23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate in a position to inform the Senate of the present (position in Laos?
– I would not say that I am in a position to give a detailed report, but the information that we have is that over the last few days rebel activity has increased. Needless to say, this is a matter which the Australian Government regards as potentially very serious. There are a few short points that I think may appropriately be made. The first is that Communist propaganda claims that Laos has either impaired its neutrality or taken provocative action should be emphatically rejected. The fact is that hostilities in the northern provinces of Laos are directed against the legally constituted government of Laos. Speaking in general terms, the Australian Government’s broad approach to the matter is that it is most important that the independence and sovereignty of Laos, a member of the United Nations organization, should not be impaired in any way.
– On 20th August, 1958, I asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General a question regarding the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The final part of the question was -
Will the Minister also direct the commission that there is to be no victimization of any member of the commission’s staff as a result of evidence given before the arbitrator for higher salaries?
I received a reply through the post, but it was very evasive. I now desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether it is not a fact that the assistant general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Finlay, was the only senior executive of the commission to adopt a reasonable, conciliatory and co-operative attitude with the staff and the arbitrator during what is known as the “ Decision 15 case “? Is this the reason why Mr. Finlay has been made a scapegoat for Messrs. Moses and Duckmanton, and replaced as second-in-charge and deputy to the general manager in a toplevel re-organization arranged behind his back during his recent overseas trip? ls it a fact that the man who, in effect, will displace Mr. Finlay as No. 2 administrator is an ex-sporting announcer, recently promoted as controller of administration, whose now notorious statement before the arbitrator in Melbourne on 4th June last year was exposed by the arbitrator on 29th September as largely a fabrication?
In view of the scathing criticism by the arbitrator, in a public hearing on 29th September last, of Mr. Duckmanton’s statement, what apology has been tendered to the arbitrator for this bare-faced attempt to mislead him? What disciplinary action will be taken against the officer who drafted the statement of 4th June? Is the Minister going to allow the commission to continue to condone, and apparently connive in, such disgraceful and dishonest actions, which have forfeited the respect of both the arbitrator and the staff?
Quite obviously, knowing the members of the commission, I am certain of their integrity and I would have confidence in any action they have taken. However, I think the best thing to do would be for the honorable senator to place his question on the notice-paper. I shall then bring it to the attention of the Postmaster-General and ask him to furnish a full reply to the accusations made by the honorable senator.
– Is the Minister for Customs and Excise aware that an oil company is negotiating with the Premier of New South Wales with a view to providing installations at the port of Eden, in southern New South Wales, for the bulk storage of petrol and oil to supply Canberra and south-eastern New South Wales, and that it has been stated that this will enable cheaper petrol to be provided for these areas? In view of the fact that there are bulk storage installations at northern and north-western Tasmanian ports, will the Minister again ask the major oil companies to provide petrol and oil from those installations at a price equal to that charged to consumers who are supplied from the Hobart bulk storage installations?
– I did read in this morning’s press that negotiations were being carried out between an oil company and the Premier of New South Wales for the installation of bulk petrol storage facilities at the port of Eden and that it was hoped that, as a result, cheaper prices would prevail in Canberra and the south coast ports. T must admit that it occurred to me at the time that, if that could be done in one State, there was no reason why it should not be done in another State. I think I am right in saying that the Tasmanian Government has always opposed a flat rate throughout Tasmania and has given reasons therefor. However, since the honorable senator has raised the matter, I think that it could again be taken up with the oil companies in Tasmania.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been directed to reported statements by Australian tourist agents to the effect that they expect that between 1,000 and 1,500 Australians will visit Russia in the next twelve months pursuant to the Kremlin’s recently announced policy of “ Operation Soft Soap”? Will the Minister take action similar to that taken by the United States State Department to provide, upon request, a ready source of reliable information for these tourists before their departure so that they will not return as mouthpieces for Russian Communist propaganda? Such information could be provided by brochure, by radio, or even by the Minister, if he saw fit, appearing personally on television.
– Senator Hannan was good enough to indicate that he was going to ask this question, although he made no reference then to the inclusion of soft soap. I have made some inquiries from the Department of External Affairs and I find that these arrangements have been noted. It is realized that the arrangements are being made and that it is contemplated that Australians will be able to visit Soviet Russia on unsponsored terms. We welcome this change. We assume that it means that intending visitors will not, in the future, need the sponsorship of some Communist-front organization before they can gain entry into Russia. We hope that Australian visitors to Russia will go about with their eyes open. We hope that during their tours they will take an objective view and will not allow themselves to be used for propaganda purposes. If the report is correct to the extent that unguided tours will be allowed so that visitors will be able to mix with, and talk freely to, Russian citizens, this should, we believe, help materially to correct the distorted picture of Australia which has been presented to the Russians by Communists who have gone to Russia from Australia.
– I wish to ask a question supplementary to the question just answered by the Minister. Has there been an alteration of the policy of the Government in relation to the issue of vises, so that anybody in this country who desires to visit another country can now do so? In the past vises have been refused to people who desired to go to certain countries. Is the position now that the Government will issue vises to enable Australian men and women to go to any other country?
– 1 can only say that 1 know of no alteration of the existing arrangements. 1 suggest that if vises were refused to certain people in the past, it was in the national interest that they should be so refused.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is the Minister aware that the jobs of some 700 blind workers engaged in basket and brush making in the Sydney metropolitan area are being seriously threatened because of an influx of cheap basket and brush articles from overseas? If these imports cannot be excluded, will the Minister consult with officials of blind institutions and other people responsible for looking after the interests of the blind, to see whether it is possible to extend the avenues available for the employment of blind workers? I point out that in America and in many parts of Europe blind workers are now being enlisted as typists and stenographers, and are doing all sorts of work which it was never thought possible for them to do before. Blind people in Sydney have requested me to ask this question.
– I had not heard of the suggestion that the employment of 700 blind basket makers was being affected in the way suggested. If it is true - and I have no knowledge that it is - and the baskets come from Japan, for instance, provision exists for consultation between this Government and the Japanese Government. That would be one possible way of coping with the problem. Should that not prove possible, I shall bring to the notice of the Minister the honorable senators request that he confer with persons conducting blind institutions to ascertain how the usefulness and efficiency of blind workers can be advanced with the cooperation of the department.
– 1 should like to congratulate you, Mr. President, and those others who were responsible, upon the erection recently of a canopy over the entrance to the Parliament. In the past, protection for important visitors entering the Parliament has been of a temporary nature only. Can you tell me, Sir, how much the structure cost?
– The cost was approximately £2,000, but I shall make inquiries in order to ascertain the exact cost, and in due course I shall communicate the result of my inquiries to the honorable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, concerns the recent increase in the price of wool. Will he say how he thinks the increase will affect the national economy? Does it mean that the free world is now coming out of a major recession? Is it not a fact that the recession has caused hardly a ripple to pass across the economy of Australia?
– I suppose that the short answer to Senator Scott’s question is that it would be hard to imagine any single factor which could have a more beneficial, all-round effect upon the Australian economy than the increase in the price of wool which has occurred and which, we hope, is still occurring. It will immensely relieve our balance of payments position. It will be of great assistance, in almost every direction, in our budgetary and financial arrangements.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, is supplementary to a question which I asked yesterday concerning the action that might be taken by the department to safeguard the interests of West Australians who would shortly purchase television sets. The Minister said that it was a matter for the States. I now ask him: Is there any way in which the officers of the department could specify standards for television sets and kindred equipment being made available to States which will shortly have television, so that users will not be victimized by being sold cheap, shoddy and substandard sets?
– I do not know of any Commonwealth department that could send its officers into a shop that was selling television receivers and have them say, “ Is this a first-class television set? Have you brought it over from the eastern States as a superseded model? “ I do not think that that would be possible.
– Could not the Postal Department specify certain standards, to which television sets must conform?
There is no Commonwealth Department which polices the standard of goods sold. After all, the States took over price-fixing.
– But the Commonwealth gets the licensing fees.
The Commonwealth cannot empower an officer to enter private business premises to examine the quality of television sets being offered for sale. If the purchaser desires advice, it is a matter for him to ask somebody who knows something about television to inspect the sets and give an opinion. If there is to be any government inspection, that will have to be done by the States.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. President, supplementary to that asked by Senator Scott. It relates to the canopy which has been erected over the entrance to Parliament House. Have you considered the construction of an elevated carriageway to the entrance of Parliament House in lieu of the immediate front steps so that distinguished guests may be provided with the shelter of the canopy immediately upon their arrival?
– I remind honorable senators that it is not usual to direct questions to the Presiding Officers, but I shall reply to Senator Wade by saying that we have no control over that part of the thoroughfare to which he refers. Tt does not belong to Parliament House.
– I remind the Minister for Shipping and Transport that in October next the overseas shipping companies and overseas export transport committees will meet to determine increased shipping freights. I ask the Minister what action the Government proposes to take to be represented at that conference with a view to protecting the public interest.
– Overseas ships and overseas freights are not among the worries of my portfolio. Those matters fall within the administration of my colleague, Mr. John McEwen, to whom 1 shall refer the question.
– Supplementary to the question asked by Senator Hannan. 1 ask the Leader of the Government why. if Soviet policy now permits Australian tourists to mix freely amongst the Russian people and to go anywhere in Russia, restrictions are still imposed upon the free movement of our diplomatic representatives in Moscow.
– The only answer 1 can give to the question is that the activities of the embassies in the twocountries are governed by reciprocal arrangements between the two governments.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following, reply:-
Assisted non-British migrants arriving in Australia and not joining relatives or friends are takendirect to Bonegilla Reception Centre from wherethey are placed in employment. A movement order authorizing their transfer to employment within the States is issued to them on placement and a copy of the order sent direct to the secretary of the Good Neighbour Council in the State of ultimate destination.
These orders show the full name; address; dale of birth; nationality and religion of the personconcerned. It is the responsibility of the secretary of the Good Neighbour Councils to distribute these details to their branches; Church organizations; or personal representatives, and by thismeans the Good Neighbour movement is able to welcome migrants on arrival and through various, affiliated organizations assist towards their assimilation into the community.
Insofar as British assisted migrants are concerned, nominal rolls are sent to the Commonwealth Immigration office in each State. In addition they have a wide distribution including; copies to State migration authorites; to Church organizations, and to other voluntary agencies such as the Victoria League; the Overseas League; the Royal Commonwealth Society &c, all of whom contribute materially to the successful assimilation of our migrant community.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has furnished the following replies: - 1 and 3. No - it would not be fair to describe either of the sets of circumstances referred to as facts. An extraordinarily complex series of factors is relevant to the consideration of the time it has taken to reach a conclusion of these various claims. 2 and 4. The appointment of an additional presidential member of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was announced last week. The present position of the applications is that at a hearing before the President of the commission in mid-July certain proposals were put forward by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the “white collar” and professional associations, namely that claims affecting the metal trades, aircraft industry and bank officials’ awards would be heard and claims of the professional and “ white collar “ workers would be temporarily set aside. The President has listed the first-mentioned claims for 25th August. It is possible that a separate bench will be constituted to carry forward the part-heard claims of the professional engineers: some aspects of their case are presently before the High Court.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The AttorneyGeneral has furnished the following reply: - 1 and 2. Yes. It is hoped to produce a new reprint of Commonwealth acts at a relatively early date. It is desirable that the printing should be done in Canberra by the Government Printer, who prints the annual volumes of the Commonwealth statutes. The Government Printer cannot conveniently deal with a job of this size until the proposed new Government Printing Office is completed, which, it is expected, will be towards the end of 1961. It is perhaps not generally known that many of the acts that have been amended since the 1950 reprint are available in pamphlet form with the amendments incorporated, and from time to time important reprints are included in an appendix to the annual volumes of statutes; for example -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has furnished the following replies: -
Debate resumed from 25th August (vide page 279), on motion by Senator Paltridge-
That the following papers: -
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, 1960.
The Budget 1959-60- Papers presented by the Right Hon. Harold Holt in connexion with the Budget for 1959-60, and
National Income and Expenditure 1958-59 - be printed.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -
At end of motion add the following words - “ but that the Senate is of opinion that their provisions and omissions inflict grave injustice on recipients of social service benefits (such as child endowment, agc, invalid and widows’ pensions, repatriation benefits, maternity benefits, funeral benefits, amelioration of means test), on taxpayers, on the family unit and on other sections of the Australian people and that they make no effective contribution to correcting seriously adverse trends in the Australian economy including unemployment and rising living costs “.
– When the debate was interrupted last evening, I was discussing the subject of housing for young Australians desiring to marry and rear families, and the provision of housing for new citizens coming to Australia. The Australian Labour Party believes that, by increasing interest rates, the Government has destroyed the prospect of these new citizens and young Australians getting a house for themselves. We urge the Government to reduce to the lowest possible level the interest rates on advances for home purchase, in order to give the people the opportunity to own homes of their own - something to which they are entitled in a country for which they are asked to fight when a national crisis occurs. It is important that they should have a piece of this country to fight for.
I shall not deal very lengthily with the proposed increases of social service benefits. I say that they are insufficient to bring the value of age and invalid pensions up to the 1948 level. We believe that the neglect of the Government to do this is unjust to the people, and we also believe that the loss of value in the pensions is due to the Government’s lack of responsibility in failing to arrest inflation, to which its successive budgets have contributed. The Opposition, Sir, will endeavour to have the estimates of expenditure on social services increased. I have noticed from statements that have been made that the Government proposes to pay the increased social service benefits as soon as the relevant legislation is passed by the Parliament. The Government may be assured that the Australian Labour Party will not delay the passage of such legislation, because although we believe that the increases are rather small, no doubt the pensioners will welcome them.
Turning to medical benefits, the Government proposes to increase the maximum combined government and fund benefit payable for a major operation by 100 per cent., or from £30 to £60. On the face of it, that would seem to be a rather generous increase, but when we examine it more closely we find that it is here that the family man starts to lose the benefit of the 5 per cent, reduction in direct taxation that is proposed by the Government, because the additional medical benefits to which the family man will be entitled will entail additional contributions to medical insurance organizations of a few pence per week. The exact amount of the increased contributions is not stated in the Budget papers because there still must be some consultation with the medical insurance organizations, but whatever the additional contribution is to be, it will offset the 5 pel cent, income tax reduction which, after all, will amount to an average of only ls. 2 id. a week on incomes up to £1,500 a year. There is not very much more that can be taken away from the workers.
Again, Sir, we of the Opposition direct attention to the commercial instincts of the medical profession. We find nothing in the Budget to prevent increases of medical costs. We wonder whether the increase of the medical benefits to which I have referred will be followed by an increase in medical expenses. If there is such an increase, the family man will be paying an additional few pence a week for very little or no extra benefit. We would like the Government to take note of this matter and endeavour to control the charges that members of the medical profession are able to make.
The next point at which the family man starts to lose is in respect of pharmaceutical benefits. The Government proposes to widen the range of drugs and to impose a charge of 5s. for each prescription that is written by a doctor. The amount of 5s. will be paid to the chemist concerned. The Government is departing fairly widely from the so-called free medicine scheme. In fact, practically nothing provided under this scheme is now free. We wonder whether the 5s. that is to be paid for each prescription will also have to be paid for repeat prescriptions. If so, the worker will be put to considerable expense, particularly in the case of serious illness in the family. We also wonder whether doctors will have to write a separate prescription for each drug that is prescribed. If that were so, it could mean that a person who had to go to a doctor for treatment, or to take his wife and children for treatment, requiring somewhat complicated prescribing, would spend pounds in obtaining treatment under this proposal of the Government. We ask the Government to clarify the position, because the proposal regarding the charge of 5s. for prescriptions is delightfully vague at the moment.
The Australian Labour Party directs attention to the position of people who require continuous treatment with lifesaving drugs. We note that the Treasurer has said that the charge of 5s. for a prescription will cover a “ reasonable “ period. That is quite meaningless to us. We do not know what the Treasurer means by stating that a prescription will cover a reasonable period, but if the Treasurer is as “ reasonable “ in this respect as he is with other aspects of the Budget papers, there is no doubt that people who have to get prescriptions made up will be put to considerable expense.
Having regard to the proposed increases of postal charges, I cannot help wondering how the supporters of the Australian Country Party will be able to continue to support the Government when they go amongst their electors in country districts. I believe that the increases will impose an unreasonable burden on country people. They will add considerably to the cost of publications that are circulated amongst country people to supply them with technical information. I feel that the supporters of the Country Party will have some explaining to do when they go to outback areas in the future. We have noticed with some satisfaction that the Government proposes to retreat from its original position in relation to increased postal charges, and we wonder whether that retreat has been made as a result of press publicity. Senator Wright said a little while ago that he did not want to stir muddy water. I cast my mind back to the press publicity concerning the Richardson committee report. At that time it was alleged that the press of this country was endeavouring to rule the Parliament. It seems that on this occasion the press has been able to influence the Government to be reasonable in respect of postal charges.
The Opposition directs attention to the additional costs that will be imposed on trade union journals, in particular. We wonder whether this is a move by the Government to prevent the circulation of such journals, and whether this is the first step by the Government towards preventing the Australian Labour Party from producing a national weekly, because the proposed increased postal charges will sound the death-knell of that ambition. The secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Workers Union, an organization to which I belong, has informed me that the proposed postal charges for bulk mail will increase their annual postage bill from approximately £3,000 to £10,000 and will practically lead to the union’s publication being denied to members, for whose information it was designed. I have had correspondence also from the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners in Western Australia, and they have informed me that if the Government proceeds with its postal proposals the increase in the cost of distribution of their journal will be approximately 900 per cent.
It will be seen that this system for the suppression of news will increase the monopoly already enjoyed by the big press interests which now control most of the large newspapers throughout Australia. The same news can be read in any of those newspapers, the headlines being altered to suit the particular circumstances of each State. Moreover, those press interests are vitally interested in radio hook-ups, and in that way they control the dissemination of public news in each State. In addition, they have an interest in television services. The closure of the small publications in country areas would mean that the large publications would have almost a monopoly in the dissemination of public news and information. We urge the Government not to continue with its proposals but to give these various publications to which I have referred an opportunity to continue to inform the public mind. There is no question about the fact that the Australian press is being used for the purpose of conditioning men’s minds to one line of thought. That is bad from the viewpoints of both the Government and the Opposition, because a politically ill-informed public is good for neither side. I repeat that we urge the Government to reconsider its proposals and to allow an independent press to operate.
