
New Zealand and: India. Will the Minister ascertain, through Australia House in London, the reason why figures relating to Australia have never been included in this interesting information? Perhaps it may be due to lack of interest on the part of our representative in London. I raise this question because of complaints I have received from Australian businessmen who have returned here after business trips to London.
– I have no knowledge) of the matter to which the honorable senator refers. Perhaps, the Australian figures are not included in that tabulation because the economy of Australia is so stable under this Government’s administration and our interest rates vary so little that they are not news.
– In view of the further downward trend in wool prices, as revealed at the opening wool sales at Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth this week, will the Attorney-General discuss with his colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, the possibility of his making an early statement giving an estimate of the stocks of wool held by the major countries that normally buy Australian wool? As far as it is possible for him to do so, will the Minister also offer some comment on the likelihood of such countries buying at least their normal purchases of wool during the current wool-selling season? I am merely asking the Attorney-General whether he will bring my question to the notice of his colleague and ask him to make a statement on the matter.
– I shall be very happy to comply with the honorable senator’s request and bring the question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Do the Government’s figures for total unemployment include people drawing sickness benefit?
– The following information has been supplied by the Minister for Labour and National Service: -
The figures published by the Department of Labour and National Service of persons receiving unemployment benefit and of persons registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service do not include people drawing sickness benefit. This benefit is payable to persons who are temporarily incapacitated for work because of sickness or accident; these persons are not for the time being available for employment.
asked tha Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions: -
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Social Services Act - Seventeenth Report by the Director-General of Social Services for year 1957-58.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Grant be granted leave of absence for one month on account of ill health.
Motion (by Senator Henry) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Excise Act 1901-1957, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill has as its main feature a provision to allow payment of drawback - that is, a refund - of excise duty involved where duty-paid excisable goods are used in the manufacture of other goods which are subsequently exported. The Excise Act at present provides the legal authority to pay back duty to the claimant where excisable goods are exported as such from Australia. The law does not provide, however, for drawback payments upon exportation where exercisable goods on which duty has been paid are used in conjunction with other goods in manufacturing processes and lose their identity as such. This bill, by virtue of clause 5, will provide the necessary powers in this regard and, at the same time, will allow for the making of regulations governing drawback payment procedures. These will follow along the lines of customs procedures in respect of imported goods.
A further provision of the bill will give the power for an officer of customs, or a police officer, to arrest a person who assaults, or is believed to have assaulted, a customs officer in the execution of his duties. The additional powers conferred by the related amendment are considered necessary as a protective measure to officers of the Department of Customs and Excise.
The opportunity has been taken also by this bill to repeal certain sections of the Excise Act, referred to in clauses 7 and 8, which are now considered inappropriate in Commonwealth legislation. The sections relate to the giving of a written statement to a person who has been arrested, showing the reason for arrest, and to the treatment of offenders by courts and gaolers where a pecuniary penalty is adjudged to be paid by a convicted person. By repealing the sections, the department will rely on State legislation to cover these matters. Similar sections of the Customs Act relating to treatment of offenders by courts and gaolers were repealed in 1957.
Other amendments in the bill are of a drafting nature, including a provision in clause 9 for the making of regulations for the administration of drawback procedures. The bill is submitted for the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26th August (vide page 238), 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 Expenditure1957-58.
Upon which Senator Kennelly had moved by way of amendment -
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 makeno contribution to correcting seriously adverse trends in the Australian economy “.
– When the Senate adjourned last night, I was speaking of the propaganda that has always been used against leaders of the Labour movement in this country. I was trying to recall to the minds of honorable senators what happened in 1940. I mentioned that during the 1940 general election campaign theparties which were opposed to Labour accused the late Mr. Curtin of being pro-Communist, proGerman and anti-British. I pointed out that despite these charges, Mr. Curtin was called upon, a little over twelve months later, to lead this nation in meeting the greatest crisis with which it has ever been confronted. Since those days, no one has been able to praise him highly enough, yet it is a fact that because of its propaganda, the Liberal party won the 1940 elections.
I come now to the late Ben Chifley. No one could argue that he did not do an excellent job, first as Treasurer and later as Prime Minister following the demise of Mr. Curtin, until his own untimely death. Yet, during the 1949 election campaign, the same sort of propaganda was used against him as was used against Mr. Curtin. The people were told, in the press and over the air, that Ben Chifley was proCommunist, anti-British, and indeed all the things that were not desirable in Australia’s politics, and he was defeated. Later, when speaking at Maryborough in Queensland, Mr. Menzies made this statement -
Why is not Dr. Evatt like my old colleague, the late Ben Chifley We could get round the table, talk over things and come to a decent agreement.
What did he say about Mr. Chifley in 1949? He said just what he and others are saying now about our present leader, Dr. Evatt. All I wish to say at this point is that Dr. Evatt is the unanimous choice of the great Australian Labour party, and I hope and trust that we shall never see the day when the parties opposed to Labour begin to praise Dr. Evatt. If that day ever comes, we will begin to feel that perhaps Dr. Evatt is going to be another Billy Hughes or Joe Lyons; but Dr. Evatt will remain true to the traditions of this party and the principles that have made him one of the greatest statesmen the Commonwealth has ever known.
As my figures were questioned when I spoke on unemployment, I have taken the trouble to check them and ascertain the maximum number of people who were unemployed in Australia during the depression. I shall now cite the figures for the benefit of the Senate. At the height of the depression in 1933, there were 460,200 males and 103,000 females unemployed in the Commonwealth. Last night, I said the unemployed numbered 500,000.
– The honorable senator said that was the number when war broke out.
– I said that there was still unemployment when war broke out.
– Look at “ Hansard “ and see what you did say.
– Let me say now, for the benefit of Senator Wedgwood, that in 1944, after four years of war, the unemployed in Australia still numbered 400,000, and I am now citing figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician.
– Most of those who went to make up the first division of the Second A.I.F. were unemployed; the first job they ever had was when they joined the forces.
– That is a very wicked thing to say about our exservicemen.
– In saying that, we are not wishing to take credit from the members of the first division of the Second A.I.F. As Senator O’Byrne has interjected, many of the boys who went to make up that division had never known what it was to have a job in the country for which they had enlisted to fight. I challenge honorable senators opposite to deny that.
Last night, when I referred to the number of returned servicemen who are now waiting for homes, Sentaor Gorton queried my assertion that they numbered about 14,000. I do not know exactly what he meant in challenging my figures, but I do find now that what I said was wrong. On obtaining the official figures to-day, I find that the actual number is not 14,000 but 19,257. That is the number of soldiers who are now waiting for homes - after fighting for this country, marrying and commencing to rear families. And this Government says we are enjoying an era of prosperity!
During the course of his remarks, Senator Mattner criticized the New Zealand Government; but he makes many statements without knowledge of the facts. First, he said that the present New Zealand Labour Government has been in office for two years. I point out to him that that Government was elected in November or December last year and has not yet been twelve months in office. But let me warn this chamber and the electors of Australia that very shortly Australia could find itself in a position similar to that in which New Zealand is placed to-day.
– Only if Labour is elected.
– New Zealand never enjoyed greater prosperity than it did from 1935 until the defeat of the Labour government in 1949. I vividly remember how, when Australia was going through the dark days of depression, when people were living under bridges and sleeping on the streets in 1935, the Labour government in New Zealand at that time recruited thousands of carpenters, plumbers, bricklayers and other tradesmen, took them to that country and paid them award rates to build homes for the workers of New Zealand. The people of the Dominion have enjoyed the benefit of those homes ever since. I repeat that just as New Zealand is in a serious position to-day because of the boom and bust policy of the Holland Government, so will Australia find itself in a serious position in the very near future unless steps are taken to prevent such a catastrophe.
– Tell us the story about New Zealand. Tell us what was promised the people during the last election and about the taxes that have been imposed since. Tell us the truth.
– Allow me to say that the New Zealand Labour party and the people were deceived by the Holland Government. Mr. Holland said that everything in that country was rosy. He told the people of New Zealand that everything was flourishing, and they believed him; but, when the Labour Government was elected, it found the cupboard bare, and the Treasury, instead of being affluent, bankrupt. I venture the opinion that we shall find a similar position obtaining in Australia when the present Government is defeated.
Let me deal now with another of Senator Mattner’s statements. He said that our overseas balances stood at £510,000,000. I am prepared to allow him a margin of perhaps £20,000,000 or £50,000,000, but he was much further astray. In yesterday’s capitalist press we find the following . statement: -
The overseas funds held by the Central Bank fell £472,636 to £409,798,870.
Senator Mattner was only a cool £100,000,000 out! But we can understand this, because we know that honorable senators opposite are fooling themselves. They do not fully realize the seriousness of the position this country is in to-day.
It amazes me, listening to those honorable senators opposite who are supposed to represent the primary producers as members of the Country party, how little they know about what is actually happening to the primary producers. Let us examine the real position. We all remember that after the First World War we had a Liberal government in office. It adopted a boom and bust policy similar to that being pursued by the present Government. We all know that after the 1914-18 war, prices for primary products, such as meat, wheat and wool, rose a little, and land values went up. The government of the day went merrily on without any plan or policy for the development of Australia. In 1928, we were confronted with a position similar to that obtaining to-day. Prices for primary produce fell sharply and we suddenly found our overseas balances in the red.
– During the depression we had a Labour government under the leadership of Mr. Scullin.
– There was not a Labour government during the period to which I am referring. Senator Wade and other Government supporters will have an opportunity later to give their views on this matter. In 1941, when Labour took office, the country was bankrupt. Unemployment was rife. Our soldiers were sent to the Middle East without the up-to-date arms that they needed to fight the greatest mechanized army that the world had ever seen.
– Are you sure that that was the position when Labour took over in 1941?
– That is what we found. In New Guinea I saw for myself our gallant airmen using Saturday afternoon pleasure aircraft against the Zeros. They were shot down like birds. In 1941, we realized that our first task was to plan for a 100 per cent, prosecution of the war, and that our second task was to plan for an equally effective peace. In due course, we successfully conducted Australia’s war effort and then made plans for the rehabilitation of our soldiers. It was not a mere matter of sending men back to the jobs that they had left. We had to create new industries and re-establish those that had been closed down during the regime of the prewar Liberal government. Labour realized that Australia could not have a worthwhile economy unless it had also a stabilized primary production policy.
In 1947-48, we sought at a referendum, power to control prices. We pointed out that this was necessary if we had to have a stable economy. We knew that the price of wool, wheat, dried fruits and all our other primary products would soar because of the shortages which devastation had created in other parts of the world. We knew, too, that if we allowed the economy of the country to follow the inflated prices which would obtain overseas, it would be a matter of boom and bust. Europe has now been largely rehabilitated, and many countries no longer want our primary produce. Even if they did, we should find ourselves priced out of the market. The basic wage is about £13 a week, but it will not purchase for the worker as much as did the basic wage under the Chifley Government. Moreover, it is producing an impossible position so far as costs of production are concerned. The world does not want our wheat, and the price of wool has dropped to the lowest level since 1944 - to 4s. per lb. We are finding it equally difficult to dispose of our meat.
The price which we can obtain for dried fruit has fallen from a maximum of £110 a ton to £60 a ton - when it can be sold at all. I am referring now to the plight of primary producers who have bought land at inflated prices, not to such people as Senator Mattner, who have had everything placed in their laps. How are those who bought land at inflated prices to get on with wool at 4s. per lb.? Land is never worth more than its productive capacity, but land which should have been sold at £25 an acre for wheat growing is bringing £100 an acre.
– I am prepared to substantiate what I have said. The same is true of land sold for the growing of dried fruits.
– You referred to land for wheat-growing.
– Senator Wade and his colleagues will find it very difficult to explain why, twelve months ago, a wheat-growing property 8 miles out of Wangaratta was sold for £105 an acre.
– How big is the property?
– It is 500 acres.
– Is it growing wheat to-day?
– Yes, and during the recess I can show it to the honorable senator.
– You probably bought it yourself.
– I would not be so inefficient and stupid as to invest money in land. In common with Government supporters, I would put my money into the hire-purchase field. I repeat, Labour wanted a planned economy. We could have kept home consumption prices down if the Commonwealth had been given constitutional power to control prices. Moreover, we could have kept the basic wage at £5 10s. or £5 15s. and this would have enabled us to compete on overseas markets.
Who will meet the outstanding debts on properties bought during the last ten years? We shall have a situation similar to that which existed in 1926 and 1927. I remember that, in 1922, Mallee farmers who, in good seasons and bad, could average an income of about only £5 a week on a 640- acre block sold out to the Repatriation Department for £9 an acre. They immediately re-invested the money in Commonwealth bonds at 6 per cent. They were able to get £9 or £10 a week sitting at home and leaving it to the soldiers to try to earn their living on those blocks. We are faced with a similar situation to-day. Many of those who have bought properties in the last ten years will have to hand them over to the banks. I can see Senator Mattner sitting on the other side of the chamber looking very smug. Many primary producers are sitting smugly to-day because they are receiving prices of up to £65 for young bullocks, £30 for vealers, and £5 or £6 a head for their sheep. But they are getting as little as 10s. or 12s. per lb. for their wool.
– 1 thought the honorable senator said that our economy is depressed?
– They are getting those prices from their activities on land that cost them about £10, or £15, an acre. I say to Senator Wade that, compared with the head of an intellectual, his head is as shallow as Lake Albert compared with the sea. I ask the honorable senator to remember what I said, that our economy has been declining until to-day it has reached an all-time low. Senator Mattner and other honorable senators who represent the primary producers in this chamber are holding land which now has a higher productive capacity than when they bought it. If the price of wool fell to 3s. per lb., they would still be all right. I have been referring to the primary producers who have had to pay £40 an acre for land for sheep raising and for dairying.
– How do you know?
– If Senator Hannan would only listen, he might learn something.
– Where did the honorable senator pick up the expressions that he has been using?
– In the course of my travelling through Victoria, these matters have been brought to my notice. We had a sound economy in this country, but it was taken from us not because the electors were told the truth but because of the propaganda that the antiLabour parties disseminated in 1949 and have continued to disseminate. In view of the Budget that has been brought down, I am convinced that on 22nd November the electors of Australia will say “ Good night “ to Menzies and his followers, so far as the control of this country is concerned. I venture to say that after the election there will not be too many bright faces among his followers.
– Which party do you think will win - the D.L.P.?
– As far as I can see, the present Government parties can win only with the assistance of the D.L.P.’s. In Victoria, we have the spectacle of Mr. Bolte leading a government which was presented with sixteen seats on the distribution of D.L.P. preferences. The people can vote as they wish, but I venture to say that even ardent supporters of the D.L.P. will not give their preferences in that way on 22nd November; because since the present Victorian Government came to office, charges for electricity and gas, and train fares, have been substantially increased because neither this Government, nor the Victorian Government, can raise sufficient money to finance capital works. The people will not lend to them. Who is going to lend money to the Government or to the State Electricity Commission in Victoria at 5i per cent, when hire-purchase concerns are offering much higher rates of interest?
We are considering an enormous Budget of almost £500,000,000, of which £110,000,000 will be financed by bank credit. Do honorable senators remember what Jim Scullin was told when this country was almost bankrupt and he sought £18,000,000 bank credit, of which £12,000,000 was needed to put the primary producers on their feet, and £6,000,000 to provide jobs for workers? At that time, the primary producers were in the red. The Commonwealth Bank refused to provide the money that Mr. Scullin needed. Yet to-day, when this Government would have us believe that there is prosperity all around us, it proposes to obtain bank credit to an amount of £110,000,000. Government supporters have been interjecting throughout my speech; but they cannot prevent the things I am saying here to-day from going over the air. The people of Australia are awaiting the opportunity that will be provided to them on 22nd November to express in a practical way their disapproval of this atrocious Budget, which does not reduce the heavy taxation that has been imposed on them.
Let us further consider the conditions of the primary producers. On numerous occasions I have asked questions in this chamber - I have never heard Senator Wade direct his attention to this matter - as to what plan this Government has to meet the emergency that will arise when the free European market comes into operation. I should like him to explain - he is a representative of the primary producers - what the Government’s policy will be in relation to the sale of our primary products when that market begins to operate. Probably, it would be operating now if it had not been for the attitude of Great Britain, which is standing out for as long as it can.
– That is due to the influence that has been exerted by this Government.
– It is more than that. When I was in Delhi, I made inquiries about this matter from a very influential Liberal man who holds a portfolio in the Macmillan Cabinet. When I asked him what was going to become of our primary industries, he said, “ Whichever government is in power after the next election will have to accept the free European market “.
– What can we do about it?
– Senator Wade said a moment ago that this Government was exercising its influence in the matter. I also questioned Mr. Gaitskell, the British Labour leader, on this matter and he spoke in similar terms. He said that the incoming government would have to accept the free European market. What will be the effect on our primary producers? Let Senator Wade tell the electors of Victoria where they are going to sell their primary products. We have guaranteed the wheatgrowers 12s. 4d. a bushel for their wheat. Where is the money going to come from?
– Can you tell us?
– No, and I do not think that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) can tell us. I challenge Senator Wade to tell the wheatgrowers in his electorate where the money will come from to pay them the 12s. 4d. a bushel guarantee. When this free market comes into existence, it will be impossible to honour the guarantee. England will not be able to continue the preference that it has given us over the years. Nobody appreciates that more than I do. Let us consider the position of dried fruits. Will Senator Wade and Senator Mattner tell the people on the irrigation areas where their products will be sold? We have an inflated economy. We have a basic wage of about £13 a week, and on that cost of production we are trying to sell our primary products to other countries where the basic wage is £4 or £5 a week. That is not an economically sound proposition. The day of reckoning is coming. It is on record that I have asked on numerous occasions in this chamber whether the Government would convene a conference between the primary producers and representatives of the trade union movement and the consumers to consider the future of our primary industries. The Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) said, in effect, “ We do not tell youse blokes our secrets “. However, the Government will be forced to reveal its secrets, because the day of reckoning is coming. It has arrived in New Zealand.
– Yes, the Labour Government got in.
– It had arrived long before Labour took over. Of course, I do not mind my friend, Senator Wade, trying to gain a party political advantage by his interjections. All I want to say is that I represent the electors of Victoria, who are the children of the mothers and fathers who went through the depression in the ‘thirties and remember the maladministration of the anti-Labour governments of those days. On 22nd November, they will tell this Government where it gets off. Irrespective of the insidious propaganda that has been disseminated by Government supporters, they will not be able to continue to pull the wool over the eyes of the electors.
