23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Joint Address: Acknowledgment by Her Majesty The Queen.
– I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General the following reply by Her Majesty The Queen to the Joint Address presented on the occasion of the birth of her second son: -
I and my husband thank the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia most sincerely for their kind message of congratulations on the birth of our second son.
– Pursuant to Standing Order No. 38, I hereby appoint the following senators to be the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications - Senator K. M. Anderson, Senator D. C. Hannaford, Senator G. C. Hannan, Senator A. Hendrickson, Senator P. J. Kennelly, Senator T. M. Nicholls and Senator A. R. Robertson.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade to a statement attributed to Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Tedder, who is also chairman of StandardTriumph International Limited, in these terms -
Australia is a very fine country indeed, but you are not selling it well enough. . . . Australia could become a great nation if it was more intensely promoted overseas.
In view of this implied criticism of the Department of Trade, will the Minister invite Lord Tedder to enlarge upon his comments in order to see whether they contain any real substance and whether Lord Tedder can offer any suggestions which might help to promote Australia’s overseas trade in the way that he envisages?
– I would be hesitant to adopt the suggestion that Senator Anderson makes. Many distinguished visitors from overseas are almost immediately impressed by Australia’s possibilities and potentialities which they had not appreciated because they had not previously been to Australia. I think a fair number of them come to the conclusion that we are not sufficiently advertising ourselves overseas because they had not previously taken the interest in Australia that they will take as a result of their visit here. I think that when they go back they might find, on reflection, that we are not making a bad effort to attract attention to Australia and that we are indeed getting a very good result, as is evident in terms of the overseas capital and migrants that are coming to Australia.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade the following questions: - Has the Minister seen and read the pamphlet “ Ideology “ distributed by the Moral Rearmament people? I mention that it is claimed that 15,000,000 copies of the pamphlet have been distributed. Did the Minister notice the statement on page 1 1 that the value of Russian sales to the rest of the world had grown from 250,000,000 dollars in 1930 to 1,800,000,000 dollars in 1950, and to more than 4,000,000,000 dollars in 1958, and that import figures for these years were about the same as the export figures? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the extent to which Australia comes within the ambit of this trade, that is to say. is it affected in the same proportion as other countries?
– I can give only very short answers to the questions that Senator Brown raises. I have not read the pamphlet to which he refers. I have not seen the Russian trade figures that he has quoted, although I would not be surprised by them. This is a world of expanding trade. Trade transactions between all nations in the post-war years have increased very materially indeed as a result of the influences that operate. As to the third part of the question, concerning the effect of the expansion of Russian trade on Australian trade, again I can give only a short answer by pointing out to the honorable senator the extent to which our own commercial transactions have increased. We are in the position at the present time of exporting and importing between £900,000,000 and £1,000,000,000 worth of goods each year, which is a very great advance indeed upon the volume of transactions a decade ago. So what has happened to Russia has also happened to other countries. There has been a vast increase in Russian trade, and there has been a vast expansion also of Australian trade.
– Of trade between Russia and Australia?
– 1 cannot tell the honorable senator the proportion.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Last Thursday, the Minister made a statement to the effect that he thought the recent agreement between Ansett-A.N.A. and Trans-Australia Airlines would not only be a benefit to the airlines but also be appreciated by the Australian taxpayers, a large amount of whose money is involved. That being so, I should like to ask the Minister to inform me in what manner the Australian taxpayers are involved with Ansett-A.N.A., seeing that it is a private company. What amount of their money is involved in this privately owned company?
– I shall have to ask for notice of that part of the question in which the honorable senator seeks figures because there has been a significant change recently due to the disposal by AnsettA.N.A. of two DC6 - not DC6B - planes. The honorable senator has referred to loans made to Ansett-A.N.A. The Government, as I have frequently explained, is involved, not as one lending money but as a guarantor. My other reference to the burden placed on the taxpayer by civil aviation related, of course, to the expenditure which, year by year, we undertake in the development of civil aviation in this country - expenditure on airports and on the establishment of facilities for airways, from which all the operators reap benefit.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise noticed a press statement to the effect that Miss Australia, on her arrival from overseas recently, was, to her surprise, asked to pay a very large sum, representing duty on a fur? Is it a fact that most people who return here from overseas are quite ignorant of the circumstances which require duty to be paid on certain articles, but permit other articles to be admitted duty tree? Would the Minister consider the preparation of a short and simple statement, which could be handed to overseas passengers on their departure from Australia, setting out quite clearly what goods could be brought back to Australia duty free and what goods would attract duty?
– I saw this press report, and I took the opportunity to obtain from the department details of the fur to which the honorable senator has referred. The place of origin of the fur was the United States of America. Furs from there are subject to a customs tariff duty, fixed by the Parliament, of 65 per cent., plus 10 per cent, primage, as well as to 25 per cent, sales tax. Those are the rates charged upon furs imported by anybody. I understand that the duty has now been paid and that the owner is in possession of the fur. A pamphlet such as that referred to by the honorable senator was prepared last year, ard is freely available to anybody who wishes to have a copy. It sets out clearly what goods can be brought in duty free, and what goods attract duty. In addition, T can assure the honorable senator that officers of the Department of Customs and Excise are available in London and New York, for example, and in Australia, to give people assistance in these matters. These officers will tell them what they can do and what they cannot do. It is merely a matter of asking. People can obtain a copy of the pamphlet. If they are not sure of something then, the department is only too happy to give them all the information it can. If people were prepared to make these inquiries, it would prevent a lot of dissatisfaction. Many people say that they have to pay a penalty because they are ignorant of the law, but ignorance is no excuse.
– I ask the Minister a supplementary question. I am aware that people can ask the department about these things, but I suggest that a great majority of people do not know where to ask. I assure the Minister that the majority of people who go overseas do not know what goods are dutiable and what goods are not. Would the Minister consider preparing a very short statement, which could be handed to every overseas passenger with his ticket? If that were done, people who wished to find out about customs duties would not be required to approach a customs officer, a person who is sometimes difficult to find at short notice.
– I will have great pleasure in considering the suggestion made by the honorable senator. However, this is not a matter of having to find a customs officer suddenly. Hardly anybody goes overseas at a moment’s notice. Generally, some months of preparation are involved before a person goes abroad, and during the course of those months the necessary inquiries could be made. There are customs houses and customs officers in every State of the Commonwealth. At any time inthose months a person could go quietly to a customs office to get the information he required. He could even write to the Minister. If he did so, I would do everything I could to help him
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question without notice. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to a report that mixtures to soothe babies’ teething troubles are on the free list whilst the new drugs phenyl-butazone and chlorpromazine, used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and psychiatric disturbances respectively, are omitted and must be paid for by the patient? If so. will the Minister reexamine the list with a view to making these and other drugs of great and proven value available free to patients for whom they are prescribed?
– I did read with great interest the report mentioned by the honorable senator. I understood that it referred to dill water, which is a soothing water for babies’ teeth. I have directed the Minister’s attention to the report to which the honorable senator has referred and I will no doubt have a reply from him in due course.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior consider having published a small book or booklet identifying the trees in some of the principal streets of Canberra, possibly with illustrations, for the benefit of the many interested tourists who visit our capital city?
– I think the honorable senator’s suggestion contains some merit and I will pass it on to my colleague, Mr. Freeth. to see whether he is willing to adopt it.
– Can the Minister for National Development indicate the extent of progress to date on the expansion of the capacity of the Hume Dam in the river Murray above Albury, the cost of which is being paid by South Australia and other States, and by the Commonwealth?
– I am sorry, but I can give only a general answer to the effect that progress is being well maintained. 1 do not have all the details in my mind. I can recall only specific points. I remember that recently the River Murray Commission brought in the services of a group of French engineers to give advice on some construction difficulties that had been encountered. I think the work proceeds apace. I am glad to say that in the irrigation season now concluding there has been no restriction on water releases from the Hume Dam for the three beneficiary States that draw their supplies from the dam.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General the following questions: - Will the Minister at an early date lay on the table of the Senate the draft convention agreed to at the recently completed International Telecommunications Union Conference at Geneva, together with any subscripts to the main document and the names of states appending them? Will he give an undertaking that the convention will not be ratified by the Executive without an opportunity being given to the Senate to debate it? Will he give an assurance that pending the discussion of the convention by the Senate, no departmental action will be taken by way of allocation of frequencies or the like, which would amount to a breach of the undertaking given with respect to this matter by the Government and the department to members of all parties in May, 1959? ls it not a fact that Australia, as represented by the Postmaster-General’s De,partment, was the only English-speaking country at the Geneva conference which failed to vote on the side of Britain and the United States pf America in favour of a resolution designed to protect agreed amateur radio frequencies from unlawful use by international radio pirates? Is it not a fact that in this vote Australia has had the dubious support of the Communist-bloc countries?
– I should like to say a word about the question which relates to the taking of departmental action. I cannot give an assurance that permission will be given for the documents to be distributed prior to their coming before the Parliament. I remember quite well the meeting about which the honorable senator- spoke; it was held, I think, in May last year, I feel that the Postmaster-General would stand by what he said at that meeting. I ask the honors able senator to place the remaining questions on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether, before the presentation of the next Budget, the Treasurer will consider anomalies in the present sales tax legislation in relation to cars and other equipment that are needed by maimed and limbless civilians. In view of the fact that the provision of such equipment would enable these persons to leave the pension field and become selfsupporting, will the Minister investigate the possibility of removing sales tax on that equipment?
– I understand that it is the practice of the Treasurer, when preparing the Budget each year, to review the. whole field of sales tax. Therefore, in accordance with the usual practice I shall be pleased to bring the honorable senator’s suggestion to the notice of the Treasurer and ask for it to be considered at the appropriate time.
– I address to the Minister for Civil Aviation a question which refers to a recent press article in which he is reported as having said that the Government was expected to decide in June or July next to proceed with the development of an area at Tullamarine, in Victoria, as an international airport. I ask the Minister whether he is aware of the severe handicaps that are imposed on Victorian business, commercial and tourist interests because overseas jet aircraft are unable to land at Essendon. Can he say when the actual work on the Tullamarine airport may commence and, what is more urgent, when completion may be expected?
– I suggest that, if the honorable senator looks again at the article to which he refers, he will find that I am not reported as having said that a decision may be made in June or July. One gets that impression when one first reads the article, but I suggest that if the honorable senator looks at it again he will see that such a statement is not attributed to me. No decision has yet been made by the Government on the extent of the ultimate development of Tullamarine. What the Government has done has been to approve an acquisition programme., which is currently being put into force, to ensure that plenty of land will be available to pro-* vide Melbourne with an airport that will suit its needs. But, as I have, said, a. decision as to the extent of its ultimate development, either as an international or a domestic airport,, has not yet. been made..
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation indicate the number of local government authorities in Australia that have responded to the Minister’s offer, made some three years ago, to hand over country aerodromes to local government bodies, on conditions stated by him at the time? Can the Minister also inform me of the relevant figures for South Australia only?
– Senator Pearson indicated that be would ask this question, and I have the latest figures from the department. To> date, 21 local authorities have taken over aerodromes and the department is currently negotiating in respect of another 22 aerodromes. Of the 21 already taken over, only one, that at Tintinara, is in South Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that, since 1st March last, doctors have no longer held supplies of certain drugs used for immunization purposes and that, although previously a patient could attend a doctor and receive the necessary injections, he is now involved in two visits? He must go first to the doctor, then to the chemist to purchase the material for the injections, for which he must pay at least 5s., and then return to the doctor to receive the injection. If this is so, will the Minister consider allowing doctors to obtain supplies of drugs so that only one visit will be necessary?
– The honorable senator raises an interesting point. The matter has not come before me previously, and I shall seek the advice of the Minister for Health on it.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army say when his colleague will make a detailed statement concerning the future of the Army in Tasmania, stating particularly, first, whether the command will be controlled from Hobart, as it is now, or from Southern Command in Melbourne; secondly, what officers now in Tasmania will be compulsorily retired or transferred; and thirdly, what units will be disbanded or amalgamated?
– I understand that this matter has been the subject of discussion between the Army authorities and the Minister for the Army for some time and that it has now been sent forward by the Minister to the Minister for Defence, who will make a statement on the position as soon as he has considered it.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Supply been drawn to a report, made available by the United States Army authorities in Canberra, about disposable paper clothing, which is being used in America by certain doctors and nurses and also by some members of the military forces? If the Minister has seen the report, has he thought of the possible use of such paper apparel by the Australian defence forces? If so, will he earnestly consider the effects that its use could have on the textile and the wool industries?
– I shall ask my colleague, the Minister for Supply, to examine the question asked by the honorable senator, and to furnish a reply.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, arises from statements that have been made to me to the effect that many primary producers in New South Wales are unaware of the articles that they may purchase without the payment of sales tax, and that retailers do not direct attention to the matter. Could the Minister give the Senate a list of articles used in primary production which are exempt from sales tax?
– The list is contained in Division I. of the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1956, as amended by Act No. 71 of 1957.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, also relates to the sales tax. Can immunity from sales tax be obtained by visitors to Australia in respect of articles which are normally subject to sales tax? I refer to articles which are purchased by visitors to take out of Australia. If sales tax is payable in such circumstances, is the Minister prepared to consider an amendment of the existing legislation so that tourists coming to this country could receive immunity from the payment of sales tax, as is the case in most countries overseas?
– I can only say in reply to that question that I shall refer the matter to my colleague, Mr. Harold Holt, and ask him to examine it and furnish a reply direct to the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer inform the Senate when the committee appointed to inquire into taxation anomalies will be ready to receive those desirous of giving evidence before it?
– Ithink I was asked a similar question a few days ago. In reply, I said that I would get the information and make it available to that honorable senator. I shall also make it available to Senator Robertson.
– I preface a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate by adverting to the call-up of £5,300,000 from bank deposits by the Reserve Bank last week following the call-up of £16,700,000 in February last. As the liquidity of banks’ funds is a vital factor in Government policy relating to arresting rising costs and prices, I ask the Minister to inform me who precisely determines the time and volume of any call-up of bank deposits. Are such call-ups the result of a direct decision of Cabinet?
– This important matter is one of the functions of the Reserve Bank and therefore of the Reserve Bank Board.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization whether there is any possibility of semen from merino rams being exported from Australia for the purpose of artificial insemination.
– I should say that there is no possibility of the exportation of merino ram semen, but I shall get the information confirming that statement from the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Dr. Donald Cameron.
Debate resumed from 10th March (vide page 114), on motion by Senator Lillico -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it Please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious
Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Senator Kennedy had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the Address-in-Reply: - “ , but desire to advise Your Excellency that the Government no longer possesses the confidence of the Parliament and of the Nation because of -
its failure to halt inflation with its adverse effects on wage and salary earners, on pensioners, on persons on fixed incomes, on primary producers and on home builders, particularly those with young families;
its action in lifting import restrictions with its accompanying threat to the employment of thousands of Australians and the security of Australian enterprises; and
its decision to ask the Arbitration Commission to reject the current application of the trade union movement for an increase in the basic wage “.
– When the Senate adjourned last Thursday, I was saying that the Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr. Calwell. had stated that he would assist in whatever manner he could in endeavouring to stop the present dangerous inflationary trend. Mr. Calwell’s statement reflects the concern with which the Australian Labour Party views this menace to our nation. We shall endeavour at all times to combat inflation.
I was very pleased indeed to learn from the Governor-General’s Speech that, before preparing its next Budget, this Government will consider particular problems associated with the pensions system in general and with the means test in particular. I suggest that the Government should give consideration to the automatic adjustment yearly of the amount of capital that may be owned by those persons who find, on reaching the age at which they become eligible for the age pension, that, through having practised thrift during their lifetime, they are prevented from receiving the pension. If the property limit applied to a pensioner were raised automatically by £200 or £300 a year, it would go a long way towards eliminating the penalty that is now unjustly imposed on those people who. during their working lives, have been thrifty and have put some little nest-egg away for a rainy day. I have proposed the figure of £200 or £300 merely for the sake of argument. I am sure that if some such scheme were initiated the people who advised the Government on these matters would be able to suggest an amount that would be appropriate to meet all requirements.
It is pleasing to learn that the Government intends to take action to strengthen free enterprise against monopolies. This is a step in the right direction. As pointed out by an earlier speaker, over the past ten years there has been a greater move towards monopolies and restrictive practices than was ever made before. The proposed action would help to place free enterprise
On a sounder basis.
We know how important immigration is to Australia. I suggest that the Government should amend the Nationality and Citizenship Act to provide that the widow of an unnaturalized immigrant, who may have been killed in an accident at work or on the street, be given the right to naturalization before the expiry of the period of five years that is at present prescribed. Although there is not a great number of widows in these circumstances in Australia, there are some who are suffering hardship. Their wage-earner, perhaps after two or three years in Australia, has been taken from them, and they have been left to rear children. If they were able to become naturalized they could receive the social service benefits that natural-born Australians receive, which would be of great benefit to them.
In conclusion, I say that although increasing wages have been advanced as one of the causes of inflation, there are many other factors that bear upon this problem. As I said previously, when we speak of an increase in the basic wage we are anticipating a decision of the Arbitration Commission. The Government, in appearing before the commission to oppose the claim of the unions, is also anticipating such an increase. Whether the basic wage be increased or remain unchanged, the decision given by the three commissioners will be in the best interests of the whole nation.
I support the amendment and commend it to the Senate.