Having viewed the Budget as a whole and having found that it is of little value to the family man, and having reviewed the actions of this Government over the past decade and the manner in which it has pandered to one class - we direct attention particularly to the taxation concessions proposed in. this Budget and the continuance of heavy indirect taxation - we of the Opposition wish to emphasize that we shall not cease criticizing the Government for the introduction of class legislation and that when we regain the treasury bench we will govern in the interests of the Australian public as a whole.
.- Mr. Deputy President, my first duty is to congratulate Senator Cant upon having passed through somewhat of an ordeal in delivering his maiden speech. I can well appreciate his feeling of relief at having that ordeal behind him. But let me say to the honorable senator in all kindness and with the greatest of goodwill that it is a matter of some sorrow to me that he was not properly briefed on some of the traditions of the Senate. It has been the custom for many years for honorable senators to remain silent while an honorable senator delivers his maiden speech and for that honorable senator, in return for that courtesy, not to become unduly provocative, but to deliver a constructive discourse. Senator Cant has a far too generous disposition to want to infringe that custom knowingly, and I feel sure that his wisdom and advice will be conferred upon others who follow in his steps.
Last night, Senator Cant adopted tactics that his own respected leader never adopts. He took words out of their context to gain a political advantage. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) sets a very high standard in the quoting of other persons’ speeches. I wish to refer to the words quoted by the honorable senator when he charged the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) with declaring that this Government was in office for keeps. It is true that those words were used by Senator Spooner, but taken from their context they have a meaning quite different from that which was intended.
– Explain yourself.
– I shall be very happy to do so. I shall read the words used by Senator Spooner. He said -
So far as we are concerned, the Menzies Government is in the business of government for keeps. We play this game seriously, and with a sense of national obligation. We know that we can stay in office for keeps only if we maintain the confidence and respect of the Australian people.
That complete statement lends quite a different complexion to the words used by Senator Cant last night when he charged the Government with arrogance. Senator Spooner’s statement, so far from being arrogant, indicates that this Government is determined to do the right thing by the Australian people, and in so doing it will continue to merit their confidence and remain in office. No one acting in good faith could put any other construction on those words.
I should now like to enlighten my friends opposite about some of the things which apparently they have not been able to see in the Budget. I suggest that the presentation of a national budget prompts the thinking man to ask, “What does it hold for Australia? “ I believe, too, that it prompts the individual to ask, “ What does it hold for me? “ The presentation of the 1959 Budget proves for the tenth consecutive time that the policy of this Government is one of development without destroying the stability of the economy.
– You are even making a baby cry up in the public gallery.
– You, too, will want to cry when I remind you that this Budget proves for the tenth consecutive time that the Opposition has no policy to offer to the people for the development of Australia. For the tenth time we have heard the same old catch-cries, the same old prophesies of gloom and the same old criticisms, with scarcely a word being directed to the development of this country. The people of Australia are years ahead of the Opposition in their thinking, because on four consecutive occasions they have rejected the very policies that Labour is expounding during this debate. The people are far ahead of the Opposition in their thinking. They know that the future of this country is of greater importance than the needs, perhaps, of the moment: They show a vision that is lamentably lacking in our friends of the Opposition.
Of course, a good case can be put for and against every provision in the Budget. Who would not support a policy of greater social benefits?. Who would not advocate free medicine, free treatment by doctors or free treatment by dentists? Any person with any humanitarian feelings would ad. vocate the adoption of such a policy, provided that that was possible in the economic condition of the country. Our honorable friends opposite- have not on any occasion given any indication of how they would finance their- Utopia. I suppose they are sufficiently well schooled in politics to know that any government has only two means of raising revenue. One is taxation and the other is the use of bank credit. I have not heard honorable senators opposite advocate an increase in taxation so that these handouts about which they talk could be made possible. Of course they would not advocate that, because they have the faint hope that some day they will occupy the treasury benches. They would not like the people to think that if they came into power they would implement a policy of increased taxation. They have kept very silent on that. I believe, and the Government believes, that taxation in Australia to-day is at the highest level that the economy can stand, and that to increase taxes to make possible additional handouts would be a calamity. The Government has gone so far as to reduce taxation by 5 per cent. That is an incentive, small though it may be, to increase production.
– What about the increased telephone charges?
– I will come to telephone charges later. I ask you to let me make my speech in my own way. The Opposition has declared by its silence that it does not favour increased taxation. The only other way in which our friends opposite can believe that the Government could raise, money to pay for the lavish handouts that they have been advocating for so long is a recourse to bank credit.
If we lived in a world apart, removed from international responsibilities, the unrestricted use of bank credit might not cause the chaos that it would cause now in this country. Unrestricted bank credit has. always brought, in its train inflation and rising costs. Because this country is dependent upon world, trade for the development of its economy, the first duty of the Government and the Parliament is to keep down the costs of production. Therefore, the use of unrestricted bank credit to make possible all the things that my friends of the Opposition have been screaming about, for so long, is not feasible.
I remind Senator Brown, who is. so loquacious, that if he will only look, at these problems from’ a national viewpoint he will realize that war-torn countries are emerging to-day as. world powers,, and that the people of those countries are prepared to make any sacrifices to make their countries great. There is: no need, for me to name the. countries; we all know them. Countries that were torn and! battered, and whose economies were destroyed during- the war, are to-day straining every nerve and using all their energy to secure world trade. Can it be suggested that we, as a people, have not the same pride in our country, and do not take the same interest in its future development, as do the people of. those other countries? Are not we,, as a people, prepared to make some sacrifice to enable Australia to maintain and increase its. prestige in a highly competitive world? Of course we are. I remind those who advocate these lavish increases and hand-outs that our very survival as a nation depends upon the stability of our internal economy and our ability to produce marketable exportable goods at competitive prices.
As we know, Australia is predominantly a primary-producing country. The goods that we produce are similar to those produced by some other countries, which are using their products to influence, not only the stomachs, but also the minds of certain people in the world to-day. Foodstuffs are becoming a powerful weapon. Because Australia is predominantly a primaryproducing country, we have to compete with other primary-producing countries in the world’s markets. America, with- a population of 168,000,000, has adopted a giveaway policy for its wheat. I hasten to say that I am not critical of that policy as such, because I believe that it has its genesis in humanitarian principles, and that the
American people are making a major contribution to the survival of democracy in the world. However, the fact remains that that policy is gradually edging us out of our traditional markets. France, with a population of 43,000,000, is edging us out of our markets for flour. She is subsidizing her flour sales for no other reason than to secure foreign exchange. Again we are being forced out of our traditional markets.
I would remind my friends of the Opposition, who, by their mirth, indicate that these matters are of no great concern to them, that these matters are, in fact, of great concern to them. The Government is taking all the steps that it can take to meet the situation. We find the Government and the producers making a joint effort, by research, study and experimentation, to reduce costs of production. The wheat industry has a fairly substantial reserve fund that is available for just that purpose. The sooner the wheat research programme is operating to the fullest extent, the better it will be for the industry and for Australia generally.
Mention has been made of our wool industry. All thinking people applaud the upward turn in the trend of the market. No one can gainsay that our wool, which once rode in proud isolation as the top fibre in the world, is to-day fighting a death struggle with man-made fibres. It is a struggle that we shall win, because of the high quality of our product, but we shall win only if we apply ourselves to our task with skill and determination. The Government is showing a very lively interest in all of the problems facing the wool industry. The wool industry traditionally has remained free from Government interference. The wool-growers have said, in effect, “ We can run our own industry, and we need no Government interference “. To-day the Government is not interfering, but it is doing what it can to assist the industry to reduce costs, knowing full well that the battle with man-made fibres will be won by wool if costs of production can be kept within due bounds.
The dairying industry also is having a struggle on world markets, and the Government has made a magnificent contribution to the stability of the industry. During the last ten years, it has made available £140,000,000 by way of subsidy and, as recently as the occasion of his last policy speech the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), made an announcement that the cost of dairy production was so vital to our economy that a committee would be set up to inquire specifically into it. We are hopeful that the inquiry will produce something of major benefit to dairymen.
Finally, I refer to the tobacco industry, lt is interesting to recall that ten years ago, when the Chifley Government was removed from the treasury bench, the tobacco industry was dying on its feet. Growers were virtually bankrupt. Our tobacco was of poor quality and the industry was harrassed with ills which made it almost untenable for the grower. In the face of that, the Government’s record is remarkable. In the short space of ten years, returns to growers have risen astronomically. In 1957-58, returns to growers amounted to £6,100,000. It is estimated that returns this year will be abou! £8,000,000. The improvement has not come about by accident. As the industry has expanded the Government has insisted that the Australian content of the manufactured article be increased so that eventually, the whole of the local crop could be absorbed. That is the mark of a good government - a government determined to use every opportunity to expand and develop primary industry.
Honorable senators opposite have suggested that the costs of primary industry are getting out of hand. 1 refer them to a publication of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics which shows that, overall, the figures given by farmers as representing their costs were precisely the same in March, 1959, as they were in March, 1958. Some honorable senators opposite have gone so far as to quote figures in support of their contention that rural incomes are falling while costs are rising. I know that figures can be used to tell almost any story, but the White Paper on National Income would, I think, be regarded by most people as authoritative. In the last year of the Chifley Government farmers’ incomes totalled £321,000,000. In the next year the figure rose to £448,000,000. In 1950-51, it rose to £756,000,000.
– That is merely the result of inflation.
– The honorable senator apparently confines his interest to what is happening in Tasmania. He does not seem to realize that 1950-51 was the year when American and British interests did their utmost to withdraw their support from our system of auction selling. The Government, seizing an opportunity to get for the grower his just deserts, sent the Minister for Trade (Senator O’sullivan) to London and New York, and that gentleman finally persuaded both countries to continue to support the auction system. It was the greatest shot in the arm that the grazing interests had ever had.
A similar story could be told of the position right down through the years until the present. The income from the primary industries this year is estimated at £423,000,000. I concede that that cannot be regarded as an accurate guide to national income. I realize that rural incomes are subject to violent fluctuations because of adverse seasons and variable prices, but the fact remains that there has been a steady permanent improvement in our national income from primary industry. If honorable senators care to go back twelve years and study the. figures they will learn that the income from primary industry has quadrupled in that period.
If there is any doubt in the minds of honorable senators opposite about the determination of the Government to foster its policy of helping the farmer I remind them that as recently as the last session of Parliament we passed legislation that will greatly assist and develop the primary industries. I am unkind enough to remind honorable senators opposite that the banking legislation passed last session provided for the seting up of the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia - a bank that will bring new hope to growers and industrialists alike. Whenever it was presented Labour fought the legislation to the last ditch. That is how interested Labour was in keeping down production costs in the rural industries!
– Who first thought of such a bank?
– If the honorable senator reads his history he will find out. In the last session of the Parliament the Government brought down legislation authorizing the expenditure of £250,000,000 on rural roads over the next five years. We realize the value of good communciations We are entering a new era in the development of this country and road improvement will make a major contribution to the reduction of costs, and to our ability to compete in world markets.
Only last week, we had from the PostmasterGeneral a statement on the extension of television to country areas. The Government is determined to place that amenity in the hands of country dwellers, so that they may be induced to remain in the country. I do not recall that any Labour supporter displayed much enthusiasm about the proposals. Have they no interest in such matters?
I come now to the important question of communications in rural areas. One thinks immediately of telephones. The contribution made by this Government in the provision of rural automatic exchanges over the last ten years makes a very interesting story indeed. In the last year of the Chifley Government’s regime 169 rural automatic exchanges were installed. We take any year at random, between 1949 and 1959, and find evidence of the progress that has been made since then. In 1954, 677 rural automatic exchanges were installed. In 1957, the figure was 945, and in 1958 it was 1,090. That is the way in which this Government has discharged its responsibility to foster primary industry - which plays such a major role in providing our overseas credits. An honorable senator opposite has asked me to say something about telephones. The Budget provides for the zoning of areas served by rural automatic exchanges. It is arrant humbug to suggest that that should not involve increased cost to users of the telephone services. I have heard some harrowing stories about increased costs over the years. Many people have been serviced by what are known as party-lines which give anything but efficient communication. Subscribers to these party-lines have been clamouring for a modern service and, as finance became available, the Government has acceded to their request. This, of course, has increased costs tremendously. I know of many instances in which half-yearly accounts which averaged between £5 and £6 jumped suddenly to over £20.
– Was that under this Government?
– Yes, and 1 tell the honorable senator who is so interested in this Government that as soon as it was possible to do so, the Government took steps to rectify the position. The proposal contained in this Budget is the first of several steps. It removes these -anomalies and is ample proof that the Government has a real appreciation of the needs of the people in rural areas. Because of that appreciation, the Government is taking steps to ensure that the person living furthest from a telephone exchange will no longer be required to pay a high rental compared with that paid by other subscribers. It has been decided that he shall pay only the same amount as the man who lives next door to an exchange. The Government has decided not to penalize a person who is already suffering the handicap of isolation.
I have been challenged to speak about postal charges. All I say about this matter is that I have some rather odd and unorthodox thoughts on the question. But I am somewhat disturbed at the proposal in the Budget that a committee of inquiry be set up to ascertain the capital expenditure in the Postal Department. It could be argued that the department should pay interest on the money invested in the undertaking, and, if our capital works had been financed from loan moneys I should whole-heartedly support the idea. On this occasion, however, I suggest that as most of the capital works have been financed from revenue it is neither just nor equitable to demand the payment of interest on the capital expended. I know full well that £400,000,000 has been spent on capital works in the Postal Department, and I fully support the charging ot interest on the money invested provided it is obtained from loan funds so that some of our revenue might be released to finance other works. Let the Government proceed with its committee of inquiry by all means, but I do ask it to pause for a moment and consider the principle involved before suggesting that interest should be charged on money taken from revenue.
As to postal charges, I repeat that my thinking is odd. We have built up a magnificent service and .there is still room for expansion, but I do urge that with rising costs we must adopt the policy that will enable us to provide this service, and to expand it, at a cost that people can afford. I suggest that the Government give some consideration to seeing what effect a lowering of charges would have. Already we see the writing on the wall in connexion with any increase in these costs. Yesterday’s Melbourne “ Herald “ devoted almost a column and a half to the steps that business interests proposed to take to beat the increased charges. After all, there is such a thing as buyers’ resistance and I feel that this Government would be agreeably surprised if it adopted my unorthodox suggestion to reduce charges. For instance, how many young fellows would not ring up their girl friends at midnight if they could make an interstate call for ls.? The suggestion is worth trying. After all, the Postal Department gives a continuous service and therefore must employ staff 24 hours of the day. That being so, it is reasonable to assume that for part of the 24 hours the staff would not be fully occupied, and the Government could well consider reducing charges to see what the effect would be.
Finally, the people of this country realize it will avail the pensioner nothing to have his pension increased to an amount equal to half the basic wage if that increase is to be swallowed up by rising costs. Further, the wage-earner knows full well that tax concessions will avail him nothing if the economy is damaged to such an extent that he might lose his job. Again, the farmer knows that neither subsidies nor tax concessions will be of any avail if rising costs put him out of business. I say as bluntly as I can that the greatest concession the Government can give is a budget based on the needs of Australia’s development together with a policy which will build our economy to that level which, in the eyes of the world, will justify our monopolizing this country.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). First, I should like to congratulate the new member of our party, Senator Cant, upon his maiden speech. It was an excellent speech, and he deserves the congratulations of the Parliament in that respect. As Senator Wade pointed out, it is customary for an honorable senator to be heard in silence when delivering his maiden speech. At least, since I have been a member of the Senate, honorable senators on both sides have observed that principle. It is my belief also that honorable senators on both sides should accept a maiden speech in silence, and that they should refrain from criticism of it. On this occasion, 1 submit that Senator Wade has committed a breach of etiquette in that he has criticized the arguments put forward by Senator Cant.
It is an ordeal for any person to deliver a maiden speech in the Parliament. In doing so, the newcomer cannot be expected to be conversant with all the procedures of Parliament, nor can he be expected to refrain from dealing with matters that evoke the ire of parties opposed to the one to which he belongs. In those circumstances, opposing senators should accept the position and let the matter rest. I was particularly disappointed that Senator Wade should have adopted the attitude he did towards Senator Cant. 1 said a few moments ago that I supported the amendment moved by Senator McKenna. The Government is deserving of the most severe censure possible in dishing up this Budget to the Parliament. I have never before seen such a conglomeration dished up to any parliament. Right through the piece the Government has failed miserably to give any assistance to the family man and the pensioner. I shall have more to say on those matters later.
Prior to the presentation of the Budget there was circulated widely throughout the Commonwealth a press report to the effect that the Treasurer, when attending a function in Sydney, had told the people present that the Budget would make a good story. I sat here in this chamber for over an hour, as did so many others, when details of the Budget were disclosed, and no one on this side of the chamber could find anything that was good in it. Did the pensioner and the wage earner find a good story in the Budget? I venture the opinion that they did not and I shall endeavour to prove that they could not have done. The only person who might possibly have found a good story in the Budget was the man in the high income bracket. He will gain most from the Budget, and it is typical of this Government to play up to the combines, monopolies and persons with high incomes.
While I welcome the proposed increase in pensions, I contend that it is totally inadequate to enable pensioners to enjoy a reasonable standard of living. I refer particularly to the widows, widowers, spinsters or bachelors, living alone, having to pay rent and being unable to supplement their pensions. They will receive £4 17s. 6d. a week, plus the supplementary allowance of 10s. a week, for which they can qualify only in certain circumstances. They cannot provide a reasonable standard of living, although in many cases they have contributed greatly to the economy of this country for a great number of years.
Other persons for whom we should have particular regard are those who have been thrifty and are thereby debarred from receipt of a pension. There is no relief in this Budget for such persons. There has been no easing of the means test. Many people who have assets which are just enough to disqualify them for the age pension suffer a lower standard of living than some pensioners.
I have said that people in the higher income brackets will obtain more relief from taxes than those in the lower income brackets. A married man with one child, having an income of £800 a year, will be relieved of income tax to the extent of £1 15s. a year. A married man with one child, having an income of £20,000 a year - certainly there are not many of these persons but there are some - will save £546 a year in income tax. That proves my point that this Budget is deliberately designed to assist persons in the higher income group.
– Tell us how much the latter man pays in income tax.
– The honorable senator may work it out for himself. I am not here to do that. I am making my speech in my own way. If the honorable senator wants that information, he has the means to have it worked out. Had this Government, instead, reduced sales tax by 5 per cent., the consuming public, including all taxpayers, would have benefited far more than they will benefit from a 5 per cent, reduction in income tax. Any reduction in sales tax would have given greater relief to the family man, whether with two, three, four or more children. He is the man for whom we should have the greatest regard.