There are many other aspects of the Budget with which I should like to deal, but
I shall wait until the Estimates are under consideration before I raise them. The people who do not hear my remarks will at least be able to read them in “ Hansard “.
– There would not be many people listening to the honorable senator’s speech.
– I challenge Senator Wade to go to one of the pubs at Horsham and tell the patrons what this Government proposes to do for the primary producers. He tells them that everything is rosy. Irrespective of our political views we must face the fact that Australia should be one of the leading countries in the world, if not the leading country in the world. Instead, we are slipping back because we cannot expect the Mother Country, England, to deal with us in a charitable way if we are not prepared to put our own house in order. England will be forced to deal on the European market.
– Are we forcing England to do that?
– Why do you say that?
– Because the cost of production in Australia is too high. In 1949, we said that if our cost of production was at the correct level, people overseas would be clamouring for our primary products, for food and for clothing. We said, in effect, “We will fix a homeconsumption price for wool, wheat, meat, dried fruits and other things. We will then sell the remainder of our products at world parity, and divide the income so received on a pro rata basis among the people who produce the goods.”
– What did the Labour party do with our butter?
– The state of our butter market to-day is a disgrace. The Labour party would have kept Australia’s economy on a stable basis, and we would have been able to pay our debts and hold our heads high. We would have done all the things that Mr. Chifley and Mr. Curtin promised we would do. Since 1949, this Government has never given the electors any account of its stewardship. Instead, it has always raised the old cry about the Communists. That horse is almost dead, and can be flogged no longer.
The Government will not be able to use the old horse again, because he will have passed on before 22nd November.
The great Australian Labour party has always fought unemployment, which breeds communism. The mothers and fathers of Australia who have been foolish enough in the past to listen to the propaganda put over by the Government parties, realize that we are heading for another depression or another recession, call it what you will, and they will warn their children not to be side-tracked by this Government, which is using communism as a bogy. The mothers and fathers of Australia will remind their children that when capitalism was fighting for its existence in 1943, 1944 and 1945 the unity ticket was Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt. The people of Australia will not forget those days. They will not stand for unemployment in this country and will not be frightened of communism, because we have told them that full employment is the sure way to keep communism out of any democracy.
– Did Australia enjoy full employment in 1949?
– In conclusion I wish to say-
– What would the honorable senator know about full employment.
– If the honorable senator would sit up and take a little notice of what is going on, and realize that he is here as a representative of the electors of Australia and not as a circus clown, he would be far better off. The Labour party regards itself as in duty bound to bring down legislation in the interests of all sections of the community. That is what we are saying to-day to the people. We have a policy and a plan that was laid down in 1941, designed to give Australia a stable economy. On 22nd November, we will ask the people - and I feel certain that they will answer our request - to end the term of this Government.
– What is the Labour party’s plan regarding primary products and the free trade area?
– We will tell the people our plan on the night that our great leader-
– Why not tell us your plan now?
– Honorable senators on the Government side may laugh at our great leader, but they should remember that a Victorian Liberal party government has increased the cost of electricity, gas and tram fares, and it is starving the people in Victoria. The Minister for National Development asked for our policy on the free trade area. I give him this promise which I know he would not give me - if he and I are still alive on the night on which our election campaign opens, and if he comes along to our meeting, he will learn the Labour party policy about the European free trade area provided, of course, that the Prime Minister will tell us the Government’s policy.
– The Labour party can now see our policy in operation.
– That remains to be debated later. If the Minister comes to our meeting he will learn the policy of the Australian Labour party - not the Evatt policy; not the Ernie Shepherd policy, but the policy laid down by the rank and file of the great Australian Labour movement. I have great pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by Senator Kennelly.
– I rise to support the motion for the printing of the Estimates and Budget Papers for 1958-59, and to oppose the amendment moved by Senator Kennelly. Before dealing with the Budget in detail, I repeat my remarks of last week when I directed attention to the fact that the early presentation of the Budget this year presented the Treasury, the Audit Office and the Government Printer with a substantial addition to the volume of work that normally arises as a result of the preceding year’s accounts. On this occasion, the Financial Statement and the statement of expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer were presented to the Parliament earlier than ever before. That entailed the closing of the year’s accounts, the preparation of the Financial Statement, preparation of the statement of expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, completion of the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and the Budget Papers for 1958-59 in the short space of time between 30th June and mid-August. I am sure all honorable senators will join in congratulating the officers of the Trea sury, the Audit Office and the Government Printer for having accomplished so much work in such a short time.
I wish to associate myself with the sentiments of regret that have been expressed on all sides at the decision of the Treasurer to retire from Parliament. Few men have enjoyed the personal popularity that he has, or have earned the wide respect that has been given so freely to Sir Arthur Fadden, and fewer still have left public life when pressed so strongly to remain. I heard a hard-headed businessman say recently, “ Artie is a most lovable character “. What better can be said of any one? We who have had the privilege of serving with him in this Parliament will miss him greatly. He will take with him the humour and the geniality that were so particularly his own. We shall lose the effect of his wisdom, and this Parliament will be a poorer place for his leaving. But he will have the deep satisfaction of knowing that he has left behind a record of service that will find an abiding place in the history of the country he loves and has served so well.
I shall now turn to the remarkable speech we have just heard from Senator Hendrickson. It is the type of speech that we have learned to expect from him, a great deal of noise and irresponsible statements. I do not think he has even read the Budget. He demonstrated his ignorance of the Budget last night, because he did not know that medical benefits will be provided for nurses who served in the first world war. He then went on to talk about unemployment, as he has done again to-day. Last night he made the very definite statement that when the second world war broke out over 500,000 people were unemployed in Australia. He corrected that statement this afternoon, and gave us the unemployment figures for the very worst time in Australia’s history - the middle of the world depression. Because I challenged Senator Hendrickson last night, I have also checked the figures. In 1939 there certainly were 298,000 unemployed. I agree that that was too many, but still it is all the more to the credit of the MenziesFadden Government that it has so governed Australia that we now have the second highest employment level in the world.
This Budget establishes new records- a record number of Budgets for the Treasurer and a record in expenditure. It is far from being the tragic Budget that Senator Hendrickson and other honorable senators opposite have suggested. It is the Budget of a responsible government, and I maintain that the people of Australia have accepted it as such. It was anticipated that, as this is an election year, the Government would bring in a popular Budget. I have no doubt that the Government -desired to do so, but because it has as its primary aim the general advancement of the economy under stable conditions, it took what has been described by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) as a calculated risk. It took that risk in order to counter certain deflationary tendencies that have become apparent in our economy, and in order also to generate confidence for the future. Senator Hannaford referred to statements made by Sir Douglas Copland. I should like to repeat one of them. Sir Douglas said -
There will be second thoughts among the more discerning, who may well take the view that this Budget will go down in history as the most constructive of the veteran Federal Treasurer.
It is a constructive Budget because it faces up to forces that could jeopardize our economy, and it aims to combat them. As we all know, the main deflationary force at work in our economy to-day is the substantial drop in export prices and the consequent fall in farm incomes. Senators Pearson, Hannaford and Mattner have dealt with the extent to which farm incomes have fallen, and all that I propose to do is to say that that fall will be reflected in the Commonwealth revenue for 1958-59. Senator Pearson told us that, as a result of that fall, it is anticipated that income tax collections will be £40,000,000 lower this year than they were last year.
– That is an estimate.
– It is an estimate. That is a considerable gap to bridge. In addition, we all know that this year’s Budget reflects the effect of the full year’s concessions granted in the previous Budget. Furthermore, as has been pointed out by other honorable senators, the Government finds itself in the position of having to set aside £80,000,000 towards the redemption of war loans. The Treasurer summed the matter up very succinctly when he said -
We expect that the total receipts of the Commonwealth from revenue, public borrowings and other usual sources will fall short of our total expenditure commitments by £110,000,000 and we plan to finance that gap by borrowing from the central bank.
Last night Senator McCallum made a very thoughtful contribution to the debate when he dealt with the difficulties of deficit budgeting in peace-time and the need to exercise extreme care and judgment. This is not the first time that the Menzies-Fadden Administration has been called upon to take courageous action in the face of impending difficulties, but it has never flinched and its policies have always been vindicated by results. Every Budget we have presented has been attacked by the Opposition, but only the totally uninformed would stand up in the Senate and deny that as a result of the policies we have adopted there has been a slackening of inflationary tendencies. This year, prices have been steadier than in almost any other year since the war. Despite what Senator Hendrickson just said, the balance of payments position has improved. The plain truth of the matter - as has been pointed out by honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and as was accepted a few minutes ago by Senator Hendrickson - is that our economy has remained stable and strong in the face of circumstances over which we have no control. I maintain that the Government is straining every nerve to avoid triggering off any dormant inflationary pressures, whilst at the same time providing a stimulus for spending.
In moving his amendment, Senator Kennelly invited the Senate to look at the present state of the economy of the nation and compare it with the state of the economy when this Government assumed office some years ago. By all means let us make that comparison. What do we find? What we inherited from the Chifley Labour Government can be described in the following way: - We inherited controls and rationing, labour shortages in basic industries, shortages of basic materials, low production, disruption on the waterfront through Communist activities, rolling strikes, unsupplied demands for consumer goods of all kinds, few social amenities and a health scheme that did not work. Despite the ranting of Senator Hendrickson, I say that that is what the Menzies-Fadden Government took over from the Labour party in 1949.
Let us look at the other side of the picture. After almost nine years in office, we can fairly claim to have presided over the greatest period of development ever experienced in the history of Australia. It is true that at present we are being forced to cope with a serious drop in export income, but our primary industries have increased their productive efficiency, and recent mineral discoveries in previously undeveloped areas point to a mining era of great activity and richness.
– Tell that to the people of Kalgoorlie.
– Go to the north of Australia.
– I have been right round the north of Australia.
– Then go again.
– I went less than six months ago.
– The expansion of our secondary industries has been dramatic. I use that word advisedly. Will you deny that?
– It has been dramatically tragic.
– Tragic! With 53,200 factories producing annually goods worth more than £4,000,000,000, I do not know how you can say that the position is tragic. The volume of the factory production in this country-
– I thought you were talking of mining.
– 1 am dealing with factories now. The volume of factory production in this country has increased by 60 per cent.
– It is tragic for the Labour party.
– It is tragic for the Labour party - precisely. One firm alone, about which my friend Senator Mattner knows or has read - General Motors Holden’s Limited - in less than ten years has built approximately 500,000 motor cars. Australia’s annual expenditure on motor vehicles now totals £415,000,000. I do not know how people can talk about tragedy when they hear figures like those. If we look at the Statement of National Income and Expenditure presented by the Treasurer for the information of members of the Parliament, we see at page 16, in appendix C, that in 1948-49, which was the last year of the Chifley Administration, the national income was £1,961,000,000, whereas in 1957-58 it was £4,710,000,000, and the value of the gross national product has risen from £2,278,000,000 to £5,819,000,000.
– What a tragedy!
– I notice that honorable senators opposite are quite silent about that. We note, too, that Australia’s prestige overseas has never been higher. Reference has been made to the fact that more than £600,000,000 worth of foreign exchange has been attracted from private sources overseas. Pull use has been made of the resources of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and dollar loans totalling 317,000,000 dollars have been raised.
– That demonstrates faith in the country.
– Precisely - faith on the part of people outside Australia in this country’s potential. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin and Senator Hannaford referred to our immigration programme, and to its value to our work force. I pause for a moment to comment on the fact that in 1956 pressures were exerted on the Government to reduce the intake of migrants, but the Government remained steadfast to its policy. The migrant intake target this year is 115,000. Since the launching of the scheme in 1947. more than 1,300,000 new arrivals have been welcomed to this country. As was said here last night, the carrying out of the programme has been accompanied by a consistently high level of employment. What is more important, it has been accompanied by rising living standards for all families in Australia.
Lest any one has any doubts about that, let me refer to the figures that were quoted recently in another place by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt). He said that in 1949 the number of cars in Australia was 655,000, but that the latest figure was 1,646,609. I presume a few more could be added to that number by this. One in every five Australians, including children, owns a motor car. I think it was Senator Mattner who last night directed attention to the fact that
Australians spend more money on household amentities and luxuries than do any other people in the world. Moreover, as was stated by my colleague, Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, more Australians own their own homes than do people in any other part of the world.
I do not intend to deal with housing as such, but I should like to remind honorable senators, when we talk about the development of housing, that the 1956 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement afforded a great stimulus to cooperative housing by providing that 20 per cent, of Commonwealth funds allocated for housing must be directed to co-operative housing societies. The proportion rises to 30 per cent, for this and the next two years. Our housing policy and the general prosperity of the country can best be judged by the fact that, whereas in 1947 55 per cent, of homes were occupied by their owners, ten years later the figure was 65 per cent. I think that is stating the position in a way which is the reverse of that mentioned by Senator Mattner. The honorable senator referred to the number of persons concerned; J am now giving the percentage of homes that are occupied by their owners. We hear a lot of talk about the war service homes scheme. I remind the Senate that, whereas in 1947 £10,000,000 had been advanced by the War Service Homes Division, by 1957 the advances had risen to £200,000,000.
Now I should like to turn to the question of taxation as it is dealt with in the Budget. Although the Government has not made any general tax reductions, I believe that the extension for a further three years of the special 20 per cent, depreciation allowance on primary producers’ plant and structural improvements is a concession that will be very acceptable to the man on the land.
– That is, if he can afford to buy them following the decline of prices for his commodities.
– It is a very worthwhile concession. Every farmer knows that, and acknowledges his indebtedness to the Government for introducing it. The same remark applies to fishermen. The decision to increase the zone allowance to residents in remote areas of Australia is also a very good one, following, as it does, upon the recent visit of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and Dame Pattie Menzies to the north-west of Western Australia. The increase will give a stimulus and encouragement to people who are performing the work of development in most difficult circumstances. Senator Cooke said that he has travelled around those areas, and I am sure he will agree with my statement.
– Last year, I had the privilege of being at Darwin with the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, and I found that interest in northern Queensland, the north-west of Western Australia and the Northern Territory was increasing.
– Those areas are civilized when compared with the places to which we went.
– Five thousand heavy aircraft now move in and out of Darwin each year. Darwin is the aerial gateway to Australia. I do not agree, nor do I think the people of Darwin would agree, with the suggestion of Senator Cooke that their conditions are very civilized. I believe, Sir, that the zone allowance is of great importance. It is not without significance that the Prime Minister said, when he was travelling through those areas recently, that it was not too much to say that the whole character of the nation over the next 50 years depended upon northern development. Following my own observations, I entirely agree with that statement. The sparseness of population at the present time probably is due to climatic conditions and neglect of these areas by governments of various kinds, but I believe, Sir, that the development of a portion of the country that is so vital to the prosperity and the defence of Australia will be greatly assisted by an increase in the zone allowance.
The Opposition has tried once again to make political capital out of the needs of the pensioners.
– That is only because it is near election time.
– That is so. 1 should like to add to what has already been said by some of my colleagues, that I think that the social services programme of the
Menzies-Fadden Government is a magnificent one. It must be agreed that we have, within the limits of the economy, given to the people of Australia the very best social services possible. Although the Opposition has criticized us, it has not had the grace to admit that even in this Budget almost one-half of the total concessions that have been made to the whole of the people of Australia have been granted to pensioners.
– Do they not deserve them?
– It is not a matter of what people deserve. I am saying that, in this Budget, the Government has given one-half of all the concessions to a selective range of pensioners, and in doing so it has followed a policy that it has advocated consistently, of granting assistance to those people who need it most.
The increased benefits provided for in the Budget will go to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, to the children of deceased soldiers by way of educational allowances, and to army nurses of World War I. In addition, there will be a supplementary amount of pension for certain pensioners who pay rent. I do not propose to deal with social services as a whole. 1 prefer to do that later, but in passing, I want to say that, like Senator Hendrickson, I was in India. When I stood on the floor of the conference chamber to tell the people there just what Australia had done in the way of social services, I felt that I had a magnificent story to tell.
– Did the honorable senator tell them about the inflated currency?
– 1 tell the honorable senator, for. his information, that these, concessions will apply to a great number of people. I understand that, as a result of them, the Department of Social Services expects to receive applications from a quarter of a million people. That shows the scope of the benefits.
There are many other matters in the Budget that are worthy of comment, but ray time is running out, and I shall leave those for a future debate. I conclude by saying that in my opinion this is the Budget of an administration that has refused at all times to shirk the unpleasant and has adopted as its guiding principle the belief that the people of Australia are entitled to receive sound, responsible and progressive government. I therefore support the motion for the printing of the Estimates and Budget Papers, and I oppose the amendment.
– I cannot say that I rise with bubbling enthusiasm to take part in this debate. It has become somewhat stale as the result of several weeks of argument and discussion, but I must pay a tribute to all the members of Parliament who have taken part in the debate for the work that they have done in drafting their speeches. There is no doubt that both men and women in this Parliament actively engage in studying the Budget and in looking up figures, before unloading them on those of us who have to sit here and listen, and on the public. Before 1 proceed, I want to pay a tribute to my friend, Senator Ormonde, and to congratulate him on his maiden speech. As an honorable senator has said, it is a very nervous experience when you speak for the first time in the legislative halls of Australia. Whenever I hear maiden speeches I always recall Lord Sherborne speaking in the House of Lords. When his friends gathered round and a lady asked him what it was like to address the House of Lords in his maiden speech, he said that it was like addressing a lot of corpses in a charnel house by candlelight. I do not think our friend Senator Ormonde suffered to that degree. We are not corpses. We have electric light, not candlelight, and I think that most members of the Parliament that I know rather enjoy themselves when they are, to put it vulgarly, giving an ear-bashing to their auditors.