– I desire to associate myself with the remarks of other senators regarding the new Governor-General, Viscount Dunrossil. I extend to him and to his wife a cordial welcome to Australia. They have already given evidence that a wise choice was made in filling the office of Governor-General so recently vacated by Sir William Slim. Viscount Dunrossil’s recent experience as Speaker of the House of Commons ensures that he is well fitted to maintain that attitude of neutrality that is essential in any occupant of vice-regal office. He is a worthy successor to Sir William Slim; perhaps no higher praise than that can be offered. We thank Sir William Slim for his great service to the Australian people as Her Majesty’s personal representative in this country. He was a very difficult man to replace, but Viscount Dunrossil has already shown that he can adequately fill the office so recently vacated by Sir William Slim.
The new Governor-General’s first public duty was to open this session of the Parliament and we thank him for the way in which he accomplished that task. His second official duty was to pay a visit to my own State of South Australia where, at the weekend, he was accorded the open-handed, spontaneous and enthusiastic welcome that one would expect from the South Australian people or from the people of any other section of the Commonwealth.
All subjects of the Queen are delighted at the news of the recent royal birth. It is a very rare event that we celebrate, as this was the first baby born to a reigning Royal Family of the British Commonwealth in 103 years. It has aroused the interest of the Queen’s subjects and stimulated afresh our loyalty to the Throne and devotion to Her Majesty.
There is also tremendous joy at Princess Margaret’s engagement. We wish her much happiness. We remember how devoted she was to her late father, King George VI. We remember her great sorrow at his passing and the sense of duty that has guided her since in difficult decisions that she has been obliged to make. Now we humbly express the hope that she may be ultimately rewarded.
I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply moved so ably by Senator Lillico and seconded by Senator Drake-Brockman. I strongly oppose the amendment proposed by Senator Kennelly who, I am glad to see, has made such a great recovery from his recent indisposition.
We all remember him as a vigorous debater in this place and I am pleased to have such abundant evidence that he has returned to his usual form. The Governor-General told us, naturally enough, something of the Government’s anxiety at the inflationary trend in the economy. This anxiety is shared by every honorable senator who has so far engaged in the debate, lt is my own persona] opinion that we are paying the penalty of going ahead too fast in Australia and that some inflation is of necessity upon us because of that fact. I must say that I agree wholeheartedly with the Government’s view that the economy needs time to digest the higher wages and the margins that the court has awarded. I agree with the other measures mentioned in the Speech that the Government has decided to use in order to combat the inflation which seems to follow in the wake of these court awards. The first of those measures is described as the endeavour to get away from deficit finance in the compilation of budgets. The second is the Government’s willingness to restrain the growth of excess monetary liquidity, and that includes, of course, the rate of spending of governments themselves. The third is the removal of approximately 90 per cent, of import restrictions. However, Mr. Deputy President, I have some doubts on the ability of the exporting industries to maintain sufficient exports to pay for the mounting quantum of imports which I feel is bound to follow the removal of import restrictions. Of course, this is only speculation at this stage; time will supply the answer to the problem. 1 regret that Senator Kennelly’s only suggestion to help to solve the problem of inflation was to amend the Constitution in order to clothe this Parliament with adequate power to deal with price rises. This was the be-all and end-all of what Senator Kennelly said about the problem of inflation. I tell Senator Kennelly here and now from my place in this Senate that those powers will not be given to the Commonwealth Government, as a result of a referendum, or by reference by the States. I believe that an attempt to get additional Commonwealth powers would be an inadequate approach to the problem of inflation as we have it to-day. What Deeds to be done has to be done immediately. The asking of the people to grant power to the Commonwealth to do anything at all is not an immediate approach to the problem. The additional power may take some months to obtain or, indeed, it may not be obtained before Labour succeeds in gaining office at some future time.
We do not interfere with the arbitration authorities as such; we have said so many times. But surely the Government has a definite right and a duty to tell the court during the present hearing of the probable effects on the Budget and on the economy generally of any awards it might make. I say that the Government has a duty to do that. Senator Drury said that we are anticipating what the court will do. Surely it is wise to anticipate rather than to try to rectify anything after an award is made. It is futile to protest after an award is made. This is all that the Government seeks to do in its intervention in the present hearing. What it proposes to do is to tell the court something of the probable effect on its own Budget of any further increases. The basic wage is now fixed, we are told, in accordance with the principle of the ability of industry to pay. I feel that the court should have regard to another aspect of the matter, namely, the effect on the Commonweath and State budgets.
I respect the Commonwealth’s attitude in this matter because it has been placed in an awkward position, but its position is not so difficult as is the position of the States. Recently, the Commonwealth declined to grant a request by the States for a conference on this matter. I want to say that I believe that the request by the States - particularly the request by the Premier of South Australia - had very much to commend it, and I regret that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did not see fit readily to grant the States’ request for a conference. I repeat that the Commonwealth has been placed in an awkward position, but not so difficult as the position of the States. As I see the position, the Commonwealth revenue benefits immediately from wage rises, whereas the States have to wait for some months - probably until the next Premiers’ Conference in June or July - to obtain any redress. The Commonwealth revenue benefits immediately due to receipts from payasyouearn income tax, pay-roll tax, and the like. I think that some machinery should be established to enable the States to share forthwith in the immediate benefit derived by Commonwealth revenue. As I have said, in the absence of any such machinery the States must wait until the next Premiers’ Conference is held, when there will be a carving up of the turkey, in order to obtain a share of the increased revenue.
State government departments are liable to pay-roll tax. It would be of immense value to them if this obligation were removed from them. I know that the Commonwealth has its difficulties, but I believe that it should share with the States such benefits as accrue to it. I believe that the Commonwealth made a mistake by not agreeing to the request made by the Premier of South Australia for a conference. I feel that the extent of both the basic wage and margins increases surprised even the unions themselves. The effect of the rises will be felt particularly by the exporting industries. The stage is rapidly being reached when some of our export industries will have great difficulty in combating overseas competition. I think that Senator Lillico has dealt adequately with that aspect of the matter.
I say to those who are claiming wage increases - I do not object to the claim - and to those who support them that no one will benefit if an industry reaches the point where it is faced with such competition from outside sources as to prevent it from marketing its products. We are rapidly pricing ourselves out of world markets, as a result of increasing inflation. The result will be that people will lose their jobs. It stands to reason that if an industry engaged solely in exporting cannot compete on the world market, that industry must go to the wall, and any person employed in the industry must, of course, pay a similar penalty. It is not simply a question of what industry can afford to pay. It is rather a question of how many industries can survive the inflation which has overtaken this country in recent years. At a time when Australia is looking to secondary industry to play an increasing part in paying for our imports, it is extremely regrettable that inflation has developed to its present extent. I feel that the unions should remember this when they are advocating higher awards for their members. The primary industries of this country are the main exporting industries. As was pointed out by Senator Lillico, the effect of the high tariff is something that at all times they must bear. They cannot escape it. We do not complain about that, but it is well to remind the Senate occasionally that the fight for markets which is being continually waged by the Minister for Trade, Mr. McEwen, is not helped by rising costs in Australia. We can rely on these industries to provide an increased volume of exports to improve our balance of payments position, but it is futile to continue the agitation for higher and still higher wages without taking into account - I want this fact to be noted - that there must be a commensurate increase in production. If production keeps pace with increasing wages and increasing margins, then all will be well, but I feel that sometimes that is not the case. Honorable senators opposite, who claim to represent some of the wage earners, should not fail to point this out to members of their respective unions. It is surely the common-sense view. I am not opposed to higher wages, provided that they are linked with an increase in production.
We are not the final arbiters on how high the cost structure can go in this country. The final arbiters are the consumers in other countries, who are beyond our control. I am thankful that, in general, our volume of exports is still high. Our primary industries still supply a very great proportion of the exports from this country. I regret that, because of a drought, South Australia is not able to contribute as much as usual to this volume of production. South Australia has just experienced the driest season on record.
– For all time?
– Yes, for all time. Agricultural areas with an average rainfall of about 18 inches have just experienced a year when they received 8 inches, or 9 inches at the most. Some districts are suffering extreme hardship, and an application was made recently, supported by the South Australian Wheat and Woolgrowers Association, for drought relief. Senator Drury, I think, mentioned that fact in his speech.
Because of the financial disabilities of the South Australian Government - caused, in the main, directly by the drought, but partly by increased margins - the Premier recently asked the Commonwealth for assistance for hardship cases only. I support the Premier in that request. I wish to make it clear that I would not support an application for general drought relief. I think that the farming industry would make itself a laughing stock - I say this deliberately - or would bring ridicule upon itself from the general taxpayers if it made an application for general drought relief at the present time. During the recent bountiful seasons and the recent years of good prices - with the possible exception of the last two or three years, to which Senator Drury made reference - farmers should have made provision for drought. We have had bountiful seasons and good prices throughout the last twelve years - leaving out two of the last three years - and farmers should have been able to make provision during that good period against the drought which would inevitably follow. I think that the majority of farmers in South Australia made such provision.
However, I request that the Commonwealth have another look at the application which was made to it by the South Australian Premier for money to assist in hardship cases only. I think that the Commonwealth should make available to the South Australian Premier from its own resources a comparatively small sum of money and permit him to allocate it to meet cases of extreme hardship. The Premier is willing to sort out the cases of extreme hardship in the many applications that come to him, and I think there is nobody more capable of doing that than he. Any decision that he reached upon this matter would be respected. There are instances of young men, just getting established on the land, who did not start in time to benefit from the years of prosperity. Some of them may be settlers who were placed on their holdings under the war service land settlement scheme. Their position may be quite acute. They may need superphosphate and other things to enable them to sow a new crop and maintain production. I make a plea for Commonwealth assistance to be extended and for the South Australian Premier to be left to decide who shall get it. This claim would not have been made to the Commonwealth had the finances of South Australia been in better shape, but the State’s finances have been jeopardized by the drought and the high wages awarded recently. Revenue has been seriously depleted, and the State is no longer able to make grants from revenue to assist in the cases I have mentioned. South Australia’s own loan funds have had to be drawn upon, possibly to the extent of some £2,000,000. to make good its revenue deficiency.
Inflation is the key-note of this debate, but there are other matters to which I desire to refer. I have received a request from residents of the far west coast of South Australia. They complain bitterly that they have uncertain radio reception. Most of the time they cannot receive programmes at all. They have requested me to refer to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) the need for a station which would enable them to listen to the programmes broadcast by the national station 5CK at Crystal Brook. There are about 5,000 listeners in this area who have put up a case for a relay transmitter station to enable them to pick up the programmes from station 5CK. I support the request and I trust that the Postmaster-General will consider it favorably.
That leads me to the question of television facilities for the people of this area. Recently I made a trip through the area, travelling from Port Lincoln to Ceduna. It is true to say that television reception varies from indifferent to nil. There are no television sets at Ceduna, and the same applies, I think, to Streaky Bay. At places like Port Lincoln and Whyalla reception is indifferent.
– How far away are they?
– In a direct line, 1 would say, 150 miles in the case of Port Lincoln and a little more in the case of Whyalla.
– You cannot expect them to get very good reception.
– They get some reception, but it is indifferent. I am asking that some provision be made by the PostmasterGeneral, in the next step to be taken, to cater for the people of this area. Some time ago I addressed a letter to the PostmasterGeneral making certain suggestions which he said would be considered when the next stage of television development was reached. I wonder how long it will be before that stage is reached and what provision will be made in it for the areas I have mentioned. I suggested to the PostmasterGeneral that he consider erecting a television transmitter on a high point in the Flinders Ranges. My South Australian colleagues will know the ranges to which I refer and the advantages that would flow from the erection of a television transmitter there. The ranges are a comparatively high area in the northern part of South Australia and a transmitter in that area would serve, not only the Eyre-Peninsula, but the far north of South Australia as a whole. I will indeed be interested to learn what result flows from my suggestions. I submit to the Postmaster-General that the more isolated by reason of distance the people are, the greater is their need for amenities such as television and radio. There are scattered areas in South Australia in which, as I have said, radio is well nigh blotted out and television is completely blotted out.
I wish now to refer to fruit fly and the steps that are taken in South Australia to guard against the ravages of this pest. South Australia has spent a great deal of money - at least £100,000 - in its efforts to combat the fruit fly menace. South Australia has made a valiant effort to keep fruit fly, not only out of the metropolitan area, but also out of the fruit-growing areas along the river Murray and the Barossa valley. So far there has been no outbreak of fruit fly in South Australia this year to my knowledge, which is encouraging. Among the preventive methods responsible for this satisfactory result are road blocks, which have been placed at key places on the various entrances to South Australia - from the east and from the west. Those road blocks are manned continuously 24 hours a day and every car passing through is stopped and, if considered necessary, searched. That, is a big programme to undertake and a costly one to maintain. I am disappointed that at the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, held in Hobart in February, the Commonwealth declined to help South Australia in this matter. The fruit-growing industry is just as important to the Commonwealth as it is to South Australia and I suggest that it is worth while persevering with efforts to combat the fruitfly menace. I hope that the Commonwealth will reconsider its attitude in this matter.
I ask honorable senators to bear with me while I refer to yet another matter of a parochial nature, although perhaps it is not so parochial after all, because it may be viewed as an Australia-wide problem. I refer to rail standardization. I regard the appointment of my friend, Mr. Opperman, as Minister for Shipping and Transport as a wise one. I heartily congratulate the Minister on his preferment. I feel sure that he will find scope for his undoubted industry and zeal for good work in this portfolio. He relieves my friend and colleague, Senator Paltridge, of this portfolio and leaves him to devote himself to the ample worries of responsibility for civil aviation. This, too, is a wise move, as Senator Paltridge was a very much over-worked man. One of the new Minister’s problems will certainly be the proposal to standardize the gauge of the line between Broken Hill and Port Pirie and finally to Adelaide, thus providing a standard-gauge line from Adelaide to Sydney and Brisbane. I feel the time is overdue when the Commonwealth and State governments should be honest with each other and place their cards fairly on the table. One bone of contention seems to be the two narrowgauge connexions or spur lines that exist at present from the main line from Broken Hill through to Port Pirie. I refer to the line from Peterborough-North and the line from Wilmington to Gladstone. South Australia cannot agree to standardization of the main line only from Broken Hill through to Port Pirie and leave the other two lines unconverted, as this would make still more breaks of gauge on this division of the South Australian railways, and already there are three different gauges serving Port Pirie. The South Australian Government feels that it has a right to rely on the standardization agreement of 1949, which clearly embraced the whole of this division. South Australia claims that the agreement is both practical and enforceable and that in the final analysis it is binding on the Commonwealth, irrespective of who signed it. I hope that some real progress will be made shortly in this most important matter.
I wish now to refer to a matter of great interest to migrants from iron curtain countries who desire to send food parcels to relatives and other people whom they have left behind. I raised this question in the
Senate last session with the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) and he informed me that he was not unacquainted with the problem, having had some experience of its effects. He promised to look into the matter and see what could be done. I suggested to him that as an official representative of Soviet Russia was now established in Australia, he may be prepared to act for the migrants concerned and render the service that could be expected of him. The Minister has advised me that the Department of External Affairs, however, entertains grave doubts as to whether grounds exist for making representations to the Soviet Ambassador. My correspondent, who is spokesman for the migrants in question in South Australia - he is an Estonian - has now received a communication from an agent in Sweden who previously acted on behalf of these people. This Swedish representative has informed my correspondent that he is no longer able to send gift parcels behind the iron curtain as he is now permitted to send only parcels direct to Soviet countries on behalf of Swedish nationals. His instructions are very strict and he is forced to abide by them. He regrets that he can take no further parcels from Australia. I have in my possession the letter written by this agent in Sweden. I know that in some cases a matter such as this presents great difficulties, as was pointed out by the Minister. I therefore now suggest that the Red Cross or some body such as the Good Neighbour Council should be asked to act as a collecting and forwarding agent on behalf of migrants in this country, with appropriate provision for duty to be levied on such parcels. The amount of duty is well known to these people. At present the only agent recognized is a private person in Sydney, who charges pretty well what he likes for his services. He makes a handsome profit out of the migrants’ endeavours to send parcels to their friends and relatives back home. After all, such endeavours are surely normal manifestations of a desire to be helpful. This person’s actions amount to something of a racket and I feel that the Soviet Ambassador should be prepared to render this service for people who are behind the iron curtain and who are represented in Australia by him. If there are difficulties associated with acceptance of my sugges tion, however, 1 accept them and will approach the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) to see whether something can be done to enlist the aid of the Good Neighbour Council, which does such splendid work for migrants. 1 now refer to the banking legislation that was passed by the Parliament recently. One would have thought that, after all the fuss which characterized the passage of the legislation, particularly in this chamber, it would have received a hostile reception by people outside the Parliament when it was implemented. But it has hardly raised a ripple, which rather suggests that the real opposition to the legislation came from a section of the Parliament which entirely misjudged the effect it would have on the public. One would have thought that, if the public was hostile to the legislation, one would have seen reference to it in the daily press. But, as I have already said, it hardly raised a ripple. That fact indicates that the Government has achieved a great victory not only in having the legislation passed, particularly by the Senate, but also in having it successfully implemented.
The Development Bank, the establishment of which the Australian Labour Party opposed, is likely to prove highly beneficial to persons starting up in our primary industries. I feel that the establishment of this bank may well provide a solution to some of the problems that have arisen following the drought to which I have referred. I have ascertained from the Adelaide branch of the Development Bank that it is willing to assist primary producers who may require only short-term assistance to buy commodities such as superphosphate or to replace stock which they have had to relinquish because of the drought. In other words, it is willing to assist persons who have every prospect of repaying a shortterm advance, even though they may not be able to provide the security that a trading bank would normally require. The bank is eager to assist people who are gradually creating an asset. I have been informed that an applicant for assistance would have to satisfy the bank that he was creating an asset and that he had a reasonable prospect of repaying any advance that was made. I have been informed too, that it would take a little time to finalize advances, but that if ample time were given applications would receive every consideration. Of course, there would be a limit to the amount that would be provided and a limit would be set on the time for repayment. The kind of assistance to which I have referred would be at the most seasonal. I foresee primary producers who are developing an asset, especially returned soldiers, being catered for in the present rather difficult circumstances that have suddenly arisen.