It would also, in my opinion, have encouraged young couples setting up homes. They would have benefited considerably more from a reduction in sales tax than from a reduction in income tax. Sales tax is a particularly vicious tax. The ordinary working man cannot fathom how much he pays in sales tax and other forms of indirect taxation. While I am referring to taxation, I should like to raise a matter that has affected me personally.
– That is the one that hurts.
– That is quite true. Had the Government made a realistic approach to the problem, I should not have been hurt. The matter affects taxpayers only in Tasmania, but it does affect many of them, and that is why I raise it now. An act of the Tasmanian Parliament permits a dental mechanic, after passing a qualifying examination, to trade directly with the public. There are some safeguards, one of them being that before he can provide a set of dentures for a patient, the patient’s mouth has to be examined by a qualified dentist and the fitting of dentures approved. I happen to be one of those persons who have had a full set of dentures made by a dental mechanic. It cost £25, as compared with the £40 which would have been charged by a qualified dentist, and is the best set of dentures I have ever had in my mouth.
– We still cannot hear you.
– Only a week or so ago in the billiard room the Minister who interjected offered me some advice. He said, “1 hope you do not mind my saying this, but you are the worst member of the Opposition when asking a question, because we cannot hear what you say “ - or words to that effect. If Senator Henty wants to give me any more advice in that connexion, I am prepaed to accept it, but I am making sure that he hears what I am now saying.
As I said a minute or two ago, I paid £25 to a dental mechanic for a new set of dentures, but when I claimed in my taxation return a deduction for this amount it was rejected by the Taxation Branch. Some 37 registered dental mechanics in Tasmania are prepared to trade direct with the public. It is reasonable to suppose that a consider able number of people have paid these dental mechanics to make dentures for them; but they will not be given the benefit of the taxation deduction that applies to people to whom dentures have been supplied by qualified dentists. The Government cannot claim that this matter was not brought to its notice long before the Budget was prepared, because on 10th March 1 asked a question regarding the allowance of an amount paid to a dental mechanic for making dentures as a deduction for income tax purposes and I was informed by Senator Paltridge, who represents the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in this chamber, that the question would be referred to his colleague. Apparently the Government in its wisdom has not yet given reasonable consideration to the matter, because taxpayers in Tasmania who pay dental mechanics to make dentures for them are being penalized compared with people for whom dentures are made by qualified dentists.
– You still saved fifteen quid, senator.
– It does not matter what I saved; a man working in industry could perhaps have saved a little more than that amount. I am thinking of the chaps who have more difficulty in finding the wherewithal to live on than I do; I have a much better salary than the ordinary man working in industry.
In the short period at my disposal, 1 want to trace the history of child endowment since it was introduced in the Commonwealth Parliament. Although child endowment was introduced in the federal sphere by a Liberal government, a tory government, that government extended social services to provide child endowment only after pressure had been brought to bear upon it by the New South Wales Labour Government. It will be recalled that child endowment existed in New South Wales long before the federal legislation was introduced. However, I give the Government that introduced child endowment in the federal sphere the credit to which it is entitled. In 1941, when the basic wage was £4 16s. a week, the then Government introduced endowment of 5s. a week for the second child and subsequent children in every family. The only subsequent increases in child endowment were granted by Labour governments. In 1945, the then Labour Government increased child endowment by 2s. 6d., thereby providing for a weekly payment of 7s. 6d. in respect of the second child and subsequent children. I have cited the basic wage for the six capital cities which, I think, is the most appropriate figure to use. In 1948, the then Labour Government further increased child endowment by 2s. 6d. a week, making the amount payable in respect of the second child and subsequent children 10s. a week. At that time, the basic wage was £5 16s. a week.
Those are the only two occasions on which child endowment has been increased - in both instances, by a Labour government.
– That is nonsense. This Government introduced child endowment of 5s. a week for the first child.
– Senator Henty’s interjection shows that he can hear me. He can have his say later. In 1950, the present Government introduced child endowment of 5s. a week for the first child.
– Was not that an increase?
– No, it was not an increase. I beg to differ from Senator Henty on the matter. This Government has not increased endowment for the second child and subsequent children; it only introduced endowment for the first child. At that time, the basic wage was £6 15s. a week. Let us have a look at the percentage that child endowment bears to the basic wage. In 1941, when endowment of 5s. a week for the first child was introduced, it represented 5i per cent, of the then basic wage. In 1945, under a Labour government, child endowment represented li per cent, of the then basic wage for the six capital cities, and in 1948, again under a Labour government, it represented 8± per cent, of the basic wage. But in 1951, when this Government introduced endowment for the first child, the endowment represented only 3i per cent, of the basic wage; and in this year, 1959, child endowment of 5s. a week for the first child represents only li per cent, of the basic wage, whilst the endowment of 10s. a week for the second child and subsequent children represents 3i per cent, of the basic wage. I suggest that this Government’s record in relation to child endowment leaves a lot to be desired.
It seems that the Government has given some thought to the question of relating the rate of age and invalid pensions to the existing basic wage. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) stated in his Budget speech -
It is worth noting that, for an aged couple both of whom are entitled to pension, the rise in combined pension will be equal to the recent increase in the federal basic wage.
Let us have a look at this matter. In 1949-50 when this Government first came to power, the age and invalid pension was £2 2s. 6d. a week and the basic wage was £6 9s. There has been a succession of increases in the pension and the basic wage. In 1950-51, the pension was increased by this Government by 7s. 6d. a week. There was a further increase of 10s. a week in 1951-52, and an increase of 7s. 6d. a week in 1952-53. And so it went on until now, in 1959-60, another increase of 7s. 6d. a week is being granted. But let me point out the present ratio of the pension to the basic wage.
During the term of office of the present Government, pensions have been increased by a total of £2 12s. 6d. a week, while the basic wage for the six capital cities has increased by £7 7s. a week. 1 suggest, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that the Government has not been able to increase pensions at the rate at which the basic wage has increased. When we consider the basic wage, we also have to remember that this Government was one of the main instigators in having the basic wage frozen at the present level. This Government submitted evidence to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in 1953 for the purpose of suspending the quarterly automatic adjustments of the basic wage in accordance with the C series retail prices index. If the system of quarterly automatic adjustments were now in operation, the basic wage would be much higher than it is, with consequent benefit to the workers.
The Government has not seen fit, in its Budget proposals, to increase the maternity allowance, thus neglecting the mothers of Australia. It has sold out, not only the workers and the pensioners, but also the mothers of the Commonwealth. Had the Government increased the maternity allowance, I have no doubt that the Australian birthrate would have risen, lt is very expensive to bring up children in these days. 1 feel that it would be much better to encourage an increase of the Australian birthrate than to embark on an immigration plan such as the Government has undertaken, although I do not by any means oppose immigration. After all, the Australian Labour Party has always supported immigration.
I feel, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that the Government has failed miserably with its social service proposals under this Budget. Another slug - I call it a “ slug “ deliberately - for the pensioners is the proposal to increase postal charges. This will mean that each time a pensioner writes a letter he will have to pay additional money for the stamp to post it. While there may be some justification for removing the airmail surcharge, the proposed increases boil down to the fact that the pensioners of the Commonwealth will be subsidizing airmail cargoes. Speaking of subsidies, I want to touch on another point. It is my firm opinion that in these proposed increases of postal charges there is an undisclosed subsidy to Ansett-A.N.A., because they will mean the diversion of a considerable amount of mail from the normal channels, that have been used in the past, to the airways, and Ansett-A.N.A. will get its chop, as will other airlines. So, in effect, the increased postal charges will mean that the pensioners will be required to subsidize Ansett-A.N.A. to keep its air services operating.
Another matter that I wish to touch on is the failure of the Government to increase the deductions that may be claimed by taxpayers in respect of dependants. In 1950, the maximum deduction allowed for a wife was £104; for the first child, £78; and for the second and subsequent children, £52. At that time, the basic wage was £8 2s. a week. In 1953, the maximum deduction for a wife was increased to £130, while the deductions for the first, second and subsequent children remained at the 1950 level. The basic wage, by that time, had risen to £11 16s. a week, which means that although the basic wage had risen by £3 14s. a week, the maximum deduction allowed for a wife rose by only £26. In 1957, there was an overall increase of £13 in the deductions, bringing them to £143 for a wife, £91 for the first child, and £65 for the second and subsequent children. The basic wage at that time was £12 6s. a week. The basic wage for the six capital cities is now £13 16s. a week. Why has not the Government seen fit to raise the amount of the deductions on this occasion? Increases were granted in 1953 and again in 1957. I feel that, if those increases were justified, there should also have been an increase in 1959-60.
In common with many other people in Australia, I fail to understand why this Government has been able to remain in office for ten years.
– It has been lucky.
– It has been more than lucky. On the last occasion, it was returned with the assistance of the Cole-Santamaria party. There is no doubt about that. In conclusion, Sir, I cannot describe this Budget as anything but a gutless Budget introduced by a gutless government.
– The first thing I want to say, Mr. Acting Deputy President, is that I congratulate the previous speaker from this side of the chamber, Senator Wade, on the gentle way in which he chided Senator Cant for his remarks last night. I had intended to correct Senator Cant myself. I looked up the remarks of Senator Spooner, and I intended to give Senator Cant the context of the Minister’s statements. The use of the term “ arrogant “, when it was completely unfounded, was, I think, most unfair. 1 have no doubt that Senator Cant will recall that statement in the future and regret having made it. Such things can perhaps safely be said on the hustings, but the honorable senator should appreciate that he will not get away with them in a House of Parliament, nor will any of us, from either side, because there are too many people watching us.
Some of the matters that are mentioned in the Budget papers will be discussed at a later date, either when the Estimates are being considered or during the discussion of the relevant bills concerning social services, repatriation and so on, but there are one or two aspects of the Budget that are worth speaking about more than once. I remind Senator Poke that social services are not the prerogative of any particular political party. I find it nauseating to sit here and listen to people - unfortunately, on both sides of the chamber - saying, “ We brought in child endowment”, or “We brought in the maternity allowance”, like schoolboys arguing about who had done the better job. The provision of social services is not the prerogative of any party. Social service benefits have been in existence since 1910 and have been granted by every party that has been in office since then. The sooner we wake up to that fact, the better it will be for us all. Senator Scott set out both sides of the question, so I shall not pursue the matter any further.
A lot of nonsense has been talked about the proposed rise of 7s. 6d. for age pensioners. The increase will take the age pension to £4 15s. a week. For a married couple that will mean a pension of £9 10s. a week, to which they may add income from an annuity or from personal effort, making a total of £16 10s. a week. But let us assume that they have no other income and that they are in receipt of £9 10s. a week. I point out, of course, that such a couple are entitled to have their own home, completely furnished, a car and up to £400 in the bank. Let us compare the circumstances of that couple with those of some of our former colleagues in another place who either lost their seats or retired at the last election and who, having contributed at least £1,800 to our superannuation fund, are drawing £12 a week. It will be seen that our former colleagues are getting only £2 10s, a week more than is the age pensioner. I do not like to suggest that the pensioner is getting a handout, but he is getting his pension without having contributed as does the parliamentarian. When honorable senators opposite complain bitterly about the proposed increase in the pension, it would be worth their while recalling the position of the ex-member of Parliament.
– How old would they be?
– Statistics show that the average age of the wives of men over 65 years of age is between 60 and 65 years. In some countries, single persons in receipt of a pension get between 60 and 65 per cent, of the standard age pension for a married couple. If that were applied in Australia, it would mean that the single pensioner would receive approximately £5 15s. or £6 a week. It is quite obvious that the Government is aware of the need and is trying to do something along those lines. It was for that reason that three years ago it introduced a scheme of assistance for the provision of homes for aged persons. In the first year the Government made available £1,000,000 on a £l-for-£l basis. Now it makes available £2,000,000 a year on a £2-for-£l -basis. As a consequence of the Government’s action, there are many homes to which single aged persons may go and live in what I believe is described as frugal comfort. At least those persons are off the streets and have somewhere to sleep and some one to look after them.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the proposal to charge 5s. for each prescription under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. If the proposal is properly studied, it will be noted that it is quite equitable. At the present time, free drugs are used instead of other drugs that are available and which very often are just as effective. I emphasize that the proposed charge of 5s. will not apply to age pensioners but only to other members of the general public. I think the proposed scheme is quite good. Another proposal brought forward by the Minister for Health (Dr. Cameron) is the raising of the sum allowed for major operations from 30 guineas to 60 guineas.
I do not intend to deal with the repatriation benefits in detail, but I indicate that the proposed increases are satisfactory to the organizations concerned. Sir Walter Cooper, our much loved Minister for Repatriation, is to be congratulated upon having dug the proposed increases out of the Cabinet. I have some idea of how difficult it is for Ministers to get extra money from Cabinets, and I have no doubt that Senator McKenna knows something about it as a result of his membership of an earlier government. But as the increases will be dealt with when the appropriate repatriation legislation is introduced, I shall not use my limited time in discussing them now.
Much has been said about the proposed overall reduction of 5 per cent, in income tax. I would much sooner have seen the proposed reduction of £20,000,000 applied to sales tax or pay-roll tax, because in my opinion the reduction in income tax will do practically no good to anybody. I know it will be of very little benefit to me, and it will make very little difference to persons in the higher income brackets. Even though the reduction is greater as we progress through the higher income brackets, those in receipt of higher incomes can well afford to pay the tax. 1 repeat that 1 would have preferred to see that sum deducted from sales tax, particularly as it affects motor cars, other motor vehicles and spare parts for motor vehicles. I think that of all people the poor old motorist is the one who is most heavily slugged. He pays a sales tax of 30 per cent, on the vehicle he buys, a heavy excise on the fuel he uses, comprehensive and third party insurance premiums, and also for a driver’s licence and the registration of his car. We have been told that it is proposed to make a reduction of one id. a gallon for excise. I travel approximately 10.000 miles a year, and I have worked out that the proposed reduction will mean a saving of only 12s. 6d. a year. I think the Government may just as well have left the excise as it was; certainly it would have been much easier to calculate.
I should now like to deal with the proposed postal charges. I seldom find myself arguing against Senator Paltridge; I have great confidence in him as being a very sound thinker. However, on this occasion I venture to put forward some suggestions which do not accord with his. He pointed out that the taxpayer has been subsidizing the carriage of bulk mails, country newspapers, trade union journals, church magazines and the like to the tune of £3,500,000 a year. What is wrong with that? Have we not hundreds of different types of subsidy in Australia? Do we not pay the dairy-farmers a butter subsidy of £13,250,000 a year? Have we not bounties for flax and cotton, and do we not pay a subsidy of 33i per cent, for ship construction? Bless my soul, there is nothing new about subsidies in this country! The payment of subsidies has been one of the methods used to assist people in the outback who do not enjoy the facilities that are enjoyed in the crowded cities. Surely the payment of subsidies is part and parcel of the Australian system of government. I join issue with Senator Paltridge on this point. The big daily newspapers will be looking with great interest at the effect of the Government’s proposals, and as soon as the little country papers start to go out of cirulation they will be pushing their trucks further and further afield. If the little country papers that we like and at which we look for our little bits of news, church papers, trade union journals and the like are to remain in existence, these extra charges will have to be paid. At the moment, I am very much opposed to the proposed increase in bulk postage rates. It is possible that when the matter has been explained by the Minister, or when some alterations have been made, I shall modify my views, but at the moment I certainly cannot do so. I do not think it would be possible to discriminate so that a big store sending out catalogues would pay one bulk postage rate and a church sending out little booklets would pay another rate. I do not think that would be possible. If we are going to have bulk postage, the rates must be applied generally.
I want to make two further points. Most of the other things that I have in mind will come up again, either in the debate on the Estimates or in the debates on the bills that will be introduced. The first point 1 wish to make is in connexion with development. Over the past twelve months I have been asked frequently to speak on development in Queensland. I have spoken, I suppose, dozens of times, at places all over Queensland, and each time I have given a general picture of the increase in mining prosperity and of the potentialities of Queensland. I have spoken about Weipa and have shown photographs of that place. I have spoken about Mount Isa and about Mary Kathleen, and have given particulars of what is going on at those places. On numerous occasions, when I have finished speaking, people have said to me, “ That is all jolly fine, but what about erosion, water and bush fires? “ Some people have asked about erosion, some about bush fires, and some about water. To my mind, bush fires, erosion and protective forests are all locked together. Consequently, over the last six months I have been doing a certain amount of study of these things.
Erosion is something that we should have tackled very many years ago. I have found that in 1939 the Victorian Government appointed a royal commission to go into the matter and that in 1946 it appointed another royal commission, but in the interim it appeared to have done nothing about the matter. I am going to make it my job to do some homework on the subject and see what I can find out. 1 have already done a fair amount of reading. I find that even in the Tennessee Valley area, administered by the great Tennessee Valley Authority - in spite of all that has been done, erosion has not been stopped. Soil is being washed down into the bed of the Tennessee River and the bed of the river, in spite of all the locks, is gradually rising, if this erosion goes on, the position will be the same as it is in many of our Australian rivers. In the Burdekin River in Queensland, the bed of the river is only about 6 feet below the edge of the banks. The same sort of thing has happened in the Mississippi, in the United States, where the bed of the river is now above the banks, and they keep the water in check by levees.
We have heard something of this in the recent arguments about the leases in the Snowy river area. This wonderful project, as it is to us in Australia, will be threatened by erosion if we are not very careful. The Government of New South Wales has certainly abolished grazing leases above the 4,000 feet level, but a lot of damage has been done by denuding the country ot grass and by cutting down the protective forests which hold the land and attract the water. The consequence is that some of our dams have already started to silt up. 1 am not a civil engineer, and I am not very well up in these things, but I mention this matter in the hope that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) will perhaps go more deeply into it than his department has already done, in order to see what we can do about burning-off, which is primarily carried out by graziers. Sometimes fires are accidentally started by a cigarette and occasionally by a storm, but burning off is mainly carried out by the graziers themselves in order to make more room for their stock. I mention this matter because I should like the Department of National Development to set up another royal commission which would have the effect of forcing the country into the knowledge that something will have to be done.