I want to pay a tribute to my friend, Sir Arthur Fadden. I have known him for half a lifetime and I have a particular regard for him as a man. I know what he did for me, too, on one occasion when a capitalist newspaper attacked me vilely. Those concerned sought to get Sir Arthur to back up their attack, and they asked him for a provocative statement. He told them that Senator Brown was his friend, although he was his political enemy, and that they could go to Gehenna, wherever that is. I remember him kindly. I could tell the story of how I made him Prime Minister of Australia, but I shall not do that to-day. He has been vilified and abused unduly by the press that supports the honorable gentlemen on the other side who are now listening to me. I believe that on one occasion our own leader had to make a protest against a dirty, low, scurrilous attack upon this gentleman. 1 admire Sir Arthur, though not politically. One man has said that he is a political punk, but I will not say that. We are enemies politically. We on this side fight Sir Arthur. We always have done so and always will while he remains in this Parliament and is politically opposed to us. We think that he has made many mistakes, but I admire him because he has stood up to some of those who support his party. On certain occasions he has fought hard and bitterly against the composite members of his Government, those who are opposed to him in the Liberal party. He has stood for the graziers and the wool barons. He has fought hard for the wool kings, and altogether he has been a great supporter of financial capitalism. We know where he stands. He is a tory; he is a capitalist; he is friendly with all the monopolists; but at the same time, as a man there is none better in this Parliament. There is no greater humorist and there is no one whom I admire more than Sir Arthur Fadden as a man. But I make the proviso, “ as a man “.
– The honorable senator would not be damning him with faint praise, would he?
– I am not damning him. I am speaking the truth. I speak the truth in regard to Sir Arthur Fadden, and I wish to goodness that we had in the Labour party many men who would stand by the working class as he has stood by the financial capitalists. Many of the capitalist classes in the community have opposed Sir Arthur. They have argued that it would have been better for Australia - J am not saying this - if the Liberal party, the representatives of the monopolists and others, had full control of Australia, for then we should not have had all this controversy over the exchange rate, and probably we should have been on the same footing as New Zealand is with Britain so far as exchange is concerned. Sir Arthur fought bitterly against any alteration of the exchange rate. On one occasion, he said, “ The alteration will be over my dead body “.
We know that he has not always been kindly disposed towards Mr. Menzies. As honorable senators know from attending party meetings, there have been occasions when there was friction over policy because the interests of the two parties are vastly different. One man said - and I do not believe this-
– Why quote it if you do not believe it?
– Did you ever hear anything like that? Why quote it? Why, you do not believe half the things you accuse the Labour party of, but you quote them! This man said that he thought Sir Arthur was getting back at Bob Menzies by bringing in this innocuous Budget. I do not say that. Sir Arthur Fadden stood for the Darling Downs electorate after his defeat in Mirani. He became a member of this Parliament, and we must admit that he has worked very hard indeed, whilst Robert has been running round the world doing a good deal of talking.
We all like Senator Pearson; he is a mildmannered gentleman from South Australia.
– They are all mildmannered from there.
– That is so. Senator Pearson is not bitter like some honorable senators opposite. He is ‘ usually levelheaded, but I could not help smiling when he was criticizing the Opposition because we criticized the Government. What in the name of all that is political are we here for? We are here to fight, to attack the Government’s policy, to analyse its proposals and to show where it is wrong. That is our job. And while we are here we are going to fight in that way. If we do not fight, honorable senators opposite say we are a timid Opposition. If we do fight, they say we are not offering constructive suggestions. And when we offer constructive suggestions, nobody takes any notice of them. That is the real position. We continually hear the old story. I have listened to it from both sides for 26 years. When we sat on the Government side, we were right. We defended our government and we praised our government for every Budget it brought forward. Just as we did that, so, on every occasion when Sir Arthur has brought down a Budget - and there have been eleven of them - the Government has been praised for it by honorable senators opposite. 1 am not sure whether the horror and little horror Budgets are included in the eleven, but, whenever a Budget has been introduced by Sir Arthur, the ladies and gentlemen on the Government side have told the people of Australia what wonderful Budgets they were, and have congratulated the people of Australia on having a Government capable of introducing such a splendid Budget.
I believe that the future is not very bright. Everything points to that fact. We know that in world affairs and in world markets the future is not at all bright. I feel that if the Government had felt that it could bring down a brighter Budget, especially as this is an election year, it would have done so. Is there another horror Budget in the offing? This is hardly an optimistic Budget, but we know that in the past optimistic Budgets always preceded horror Budgets. For instance, we remember that an optimistic Budget preceded the horror Budgets of 1950 and 1953. Then we had the little horror Budget which was introduced in 1955-56, shortly after the 1955 elections. What lies ahead? Will we have another horror Budget if the present Government is returned? I certainly hope it is not.
The business people are beginning to think that our political enemies - Menzies and company - are thinking and acting in terms of contraction rather than expansion. I have spoken to many businessmen lately, and they are afraid that the Government is back pedalling, that instead of being forceful and virile and looking forward to the greater development of this country, the Government is beginning to make financial arrangements for back pedalling. For instance, the “ Century “ says -
A real harbinger of cyclonic conditions ahead is contained in the Treasurer’s announcement that the Government has made provision for using £110,000,000 of treasury-bill finance.
The other day we heard Senator Henty telling us how proud he was that the Government was going to use £110,000,000 worth of treasury-bills. I have been here long enough to have seen how, time and again, the Liberal and Country parties have attacked and criticized the Australian Labour party’s advocacy of the use of the people’s credit through the Commonwealth
Bank. I am glad to know that a number of our political enemies opposite have now changed their attitude.
This Budget provides for an expenditure of £1,500,000,000. I remember the great excitement there was when a Budget was brought in for the expenditure of £100,000,000. There were all sorts of difficulties on that occasion, but now, because of the rising spiral of inflation, we find that money production is no longer limited, as it was in the old days, when we had to have in gold in the Treasury 25 per cent, of the amount of any proposed extension of credit. I remember well how Sir George Pearce attacked the Labour party, when Mr. Scullin was in office, for suggesting that we should export our gold bullion to England.
– They sold it immediately they got into power.
– I am coming to that. Actually, we had £15,000,000 worth of gold bullion in our coffers at the time. Eventually, the Government passed a bill to permit of the export of £5,000,000 worth of gold to meet, our obligations in England. Then, during the Scullin Government’s term, conditions became so bad. as a result of the ill-working of the capitalist system, that Mr. Theodore suggested we should make a fiduciary issue of £18,000,000. Of course, he made the mistake of using the word “fiduciary”. You must never frighten people with words. They did not know what “fiduciary” meant. They turned down the proposal, yet to-day we hear it suggested that there should be a fiduciary issue amounting to £110,000,000. What a change in attitude there has been in every part of the capitalist world to the solving of financial problems! Labour does not fear the proper use of the people’s credit. Indeed, we could use it a lot more than we do. We could use it to reduce the usurious interest that is charged by the money lenders of this country. I believe those who say that democracy in Australia could advance far more rapidly if we knew how to use our financial powers on behalf of the people instead of on behalf of banking magnates and others who use money for the purpose of profit alone.
Why can we not, in this democracy, advance as do the totalitarian peoples? We were further advanced than the Russians in 1917 when the revolution took place; yet to-day we see democracy beaten in every part of the world where totalitarianism has raised its ugly head. The peoples who live and work under such governments are willing, in their unity, to sacrifice everything for the good of their country. Senator Arnold returned only recently from China. I am very far from being a totalitarian, but he told me that everywhere he went young Chinese said, “We are fighting and working for China “. One finds the same thing in totalitarian Russia. In these countries millions have been slaughtered and millions more sent into slave camps, but the great masses of the people have been roused to a pitch of enthusiasm, and in a few short years they have placed themselves on an economic level comparable with that of the United States of America. In facing the realities of the world situation, Australia is well and truly lagging.
I do hot propose to criticize individual members of the Government. They are representatives of capitalism - or, rather, its victims. Unfortunately, under our present system, we cannot arouse in the people a sense of danger or an awareness of the need for unity and organization so as to raise our economic status and save this country from attempts to impose upon it a totalitarian regime. How can we approach our youth and ask them to fight when, day after day, we read huge advertisements in the press offering up to 20 per cent, interest on investment in hire purchase? How can we arouse the enthusiasm of our youth, Mr. President, in the presence of a secondary exploitation by the usurers who have fostered hire purchase to such an extent as to threaten members of the working class with a new form of slavery? Government supporters may laugh. In the United States of America the indebtedness of workers has become a by-word. Soon, as in the old days of the “ truck system “, a man will receive no wages, but merely a statement from the bank showing that his obligations have been met.
Government supporters are political lotus eaters who live in a world of their own - quite unaware df the dangers confronting this country in the military and economic fields. They are; of course, good fellows. I meet them and enjoy their company-, but in their political thinking they display no recognition of the danger confronting Australia. Their attitude is paralleled bv that of the people themselves.
Liberal party supporters indulge in ceaseless attacks upon Labour. I do not propose to reply in the same way, but I cannot help mentioning the vile allegations that have been made about Labour in recent times. In the last few years bitter, sinister and diabolical attacks have been made upon one of the greatest men who ever led the Australian Labour party. I was with him the other day in a plane and he said to me, Gordon, I would rather lose my right arm than give up the principle of the United Nations and the settlement of disputes by peaceful methods instead of by the arbitrament of war “. Is that not a great Christian principle to uphold? Can any honorable senator fail to admire a man who has courage of such an order? If the present leader of the Australian Labour party had sloughed off his responsibilities and kidded to the crowd he would be Prime Minister of Australia. I admire Dr. Evatt. He has done some foolish things, but have not we all at times? He is a man of the highest intellect and a man of courage, and I say to all who may be listening that if he ever became the Prime Minister he. would show this country that he had the fortitude .to carry out Labour’s programme for the benefit of the majority.
I could, of course, attack Government supporters as they attack me. I have in my possession a number of extracts describing the way iii which they call each other names. I once spoke in Mackay, and referred not to what Labour said, but to what the Australian Country party said about the Liberal party, what the Liberal party said about the Australian Country party, and what members of the Australian Country party said about one another. It was splendid propaganda. When I returned to my hotel a squatter said to me, “ You know, we could do the same to you “. I said, “ You are at liberty to do it “. He then said, “ But it was very good stuff. Can you give me a copy of it? “ I do not want to vilify and abuse Government supporters. They are, after all, carrying out the programme of their party- the programme of the monopolist, the hirepurchase financier, the wealthier classes, the big squatters. I am not opposed to them personally. They are simply taking advantage of modern capitalism to exploit the people. I have referred previously to an incident in which the late Archie Cameron - of blessed memory - took part. On one occasion in the South Australian Parliament, he told his own colleagues that they were a hopeless, helpless, aimless, shapeless mass of political class distinction. I will not say that about Government supporters. Abuse and sarcasm achieve nothing, and I do not propose to employ either.
We believe that society is divided economically. I am not concerned about the pratings of sentimentalists who say that the Australian people are being wronged. The plain fact is that there are interests which are viciously and vitally opposed to one another. World capitalism has made wonderful progress. Those of us who are old1 enough to remember can recall how little thought was given to the plight of the masses when hundreds of thousands of people were unemployed and starving in this country. But there is arising in the world an ideology that is being carried into physical effect. Communism is causing fear in the very hearts of the people who previously exploited others without a thought for their welfare. So, we see the Colombo plan - I am not saying anything against it - and the Marshall plan; and Labour put into effect its policy of full employment. The Tory parties throughout the world have tried to do the same thing. Why? Because of their fear of communism. The Government parties have their satellites who were rejected by the Labour party. They went into the Liberal orbit and, for a time, these satellites shone with a great glow. I am afraid that the satellites have come to earth and now only their shells remain in the Liberal orbit. I say to the Government parties that they are the greatest encouragers of communism we have in Australia. Just as a line drawn in a circle meets, the extreme right and the extreme left are almost meeting to-day.
The greatest force and power against communism in the world to-day is Labour, or socialism - call it what you like - because we believe in adopting the middle course in order to safeguard hard won rights and, at the same time, to bring security to our people. You can say what you like about interest rates; but 90 per cent, of the people do not want your usury. What they want is security; and it is the duty of the Labour party to give them security. But what are the Government parties doing to-day? They are crucifying the small man, crushing private enterprise and boosting monopolies. We have seen that happen in every avenue of capitalist development. The small men have been crushed by the might of the monopolies. We have seen that happening in Brisbane recently, where companies have swallowed up the businesses of small men who performed a service to the community. They have been forced out of existence, or they are getting merely proletarian wages. Honorable senators opposite know that this Government has sold out the people’s assets to the big monopolies. Those honorable senators have no regrets about that. But we regret that these things have been done, because in the hearts of many people - not all the people - there has been a hate engendered which is driving them into the ranks of the Communists.
Politicians, like lawyers, disagree. I give the Government parties credit in this way, that I would rather have straight-forward tories than people who say that they are as good as Labour. I would rather have good tories who fight for monopolies and financial capitalists and who do the bidding of the bankers, than people who are neither fish, nor fowl, nor good red herring. Honorable senators opposite represent certain interests; we on this side represent the masses of the people - organized Labour, organized farmers, and all those who do the productive and essential work of the community. This is illustrated by a statement that was made a few years ago by a member of the United Australia party - the forerunner of the Liberal party - which gave its allegiance to the big financial and manufacturing interests of the cities and to middle men and monopolies because it received support and power from those people. That gentleman asked how the U.A.P. could serve the people of the countryside as well as city interests which sucked the life-blood of the countryside. Who was the gentleman who asked that question? I shall tell the Senate. He was none other than Sir Arthur Fadden, when he was fighting the good fight on the Darling Downs, as a result of which he became a member of this Parliament. He said that the Liberals represented purely city interests which had nothing in common with those in the country.
But, to return to the Budget. I recently asked the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) a number of questions concerning the seizure of a £3,000 Cadillac motor car from a Brisbane businessman named S. E. McCallum - not Senator McCallum. This man was quite honest about the matter. He did not commit any breach of the law. I have the facts before me. I have been in touch with Mr. Meere, of the Department of Customs and Excise and-
– I rise to order. As I informed the Senate yesterday, that matter is the subject of proceedings in the High Court, and, therefore, is sub judice. I submit that the honorable senator is entirely out of order in discussing it.
– The point of order is upheld.
– Very good. I want to say this: With one exception, motor cars that have been seized by the department in the past have not been returned. The exception was when the department made a mistake. When the department realized that it had made a mistake, it returned the car to its owner. I just want to say in conclusion that it is a sorry state of affairs when a government has to rob people in order to build up its finances. I am referring to cases of innocent people, not crooks; crooks deserve punishment. As far as I am concerned, I shall bring up these cases again, because I believe that if a man has acted fairly and observed the law, it is a damnable thing that a government department can rob him of a motor car valued at £3,000.
.- It was very pleasing to hear Senator Brown pay a tribute to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who is the architect of the Budget that we are now discussing. I thought, however, that he rather spoiled the effect of his tribute by going on to make an appalling appeal to class hatred and division. He preached the gospel of the class war. The Labour party has torn the fabric of national unity by appeals to hate, envy, greed and malice. A party with that outlook is unfit to govern, and such a party will not be entrusted with power at the general election on 22nd November.
The Budget Papers now before the Senate are, of course, the most important documents with which this chamber has to deal. I support the Budget, and I oppose the amendment. I take this, opportunity of adding my personal congratulations to those which other speakers have offered to Sir Arthur Fadden upon the presentation of a solid, sober and responsible account of his stewardship, tinged with just a trace of imagination. The right honorable gentleman has held the financial reins of this country for ten years - ten years of unparalleled prosperity, to which he has contributed his full personal share. Honorable senators on both sides, and honorable members in another place will long remember this hard-working and efficient Treasurer who is about to bow his way off the public stage.
When last year’s Budget was being debated, honorable senators opposite alleged that the Government was withholding major taxation concessions, so that such concessions could be made in an election year in an attempt to curry favour. Now they are complaining because the Government is not granting big taxation concessions in this election year in order to curry favour with the electors. Their cynical taunt has been proved to be entirely false. The Government has indicated that it will not sacrifice our dearly won stability to buy a few votes.
We have before our eyes the classic example of New Zealand, where irresponsible promises brought to power a government which had no prospect of carrying out its programme. Other honorable senators have referred in detail to New Zealand, but I propose to deal with only one or two points. The Labour party in New Zealand won its majority by a spectacular offer to remit income tax up to £100 which became due in February, 1958. This promise became known as “ Walter’s hundred quid “ named after Mr. Walter Nash, the leader of the Labour party. That promise, together with a number of others which involved the New Zealand Treasury in an expenditure of about £36,000,000, gave the Labour party a majority of one. Having been appointed to office as a party that stood for tax reduction, the Labour government, within six months, found itself compelled to introduce in its first Budget the most vicious and savage increases in taxes that New Zealand has ever had to endure.
– But the people received the hundred quid.
– They received the remission of the £100, but New Zealand, as a nation, is paying the penalty. The increase of income tax levied by a government which was pledged to reduce taxes amounted to £56,000,000 for a full financial year. Although the New Zealand Labour party, during the election campaign, said that it was opposed to all overseas borrowing, it was delighted, after assuming office, to raise a loan of £20,000,000 in London, and to come cap in hand to Australia, where a Liberal government - liberal in both senses of the word - advanced £10,000,000. No wonder then that the Australian people are grateful for the unspectacular security which is enshrined in this Budget.
However, I believe there is room for considerable improvement in the incidence of taxation, and in the administration and reasoning behind our taxation policy. I have time to refer to only a few aspects of this tremendous subject. I agree that Australia must be developed as a nation, and if we are compelled to accept the socialist evil of uniform taxation, the time is overdue for an equitable review of the taxation formula so that a State like Victoria, which is generally conceded to be the financial, commercial and industrial heart of Australia-
– And cultural, too.
– I accept the honorable senator’s interjection. We should see that such States are not unduly penalized. I realize that spectacular Budget concessions would have been very popular, but a moment’s thought will indicate the difficulties that would face a Treasurer who intended adopting that course. The main difficulty would be the substantial falling off in farm income, due partly to near drought conditions, and the drop in export prices for our major commodities, chiefly wool. It would be foolish to attempt to predict. what next year will bring, especially in an industry of such uncertainty, but dry conditions have continued over large parts of Australia until quite recently. Although I am not a pessimist. I do not think that 1958-59 will be a particularly good year from the point of view of the supply and export of our primary products. If I am wrong in that statement, I shall be very pleased, but I am afraid that we must face the facts.