I am indebted to the Senate, Mr. Acting Deputy President, for having listened to my dealing with matters that are somewhat parochial. I appreciate the patient hearing that I have been given. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and I equally enthusiastically oppose the amendment moved by Senator Kennelly.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President,I join with previous speakers in expressing loyalty to Her Gracious Majesty the Queen. Labour will never be found wanting in that department, be it in word or deed. During two world wars and two great depressions in this country, when anything could have led to our sovereignty and our democratic way of life being challenged, Labour was in office. Loyalty will never be found wanting in honorable senators on this side of the chamber. Ours is a real and positive loyalty.
I was pleased to hear Senator Rex Pearson again making a long and useful contribution to debate. His speeches are always gentlemanly, objective and never personal. We are pleased, too, to see the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) again in the chamber and participating in debate. I hope that good health will remain with both honorable senators.
I feel quite justified in supporting the amendment that has been moved by Senator Kennelly. There are many reasons why full support should be given to the amendment, which reads -
That the following words be added to the Address-in-Reply, viz; - “ , but desire to advise Your Excellency that the Government no longer possesses the confidence of the Parliament and of the nation because of -
Us failure to halt inflation with its adverse effects on wage and salary earners, on pensioners, on persons on fixed incomes, on primary producers and on home builders, particularly those with young families;
Its action in lifting import restrictions with its accompanying threat to the employment of thousands of Australians and the security of Australian enterprises; and
Its decision to ask the Arbitration Commission to reject the current application of the trade union movement for an increase in the basic wage.”
No thinking person can deny that such an amendment is justified.
The Speech that was delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General in this chamber was supposed to be a statement of the Government’s policy. But there was very little of a positive nature in the Speech; it was very nebulous and not nearly as definite as are some of the promises that the Government makes to the people from time to time. There was only one thing the Government definitely indicated, without any equivocation, that it intended to do. I refer to the following passage in His Excellency’s Speech -
My advisers have informed me that, whilst employment and production are high and increasing -
I ask the Senate to note that - and all branches of trade are active, there are trends in the economy which have been causing them concern. In particular, costs and prices have been rising at an increasing rate. My advisers believe that if these were allowed to continueit would bring needless hardship to a great many people and it would imperil the stability upon which the further growth of Australia depends.
That part of His Excellency’s Speech follows closely the advice that the Opposition has been giving for three, four or even five years. The Government says that production is high and increasing. That is so. It also says that prices and costs are rising. They are rising, and they have been rising for almost a decade in a slow, definite and challenging way. That, no doubt, is the cause of inflation. The problem is not one of lack of production or of the unit of production of the Australian worker not being good. The unit of production of the Australian worker compares more than favorably with that of any other worker in the world.
His Excellency’s Speech continued -
They have therefore decided upon certain courses of policy of which the broad aim is to counter these untoward tendencies, restore balance between demand and supply and bring the rise in costs and prices to an end.
The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is at present hearing claims for substantial increases in the federal basic wage. My Government will, in the course of these proceedings, inform the Commission of its view that our economy needs time to absorb the two large and widespread wage increases which have already occurred within recent months.
The one definite fact that emerges from that statement is that the intention of the Government is to stop, as far as it is possible for it to do so, the Commission from acceding to the legitimate claims of the workers for a share in the prosperity of this country - prosperity which has resulted from the high productivity about which the Government has boasted. In one sentence, the Government says that the nation is in a very favorable position, and in the next sentence it says that it will intervene in proceedings before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to attempt to prevent the workers who produce the nation’s wealth from receiving a legitimate share of it. it is idle to say that industry needs time to absorb the two increases referred to in His Excellency’s Speech. Admittedly, those awards of the commission increased wages, but in the case of the margins judgment the commission was restoring the margins of skilled workers to the position they would have occupied had margins not been frozen. The judgment of the commission resulted, not so much in an increase of wages as in an adjustment of the margins which have been approved by the courts in relation to skill in industry. If margins had had to be adjusted during the last ten years to meet progressive rises in costs and profits, they would have been adjusted more frequently. Skilled workers have, in effect, been cheated. The Government, the Arbitration Commission and private industry became concerned because young men were not prepared to train to become skilled workmen, such as fitters, turners, metalworkers, mechanics in the engineering and automobile industries, and tradesmen in heavy industry generally. Men who occupied such positions often were getting less in their wage packets than unskilled workers, because margins had been frozen.
The very nature of the work of a skilled tradesman makes it necessary for him to work restricted hours. During the war, when skilled workers made a great contribution to our success by their ability to manufacture the weapons of war, such as aeroplanes, guns and ammunition, it was observed that skilled workers were limited in regard to the number of hours during which they could work efficiently. When it was necessary for them to do overtime, it was found that some of them collapsed at their jobs. Something had to be done quickly, and the government of the day acted promptly to ensure that such workers were given suitable conditions in which to conserve their skill. As we know, skilled work requires great concentration. As I have said, the increase of margins was not really an increase of wages but a re-adjustment of margins to give them the relativity to the basic wage that existed before this Government interfered with the legitimate process through which margins were increased in accordance with rises of the basic wage and of prices. Therefore, it is unjust of the Government to say that industry needs time, to absorb the increase.
The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in its examination of this matter, had regard to the privileged position that a skilled tradesman occupied in the past and should occupy to-day, and it is stated that the increase could, in its opinion, be absorbed by industry because of increased profits. The evidence placed before the commission - and it was sworn evidence that came from authoritative sources - justified it in deciding that marginal increases could be paid and absorbed by industry without the necessity to increase prices.
Not all industries are making exorbitant profits, but the general tendency is for industrial concerns to make profits that are above average. The Government has done nothing to curtail excessive profits, but it has said on several occasions that it would tax heavily because it was frightened to leave too much spending power in the hands of the community. The Government has imposed heavy taxation, but it has done nothing to improve the other side of the picture, or to adjust the balance. Whereas it has kept a tight hold on wages, salaries and marginal payments to workers, it has allowed to go unchecked profits, exploitation of lands and increases of interest rates, knowing full well that inflation was getting a progressively firmer grip on the country
It has really been lamentable to see the supporters of the Australian Country Party in the Senate, although forced by circumstances to try to preserve their unholy alliance with the Liberal Party and to keep the Government in power, begging the Government to take cognisance of the rising prices which are gradually, but surely, menacing the security of the primary producer. As we know, primary producers were receiving excellent prices for their products from the end of the war until the early days of the present Government. Certainly, during the administration of the previous Government prices for primary products were good. Our overseas markets were then excellent. There was a demand for our products, and costs of production were the lowest in the world. We could undersell other countries. At one stage, we found it possible to give £130,000,000 to the United Kingdom, due to our very good cost structure. In addition, we enjoyed a high standard of living. The return to the primary producer for his exports showed him a real profit, a real margin, because he was producing at low cost in a society which enjoyed a good living standard.
The Government has asked the primary producer to get the best possible production from his property. He has always done so, despite the vagaries of the seasons and the other difficulties with which he has to cope. According to reports, the woolgrowers face an excellent season, and the average yield of wheat throughout Australia should be very good this year. But when the primary producer looks at his costs of production and the prices being paid overseas for his products, he is really frightened. The supporters of the Australian Country Party are begging the Liberal Party to show cause why primary producers should be placed in the category in which wage-earners find themselves. They want to know why the primary producers, the real producers, should be exploited in the same way as the wage-earners are being exploited during this period of inflation while the exploiters are being given every opportunity to build up great establishments and amass huge profits.
The Government is not concerned about all this. If it were, it would have acted years ago. What prompts the Government at this stage to suggest that something has to be done about inflation while at the same time doing little or nothing about it? The important step the Government proposes to take is to interfere with the arbitration commission, a tribunal set up by this Parliament to fix wages at a standard the nation’s economy can afford. The Government says now that there is inflation. lt has allowed profits to go unchecked, interest rates to rise to unprecedented heights and the value of money to drop to an appalling extent. All these things have been apparent over the years and the Government has not been concerned about them. But immediately we reach the stage where it is essential that the wages and margins of the workers be adjusted to a figure that the industry and the nation can afford, the Government becomes concerned and decides to interfere. For those reasons, there is every justification for the amendment proposed by Senator Kennelly, and I am confident that if honorable senators were to vote without inhibition, if they were to vote independently of party affiliations, Senator Kennelly’s proposal would be supported by many honorable senators on the Government side. Certainly, if members of the Country Party really had the interests of the primary producers at heart - as they allege they have - they must support it.
Let us see who is the villain in the piece in connexion with this inflation. Government supporters say that the Government can do very little about it, that the decision as to whether inflation shall continue rests with the people of Australia. The Government argues that the workers should not take too much out of the nation’s income. While suggesting that the worker should get a fair and reasonable return for his labour, the Government moves to interfere in an effort to ensure that the tribunal which is set up to arrive at a just wage for the worker does not grant that wage. Here, I emphasize that while there is a tribunal to regulate the earnings of the worker there is no tribunal to put a check on the amount taken out of the nation’s income by money lenders, banks, exploiters and land racketeers and the members of companies which are taking out of industry profits out of all proportion to what should be taken by them.
When speaking in the Parliament, Government members say that the Government should not dare to interfere by fixing profits or regulating prices. On the other hand, in every election campaign since 1942, the Menzies-Fadden group, and the present combination, have promised the people that they would deal with excess profits. As yet, the Government has done nothing about the matter!
Huge amounts are taken out of the nation’s income by the Government itself. For instance, in 1953-54 the amount taken into consolidated revenue by way of direct and indirect taxation was £898,000,000. That figure has increased progressively since then. In 1954-55 it was £930,400,000. In 1955-56 it was £997,250,000. In 1956- 57, it rose to £1,095,410,000, and in 1957- 58 it jumped to the enormous figure of £1,176,640,000. And during all this time the Government has been saying that there is no inflation, that everything is quite all right! Further, during all this time the Government has been extracting backbreaking sums from the nation’s income, as is emphasised by the fact that the amount taken in 1957-58, during peacetime, was greater than the highest amount taken during the war period. There can be no doubt that this has been due to inflation. As the years have gone on, there has been no letup Proceeds from taxation have increased continually. There certainly has been no reduction in them and the figures disclose that there has been a twist in taxation. For instance, from 1956 to 1960. the amount levied by way of income tax increased progressively from £387,130,000 to £431,320,000.
– That was because there are more people and they are enjoying greater prosperity. Give us the percentages.
– That is not the reason. There are more people paying taxation because the Government is now taxing those who at one time were exempt from taxation. I refer to the workers who have enjoyed legitimate increases in wages and margins. Their incomes have increased to a figure beyond the statutory exemption. As the statutory exemption has not b?en increased it means that those on the lower incomes, the family man with dependants, and others, who, under previous governments, and even during the early years of this Government’s regime-, were exempt from taxation on income from personal exertion are now dragged within the field. And while there has been no adjustment of this figure, the Government has continued to extract from the people amounts out of all proportion to what might be expected from an increased population! After all, the figures disclose that even with the immigrants, our population has increased by only 2.3 per cent. Admittedly the increase in population would account for some of the additional money taken into consolidated revenue, but only to a negligible extent. The facts are that we have been going through a period of inflation and the Government has been levying vicious and harsh taxation.
I have been speaking about income from personal exertion. Let me deal now with pay-roll tax, the tax that the Government promised to abolish. At one time, supporters of the Government strenuously opposed pay-roll tax and advanced sound arguments for its abolition. I propose to quote figures showing what has actually happened despite the Government’s promise to abolish this imposition. I take figures relating to the period from 1955-56 on words because to go further back would not be fair.
– When did we promise to abolish pay-roll tax?
– It was promised by this Government time and time again during election campaign after election campaign, but never in the Parliament. It was promised to local authorities by men who are now Ministers in your Government. You are not up to date with respect to the policy of your Ministers.
– We cut it down three times.
– But you did not abolish it. In the period to which I have referred, receipts from pay-roll tax increased from £45,543,000 to £53,200,000. Returns from other taxes have increased to a like extent. For instance, although there has been an adjustment in the incidence of estate duty, the amount levied from this source also increased from £10,119,760 to £’3,300,000 during the same period. Land tax has increased from £1,800,000 to £2,000,000. Then we come to sales tax. which is an indirect tax levied on every industry and every person without regard to capacity to pay.
– Federal land tax was abolished six years ago.
– But there were some collections of land tax in 1959, as the Treasurer shows in the Budget for the current year. Indirect taxation is the most vicious form of taxation. The Government has always said, at election time, that it opposes indirect taxes. The Opposition is at all times opposed to this form of taxation, which leads to much of the misery suffered by people on fixed incomes, particularly pensioners. Collections from sales tax have risen from £110,000,000 to £150,000,000. The Government lectures the Australian people on what they should do to stop inflation. It says, “ We can spend more money than was ever spent before by governments, but you, the public, must be kept poor unless you fall into a group or category that shall continue to be unregulated, such as the combines, firms making big profits, money lenders, or home builders who exploited the nation until the supply of houses began to catch up with the demand “.
The Government asks for constructive suggestions for curing inflation. One suggestion is that this particularly vicious form of impost, indirect taxation, be eliminated. Let the Australian citizen - not only the worker but also the farmer, the businessman and the industrialist - have a sufficient residue of money to enable him to invest in the development of Australia and in its industries. The Government has not done that. This is a challenge that comes not only from the Opposition but also from Government supporters.
During the war and even until the early days of office of this Administration, the Australian Government could float a loan on the market at reasonable rates of interest and have it fully subscribed. That happy position continued until this Government repudiated its obligations to the persons who lent money to the country in the war and in the early post-war period. This Government let the bottom fall out of the loan market. It destroyed public confidence by allowing unchecked and unlimited imports, so destroying new industries in their embryo stage. Admittedly, the Government later imposed import restrictions, but not until after the damage was done. The Government, probably with intent, allowed that position to develop so that it could with some justification permit higher interest rates in this country. It floated loans overseas at rates that were higher than those obtaining here and invited the investment of overseas capital. It is quite good in an expanding economy that we should have components of inflation and overseas capital, but this Government permitted inflation and the investment of overseas capital to go unchecked.
Because of taxation and other government measures the Australian worker and other small investors are unable to invest in industry and the Government is inviting foreign capital to take up the slack. The Australian economy is paying dearly for this. A country may be conquered just as effectively by economic and monetary infiltration as by feats of arms. The Government has left the gates wide open for that conquest but now it is complaining, not because it fears that profits will ever be checked or that land values will be reduced to a reasonable level. The Government knows that those things will not happen but it is making a great noise about inflation because it wants to justify itself in appearing before the Arbitration Commission not to oppose increases in wages or margins but to oppose any increase in accordance with a set formula.
The Government is also lifting import restrictions. Just how good or bad the effect will be is debatable. We can say most definitely that this action will remove what is probably one of the most vicious rackets that has ever battened onto the Australian economy in the allowing of some privileged people, who are neither wholesalers nor retailers, to import goods under licence. Big combines and emporia have enjoyed unchecked the right, particularly in Western Australia, to sell imported goods at a premium to wholesalers and others. That premium does not represent anything other than the value of the right to import those goods. If the Government stops that practice, some good will accrue. That position is not new; it has been raised here often enough not only by members of the Opposition but also by Government supporters. But the Government could not correct it bv any measure of control unless it confessed openly to the public that the situation had got out of hand, and that the system had been exploited to the prejudice of the Australian economy. It would have had to say, “ We must take that privilege from some of our friends and share it with others “. The Government therefore decided that the far better course to take was to let imports go right off the hook, as it did on an earlier occasion, without any concern for Australian industry or Australian workers.
We of the Australian Labour Party believe that, although the lifting of import restrictions is desirable, the wholesale lifting of restrictions will not have the effect that the Government desires. It will cause disruption of industry, embarrassing that section that is trying to establish itself. We realize that although import restrictions are not designed to assist the establishment of industries, that being the function of tariff protection, they have nevertheless resulted in the establishment of industries. Mr. R. W. C. Anderson, director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, said recently that he could not see how the virtual abandonment of import licensing could avoid steadily running down Australia’s international reserves. The report of his statement, which appears in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “. reads -
Australia’s imports now were running at an annual rate of about £960 million, he said.
Mr. Anderson said: “This was our annual import bill before the recent virtual abandonment of import licensing. “ Even the boldest economists would now be a little hesitant in predicting what the bill for virtually free imports will be. “ The rate of £960 million flows from importing arrangements when something like 50 percent of imports were ‘free’. “ Now more than 90 percent are free. “With timber to be freed from April 1, the percentage of free imports will be even higher than 90 percent”, he said. “ If imports come in at the rate of £1,000 million - a conservative estimate - we will need to finance an international payments bill of more than £1.200 million after adding payments for freight and insurance “, he said.
He then went on to deal with invisible charges. That was a conservative estimate of the position that will develop if imports are allowed to come in unchecked. There can be no argument about that. The Go vernment realizes, just as Mr. Anderson and I realize, that this will have an effect on the economy of this country. We are relying on the woolgrowers and wheatgrowers and other primary producers to get the wherewithal to pay for our imports, yet they are running just an inch above the ceiling of high costs, which have not been brought about by wage fixation. Only recently has the wage position been brought to parity in our inflated, twisted, bad economy.