The other point that I want to make concerns something which is very dear to me. lt is also of national importance, but it is something which has been put back and put back over the years. Many of you have heard me speak about hydrographical surveys. In fact, I have spoken about the subject on a number of occasions in this Senate and have made suggestions. 1 am not talking now about fishery surveys; 1 am talking about oceanography and hydrographic surveys, which, unfortunately, have hardly been touched in Australia. We are still using the charts which were produced by Matthew Flinders. I re-read recently Ernestine Hill’s book, “ My Love Must Wait “. Think of the tragedy of Matthew Flinders dying in a garret, after all his work out here. That work has never been touched, or has barely been touched, since then. He produced his outlines with no scientific equipment whatever, with no steam ships, no echo sounding equipment, no radar and no asdics, yet those are the charts we are still working on for our primary lines.
During the last six months we have converted three vessels - quite unsuitable vessels, in my opinion - to do a certain amount of survey work. 1 say to the Government that what we want in this country for our survey work is not three vessels which were built for some other purpose. We want ships of what is called the “ Echo “ class. They are small vessels about 110 feet long, but the particulars do not matter. They are fitted with every instrument that can be used in the science of oceanography and hydrography, and for the charting of our coastline.
These vessels could be used to good effect in New Guinea. A few miles of the coastline there were surveyed by the Germans before 1914, but practically nothing has been done since then. I have sailed around those islands often, and I have found that all that is marked on the available charts is a little bit of coastline, which frequently is not where it is supposed to be. It is only by extreme caution, and by gradually acquiring a knowledge of where the charts are wrong, that you manage to avoid putting your ship ashore. I say to the Government that it is time that it pulled up its socks and did something in this sphere. I think I am right in saying that I have been speaking on this subject for four years, at odd times, when I have been able to get the opportunity.
Let us look at this survey work as a part of our defence. I see no reason why we should not do that, because it is quite obvious that in any war accurate charts of the waters around New Guinea would be of extreme value to us, in view of the rapid advances in submarine warfare and the types of submarines being used. If we do not know what is under the water, but the enemy does, he can place us at a great disadvantage. I make the suggestion that if we classed this work as defence work, we could take some of the money which is at present allocated for defence. In this Budget honorable senators will find that there are over-estimates of items for the Navy amounting to £2,600,000. The Navy could not spend that money. The Army has over-estimated to the extent of £2,000,000, the Department of Air to the extent of £2,600,000, and the Department of Supply to the extent of £1,300,000. In the case of what is termed “ Other Services “ the over-estimate is £1,000,000. That £9,500,000 could, in my opinion, have been used for the provision of proper survey vessels to work in the waters round this country and find out exactly what the position is, so that we can, as it were, straighten up our coastline.
In this connexion, I should like again to suggest that it is time that this Government had two vessels of its own for Antarctic work. Senator Laught has spoken very frequently of this matter. The building of two such vessels would not only provide employment in Australia, but the ships would give work to Australian seamen, as well as being able to carry out necessary hydrographic work. One would hardly believe it, but in the two ships at present being used there is not a Royal Australian Navy hydrographer. We have not one member of the Royal Australian Navy’s hydrographic branch in the “ Kista Dan “, the “ Thala Dan “ and the other ships that we use in the Antarctic. I consider that to be most extraordinary. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) said that he would not countenance the building of such ships because our tenancy in the Antarctic was so uncertain. Surely, if we are to adopt that attitude, we might as well pack up altogether. My approach would be to build the ships, go down there and say, “ Here we are, and these are our ships “. What would happen to us tomorrow if the Danish Government said: “ We intend to recall these ships. We cannot charter them to you any longer”? Our people at Mawson, and on Macquarie and Heard Islands, would have no chance of getting either stores or relief. Therefore, I say to the Government, “ It is time you woke up to these things and did something about them “.
I should like to quote in full, for the benefit of the Cabinet, if its members will take the trouble to read it, an account of what is happening in the field of oceanography in Canada. I refer to the report of a statement by Mr. Comtois, Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys, in announcing that the Canadian Government proposed to establish, at an estimated cost of $3,000,000, an institute of oceanography at Bedford Basin, near Halifax, Nova Scotia, over five years. It reads:
Mr. Comtois said . . . most of Canada’s coastline, the longest in the world, had not been charted.
I may add that, if we include New Guinea, we have the longest coastline in the world. The report continues:
The uncharted areas included nearly all the Arctic archipelago, the northern coast, Hudson Bay, and Labrador. Canada possessed little knowledge of the ocean that almost surrounded her, and apart from specialised work by the Fisheries Research Board oceanography was a neglected science. This was because of the size and cost of the job.
It was specially necessary to go forward now, he pointed out, as there was a growing danger of ballistic missile submarines, and the development of adequate instruments of detection required detailed knowledge of the waters and sea beds. It was also important to determine the material resources of the Canadian continental shelves in view of the conclusions reached at the Geneva convention last year that such resources belonged to an adjacent nation. On the east side, the shelf may extend as far as 200 miles into the Atlantic.
The institute should be ready by 1964, with a scientific staff of about 300. The project includes plans, approved in principle, for a fleet of 10 ships, the first of which, costing seven million dollars, is expected to be commissioned in 1961. All the new ships will be laboratory vessels, capable of working in all seasons.
Dalhousie University, iti Halifax, is to establish an institute of. oceanography for the training of scientists, many of whom will be employed at the Bedford institute, which will also be the headquarters of the polar group of scientists and the Atlantic and sub-Arctic sections of the Canadian hydrographic service, now housed in Ottawa.
Obviously Canada, in common with Australia, has been backward in these matters, but Canada is now taking the plunge. If only the Cabinet will take the trouble to read that report, and will make inquiries, it will see that, despite our slothfulness in the past we should make a start in these matters.
On other occasions I have spoken at length about fishery surveys. Although a trust fund totalling £880,000 has been set up for fishery survey work and the making of long-term loans to fishermen, so far not one fisherman has been able to obtain a loan. The fund is being wasted on projects that do not bring in any return. At least, loans to fishermen bring in a return in the form of a small interest payment.
– To whom is the money being lent now?
– It is not being lent to any one. A sum of £260,000 has been spent on a trawler that is to work in the Bight. I am hopeful that when the work has been completed the trawler will be sold as a going concern to some company which can use it in catching tuna. That day is a long way off. In the meantime, almost nothing is being done with the money. It has been spent on such things as wharves and stores, which are nonproductive.
I beg the Government to read from “ Hansard “ the report on Canadian activity which I have quoted in full, and then to go ahead with the charting of our coasts and with oceanographical surveys in the Tasman and Coral Seas. If it does not take decisive action now it will be condemned by history as a government that let an opportunity slip through its fingers.
– First, I should like to congratulate Senator Kendall on his usual thoughtful contribution to the debate. He always breaks new ground and gives us something to ponder over.
I should also like to congratulate Senator Cant on his maiden speech. I am certain that all honorable senators will agree that Western Australia’s representation here has been strengthened by his presence. When he gets into his stride he will be able to tell the Senate of many of the problems in the industrial and rural life of Western Australia, problems of which he has first-hand knowledge. I hope that he will have long and meritorious service in this chamber.
This is the seventeenth Budget upon which I have spoken in this Parliament. Of the seventeen I consider it to be the most disappointing - disappointing because it is the first during that period to be introduced by a Liberal Treasurer. It had a great deal of advance publicity. We were told that it would do great things for the Commonwealth, but we heard with a great sense of disappointment and frustration. So much had been promised, and so little was given to so many.
At first sight certain aspects of the Budget seemed promising. The 5 per cent, reduction in income tax; was hailed as a great concession, but we soon found what it meant to the average wage earner. There are 2,500,000 wage earners to whom the concession will mean a concession of only 9d. a week. To the married man with two children it will mean only 3d. a week. That will not even buy a postage stamp at the price to be charged under the postal regulations when amended. The saving to the people of Australia varies according’ to income, and tax paid. Taxation should never be applied uniformly over all income groups. The same may be said of reductions in taxation. To deny this is to adopt an unsound economic philosophy. Taxation should be levied on a sliding scale, so that any reductions will be of greatest benefit to those who most need them. The threepence a week, which is all the concession will mean to a great many people, could be put to better use in the hands of the Government. As Senator Kendall has said, the £20,000,000 to be remitted could have been better used in some other direction. It could achieve much more in the aggregate than when split into atoms. This Government has certainly ‘ learned how ‘ to “split the atom. I turn now to two very important aspects of the Budget. One relates to social services, and I hope that here I shall not be accused of harping on the one string for I most sincerely believe what I say on these matters. I have made social services my main study not only during my term as a member of the Senate but also long before I came here. There are some social service improvements for the introduction of which I give the Government full credit, but unfortunately they are not many. In introducing subsidies for homes for the aged a great step was taken towards solving the problem of housing those people who have no homes of their own or who have no families who will care for them in their declining years. I have seen much good come from that step already.
It is proposed to increase the age pension by 7s. 6d. a week, but the unfortunate part of this is that the increase is not to be paid until some time in the future, until after the requisite legislation has been passed through both Houses of the Parliament. I am wondering what thoughts are going through the minds of the people of Australia when they remember that only a few short months ago we members of Parliament received a very large increase in our salaries not as from some future date, not as from some time six months or six weeks ahead but immediately the requisite legislation became law, and it became law very rapidly indeed, showing that the Parliament can work fast when it wants to. We received our increases almost immediately, yet the Government proposes to pay the increased social service benefits at some time in the future, and the time when the requisite bills become law will depend upon how long it takes to discuss the Budget and how long it takes the Government to bring down the legislation. The only good point about it is. that invalid and age pensioners will eventually get a slight increase in their pensions.
But there is one group of people who have been neglected completely in the Budget. I refer to the wives of invalid pensioners. They are expected to exist on £1 15s. a week and their omission from the Budget is not only a great injustice but a tremendous sip….. After all, these women are expected to look after an invalid husband who must be at least 85 per cent, incapacitated before he can draw a pension.
These wives are not allowed to take outside employment if they wish to qualify for the payment of a meagre 35s. a week. In effect, the combined pensions of the invalid and his wife are being restricted to £6 10s. a week and this means that instead of each pensioner having £4 15s. a week on which to live the standard of living of each is reduced to the best they can do on £3 5s. a week. That is considerably below the amount needed to provide even the most modest of needs. These pensioners are reduced to the barest subsistence level. It is my belief that instead of giving back £20,000,000 in dribs and drabs - a number of people will not even know that they are getting anything back - the money would have been much better spent in giving some measure of social justice to the wives of invalid pensioners. After all, these women have been dealt a very hard blow by fate in having to look after an invalid husband and in having to provide for him all those extra necessaries essential to the care of an invalid without being required to subsist on sub-standard levels. They should receive more than a paltry 35s. a week, and I humbly suggest to the Government that it take a leaf out of its own book and pay the wife of an invalid pensioner the same as is paid to the wife of a tubercular pensioner, that is £4 15s. a week.
I come now to all the other benefits that are not to be increased. For instance, the contribution towards the funeral expenses of pensioners is to remain at £10. I am not greatly concerned about the funeral benefit because somebody will bury one eventually; but it is dreadful to think that £10 is the maximum the Government is prepared to contribute towards the cost of a pensioner’s funeral. That figure has not been altered for many years despite the fact that the cost of a funeral has increased by almost six times since it was set at £10. I have attended paupers’ funerals and I know how distressing they can be. I should hate any one belonging to me to be buried in that way for even the dead are not treated with the reverence due to them. Because of this, we find that many pensioners are contributing to funeral benefit schemes to ensure that at least they will have a decent burial. But the Government says that £10 is enough, and that is that.
Maternity allowances and unemployment and sickness benefits are to remain at their present rate. On the other hand, pharmaceutical benefits are to be more expensive to the people. In future, the first 5s. of the cost of all prescriptions must be borne by the patient. I wonder whether those who framed this proposal realize that there are a number of drugs in common use which do not cost 5s. 1 wonder whether they realize that it is almost certain that when the relevant legislation becomes law the prices of those drugs will rise to 5s. I refer to such things as thyroid tablets and digitalis tablets which are prescribed a certain number at a time and of which the cost at present is less than 5s. I am certain that it soon will be 5s. and 1 urge that a stop be put to any attempt to increase the minimum cost of drugs and medicine to 5s.
This proposal is another harsh imposition upon the family man in particular for he is the one who will feel it most. Children catch colds, contract infants’ illnesses and so on; and he will be the one most frequently called upon to buy medicine from the chemist. I prophesy that we shall see a regrowth of an undesirable feature that existed before medical benefits were introduced. I refer to the fact that at one time, rather than incur the expense of a doctor’s fee and the medicines he prescribed, people bought patent medicines. I predict that the sale of patent medicines will increase under the proposal put forward by the Government. Some years ago, this Parliament appointed a committee to inquire into the standards of patent medicines being marketed. Senator Arnold, who was a member of that committee, will know a good deal about this matter. It was found that at that time many patent medicines which were being sold for prices ranging from 2s. 6d. to 17s. 6d. contained ingredients which cost from, I think, 8d. to 4s. 6d. I do not know what the prices would be to-day. There are many very good patent medicines marketed by reputable firms, but there are many that are not good, and we do not want to see people forced into resorting to quack medicines because they cannot afford a doctor’s fee plus the first 5s. of the cost of each prescription.
On the other hand it has to be admitted that some relief will be enjoyed by people suffering from serious diseases in that they will be able to buy expensive drugs for only 5s. I have been glad to have some of those drugs during my lifetime, although I have been most unfortunate in that I have had only two free prescriptions which were not very expensive. The expensive prescriptions were not on the free list, and I am happy to know that some unfortunate people Will be able to derive some benefit under the new pharmaceutical benefits proposal. At the same time, we must not forget that the heaviest burden of this requirement to pay the first 5s. of the cost of each prescription will fall upon the family man who has children. The £1 or £2 that he is to receive by way of income tax concessions will probably be eaten up by increased pharmaceutical costs in the first week. Senator Kendall discussed the fact that pensioners were permitted to have property, and he said that they were much better off than those persons who, having paid into the Parliamentary retirement fund, have retired from Parliament. He said that he knew men who had paid in £1,800 and who would draw only £12 a week, whereas if they had not paid into the fund they would have been able, without contributing anything, to draw, together with their wives, age pensions totalling £9 10s. a week. I point out that if they paid £1,800 into the the fund, they will receive it back in three years at the rate of £12 a week.
– But the difference is only £2 10s.
– After three years they will get back the £1,800 paid in. Reference was made to pensioner couples who receive £9 10s. a week, and who have homes and motor cars. Ohe does not find many pensioner couples with motor cars, but good luck to those that have them. The vast majority of basic pensioners have no income other than the pension, and those are the ones with whom we are most concerned. We are also greatly concerned with civilian widows, for whom I have been seeking justice for years, although I am not much closer to my goal. Still, if I keep on long enough the Government will have to give way eventually. Recently, the Department of Social Services appointed a committee -to- inquire into the disabilities of civilian widows. ‘ That, at least, is something, and it shows that we are at last arousing public interest in the problems of these people. Some organizations are helping civilian widows in the way that Legacy heaps war widows. In my own State, Apex clubs and junior chambers of commerce are assisting the Civilian Widows’ Guild.
A civilian widow with a child to support receives £5 a week, plus endowment for the child, but it she is paying off a home, on which a debt is left after her husband’s death, she is not allowed to receive the supplementary assistance of 10s. a week for lent. 1 know that this is true, because I have encountered many such cases. We know that in recent years it has been almost impossible to obtain a house at a reasonable rental. A woman with children is in many cases regarded as no better than a criminal, and she cannot obtain a house for cental. But when she pays out what little money she may have had as a deposit on a house of her own, the department says that she is building up an asset and is therefore not entitled to the 10s. a week supplementary rent allowance to pensioners who have no other income. That is wrong, because such a woman has to have repairs and maintenance done to her home. Most women can change the washer on a tap or fix an electric light flex, but there are many other jobs around a home that they should not be expected to do. However, widows have to do these things, and I take off my hat to them for the way in which they manage to do them and bring up children on a very small allowance.
A problem exists also in relation to single women who are no longer able to work, but have not reached pensionable age. Quite recently in this chamber I mentioned the case of a woman aged 57 who did domestic work, going out as a daily help when she could obtain employment, doing other people’s washing, ironing and cleaning. Because she suffers from varicose veins, she now finds that she can no longer do this work. She applied for unemployment benefit, but was told that she had to produce the signatures of six prospective employers whom she had approached in the previous week. This woman could not get a job because she could not walk properly, yet she had to walk from house to house inquiring whether the housewife wanted any washing or cleaning done. The housewife was asked to sign a paper if she had no work to offer. Most housewives have not the time to see what it is all about. Because this woman could not produce six signatures, she was not able to obtain the social service benefit. She is not old enough to qualify for the age pension, and I do not know what she will live on for the next three years.
Although such cases are only isolated, the fact that they exist shows that some discretionary power should be vested in local officers administering the social service laws, if this legislation is really to do the job for which it was intended. We are very fortunate in Western Australia - I think this position applies generally throughout Australia - in having in the main, very wise and humane men in charge of the administration of the various government departments. Officers of the Department of Social Services take their tone in that regard from the former Director-General of Social Services, Mr. Rowe, whom we all miss very much. The present occupant of the office is carrying on in the same tradition.
It is amazing that so many people are like Senator Wade in regarding a pension as a hand-out. They do not like the neighbours to know that they receive it. Many ask that pensions be paid at post offices in other suburbs, because they do not want people in their own suburbs to know that they are pensioners. I think that that is a completely wrong attitude. A pension is received not as a charity, but as a right earned by people who have given a lifetime of service to building up the country. They are entitled to a retiring allowance to live out their declining days in the dignity with which God endowed them as human beings. No pension, whether age, invalid or widow’s, is something to be looked down upon.
A third feature of the Budget with which I disagree most heartily and which, together with the treatment of pensions and income tax, forms the basis of my support for Senator McKenna’s amendment, is the increased postal charges. So much has been said and written on the subject that everybody knows the general opinion in the community on these proposed increases, which have not caused me as much concern as did the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in another place and reported in “ Hansard “, that he was in the dark as to the effect of the proposals. This statement, which appeared also in newspapers, has not been contradicted. If the Prime Minister was in the dark, something is radically wrong. There is something wrong if, before a Budget is presented to the Parliament, particularly by a very brilliant man of the calibre of the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), for whose personal integrity I have the highest regard, those in authority do not know what its full impact on the community will be. They should have known the effect of the proposed rises in postal charges on the distribution of mail, pamphlets and periodicals which are posted in bulk and upon which the continued existence of small firms, religious organizations and trade unions may depend. It is strange that within a week of notice being given in the Parliament that legislation to provide for these increases was to be introduced, the Prime Minister should say that the proposals would be amended, even before the introduction of the legislation. This shows that not enough thought was given to this matter, and this state of affairs is also evident in relation to some other aspects of budget planning.