The Government would be most unwise to jeopardize our stability, especially in view of the decline in world commodity prices generally and the drop in farm income and exports, taken in conjunction with the inevitable increase in the cost of social services and the public debt maturing in 1958-59. Those matters posed an unenviable financial problem for the Treasurer and the Government. However, I believe that a strong argument can be made for the reduction of certain selective taxes. I am indebted to the Institute of Public Affairs for the views expressed in its second quarterly review for 1958 regarding pay-roll tax. The objections raised to this form of indirect taxation are not original, but the mere fact that the Government collects about £50,000,000 in revenue scarcely counteracts the exasperation felt in the business community at the effects of the tax, the part it plays in the price spiral, its stimulus to inflation, and the fact that, in effect, it is a tax on employment. I hope that when this Government introduces its Budget next year - it will be the same Government, 1 have no doubt - the pay-roll tax will be materially reduced, if not abolished altogether.
The people running small companies also have strong feelings about pay-roll tax and the tax levied against private companies. The undistributed profits tax of 10s. in the £1 makes it extremely difficult for smaller companies to build up reserves and acquire sufficient capital and assets to enable them to compete on a reasonable footing with the larger undertakings. The natural growth and expansion of these small companies are considerable restricted. A free enterprise economy should avoid at all costs hampering the rise of the virile, enterprising, risktaking businessman. Some people have suggested that private companies a’bove a certain size should be given the right to elect whether they will be treated as public or private companies for purposes of the undistributed profits tax. Others have also suggested that the scale of the retention allowance should be increased. I respectfully suggest that the Government examine these matters next year.
The need for relief in the scale of personal income tax levied on the middle range of incomes is most urgent. The people most affected are small business men, directors of small companies, small farmers, professional men and salaried business executives who are holding positions of more than ordinary responsibility. This section of the community has been affected in recent years by the world-wide inflation which is being felt in Australia. We have not been immune to it. Serious inroads have been made into the real earnings of those people. By the mathematics of the thing, they have been hoisted into a higher income bracket, where any extra earnings attract an extremely heavy tax burden. In this matter, as in so many others, I think their plight has been succinctly stated by the Minister for External Affairs, Mr. R. G. Casey. He said - _-
The middle class in our community at present is ground between the upper and nether millstones of monopoly capitalism on the one hand and militant trade unionism on the other.
If only because of the effect of inflation on the level of many incomes in the last decade, it would seem that the personal tax structure is long overdue for overhaul. For instance, in Australia at the present time 1,250,000 people earn more than £1,000 a year. In 1946-47 only 63,000 people earned more than £1,000 a year. The astronomical increase in the wageearning capacity of the community is sufficiently indicated by those figures. They show the necessity for some action along the lines I have suggested.
Those in the middle income group are unable to regard their financial future with much optimism, but the community as a whole is largely dependent on the drive, enthusiasm and ambition which members of this group bring to their daily tasks. If there are to be just rewards and proper incentives for education, professional skill, organizing talent and qualities of enterprise and leadership, then something should be done to improve the prospects of this vanishing race - the yoemen of England, the middle class.
I do not agree with any of the class hatred ideas the last speaker put before this chamber, but I do think that the aspect I have mentioned should be seriously considered by any government and a free enterprise government above all. In 1954-55 the top one-tenth of the taxpayers in Australia paid over half the income tax collected. This group included in the main businessmen, farmers and professional men, the group which makes the vital decisions which lead to higher productivity, lower costs and all-round economic progress and development in the community. Under a steeply progressive system of income taxation not much opportunity exists for these people to become economically secure or moderately prosperous, since their income is largely consumed in meeting current expenses, and it is hard for them to add to capital resources. I tender my remarks as a serious constructive criticism - not destructive^ - of the proposals which are before us.
On the subject of taxation administration I draw attention to the fact that in my view the Commissioner of Taxation is levying sales tax without the consent of Parliament. The present position is that when Parliament grants an exemption from sales tax the Commissioner can arrive at a decision at his discretion which is not open to review by the Taxation Board of Review. He can decide the category or classification of goods. In effect he can decide whether certain goods are taxable. I know of instances where the Commissioner has decided that certain line of goods sold by one firm were taxable and that goods produced by another manufacturer, making’ the same type of article, were exempt. There is no appeal from his decision. On specific matters of interpretation the Commissioner has rejected absolutely the decision of Chief Justice Reading in B. Aerodrome Limited v. Dell 1917 2 King’s Bench, and has substituted his own interpretation despite the solidly based opinions put to him by learned counsel. I know that it is open to me to say that any one desiring to dispute such a decision has his remedy in the High Court, but how many small or middle-group manufacturers are able’ to undertake the financial adventure of a trip to the High Court?
When this matter has been raised in the past I feel the Commissioner of Taxation has adopted the view that if an appeal to the Taxation Board of Review is allowed chaos would result. That has not been the view in so many other cases of legislation that have come before this Parliament when members on both sides of the chamber have been most anxious to see that all administrative decisions were subject to reasonable judicial review. I do not propose to mention names, but I have been given the instance of two firms manufacturing water-heating equipment. In one case the goods manufactured by a New South Wales firm were taxed by the Commissioner at the rate of 12i per cent., while identical goods manufactured in Victoria were taxed at the rate of 10 per cent. The sole determining factor of the rate to be applied is the Commissioner’s decision as to the category into which the goods fall. I feel that Parliament would lose nothing, but would gain something, by making it possible for decisions on matters of this nature to be referred to the Taxation Board of Review, without the substantial expense and delay of High Court proceedings.
We recently had an extensive debate on foreign affairs. I do not propose to traverse those matters again except to refer to one or two points. All sorts of people, papers and organizations have been urging socalled summit talks by the West with the Russians. The Communists indicated some willingness to meet, provided the talks could be limited to matters upon which the Soviet propaganda machine could possibly seek to embarrass the West. If we are going to talk, I sincerely hope it is to be from a position of strength, and I sincerely hope that such talks will not take place at all unless the agonized countries of Hungary, Poland, the Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and all the rest of those martyred nations are high and prominently on the agenda list. At the United Nations I think the time is overdue when the representatives of the puppet Hungarian regime - the Kadar Government - should be expelled from that august assembly. Australia played a leading role in investigating the events in Hungary. Australia’s Mr. Shann played a prominent part in the production of a very excellent report on this dreadful page in history. I noticed in this morning’s press a report to the effect that a Hungarian journalist now visiting Australia said that Hungary no longer trusted the West because we let her down. The minimum we can do to help them now is to dispose of the nominees of their tyrants. ( believe that the main danger of communism is not in its armed forces, powerful though they be, or in its cunning, hypocrisy or duplicity, effective though these are; it resides in the simple good faith, credulity and wishful thinking of well-intentioned people in the free world. I was appalled yesterday when I read in a Melbourne newspaper an editorial urging recognition of Communist China. Though it was written under the guise of realism, it was most unrealistic. Its attitude was, “ It couldn’t happen here “.
I challenge that newspaper to reproduce a photograph which I have before me and which is headed “ A Russian Communist Sentry on Prince’s Bridge, Melbourne^ Impossible “. The photograph shows a Russian soldier, equipped with a long bayonet and rifle, standing on a bridge. The accompanying explanation reveals that the photograph was not taken on Prince’s Bridge, Melbourne, but that it was taken in the Latvian capital of Riga. The various Baltic associations in Australia are adopting this method of attempting to awaken us to the danger in our midst. I hope and pray that Australia will never be lulled into a false sense of security. I congratulate the Government upon its stern opposition to this evil thing, and upon its intelligent foreign policy generally. How it stands out in contrast to Labour’s Hobart conference foreign policy, the identical principles of which may be seen daubed on the walls of our cities with “ red “ whitewash!
At the death knock prior to the next election, Labour is making a frantic but unsuccessful attempt to free itself from its Communist friends. We heard recently in this chamber a long speech to the effect that the best way to fight communism was to string along with it. I congratulate Senator Ormonde upon the way in which he delivered his maiden speech, even though there is a wide divergence of opinion between him and me as to the matter contained in it.
– I will get you later.
– That threat has been made before. The leader of the Federal Labour party has stated that Labour members whose names appear on union unity tickets will be dealt with. In Victoria, Mr. Tripovitch said that Labour men who take part in union elections on unity tickets do so as unionists and not as members of the Labour party. So Victoria will take no action! The truth of the matter is that Labour dare not take action, but let us not have any crocodile tears when it is charged with having Communist sympathies.
We have been told in this chamber recently how the downtrodden and oppressed watersiders have been brutally persecuted by Jim Colrain and the Hurseys and how those three bullies have had the cheek to stand up to the Communist control of their union. But recently, when the Communist big boss, Healy, came to the Melbourne waterfront to urge support for a unity ticket, who stood like Horatius at his right hand? It was none other than that valiant crusader, Senator Poke! I am sorry that the honorable senator is not here to hear what I have to say about his visit to our fair city. Senator Poke’s fearless attacks on red domination of the Hobart waterfront have delighted us all, but I point out that he stood on the same platform as did Comrade Jim Healy, and on Healy’s right, and urged support for the unity ticket men.
I do not challenge his right to do so, but he abused the Australian Democratic Labour party. Of course, he is at liberty to do that if he wants to. He had with him Mr. Calwell, the federal deputy leader of the party, and also a State Labour member, Mr. Turnbull. Labour party members who have been spoken to in this connexion have said, “ We were not there urging support for unity tickets. We were there urging support for Labour members in the Victorian State election.” I do not wish to be uncharitable, but can anyone tell me why the Victorian Labour party would send for Senator Poke to help them with their campaign and to put their viewpoint to the Victorian watersiders? So there we had - I cannot say the triumvirate; I have forgotten the appropriate word - four people on the one platform. Either the Labour party men were there to help Healy win on his unity ticket or Healy was there to help the Labour men win their State seats. It must have been one or the other. The Labour party must make up its mind and say which is correct. I do not mind which guess it makes, but it cannot have it both ways.
– Have they not to get Poke out?
– I would not like to interfere in the internal activities of another party, but there might be some case for that.
– You would know more about hats.
– That is no longer fur.ny. lt is very strange that a party which has such totalitarian pals should bc able, through Mr. P. J. Clarey, to speak over the Melbourne radio last Sunday. Honorable senators will be interested to know that at the moment no Goon Show is broadcast in Melbourne on Sundays, so the “ Labour Hour “ takes its place. Just listen to this: Mr. Clarey claimed that Roosevelt’s four freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from fear, and freedom from want - expressed Labour’s policy. I wonder what Colrain, the Hurseys and any of the dozens of other decent Labour men who have been kicked out of the party think about that claim. Mr. Clarey wound up by saying, “ Labour marches on and it will continue to march on “. Yes, they are marching on with the hesitant step of a man with a loose cartilage!
I support the Budget, and oppose the amendment.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, we have listened to three Government senators speak about what they claim is the most important document that the Parliament has had to consider during this Government’s term of office. But they have spent more than 75 per cent, of their time in talking about matters that are unrelated to the Australian Budget. Reference has been made to New Zealand. What has happened in New Zealand has been the outcome of a number of years of bad administration by a Liberal government. New Zealand is now suffering from a condition from which Australia will be suffering very soon if this Government continues in the way it is going. Each supporter of the Government who has risen to participate in this debate has apologized for the Budget, and then has immediately proceeded to discuss something else because there was very little in the Budget of which he could be proud.
Sitting suspended from 5.4S to 8 p.m.
– I support the amendment that has been moved by Senator Kennelly, to the motion that the Budget Papers be printed, in the following terms: -
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 “.
That amendment is well justified. This Budget of 1958-59, reflecting the collective thought of the inner Cabinet of the present Government, is very barren indeed. It is a far cry from other Budgets that have been presented to this Parliament in recent times. On those occasions the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), acting on the advice of other Ministers, told the people of Australia that his great fear was a fear of the excessive prosperity that the country ‘ was enjoying. The great earning capacity of our primary industries embarrassed him. Money was flowing so freely in the community, and so rich were those who were receiving the benefits of Australia’s bountiful crops and the people’s hard work, that the Government hesitated to leave so much wealth in the hands of the people who produced it. On such an argument the Government justified its vicious and heavy taxation.
This Government has had nine years of absolutely God-sent prosperity. That is undeniable. We of the Australian Labour party have great confidence in the productive potentiality of Australia, and we also have great confidence in the workmen who make our prosperity possible. Australian workmen can claim a higher per capita rate of production, both industrial and rural, than can the workers in any other part of the world. Our educational standards are relatively high. As a consequence of those fortunate circumstances, we demand a decent and reasonable standard of living.
I was pleased to hear Senator Hannan say to-day - and he quoted the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) as his authority - that the great strength of the Australian nation and of all British nations - the middle-class, the middle stratum of our society - was being harshly treated. He used the quite appropriate term that they were caught between the two grinding wheels of a mill. I agree that such people have been very harshly treated by this Government during a time of prosperity. Unhappily, the
Government has not been able to say to those who have produced such marvellous results in rural and secondary industries, that it has done even a reasonably good job with the money that it said it must take from them. Now, the outlook is not nearly so bright. Overseas prices for our commodities have fallen, and the internal costs of production have risen. We have to face the position that we cannot sell to such advantage the goods that we produce. There is no denying the fact that the Government has had plenty of time to prepare for such a state of affairs.
Honorable senators opposite have referred to this Budget as a courageous Budget. To my mind, it is very disappointing for the Australian people to see a government which has enjoyed huge revenues in prosperous times, and which has admitted that it has taken vast sums of money from the Australian people, reach the stage where it says, in effect, “ We are courageous. We are not going to give you any concessions. We give you no hope for the improvement of Australia’s economic position.” I say that that attitude indicates not so much courage as smug satisfaction. Speaker after speaker on the Government side of the chamber has risen to say that he is satisfied with the economic position. But the back-benchers are not really satisfied. Honorable senators opposite have in fact said very little about the Budget. Instead, they have said quite a lot about, for instance, the economy of New Zealand, a country which had a Liberal government for a number of years and which has reached the crash point before we have. I am sorry about the position of New Zealand, but it must be remembered that the previous Liberal government of that country closely followed the economic policies of the Liberal-Australian Country party Government here, a course that has spelt disaster for New Zealand in the same terms as it has spelt disaster for us in this country.
Let us examine the Budget. It is true that there have been no tax cuts. Taxation now is just as high and as vicious as it was when the Government used the argument that excessive prosperity had made it essential, and indeed almost a duty, for it to take vast sums from the people. Now. of course, the position is almost the reverse. People who rely on exports have, found that their incomes have dwindled alarmingly, while their costs of production have risen to an all-time high. The Budget indicates that revenue from direct taxation - that is, from tax on income from personal exertion, and from company tax - will be down by £40,000,000 this year. There will be a fall of £31,671,000 in revenue from taxation on personal income, and a fall of . £8,384,000 in revenue from company taxation. The explanation of this fall that has been given by Ministers, including the Treasurer, is that there has been a big drop in incomes in areas from which larger amounts of revenue from income tax and company tax might be expected.
That is a sad state of affairs, and the Government must regret it as much as we do; but it is idle to say that there has been no increase in the incidence and in the effect of taxation, because total ordinary net revenue this year, according to the Budget, will amount to £1,302,000,000. Revenue collections will be bolstered by indirect taxation. We find that revenue from customs duty will increase by £2,300,000. Excise will be up by £11,310,000, sales tax by £9,220,000, payroll tax by £2,000,000, and estate duty by £1,000,000. Therefore, indirect taxes and excise will increase by £22,830,000. Payroll tax, a tax that the Government has said repeatedly it would remove at the first opportunity, will increase by £2,000,000. Collections from estate duty also will increase, but be that as it may. Estate values have gone up. All these indirect taxes are vicious in their incidence in that they are levied upon the wage-earner, the small businessman and the man engaged in secondary industry, without, any exemptions whatsoever. They are as hard on trie pensioner as they are on the man in receipt of £1,000,000 a year. They are extracted from all alike without exemption and without any relief whatsoever.
– Which tax is this?
– I am referring to sales tax, excise duty and all other indirect taxes which inflate the costs of product. The Government knows what a burden these taxes are to those in the small income group, the pensioner, and the family man; yet it does nothing whatsoever to alleviate their position’. We have also the alarming drop of £176,000,000 in farm incomes, and the indications are that these incomes will fall still further. Yet the Government does nothing to prevent the catastrophe. On the contrary, it says it is courageous in admitting that it proposes to do nothing. I am convinced that the thinking people of Australia look upon the Government’s action as stupid, and as the action of a government which does not have the interests of the people at heart.
The Government proposes to bring into revenue a further £110,000,000 of bank credit. That fact in itself is an admission of its failure to provide for the future during times of prosperity. When the economy was prosperous, the Government extracted enormous taxation from the people, asserting that it felt it had a duty to do this in order to prevent the people from spending their money unwisely. To-day, the Government has nothing to show for the terrific taxation that it extracted from the people then, and it is now forced to depart from its espoused policy and introduce further bank credit to the extent of £110,000,000. The present economic situation is such that the introduction of this money is essential, and it should bring some relief if it is spent wisely; but just how wisely the Government will use it remains to be seen.
The unsatisfactory state of the economy has had a depressing effect upon the domestic economy of the people. The family man is struggling and the pensioner is barely existing on the miserable pittance provided for him. Not only are these people suffering under the burden of indirect taxation, the greatest revenue-producer of all for the Government, but they are also greatly handicapped by the fact that the value of money to-day is lower than it has ever been. The plight of the pensioner and the family man on a low income is indeed desperate. The Government says this is a courageous Budget. Those who will be forced to live during the next year without any adjustment to salaries or pensions while, at the same time, being required to meet everrising costs and prices without any relief are the ones who will need to be courageous.
Farmers who for years now have had the pleasure of at least some credit balance in the bank will need to be courageous for they are faced with prospects of falling incomes, lower prices and the need to resort to hire purchase at exorbitant rates of interest to acquire any extra machinery which may be essential to the proper carrying out of their operations. They will be required to pay high interest rates to hire purchase companies because the banks will not advance money at reasonable rates for the purchase of plant and machinery. The men carrying on secondary industry are in a similar position. One would think that after at least nine years of what the Treasurer has been pleased to call excess prosperity, money would be available at reasonable rates of interest for essential and primary industry. These people are required to pay a year’s taxation in advance. If markets continue to fall, as the Government and leading economists believe they will, I visualize a desperate plight by the end pf next year for these unfortunate members of ‘the community. If the Government is to continue to be what it calls courageous, if it is prepared to stand pat, to retain what it has taken from the pensioner and those in the low income group, then I fear that the next Budget will be even more severe and disheartening than this one is. We all know that Australia has the potential and the force to overcome its present plight, but if the Government continues with the policy it is now pursuing, the people will become disheartened and will be discouraged from attempting to overcome our difficulties.