– Did the honorable senator say that wages are not being increased?
– Wages are being adjusted, just as the salaries and allowances of members of Parliament were adjusted last year. Prices have been adjusted with respect to the high cost of production. At the same time, our cost of production has risen by world standards. This has embarrassed the nation, and it should be embarrassing this Government.
Let us get another slant on Government policy in relation to inflation. The following article appeared in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ to-day, under the heading “ Export Reduction ‘ Danger to Unions ‘ “:-
Unions must appreciate that the well-being of their members and the standards they have won over the years were in jeopardy, Mr. T. M. Scott said yesterday.
He said that this danger would arise if Australia’s exports failed to provide the means of maintaining the internal development on which the unions depended.
Mr. Scott is the president of the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales.
He was addressing the 1960 annual conference of the association in Sydney.
Australia faced grave economic dangers unless the present cost of inflation was checked, Mr. Scott said.
To ensure survival it was devoting a great national effort to rapid development.
Mr. Scott said Australia’s internal prosperity depended on earning sufficient export income.
To maintain the present rate of progress, export income would need to increase by 50 percent in the next ten years.
About four-fifths of this increase would have to come from primary industries, he said.
Mr. Scott went on to say that although the wool industry was the biggest primary industry wool-growers had no protection from the rising spiral of costs. Due to this
Government’s taxation methods, the primary producer, although he is the backbone of this country, is getting a fairly lean return for his work. But that return is not quite as lean as the wages of the workers who have been virtually pinned down by a tribunal. Admittedly, the primary producer is not so badly off as a worker who has only his labour to sell. I believe that the amendment that has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is thoroughly justified when the effect of inflation on pensioners, wage-earners, persons on fixed incomes and primary producers is considered.
Let us look into the position a little further. There is nothing in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech in relation to persons on fixed incomes, such as pensioners. The Government has adjusted pensions from time to time, but it has not made a relative adjustment in relation to permissible income. From time to time I have been approached by a man in receipt of the unemployment benefit, whose wife is an age pensioner. If she received an increase of pension, a corresponding amount would be deducted from the unemployment benefit payable to him. As 1 have said, the ceiling in this regard has not been altered by the Government.
I say that the Government has a duty to stop exploitation of the people by combines and monopolies. His Excellency stated in his Speech that the Government will examine the matter with a view to doing something about it. Combines and monopolies have been operating for a long while in this country and this Government’s policy, more than any other factor in the community, has probably contributed to these activities. The Government’s policy has encouraged inflation. This Government has assisted General Motors-Holden’s Limited, and this Government sold its shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, our greatest bulwark against the oil industry, which is composed of the greatest combination or cartel in the world. When Labour was in office the Government’s shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited enabled it to approach the oil people - admittedly we were treading on thin ice - and say to them, “ If you do not supply oil and fuel to this nation at reasonable rates and in reasonable quantities, we will operate C.O.R. against you”. Of course, the position was akin to that of David and Goliath.
– But C.O.R. did not have any oil; it was only a retailer.
– I am aware of that, but the point is that because of our shareholding in that company, we were able to control supplies and prices. This Government has sold that asset belonging to the people. In addition, this Government has sold its shareholding in other big companies, and now the Government says that it will have a look at the position in relation to combines and cartels. Let us look at the position of the zinc industry in Tasmania, which has been taken over. I know that it would not be an easy matter for the Government to prevent such an industry being taken over by a big world combine. The zinc industry in Tasmania is producing the best zinc ingots in the world very efficiently and at cheap prices, but the Government cannot put it on the market without compromising with a big combine. I say that it is merely hypocrisy for this Government to say that it is going to deal piecemeal with monopolies and combines, because its policy has been strongly in their favour. The Government has no thought of reducing inflation in this country. I know from the interjections of honorable senators opposite that they would much prefer me to direct my attention to matters other than the ones I am speaking about. Before the Prime Minister came to office, and consistently since he has been in office, he promised to put value back into the £1. I think it will be agreed that Lord Casey who, before his resignation from this Parliament was Minister for External Affairs, was not a jack-in-the-box who came out only at election times, yet he said -
The Menzies-Fadden Administration has found it quite impossible to honour its pledge to put value back into the pound. The Federal Government has found it very difficult to maintain the purchasing power of the pound, much less put purchasing value back into the pound. The Australian pound is worth less but we are lucky to get away with no greater depreciation when you consider the economic tornado that has been through the country.
That statement was made after this Government had been in office for five years, and the economic tornado was what honorable senators opposite are now talking about combating. It will be recalled that this Government on a former occasion lifted import restrictions, dissipated our overseas balances, allowed interest rates to rise and then said that the nation was prosperous but that the money could not be allowed to remain in the pockets of the people. The Government promised to draw off surplus spending power by taxation, and did so. It has continued to do so. The Government has been able to maintain that rate of taxation, not because the people like it, but because of the great resilience and wealth of the country in which we live. The Government boasts about our high standard of living and the prosperous state of our economy, but people from overseas frequently remark that if their country had been administered in the economic field as this country has been administered, they would have been bankrupt years ago. We have been so fortunately placed by nature that good economic administration is not as important to us as it is to other countries. If this country had been governed in a proper manner - it should have been possible for the Government to do so - the price structure would have been kept low, the rapacity and greed of investors, companies and land speculators would have been restrained, and the country would have been in a much happier position than it is to-day. There would have been no need to beg for overseas capital to expand and develop the nation. We should have been able to finance our development largely from our own resources. There would have been no quarrel about the living standards of tha nation. There would have been no necessity for the Commonwealth Government to intervene in proceedings before a tribunal of its own creation and try to prevent that tribunal from arriving at a just decision, a decision to give the workers the awards they are entitled to in a nation with a buoyant economy.
The effort by the Government to strangle inflation is being made in one direction only. It is directed against the wage-earner and the man on a fixed income, but the policy of laisser-faire is being applied to other sections of the community. It is only on the tribunal fixing wages that the Government keeps a tight hold. The Government has only one purpose now in admitting something it has denied over the years. It has admitted now that inflation is damaging and is continuing to damage this country, but the only factor that provokes that admission is that the worker is claiming his share of the productivity of the country, and is gradually being given that share.
The amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is thoroughly justified and deserves the support of the Senate. If the Speech of the GovernorGeneral discloses the full programme of the Government, then the Government is making a very feeble effort indeed. The only positive action by the Government has been to intervene in the proceedings before the Arbitration Commission relating to the fixation of wages and to try to influence the commission - I hope it will not be able to do so - to keep wages lower than they should be in an economy such as ours.
– First of all, I should like to associate myself with the expressions of loyalty contained in the Address-in-Reply and to express the wish for a successful term of office for His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. His Speech on the occasion of the opening of the Parliament was, of course, very largely a recapitulation of what has happened over the years during which this Government has been in power, but it is, I think, good to remind ourselves from time to time of the benefits that have accrued to Australia from wise government over the last ten years and of the many good things that have come about. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, when she was speaking, covered this ground very well by reminding us of some of those good tilings. They are, of course, well understood by the electors of Australia, as is shown each time the electors go to the ballot box. The electors show quite plainly that they understand what the Government has been doing and that they appreciate that prosperity has been brought to this country by wise administration.
The Address-in-Reply debate gives honorable senators an opportunity to range far and wide and to discuss the small or large matters in which they have an interest, but I should like to discuss first the amendment which was moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. There are certain things in it with which I completely disagree. The first paragraph of the amendment criticizes the Government because of -
Its failure to halt inflation with its adverse effects on wage and salary earners, on pensioners, on persons on fixed incomes, on primary producers and on home builders, particularly those with young families.
Let us take them one by one. The amendment speaks of the adverse effects on wage and salary earners. What is the gauge by which we can measure whether the value of our salaries is going up or down? The only gauge that I can think of is how many hours or how many days it will take to earn enough to buy a pair of shoes, a motor car or something like that. Let me look at the problem from that angle. It is the only angle that is fair and the only angle that gives a result. Let me quote something that is purely personal. In 1930, I built a house which cost me £1,400. At that time I was receiving £240 a year. It would have taken me six years, using all my salary at that time, to pay for the house. In 1959, I built another home, which cost me or the bank £5,000. If I had been a junior officer, as I was in 1930, I would have been earning £1,000 a year. It would have taken five years, using all my salary, to pay for the house built in 1959. Although the value of the £1 has gone down, you get many more pounds. The same comparison would apply to a pair of boots or shoes, a motor car or anything else. I have taken the trouble to work a lot of these things out. To-day you pay £2,500 for a Buick car which in 1930 would have cost only £400. In the particular case I mentioned, I would be better off by one year, because it would take me one year less to pay off the house to-day than it would have taken in 1930. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he would hesitate, or would not be rash enough, to say what the £1 was worth to-day. The £1 now may be worth only 5s., but you get so many more of them. Therefore, your buying power is just the same as it was in 1930.
Then the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to pensions. The pension payments have been adjusted, and I understand from the Commonwealth Statistician that the various adjustments that have been made over the past ten years leave the pensioners 9 per cent, better off to-day than in 1939. Those are not my figures; I could not work them out myself. They are the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician. The proposed amendment also refers to people on fixed incomes, and in this connexion I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The effects of inflation have been tragic and are still tragic to many people on fixed incomes, such as those living on the income from an insurance policy. The Government has been trying to halt inflation and to a large extent has succeeded over a number of years. We must rely on the economists, who tell us that the economic expansion of a country at the rate Australia is expanding must bring with it attendant troubles, such as this problem of inflation. I know of no way of dealing with the problem other than the way in which the Government has tackled the problem in the past and is proposing to adopt again. I am not an economist and I have no specific ideas on that subject.
So far as home builders are concerned, I have already mentioned the cost of the house itself. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that something very drastic should be done about the cost of land. But surely such action should be taken, not by the Commonwealth Government, but by the State governments. All of us are aware how land speculators buy up land, paying only a very small percentage of its value and then selling it, perhaps only a few weeks or few months later, at a great profit. They may sell it to people who resell it later, and so the price rises. Surely the State governments could stop that kind of thing. For example, they could specify a minimum time for which land must be held by a purchaser before it may be resold. That would prevent the sort of deal in which speculators, having paid perhaps 10 per cent, of the value of the land, resell it at an increased price and make a large profit on money that has never passed out of their possession. I feel sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will agree that this is a State matter and that it cannot be dealt with by the Commonwealth except in the form of a suggestion to the States.
The second part of the Opposition’s proposed amendment castigates the Government for lifting import restrictions. It is rather amusing to recall how often honorable senators opposite and Opposition members in another place have complained bitterly in the last few years of the Government’s action in imposing import controls at all, and how they have demanded that those controls be removed. Now, of course, when the Government has made it possible for those controls to be lifted, the Opposition is still not satisfied and wants the controls continued. The Opposition wishes to retain the very thing which previously it wished to abandon.
In its proposed amendment the Opposition contends that the lifting of import restrictions poses a threat to the employment of thousands of Australians. Surely honorable senators opposite do not believe that import controls were used as a measure of protection to industry. Surely that is a matter dealt with by the Tariff Board. The restrictions on imports have been imposed solely to safeguard our overseas balances and they have been retained until such time as we have been able to increase our balances overseas and ensure, by the continued increase in production, that we are able to export sufficient to cover the cost of our imports.
The third portion of the Opposition’s amendment deals with the Commonwealth’s decision to ask the Arbitration Commission to reject the current application of the trade union movement for an increase in the basic wage. Surely this is a matter of simple arithmetic. Suppose we add £1 to the basic wage. That would mean that something like £200,000,000 in additional wages would suddenly be put into the hands of the people of Australia. In these circumstances, do not honorable senators think it would be correct for the Commonwealth to go to the commission and point out that not only would that £200,000,000 be passed on by industry and business, thus aggravating the present inflationary spiral, but in addition that injection of purchasing power would bring extra demands for goods, and that those demands in themselves would cause at least some people to raise their prices? While dealing with this matter I must again mention the lifting of import controls because with the lifting of those controls we will try to reduce the price of commodities rather than let them increase in price as they have up to the present. An influx of imported goods should have the effect of lowering prices. All of us remember what happened between 1946 and 1949 when we had too much money chasing too few goods. Honorable senators will also remember that before the war-time controls were instituted many industries and firms engaged in what I considered to be very unfair tactics. They paid very high wages to secure employees, for the manufacture of luxury goods, at the same time causing a shortage of employees for the manufacture of essential goods. I have never been able to understand why that practice was permitted to continue for so long. The present Government was not in power at that time. I was not in Parliament then and I was not particularly interested in these matters, but looking back over the past I have difficulty understanding why the Labour government of the day condoned that practice.
Senator Cant mentioned the rise of £1 in the basic wage in 1953. There is one aspect of the Arbitration Court’s decision at that time that I have never been able to understand. On the court we had three judges - university trained men who had practised as hamsters before being called to the bench. They were three men with roughly similar ideas, studying the same evidence. Yet one of them said there should be no increase at all in the basic wage and the other two said there should be an increase of £1. I could have understood if one judge had said the basic wage should be increased by 7s. 6d., if another had said it should be increased by 15s., and if the third had said it should be increased by £1. But for such a wide difference of opinion to be expressed, as happened on this occasion, has always seemed most extraordinary to me. I do not question the decision - I do not question the decisions of judges - but I cannot understand it. I would be interested to hear Senator Ormonde attempt to explain the reason for it when he speaks in this debate. So much for the Opposition’s amendment. I think I have made it quite plain that I cannot support it.
Senator Benn in his speech made what I consider to be a most unfair use of figures relating to the number of people drawing the unemployment benefit in Queensland. He would have us believe that those figures were representative of the position in the whole of Australia. Not only was the honorable senator unfair, but he also omitted to say that the present slight rise in unemployment in Queensland was due to the seasonal nature of the work in that State, where many men are engaged as cane cutters or shearers. He also omitted to point out for the benefit of those who do not know - which of course does not include any of us here - that the wages of shearers, cane cutters and the like whose employment is seasonal are on the basis of their working for eleven and a half months in the year even though they may work for only nine months. Consequently, the picture that Senator Benn painted in regard to Queensland was distorted and unfair.
We in Australia should be very proud of the fact that between 98± per cent, and 99 per cent, of our work force is employed. It is a world record. I appreciate the point made by members of the Australian Labour Party that the man who is unemployed is not very interested in an unemployment level of 1 per cent.; but when we look at the United States of America with 5,000,000 persons unemployed, and Great Britain with approximately 750,000 unemployed, surely we should admit that we in Australia are very well off. In spite of the fact that over the last ten years we have absorbed many more than 1,000,000 migrants, there has been very little rise in unemployment.
– The position has improved.
– It just depends upon the year we take as a basis. If we pin our argument to the year 1949, and compare the position then with the present position as some people do, we get a high percentage of improvement; but if we take the average for the periods 1946 to 1950 and 1950 to 1960, we get a smaller improvement. Tt is certainly nothing to raise the roof about, either here or in another place.
Another point Senator Benn omitted to mention when referring to Queensland was that the existence of a Liberal-Australian Country Party Administration in the federal sphere as well as in Queensland made a terrific difference to the establishment of industries and businesses in that State. More than 100 new industries and businesses have commenced operations in Queensland in the last three years, or even two and one-half years. That is primarily because at long last we in Queensland elected a government that people could trust. People commencing businesses or industries knew that their undertakings would not be socialized or nationalized; they knew that nothing would be put in the way of their prospering and giving employment to fellow Queenslanders.
There are one or two small matters to which I should like to refer. First, I should like to support Senator Marriott in suggesting that the Public Service Act should be reviewed by a Senate select committee. If we go back over the years, we find that, quite irrespective of party politics, every select committee that has been appointed by the Senate has presented a really good report. I compliment Senator Marriott upon his suggestion; I think it is the proper way in which to deal with the matter. If a lot more select committees were appointed by the Senate to inquire into various matters, it would be good not only for the Senate, but also for the Parliament as a whole and for the nation. We can all see in Canberra to-day the results of the inquiry conducted by the select committee of which Senator McCallum was chairman. We can all see the grand work that is being done by the National Capital Development Commission.
The report of a committee headed by Senator McKenna, which inquired into the matter of double dissolutions of the Parliament, is one of the most interesting documents that one could read. On the last page of that report, it is pointed out that of eight or nine general elections the only one that would have ended in a deadlock was the one held in the year in which the matter was debated in the Parliament and in which that select committee sat. The suggestion that there should be a review of the Public Service Act is an excellent idea, and I give it my fatherly support.
I should like to support Senator Laught, also, in his persistence in trying to persuade the Government to build one or two. preferably two, ships for our work in the Antarctic region. I have raised this matter a number of times both at question time and during debates. We have paid more than £500.000 in charter fees for the use of Danish ships to go to the Antarctic to do work that we should be doing. It seems to me to be ridiculous for us to continue in this manner. If anything were to happen on the other side of the world and these Danish ships could no longer come out here we would be left without suitable vessels to undertake our Antarctic work. Moreover, we have not trained people to take such vessels down to the Antarctic - in spite of the fact that we have a long list of worthwhile people such as Sir Douglas Mawson and John King Davis who have worked in the Antarctic.
We should be building our own ships for this work. The building of such vessels would not only be of great advantage to work in the Antarctic but would also provide a fillip for some of our shipbuilding yards. I know that the shipyard in Maryborough would welcome an opportunity to build a vessel of the requisite size and tonnage, and I am sure there are other shipyards that would welcome such work. 1 compliment the Government upon its decision to contribute £7,000,000 to the undertaking suggested by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to terminate the argument between India and Pakistan over the Indus basin. As most of us know, there has been continual argument between these two countries over this matter. Now the International Bank, assisted by countries like Australia which have the necessary goodwill, proposes to settle the argument and provide for a division of the Indus waters for power and irrigation purposes. As I have said, I think the Government is to be complimented upon making a contribution of £7,000,000.