I should like to refer briefly to the need for greater Commonwealth expenditure on the development of the north-west of my own State, Western Australia, and on the State generally.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I expressed my support of the amendment that has been moved by my leader on the grounds of the inadequacy of the Budget with regard, first of all, to social service payments - particularly the injustices which I feel are being perpetrated against widows with dedependent children, the wives of invalid pensioners, and the family man for whom the proposed reduction of income tax will be more than offset by increased charges - the imposition of a charge for pharmaceutical benefits and increased contributions to medical benefit funds. On those grounds, I think that the Budget is not just, and consequently I support the amendment that has been moved by Senator McKenna.
Now, Sir, in the short time at my disposal I would like to deal with two other aspects of the Budget with which I disagree. One is the inadequacy of the amount being made available for the development of the north-west of Western Australia. Some twelve months ago an amount of £2,500,000 - subsequently increased to £5,000,000 for this year - was made available on condition that it was to be used only on projects undertaken by the Western Australian Government with the approval of the Commonwealth Government. I do not know of any other instance in the history of this Parliament in which a grant has been made to a State with such a condition attached. It may have happened before, but I do not know of any such case. Although an all-party committee of the Western Australian Parliament has approached the Commonwealth Government with certain propositions concerning the north-west of our State, a definite proposal for the expenditure of this £5,000,000 has not been forthcoming. If inflation keeps galloping on its way, this grant will not be worth £5,000,000 by the time the money is expended in the way it is intended it should be expended.
Furthermore, Sir, we know of various problems in Western Australia which can be solved only by the Commonwealth Government. One concerns our defence. We are very anxious in that State, because of our past experience, being such a vital portion of this Commonwealth and being situated so near to those spots in the world where trouble might start. We feel that the defence of Western Australia is most inadequate. Therefore, all organizations in the west and public opinion in Western Australia are concentrated on the necessity of having a naval base somewhere on our western coast, preferably at Cockburn Sound where, some 40 years ago, a naval dockyard was to have been built. Work was commenced there and carried on for some years, but it was abruptly terminated. We still see to-day the remains of the work that was commenced 40 years ago. If it had been continued at that time, the whole pattern of the last war in the Indian Ocean might have been very different from what it was. We say that it is vitally important to Australia’s defence that we have a naval base on our western coast. This proposal has the support of all political parties in Western Australia, exservicemen’s organizations and of all those who realize what a naval base would mean to Western Australia itself and the security of Australia as a whole. 1 should like, for a moment or two, to deal with some aspects of the immigration programme that have not been discussed during this debate. One of these is the incidence of child migration. This is a very important aspect of immigration, and it has practically ceased in all States of Australia. In the immediate post-war years, many hundreds of children were brought to the Commonwealth under various schemes for child migration, but during the last two or three years very little has been done in the way of bringing children here. I understand that in England there is some opposition to child migration from some authorities, but over the years the scheme has worked very well. We have in Western Australia two or three very fine organizations which were all geared up to receive child migrants, and they are now practically at a standstill.
During the course of the working out of this plan of child migration the Commonwealth came off very lightly. The British Government and the Western Australian Government paid for the upkeep of these children, mainly in church homes; and committees sponsored the idea of bringing children from the under-privileged areas and bombed-out areas of the Old Country to Australia. All that the Commonwealth Government had to do was to provide child endowment for them, the same as it does for every other child in Australia. A problem arose when these children reached the age of sixteen years, when payment for their maintenance normally stops. Responsibility then for their upkeep rests either with the. associations or organizations which sponsored their coming here, or with the boys and girls themselves. I have mentioned this problem before in the Senate, because it is one in which I have a great deal of interest. It is a peculiar thing that although hundreds of boys and girls who have come out here under this scheme have done very well very little publicity is given to this fact.- But if one of them transgresses against the law we hear a great deal about his or her wrong-doing.
Because these young people need a certain amount of care and guidance after they reach the age of sixteen years - which, after all, is still very young - I feel that there should be more liaison between the Commonwealth and the State authorities with regard to their welfare. I have spoken about this problem to responsible bodies of all denominations and they are quite agreed on the point that while they themselves cannot afford the services of a welfare officer they would be quite happy to work in concert if one were appointed - not a person connected with the police - and paid by the Commonwealth authorities, in order to assist these young people to become assimilated in our society. I should like to see a hostel provided where these young people - between the ages of sixteen and eighteen years - could gradually become more accustomed to the idea of becoming ordinary citizens, after having spent ail their lives in bigger institutions - a place where they could live while serving an apprenticeship or otherwise fitting themselves for jobs in the community. The cost of providing these services would be only a mere fraction of what we are spending on the immigration programme. I therefore urge the responsible Minister to consider this aspect of the child migration problem in the course of dealing with other aspects of immigration.
I have not much time left in which to discuss all the other problems that the Budget has raised, but I should like, before concluding, to pay a tribute to the National Capital Development Commission. This body, which was appointed to further the development of Canberra, is doing a really worthwhile job. I think the progress that has been made in this capital city over the last twelve months has been really phenomenal. It would do a lot of honorable senators good to have a look around Canberra. Many members of the Senate arrive here by plane, come to Parliament House, stay in the chamber performing their Parliamentary duties for the best part of the day. and do not get back to their hotel until midnight. At the end of the Parliamentary week they return to their electorates, and consequently they do not get a chance to see and appreciate what is being done in this national capital. It is not a matter of Canberra being developed only for the people who are living here at the present time. It is the capital of this nation, and I think we should all take a great pride in its development. I have great pleasure in paying a tribute not only to the National Capital Development Commission for the excellent job it is doing, but also to Senator McCallum who was a prime mover in the matter. It is due in great measure to his foresight and persistence that the Commission came into being, and it is pleasing to see the excellent job that the commission has done during the past twelve months.
– The Government is at the moment the subject of what is, in effect, a motion of censure moved by the Opposition. During the debate so far, honorable senators opposite have ranged far and wide in the field of social services. This afternoon we heard an honorable senator opposite censure the Government because, he said, the funeral benefit was not sufficient, and another honorable senator opposite censured us because, he said, he had not been entitled to a tax deduction for his false teeth, because they had been made by a dental mechanic and not by a qualified dentist. Those examples show the pattern that the Opposition’s attempt to censure the Government has followed. I think, Sir, that honorable senators opposite have lost direction. After ten years in opposition, they no longer understand what the preparation of a budget entails.
One of the important aspects of this Budget is that although it envisages expenditure of £1,600,000,000, the only public criticism of any consequence has revolved round the relatively small amount of approximately £4,000,000. It would appear from the attack of honorable senators opposite that they think that all that should be done in the preparation of a budget is to see what hand-outs can be made in the way of social service benefits, and nothing more. I point out to them that the preparation of a budget must take into account the revenue and expenditure of the previous year, the estimated revenue of the current year, and the inescapable expenditures that are on the plate of any government. Having considered those factors, the Government must then set out to spread as widely as possible over every section of the community the balance of the funds that are available. It is in no way a valid criticism to take only one section of a budget and say, “ That is not enough for this “ or “ That is not enough for something else “. That is not valid criticism unless a reasonable proposition as to where the additional money is to come from is offered. The Opposition seems to forget that this Budget provides for a deficit of £61,000,000. If honorable senators opposite want to double this or double that, or to increase this or increase that, where do they propose to get the necessary funds? From what section of the community do they propose to take them? Would they finance the increases by taxation? They should let us know; otherwise I say that such criticism is not valid.
I listened last week to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) speaking on the Budget. I always listen to the honorable senator with a great deal of interest. He is invariably interesting, and he is very able. I have listened to him now for ten years, and all his speeches on the Budget have followed the same gloomy pattern. Every year he forecasts chaos, increasing unemployment, and a wrecked economy, and for ten years he has been dead wrong. If he goes on long enough - and I believe the Australian people will leave him in opposition for many years to come - there surely must be something to which he will be able to look back later and about which he can say, “ Well, at least I was right on that “.
I wish to refer to one or two matters that Senator McKenna raised. He referred to this Government’s health scheme. Quite frankly, I never thought I would see the day when Senator McKenna, of all people, would criticize a health scheme, because when he was Minister for Health that was something he could never provide. He could not get the cooperation of the medical profession, of the dental profession, or of the chemists. All he could do was to threaten to nationalize the medical profession and the chemists if the doctors and the chemists did not do what he said they should do. After eight years in office, backed by a majority in both Houses of the Parliament,” with all the arrogance, one might say, of a dictator, he threatened to nationalize the doctors and the chemists if they did not do as he said. That was the kind of health scheme he gave us. Yet he is prepared to criticize the health scheme of this Government.
This year, Sir, we propose to spend £64,000,000 on the health schemes of this Government. What is more, of that £64,000,000, I am glad to note that £7,250,000 is to be devoted to pharmaceutical benefits and medical benefits for pensioners. It is so often forgotten, when honorable senators opposite stand up and discuss pounds, shillings and pence so far as pensioners are concerned, that this Government has done much in addition to providing merely pounds, shillings and pence.
– And other governments have, too.
– Yes, this Government and other governments, of course. We have done a great deal besides providing pounds, shillings and pence. Sometimes people also forget that fact when they are comparing one pension with another.
During Senator McKenna’s analysis of this Government’s health scheme and of the new proposals of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), who is so ably conducting this scheme, he stated that it was estimated that 20,000,000 doctors’ prescriptions would be issued this year and that if the people had to pay 5s. each for those prescriptions that would amount to additional taxation of £5,000,000 on the sick and invalid members of the community.
– That is true.
– The honorable senator says that that is true, but he would not know. Fifty-five per cent, of all prescriptions for life-saving and disease prevention drugs are dispensed free, and 45 per cent, of them, at the present time, attract a charge by chemists of an average of 15s. So, we have a proposal now from the Minister for Health whereby the people will be entitled to two prescriptions for 10s., whereas previously they got one for nothing and another for 15s. Therefore, the people will be better off financially, as well as having a far wider range of drugs under the new proposals.
– The analysis is a little incomplete.
– The analysis is perfectly correct. I gave up trying to convince Senator O’Byrne a long time ago. You cannot drive nails into brick walls.
The Leader of the Opposition was also critical of the failure of this Government to help the family unit. We have heard a lot about that. Senator Tangney apparently agrees. We must not forget that it was this Government that introduced endowment for the first child. Senator McKenna was good enough to concede that point to us. Let me mention some of the other things that have been of great assistance to the family unit, but which were completely overlooked by the honorable senator in his criticism.
This Government has provided subsidies for medical, hospital and pharmaceutical benefits, free milk for school children, free anti-poliomyelitis vaccine, special taxation deductions for education - which had never before allowed by any other government - the Commonwealth scholarships scheme, and increased taxation deductions for dependants. All of those things are of great value to the family unit. When you add to them endowment for the first child, it will be seen that this Government has a good record of assistance for the family unit. To take one small item and criticize it and not look at the other things that have been done for the family unit is not valid criticism.
The Leader of the Opposition said that this Government had done nothing to lower the cost structure and added that unless we lowered it our export industries would suffer. Any one who recalls Labour’s bid to gain office at the last couple of elections will remember that, amongst many other things, the Labour Party offered to abolish the means test - at a cost of £120,000,000 and then at the last election promised to increase endowment to 10s. for the first child, 17s. 6d. for the second, and £1 for the third and each succeeding child. That increase in child endowment would only have cost £58,000,000! Such promises did not gull the electors of Australia for five minutes. I can recall being in Western Australia and meeting an old gold-miner in Kalgoorlie. Using rather expressive language, he said to me, in effect, “They know what they can do with all these social services. I earn my money underground, and I earn every penny of it. What are they going to take out of my pocket to provide all these hand-outs? That is no good to me. 1 won’t back the Labour Party.” Office cannot be gained by handouts; rather is it necessary to govern the country soundly. What burden do honorable senators opposite think all these handouts would have placed on our cost structure? The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government had done nothing to reduce the cost structure. We have done one thing about it, and that has been to keep the Labour Party out of office. That is the greatest thing that any one could do to lower the cost structure.
The next and perhaps the pettiest of all the criticisms offered by Senator McKenna was his reference to bankruptcies. He said that the number of bankruptcies last year - that is 1,608 - was exceeded only in 1931, in the depth of the depression, when the number was 1,846. Fancy contrasting 1,608 bankruptcies in a population of 10,000,000 people with 1,846 in 1931 when Australia’s population was 6,000,000! It will be recalled that in 1931, when there was this record number of bankruptcies, a Labour government was in office in the federal sphere and that there were Labour governments in office in five out of the six States. We can quite easily understand why there were 1,846 bankruptcies in that year.
Honorable senators opposite have criticized the proposed increase in charges made by the Post Office. Much of the controversy has centred around bulk “postage. In spite of the increases, there will still be a deficit of £2,000,000 in the bulk postage account. I believe that it is quite proper procedure to place government business undertakings on a proper accounting basis. We have done that with Trans.- Australia Airlines, the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, the national shipping line, and many other instrumentalities. This year the Post Office is being asked to meet proper interest payments on its capital investment. Since 1945 some £400,000,000 has been made available to the Post Office for capital works at the expense of the taxpayer.
– What about the profits?
– If the Post Office had met proper interest charges on its capital investment, there would have been deficits and not profits. In this year alone, the Post Office expects, without any of the increased charges, to have a deficit of some £4,000,000. Every ls. increase in the basic wage alone means an added annual burden to the Post Office of £60,000, whilst an extra 15s. a week means an added cost of £900,000. One thing to be remembered is that, when the taxpayer gets his rebate of tax, he will be able to spend it as he likes.
– The price of three small ice creams!
– I shall deal with that in a moment. Whereas previously the reduction in tax was spent on capital works for the Post Office, now we are saying to the taxpayer, “ We are giving you a reduction in tax. If you want to spend it on postage, it will cost you an extra Id. for each letter. But you do not have to spend it that way.” Previously the taxpayer had no option. I think it is quite fair and reasonable to say that those who use the facilities provided by the Post Office should pay for them.
– The people should go back to the use of smoke signals.
– I agree that they would be a bit cheaper still. I wish to say a little more about the proposed tax reduction, because it has been much criticized. The proposed reduction of 5 per cent, will amount to £20,000,000 - a not inconsiderable sum. But honorable senators opposite have asked, “ What does that mean to a man in receipt of £1,500 a year, and what does it mean to a man receiving £10,000 a year? “ When we increased taxes we increased them by the same method as we are now reducing them; the person in receipt of a higher income paid a greater amount of tax. Surely if taxes are increased in that way it is perfectly legitimate to reduce them by the same method. One honorable senator pointed out that a man who paid £10,000 tax would get a rebate of £500. Of course, he will; but he will still pay £9,500. 1 am very happy to note that there has been some recognition of the difficulties experienced by the small proprietary limited company. Most thinking people are concerned about the trend throughout the world for big organizations to grow bigger. The alleviation of the retention allowance will enable the smaller man to keep a little more of his profits to build up his business. lt must be realized that the small proprietary company cannot finance its business on bank overdrafts, because it cannot get bank overdrafts for the acquisition of capital machinery and such things. Moreover, such a business cannot be financed by the issue of shares, because such shares cannot be sold on the open market. So the only means available to small companies to build up their businesses is the retention of more of their profits. It is very encouraging to see that there is to be an alleviation of the position of the small companies. I hope they will be further assisted in this way, because I want to see a society in which a young man starting off can build up his business and eventually convert it into a public company and so let the people of Australia reap the benefit of his hard work.
Another concession with which I wish to deal - it has been scoffed at by members of the Opposition - is the increase from £300 to £400 in the taxation allowance for life insurance. This is a very good thing, because it will assist the self-employed men and women. It will give them a chance to provide a little more for their old age.
– You are robbing them.
– The honorable senator may think we are robbing them, but I do not think so. People who employ themselves are the salt of this earth; they will do me. It is right that they should be allowed this greater opportunity to provide by their own thrift for their old age, so that they will not have to come to the Government and ask for assistance on reaching the age of 65 years or more.
I am also happy to see provision being made for pensions for aborigines, other than the nomadic and primitive peoples. That is something that all the people of Australia will welcome. We are providing for the descendants of those who inhabited this country before we came here. We are now attempting to give some assistance to them.
I support strongly the target of 125,000 immigrants for this year. Some criticism has been levelled at this target from the point of view that it is too high and will not be reached. I believe that we will reach it, and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) believes that we will reach it. He has been round Europe and, in his energetic way, has searched every avenue for getting people to come to Australia. We in Australia have a tremendous task ahead of us, and we must be prepared to take risks in order to build up our population and develop the country. This lifting of the immigration target is doubly welcome to me, and I hope that the Minister for Immigration will obtain the number of immigrants that he believes he can obtain.
I want to deal now with the job which the Government has been doing in trying to give Australia a stable economy. That is the thing that will be of the greatest help in building up this country of ours. A stable economy will attract people and investment from overseas and will breed confidence in Australia. What are needed to develop the industries already established are a stable economy and a good government, and Australia has both of those to-day. What is more, the people know that, because for ten years they have said, in effect, “ This is the Government that will develop Australia and this is the Government that we will return “.
The Labour Party, to my mind, is drifting like a derelict political entity. It cannot see beyond social services. Honorable senators opposite cannot see that while they have been asleep this country has been developing at a faster rate than has any other country in the world. I am proud of the Australians who have developed this country. I went to the Snowy Mountains scheme last week. I had not been there for some years.
– Who is developing that?
– The contractors and the men.
– Who started it?
– The Labour Party. 1 give it full credit for that, but I am talking now about the men who are working there. When I first went there, the record for tunnelling was, I think, about 70 feet a day. Then the Americans came out here and, with Australian workmen, set a record of about 430 feet a day. Only a week before my last visit, an Australian firm with Australian workmen took the record to over 500 feet a day. Those are the people who are developing Australia. Those are the people who are developing this nation. It will not be developed by a lot of starryeyed, socialists who can think only of nationalization and socialization. It will be developed by people who are prepared to work, as these people are working in the Snowy Mountains. They are getting results and earning money for what they are doing.
– Most of them are Labour voters.
– Senator Brown says that most of them are Labour voters. He can go up there and talk to them if he likes. They are earning good money, and they are not going to let you waste it, my friend. They are going to keep your party in opposition for as long as ever they can, because they know that all Labour will do for them will be to take their money away from them and put it into starry-eyed nationalization schemes or government business undertakings which lose money.