The press has pointed out that in this courageous, barren Budget one or two minor concessions are made. For instance, there is to be a supplementary payment to single pensioners who are experiencing difficulty in paying their rent. Honorable senators on both sides have urged the Government to do something about these and other pensioners, but unfortunately the Government is now introducing an even more odious means test. The new means test is not one calculated to distinguish . between the affluent and the poor; it is designed to distinguish .between .one class of pensioner and another .class. Further, there .can be no denying that the extra payment that will be. paid .will be absorbed in the payment of higher rentals to landlords. The landlord might be entitled to higher ‘rental, but the fact is that he and not the ^pensioner will derive whatever benefit sis to be -had from ,the extra .payment. I suppose we should be thankful for the fact it-hat the pensioner will not be put out on the street. He certainly would have been, if no assistance had been given to him.
Then, we have the position of two pensioners living together who have been fortunate enough to acquire a home. They are faced with ever-increasing maintenance costs and ever-spiralling rates. They will need to be as courageous as the Government claims it is. They are deserving of some consideration, but they’ have been overlooked. Then, we have the widows and the invalids. Surely, the invalid pensioner whose wife is unable to go to work because she must stay home to care for him is entitled to some consideration by way of supplemented income. I have heard their case pleaded from both sides of the chamber. The Government is under no misunderstandings about their plight, yet it. “ courageously “ says to these unfortunates that they shall not have any more. The Government certainly cannot claim that they are not like Oliver Twist-that they did not ask for something more. They have petitioned for it, and begged for it. It has been almost a case of their having to be removed from the steps of Parliament House, but this courageous Government has said, “ No more “. That is hardly a national outlook. Those who seek in the Budget for social justice will find that it contains none.
In the short time available to me I shall be able to deal with only some of the important matters that I should like to discuss. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) recently travelled through the north-west of Western Australia. The Minister saw its great potential, and he also saw that there had ;been neglect of a great national asset. He sa.w courageous people living in isolation with few amenities, -and suffering from the high cost of living. -We went .there in response to their pleas for assistance, :but the Budget offers them no hope. ‘ One sees little evidence of development there. A Government supporter reminded .me this .afternoon that she ‘had been ,to (Darwin and ;had! seen the local conditions. I , have before pie some store accounts from the Australian Blue Asbestos Mine at Wittenoom. They are for 3 lb. ,of rhubarb, 16s.; 1 lb. of peas, 3s. 6d.; 2 lb. tomatoes, 6s.; and one cauliflower, 12s., or 4s- 3d. per lb. At ;the time, cauliflowers were selling in Perth for ls. 6d. I wish that I had time to cite more of these examples. Who has the real courage - a government which brings down a Budget offering no hope or the people who are eking out an existence in this region? They are working hard, have few amenities, and the cost of living is high. They pay the rates charged hire-purchase customers everywhere. I have asked some of them why they stay. Usually they have answered, “ Because I love the country and want to see something done for it”. At the same time, they make this reservation: “ We are almost economic prisoners, too, because we cannot get enough money to get out “. There is much to be done in this part of Australia, but its great potential has been allowed to go to waste. What is most needed is the economic impetus of government assistance.
The Budget does something for the totally incapacitated ex-serviceman; and he is entitled to it. He was in such a difficult position that the withholding of government assistance would have been shameful, but many other aspects of repatriation warrant examination. On at least three occasions, I have heard Ministers speaking with compassion about the partially blinded exservicemen, but nothing has been done for them in this Budget. I hope that when we are considering the Estimates in detail I shall have an opportunity of putting their case more fully.
I turn now to our trade balance, and the pressing question of falling export income. Labour has repeatedly urged the Government to take into consideration the significant part played by invisibles in that balance. Our trading in merchandise, which is comparatively good, is nevertheless £50,000,000 below the figure for invisibles. That is a very bad situation. We have constantly asked the Government to examine the freight position so that Australian industry may be protected. In 1954 - a big export year - freight charges amounted to £69,000,000. In 1958, they amounted to £123,000,000, an increase due to freight costs alone of £54,000,000 in the invisible charges that we have to meet. If the Government wants to analyse something why does it not analyse the effect of freight charges on the trade balance. No one can claim that it has not been brought to the Government’s attention. The primary producers, and indeed every marketing section of the economy, are aware of its effect. Profits earned in Australia by overseas investors, and royalties to persons in other countries also play their part in building up the figure for invisibles. The whole position should be analysed. We simply must do something about it.
The Government has continually claimed that it has stabilized the Australian currency and restored its value. What is the true position as revealed by a National Bank of New York survey as at June, 1958? If a base figure of 100 is taken as representing the position in 1947, we find that the present value of the Australian £1 is only 46 per cent. It has depreciated annually at the rate of 7.5 per cent. The figures for the United Kingdom are better - 62 per cent, and an average depreciation of 4.7 per cent. The currency of the United States dropped to 80 per cent., the average yearly depreciation amounting to 2.2 per cent. Even France, which has been in the very grip of inflation, has done better than Australia with a drop to 56 per cent. only. New Zealand, too, has done better. Its figures are 61 per cent., and 4.8 per cent. Those of Canada are 70 per cent, and 3.5 per cent.
I repeat that while this Government has permitted the depreciation of our currency to 46 per cent, of the 1947 value, Canada has managed to keep its- currency at 70 per cent., the United States of America at 80 per cent, and the United Kingdom at 62 per cent. That reveals the extent to which this Government has restored value to the £1! It is hypocritical to call this a courageous Budget. It offers the people no hope, and bears no evidence that the position of the primary producer, the pensioner, the small businessman or the man on a fixed income has been considered. All these sections of the community have been caught in the crush. The Government has no solution to their problems. It claims to have acted courageously. It has, in fact, provided in this” Budget an example of sheer stupid apathy.
– The motion before the Senate is that the Budget Papers be printed. I oppose the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the
Opposition (Senator Kennelly), which seeks to decry the terms of the Budget. It is customary to commence one’s remarks by refuting the arguments advanced by the previous speaker. To-night, I find myself in some difficulty because, although I listened carefully to Senator Cooke, I found it difficult to reduce to concrete terms any arguments which he may have advanced. He referred to indirect taxation, and claimed that the family man was not doing well. He gave an exaggerated account of changes in the value of the Australian currency. He made an attack on high rates of interest. With the greatest of respect, I say that Senator Cooke’s speech followed the pattern from the other side of the Senate, which is basically deficient in its approach to an analysis of the Budget, because in no part of his speech - and I think it is fair to say in no part of the speech of any honorable senator opposite - was* any attention given to, or was any criticism or analysis made of the foundational issues upon which the Budget has been based. I propose to come back to that, because I think what I have to say about it is fundamental in setting out the differences between the two sides of the chamber on this most important matter.
Before dealing with that, there is one part of Senator Cooke’s speech upon which I should like to make some comment, because he and I shared the pleasure and the experiences of that trip around the north of Western Australia. Senator Cooke said that the outstanding feature, from his point of view, was the lack of development in that area. From my point of view, the most interesting feature of the trip, and the one that impressed itself most upon my mind, was the extraordinary extent to which the Commonwealth Government has contributed to the development of the northern part of Australia. I ask the Senate - and Senator Cooke in particular - to visualize the trip, which I shall describe briefly.
We went first to Wittenoom, where the Commonwealth Government in our time has given a helping hand to the establishment of the asbestos industry. Our next stay was at Port Hedland, the prosperity of which has been largely due to the fact that the Commonwealth Government, through the Bureau of Mineral Resources, discovered the manganese deposits there, and provided financial assistance for their development, and in addition encouraged exportation of the ore. Next, we went to Liveringa station to see the rice growing, the seed for which I am sure comes from the Commonwealth Experimental Station in the Northern Territory. We then went to Fossil Downs, where we were shown work on the rehabilitation of pastures in an experimental plot under the care of an officer trained at the research station on the Ord River. We then went to Mount Hope, where the big thing is the air-beef lift, which is still subsidized by the Commonwealth Government. Then we went to Wyndham, where there is a research station which is managed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Western Australian Government. At Wyndham, we sat down to look at the developmental programme, for which £2,500,000 will be provided by the Commonwealth Government over the next five years. The present indications are that that money will be used, at the request of the Western Australian Government, mainly on the construction of a jetty at Wyndham and the provision of port facilities at Derby.
All around, there was evidence of development with Commonwealth resources. Now, the Commonwealth is subsidizing the search for oil in the north of Western Australia. There was evidence of the basic work in mineral research that is being done by the Bureau of Mineral Resources which, to a very great extent, is the foundation of development of that area. So, when the honorable senator talks about lack of development in the north of Western Australia, and when we remember particularly the large Commonwealth expenditure on roads for the transport of beef, I say with respect to him that against whomever he might point the finger of criticism, it cannot be against the Commonwealth Government, because I think it is fair to say that this Government has made a greater contribution to the development of northern Australia than has the State Government itself. I am one of those who hope that we will see more done in the future. I direct the honorable senator’s attention particularly to the provision in this Budget whereby the residents of that area will receive taxation concessions at the rate of £1,000,000 per annum. That is, indeed, a wonderful contribution.
I now want to go back to what 1 said earlier, to the effect that I found it difficult to detect in the speeches of those on the other side basic criticism, basic analysis, or a basic approach to what are the contents of the Budget and the principles upon which a Budget is developed. That, I think, is a matter of great significance, more particularly as the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Dr. Evatt) has said that this Budget will be the main issue at the next election. I have got two things to say on that score. The first is that I would willingly accept it as the issue at the next election; and secondly, I am sure that my hopes will not come to fruition because I am certain that the Labour party will not raise the Budget and its contents as being a great issue at the forthcoming election. I say that for one very good reason. An issue at an election has to be contentious. It has to be something on which the Opposition claims or believes that it can swing public opinion to its side, to the detriment of the Government, and thus defeat the Government. I believe the situation has been established as the result of debates on the floor of each House of this Parliament that this Budget is now accepted by the people generally as being sound; it is no longer a contentious issue, lt is accepted by the nation as being the correct Budget in the circumstances that exist at the present time; and there is no prospect at all of its being successfully raised as an election issue. Let me establish that argument by inviting the Senate to remember the speeches that have been made on the Budget in this chamber.
The great principle of the Budget is the adoption of deficit finance; that is its outstanding feature. It is the basis upon which the Budget is built, or around which the Budget is built. And in truth, Mr. President, I do not recollect any senator on the opposite side of the chamber challenging the soundness of that approach, or the equity of that approach and the results that flow from it. When you consider all the great issues there are in the Budget that comes before the Parliament each year - the extent to which the works programme will be developed, the extent to which money will be raised by loans and by taxation, the extent to which by use of the Budget we will accelerate or dampen down the tempo of national activities; and I add to that the statement, which I believe to be correct, that there has never been any serious criticism of those principles - then I am justified in saying that that lack of criticism completely undermines the suggestion or the claim that the Budget will be the great election issue. I can only repeat that I hope it will be an election issue, because I believe that public opinion will recognize the soundness of the Government’s approach.
The forthcoming election will be different from any other election that has been held to date in Australia in that it will be the first occasion upon which television will be used in the campaign. Television will create a new atmosphere because the people to whom the leaders of the parties will be addressing their messages will be able to see, as well as hear, the speakers. The Australian people have always been very good judges, very quick to detect sincerity or the lack of it. If one cannot advocate a cause with sincerity he will be in great difficulty during the campaign. For that reason, I do not think the viewers will see any television programme in which the Opposition will advance arguments with sincerity and force.
There has been so little criticism of the principles upon which this Budget has been based that I propose to take only a few minutes to restate those principles so that the whole matter will be before honorable senators in its correct perspective. As Senator Cooke said, this Budget was prepared in circumstances different from those which influenced all, or most, of the postwar Budgets in that we face a little chill wind due to lower prices for our primary products, lower prices for our metals and minerals, a drop in farm incomes of £150,000,000, and a drop in tax revenue of £40,000,000, with the result that Australia’s internal income and external earnings have decreased. In addition, we estimated that of the £363,000,000 raised during the war years in loans which mature this year, some £80,000,000 would not be redeemed as it fell due. Those are the adverse circumstances in which the Budget was prepared, but those circumstances are offset by the fact that we are a rapidly developing country, our growth and development occurring in so many directions - mining, manufactures and primary products. In the final analysis, the income of the Government, in terms of cash, was expected to be only £24,000,000 lower than in the preceding year, despite the adverse influences that I have mentioned. Cash receipts for the year are estimated at £1,465,000,000 compared with £1,489,000,000 last year.
The problem did not lie in the decrease in our income nor so much in the lower cash resources available to us, because that was estimated at only £24,000,000 in a total Budget of £1,465,000,000. The problem lay in the fact that we have been so accustomed to years of prosperity in Australia that we have set our hands and our minds to developmental programmes which consist, to a material extent, of public works which are essentially complementary to the private development that is taking place. The Government had to decide whether it would continue the developmental programmes at the rate at which they had been carried on in previous years. True it is that this is the first time in the post-war period that the funds available to the Government are lower than in the preceding year but, as I have said, it was necessary to decide whether to maintain the pace and tempo of our development while at the same time maintaining a stable economy, avoiding a policy of fits and starts, or, on the other hand, maintaining the soundness of the currency, a smooth flow of development and the full employment to which we have been accustomed.
Mr. President, the Government then had the choice of three courses. First, we could have adopted the old-fashioned doctrine of cutting our cloth to suit our measure, and have reduced expenditure on government services and public works, spending only the money that was available to us. In other words, we could have carried out a governmental programme costing some £20,000,000 to £25,000,000 less than in the preceding year, but in this modern world that is an unthinkable course to pursue. The rate of progress of our works would have been slowed down and unemployment would have followed.
Secondly, we could have increased taxes to receive the larger amount of money necessary to carry out the greater volume of public works that we had in mind. That also would have been an unsound procedure to have adopted. It would have meant reducing the volume of funds in the hands of private business concerns with a consequent reduction in the rate of their development and activity. A point that must be borne in mind is that private investment provides 75 per cent, of the employment available to the community as a whole. A policy of full employment can only be successful if private enterprise, private employers and private investment are virile, strong and progressive. It would have been an erroneous approach to increase taxes and so reduce the resources available to private interests.
I hope this analysis shows why there has been so little comment upon the Budget, and why the arguments of honorable senators opposite have been so weak. We approached the Budget on the only sound basis possible, first, to continue with our large-scale developmental programmes, permitting the States to do the same thing by providing additional schools, hospitals and roads, and, secondly, to allow the rate of income tax to remain unaltered so that private investment could make its contribution to our economy while the Commonwealth Government turned to the central bank for short-term accommodation to the extent of £110,000,000 per annum. I think it is of great significance that that policy has not been the subject of criticism. I have not seen or heard that decision criticized either inside or outside the Parliament, nor have I seen or heard anyone challenge the decision to push ahead with development. The only criticism has been to the effect that deficit financing might have been employed to a greater extent. To those who say that, I reply that they are not taking into their calculations the fact that not only are we this year leaning on the central bank to the extent of £110,000,000, but within recent months the central bank has released funds of the order of £75,000,000 from its special deposit accounts, and that from this period onwards some £30,000,000 per annum of the tax concessions that were granted in last year’s Budget will become effective. There is a very substantial stimulus to the economy from these three sources. I thought that those facts would bear repeating because I have not heard any debate upon them during the course of the discussions in the Senate. To make the Budget an election issue with any prospect of success, the Opposition must establish that those basic principles are unsound. With respect, I submit it is impossible for those- principles to be unseated.
– We will choose our own issue for the election.
– I understand that you have already chosen the issue. Your leader has said that the Budget will be the issue. All I have said in reply is that I hope that is correct, and I have added the further point that I do not think it is possible to make the Budget an issue successfully, because it has now been completely accepted by the Australian people as the sound course to pursue in the circumstances that exist.
Having dealt with the general principles of the Budget, I should like to make a few comments on one aspect of our affairs that relates to my own portfolio. It is becoming increasingly apparent that if we are to continue to develop Australia at the present rate we must expand the volume of goods that we export, so that we will be able to obtain the funds to pay for the goods we need to import. It becomes increasingly apparent that so substantial a proportion of our imports is required by our manufacturing industries that those manufacturing industries must make a greater contribution to exports as time goes on if our economy is to expand. That leads me to what seems to be an interesting situation. We can produce steel in Australia on a favorable basis and at economic rates. The figures show that the contribution that manufacturers are making to greater exports is coming from steel, steel products and the fabrication of steel. That is a logical development. Steel cannot be produced without coking coal, and our coking coal comes from New South Wales. That leads to the situation that New South Wales will, I am sure, retain its position as the leading manufacturing State in the Commonwealth, because coking coal plays such a basic part in the manufacture of steel.
That leads me to the further consideration that one of the most important tasks successfully accomplished by this Government has been the re-organization, followed by better results, of the coal-mining industry. I want to make two points. Were it not for the success that attended the re-organization of the coal-mining industry there would not be the foundation that now exists for the steel industry, which, in the conditions that at present exist in Australia, is the principal foundation of our manufacturing industries. The successful re-organization of the coal-mining industry was basic to increased manufactures, basic to increased exports and basic to further development. My second point is that the successful re-organization of the coal-mining industry has been accomplished, not by expansion of Government activities, but by encouragement of private investment and free enterprise.
The situation has been reached now where all moneys advanced to the Joint Coal Board have been repaid by it. The coal trade itself is carrying out this task of reorganization by introducing modern methods. The situation is being established that private investment in coal mining is yielding results, which back in 1949, when Labour was in power, could never have been contemplated. Back in 1949 nobody would have dreamt that coal mining in New South Wales could have been transformed to the extent to which it has been transformed. I saw some figures recently which disclose that as a result of the mechanization that has occurred in mines in New South Wales the output per man shift for 1958 was 4.09 tons, in contrast to 2.45 tons per man shift in 1950. In other words, efficiency as expressed in output per man shift has improved by no less than 39 per cent, during the time that this Government has been in office.