– It is to be made over a number of years.
– That is so. I compliment the Government, too, upon its decision to make the Canberra University College part and parcel of the Australian National University. It will mean that the National University will become both an undergraduate and a research establishment. I think it is a rather good arrangement. 1 am hoping that, following the settlement of this matter, legislation will be introduced for the purpose of setting the National Library on a proper footing - something it has not enjoyed since federation. I hope that during this session legislation will be introduced that will prevent the Library being conducted in the haphazard way in which it has been conducted in the past. The Library has a wonderful collection of books, including more than half a million in the basement of the Administrative Building. It has books all over the place.
Trying to run a library like that is of no earthly use. Honorable senators have complained in the past about the time taken to get information or to get a book, but if they knew some of the difficulties with which the staff have to contend, I feel sure they would moderate their annoyance.
I refer now to the matter of rifle clubs. For some reason the Government has suddenly decided to withdraw all direct financial assistance to rifle clubs, to withdraw Army administration and the shield behind which rifle clubs have worked, and to withdraw the free grant of 200 rounds of ammunition for each rifleman. The general suggestion advanced by the Army is that rifle clubs no longer fit into the concept of defence. I point out that, whilst that may be thought to be the position in Australia, it certainly is not the position in other parts of the world. I read an article recently by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff in England, and he certainly has very different views, as have high ranking officers in Canada and the United States of America. I hope that the Government will have another look at this matter, because rifle clubs have been well worthwhile over the years. I understand that there may be difficulties owing to the changeover from the .303 rifle to the new Belgian FN.30 and that perhaps there has been a gradual running down of .303 ammunition. A decision may have to be made whether to continue to produce .303 ammunition for use by rifle clubs, or whether to change over to the new rifles, but in either case J suggest that the Government reconsider the matter before rifle clubs in Australia are disbanded.
Another matter I wish to raise concerns the building of small boats - pleasure craft and boats that are used for non-professional fishing and activities of that kind. At the present time, sales tax on small boats is 12b per cent., which makes quite a big difference to the cost of a boat. If one wishes to build a cabin cruiser for £2,000, sales tax amounts to an additional £250. This tax stops some people from building boats. I think that the sales tax should be reduced or removed, if only in the interests of shipwrights and boat builders. They are almost a dying race, but their trade should be kept alive, lt is of no use trying to get shore carpenters and joiners to build boats, because they do not know anything about curves. Their work is concerned with straight lines, whereas a shipwright spends the whole of his life working with curves. Apprentices are not coming forward to-day, and if there are no shipwrights there is no one to build our lifeboats or to do the work on ships that shipwrights do. The construction of lifeboats, of course, is smallboat work.
I was very interested to read in the “ Notice by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise “, in a reference to articles which are exempt from purchase tax in the United Kingdom, the following statement -
Boats and other vessels large enough to carry human beings, and accessories for such boats and vessels.
As we know, the purchase tax in England is roughly the same as our sales tax. I presume that the Commissioners of Customs and Excise made a differentiation between vessels large enough to carry human beings, and other vessels, because a rice boiler or a saucepan could also be called a vessel. Such an exemption exists in the United Kingdom. I ask the Government to consider this matter and to see whether it is possible to help our small boat builders by removing sales tax. Shipwrights and boat builders perform a necessary function in the community, perhaps more so in England than in Australia. In England, not only are small craft and accessories exempted from sales tax, but in special circumstances the builders of such craft are given long-term loans, as is also done in the case of fishermen.
At the present time, the young person who is going through a university off his own bat by working during the recesses to get enough money to pay the university fees and to keep himself during the rest of the year, is not entitled to an income tax deduction in respect of those fees. I ask the Government to have a good look at this matter, because if young people are keen enough to work during the recess and at night time to earn money to pay their way through a university course, I think that the Govern ment should help them. In that connexion, I refer to the following passage from His Excellency’s Speech: -
Arising from a conference at Oxford last year . . . my Government has agreed to provide some 100 scholarships for students from other Commonwealth countries to study in Australia . . .
If the Commonwealth can do that for students from other Commonwealth countries, surely it is possible for it to do the same thing for our own people, especially for those who have shown that they are keen enough to try to get ahead.
I again ask the Government to examine the possibility of providing rent-free telephones for blind pensioners. I refer, not to blind people who have incomes, but to blind pensioners. There are only 5,080 of them in Australia, and surely the cost, which would amount to approximately £50,000 a year, is small in relation to the vast turnover of the Post Office and a total expenditure on social services of nearly £200,000,000 a year. Perhaps it would be possible for the Government to make this concession and for the pensioners to pay for their calls. At least, if they had telephones they would be able to ring up and keep in touch with the outside world, particularly in case of sickness. As I say, it would cost the Government only about £50,000 a year, which is an infinitesimal amount compared with the amount we spend on other social service benefits each year.
I support the motion and regret that I shall have to vote against the amendment.
Sitting suspended from 5.42 to 8 p.m.
– I support the amendment proposed by Senator Kennelly and, in the short time at my disposal, I shall talk about something which I think has had a great influence in promoting inflation in this country. We all agree that we are living in a period of great prosperity, but I have always thought that this Government has never given either the people of Australia or big business in Australia any lead as to how best to live in a period of prosperity without running the risk of creating a Frankenstein monster out of that prosperity.
I propose to deal with the history of the coal-mining industry because I think it is an important basic industry. It is an industry
I know something about, and I think all honorable senators should try to talk about the things they understand. I believe that the Government’s association with the coalmining industry over the years - certainly during the post-war period - has not been a very happy one. I have always believed that our problems and those of our people could have been solved much easier if this Government had given the right lead. 1 propose to talk about the coal industry because it is an industry on which our great prosperity is based, and I want to suggest that the right thing was not done by this Government.
The story of the coal-mining industry is a strange one in that never at any stage did it find its own capital. I wonder whether honorable senators appreciate that fact. The coal industry is, in fact, a subsidized millionaire industry. For instance, if any colliery company wanted to install a new machine it did not seek new capital; it did not sell more shares; it came to the Government and was assisted. I have heard the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) say in this chamber that an immense amount of money has been spent by way of capital in the coal-mining industry. That is true, but the money expended was not the money of the coal owners. It was money that came from the taxpayers’ pockets. It came from the consumers and, to my mind, that system of financing any industry is inflationary. If we are to believe what honorable senators opposite say, it is their belief that money which does not earn or produce is inflationary money.
– We do not say that.
– You say things like that. Certainly the coal-mining industry has been developed into a great industry. I admit that the Government came to its rescue, but I want to direct attention to how the industry was developed. For instance, if a colliery proprietor wished to mechanize a mine, he came to the Joint Coal Board which, in effect, was the Government. He said to the board, “ We want to buy a Joy loader, but we have not got the capital “. I take it that if David Jones Limited or any other firm wanted to expand its business or erect a new building, it would seek new capital from the money market. I am not an accountant, but I should think that that is what would be done. The firm would get the additional money required for furniture, equipment or a new building by selling more shares. But not so in the coal-mining industry. The millionaire coal-mining industry comes to the Joint Coal Board and this Government and says, “We have not got the capital we need to enable us to mechanize our mines. We are not going to try to get extra capital. We ask you to help us.” This Government through the Coal Board says, “ Right. What is it going to cost - £100,000? If it is, we will add 2s. a ton to the price of your coal.”
– The Coal Board is not this Government.
– But I think the Government must take responsibility for its instrumentalities.
The cost of the new machinery is added to the price of coal. This means that the people of the poorer areas of Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide or anywhere else start paying, by way of an increased price for coal, for the new equipment that goes into J. and A. Brown’s collieries. That is characteristic of what happens throughout the industry.
I cite another instance. A millionaire coal firm required a ship to carry coal. The ship was to cost £1,500,000. The firm had not the money to pay for the ship, so it approached the Coal Board, and submitted a case. This millionaire firm, which was unable to find the capital, was provided with the money by this very charitable Government.
– And the New South Wales Government.
– The New South Wales Government is a mendicant now under the new financial set-up. This millionaire firm that had wrung millions of pounds out of the coal industry and thai should have had millions of pounds behind it with which to buy any equipment it wanted was helped by this Government, and 4s. a ton was added to the selling price of its coal. In other words, the Government said to this millionaire company, “ Yes, we will fix that for you. Four shillings a ton will be added to the price of the coal bought by the consumers so that you may have your ship.”
Eventually the ship was built, and, although 1 am not an accountant - my accountant friends opposite can correct me if I am wrong - I should say that ship became part of the company’s capital once it went into operation. In other words, it represented capital provided by the consumers to a millionaire monopoly company for which the Government fixes the profit rate. The Government guarantees the company 6s. a ton profit and the community is required to find the money which represents the profit on the investment by the community of 4s. a ton in the coal industry, that 4s. a ton being utilized to increase the capital of the company. If that is not inflationary finance, I do not know what is.
I do not know how general that method of financing was but I know it was fairly general throughout the coal industry, which was an important basic industry which had everybody by the throat. I am not suggesting for one moment that a millionaire in the coal industry is any less selfish or more selfish than a millionaire anywhere else; I am merely mentioning these matters to prove that the suggestion by honorable senators on the Government side and by people in other places that higher wages alone are in fact the cause of inflation will not stand examination. As I have shown, millions of pounds of inflationary money have inflated the price of coal to the consumer. What a wonderful ten years of prosperity it has been for the coal owners! They have had it in a big way. They have nothing to growl about. The GovernorGeneral stated that this Government would try to do something about monopolies. If it does, it need not have many fears about socialism. As I said to the electors of Calare at the week-end, socialism is directed against monopolies. We do not mind who cleans them up provided they are cleaned up. We do not want to make political capital out of the situation. At any rate, I do not.
– You might not. I give you credit for that.
– No, I do not. This Government says that it is the government of the little capitalists. I remember when Mr. Menzies spoke in 1949 to a meeting of women at the Sydney Town Hall. He painted a beautiful picture of his vision of an Australia of little capitalists. He was clever. He is a great orator and, with great cunning, he had all those pensioner ladies with him. There were in the hall 4,000 persons who were living on fixed incomes, and Mr. Menzies was in his element. He said that this land was going to be a land of little capitalists. I do not think that those persons are thinking too kindly of Mr. Menzies to-day.
Three years ago there were about 8,000 mine workers on the South Maitland coalfield, working for at least twelve independent companies. I do not want to be challenged ora the score of accuracy, so I say instead that there were from ten to twelve companies. For how many companies are those men working to-day, under this Government that does not believe in monopolies? The other day saw the amalgamation of the J. and A. Brown company and Caledonian Collieries Limited, as a result of which the employers on the South Maitland coal-fields were reduced to about two principal companies. All of the mine workers living between Maitland and Cessnock now work for one of two bosses. I do not think that that is good for any country. What has happened to the little companies in the coal industry? Most of them have gone out of business. Those that have not gone out of business are members of an amalgamation. That cannot be good for Australia or for the mine workers or, particularly, for the little employers. That has happened under this Government’s administration. If the Government does not nurture monopolies, it allows them to develop under its system of finance. The Government is still providing - out of the consumer’s pocket, of course - finance for the coal industry, notwithstanding the existence of these powerful amalgamations. What is to happen? I know that the consumer finally pays. That is an old Marxian doctrine. It is also said that the workers finally pay. That is another-
– Yes, that is probably what it is in modern circumstances. The Government must remember that we are living to-day in a society wherein there has been a great improvement. The Government is very lucky. It has been in office through a period of the highest production in history.
– Hear, hear!
– We admit that. Is it not true that in this period strikes have been virtually unknown? Does the Government want to maintain that situation? If it does, it should not do some of the things that it is doing to-day. The more it allows monopolies to develop, the more it will open the flood-gates to communism. Do not think that the Communist Party is dead. It is not dead. This Government is making great mistakes.
I pass from the coal industry to other matters which are of great importance and in relation to which also the Government is making great mistakes. Governments never seem to learn. In 1928, the then Prime Minister of Australia, who is now Lord Bruce, moved into the Arbitration Court. We know what happened to him. He was promoted to a position in London. This Government is doing exactly the same thing. Irrespective of how one dresses up Mr. Menzies’s decision to go into the Arbitration Commission, or the language one uses to describe it, he is still going in on the side of the bosses against the workers. That is the position in the workers’ view, and that is what matters.
– And that is the position in fact.
– And in fact. In any event, that is the workers’ view at the moment. That is a wrong course to take. What is the Government risking by doing that? It is risking industrial peace and the success of a long campaign by the Australian Labour Party to build the workers’ faith in arbitration. For years we have tried to make the court something to be respected. For years in the trade union movement it was dubbed “ the bosses’ court “. In the days when I grew up in the trade union movement, anybody who went to the Arbitration Court was regarded as a traitor to the workers. To-day 95 per cent, of trade unionists go to Commonwealth and State arbitration courts and respect the decisions of those courts, but they go to the courts to meet the employers and to talk about rights to conditions and wages, not to fight the Government. They expect the Government to keep out of their dealings with employers on industrial matters affecting their living standards.
Irrespective of what the Prime Minister or the Government said about the need to tell the commission that the economy could not stand another wage increase, I say now that no court would find against the Government. I can tell the Senate now what the decision will be. If the Government says wages are to be pegged, they will be pegged. I shall tell honorable senators what will happen afterwards. The Government can kiss goodbye to industrial peace for the sake of an empty victory in getting the commission to decide that wages should not be increased, although twelve months ago the judges of the commission, whom we are supposed to respect, said that the productivity of this country had been increased by li per cent., that the workers had not enough money to buy back the products of industry, and that the court would give it to them. That plain, common-sense statement was made by the court twelve months ago. In this world of colossal wealth, .1 i per cent, does not represent very much. This Government should not be short sighted about this matter. It is telling industry to develop techniques to increase production and to get more production per man. I am a member of the Labour Party’s committee on automation, which is studying this problem. At the very time that the Government should be increasing the amount of money in the workers’ pockets, it is talking about restricting that amount. This is sheer lunacy. The only difference between the situation to-day and the situation in the depression is that we have more money to-day. But we can get into just as much trouble now as we were in then if we do not keep up the flow of money into the consumers’ pockets in order to enable them to buy back the goods they produce. Doubtless, some honorable senators heard Lloyd Ring Coleman in an advertising session on television the other night say that he could not understand this Government cutting down the volume of money.
However, our difficulties are illustrated by the fact that the worker spends all that he earns; even if he is getting £30 a week, it all goes. Some economists have the idea that we have to cut off the supply of money to the workers which enables them to buy back the products of machines, which are increasing at an alarming rate. If the
Government starts tinkering with the incomes of the workers, the time may come when they will say, “ We will not give you the production for which you ask “. If we do not get the production, people will begin to wonder whether it was a wise thing after all to elect the Menzies Government. Surely we can learn from the lessons of the past. One does not need to be a member of the Labour Party or the trade union movement, and you certainly do not have to be a revolutionary in order to appreciate the things I am talking about. I say to the supporters of the Government, “ Get among your own people, your own supporters. Read the report issued last week by Barclay’s Bank in England concerning takeovers and all the things that are happening in the guise of spreading prosperity. Read what the bank has to say; do not listen to us.. You have backseat drivers telling you the very things I am talking about, but you will not. take any notice of them. And if you do not take any notice of them, you ase going to be in trouble.” We had one of our socialist boys give you good advice. He was one of our old socialists, you know,, and every now and again I think he still is. I congratulate the Government on keeping him. in his position. I wish, that Senator Spooner would, read again what he- had to say and he would, not then, dispute my Deputy Leader’s interpretation of what he did state. Dr. Coombs very pointedly said that- big business had to look where ft was going. That was all he could do-. What is the good of talking to the workers about it? They are not running the show; they are not running the Government or the banks. I shall leave those few ideas with honorable senators opposite and I hope that I have established the need for- a further examination of these problems.
J should like now to complete my remarks on arbitration. I say to honorable senators opposite: If you can keep the- Government from going to ‘the court you will- be serving Australia well. Incidentally, the counsel that the Government is employing-, strangely enough - or perhaps not so strangely - is the fellow who used to appear for the unions. That is to make it look a bit better, but it is wrong. An honorable senator opposite asked me to apply myself to the question why the judges came to what he considered to be an inconsistent decision or a mixed decision on wages. Is that right, Senator Kendall?
– In defence of the court, I want to say this: Some twelve months ago, Mr. Justice Foster complained that the arbitration court had no formula, no ‘machinery, to use and no statistical department or bureau at its command for the purpose of establishing its own case. Just as happens in a criminal court, the arbitration court had to depend on the evidence from either side. The only formula - Mr. Justice Foster is on record as saying, this - available was the index provided by the Bank of New Zealand. This Government could well set up in association with the arbitration court a statistical department or an economics department. The judges need it, I should say, because judges are not necessarily people to understand or deal with economics. That is particularly so when they have this added power to change the formula for fixing the basie wage. I do not know who gave that power to them: that would be a mystery worth solving, and I believe Senator- Cant has some idea about it. It seems to me to be sheer lunacy that a court can determine what is the capacity of Australia to pay. To me, that sounds fantastic, particularly when, as Mr. Justice Foster says,, the judges have no machinery available and. they are not necessarily trained for the job. But somebody has given the- judges that power; it has probably altered by custom, and the court is in the position to-day of actually setting the base for this Government’s Budget.