My time is nearly up. I want to say only that this censure motion is as flat n censure motion as I have known in any Parliament in which I have had the opportunity to sit either as a member or as a listener. The whole of the motion has been built around social services, and every honorable senator opposite who has spoken has scraped over the social services field. 1 do not include the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in that criticism. He did go into some other fields, but, 1 think, almost as ineffectively as his colleagues entered the social services field.
This country will continue to develop. lt has a great future. Honorable senators should have heard what the President of the British Board of Trade said over the air on the “ Guest of Honour “ session on Sunday night about this country and us potentiality. He spoke about the amount of British capital that is being attracted to Australia and praised the ordinary Australians for the way in which they are working and developing this country. His words should have warmed the cockles of the hearts of Australians. This country will develop, but it will not develop, I assure honorable senators opposite, unless they are prepared to forget their silly socialist ideas and nonsense. They must realize what the country wants, and I can assure them that it does not want the hampering effects of a socialist nationalist party, with its unity fellows, the Communists, alongside it. This country is going to be governed by people who are prepared to look forward, to take risks, and to develop Australia into one of the greatest industrial nations of the world.
.- To-night the boyish spirit of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) got the better of him. We on this side of the chamber, being very generous in our treatment of the conduct of honorable senators on the other side, are prepared to completely overlook his rash, wild statements. I am not going to cover the ground that he covered. I will not attempt to reply to the things that he said. We are discussing a motion moved by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), who introduced the Estimates and the Budget papers for 1959-60, and moved that the papers be printed. To that motion, an amendment was moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in the following terms -
At the end of motion add the following words - “ hut that the Senate is of opinion that their provisions and omissions inflict grave injustice on recipients of social service benefits (such as child endowment, age, invalid and widows’ pensions, repatriation benefits, maternity benefits, funeral benefits, amelioration of means test), on taxpayers, on the family unit and on other sections of the Australian people and that they make no effective contribution to correcting seriously adverse trends in the Australian economy including unemployment and rising living costs”.
I propose to address myself to the provisions of the amendment. To-day the great struggle throughout the world is for economic security. We find it on the national level. The small countries of Asia and other parts of the world - especially those which have been granted independence since the end of the last war - are striving for economic security. The big trading companies of the Commonwealth are struggling to attain the same objective. The private banks, which are, of course, also companies, are struggling for economic security. How magnanimous was the Menzies Government earlier this year in granting the legislation that they sought - legislation which tended to transfer the control of Australia’s economy from the Government to the banks! Those institutions surely have succeeded in obtaining economic security. This year, they have made greater . profits than ever and, as I shall prove later, they remain ardent supporters of this Government. Other trading companies have, of course, also sought economic security. One hears of the take-over bids of large concerns, bent on swallowing smaller concerns. We see the larger organizations buying up interests, and making special offers to shareholders. In nine cases out of ten they take over a company operating in the same field of business. Their aim is greater profits and less opposition.
– Their cry is, “ Smash the little fellow “.
– That is so. Their method of struggling for economic security is to put the smaller trader out of business. There are at present approximately 4,000.000 wage and salary earners in the Commonwealth. They, too, are struggling for economic security. They are entitled to it, but when they survey the provisions of this Budget they are understandably apprehensive. To them economic security means no more than having a permanent job, with a pay envelope to take home to their family weekly or fortnightly, but at present they are faced with insecurity on every side. Because of this Budget they feel that next week or the week after they may become unemployed.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have repeatedly stated that the greatest problem that the Commonwealth has to face is inflation. We have said that on many occasions, and we repeat it now. We know of the inability of the Menzies Government to deal with the problem of inflation. A while ago we were charged with not referring to the Budget itself. I propose now to wade right into the Budget, and I invite Government supporters to come right into it with me.
This year the Government is seeking, for the purpose of its services, £1,682,300,000 in cash. That, Mr. Deputy President, is a large sum of money. How does the Government propose to obtain it?
Starting at that point one is on a solid foundation - one is on rock bottom. As we proceed along the way we learn how millions of money are to roll in from the various taxes. The Government is to send its juggernauts rolling over various revenue fields to get the money that it needs. The present Administration is expert in levying indirect taxation. At present we .have income tax, which is payable by individuals, a second income tax which is payable by public companies, and a third income tax which is payable by private companies. Passing on to the field of indirect taxation, one is reminded of customs, excise, sales tax, pay-roll tax, &c. I shall deal with transferable taxes in a moment. All this money rolls into the Treasury, which, in direct proportion thereto is able to discharge its responsibilities.
This year, the Government expects to receive in revenue £1,385,300,000. Up to that point everything appears to be soundly based. That sum is to be collected and spent. Indeed, the Government proposes to spend £297,000,000 more. This is where we encounter a cavity in the rock bottom foundation of which I spoke earlier. I regret that Senator Henty, who spoke last, has now left the chamber. The Government has budgeted for a deficit not of £61,000,000, but of £297,000,000. Its problem is to make that deficiency good. I have already stated how, according to the Government’s estimates, the sum of £1,385,300,000 will be collected, but if the Government is to proceed for the remainder of its proposed journey it must raise another £297,000,000 without creating inflation. This is the point at which our challenge goes out to the supporters of the Government. They say that the Government will borrow £190,000,000. From whom will it borrow? From local investors? From the private banks? I want those questions answered.
From the sinking fund which the Treasurer controls the Government intends to raise another £46,000,000, or £236,000,000 in all, but the problem remains unsolved. Yet another £61,000,000 has to be found. That may be done by the issuing of treasurybills, or by borrowing from the banks at an interest rate of between 4 per cent, and 5 per cent. I expect to be told before this debate concludes, how that will be done. If the Government and its advisers can do it without creating a measure of inflation they are magicians. I have pointed to a great cavity in the Budget. Government supporters might say, “ Last year, we raised millions by way of loans. We solved our problem then, and we shall do so this year also.” How simple it all -sounds, but you cannot raise a loan unless you are prepaed to pay interest. Who is paying the interest hills of the Commonwealth at present? It is rather alarming to realize, upon analysis, that they are paid by the States. Last year, New South Wales paid £33,000,000 odd to the Commonwealth in interest, whilst Victoria paid over £29,000,000. I come now to poor old Queensland, the State which gets the boot in all things. At a time when the Commonwealth is dealing with thousands of millions of pounds, Queensland is unable to borrow the paltry sum of £20,000,000 odd from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to finance the reconditioning of the railway between Townsville and Mount Isa. This State was required to pay over £11,000,000 in interest to the Commonwealth last year. South Australia, the State to which some people refer disparagingly as a mendicant, paid the Commonwealth over £12,000,000 in interest last year. Western Australia, the State over on the other side of the continent, paid the Commonwealth £9,000,000 in interest. And poor little Tasmania, the small island with a budget no greater than that of the Brisbane City Council, paid no less than £6,000,000 in interest to the Commonwealth last year. These high interest charges which are being levied from the people are alarming to every member of the community.
The Treasurer and other members of the Government speak boastingly about what the Government has done over the last ten years, and about what it has given the people in the way of social services and so on, but they studiously refrain from saying anything at all about the interest charges being levied upon the States. Certainly loan moneys have been made available to the States for developmental works, but the Government has exacted every penny it could in interest and has always been ready to collect taxation from the people. The total sum paid in interest to the Commonwealth by the States last year exceeded £92,000,000, and, as the Commonwealth is the major financial authority in Australia, one might be pardoned for assuming that its interest bill would be far in excess of that of the States. Far from it! The total sum paid by. the Commonwealth in interest last year was only a little more than half of that paid by the States. On its borrowings, the Commonwealth paid £51,000,000 in interest. In view of those circumstances, how can we possibly move into the future without having another huge wave of inflation and once more seeing the value of our currency falling day by day?
Honorable senators on the Government side have not made a proper comparison of present taxation with that of past years. I think it was Senator Henty who said not so long ago that the Government would reduce income taxation by 20 per cent. How magnanimous his Government is. Let me give the facts about taxation. To-day, a child earning £105 a year is required to pay 10s. a year income tax. In the last year of the Labour Government’s term of office, incomes up to £350 a year were exempt from income tax. As I said, I intend telling the true story about taxation. The annual income of the basic wage earner in 1949 was £335. He did not pay income tax at all, but he did pay social services contributions. He was taxed at the rate of 9.443 pence in the £1, or £13 4s. a year for social services. But he had no objection to paying that, because he knew that the money was going into the National Welfare Fund - a real social services fund - to meet social services commitments, whereas to-day that fund is a social services fund in name only because it is replenished or kept alive by an annual vote. There is nothing carried forward from year to year; there is no such thing as banking up money so that it may be carried forward to meet future commitments.
– Will you say that Labour used that money for social services?
– Senator Mattner has been talking to himself for a little while now. I know that he puts a big value upon his brain and upon his head; there is certainly no reason why he should not put a big value on his head because it is solid ivory.
The basic wage to-day is £13 3s. a week. When the Labour Government went out of office, it was £6 9s. a week. So, since 1949, it has increased by more than 100 per cent.; and it is interesting to note what honorable senators opposite had to say before their parties were returned as a government. They said that they would review the incidence of indirect taxation which was a huge although sometimes unrecognized item in the cost of living and in the cost of housing. If honorable senators opposite want proof that they said these things, I refer them to their printed joint policy speech in 1949, a copy of which I have before me. I admit that the Government did review indirect taxation but, after abolishing two indirect taxes, it immediately increased others. I remember only too well how members of the Government walked round the Senate and round the country preening themselves, showing the colours of their feathers like peacocks, saying, “We have reduced taxation “. The Government had abolished land tax and entertainment tax. But. in order to recoup the revenue it lost in that way it immediately increased such items as sales tax, excise duty, customs duty and other duties.
This can be described as a square-off budget. When I examine what the Government proposes to do about taxes and other things, I feel that the Government thinks it has something for which it should apologize to the people of the Commonwealth. I am sure it feels sorry for having done something. Perhaps it wishes to apologize for implementing the Richardson committee’s report - I do not know - but it seems that the Government feels it must apologize for something and has set out to do something to square off to the people. It has reduced taxation on individuals by 5 per cent., and it has decided to give age and other pensioners an increase of 7s. 6d. a week. I have the impression that the Government is doing these things by way of apology, and I know that more than half the people of Australia feel the same way as I do about it. This is not a genuine budget, and the tax reductions to be effected are not justified-
Recently, the Commonwealth basic wage was increased by 15s. a week, after a protracted hearing by the Arbitration Commission. We all know that a’fter tie application was made, and before the hearing, there was a substantial increase in the cost of living. That increase was not taken into account when the increase of 15s. was granted, and it will not be taken into account until there is a further hearing some time next year. That is a sad situation, especially under a government that regards itself as considerate and solicitous for the welfare of the family unit. Apparently, what will happen to the family unit in future is of no concern to this Government.
Day by day the Government can see an increase in hire-purchase business. To-day, hire-purchase indebtedness stands at the unprecedented level of £348,000,000, which is equivalent to about £34 16s. per head of population. That can be taken as a barometer of the economic situation. Nev body can look to the future with any hope. During the year ended last April, there was an increase of hire-purchase indebtedness of over £62,000,000. The previous year the increase was £53.000.000. There are substantial increases month by month in hirepurchase business because of transactions id household and personal goods. Is it any wonder that the people of the Commonwealth, particularly the unfortunate wageearners, look with apprehension to what the future may hold for themselves and their children?
Automation has come to Australia, although so far it is not being practised on a very large scale. Not long ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Treasury and seeing there accounting machines which were installed only during the last twelve months. Those machines are an eye-opener to every one who is sufficiently interested to view them. I shall not attempt to explain their functioning. The work they do is bewildering. There is automation in almost every industry of the Commonwealth, and many hundreds of men face unemployment because of automation and mechanization. At present, there is no provision anywhere in the Commonwealth for the rehabilitation of men when they lose employment. Perhaps we in the Senate can sit back smugly on our soft seats and say, “ This is a problem to be dealt with by the States “, but it is an economic and social problem in which this Government should take the lead. Many hundreds of men in the sugar-cane industry in north Queensland face unemployment in the future. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, will leave north
Queensland because they cannot find employment there. Nothing is being done about their rehabilitation or about having them transferred to remunerative employment in other parts of the Commonwealth.
The dependence of Australia’s economy on overseas markets has not varied substantially in the past five or six years. We rely on the sale overseas of our primary products, lt is with the greatest regret that I inform the Senate that last year Queensland sugar cane growers ploughed back into the fields over 1,000,000 tons of prime cane, because it was not worth processing and storing as there was no market for it. It is estimated that this year 1,500,000 tons of cane will be ploughed back into the fields, resulting in a loss, according to the market value of sugar overseas, of £6,000,000.
The Treasurer said in his Budget speech that last year was a remarkable year for rural production. It was remarkable, perhaps, in some respects, but what about the marketing of the product of the primary producers? Something more must be done. I do not want to say anything against the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), but I think that we shall have to go further than he has gone in seeking to obtain markets overseas. He is not doing enough, and his organization is not sufficiently large or complete, to satisfy the Commonwealth’s marketing requirements.
In another few months we shall have come to the end of Australia’s current wheat year, and it is interesting to note that on 28th June, 1958, 65,000,000 bushels of wheat were on hand whereas at the present time unsold wheat totals 134,000,000 bushels.
– That is just normal.
– I am told that that is normal, but producers are praying that a market will be found for it. The position has changed considerably from what it was a few years ago. Our greatest competitor now is the United States of America, which will sell wheat on any market in the world, undercutting the price of Australian wheat. We know that wheat was sold by the United States in Indonesia. If Indonesia is the natural wheat market for any country, that country is Australia.
What does the Commonwealth Government propose to do about the tobacco industry, which stands as a challenge? Here is an industry for which there is a local market of between 20,000,000 and 30,000,000 lb. which is far from being satisfied now. Queensland’s tobacco production does not amount now to more than 10,000,000 or 11,000,000 lb., but there is a market in the Commonwealth for over 20,00,000 lb. We have the facilities for producing tobacco. Only recently an irrigation scheme was commenced up there. We have the land available for the growing of tobacco. We have the technical knowledge needed, and the leaf grown there is the equal of leaf produced in any other- part of the world. This industry stands as a challenge to the Commonwealth Government, which is so lacking in imagination and business ability that it is quite incapable of grappling with the problem.
– The honorable senator should have a look at what is being done in Victoria.
– Senator Wade knows something about weevils in wheat but nothing at all about the growing of tobacco. If he wants a holiday, I suggest that he visit the Mareeba district of Queensland.
– We grow tobacco in Victoria.
– I conclude by saying that I support wholeheartedly the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Mr. President, having been a member of a State parliament for a number of years, and having seen that parliament - as are all our State Parliaments - dependent entirely upon the amount of revenue that accrues to it from the National Parliament, it is a very different experience for me to be now a member of this Parliament which is itself charged with the responsibility of raising the necessary revenue. Of course, I hasten to add that I believe in the States. No one more than I would like to see them financially completely independent, if the problem were at all soluble. I believe that one of the worst fates that could befall the Commonwealth would be the centralization of all governmental power here at Canberra. So. I say without any hesitation that the States should continue to function as independently as is possible.
The pros and cons of this Budget and of other budgets over the years have been discussed in the main by those who have been members of this Parliament for m.my years. As a newcomer to this chamber, I propose to speak about a matter which, I think, is of the very greatest importance to the Commonwealth. I have often heard it said that this chamber should be of greater importance to the less populous States of the Commonwealth because in it the States have equality of representation. 1 believe that to be correct. I believe, too, that if it so happened that this chamber were abolished or its powers so reduced as to render it of little legislative value, the smaller States of the Commonweath would have little more than token representation in another place. It is true that this chamber has not carried out the intention of the founders of the Constitution that it should function as an independent house of review; they did not envisage the big party alinements that have taken place since federation. Nevertheless, for the reasons I have mentioned, I believe that it is of the utmost importance as a branch of the Legislature of this Commonwealth.
We are most fortunate in this country in that we are working under a written Constitution which cannot be altered without the consent of the people. Although from time to time since federation various Commonwealth Governments have fretted under the restrictions that are imposed by the Constitution and many attempts have been made to alter it, I believe that the people in the main have been very wise indeed in looking askance at the many proposals for its alteration that have been brought forward, some of which, if endorsed by the people, would have swept away some of the rights of the States. So, it has been very difficult indeed to bring about such alterations.
Some years ago, when I was in New Zealand, I was most interested in a discussion in the New Zealand Parliament on a report of a committee which had been set up to examine a proposal to reconstitute the Upper House in that country. Some years before the Legislative Council, which was a nominee body, had been abolished, I believe, by the unanimous vote of both major political parties. It was abolished very largely for the reason that it so consistently endorsed all the actions of the Government - whichever party was in power - that it lost respect as a legislative body. Realizing the need for some house of review, the New Zealand Government of the day set up a committee to examine the question whether it should be reconstituted. But on reading its report, it seemed to me that the committee had given far more consideration to the very real danger that existed because of the absence of a written constitution. The committee, in the report it furnished to the New Zealand Parliament, dwelt at some length upon the absence of a written constitution. The committee stated in its report that a difficulty it found was that a parliament that wrote a constitution must hand over to a successor, and that that successor could as easily undo all that its predecessor had in fact done.
The words of the Minister who presented the report that appealed to me as being significant were -
Our Parliament is quite unfettered by any kind of written Constitution whatsoever. Our law courts can afford us no protection against any legislation that we might regard as an abuse of our political rights.
In this country, on many occasions the Australian Constitution has stood as a guardian of the rights of the Australian people. The people of this country are entitled to appeal to our High Court, and on many occasions they have successfully done so. Therefore, Mr. President, I say that we are most fortunate in this country to have federation. Because of the trend towards centralization that has taken place in the last few years - a trend that has been aggravated by uniform taxation - I believe that we can best safeguard the rights of the less populous States by preserving the rights and legislative powers of this chamber.
A lot has been said during this debate about the industrial expansion that has occurred during the last ten years. We have had a tremendous influx of overseas capital into this country. The capital already in the country has had great encouragement held out to it to induce its investment in developmental works. We have had a large increase of population by immigration. I think it can be said that the ten years of office of this Government have been ten years of very great progress. I believe that this is one of the most prosperous countries of the world, and that it is one of the best countries to live in. The standard of living here is perhaps uniformly higher than it is in any other country. I give full marks to the present Government because I believe that, by its policy, it has brought about the economic conditions that are necessary to encourage the investment of capital and an influx of capital from overseas.