My time is coming to an end. There is only one other figure that I should like to quote in relation to coal mining. Not only has the coal-mining industry been reorganized to such an extent that it is now providing an increasingly efficient basis for our manufactures - and we need manufactures to get additional exports - but coal itself is becoming a major export item. Figures before me show that the value of coal exported from New South Wales in recent years was as follows: In 1954-55, £1,100,000; in 1956-57, £2,200,000; and in 1957-58, £3,500,000. Those figures indicate the transformation that has taken place in the industry - a transformation brought about by the encouragement of private investment, of free enterprise, and by a denial of a socialistic approach, which would have ended in failure.
– The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) used a lot of his time in criticising honorable senators on this side of the chamber for allegedly not dealing with issues centred around the Budget. Then, he himself proceeded to ignore all the basic matters with which the Budget is concerned. 1 remind him that he did not mention the age, invalid and widow pensioners of this country. Nor did he mention the crushing imposition of sales tax on certain sections of the community, and a host of other disabilities which the Budget could and should have corrected. So, he has demonstrated to the Senate and to the people of Australia generally that he is guilty of the very charge that he tried to level against the Opposition. But that is nothing new for the Minister. To-day, I read with interest one of his statements made earlier in the year. He made the following rather surprising admission: -
I suppose I have been too long in politics to attempt to be fair.
– That is an admission!
– It is an admission. He has maintained his form this evening, because he certainly has not been fair. Although the Minister may adopt that rather cynical attitude towards politics, I remind him that the people of Australia like fair play. They do not mind a fight, but they like the fight to be waged fairly and honestly. The Minister for National Development, on his own admission, is not prepared to fight in that way. He really made a mistake when he uttered that statement; he should have ended it at the word “ politics “ and said, “ I suppose I have been too long in politics “.
Having said that, I now wish to turn to one or two of the points made by the Minister in the course of his speech. The first extraordinary statement that he made was that this Budget - this infamous Budget that has been brought down by this totally discredited Government - was acceptable to all sections of the Australian community. I invite the Minister to seek the views of some of the pensioners’ leagues throughout Australia and to have a word or two with some of the people who are suffering from the imposition of sales tax. I invite him to seek the views, too. of other sections of the community who rightfully expected some concessions in the Budget but who have been utterly disappointed. If the Minister were to do that, he would not make such asinine statements; he would not baldly claim in this chamber that the Budget was completely acceptable to the Australian people. What utter nonsense it is to say that!
I listened with amusement to the Minister’s lecture on the possible use of television during the forthcoming federal election campaign. He suggested that anyone appearing on television would have to look sincere. I, in turn, suggest to him that, before he makes his debut in this new sphere of electoral campaigning, he should undergo a major operation to have his tongue removed from his cheek.
– He was only giving you a bit of advice.
– The Minister should take advantage of the advice. It would be helpful to him. We can say in a few words what the Government has failed to say in regard to the economy. The present state of the economy is a result of the collapse of the loan market, caused by the failure of the Government to do the job that it ought to have done. All the evils that honorable senators opposite claim they are now contending with flow from the failure of the Government in the direction I have indicated.
I now turn my attention from the Minister to certain remarks made by Senator Hannan in the course of a most extraordinary speech this afternoon. I regret that the honorable senator is conspicuous by his absence at the moment, because I should very much like him to hear what I have to say. By uttering words that were dripping with hate and poisoned with venom, he was probably more guilty than any one else of the charge that was unjustly levelled against Opposition senators by the Minister for National Development when he said that they completely ignored matters connected with the Budget. Senator Hannan set out, in the manner usually adopted by him, and unfortunately by some of his colleagues on that side of the chamber, to charge the Australian Labour party with having Communist sympathies. He had a lot to say about the Hobart conference and the foreign policy of the Labour party.
I do not propose to let his assertions go unchallenged. I propose to tell honorable senators opposite what Labour’s policy is and to challenge them to prove that it contains any elements of the Communst philosophy. I shall refer first to the decision of the Hobart conference when it dealt with the overall position in the Pacific. The conference declared -
Australia is, and must always remain an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, as well as of the United Nations Organization. Co-operation with the United States in the Pacific is of crucial importance and must be maintained and extended in accordance with the spirit of this declaration.
Australia must give greater practical support to the United Nations for the purpose of carrying out the principles .of the United Nations Charter, and in particular for their wholehearted application in the Pacific and South-East Asia areas. These principles cover both collective action to repel military aggression, and also - a factor which is usually forgotten - continuous action by way of conciliation and peaceful intervention for the purpose of preventing war and of bringing all armed conflict to an end. 1 invite any honorable senator opposite to say that there is anything unchristian or wrong .in that declaration. That is the basis and spirit of .the foreign policy .enunciated by the Labour party at the Hobart conference. The declarataion ‘further .states -
The A.L.P. believes’ that the present policies of the French Government in Algeria, the U.S.S.R. Government in Hungary, and the British Government in Cyprus, are contrary to the principles of the United Nations Charter, and that selfdetermination for peoples capable of self-government is their right. The AX.P. welcomes in contrast the creation of the new ‘Dominion of Ghana.
Does any honorable senator opposite support Senator Hannan?
My -final -comment on the Labour party’s foreign policy - it is a very potent one - relates to the party’s attitude on the question of atomic weapons. We -say, .and we said at Hobart in 1955 -
The development of atomic weapons has ‘reached such dimensions that the peoples of the ‘world are now faced with .the stark and terrifying spectacle of a possible atomic world war, causing a danger to the very fabric of the earth, its atmosphere, and all its .inhabitants, which is so real that distinguished scientists refer to -the prospect with a sense of “ desperation “. This desperation is partly due to the vacillation and delay in arranging high level political talks aiming at the effective prevention of the use of atomic and hydrogen bombs by any nation, whether for purposes of war or experimental purposes. We urge, nevertheless, that nuclear research to hasten the application cif atomic power for industrial purposes be encouraged in the development of Australia. Further, we demand the protection and safeguarding of Australia by the retention here of basic raw materials and the necessary manufacturing and industrial processing rights, so as to ensure this country’s self-sufficiency in times of emergency or conflict.
That is the statement that Senator Hannan claimed in the Senate this afternoon contained a good deal of the essence of Communist philosophy. What has happened since that declaration was made in 1955? The top scientists of the world have stated emphatically that there must be an end to experimental hydrogen and atomic explosions, and have voiced the very fears that the Australian Labour party voiced in 1955. Would Senator Hannan, or any of his colleagues on the Government side , OI .the chamber, have the temerity to say that all of the great scientists ,of .the world are Communists? He must .be consistent. Is he prepared to claim that =the great church leaders .of the world, -who agree on a policy similar to that enunciated by the Australian Labour party at Hobart, are Communists? Is any honorable senator opposite prepared to say that they are? So much for this policy which has ‘been described as containing the essence of Communist philosophy.
Let me turn to another question -that was raised by Senator Hannan, .that of trade with red China. Admittedly, the Australian Labour party advocates trade with red China. The .honorable senator suggests that that also is in line with Communist philosophy. I .do .not think that his colleagues entirely agree with him on this issue, because it is a well-known fact that some of them in another -place, in the course of contributions to debates in that chamber, have advocated that we should resume trade relations with red China. Is Senator Hannan prepared to say that, because his colleagues advocate that course, they are Communists? I can see Senator Kendall smiling. He is aware of the absurdity and utter stupidity of the claims of Senator Hannan. ‘Behind the attitude that has been adopted by Senator Hannan, one can see an attempt to bolster the :hopes of this -discredited ‘Government of success at the forthcoming general election. Is he prepared to -say, in -relation to this question of trade with red ‘China, that the Conservative Government of Great Britain consists of a bunch of Communists? I remind him that that Government approves trade with red China. 1 come to a matter that is somewhat nearer to the interests of my own State. In recent weeks, it has been reported in the press that a trade mission of representatives of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is in China at the present time exploring the possibility of markets for Australian products. Again, I ask Senator Hannan and his colleagues whether that suggests that the high-ranking officers of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited are Communists. I am prepared to take up the challenge, posed by this constant suggestion regarding Labour’s foreign policy, with any honorable senator on the Government side of the chamber, both inside and outside the Parliament. Instead Of being attacked and condemned for the formulation of that policy at Hobart in 1955, the Labour party ought to receive the commendation of every citizen of this country, because time has proved us absolutely right. In fact, I feel proud, and I know that my colleagues do, too, that we were able to see ahead and to discern the dangers associated with the folly of the actions of some nations four years in advance of world opinion. Any political party that has the foresight to see dangers so far ahead of other political parties deserves commendation and credit rather than the condemnation and distortion that is usually forthcoming from honorable senators opposite.
I think that those on the Government side of the chamber have heard enough about the Labour party’s foreign policy. It has made them strangely silent, lt is obvious that the truth of my statements this evening has at last struck them. I ask them to remember, before they make such asinine statements in the future, that the policy of the Labour party, as enunciated at Hobart, has been printed. They may obtain it, and I suggest that they read it for themselves. If they do so, perhaps they will be able to restrain some of their more foolish colleagues, such as Senator Hannan, from making stupid statements of the kind that we have heard to-day.
I am sorry that I have taken up so much time in discussing the foreign policy of the Labour party, but I think that both the
Senate and the Australian people are entitled to know just where Labour stands in regard to foreign policy. 1 felt that 1 had to make the explanation that I have given to-night, not only to the Senate, but also to the people outside the Parliament who may be listening to the broadcast of the proceedings, and who may have been misled by the stupid references to Labours policy that have been made from time to time by supporters of the Government.
Coming to the Budget, if we can so describe it, it has been obvious that ever)’ speaker from the Government side of the chamber has studiously avoided the real issues, something that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) wrongly accused honorable senators on this side of doing. Some supporters of the Government, such as Senator Hannan, have preferred to speak about communism, because they see everything through a red mist. Others have preferred to spend about 20 minutes of their time in praising the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and in saying how sorry they were that he was about to disappear from the political scene. Let me say that that sorrow will not be shared by the majority of the Australian people. I, for one, could not conscientiously congratulate Sir Arthur Fadden, as his colleagues on the Government side of the chamber have done so readily. I think that Sir Arthur Fadden, whatever his ability as a parliamentarian might be, will be remembered as one of the worst Treasurers in the history of this country. Some of the budgets that he has presented will be a kind of memorial that will keep his name forever in the minds of the Australian people - but with regret, not with pleasure.
– He is leaving the Parliament. Be fair.
– I am not concerned with whether or not he is leaving the Parliament. I come now to what I consider to be the essence of the Budget - the fact that people rightly expected something from it and will get nothing. I refer, first of all, to the pensioners. By means of a smokescreen, as it were, the Government has attempted to conceal the facts. There is a half-baked proposal to give approximately 25 per cent, of the total number of pensioners an increase of 10s. a week, ostensibly for the purpose of helping them to pay their rent. I think that most practical people will readily appreciate that that is at best a Greek gift, because it is inevitable that as soon as the pensioners receive the increase, some landlords will be unscrupulous enough to take the increased benefit that the Government claims to be conferring on the pensioners, so that the increase will be transferred to people who probably do not deserve it. That will be the net result of the assistance that the Government is giving to the pensioners in this Budget.
The Minister for National Development set out to give an analytical survey of the financial factors which, he said, had impelled the Government to take the course that it had adopted in framing the Budget. In that survey, one could detect the cold approach that is always made by the Minister to matters which, in our minds at least, involve human problems. He dismissed the subject of pensions to-night without referring to it or giving it a thought, other than to say that probably the pensioners would readily accept this Budget and, in fact, had already done so. That was typical of his attitude to the pensioners of this country. Honorable senators opposite have been most vocal during this debate, but not one of them has mentioned that factor. All have conveniently forgotten it. As I have said, they have dragged in red herrings in an endeavour to create the impression that they are doing something, when, in fact, they are doing nothing.
– What would you have done?
– We will do what we have always done, and what you have always failed to do. We will give them a proper measure of justice. Although the Government has given a minor concession by way of relaxation of the means test, it really started at the wrong end of the problem in tackling it from that direction. I am not suggesting that the means test could not have been more generously relaxed - I believe it should be - but the Government has completely ignored once again those who need help most. For almost ten years now, the sum of £209 has been the maximum value of assets which a pensioner may have before being precluded from drawing full pension, despite the fact that the value of money has decreased by about three or four times since that figure was set. Here again we have irrefutable evidence of the way in which the Government ignores a most deserving section of the community.
One thing for which I do commend the Government is its decision to bring within the ambit of the national health scheme people who were previously denied any benefit from it. I refer to those who suffer from chronic illnesses. But although I commend the Government for this step, I still think it is disgraceful that it has taken so long to take it. If my memory serves me aright, I raised this matter in the first speech I made in this chamber five years ago. It has taken the Government five years to give this minor concession to some of the most deserving people in our community. The fact that it is being given at the last hour does not in any way absolve the Government for having failed to give it years ago.
It must not be forgotten, either, that while throwing the pensioners into the discard, the Government has given the big companies of Australia taxation relief worth many millions of pounds in the last twelve months. The companies have been looked after very well indeed, but the people at the end of the line have been consistently and deliberately ignored by the Government. If the money that was given back - I use that term advisedly - to the companies had been utilized for the extension of social services, we might have seen in this Budget provision for a substantial increase in all classes of pensions and perhaps some greater relaxation of the means test. But, of course, the people who conduct the big industrial undertakings of this country are the friends of the Government. Instead of helping the needy, the Government looks after its friends and ignores the pensioners.
I come now to a matter of grave importance which this Government consistently ignores. I refer to hire purchase, one of the greatest national problems confronting us to-day. From time to time, honorable senators on this side, and in the corner, have asked the Government to take some action to protect the Australian people from the usury which is associated with this form of enterprise. The Government, taking refuge behind its claim that insufficient power reposes in the Federal Government, has consistently refused to do anything. 1 remind the Senate that according to a statement published in the financial columns of a Sydney newspaper, to-day, £293,000,000 is owed under hire-purchase transactions in this country. That is disgraceful. As one honorable senator in the corner said some months ago, this could produce a situation not unlike another South Sea Bubble.
Recently, 1 had sent to me a booklet which is published by somebody known as J. B. Were & Son, obviously somebody very well up in the field of hire purchase. lt is a very revealing document and it might be of assistance to the Senate if I read one or two passages to give some idea of what I mean.
– We have all received a copy of it.
– I remind Senator Wedgwood that my purpose is to inform not only honorable senators but also the Australian community in general.
– You do not kid yourself that the people are listening to you, do you?
– 1 hope they are. 1 should say that I probably have a bigger audience than I hope the honorable senatorhad the night when she made her famous reference to the aborigines and socialservice benefits. The booklet to which I have referred contains this passage -
Some years elapsed before hire-purchase companies were “ accepted “ by the general run of investors. In the minds of the public (and ignoring the legal implications), hire-purchase companies were lenders, far less august in status than the trading banks. This line of thought changed, however, when the trading banks one by one forged links with individual hire-purchase companies.
My point is that the trading banks of Australia have departed from the usual business of banking because they find that there is more profit in this usurious hirepurchase business than they can make from legitimate banking transactions. It is deplorable that those who claim to have a respectable line of business should embark upon a type of usury which must be condemned by all who have a conscience. This further passage appears in that booklet -
The hire-purchase industry in Australia is still in its formative stages. With an ever-changing pattern, some of the details of individual companies briefly reviewed in this booklet could well be changed beyond recognition in a matter of days by mergers, takeovers and other arrangements.
There we see the build-up of the great corporations in this field which I feel denies everything that is basic to social justice. Any government which had the welfare of the people at heart would unquestionably call a conference of the States to see if they could arrive at some common agreement for curtailing the activities of these people. I foresee the possibility that the great banking corporations of this country will also have a monopoly in the field of hire purchase in the not-too-distant future.
– Tell us about the one the Labour party, has in South Australia.
– There is no Labour party hire-purchase company in South Australia; there is a trade unions hire-purchase co-operative which is run by the trade unions in that State, and which has for its purpose the cutting of interest rates by half. In other words, it is trying to counter the activities of the people whom you support.
In the minute or two left to me, I want to emphasize that it is obvious from the remarks made by honorable senators on the Government side that once again they will attempt to drag the issue of communism into the forthcoming election campaign. The Government’s Budget is poverty-ridden, its record is bad, and once again its supporters will seek to raise the red herring of communism in an attempt to blind the Australian people. Before honorable senators opposite become irretrievably wedded to that tactic - they have adopted it on more than one occasion, and sometimes without success - I point out to them that the Australian people share with me the belief that this Government has played that game for far too long. I am confident that on this occasion the Government will be judged on its merits and that the people of Australia will not be fooled again by the cynical attitude adopted by the Government every time it has to go before them.
The Minister for National Development said that he would like to see the issues made simple. The Government can make them simple by refraining from the type of propaganda it has put over before. If the issues are simple, I should say the days of this Government are coming to an end.
– I rise to support the Budget, and I should like to say in answer to Senator
Toohey that, in particular, I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) upon its presentation. Over the years he has proved himself as a Treasurer, and history will remember him as one who performed a great service for the people of Australia. 1 do not intend to dwell upon the details of the Budget. It has been debated now for quite some time both here and in another place, and most of the points for and against have been traversed. I believe that it is the only kind of Budget which could have been brought down at the present time. It was largely governed by current levels of income for primary produce, and the fall in wool prices during the last few days has tended to confirm the wisdom of that course.
Senator Toohey has alleged that little direct reference is made here to the Budget itself; that there is much talk of other things. I intend to-night to speak on a subject which, has often been discussed in this chamber, [t has certainly been mentioned a good deal by members of the Australian Labour party over the last year. I refer to the defence of Australia. That subject is probably one on which Labour will attack the Government during the coming election campaign. It has certainly stated at previous elections that it does not agree with the expenditure of something like £200,000,000 per annum on defence. We have spent that much annually since we came into office, and this Labour has described as wasteful. Honorable senators opposite have promised that, if elected to office they will reduce defence expenditure considerably so that other, more important, matters can be attended to. Labour has stated, in short, that Australia is not prepared to meet its commitments in the defence of the free nations. I hope to prove that the Government has done an excellent job, and that Australia has never been in a better position to play its part in the defence of democracy.