In this chamber about six months ago-, when we were battling for the pensioners, trying to obtain additional medical benefits for the people, and seeking a reduction of postal charges, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) said, in effect, “ We cannot do anything because the Estimates are fixed. You cannot fool about changing the Estimates “. But the court made the Government change its opinion very quickly. The court changed the Government’s Estimates for it. I think that this year the Government has to find about £45,000,000 to pay extra wages. The court determined the matter for the Government. I do not want to get into a technical argument over that, but I think that the Government ought to be able to answer my assertion. It is a terrific power for four or five judges to have. I am not saying anything about their legal ability, but I cannot imagine that the arbitration court or the industrial court is necessarily a body to determine such an extraordinarily difficult question as the nation’s ability to pay. I am referring, not to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited’s ability to pay, to J. and A. Brown’s ability to pay, or Trans-Australia Airlines’ ability to pay, but to Australia’s ability to pay. It seems to me that the Government is abdicating and handing a power to the court that it cannot use itself. I do not know what constitutes Australia’s ability to pay, particularly when I see what the Government is doing with millions of pounds to-day.
Senator Spooner made a reference in his address to the effect that unions voted Labour. 1 think he was playing with words. He did not mean exactly what he said, but the facts are that unionists vote Labour. I do not know of any union associated with the Liberal Party. What Senator Spooner said was quite true. On the other hand, one of the developments of our time is that the Liberal Party is losing a lot of people who used to support it. That is one of the changes happening in politics.
The week before last, Mr. Menzies, speaking in Melbourne, made an appeal to big business. He was not talking to the workers. He appealed to big businessmen and he said, “ Pull in your horns and do the right thing. We do not want to push you. That is not our job. This is a great system of free enterprise, and this Government does not want to dictate what you should do, but we tell you that we want you to stop passing on your costs.”
– And to import more cheap stuff.
– That is a little involved for me. He told them to remember that there were people depending on fixed incomes, people depending on pensions and people living on interest payments and small rents who were suffering. It is true that they are the people who really are suffering to-day. The great mass of pensioners who once were workers became used to living on next to nothing in their working days, so they do not find it difficult to do so now. The people I am talking about are those who live around the foreshores of Sydney harbour, where they built their little flats and are now eking out an existence. They live in genteel poverty, in the shadows of the wealthy. They vote Liberal. Many of them will continue to vote Liberal, even if they starve in the process, but some of them are beginning to think about socialism. Big millionaire companies are putting up buildings all around them and building them out. They are not always going to vote Liberal. They are the forgotten people of Australia to-day; they are the new poor. They may be coming to a stage in their lives when they will realize that socialism is not such a terrifying thought after all.
That remark also applies to the small businessman, whom this Government pretends to protect. He is being crushed out of business. It is not Labour socialism that is hunting the man out of the corner shop in a suburb to-day. It is the big store, which builds alongside of him in the interests of progress. The supermarket - the tyrant - is going into every district and crushing the small man. All this is going on in the shadow of prosperity. As Mr. Menzies has said, a lot of people are suffering. I am certain that the small shopkeeper is taking a very different view of socialism from the view that he took in 1 949, when he was told that Labour would socialize him out of his corner shop. He is not in the corner shop now, in many instances; he has been hunted out, not by socialism, but by the growth of monopolies in Australia.
I was glad to hear the Governor-General say that the Government intends to do something about monopolies. I hope it does. The Government did not let a monopoly grow in the field of air services. It cannot afford to give monopolies too much freedom for any longer. The state of prosperity in this country did not come about as a result only of the investment of wealth or the installation of machines; it came also from the goodwill of the workers in Australia.
Some of the conditions which exist today cannot be described as conditions of prosperity. I admit that this Government has achieved full employment, but it has achieved full employment to the extent that every second wife in the community has to go to work to help pay the household bills. I do not think that is a healthy state of full employment. It is not what I mean by full employment. I know that there are jobs available, but the women have to take them. There are certain risks in this new atomic age and age of automation that we are entering which the Government must consider. We, as a party, are looking at them, because we may form a government one day.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad the honorable senator says, “ Hear, hear! “. We might have to try to solve these problems and I believe we would solve them. I cannot imagine that the people who support the Government are in favour of some of the things that it must do. The Government will have to be talking soon about shorter working hours. There is nothing extraordinary about that. In one of the steel towns in America - I think it is Akron - the people work a six-hour day. There used to be two eight-hour shifts, but the unions bargained with the employers and they now have four six-hour shifts. This system, of course, keeps the machines working 24 hours a day, and it is good for the employers-
– And for everybody.
– No, not for everybody, because half of the women in the town work in the industry, and they are coming home when the men are going on duty. Those are conditions of the sort that Upton Sinclair wrote about in his book about the meat canneries, but they are in existence in America to-day. I am not suggesting that that sort of thing can happen here. I think that the members of the party opposite have a different outlook from that of the capitalists in America. However, we have got to protect ourselves from that sort of development. Machines, just like our prosperity, could be a curse unless the right thing is done with them. As I said earlier, the responsibility of this Government is to keep the people of Australia prosperous and happy- It is not to keep them prosperous alone, it is to keep them happy as well. The Government must give them some hope, by taking away the fear that they will be eaten up by the machines.
I associate myself with the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I also associate myself with the expression of loyalty in the proposed Address-in-Reply. I believe that the things that these expressions of loyalty represent, have been a great force for peace and stability in this world of ours. I am happy to say that I can even visualize Labour’s socialism operating under the monarchy in Great Britain - which, of course, it has done already - to the benefit of mankind.
– I associate myself most cordially and heartily with the expressions of loyalty to Her Majesty The Queen, as a person, and to the institution of the Crown that were so ably proffered by the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I should also like to congratulate His Excellency Lord Dunrossil upon taking office as our new GovernorGeneral. I hope that his stay in Australia will be a happy one. I feel sure that he will make many friends here, that he will be a great success as the Queen’s representative and that he will return home ultimately with only the kindliest memories of Australia.
To-night, I would like to associate my remarks with that portion of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which dealt with foreign policy, and in particular with reference to the Summit conference. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech reads as follows with reference to this matter - . . my Government welcomes all means of relaxation of the tension betwen the Soviet Union on the one hand and the democratic powers on the other. My Government confidently hopes that the summit conference will prepare the ground for other similar meetings working for a progressive growth of confidence and the settlement of outstanding differences.
I think all of us will agree with that proposition, but we might well have added Communist China in our expression of hope for relaxation of tension, because I feel that Communist China is to-day looming just as dangerously as Russia in the field of international affairs.
Perhaps I may say something about the expression “ Summit conference “. It may be only a slight matter, but I feel that the expression is not a happy one. To me the word “ Summit “ has the flavour of permanency about it. To most people it would signify that having attained it, nothing further can be done and that should the Summit conference fail, all is lost. I feel that to most people the expression has a suggestion of hopelessness should the conference fail. Accordingly, it is not the happiest of expressions to be associated with a conference of the world’s leaders. Be that as it may, I do not think any of us feels that this coming Summit conference will solve all of the world’s problems at once. Perhaps it will not solve any of them.
To my mind the most important of those problems, and one to which I want to refer, is the matter of the two Germanys. When I had the opportunity of going overseas last year I visited Europe and it was very obvious to me that the problem of the two Germanys is the greatest problem engaging the minds of many millions of people in Europe on both sides of the iron curtain. Perhaps I can demonstrate what I mean by one or two short illustrations. I was on the railway platform at Bonn, the capital of West Germany and I began talking to a railway porter who spoke good English. We commenced to discuss the international situation .and finally he said something like this, “ We West Germans now cumber some 75,000,000 people. Whilst we do not object to President Eisenhower, Mr. Macmillan and Mr. Khrushchev discussing this matter, we will not be prepared to wait indefinitely for a solution of the German problem.” He was referring, of course, to a solution to the problem of fusion of East and West Germany. He said, “ I .and fellow West Germans whom I know will eventually be quite prepared to fight to achieve that end “.
That, of course, is only one German’s story, but I found that that attitude was by no means uncommon in West Germany. The West German has now reached a point in history where he is asking himself: “ Why the delay in the amalgamation of East and West Germany? What have we Germans to do next in order to be entitled to become one nation again? We may have been doing wrong for some years during World War M. and we will accept responsibility for our misdeeds and pay for them, but how long must we wait before we again become one nation? “ That query was put to me many times in West Germany and I pose that problem because it is only one side of the story. When you go behind the iron curtain, as I was privileged to do, you hear the other side of the story. There you see the hopeless plight of Europe with the Polish nation, the Czechoslovak nation and the Jugoslav nation - all the satellite nations that bordered Germany - very concerned with the same problem. I will tell another short story to illustrate my point. I was speaking one afternoon to a Polish intellectual - a highly cultured man - who was not a Communist. In fact, he was an antiCommunist. He said that he was perfectly satisfied that West Germany was now rearming for one purpose only - in effect, for the invasion of not only Russia but also the satellite countries. That was an expression of opinion by a non-Communist member of the People’s Republic of Poland. His view, of course, is not unique in Poland and Czechoslovakia. It is the view of practically every Pole who lives in Poland. It is a view that is commonly held. It is a view expressed, not only by the Communist Party there and its members; it is a view that is held by the non-Communist population of those countries also.
Then, of course, there is a further problem associated with Communist propaganda in those satellite countries. In my stay behind the iron curtain I listened to some 20 or 30 speeches made by Communists, either top Communists or small Communists, from Gomulka, the leading Communist in Poland, down to the little Communists in the districts. Without exception every Communist commenced his speech, whether of welcome to us or about some local political problem or the economic problems of Poland and Czechoslovakia, with a tirade against the West Germans, stating that they had only one aim and object - re-armament for the purpose of invasion.
There is the other .side of the story. It presents to me, indeed to all of us, a picture of the gravest dilemma. We have on the one hand a very strong race, namely the West Germain nation, which is becoming very powerful and which asks, with some merit, how long it will be before something will be done about the amalgamation of the two Germanys. On the other hand, or perhaps, on the other side of the iron curtain, there is Russia, which is just as deter- mined that there shall be no fusion of the two Germanys. I put that point before the Senate, because I feel it is the crux of the European problem as I saw it. To my mind, questions relating to disarmament fall into insignificance when compared with this other problem. Even if the democratic nations and the Communist nations can resolve the problems of disarmament, this other problem remains unsolved. And I do not try to give the Senate the answer to it. Perhaps time alone will solve the problem. At the moment it seems incapable of solution.
While talking of disarmament, I remind honorable senators that the GovernorGeneral, in his Speech, referred to the tenpower disarmament conference. His Excellency said -
Before any satisfactory system can be devised, however, all the great military powers would need to be associated with any agreement. 1 think we all are heartily and sincerely in agreement with that expression of opinion. I emphasize the word “ satisfactory “ in that sentence I have just quoted because, whilst all those ten nations may ultimately discuss this question and come to a reasonably satisfactory decison about disarmament, red China will still be left out of the agreement. To my mind, as I said a moment ago, red China is still a major military power and is rapidly becoming a very large military power. In fact, it is quite possible that in ten years’ time, when perhaps the nations of the world will have planned some form of disarmament, red China will be reaching the very heights of military power in terms of both atomic and conventional weapons. Discussion is of the very essence of this problem and without discussion we will get nowhere; but I suggest that even with discussion we are not solving the disarmament problem, because red China will not be participating in the discussion and the agreement.
– I think the trip has done you good.
– I hope your trip will do you good. I mention this conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, because it is of great importance when it comes to a question of international discussions. Discussion is of the very essence of the Inter-Parliamentary Union organization. We all know that it was established by the British, who believe in discussion. At the conference I attended, which was the first I.P.U. conference to be held behind the iron curtain, more than 50 nations were represented and some 500 delegates were present. Naturally, the Polish people and the Polish Government were eager to make us welcome. They were also eager to demonstrate the high degree of freedom that existed behind the iron curtain; but, of course, we were not very much impressed. At times it was rather pathetic to see the almost gallant attempts of the Communist delegates to show us how free the people were. Conditions in Poland are the same as those in any other satellite country; its citizens have not freedom. However, I shall deal with that matter in a moment.
The resolutions passed at the conference I attended were not very different from those that are passed at meetings of the United Nations. Of course, there is this difference: No decision of the I.P.U. is deemed to bind the respective member parliaments of the union. The InterParliamentary Union is a union of parliaments, as distinct from a union of governments, and in that respect it differs quite considerably from the United Nations or its predecessor, the League of Nations. The United Nations and its predecessor were unions of governments, whereas, as I have indicated, the I.P.U. is a union of parliaments. It is of significance, of importance, to note that decisions of the union are not intended to be and are not binding on member nations. There again we see British wisdom. The British have asked, in effect, “What is the use of pretending that these decisions are binding when we have nothing by which to enforce them? “
The fact that decisions are not binding provokes very frank discussion. A conference of the Interparliamentary Union, unlike a meeting of the United Nations, does try to ascertain whether there is any degree of agreement between nations that have extreme ideological differences. In the United Nations, I suggest, there is always a tendency to emphasize the differences between nations. In the fact that the I.P.U. tends to endeavour to ascertain the degree of agreement between blocs of nations lies one of the values of that organization. But I think the greatest advantage of the Inter-Parliamentary Union lies in what I am about to say. Immediately the conference that I attended started - it was a most interesting conference - it became apparent that the Communist bloc and the Western democratic bloc were, as usual, poles apart, not only in the substance of the resolutions, but also in the subject-matters of debate. There ensued a quite interesting but nevertheless very fierce fight between the two blocs.
Among the nations represented were several young nations such as Ghana and Nigeria that had just attained nationhood, and others not so young, such as Ceylon and Burma. They were the important nations, to my mind, and also to the minds of members of the Communist bloc. The conference resolved itself into a battle of wits for the favours and votes of the nations that belonged to neither the Western democratic bloc nor the Communist bloc. An interesting fight ensued. I am pleased to be able to say that the British delegation, which was very ably led, assisted by other representatives of the Western democracies, was finally able to persuade these middle-of-the-road nations, whose representatives were there to learn, and who were not necessarily married to the democratic way of life, to support the democratic bloc. That, I think, is the significant feature of the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference. I feel that at that conference democracy was, to a large extent, on trial. The younger nations were there to see how we older democracies behaved, what we were made of and what we talked about. I think it is correct to say that almost all the delegates of the Asian and African nations left the conference quite well satisfied that British democracy would suit them. I mention that, because, to my mind, that is the answer to the question, “Are these conferences worth while? “ I think there can be no doubt that they are.
In passing, let me add that we now pride ourselves on the fact that we are no longer a small nation. We are becoming a middlesized nation. We are, I think, eighth on the list of nations in terms of world trade. We are anxious to become a dominating force in external affairs, but we are not so well accepted in the Inter-Parliamentary Union as we might be. Much should be done by the next Australian delegation before it leaves this country. I think that the delegation should be bigger and much stronger, and that there should be some continuity. I think, too, that poor Mr. Loof should have some assistance. He was not only our secretary but he also had to do such difficult jobs as trying to find taxis for us in Warsaw, and his Polish was not very strong. All in all, he was sadly overworked. Those things. I think, all contributed to the Australian delegation not being able to pull its weight properly. The younger nations are looking to us older democracies for relief. We should take the Inter-Parliamentary Union much more seriously than we do. I put that to the Senate, because the union is a parliamentary organization. The Government can do very little except help financially, which it does, but this Parliament should think more about the InterParliamentary Union. I assure the Senate that other nations of the world, from Britain and America right down to some of the smallest nations, take the Inter-Parliamentary Union conferences very seriously indeed. I regret to say that we do not do so.
While we were in Poland we had an opportunity to see a great deal of the country, and I have been asked many questions about it. I propose to spend a few minutes in giving the Senate my broad impressions of the questions most frequently asked of me. In doing so, I do not propose to refer to names or to give more information concerning the identity of certain people than I am obliged to. I shall be circumspect in regard to certain matters, for obvious reasons. It is a terrible thing to contemplate, but it is nevertheless true, thai I, standing in this Parliament, could do great harm to an innocent individual in Czechoslovakia or Poland by saying something which led to his being persecuted for a political offence. In a civilized age, that is a terrible thing to contemplate, but it poses a real problem, and for that reason I must be careful about identifying certain people to whom I shall refer in my remarks.
One of the most frequent questions posed to me is: What is the attitude of the Polish people towards the Communist regime? That, Sir, is not a very difficult question to answer after you have been there a few weeks and have met and discussed the matter with citizens of Poland. You can discuss it with them, because once they realize that you desire to be friendly and that you are trustworthy, many of them will speak quite frankly. Some of them will speak with reasonable frankness and, of course, some of them will not speak at all; but you can discuss this question with quite a number of people. I. took the opportunity to meet as many people as I could while I was there, behind the iron curtain, so that I could get in my mind the answer to the question: What do the Polish people think of the tyranny of communism? It is a well-known fact, of course, that in Poland, a country of 30,000,000 people, 96 per cent, are devout Roman Catholics. They are a deeply religious people. So, there appears to be some problem at first sight. Fewer than 1,000,000 Poles are members of the Communist party, which is a very small party in Poland. They are headed by the dictator, Gomulka, who is at the moment a kind of national hero. He led the revolt against the Russians in 1956 and was able, after narrowly avoiding a blood bath in Warsaw, to get rid of the Russian domination of Poland, whilst, of course, preserving the Communist character of the government. He is a strong man and has a high reputation amongst diplomats in Warsaw. He rules with the ruthlessness of the traditional Communist dictator.