I cannot understand those people - and there are some in the Commonwealth - who look askance at the fact that millions of pounds of overseas capital, particularly from the United States of America and Great Britain, have been invested in Australia during the last few years. We have no choice in the matter, Mr. President. In my opinion, we need every £1 of investment capital that we can get, provided that it comes from a reasonable source. If we do not accept such capital, and if we do not go ahead with developmental work, some one else will do it for us, in a way that we shall not like. So, I say that the urgent need is to press on. Although the State governments, and probably the Commonwealth Government also, have emphasized the need to encourage the growth of secondary industries, the importance of which I concede, I say without hesitation that if we are to progress as we should, and if we are to develop this country as it should be developed, it is equally necessary to have a prosperous and an expanding primary industry.
In the last few days we have seen a large increase - the papers have described it as a spectacular increase - in the price Qf wool. I suppose that is one of the factors that are most conducive to the prosperity of the Commonwealth. It is good to see that the price of wool is rising. I read only a few day ago that an increase of one penny per lb. in the price of wool meant approximately £6,000,000 of fresh money coming into the country. But while that is all to the good, it certainly is not the complete story. I, for one, feel the very greatest concern for the primary industries of this country. I believe that many farmers, perhaps even a majority of farmers, over the past two years have been receiving prices for their products which have not been commensurate with costs of production and the cost of living. 1 was very interested in the last report of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, in which there appeared an analysis of the financial results from eighteen sample farms in Tasmania. They were not big properties. Judging by the valuations set on them by the bureau, I should say that they were average-sized Tasmanian properties. A table showed that between 1955-56 and 1956-57, costs rose by an average of £940 per farm. The income of the properties was more than £3,000. In 1957-58, income fell to £1,854, and in 1958-59 it fell further to £1,071, or approximately one-third of the 1956-57 figure. That does not indicate prosperity for the farmers of Tasmania. I believe that in all probability those figures are indicative of the position of farmers throughout the Commonwealth. It has been estimated that 40 per cent, of Tasmanian farms are of 50 acres or less, and that 20 per cent, of the farmers do not net the basic wage.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics estimated that the profit that would accrue overall on the sample properties to which I have referred would amount to .9 per cent, on the capital invested. Whatever may be said of the primary producers of Tasmania, it cannot be said that they are profiteers, inasmuch as they net only about 1 per cent, on the capital that they have invested. I repeat that I look with a great deal of concern at the primary industries of this country, and that a rise in the price of wool is not all the story.
In my own State, only a few days ago, it was reported in the press that potato plantings had declined and that this year’s plantings would be the lowest for 70 years. What concerns me in regard to this matter is that the potato industry, on the northwest coast and also on the north-east coast of Tasmania, has been a great standby for the small farmer. He has depended on it for years past as something on which he could always fall back. No matter how small the farm might be, the farmer could always manage to put in some potatoes, and in the past he was mostly able to net a reasonable profit on them. In addition, potatoes, more than any other primary product, have been instrumental in developing the most fertile areas of Tasmania. Yet, the potato industry is on its way out, very largely by reason of the increased costs of production and marketing about which I have spoken. The producers are turning, as an alternative, to the fat lamb industry. They have been receiving about £2 a head for the fat lambs that they have produced, which, of course, is not nearly sufficient.
Of the beef industry, Mr. Fagan, the Deputy Premier of Tasmania, has said that the market for beef in the United States is most uncertain, although recently there has been a draw-off of beef for export to that country. That certainly helped the beef industry in Australia, but I noticed only a few days ago that Mr. Fagan was warning producers that the market was uncertain, that it could taper off, and that when the United States had sufficient breeding cows it could cease altogether.
In reiterating these things I do not want to appear to be a prophet of gloom, but when a fact exists it is just as well to recognize it because the probability is that something will then be done to try to counteract it. I believe that a great potential market lies to the north of Australia - a market which could be exploited if the standard of living of the peoples concerned was high enough to enable them to purchase Our produce. I think every available avenue should be explored in an effort to find fresh markets, and to exploit fully those we already have, in order to dispose of our primary produce. I repeat that overall we cannot have enduring prosperity in Australia unless the primary industries are prosperous and expanding.
I was very interested in a question asked last week by Senator Wade. The honorable senator referred to the terrific price that producers and others are charged for spare parts of machinery. Speaking from memory, Senator Wade said that a tractor which normally cost £6,000 would cost £60.000 if it were assembled from spare parts. The Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) partly explained the contention put up by Senator Wade, but for years past if you were to ask any primary producer what he thought of the cost of spare parts for farm machinery he would have told you that it was an absolute imposition. The very closest scrutiny should be made to ascertain whether there are in this country people who are sheltering behind the Commonwealth tariff wall and other trade restrictions which operate in Australia in order to exploit the producer and the people generally. That has happened in the past, and one is very suspicious about whether similiar exploitation does not still exist.
We have heard a lot about pharmaceutical benefits. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) referred to the mounting costs and said it was necessary to impose a fee of 5s. to stabilize the position. I agree with him absolutely. These things are desirable, but wherever free medical benefits or free medicines have been provided experience has shown that sooner or later the government concerned has had to do something to try to curb the mounting costs involved. That was the experience in Great Britain. I seem to recall that Aneurin Bevan resigned from a Labour ministry because the Government found it necessary to allow the doctors to charge a moderate fee for the service they rendered. In New Zealand, which for some years went almost the whole hog on social services, there have been several investigations into medical services. The New Zealand Government was at the end of its wits in trying to curb mounting costs. I think I am correct in saying that finally it saw fit to impose a charge for the service of the doctor. It was with interest that only a few days ago I picked up a New Zealand newspaper of I Hh August and read this report -
Emergency action is being taken by the Department of Health to combat very large increases in the cost of pharmaceutical benefits. . .
An urgent call recently brought together the department’s Pharmaceutical Advisory and Pharmacology and Therapeutics Committees to consider what action could be taken to reduce current expenditure on “ free “ medicines issued under the social security scheme. These committees are understood to have made certain recommendations which are now being considered by the Minister of Health, Mr. Mason.
Reason for the department’s alarm is that the cost of “ free “ prescriptions jumped by 26 per cent, from April 1 to June 30 compared with the same period last year. If this trend continues, the current year’s medicine bill will be in the vicinity of £6,441,552- a £1,329.209 jump over last year and £911,552 more than the estimated cost of “ free “ medicine this year.
When we take into consideration the fact that New Zealand is on sterling currency and that its population is about one-fifth of that of Australia, we can understand that that country, too, is confronted with a serious situation in regard to the continually increasing cost of free medicine. I repeat that, as desirable as these things are, there is a limit to which you can go. The limit is set by the crushing burden that accrues to the general taxpayer unless something is done to stabilize the position and to put it on a firm and permanent basis.
Mr. President, I have neglected to look at the clock and do not know for just how long I have been speaking, but I should have liked to say something about that form of State finance which breeds absolute financial irresponsibility and which proceeds on the contention “ Get as much as you can; spend as much as you can “. I refer to the system of uniform taxation. One fact which must be remembered when considering a reduction of taxation is that approximately ons-third of our income tax revenue is paid to the States, most of it being paid under the uniform taxation agreement. While that set-up continues. T do not believe there will be any worthwhile economy in State finances. I conclude where I began. No one would like more than I to see the States placed in a position of financial independence, as far as that is possible, because T regard them as an integral part of our federation.
.- Senator Lillico has made his maiden speech in the Senate. One would not have had to listen to him for very long before appreciating that he was not a newcomer to politics. I quite agreed with his opening remarks. I think he touched upon a problem confronting our primary producers that needs the earnest and early consideration of the Government. In future debates, when the problems of primary industries are under discussion, the honorable senator will be able to contribute much that is of value.
When he recounted his experience in New Zealand and spoke on social services, especially with reference to pharmaceutical benefits, I did not agree with him. An easy way, of course, to cut down on expenditure on pharmaceutical benefits - or on any other benefits for that matter - is to abolish the benefits altogether. I think that the charge made by the honorable senator was made not so much against the principle of pharmaceutical benefits or free medicine, or against those who are in receipt of those benefits, as against the administration of the scheme. I remember quite well the debate that took place in this chamber when the then Minister for Health, Senator McKenna, introduced Labour’s health scheme, which did include some safeguards. That scheme was met with protests by the then Opposition, the people whom Senator Lillico is supporting to-day. They ventilated their protests and we received very little co-operation from them.
The problem is mainly one of administration. It is true to say that before the advent of pharmaceutical benefits many people who were in need of medical attention, or of medicine, were denied that attention or that medicine, because of their lack of means, although the treatment or the medicine was necessary for their health. It has become possible for people to-day to obtain the advantage of these things, and naturally, with the increase in population, expenditure on them is rising, but that is not to say. that there should not be a careful administration of this very important scheme.
The real crux of the debate in the Senate this evening is the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition, condemning the Estimates and Budget papers for 1959-60 that have been presented to the Senate. I wholeheartedly endorse and support that amendment. I have heard this Budget called by various names, but I have not yet heard one person, whether he be a newspaper correspondent, an economic adviser, an economist connected with the daily press or any person who pays attention to these matters, say that this is a budget of outstanding merit. Labour senators have criticized it, and honorable senators on the other side have been at great pains to try to defend it. The same thing has happened in another place, to which we are not allowed to refer by name, but we all know the branch of the legislature to which I am referring. Members supporting the Government there have been at great pains to try to defend the various actions that are proposed by the Government in the forthcoming year.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the successor to Sir Arthur Fadden, is the first Liberal treasurer for quite a long time to introduce a budget. I venture to suggest that those people who have been supporting the Australian Country Party over the years - including honorable senators in this chamber who owe allegiance to that party - must have regretted the departure from the political scene of their former champion. Whilst we have criticized him - very rightly on many occasions - for the budgets which he introduced, he always managed to find some saving point for his friends, the primary producers. Now that he has gone, it seems that the true Liberals are doing their job, not only against the less fortunate section of the community represented by honorable senators on this side of the chamber, but also against those represented by members of the Australian Country Party.
Prior to the introduction of this Budget, one could have said that the political atmosphere was one of great expectation. A number of sections of the community expected much from the Budget this year. During the election campaign, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other Government speakers travelled throughout Australia painting a glorious picture of the economy of the nation and of the great progress that had been made during the term of office of their government. Apparently everything was going well. Production was increasing and wealth was accumulating. After several frights, the overseas trade balance was better than was anticipated. Everything seemed bright for the new Liberal Treasurer, and it was expected that he would bring in a budget that would warm the hearts of the people of Australia. But I am afraid that this Budget is not a budget that comes up to those great expectations. It is a budget depicting the great illusion.
What was the position prior to the introduction of the Budget? Let us take the case of the family man. I have heard honorable senators opposite utter many platitudes about the family man. It is said that he is the very foundation - which, in fact, is true - of the nation. One would have thought that a government which had the future welfare of the nation at heart would at least see to it that the family man participated in the wonderful prosperity depicted by Government spokesmen. The family man expected- that there would be a reduction in his taxation, lt would have given him a greater opportunity to obtain amenities - even to purchase .1 home. In the process he would have become a happier and more contented unit in the community. He could well have expected a reduction in the range of goods subject to sales tax. I have in mind especially items of food. Such a reduction would have given him a better share of the good things of life.
He might well have expected, in these days of inflation, that a greater allowance would be made for the education requirements of his children. Great emphasis u being placed upon the wonderful increase that has occurred in the technical knowledge of people in the Soviet Union. The men and women of that country are given every opportunity to study science and kindred subjects so that their nation will become the strongest on earth. We deplore the fact that they are outstripping the scientists of the free world, but what encouragement does this Budget offer the father of a family which contains potential scientists? What encouragement is given to the men and women who will be called upon to develop this nation in the future? Do we find in the Budget any concessions to the family man who is educating his children, I have looked for them in vain. I am sure that every honorable senator will agree that the provision of better education is fundamental to the progress of this country, but we see no recognition of that fact in the Budget before us.
Child endowment, which has been in operation for a substantial period now, is not to be increased, though there have been great increases in the cost of commodities, of education and of other things that children need. Child endowment was forgotten, as though it had never existed. It was quietly passed over by both the Treasurer and his representative in this chamber. These were all things concerning which the family man may well have had great expectations.
The businessman has been told that everything is booming and he might well have expected concessions which would have enabled him to develop his undertaking. Many businessmen feel that sales tax and pay-roll tax should be abolished. In common with some other honorable senators I serve as a municipal councillor. I am only too well aware of the difficulties experienced by municipalities in meeting the requirements of ratepayers under the present financial system. Every municipality in my State sought aid from the Government. Those representations were made, not at the eleventh hour, when the die was cast and the Budget papers had been printed, but months before. They told the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), and Treasury officials, that pay-roll tax was hampering the provision of amenities, but their protests fell on deaf ears. They received not one word of encouragement.
Those who are concerned in the sale of beer, spirits and cigarettes directed attention to the extravagant amount of excise which was levied on those commodities, and asked for relief. Many people would not agree that it should be given. Be that as it may, they pointed out that the trade was feeling the effects of the high rate of excise. Their protests were not heeded. The teetotallers also came to Canberra asking that sales tax on the ingredients that go to make up their own form of beverage be abolished. They received the same reply. Both went away empty handed. No doubt they will remember that fact.
Another large group of people visited this Parliament during the presentation of the Budget. I refer to pensioners and other people receiving social service benefits. They felt that, if the economy of the country were so sound, they might receive substantially increased benefits. Many sections of the metropolitan press, and many citizens and parliamentarians - not all of them associated with the Labour movement - thought that an increase was long overdue. It was generally believed that greater help should be given those who had spent themselves in developing this country. As some one has pointed out, if they had saved the whole of the money that they received during their working lives they would still not have had sufficient to provide them with a decent income in their declining years.
The Treasurer referred to the fact that last year 10s. a week had been given by way of a subsidiary allowance to help in the payment of rent. He expressed surprise that so few pensioners had participated. No one with any knowledge of the conditions attaching to the allowance would feel any surprise. For instance, a pensioner with a spouse was debarred. Recipients had to be right down at rock bottom, and have no other source of income. Many people had great expectations but found, upon inquiry that those expectations had no substance.
I wish to refer now to the magnificent increase of 7s. 6d. a week that is to be paid to pensioners. It has been calculated that the payment of an additional ls. a week to the pensioners would cost £1,500,000 a year. This means that an increase of 7s. 6d. a week will cost £11,000,000 a year. If we doubled the proposed increase, it would mean a cost of only £22,000,000 a year or 4 per cent, of our total expenditure.
– I am afraid you would still complain.
– I might complain, but at least the extra money would be gratefully accepted by the pensioners of Australia and surely it cannot be argued that the cost is beyond the capacity of the Government to pay. Let me cite the case of the widow who has one dependent child. The Government proposes that she shall live on £5 a week. I do riot know how she is to be expected to do this for, having lost the breadwinner, she herself is now the breadwinner; and the magnificent increase of 7s. 6d. will bring her total pension to a paltry £5 a week. The widow who has no children is to be required to live on £4 7s. 6d. a week. And this from a government which boasts about the prosperity of the nation and the great progress we are to make in the near future.
The reason why the increases are so small is that this Government has never favoured increasing social services. I remind the Senate that a prototype of this Government scandalized and vilified the aged, the poor, the sick and the suffering when the Labour Party was postulating the advisability of introducing social services. To-day, social services are an accomplished fact and the Government does not dare abolish these benefits; but it is niggardly in the amounts it makes available to the deserving sections of the community. I think it was the financial editor of either the Melbourne “ Herald “ or the Melbourne “ SunPictorial “ who described this Budget as a begrudging budget, and that description is not far wrong. Take the Government’s attitude towards the medical benefits scheme to which Senator Lillico referred this evening. Honorable senators on the Government side were never in favour of the introduction of that scheme, and the Government has done everything possible to make it unworkable. For instance, it has kept off the free list certain life-saving drugs and other things.
It now recognizes that it must do something, and so it talks about increasing the number of drugs to be made available. But at the same time it proposes to impose a charge of 5s. in respect of each prescription. That is the proposal so far as we understand it, but we will not know the full details until the relevant legislation is brought before the Parliament. Nobody seems to know what this part of the Budget means. Perhaps it will be like the postal charges. In that case, the Treasurer pointed out the great work being done by the Postal Department and how it had made a profit of £3,000,000 last year. Any one listening to the Treasurer would be led to expect a reduction in telephone and other charges, yet we find that, despite a profit of £3,000,000, postal and telephone charges are to be increased. Apparently the proposal to increase postal charges brought something down about the ears of the Government for it now seems only too eager to change its attitude towards bulk postage. Of course, any expectation of a real reduction of charges is only another illusion.
We have been told that we will be able to send all our letters by air mail for something less than the present charge of 7d. How many letters are sent by air mail? Surface mail is quite fast enough in these days unless we require something to be delivered urgently. We are to receive a reduction in the cost of air mail, but there is to be an increase of one penny in the charge for all ordinary mail. This must provide a very pleasant windfall for the Government’s friends, for its protégé, Ansett-A.N.A. and other airlines, but it will mean a crippling reduction in the earning capacity of the various State railway systems. It will mean that the State governments will show greater deficits in the running of their railway sys tems and possibly the Commonwealth railways will show a lower return because mails are to be carried by air rather than rail.
It is also certain to mean a demand on the Commonwealth by the States for increased subsidies to enable them to balance their budgets. But that is the method of finance favored by this Government! One sees from the Budget just how the Government ignores the people who count, the very people who can develop and build this country into a great nation, and how it is playing into the hands of its friends. This reduction of ls. in the £1 in income tax means nothing to the basic wage earner who has a wife and three or four children. Only those in the higher income brackets will benefit to any extent from the proposed concessions. One could mention many inconsistencies in this Government’s attitude, and I sincerely trust that when we are dealing with the various items in detail we shall be able to treat them in the manner they deserve.
– I rise to support the motion and to oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). First, I should like to congratulate Senator Lillico on the maiden speech he delivered in this chamber to-night. It was made by a man with a great deal of experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. 1 should also like to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on the presentation of his first Budget. In reply to Senator Sheehan, I say that the thoughts of Australian Country Party supporters in this corner of the chamber on Budget night were definitely with Sir Arthur Fadden. On such an occasion, whose thoughts would not be with the man who had served this Parliament and this country so well and with such distinction, and who had presented nine Budgets in his capacity of Treasurer? We of the Australian Country Party are very sad indeed to have lost such a great leader. What party would not be sad at losing a leader with such great experience? But we are well led now by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), and under him we shall continue to play our part in this Parliament as we have played it in the past.