When we speak of the defence of Australia we are really speaking about the defence of the free nations of the world - the defence of democracy. Any one who thinks for more than a few moments must realize that to-day democracy has only one major enemy in the world; that there is only one nation with which it is likely to go to war. I refer to Russia - a Russia which still has, as its main platform, the domina tion of the world. That has forced the world into two blocs - the democracies on one side and the Communists on the other, or East versus West - with Australia a very small part of the West. We must remember that we would have to fight in co-operation with the other democracies. The United States of America and the United Kingdom are, of course, the two great nations in the democratic group. We are a very minor partner. What is most apparent is that the democracies are a collection of nations, and are interdependent. That is my first point. To win, even to exist, we must play the role for which we are best suited. The defence of Australia is not something that can be looked at in isolation; it must rather be looked at as part of a plan for the defence of the free world.
The next thing that I want to emphasize is that the world is divided into zones, and that these zones force us into various pacts, from which have come Nato in Europe, the Baghdad pact in the Middle East, and Seato in South-East Asia. Of course, it is in Seato that, from a geographical point of view, we are forced to play our part. If one looks at a world map for a few moments one sees that Australia is rather cut off from Great Britain because of the certainty that the Suez Canal would be closed in any conflict. We have lost the use of Trincomalee in Ceylon, and Singapore is threatened by communism even more than it was threatened by Japan before World War II. began. The route around South Africa is not over-safe. In any future war, South Africa may play a part equal to that played by Ireland in the last war. In other words, we are really cut off from any aid which might otherwise be expected to come from Great Britain. Therefore, the Government has announced a policy of co-operation with the United States of America in the SouthEast Asian area and Australia is equipping her armed forces with many of the American weapons, planes and general materials of war. Our most likely role in any conflict is co-operation with the United States of America in South-East Asia.
For a few moments I should like to look at the respective strengths of the eastern and western blocs. The Communists have certainly a vast superiority in conventional weapons. After World War II. the democracies reduced their conventional armaments, but the Communists did not. They have, of course, a system of government which ensures complete control over the individual. They do not have to consider the effect of their policies on individuals, and have been able to press on with compulsory military training. In short, they have more men under arms, and stronger forces generally, than ever before. The democracies, on the other hand, in conventional weapons are quite weak. However, we come to atomic weapons. Owing to the position of America supplemented by recent developments in Great Britain, I think it is accepted that we are in this field ahead of the Communists, although many people do not agree with that view. We must rely on atomic weapons in any form of war to save ourselves, because the Communists have a tremendous preponderance in conventional weapons and if a war was fought only with those weapons we would be defeated - and defeated very quickly. Therefore, it must be made clear, and our enemies must understand, that in a conventional war we would at once use atomic weapons.
There is not the slightest doubt that peace is being preserved in the world to-day by this threat of atomic retaliation. The only hope that Russia would have of winnng an atomic war would be by knocking out Great Britain and the United States of America in one fell swoop, in one action. As we are placed at the present moment, that would be an impossibility. We are geographically in a good position - the reverse of the position we were in during the last conventional war. Our enemy in those days was in the centre of a circle, and having interior lines in the old days was a great advantage. To-day, our ability to operate on the circumference of a circle is a great advantage, and the democracies are thus placed in relation to Russia.
– Why is it an advantage these days to operate on the circumference of a circle, rather than from its centre?
– Because, being on the circumference, with bases all round, we can pump weapons into the circle. Dispersion, these days, is the great thing, the great safeguard, in atomic warfare. The more you can disperse, the safer you are. Even with medium-range ballistic missiles, excluding inter-continental weapons altogether, we could hit almost any target in Russia. That is what is saving us from war to-day.
But the big thing, as I said before, is inter-dependence. America has a preponderance of these weapons. It has a tremendous stockpile, and it has the means to deliver them through its strategic air force. America is producing what it is best able to produce. The Nato countries, being on the spot in Europe, are producing man-power and conventional weapons. Great Britain is doing both. It is apparent that these days nations do not need balanced forces as they did in the old days. In the past, a nation had to have an army, a navy, and an air force, and balance them as a whole. That is not necessary to-day. Nations, these days, supply what they are best able to supply. As I have pointed out, the United States is supplying the atomic weapons, and its allies are providing conventional weapons.
Having established that we are interdependent and that each nation should produce what it is best able to produce, let us have a look at the course a world war would take. The generally accepted opinion is that there would be tremendous destruction, but that some people would survive, and, in the end, conventional weapons would probably come into their own again. Australia is not an atomic power. It would not be expected to take part in the terrific bombardment that would start off the war, and because of our geographical position we would probably not be bombarded. Perhaps, submarines operating around our shores would put a few missiles into our capital cities. Therefore, it looks to me that after the first holocaust was over, with a few survivors being left in Europe, we would be able to carry on on the outskirts of the world. Then, I visualize that we would play a part rather like the part we played during the last war, that is - and this is the policy of this Government - in co-operation with the American forces in South-East Asia.
Having determined what we would be likely to do, let us consider whether our forces are composed of the right elements to carry out that task. Let us look, first, at the naval side and see what we have got.
As I have said, Russia would probably use a few submarines in our part of the world to bomb our cities. She has a tremendous force of submarines these days; in fact, she has the largest force of submarines in the world. One of the primary tasks of our Navy would be to protect us from attacks by submarines. I should think that would be the main task of our Navy - hunting down submarines and destroying them. The Navy would also have the job of escorting our armed forces proceeding overseas, as it did in previous wars. It would certainly have the job of protecting convoys and vessels of the merchant marine, as it previously did. Have we got a naval fleet constituted to carry out those tasks? I think we have. In terms of recent naval opinion, we have a most useful fleet, comprising an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, and quite a large number of destroyers, frigates and small craft. Our home fleet is a replica of the fleet that is maintained by Great Britain in the South-East Asia area. It is a complete unit - what is regarded by most naval authorities in the world to be the thing that is required. In fact, our fleet fits in exactly with modern thought.
What would the Army be likely to do in a modern war? I think it would occupy and protect certain strategic bases. It might have to occupy captured territory, perhaps after an atomic attack. It certainly would require to be mobile - a small, hard-hitting and well-trained force - and it would require reserves to take over from it after it had done certain jobs, to enable it to proceed somewhere else. I think that would be its main task. Have we got that kind of force? Here again, I think we have. We have a mobile brigade group, equipped as well as any force of that nature can be equipped. It is backed up by the Commonwealth Military Forces, plus National Service trainees as reserves. We have the force, and we have the reserves. We have a force capable of doing what it appears would be required of it. We have a force that is suitable to go overseas to places where trouble exists, to fight away from our shores - not the type of force that the Labour party apparently visualizes in its defence policy. From what I can gather, Labour favours the establishment of a force around the perimeter of Australia to stop an enemy from actually invading our shores.
I do not think that is a sound policy, because if it were necessary to call upon troops to defend Australia from within, a modern war would be lost.
What about our Air Force? As I said before, it would not be required to undertake atomic bombing. That is not expected of us, and we have not the machines or the weapons for atomic bombing. However, America would be prepared to supply them. The Air Force must co-operate with the Navy and the Army to transport our mobile units, to supply air cover for those units in any ordinary action, and to take its place in the search for, and the destruction of, submarines. Is the Air Force fitted to carry out this task? I think it is. We have fighter squadrons equipped with modern jet aircraft; we have bomber squadrons - not long-range bombers, certainly, but we are receiving some of the best bombers and transport aircraft in the world - and we have our Fleet Air-arm, which also is well equipped. In fact, we have good aircraft with the prospect of receiving better aircraft soon. I think that the Air Force will be able to play its part in any action, having regard to the composition of our fighter, bomber and transport squadrons.
I have been dealing with the effect of a world war on Australia. Let me now refer to the effects of a small war, by which I mean the threat or danger of a war similar to the occurrence in the Middle East only a few weeks ago. An incident of that type could quite easily arise to the immediate north of Australia due to Indonesia’s claims to Dutch New Guinea. Australia’s forces at present are exactly the same as the forces used by Great Britain and the United States in the Middle East. I think it is more probable than not that forces of that kind will be used in small incidents rather than in a world war.
I have attempted to prove that this Government has done an extremely efficient job in moulding our defence forces into shape to enable them to play their part in any emergency. We have not always been in this state of readiness in the past. Any criticism levelled at us regarding the composition and preparedness of our defence forces is quite unjustified. The only possible criticism is that our forces are noi large enough.
A considerable amount of money must be expended on defence. A few years ago a fighter plane cost only a few thousand pounds, but to-day they range in the vicinity of £1,000,000. Australia is doing as much in the matter of defence per head of population as any other part of the world, although perhaps we do not spend as much on defence as England. During the forthcoming election campaign Labour party candidates will no doubt criticize the Government for not supplying sufficient equipment to our defence forces, but I am sure it will not tell the people the Labour party policy because, if it is returned to power, the Labour party will immediately cut our defence services to the bone, as it has threatened to do in the past.
In the few minutes remaining to me I wish to mention the matter’ of recognition of Communist China although I want to make it clear that I am not speaking about trade with Communist China because, one need not recognize the government of a country to trade with it. I can see no benefit to the free world as a whole by recognizing red China. To do that woud only help the Communists to extend their domination throughout Asia. This matter is of vital importance to the non-Communist world and must be looked at on an international basis.
The Government’s policy rests on two basic considerations. The first is that China is an important member of the Soviet bloc which is engaging in a cold war to achieve world domination. China’s hostility has reached a level of intensity over the last few weeks that we have not seen since the Korean war. Her purpose is to create a diversion in this part of the world to draw our attention from the Middle East. The second consideration is that the countries of South-East Asia are peculiary vulnerable to Communist offensives owing to their proximity to China, their inexperience in self-government, and the social, political and economic changes that have accompanied their drive towards modernization.
To date, the democracies have protected the security of the free nations in SouthEast Asia. The loss of those free nations would have a disastrous effect on Australia in that it would be isolated and placed in a strategically exposed and dangerous position. Free China has one of the largest military forces in the world, which is a significant deterrent to renewed red Chinese aggression in South-East Asia. Recognition of Communist China would probably destroy the government of free China or, at least, give it a terrific setback. Indo-China, Burma and the Philippines would also be adversely affected if we were to recognize Communist China. In addition, the Chinese population in those free nations would feel that the democracies were foresaking them and they would, therefore, be more inclined to accept the Communist doctrine. Recognition would also mean that red China woud have a seat in the United Nations, another ally of the Soviet Union which would play its part in attempting to disrupt the smooth working of the organization in its efforts to maintain world peace. Recognition of red China would not in any way separate that country from Russia, because over the last few months she has proved that she is a very close ally of the Soviet by supporting Soviet action in Hungary, the execution of Nagy and the attack on Yugoslavia. My time is up, but I should like to say that I for one am dead against the recognition of Soviet China.
.- I listened with great attention to the speech delivered earlier this evening by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), speaking to the motion for the printing of the Budget Papers. I regard the speech . which accompanies the presentation of our national Budget in the same way as I regard the speech which the President of the great United States democracy delivers annually - a speech which is styled “ A Report on the State of the Union “. It is a report which reviews the whole sweep of the American economy. The Budget Speech of the Australian Treasurer, or the parallel speech of whoever may represent him in this chamber, is, in the same sense, a report on the state of the Australian economy, and, to that extent, a report on the state of the Australian nation.
Normally, such a speech can be considered’ as a review of the preceding period of twelve months, or of the financial year for which the accounts are being produced and laid before the Parliament for examination. But on this occasion I feel that the Budget Speech, and the speeches which have been made by other Ministers and honorable senators on the Government side in its support, must be considered as covering a wider field and embracing greater problems than those which are covered normally in the accounts for a financial year. This Budget speech brings us to the eve of a general election, when the Government has already been in office for nine years. This Budget speech must be taken as a speech which reduces to terms of words and statistics the financial and economic record of the Government during its period of office. Therefore, I regard it to some extent as an epilogue to those nine years and as a sort of prologue to the years that may lie ahead. Those who are more severe in their criticism of the Government may substitute the word “ epitaph “ for “ epilogue “. For the purposes of distinction, I say that the speech delivered by the Treasurer can be considered as a short review of the activities of the Government in the continuous period of its office since 1949.
If that is so - and I think it is so, because new factors have emerged in the last twelve months which would make a simple review of a period of twelve months rather unreal in the economic and financial situation that has developed in Australia - and this document must be considered as a review of nine years of operation by the Government, then I think the Minister for National Development was incorrect, and Government speakers supporting him were incorrect, in merely pointing to the current situation and parading the remedies which have been applied in terms of the current situation and current problems, without adverting, as I think fairness demanded, to the problems which have created the current situation and to the extent to which the present budgetary approach of the Government will tend to solve them or not.
It seems to me that the fulcrum of the whole of the financial accounts this year - this point probably was made by other honorable senators who spoke earlier to-day in this debate - is the administration by the Government of the credit policy of the country and the interest rates that stem from that policy, causing the present credit condition and consequent collapse of public support of the loan market. Whatever might be said regarding the injection of central bank finance into the economy this year, I think those things are only effects. If the situation is to be intelligently and thoroughly appreciated, and if the Government is to direct its mind to correcting in the fullest way the problems which are covered by the review, then it must consider - as we must consider - the causes of the state of affairs that exists. I say that that state of affairs is the result of the financial and economic policies pursued by the Government over the last nine years. Those policies have created a situation which is increasing in gravity, and which I think the Budget and the Budget Speech conceal rather than expose to the gaze and the scrutiny of this Parliament and of the public.
If the central theme of the Budget is the failure of the public to support the Government loan market, as a result of which the Government is pursuing a policy of underwriting the finances of the States, and, because of its refusal or lack of desire to increase taxation, is forced to draw on the central bank for £110,000,000, 1 do not condemn that action, but I think we should aD condemn the circumstances which have made that action necesary. Senator Spooner said that no speaker on this side up to the time he spoke had criticized the Government for injecting central bank finance into the economy. More than that, he said that no speaker had adverted to what he regarded as the central theme of the Budget. The injection of central bank finance into the economy may be the central theme of the Budget in the sense in which it is an effect, but it is not the central theme as I conceive it, in the sense in which it is a cause. The cause has been referred to in a number of places. It has been referred to in that very interesting document published by the Government known as “The Australian Economy “. It is published annually. The publication for the year 1958 deals with the problem of the shortage of moneys for capital works and how those moneys are to bc found. These problems obviously have been exercising the minds of the Government’s advisers. I feel that if those advisers had made, without interruption, a classical economic approach to the problems and had not been met, as possibly they were, with certain principles which it is the just prerogative of parties in power to espouse, the provision of money for capital works for the States would, have been handled differently and we would not now b& met with the short fall in income, due to the Government’s policy, which has made necessary the injection of central bank finance. In a number of places in the review of the economy for the year 1958, those who wrote it - no doubt they were the expert economic advisers to the Treasury - adverted to this matter. In one place they said - lt is necessary, too, that such savings as are made should find their way into effective capital use - for example, if savings are used to promote consumption spending, as on hire-purchase finance, this will be of little help to the process. But on past experience, it would be a rare chance, if, here or anywhere else, these ideal conditions were fulfilled.
They acknowledge the difficulty. They acknowledge that a great deal of the savings of the people - and that, in our economy, is the classic method by which moneys are provided, within the bounds of the economy, for capital works - has gone into the production and distribution of consumer goods and, therefore, that there has been a short fall in the availability of money for national development works. They say in another place -
It is a fact also that no small part of the savings actually made in recent years have gone to finance not capital expenditure which would aid productive capacity but consumption expenditure on finished goods.
The economic advisers to the Treasury put forward that view in an economic review this year. I feel that the Government either has not had regard to that view or is so inhibited by its own political policies that it has had to disregard that type of analysis and ultimately has been forced into the position that there is now a short fall in revenue and it is necessary to draw on the central bank to make good that short fall in actual cash receipts and expenditure.
In a young country like Australia, which is short of capital, it is vital to mobilize available capital to the best extent and in the national -interest. I regard the international battle of capital as possibly being more significant and more powerful than the battle of ideologies or of arms. We have seen whole areas of the world virtually brought under ideological yokes because of the penetration of capital resources from one side or the other. There is a tremendous world ‘battle between the major contending forces to provide capital for underdeveloped countries, because its real value and its real significance in the international battle and the international conflict are appreciated.
Against that background, surely it is important for us to mobilize our naturally limited capital resources to the best possible extent. That is adverted to in the expert advice of the Government’s advisers in the document from which I have just quoted; but I feel that the Government, which is embroiled - perhaps, according to its philosophy, correctly so - in certain political ideas is not prepared to accept that principle. Therefore, we have found in this economy tremendous contention for available capital between the private and the public sectors. The comments of the advisers as contained in this document continue to the effect that, in this battle for available capital, the public sector necessarily has lost. Because of the prevailing high interest rates and the attractions of investment in the private sector, it has not been possible for the Government to attract to its public loans the money that it wanted, which the States required, and which the nation demanded.
Senator Spooner, of course, will point out that, when all is said and done, the private sector employs perhaps 75 per cent, of the total number of people employed in Australia. But, as the document before me points out, many of those are employed in industries that produce consumer goods which are not basically or fundamentally productive in the best and most general sense, and that moneys in greater proportion coming into the public sector would enable us to develop the basic things on which these other things quite rightly and justly, and in their proper time, could be erected. In other words, there should necessarily be some priority in capital investment. However, the Government has consistently, directly and indirectly, set its face against that type of financial approach.
– How would you give practical effect to the views expressed?
– -la the past, we have had capital controls which have given practical effect to priority of investment in those fields where investment -is -most valuable. I know that those controls were introduced in time of war and that there was an attempt to perpetuate them in time of peace, which failed as a result of action in the courts. I know, too, that there was an attempt to impose controls under the Defence Preparations Act and that, when that act was repealed, the regulations went out. I agree that it is better, if we can do so, to avoid the method of direct capital control. But, there are so many ways in which capital may be invested that, as a result of sheer industrial and commercial attraction, it should be possible without strict, firm, and static controls, to divert it into public avenues in which it would play its needed part in the development of the economy.
I now come to the very much canvassed subject of hire purchase. This undoubtedly has been one of the attractive fields of investment that has drawn off from the public sector of the economy tremendous sums of money into the very type of investment that is condemned - if not explicitly, at least by inference - in the kind of document to which I referred earlier. That brings us to the question of high interest rates and all the other things which constitute practical and constitutional problems. But, I feel that the Government, because it is pursuing a certain line of political thought, would be reluctant to handle those things even if it had the constitutional power.
– Put the political thought on one side. Are you not admitting that it cannot be done because we have not the constitutional power to do it?