The Communists - those that I met, anyway - fall, as I think they do anywhere, into two broad groups. There are the dedicated Communists, who are the dangerous ones, and there are those who become Communists for self-improvement. I met many of those. I met one young Communist of 24 years of age and we became quite friendly. I finally asked him, “ Why are you a Communist?”, and he answered frankly, “ I am a Communist because I cannot get on in my job unless I am a Communist “. There are many like that in Poland, because the chance to rise in one’s vocation in life is greatly advantaged by belonging to the party. That is general knowledge.
So far as the people who are not Communists are concerned, comprising more than 29,000,000 of the population, they fall into various classes on close examination. There are at the top of that group those whom I might call the anti-Communists, the people who hate the regime, who are aware of its tyrannical element and are either working against it or are prepared to work against it, if that is at all possible. They are, generally speaking, the intellectuals of the satellite countries. I do not intend to elaborate further in regard to those people other than to say that they are usually people who have had an opportunity to see democracy at work. They have been able to travel, and they understand what one means when one talks about personal liberty, freedom, democracy and such matters. Incidentally, most of them regard the British form of democracy as preferable to the American form. As we all know, there is a difference between the two. Britain, to them, is the epitome of all that is free and democratic. Every one would like to see Poland adopt the British form of democracy in preference to the American. I thought that rather interesting. Every one preferred the British form of democracy notwithstanding the fact that the Americans have been very generous to the Polish people. This class is very small numerically.
Then there is the larger group of nonCommunists who represent the greater proportion of the people. They are the people who have seen the war, and all its atrocities, who suffered horribly and who have no spirit for any more conflict. They accept the Communist regime as such.
Finally, and most pathetic of all, are the young people who have been born within the last 20 or 25 years and who have seen nothing but slaughter, murder, rape, horror and, finally, Communist tyranny. These young people. I think, are in the most tragic class of all because they do not know what freedom means. When one is speaking to them, it is almost impossible to give them a picture of what our liberty really means to us. They have never known it. They are a growing element in the population, and they accept communism, too. 1 spoke to the men and women of these classes on many occasions. Many times since, I have thought about the future of this problem and, my thinking has gone along these lines: In the first place, the great mass of the satellite countries, particularly Poland, of which I saw most, will, at least for the moment, and perhaps for a long time to come, accept the Communist regime. The fact that the people do not like it and are not happy under it is not material. They have had enough of horror, bloodshed and strife, and they do not want more. Personally, I can see no possibility of any strong support from the masses in those countries to shed the chains of communism. I leave it there because we in Australia have been thinking that one of these days there will be some great movement commenced behind the iron curtain and communism will be abolished. That was not the picture as 1 saw it there at all. The picture as I saw it was that in Poland, for example, Gomulka. who is in charge, backed by a quite sizeable Russian army - which does not stay :in Russia, but is in Poland - has no intention of giving up the reins. He is a strong man who is highly thought of in Poland for other reasons. Those are a few observations I have to offer on what the Polish people think of communism.
There were other questions put to me as I was travelling through. For instance, I was asked about living standards. What hits one right in the eye: the moment one enters these countries are the living standards, and I was asked questions about them. Very frequently the living standards of these people are pathetically low, indeed much lower even than one would expect. A very big proportion of the people in Poland and Czechoslovakia are badly dressed, badly housed and badly fed.
– What percentage would you say would be in that position?
– It is hard to estimate percentages but I should say that all people other than top executives, top intellectuals and the ladies and gentlemen who operate the black market - there are quite a number of them - exist on a living standard far below that of the very poorest people in Australia.
I was at the new city of Nova-Gomulka in Poland. A new city has been built by Gomulka around his new steel Works in which he employs 17,000 men. The new city has a population of 100,000. It is a dreary city, each building being identical with the one next to it. It is a city with some miles of six-story apartment houses, all similar in design. There is not one church in that city. It supplies the manpower for the steel works next door. 1 had the opportunity to look through the city and the steel works. I met the manager, an able man, a top ranking executive and, of course, a top ranking Communist. He told me that the skilled men in his plant received 2,000 zloties a month and the unskilled men about half that amount. In other words, the skilled men earn the equivalent of our £10 a week and the unskilled workers half that amount. To us, that might seem enough to get along with. The workers are provided with apartments, the average apartment having only two rooms. One must have a very large family or be a prominent Communist before one can get a three-room apartment. If one is a prominent Communist and an executive of the firm, one is also supplied with a servant. But when one examines the prices for goods - and I took considerable note of them - one appreciates what a struggle it is to live on that wretched wage. For instance, such things as a 4-oz. tin of Nescafe? cost the equivalent of 32s. in Australian money. Again, 1 lb. of tea - and the people are very fond of tea - costs £1 2s. in our currency.
I talked to a young school teacher in Warsaw. He told me that it costs him a day’s wages to pay for 1 lb. of butter. So he eats very little butter. He buys very little meat because it is too expensive. Bread, vegetables, a little fruit and an occasional piece of sausage form the main diet of the very big majority of the people in those countries. I mention these things because I think the very best remedy for our disgruntled Australians would be to invite them to those countries for a short holiday.
I turn for a brief moment to two other questions that are very often asked of me. I have been asked over and over again what is the attitude of the Pole towards the Germans and what is the attitude of the Pole towards the Russians. I repeat that one cannot appreciate the position until one has seen it. The attitude of all Poles to the Germans is one of most intense, bitter, undying hatred. That is the attitude of not only the Communists but also the nonCommunists. I talked to an intellectual on various occasions and got to know him and, from those conversations I think I can describe Poland’s problem in a nutshell. This gentleman, who was a cultured man, kept his wife and children in England for protection. I asked him why he did not live there himself, and he said, “No, I could not leave my country - Poland. I want to stay here and see it through.” I understood what that meant. He said, “I want my wife and children to be safe because, one of these days, something might happen to me and I know they will be safe “. That expresses the general view. Although he bitterly despised the Russians, he hated and feared the German race more. He said - and these are his own words - “ The only nation that would come to the support of Poland in a crisis would be Russia”. That was the dilemma of this anti-Communist. The only nation on which the Poles could rely for support in a crisis would be Russia. I might say that when one visits Auschwitz, the horror concentration camp where the Germans brutally murdered 4,000,000 of the civilian population in two years - this represents a rate of about 12,000 a day - and when one realizes that every family in Poland suffered at the hands of the Germans, one appreciates that not in our lifetime can these people have anything but the deepest of hatred for the Germans. Needless to say, that fact is seized upon avidly by the Communist dictators in a ruthless manner in their propaganda and, of course, it falls on very fertile ground with these Poles. Every day of the week one may read in the newspapers some attack by the local Communist regime against West Germany. According to the Communists, everything that is wrong or brutal has been done or contemplated by the West Germans. That is a type of propaganda that falls on very fertile ground in the minds of the Poles, irrespective of their politics. There is the dilemma of Poland.
– Did not the
Russians also murder?
– Yes. The Russians stood outside the gates of Warsaw for six weeks while the Germans systematically blew up the city. Many Poles remember (hat, but they still acknowledge the fact that the Russians were the first into Warsaw and that they kept the Germans out. It is of no use for us to sit here and not recognize the fact- Although the Pole, irrespective of his politics, might despise the Russian, he accepts him as an insurance policy, and he loathes and detests the German. That is an important fact to be borne in mind when one considers the international policies that relate to the fusion of the two Germanies. The Polish border has never been settled. The Poles, in their excitement and enthusiasm after the war, grabbed a great piece of Germany and rather brutally treated the Germans who were there. That border line has never been settled, so with very great reason does Gomulka conduct the hate campaign against West Germans. He does not want the question raised in his time.
In the Russians we find the same attitude. The Pole is a rather intellectual, sensitive and, generally speaking, artistic man. He despises the Russian for many things, but particularly for his treatment of Poland over the last 300 years. The Poles have been knocked about by east and west for 200 to 300 years; they are getting quite used to it. The Pole despises the Russian for other reasons also, but even so he accepts the Russian as an insurance policy and that is a fact that we must accept in discussing problems of international dispute. It was put to me by many people in Poland that if a free election were to be held there tomorrow the Communist Party would go out very quickly but the Poles would probably substitute some other form of government which would not necessarily be democratic, for the simple reason that they have never known real freedom. One gentleman in a very high diplomatic post was quite certain that if the Communists in Poland went out tomorrow, some other form of tyranny would take their place, because the people are not yet educated in democratic forms and do not understand what freedom means. I quite appreciate that point of view, although I do not necessarily subscribe to it.
I have spent too long in discussing matters behind the iron curtain, but I wanted to express these views in the Senate because it was by the Senate’s courtesy that I had the opportunity to go overseas, and I returned grateful for having had that privilege. I have given a brief picture in reply to some of the questions that have been put to me: I have not tried to provide the answers. In some respects I do not think there are answers. I think that perhaps time will provide answers. On the international level, at least, if we can keep the nations in a state of mind wherein they are prepared to discuss solutions, we will have got somewhere. That will be a great achievement. If we reach the stage where East and West refuse to discuss these matters, we can look for trouble.
As to the short-term answer to our international problems, perhaps I can repeat what Emmanuel Shinwell, the great Labour leader, said in Warsaw in a very fine speech in the plenary session on disarmament. Summing up his views, he said -
I believe that the greatest hope for world peace lies in the continued good work of the present Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Macmillan
With that 1 agree, and I think the whole conference agreed with it too, because Mr. Macmillan has a reputation in Europe that stands very high because of his attempts to meet people, discuss problems with them, and get some measure of agreement where no agreement now exists.
I conclude on that note. I think we can all agree with Mr. Macmillan and with that great American, President Eisenhower, that we have some hope in the discussions that are to take place at the so-called Summit conference. We all wish them well and perhaps even pray that their discussions will provide the first glimmers of light in the international gloom that hangs over Europe.
.- I take this opportunity of speaking to-night only to bring to the Government’s notice some of the anomalies that arise in regard to pharmaceutical benefits. Senator Vincent’s speech was indeed most interesting but I would say, without exaggeration, that hundreds of thousands of chronic sufferers in Australia find themselves, under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, in much the same position as that of the poor Poles to whom he referred.
Chronic sufferers are in a section of the community which one would expect the Government to do its utmost to assist, but they get no assistance whatsoever. Many of them will be tricked into carrying a heavy financial burden through failure to appreciate the difficulties that arise under the national health legislation. Unless they wake up or unless amendments are made, millions of pounds more will be paid over a period of years into the pockets of medical practitioners, and this money will come from chronic sufferers. I can rely only on what I read in the regulations and the advice that I can obtain from pharmaceutical chemists.
If a chronic sufferer went to a doctor for a repeat of medicine that he would need from one year’s end to another, he would expect, in view of all the publicity that has been given to the Government’s so-called free medicine scheme, that it would be authorized on a free-medicine prescription form. What do we find the position to be? I shall cite one or two cases that cannot be disputed, and there are hundreds of thousands of similar cases in Australia. Take the case of a chronic sufferer who receives, at a cost of 10s., a 16-oz. bottle of medicine that lasts a fortnight, and which a chemist may not repeat at an interval of less than a fortnight. Some States have different laws governing these matters. Two bottles will cost £1. According to the chemists, the maximum-sized bottle than can be given under this scheme is an 8-oz. bottle, and the maximum number of repeats that can be given without another certificate from the doctor is four. Four 8-oz. bottles - 32 oz. - at 5s. a bottle cost £1. Two 16-oz. bottles at 10s. a bottle - again 32 oz. - cost £1. The chronic sufferer was formerly able to get two 16-oz. bottles and then pick up another one and another one after that. But under this scheme he must pay the medical practitioner another couple of guineas for another prescription. Before this scheme came into operation, he was able to get four bottles for the same amount of money. Many chronic sufferers are under specialists, and many specialists will not consult a patient for less than five guineas, so we have to tack on another five guineas to the cost.
– Do not speak so loudly.
– Earlier to-day, when I was not speaking loudly, the Minister was unable to understand a question I asked him.
– That was not because of his defective hearing.
– I wanted to know whether a doctor is compelled to prescribe on the form for a free drug, as the Government calls it, or whether chronic sufferers can go to medical practitioners and get prescriptions on slips of paper as formerly. If they cannot do so, it means that under this scheme chronic sufferers will have to pay several million pounds over a period of years. It was on this matter that I wanted information, but the Minister could not tell me whether people are to be compelled to pay twice, three times, or four times as much as they would have to pay if they could keep out of the scheme.
It is not a question of coming into a scheme to get something to assist; it is a question of keeping out of the scheme if chronic sufferers wish to avoid digging deeper and deeper into their pockets. The doctors might try to slip out under some of these regulations, or they might not place a correct interpretation on some of them. National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Regulation No. 15, Part IV., referring to pharmaceutical benefits under section 93 of the Act - the regulation on which I have sought information - reads -
A medical practitioner who is an approved medical practitioner and a medical practitioner who is practising his profession on a ship are not authorized to supply pharmaceutical benefits under section 93 of the Act.
When we look at section 93 of the act, we find that it provides that a medical practitioner is authorized to supply such pharmaceutical benefits as are prescribed. It does not say that the medical practitioner is authorized to prescribe these drugs. He is only authorized at the discretion of the Minister. So that does not count for anything at all; it is relative all the time to whether a medical practitioner would be authorized to supply the drugs. There is nothing to say that he is authorized and may prescribe on the form, and there is nothing in the regulations to say that he cannot prescribe on it. It is for that reason that I have sought information on the matter.
I turn now to regulation No. 13, which is a real gem. It is the one under which unfortunate patients get tricked. I shall read the whole of it so that any Minister who happens to be listening to my remarks will not misunderstand. Regulation 13, under Part III. of the National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefit?) Regulations provides -
Where a medical practitioner declares to the Minister that the continuousor extended use of a pharmaceutical benefit is necessary for the medical treatment of a particular person suffering from a chronic complaint or for the purpose of maintaining the life of a particular person, the Minister may,
Not shall - subject to such conditions, if any, as he specifies, issue a numbered authority varying a determination under paragraph (a) of sub-section (5.) of section 85 of the Act so as to authorize the medical practitioner to direct in a prescription in respect of that person that -
Remember, the regulation says, “… as the Minister specifies “. If we turn to section 85 (l.)(a) of the act, we find that it is very simple, because this regulation has explained the position! All it says is - drugs and medicinal preparations the names or formulae and other particulars of which are prescribed; and…..
That is all there is to it! So we have the position that nobody is going to tell the patient - nobody! The doctor is not going to tell him because if he does, anything from £20 to £60 in the course of a year will not come to him in additional fees. Therefore, we would not expect the doctor to tell the patient. The chemist to whom I was speaking was completely unaware of this provision. Probably he had not studied the regulations. But even if chemists had done so, I am very doubtful whether they would tell chronic sufferers of this provision.
If the patient is told, what is the procedure to be followed? First, the patient has to make an application through the doctor to the Minister. The Minister has to consider it. The present Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) is a medical practitioner, but the holder of the Health portfolio need not be a doctor. For instance, in the previous Labour government, Senator McKenna, who was Minister for Health, was not a doctor. Would he have a better knowledge of how many repeats of a prescription should be authorized or how many units of drug the patient should have than a highly qualified specialist? I point out that a patient must be referred to a specialist by a medical practitioner. Yet the regulation provides that the Minister - he may be a layman who knows nothing at all about medicine - has to say how many repeats of a prescription there shall be. He has to stand over medical practitioners and highly qualified specialists to whom many unfortunate patients have to go in order to keep alive. How long does this procedure take? A doctor or a specialist may make application or he may not. For how long is a medical practitioner or a specialist going to be bothered with a patient if the patient is on his back asking him to get this out of the Minister?
These are some of the anomalies of this wonderful pharmaceutical benefits scheme of the Government. I do not know, Mr. President, whether or not the National Health Act was meant to be a doctors’ nationalization bill, and whether the Government was trying to nationalize the medical profession and get the full cooperation of the doctors in a scheme under which they stood to lose nothing but might pick up millions of pounds. The Government, in effect, was compelling every one to use the drugs once they had been placed in the schedule. The medical profession would be three parts nationalized and millions of pounds would be put into the pockets of members of that profession in the process. Is that actually the objective of the Government? I often wondered whether this was the Government’s objective when the chairman of the British Medical Association said that that association had no objection to the scheme but that it did object to certain variations being made without the association being consulted. After a very quick glance at it, he could see that there was nothing but benefit in it for the medical profession. On this quick glance, he said that the medical profession had no objection to it. How could they object to a scheme of this nature? The only thing with which he did find fault was the size of the paper on which the prescriptions had to be written out. He thought it should be 6 inches by 5 inches, 4 inches by 5 inches, or whatever the figures were. That was the only objection that the chairman of the British Medical Association had to the scheme. We can understand why no objection in any shape or form was raised to this scheme.
I should like to see some amendment of these anomalous regulations so that we would still have our free medical services. I did not think that I would ever stand up here to try to correct a lopsided socialistic scheme of nationalization brought in by a Liberal government, but that is exactly the position I find myself in to-day. Only those of us who have real practical experience can find these things out. I repeat that there are hundreds of thousands of chronic sufferers who. before they wake up, will pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in extra fees to doctors.
– How can they pay it if they are asleep?
– I did not catch the interjection, but if it was a sensible one, I hope the honorable senator will read my speech, check the regulations and then make a speech on the subject himself. He will find, Mr. President, that I am stating cold facts. If he has any chronic sufferers in his State - and I know he has thousands - he can ask them how much medicine they are getting now and what is the size of vue bottles. He can then read the regulations. He will find that some of them cannot get four repeat prescriptions for the drugs they are receiving. They will be able to get only one repeat, and will then have to go back to the the doctor to get another prescription for exactly the same medicine.