So far in this debate I have not heard one speaker from the Opposition benches say anything about the future expansion and development of the country. They have risen, one by one, and selected and hammered special features of the Budget, all the time decrying the splendid job the Government has done in the past ten years, during which our rate of expansion has been far greater than that at any previous time in our country’s history. One Opposition senator attributed our success to the fact that we have been lucky in enjoying a number of prosperous years. I should like to point out to him that in very good years primary producers are confronted with many problems, especially in a country such as ours, which has a small home consumption and has to compete on the world’s markets with countries that have great production surpluses.
The prosperous ten years through which we have just passed have entailed hard work and much planning by the Government. Last November, it went to the poll without making any promises to the people. The leaders of the Government said, “ If you give us your confidence and return us to office, we shall continue to govern this country in just the same way as we have governed it for the past nine years “. As we know, the Government was returned with a record majority, and now, in its first Budget since the election, it aims at great expansion by providing huge expenditure for public works and social services. The Opposition has been critical of the proposed expenditure, saying that the amounts intended for social services and housing are not enough, but on the other hand they say that the proposed postal charges are too high. This Government could have increased its popularity by introducing a Budget providing for greater income tax reductions and much increased social service benefits, while abolishing payroll tax and reducing other forms of tax. But what good would that have done us? The people of this country, who have an awareness of our future requirements, as distinct from our present needs, acknowledge the tremendous advantages we have gained from pursuing a policy of economic stability. Nowhere do 1 see greater evidence of the benefits gained from this policy than in the £120,000,000 of overseas capital directed last year to the expansion of our industry. The investment in this country of £120,000,000 from over seas demonstrates that people overseas recognize the stability of Australia. However, if economic stability is to continue, we must give more attention to the development and progress of our primary industries as well as of our secondary industries. We must increase the volume of our exports.
Both the Minister for Trade, by going overseas and negotiating on behalf of the Government trade agreements such as the one with Japan, and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) have paid close attention to increasing our exports. In doing so, they and their departments have made a valuable contribution to the economy, which has been reflected in our balance of trade position. This improvement can continue only while our prices remain competitive. To keep them so we must find an answer to the ever-increasing cost of production, the burden of which is passed on to the man on the land who, unlike other sections of the community, cannot pass it on to some one else.
Producers have always played their part in trying to keep costs down, but they have control over only a small proportion of their expenses. They have tried to solve the problem of rising costs by spending huge sums of money on modern machinery, by contributing, together with the Government, to research into pasture improvement, stock diseases, and other matters. They have also contributed large sums of money for the purpose of sales promotion in their own industries. They have played their part, but despite this their costs continue to creep up. Because of low wool prcies last year, many growers are in a serious position. Honorable senators opposite and their unions must play their part in solving the cost problem. I recall that in 1951, when wool prices rose, trade unions clamoured for increased awards, basing their claims on the high price of wool. I well remember representing Western Australian graziers’ organizations in the Arbitration Court, when shearers asked the court for a shearing rate of £10 per 100 sheep. Among other questions asked of me by the Australian Workers Union representative were: “ When did you take up farming? “ and “ How many sheep did you have at that time? “ I was then asked how many sheep I was running on the farm at the time of the hearing. My answer to those questions was that at the time of the hearing I was running three times as many sheep as when I first commenced farming. The representative of the Australian Workers Union threw his arms up in the air and did a war dance and asked the commissioner why the members of his union were not getting a greater share of the fruits of my efforts. I remind the Senate that these shearers were on my property for only three days in the year, yet they wanted a greater proportion of the results of my efforts - my hard work in clearing the property, putting down pastures, and exercising better management of it.
I should like to inform the Senate that after coming out of war service I took up this property and, like a great many other people, I did not have sufficient money left to buy more than a few hundred sheep. As the years went by I increased my flock until, in 1955, I had three times as many sheep as at the commencement. Yet the union advocate claimed that his members were entitled to a greater proportion of the results of my efforts. I noticed last year, when the price of wool fell, that the unions that were seeking increased wages made no mention of wool. I am glad that wool prices have since gone up. Over the years I have seen great fluctuations in the price of wool from season to season and from sale to sale. Therefore, I shall wait until another sale or two has taken place before expressing an opinion on whether the present prices will hold. I only hope that our good friends in the unions will not base future claims on the price of wool.
I should like now to refer to a related subject. During my enforced holiday from this chamber last November, speakers both here and in another place referred to a proposal to enlarge the membership of the Australian Wool Bureau. I am totally opposed to an enlargement of the bureau, and I should like to say what I think of the present bureau. During the period of my absence from this chamber, the term of office of the members of the bureau expired and they had to face an election for a further term of three years. It was suggested in certain places that the new bureau should include members of the wool trade and of the manufacturing interests. At the time, it was suggested in this chamber that the growers who constituted the bureau did not have sufficient knowledge to manage the multiplicity of affairs in which they were engaged. I should like to rebut those statements, because I think they were unjust and completely wrong. It would be just as wrong to say that primary producers should not become members of this Parliament because they are not capable of carrying out the functions of the Parliament.
An outstanding example of a primary producer who has had a successful career in this Parliament is Mr. John McEwen, the Leader of the Australian Country Party. I do not think that any one would deny the outstanding success of his administration of the Trade portfolio, nor that he has a thorough knowledge of the problems involved. I believe that a grower having a practical knowledge of the problems of the wool industry - a man who has spent many years working his way up through growers’ organizations to the wool bureau - would have a better appreciation of the policy that should be adopted on behalf of the growers than someone who has had only business training. In order to demonstrate the success that has been achieved by growers as members of the bureau, let us consider what occurred in connexion with the winding up of the Joint Organization in 1952. After the liquidation of that organization, this Government had some 344 wool stores on its hands and did not know what to do about them. Considerable pressure was brought to bear on the Government by the trade to sell or dismantle these stores. On the other hand, the growers believed that the stores should be retained for use during a possible war in the future when the selling system that had prevailed during the last war might be reintroduced.
They pointed out that if these stores were sold or dismantled and war came again, the Government would have to build new stores. The growers believed also that the rent obtained from leasing these stores would form a useful contribution to the industry. How right that contention has proved. At the time that the wool bureau took over the stores in accordance with legislation that was passed for the purpose, the total amount of rent being received from the stores was £250,000 a year. According to the last report of the Australian Wool Bureau, rent totalling £545,’000 was received from those stores last year, despite the fact that the number of stores had decreased over the years to 315. These stores are in first-class condition, and they are a wonderful asset .to the country. But for .the fight that was made :by the growers, these stores would have been .dismantled or sold to .private industry and that, I think, would have been calamitous for the wool industry.
A similar fight took place over the wool statistical service. With the winding up of the Joint Organization it seemed that these services, which had been run by the Australian Wool Realization Committee, would also have to be wound up. However, the growers said that the service had been of immense value to them, despite statements by the trade that the service was of no further use because the trade itself was catering for the needs of the grower?. To-day, the wool statistical service is regarded by the trade as of great value. Not only does it give a day-to-day price -for wool, but it also tells the buyers of the types of wool that will be available, where they will be, at what time of the year they -will he available, and in what quantities.
The bureau is a grower body engaged in advertising wool and promoting its sale, being financed by contributions made by the growers. Its work is not regarded as of a short term or immediate benefit. The criticism that has been levelled at it has been mainly along the lines that it has not been able to obtain quick results, especially during the last season when wool prices fell. A great number of people have tried to cast blame on to the bureau in order, I think, to hide the faults in the present woolselling system. Further criticism has been levelled at the bureau because of its policy of promoting wool as against mixtures, again mainly, I think, by people who would like to see synthetics oust wool. No one has yet shown me the benefits that wool as a fibre can gain from attempts to popularize fabrics that are not pure wool fabrics. I am certain that no greater proportion of wool would be used in mixtures than the manufacturers of fibres found was necessary to produce a saleable article. It is also unlikely that the people making pure wool materials would provide money to promote blends under any joint promotion scheme that was put forward. On the other hand, those making blends would be unlikely .to contribute to publicity schemes that excluded their own goods.
The Australian Wool Bureau contributes to the International Wool Secretariat. Australia is responsible for 62 per cent, of the contributions to that organization, while South Africa and New Zealand are responsible for the remainder. Under the existing set-up, the greatest co-operation exists with the trading interests overseas. There are joint advisory committees. More than that, overseas interests have continued over the years to put real money into joint promotion schemes run by the grower body. Now, they are asking for an opportunity to put in more money. A striking example of this was the recent request of the Japanese wool spinners who, over the years, have made a contribution of approximately £87,000 sterling a year to joint promotion. This year, they have requested that they be allowed to make an extra contribution of some £300,000 sterling during the next four years. Therefore, Sir, I say that there is no reason why the wool trade in Australia should not follow the precedent that has proved so successful overseas.
Let me return to the Australian Wool Bureau. The Minister has re-appointed the members of the bureau for a further term of three years, but he has made clear to them that their appointment may be terminated before the full term has expired because the bureau could be enlarged to include other sections of the trade. It is significant that the pressure by growers for inclusion of trade interests in the membership of the bureau comes from only a very small section. At the present time, two types of grower are represented on the bureau. They are the agricultural wool producer, whom I call the farmer-grower, and the pastoralist. Those, I think, represent the only two natural divisions of the industry.
We now have a request by another grower organization for membership of the bureau. I suggest that if this request is granted it will cause only confusion, because the organization that has made the request draws its membership from both the pastoralists and the agriculturists, who are already represented on the bureau. If that organization is granted membership, I cannot see any reason why other organizations should not be admitted. If that happens, the voice of the growers will become more and more mixed and the situation could eventually become farcical. When wool-growers have gone to the Minister to ask him to implement wool marketing schemes he has said to them, “The Government believes that you yourselves have to make up your minds what you want. We believe that the product belongs to the men who grow it and that they should have a say in what happens to it.” If that principle applies to wool marketing, surely it should also apply to membership of the Wool Bureau. That is why I say that membership of the bureau should remain as it is at present.
.- The Budget papers that are now before the Senate have been compiled for the purpose of showing the people of Australia the intentions of the Government for the coming year and indicating the general trend of the economy. That has been the traditional role of the Budget. It is surprising to find this Budget, and also some of its immediate predecessors, following a trend which is turning the Australian economy and all the resources of this country towards the development of a new kind of monopoly capitalism. Each year, the supporters of the Government stand up and speak about minor matters which are just a front to cover up this tremendously important trend that is being followed to-day.
Senator Henty, during the course of his speech, said that he wanted to see a society in which a young man could build up his business and turn it into a public company. Other honorable senators opposite have spoken of private enterprise. I put to the Senate that to-day we are witnessing the development in this country of something that is un-Australian. I think that when the people of Australia appreciate the trends that are being followed by this Government they will deal very harshly with it. Senator Henty spoke of Labour’s bid to get into office. Labour has always stated fearlessly and faithfully its reasons for wanting to get in office. The Budget we are now considering is the first to be presented after the last election, when the Government asked for the confidence of the people. The people, believing that the Government would legislate for their welfare, their advancement, and for good government, returned it to office. But we have seen developing very quickly a trend which I feel the vast majority of the people of Australia believe is not for their welfare and advancement and not for good government. The Australian Labour Party exists for the welfare of the people. It seeks to care for the interests of the family men - the most important people in the community. It is in that respect that Labour’s basic philosophy differs from that of this Government. We believe that a government not only should devote all its efforts to the maintenance of full employment and the maximum standards of health and efficiency, but also that it is pledged to prevent monopolistic concentrations of capital and property. It is to that matter that I particularly wish to address myself to-night.
I have already stated that Senator Henty referred to Labour’s bid for office. When we sought office, we conscientiously submitted to the people the proposition that we would exempt from income tax all incomes up to £450 from personal exertion, and that we would grant a deduction of £150 for a dependent wife or housekeeper and £78 for each dependent child. That offer was a real attempt to improve the standard of living and to promote the welfare of the people. But in the presentation of this Budget there has been the most blatant evasion of the granting of those improvements, which the people of Australia expected and deserved. This Government has claimed to be a taxation reduction government, but the niggardly reductions that have been made on the one hand have been offset on the other hand by increased revenue charges.
Other honorable senators have dealt at length with the paucity of the increases in social service benefits and of the need for the alleviation of the lot of the average person. I do not intend to develop that theme to-night but to take advantage of another opportunity to do so at a later date. Honorable senators have directed attention to the imposition of great increases in postal charges. The fact that this Government proposed very heavy increases in certain postal charges and within a few days reversed its decision indicates that it is skating on very thin ice as far as public opinion is concerned.
It is to the matter of big finance, monopoly finance, that I wish particularly to direct the attention of honorable senators. When we look for the final effect of the Budget, we see there has been a total ignoring of the wishes of the general mass of the people and an attitude of contumely on the part of the Government. The Budget has been described as being grudging and parsimonious. We hold that in the presentation of all budgets consideration should be extended to families and their needs, but on this occasion those people have been neglected. The parsimonious increases that have been handed out have not caught up with the inflationary process that is at present in train. This Government is riding on the crest of an inflationary wave which has existed throughout its term of office. The increases of prices and costs that have been mentioned by Senator Lillico and Senator Drake-Brockman are showing up in the great difficulties that are confronting our primary industries.
What this Government has done has been to open the door to the onrush of profiteering, the like of which has never before been seen in the history of this country. Overseas and local companies are making margins of profit which border on the immoral, yet supporters of the Government consider that to be good business. I have before me a number of reports taken from the daily press which indicate that rates of interest and dividends of up to 30 per cent, and even 40 per cent, are being paid. If that is considered by the Government to be good business, it is very difficult to know where this country is going. On the one hand supporters of the Government rise and make a plea for the curbing of rising costs so we may compete on the world’s markets, but on the other hand the very Government which they support is allowing all the influences that lead to increased costs to go unchecked. No doubt Government senators also think that hire-purchase activities, as they are developing in Australia, are good business. Let me quote a passage from the Sydney “ Sun “ of 31st July last concerning Latec Investments Limited. The report states -
Latec Investments Limited is to extend its operations to Melbourne.
Directors announced to-day that they would acquire by September 1 all capital in Confidential Investments Pty. Ltd., Melbourne, hire-purchase financiers.
Then further on it says -
Earlier this week Latec announced a record net profit of £200,175 - equivalent to an earning rale of 23.4 per cent, on average capital employed during the year. Dividend was maintained at IS per cent, for the sixth successive year.
The Government could provide the answer by making loans at a set rate of interest, or even by financing loans through the Commonwealth Bank at a set rate of interest, but it has made no attempt to try to curb the activities of these financial organizations, which have virtually taken over the power of finance in this country, since the private banks, through their own hire-purchase organizations, have joined forces with them. The Commonwealth Bank itself is to be divided up in such a way as to make it a straight-out instrument of the private banking institutions.
The quickening movement away from competition is lightly explained away by Government supporters. They hold that there is still competition. There is competition of the corner shop variety, but even the corner shops are now only a front for the larger organizations behind them. With corner shops, the practice of group buying is gaining momentum. Each little shop finds that, in order to compete, it has to join in a group buying organization and combine in group advertising of certain articles at catch prices. This is making it extremely difficult for the smaller shops to continue to exist.
It is a reflection on this country as a whole that it has in power a government which, with the aid of the brain-washing machine that it has at its disposal - I. refer to the press, radio and television - could cause us to fall into a rut of economic colonialism or, if you like, economic feudalism without as much as a united outcry against that evil. The true purpose of capitalism is to gain a full monopoly, exclude competition- and place in the hands of the few the. means of production, distribution and exchange.
– It sounds like your policy.
– That is1 exactly what I wanted you to say. That is the position that is developing to-day. Instead of having government of the people by the people for the people, we are moving towards government of the people by the few monopolists, who are gaining strength in this country to-day. When the people of Australia find out about this tendency and come to know the true nature and strength of it - which I hope to illustrate in a few moments - they may not be so complacent.
– Do you favour control by monopolies of labour?
– I am speaking of the monopoly of money, and money controls labour. Money is power, and these people are taking over the power of a democratic people to govern themselves. The complacency that is shown in the speeches of Government senators about the state of the nation leads me to believe that they are totally unaware of the vast forces that are on the move in this country. I need to use only one word to describe these forces, which are gathering momentum, and that is the word “take-over”. Financial monoliths are being created before our eyes.
Government senators continually use the words “private enterprise”, meaning the right of the individual citizen to develop his business free from interference, with the law of supply and demand being the only limiting factor, and the pursuit of a margin of profit being the incentive. Any honorable senator who still thinks that private enterprise of that nature exists on any large scale in this country is deluding himself. He is deliberately misrepresenting the position.
– Who wrote this speech for you?
– If I were not able to write it myself, I would not be presenting it. I have often heard Senator Marriott reciting some concoctions not of his own makings We are emerging to-day from this inflationary boom with a wave of combines and’ trusts- that have their equal only in the United States. In- that country it was found necessary to pass legislation to curb their activities, although the combines there have found loopholes in the legislation, but equivalent, legislation has never been introduced’ in Australia. I believe that we are shirking our responsibility in not grappling with this problem before these organizations’ become all-powerful.
The term “private enterprise” at one time envisaged groups of individuals who were stimulated by & belief in profits. It was thought that a desire to make profits brought- about greater efficiency of operation, and that- this motivating force of profit-making was sufficient to ensure production and development. What is the motivating force of the combines and corporations to-day? Is it. a desire to increase the personal incomes of the management? Is it a desire to serve the stock-holders? Is it a desire to give greater power to the combines purely for the sake of power? Or is it a desire to serve the public and the national interest? Those are very important questions that should be answered.
I have before me a list of organizations that recently have taken part in this scramble for take-overs which is a part of the process of establishing, monopolies. I shall quote only one case now, because my time is very limited. I refer to the L. J. Hooker group. The group’s profit is about £306,000, according to preliminary reports. The actual earning rate would be higher than 30 per cent, because the capital was raised by take-overs and a two for five par issue as the year progressed. This is one of the ways in which the group was able to achieve this great take-over. Constructors (Engineers and Industrial) Limited has accumulated losses of £823,295. HookerRex is offering the holders of 5s. shares 6d. a share. The only asset of value to Hooker-Rex in the deal, besides the company structure of Constructors, is the accumulated losses which can be used for tax purposes. Based on the normal allowance for tax purposes of 7s. 6d. in the £1 the losses are worth £308,725 to Hookers. If that is not tax evasion and a robbing of the Australian treasury, and if that is not a bringing of capital together to form a monopoly, then I do not know what is.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin), - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 August 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590826_senate_23_s15/>.