– 1 cannot set the political thought on one side. I have not heard any spokesmen for the Government indicate in any way at any time that they would try to persuade either the Commonwealth or the States to the appropriate point of view so that somebody would be given the constitutional power to handle this kind of problem. With the Government, it is essentially a constitutional and a political problem. Until the Government can make up its mind politically while it is in office, it is unlikely that any steps will be taken to rectify the defective constitutional situation. The complaint and the criticism that I have of the Government in this context is that it does either not recognize the problem or does think that is the way to handle it, or, on the other hand, it thinks it is a problem and that is the way to handle it but that politically it is not prepared to take the necessary steps to obtain the constitutional power.
Yet, I take that to be the central theme of the Budget. The culmination of the economic policy that has been pursued by this Government for nine years is the rather bitter fruit which the people of Australia are now required to taste in the form of this Budget. It is hardly a successful record upon which to go before the people. It is all right to speak about national stability. The documents before us canvass national development and national progress in terms of available capital for national development; but the loan market, on the Treasurer’s own figures, will produce no more this year than it produced last year. When I approach other statistics in an attempt to estimate increases in national income, and yet other statistics that are placed before us to make the reception of this Budget more palatable, I say to myself, “If the Government cannot persuade the Australian people to make available in this year for necessary things any more money than they made available last year, and if we are to construe real national development in terms of available money for further capital investment, the Budget does not stand up to the laudations of those who have presented it or who have supported it “.
– Are you not ignoring a fall in national income?
– There has not been a fall in national income; there has been an increase. But there has been a fall in export prices. But surely that is a complication that has occurred after fifteen years of good seasons.
– How many?
– I should say fifteen years. I do not think we have had a really bad season for fifteen years. Last year, we had the worst season that has been experienced during this Government’s term of office. We should have been able to build into the economy some protection so that, when a crisis like the present one struck, there would have been a minimum need to resort to severe measures to resolve the situation and to extricate the economy from the position in which it found itself. I make one further reference to this review of the Australian economy. The document states -
If net borrowings cannot be increased it means that additional expenditures will have to be met from taxation since other sources of funds, such as bank finance, can be safely used only under exceptional circumstances and then no more than temporarily.
That is quite true. The significant point of that statement is that there must be exceptional circumstances. It is a sad commentary on our economic position that a mere fall, for one year, of export prices, and a decline in our export commodities should have brought about exceptional economic circumstances. Buttressed by nine successful years, our economy should have been such that the effect of the decline was no more than a temporary, passing phase, lt should not have been necessary to resort to the means that have been adopted, because the economy should have been able to stand on its own feet. Had the economic policy been the correct one, funds would have been available to support the States in their developmental work, both from revenue and from loans made by the people of Australia with the confidence that they might have been expected to have in a government that had claimed that this was a Budget not merely to protect national stability, but one which predicated a continuous and steady flow of national development.
In this young country, as with young people in all walks of life, we should not be content all the time merely with a condition of national stability. That is important, of course, but surely there must be an element of adventure. I have heard the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) speak with tremendous enthusiasm of the activities of his department, and of the necessity for an adventurous spirit in the Australian people. I have commended him on that approach, but I cannot feel that the same spirit informs this Budget. In fact, there is no suggestion of it. The Budget might be regarded not only as the epilogue to nine years of governmental activity, but as the prologue to the future.
When I see the conditions that are now beginning to appear; when I consider the possible continued lack of export markets and, perhaps, a further fall in the price of export commodities on the world markets; when I see arising in Asia a great industrial power which, as a matter of national policy, may attempt completely to monopolize with manufactured goods the markets of Asia; and when our hopes of increased industrial production to supply those markets may not reach fruition, I cannot see in this Budget the room for optimism or hope that 1 should like to see. This is a Budget of what I should call national sedation, lt is a Budget, it seems to me, that attempts to allay the anxiety of a whole nation at a time when the nation feels that its rapid progress is the only guarantee of its continued national security. Having made those comments, Mr. President, brief as they necessarily must be in the time at my disposal, I say that this is the Budget that is going before the Australian people and on which they will give a verdict on 22nd November.
Personally, I think that it is well that this Parliament is coming to its conclusion. Throughout its term, particularly during the last six months, I have felt that there has been on the part of the Government an ennui, a lassitude, a tiredness, that comes to all governments. That is badfor the country. On the other side, among the Opposition, I have found the most disturbing political malaise. In such circumstances, it is proper in a democracy that the people should have an opportunity to give their verdict, both on the Government and on the possible alternative government.
In relation to the dilemma that faces the Australian people, I should like to make some reference to the remarks of SenatorOrmonde, who made his maiden speech in the Parliament yesterday. I congratulate the honorable senator on the detached and’ objective manner in which he presented a rather difficult and somewhat distasteful subject. So far as I could gather, the honorable senator presented the proposition that the Australian Labour party is in this situation: The industrial groups that once were formed under its aegis are now disbanded and discredited. I hope that I dojustice to the points and premises of his syllogism in this recitation. As I understand it, the honorable senator said that the members of the Australian Labour party do not like to be associated with the industrial groups now, and for that reason many Labour men have been driven into thehands of the Communists or into someassociation with them, and that that presents the party with a very grave dilemma, in that either the official bodies of theparty must outlaw this association of members of the party with the Communists,. and thereby, perhaps, antagonize the trade unions; or alternatively, if the association with the Communists is tolerated, the party would lose political support. I think that that is a fair statement of the premises which were stated by Senator Ormonde.
I would ask the honorable senator who, as I say, approached this matter with a detachment that I hope I shall be able to emulate, to draw the terrifying conclusions that must inevitably be drawn once you have stated those premises. The Australian Labour party would then find itself in the position either of abandoning all hope of political success by taking this action against Communist and Australian Labour party association, or alternatively, which is probably more terrifying, if it outlawed this association, of alienating the unions. As union members ultimately constitute many of the. party executives, eventually the party would be faced, with a horrifying; alternative. Either it would have to hand over the government of Australia to. its. political opponents, or it would have to hand over control to the Communist party. I feel that those are the inescapable, conclusions of the premises stated by Senator. Ormonde. The alternatives, are most unhappy and dangerous ones.
Therefore,, in. those circumstances, Mr. President, let us. consider the position of those of us, who stand in parties that are independent, of the major parties. Senator Ormonde, referred to. us as those who might come through with the balance of power in this Parliament, with all the implications that that involves in allowing a minority point of view to control the National Parliament. I should say that this, is a proportional- representation chamber. It was constituted so that minority points of view should find adequate political representation. That was the purpose of the Senate. Whether those who stand in an. independent position should have such control is a. matter to be decided in relation to the functions of this chamber in the whole parliamentary scene. But from the point of view of the chamber as at present constituted, it is our right and the right of minority parties, by the very constitution of the Senate, to be represented, here. That is. particularly so in circumstances in which there is, on the one side, a Government which, in the eyes of. so many people, has not discharged efficiently and effectively its responsibilities to the people, though it has been given a long and propitious opportunity to do so, and on the other side there is a party which, if I have drawn the correct conclusions from Senator Ormonde’s, speech has to say to the people, “ We do not expect you to vote for us. We give up hope of your political support because we do this “, or, “ We cannot control our own party because we do that”.
I have mentioned the dilemma that faces the Government and the dilemma confronting the Opposition. There is one other dilemma that I think is of paramount importance. It is that of the Australian elector, and I can say that those who are members of parties similar to mine, and the members of my own party, will at least on this occasion provide an opportunity for those who may not see one way or the other to democratically and fairly support those whom they think might embrace what is the best of both, and avoid what is the worst in both. In that way, the parties sitting in our positions will have discharged a tremendously important task in the community and will have paid a long-owed debt to the democracy of which we are part and which we are pledged to support and protect.
– I rise to support the 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 38th 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.
I should like, first, to congratulate Sir Arthur Fadden upon bringing down this,, his eleventh and last, Budget. I also congratulate him upon bringing down, on the eve of his retirement, not a vote-catching Budget, but one which reflects the present economic position in Australia and one which he and the Government believe is the correct type of Budget to present in the circumstances now obtaining.
This is. the first occasion on which, since I have been in this Parliament, the Gorvernment has- budgeted for a deficit. The estimated deficit is £110,000,000, and there are good reasons for budgeting in this way. Times are not good in Australia. Last year, our export income dropped by £164,000,000 and our farm income by one-third, or £180,000,000. Perhaps we could make up this £110,000,000 by increasing taxation but, because we are a prudent government, because we were prudent enough to put aside certain sums when times were good, we are now in a position to use some of those reserves to finance our developmental programme for the ensuing twelve months. Our sole purpose is to keep the whole of the Australian work force gainfully employed.
The Government might well feel proud of its achievements over the last nine years. During the whole of that period the number of unemployed was never as great as it was during the previous Labour Government’s term. It is interesting to point out here that during our last year of office we have had less industrial trouble than was experienced during the Labour Government’s last year of office. To support this assertion, I point out that in 1949 there were 1,334,000 work days lost to Australia through industrial trouble. In our last year of office, only 630,000 work days have been lost through industrial trouble.
– They cannot afford to strike now.
– Evidently, they could afford to strike in 1949. I expected that some honorable senator opposite would say that the huge loss of work days in 1949 was due to the coal strike when 5 per cent, of Australia’s work force was unemployed; and I had prepared an answer to such an interjection. But honorable senators opposite are too cunning to make such an interjection. 1 now point out that in 1948 there were 1,663,000 work days lost to Australia. That is almost three times greater than the number of work days lost during our last year of office.
One might have expected that the Government would bring down a voteseeking Budget just prior to an election-
– So it should have.
– That is exactly what the Labour party did in New Zealand. Look at the promises which the Nash Labour party in New Zealand made on 30th November, 1957.
– Tell us what is happening in Australia.
– I am stating what happened in New Zealand, because I want the people of Australia to know that promises similar to those made by the Nash Labour party in New Zealand less than twelve months ago will be made to. the electors of Australia by the Australian Labour party within the next six or eight weeks. I ask those who may be listening-in to compare what the Labour party in New Zealand did with what the Evatt Labour party in Australia will promise at the forthcoming elections. I want to tell the people of Australia that the taxpayers of New Zealand were promised by Mr. Nash that, if his party were returned to office, the first £100 of income tax payable would be refunded within three months. He made other promises relating to social services and other things which, if honoured, would have cost New Zealand millions of pounds. The most important of his promises was that the first £100 of income tax would be refunded within three months. He won the elections on 30th November, 1957. On 31st January, 1958, his Government amended the income tax law to permit a rebate of £100 to be made on payments due in February. This fulfilled an election promise, but involved a payment of £19,000,000, and was opposed by our colleagues there. Within seven months of these amazing election promises - on 26th June, 1958 - Labour brought down its Budget. This was the pay-off for which every one had been waiting! It proposed increased taxes amounting to some £27,500,000. I heard an honorable senator suggest to-day that Labour looked after the farmer. In New Zealand, Labour withdrew the initial depreciation on farm machinery as from the day of the Budget, and the depreciation allowances on employees’ houses completed after 31st March, 1959. One honorable senator opposite just referred to the need to reduce sales tax, but his colleagues in New Zealand increased the sales tax on motor cars from 20 per cent, to 40 per cent.!
– Why was that done?
– Because the government was short of money.
– The last government had left it short.
– Export incomes had begun to fall twelve months before. Butter was bringing 320s. per cwt. in April, 1957, but in November, when the elections were held, it was bringing only about 200s. per cwt. Every one knew that farm incomes were falling, but that did not prevent the Labour party from making erratic promises and thereby getting into power. Subsequently, of course, came the awakening - the inevitable taxes. It hurts me to remind honorable senators opposite of that fact. Customs duty on motor spirit, which had been ls. 3d. a gallon before the Budget, was increased to 2s. 3d. - equal to 3s. in Australian money. That is what was done to the Sunday afternoon driver. The existing duty was allocated to the National Road Fund, and the extra ls. went into Consolidated Revenue.
The duty on cigarettes was increased from £1 3s. 6d. to £3 10s. a thousand^ and that on tobacco from 1 ls. 8d. to 22s! 9d. The excise on beer was increased 100 per cent. Income, tax was to be 25 per cent, higher than in the previous year. That is Labour for you!. Any one who wants to bc governed by Labour- should go to New Zealand. As a result of all this, the New Zealand! Government has had to go around the world trying to borrow money. It has obtained £10,000,000 from Australia, and other sums from. England, and the United States of America-.
I should like to congratulate Senator Ormonde on the excellent manner in which he delivered his maiden speech, even though I do not approve of its content. I was amazed to hear him say, “ Leave the Communists to the Australian Labour party. We will fix them.” We are told this at a time when Labour is joining the Communists on unity tickets in all kinds of elections! The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) admitted in another place that he was present at the election of a waterside workers’ committee and had supported a unity ticket.
This Government, in contrast to the New Zealand Government - which removed the farmers’ depreciation allowance for employee housing - has extended for another three years its special 20 per cent, depreciation allowance. Moreover, it has increased the allowance for farm equipment and housing, and has extended the operation of the allowance to the fishing and pearling industries. I hope that this will prove most helpful to those industries. The Government has also decided to increase the zone allowance from £180 to’ £270 a year, plus an amount equal to one-half of the total deduction for the maintenance of dependants. Although that does not sound very much - and honorable senators opposite are shaking their heads. - it is a great help to persons who are living in those areas.
– It is not as much as it should be.
– Let me quote the figures in relation to a man with a wife and three children. The present concessional allowance for a wife is £143. The allowance for the first child is £91, and that for the second, and. third children £65 each. The total dependants’ allowances to this taxpayer would be- £364. For a man living in zone A, having a wife and three children, the Budget provides, that the present allowance of £364 shall be increased by one-half, which is £182; and his zone allowance of ‘ £270 will increase his total, allowable deductions to £816 a year.
In addition, this Government, which has been most generous to the workers, has now agreed that contributions by a taxpayer in Australia to hospital benefit funds - I assume a man with a wife and three children would pay about £15 a year - shall be allowable as a taxation deduction. That is fair enough. The Labour government made no allowance in. this respect. He will be allowed a deduction of £30 for dental expenses, compared with £10 under Labour, and a deduction of £150 for medical expenses, compared: with £50 under Labour. The maximum- deduction for life assurance premiums has been increased by this Government from £150 under Labour to £300 a year. The Labour government made no allowance iri respect of the education of children. This Government is permitting education expenses up to £300 a year to be claimed as a taxation deduction. Therefore,, in the instance I have cited, the taxpayer will be able to claim deductions for taxation purposes totalling £795 a year. A person living in zone A, who has a wife and- three children, will be able to claim up to £795 as a taxation deduction in respect of hospital benefits contributions, medical expenses, dental expenses, life assurance premiums, and children’s education’, plus a zone A concessional deduction of £816, making a total of £1,611 a year. A taxpayer in this category in receipt of an income of £45 a week, or £2,300 a year will pay in income tax only £51 10s. a year. Of course, there are many taxpayers in the north Who do not receive £2,300 a year as income. With the application of the special zone allowances that have been granted by this Government, I doubt whether a man With a wife and three children living in these remote areas and in receipt of £20 per week or so would have to pay any income tax at all.
– How much will the increased zone allowances cost the Government?
– It is estimated that the cost to revenue will be £1,000,000 a year.
– That is a ridiculous statement to make, as there are not so very many people living in the northern areas.
– If Senator O’Byrne refers to the Budget Papers, he will see that what I am saying is correct. I was very interested to travel around the north-west of Western Australia with the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) who, in his speech to-night, mentioned the amount of work that is being carried on in that area with assistance provided by the Commonwealth Government. He stated that he was astonished at the progress that had been made with developmental works in the area which had been helped by the Commonwealth Government at one stage or another.
I hoped that in this year’s Budget the Government would see fit to extend consideration to the people who are developing this area, by way of taxation concessions other than on the zone allowance basis. I am glad to note that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said in his Budget speech that special consideration and thought is being given to the problems of the north. I sincerely hope that something will come of that statement, because I believe that it is the responsibility of not only this Government but also the State government to do more than is being done to develop these sparsely populated areas. As far as this Government is concerned, the need for developing the north-west of Western Australia has been acknowledged.
Under a bill that was’ passed by this chamber within the last few months, a grant of £2,500,000 was made to the Western Australian Government to be expended over the next five years O’n developmental projects north of the twentieth’ parallel’, which is in the region of the Kimberleys. This region needs development. Its area1 is about twice that of Victoria, and its annual rainfall is about twice that of Victoria. The fact that only from 1,000 to 1,200 white people are living in the area poses a terrific problem for any government. As I said, the Commonwealth has- given the Western Australian Government £2,500,000 to spend on developmental projects in the north over the next five years.
– How much has been spent on the area?
– I do not know, but I sincerely hope that this grant will be wisely expended so that this part of Australia will go ahead much more quickly than it did when Labour was in office.
In the few minutes remaining to me, I should like to congratulate the Government on its excellent budgetary proposals to assist the exploration for oil in Australia. I have been in consultation with many representatives of oil companies in Australia who have stated that one of the main things that the Government could do to assist the search for oil would be to allow in full as deductions for income tax purposes, application and allotment moneys, and calls paid by residents of Australia to companies engaged in the search for oil. Those representatives told me that the granting of this concession would encourage the investment of more Australian capital in companies engaged in the vital search for oil.
I have received letters from various people commending my approach and that of people associated with me to this particular problem. In turn, I should like to congratulate the Minister for National Development, who is the responsible Minister in this field, and the Cabinet generally, for the proposals that have been included in this Budget to encourage oil exploration in Australia. We know that some little time agoI think it was in 1953 -oil was found; but since then, despite the fact that drilling has been carried out at many places in Australia, oil in commercial quantities has not yet been located. I think that the whole of Australia’s financial problems will be solved the day that oil in sufficient quantities to satisfy our needs -and possibly enable us to export as well -is discovered.
This Government has helped the development of the oil industry. It has encouraged the establishment of refractory refineries in every State. At present, crude oil to the value of £1,000,000 a year is imported. If these refineries had not been established, imported refined petroleum would cost us more than £200,000,000 a year. Therefore, their establishment has considerably helped our expanding economy. Australia has gone ahead by leaps and bounds under this Government, and I think that it will continue to progress at the rate at which it has progressed over the last few years if the people of Australia take notice of what has happened in New Zealand and return to office a government that will continue to look after their interest.
-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, 27 August 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580827_senate_22_s13/>.