– And pay for the visit.
– They could get another one with the Minister’s approval. That raises another point. A patient who is really ill may not have much money. Will a doctor go to all the trouble involved in getting the Minister’s approval for repeats? If the patient needs the medicine quickly, how is the doctor to get a quick decision from a Minister?
There is another angle to this problem. I do not know whose pocket the Government is trying to fill. It costs a pharmaceutical chemist just as much in time and labour to provide an 8-oz. bottle of medicine as it costs to provide a 16-oz. bottle. When you halve the size of the bottle, you have to pay him twice for mixing what could have gone into one bottle.
Those are hard, cold facts. Probably the Government overlooked them, but they should not be overlooked by those who want to assist the sick people of Australia. The person who has one bottle of medicine a year or one bottle in every six months is not affected much. I ask the Government to have a look at this matter before many unfortunate people, through ignorance, are bled to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds that they should not have to pay.
– I support enthusiastically the expression of loyalty to Her Most Gracious Majesty, the Queen, in the AddressinReply, the motion for the adoption of which is now before the chamber. I support also the expression of thanks to His Excellency the Governor-General for coming to the Senate and delivering his Speech. As a South Australian senator, I share in the great enthusiasm with which the people of South Australia have welcomed His Excellency and Viscountess Dunrossil on their present visit to South Australia. I can assure the Senate that His Excellency and his charming wife have endeared themselves to the people of South Australia by the way in which they have taken part in the Adelaide Festival of Arts.
One can regard the Speech of the Governor-General as a careful survey and chronicle of past events and an outline of the programme of forthcoming events which has been foreshadowed by his advisers. It was rather interesting that two prominent figures in Australian life left the Parliament on the same day a month or so ago. I refer to the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Casey, and the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt. I think that one should not let this opportunity pass without making reference to at least one of the gentlemen to whom I have referred. I should like to make reference to Lord Casey, a former member of the House of Representatives. I consider that when the history of Australia in recent years comes to be written by the historians of the future, the life and work of Mr. Casey, as he was so familiarly known in Australia, will figure prominently in it.
One attributes to him the credit for the very beginnings of the Australian Department of External Affairs. I understand that he was the first officer of the Common wealth to be regarded exclusively as a member of the Department of External Affairs. I feel that we owe to Mr. Casey also a debt of gratitude for developing the Colombo Plan, which I am glad to note is being extended for five years. The Colombo Plan is something which has made Australia famous an many parts of the eastern world to-day. It was only yesterday, in Adelaide, that I had the privilege of discussing with His Excellency, the High Commissioner for Malaya in Australia, the working of the Colombo Plan so far as it affects Malayan students. His Excellency told me that at the present time 4,000 students from Malaya are receiving training in Australia in various schools and universities, many of them being recipients of benefits under the Colombo Plan. Great credit for the development of that plan must go to Mr. Casey.
I pass now to Mr. Casey’s travels on goodwill missions to and through Asia over the last nine years. It was his guiding hand that gave effective sanction, as it were, to the Seato Pact. It was his great charm of manner and ability that made the Anzus Pact so important about eight or nine years ago. I believe that everywhere one goes in South-East Asia the name of Mr. Casey is held in very high respect. So it is fitting that one should, in a few sentences at least, pay tribute to his work.
Now I turn to the Right Honorable Dr. H. V. Evatt. Here is a man who has left his mark on Australian political life. He has now been appointed to the judiciary. As President of the United Nations General Assembly, he left his mark on world affairs. He is famous as a jurist and as a parliamentarian.
I wish to refer to several chapters in the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. In particular I return to a subject that I have mentioned a number of times in the Senate - the Australian Antarctic Territory. About five years ago this Parliament passed legislation dealing with the Australian Antarctic Territory, but that is not enough. We should regularly take note of what is happening in and to Antarctica. Honorable senators may remember that the legislation that was passed laid down how the Australian Antarctic Territory should be governed. The laws affecting that Territory are in effect the same as the laws that relate to the Australian Capital Territory. In the year just passed Antarctica assumed great status in international affairs. Mr. Casey, as Minister for External Affairs, by dint of patient and cautious negotiation with Argentina, the United Kingdom, Russia, the United States of America and a number of other nations reached an understanding which I believe will form the basis of a treaty to be ratified at a later date by this Parliament. So far so good on the legal side, but I ask myself and the Senate this question: Is Australia doing enough of a practical nature with relation to Antarctica? We still have no ship by which we may keep in touch with this vast territory for which we have assumed so much responsibility. I understand that in 1952 extensive plans were prepared for the construction of a ship capable of journeying to and from Antarctica. For some reason that I cannot understand, the construction of that ship was not proceeded with. What has been the result? Every year Australia has had to charter one or two Scandinavian vessels, which are brought out from Europe to make a single journey to the furthermost portion of Antarctica and a short journey to the nearer portion.
– At £460 a day.
– Yes, as my friend Senator Kendall says, at £460 a day, I understand that the charter figure per annum for each ship amounts to something like £80,000. This has been going on for years and we have absolutely nothing to show for our expenditure in this regard. We have hardly a trained seaman or a trained navigator. The Government should pay serious regard to this matter. Money is being spent in all directions. Australia is to contribute millions of pounds towards the Indus waters scheme in India and Pakistan. Money will be spent in many other avenues but the provision of capital for the construction of a ship for use in the Antarctic seems to be beyond us. My friend, the former Minister for Shipping and Transport, Senator Paltridge, is proud of the amount of subsidy that was paid to the Australian shipbuilding industry during the time that he was in charge of that portfolio. But the construction of a ship for our use in the Antarctic is as far away as ever. 1 ask the Government: ls is sound commonsense to have scores of brave fellows doing magnificent work on the long coastline of the Australian Antarctic Territory and not have a ship with which to service them? Is it sound commonsense to rely on a contract with a Scandinavian country to provide the necessary vessel, always hoping that it will not be delayed on its way through the Suez Canal or elsewhere? If we had our own ship it would not be wasted during winter when, as is well known, ships cannot go to Antarctica. Surely such a vessel could serve a useful purpose in nautical surveys. Surely it could be used in a survey of the fishing potential of the great seas to the south of Australia. The Department of Primary Industry recently provided a new fishing trawler in South Australia and the first report of that trawler’s exploratory voyage, which concluded a few days ago, is most encouraging. If we had a vessel capable of travelling into the southern waters we may reap great rewards in other directions, apart from the fact that the vessel would be capable of servicing the brave fellows who are carrying out magnificent work in our Territory in Antarctica.
What is there on the other side of the iron curtain, if I may put it that way, in Antarctica? The Russians are operating in Antarctica in great style. The have excellent ships. One that I recall, named the “ Ob “, is really a floating laboratory. It has called at Wallaroo and Port Adelaide in South Australia. Among its complement are male and female professors. They have mingled with the learned people of South Australia at the University of Adelaide and have discussed their work and the Russian floating laboratories. Thus there has been brought to my knowledge the great importance that the Russians attach to having a ship that is capable of going to Antarctica. Our scientists have been going backwards and forwards in chartered ships for ten years and still we have no vessel of our own.
Just recently I addressed a question on this matter to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who formerly was Minister for Shipping and Transport but who now represents his successor in that portfolio. I urge him with all the power at my command to confer with his colleague, the new Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), and to present this matter to him most forcefully. Unfortunately, we have had a number of fires at our bases in Antarctica. I do not know how we will be able to get new material there to replace burnt-out sheds and laboratories. We will be confronted with very big problems when accidents occur if we have not a ship to service the area, and we will look very silly in the eyes of the rest of the world. It is all very well to go around the world and do good here and there, but we really ought to start at home and do a bit of good for our own people who are doing so much in the interests of world science. I put this need most strongly to the Minister for Shipping and Transport from the shipping angle and also to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Menzies), who is the Minister administering operations in Antarctica.
I was very pleased to note in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General reference to the fact that the Government intends to promote the sale of Australian products overseas through the enlarged trade commissioner service and trade missions, and also through co-operation with the Export Development Council. I am very pleased to note that in Canberra soon there will be a national export convention. And I have been particularly pleased to learn that later this year a small trade mission, consisting of approximately four people, will visit South America. That is most encouraging. As the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) said when he announced this trade mission, South America’s trade with the rest of the world amounts to approximately £1,200,000,000. Australia’s share is worth less than £1,000,000. So, although there is a lot of trade between South America and other nations, we are getting only an infinitesimal portion of it.
I hope that this trade mission will do well- I have no doubt that it will receive a very warm and enthusiastic welcome wherever it goes in South America, because it was my good fortune, when I was there, to be treated with the utmost courtesy. One of the problems that will have to be surmounted is Australia’s sparse representation in that area. Australia has only one ambassador in the whole of the continent - a continent that includes one country, Brazil, which alone is larger than Australia, and that contains possibly 150,000,000 people.
– Does Brazil alone contain that number of people?
– Brazil alone contains approximately 65,000,000 people, but the whole continent contains about 150,000,000. South America is rich in every known metal and mineral, and in oil. It has the largest river system and possibly some of the most wonderful soil in the world. Yet Australia’s trade with that continent is worth barely £1,000,000 - an infinitesimal part of the total. As I said earlier, I am very pleased that at last the Government intends to send a small trade mission to that area.
I feel, though, that the Government is not approaching the implementation of its trade mission policy as it should. I have read with great interest the reports of missions that have gone to India and Malaya, and as far as Hong Kong. Those missions have consisted of representatives of companies, firms, banks, chambers of commerce and civil servants. But I think members of the Parliament with some skill should be included in these missions, whose visits should not be regarded as just another trip or another jaunt. Members of Parliament who have taken an interest in trade matters should accompany these delegations, particularly to places like South America. I say that because in those places merchants and civil servants, through history and the process of life in those countries, are not held in very high regard in government and parliamentary circles. I believe that in some of these places a member of the Parliament would be able to achieve more at a higher level. It is rather amazing that, no matter how excellent a merchant or a civil servant may be, he may not make the grade in the way that presentable members of the Parliament could make it. I hope I am making myself clear. I think it will be found that in a number of countries there is not the high standard of civil service or of commercial dealing that there is in this country and that quicker and closer contact could be made if members of the Parliament were included in these delegations.
I can assure the Senate that wherever I went in South America Mr. Casey, Mr. McEwen and other men of their standing in parliamentary circles were very highly regarded. I believe that some of my friends of the Opposition have represented Australia overseas on a number of occasions. I think it was in the 1940’s that Senator Sheehan, as a member of this Parliament, attended an important conference. A number of my friends on the Opposition side have represented Australia at important conferences and have been accredited the status that members of Parliament rightly have. Whether we deserve that status rests with us and on the way in which we conduct ourselves.
I put it to the Government that in the promotion of Australia’s trade and Australia’s drive forward, members of Parliament should be sent overseas, not in any sense to give them a trip or a jaunt, but to get them to do a job and to use their parliamentary status and standing in the interests of Australia. From my observations while overseas, I believe that members of this Parliament who served with great distinction in previous years have done great work for Australia. Former members of the Parliament are now our ambassadors and high commissioners, and they represent Australia with great credit in other parts of the world. I think of Sir Josiah Francis, Mr. Beale and Sir Eric Harrison, to name only three. Members of this Parliament could do a great job for Australia and achieve results that merchants and civil servants might not be able to achieve. I say that, Mr. Acting Deputy President, with very firm conviction, and I hope that when the Minister for Trade is considering trade promotion he will not overlook that aspect of it.
The Speech of the Governor-General refers to the prospects for 1959-60. His Excellency’s advisers invited his attention to the distinct growth that has occurred in manufacturing industries and to the high level of production of primary products. So far so good. I think I should now turn to what the Opposition has had to say about those two simple, arresting thoughts. I wish to refer to a television interview with Mr. Calwell, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, that was reproduced in Adelaide on Sunday last over the national television station, Channel
Coming back to the performance of Mr. Calwell. I was struck by some of the statements he made during the television interview to which I have referred. Mr. Calwell admitted that he spoke for the Australian Labour Party. He said that the Labour Party speaks as one voice, and he said, when he was actually questioned on the point, that he was telling his audience the Labour view. He said that Labour would control interest rates; that money which should have been invested in certain ways was now going elsewhere and that Labour, if it had its way, would force the investment of money in certain channels.
– Did you write this down when he was saying it, or are you just making it up?
– That was the effect of Mr. Calwell’s remarks when he was questioned in front of the television cameras. Mr. Calwell said that if Labour had its way it would bring in a new tax, a capital gains tax.
– Hear, hear
– Does the honorable senator disagree with that?
– No, I do not.
– He said that Labour would seek federal powers to control hire purchase and that the Federal Government would seek powers to control prices. That was an amazing statement, in view of the fact that Labour governments in Australia at the present time, in New South Wales and Tasmania, virtually have given up prices control. Mr. Calwell said that he would bring it back. He went on to say that he would create a uniform company law for the whole of the Commonwealth, that he would bring in capital issues control and, what was most interesting to me, that he would really cut out the sovereign States, as they are at the moment, and in place of the States he Would have local authorities, as he called them. That appeared to me to be a most amazing policy with which to approach this period of the 1960’s.
Mr. Calwell said that Labour pinned great faith on the alteration of the Constitution. He also said that amendments would be made in such a way as to bring about a unitary form of government in Australia, as a result of which the Senate would have less power than it has at the present time. At this stage, I wish to commend my friend, Senator Wright, for his contribution to the thinking of the Constitutional Review Committee. I have read with great interest the minority report presented by Senator Wright, arid I think it would be a good thing if every senator were to study carefully Senator Wright’s report on the Constitution’, with particular reference to the powers of the Senate. I feel that Senator Wright’s views will be widely and enthusiastically accepted in the” State which I have the honour to represent, and I should think that they will have’ ari equally great reception in Tasmania. Especially do I think they will be accepted with great enthusiasm in Western Australia. I do know that they are being studied very closely indeed in South Australia, and I am confident that if the amend.ments proposed by the majority of the committee relating fo the Seriate and for over.coming the problem of the deadlock were adopted by this Government they would not be accepted in South Australia arid possibly in the other State’s f have mentioned. Again, I pay tribute to Senator Wright for his very clear thinking oil these matters.
I am not interested in what Mr. Calwell said, although I must mention one thing which intrigued me because it illustrates the way in which the Labour Party is thinking. Mr. Calwell said he would abolish the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He suggested that in lieu of the commission there ought to be a department of State presided over by a Minister fbr Broadcasting. There we have the true socialist in action! He suggests that there should be a Minister of State with full control over broadcasting and television.
– That is what they were kicked out for eleven years ago.
– That is so. The discussion on Sunday evening was most illuminating to me because it bears out what has been said so far during the debate by honorable senators opposite. As I see the position, the views expressed by honorable senators opposite and by their accredited leader. Mr. Calwell, indicate that the Labour Party believes in slowing down development in Australia, appointing a Minister for Broadcasting in lieu of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, minimizing the effect of the Seriate ‘ and abolishing the fundamental rights of the smaller States which at present are vouchsafed by their having equal representation with the larger States in the Senate. Honorable senators opposite have indicated during the debate so far that they are interest not in Australia Unlimited but in the redistribution of income, the taxing of capital gains and so on. It is high time that some honorable senators looked not at Australia of 1960 but at what we expect Australia fo he by 1970. Let us look to the future with our sights set high.
I have been doing some reading on this subject lately and have come to the belief that by 1970 our population will have increased by approximately 30 per cent, to 13,(Jd0,0’00.
– What will’ the £1 be worth?
– If we go the right way about things, if we eliminate restrictions, if the Opposition will cast aside its pessimistic outlook, the Australian £1 will give the people a higher standard of living than it does at present; and it cannot be denied that at the present time the Australian £1 is giving the people a far higher standard of living than it did ten years ago when Labour was in office. The things which people can enjoy, the opportunities there are for their children, the number of jobs available and the standard of education for the children are the things which count. Mathematical calculations as to what the £1 is worth are not important. The important point is what the £1 will buy, and I repeat that at the present time the £1 which the Australian worker takes home buys more for himself, his wife and children than it did ten or twelve years ago. Further, we have greater production, continuity of work, and continuity of power supplies for the housewife. No longer have we such things as petrol rationing, the filling in of all sorts of forms, and the other irritations that we had ten or twelve years ago when Labour was in office.
I repeat that we should set our sights high. Further, my reading on the subject leads me to believe that with the 30 per cent, increase in population there should be an increase of 70 per cent, in the 15-24 years age group because of the number of young people born during the last ten years or so. For that reason, it is essential that we set our sights high when planning development. I firmly believe that by 1970 there will be a high demand for consumer goods, that there will be a vast increase in the number of teenagers and that, because of the number of marriages of young people, there could be a great boom in births. Further, there will be great opportunities for the production of goods and for the provision of the services needed by that time. Immigration will go ahead rapidly, and here I emphasize that the statements made by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) over the last few months with respect to the increased tempo of immigration and the immigration of British people in particular, have been most inspiring. I repeat that by 1970 there should be an increase of from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, in our population and there could easily be an increase of 33 per cent, in our workforce.
– 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. ‘
Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) [10.301. - I desire to delay the Senate for only a few brief moments. On Thursday last, when the proceedings of the Senate became somewhat interesting at question time, Senator Benn asked the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) the following question: -
I address a supplementary question to the Minister. Can he inform me of the cost price of the two aircraft which Ansett-A.N.A. wishes to exchange for three T.A.A. Viscounts, and also of the cost price of the three Viscounts? Further, can he inform me of the present monetary value of each aircraft?
The Minister, in reply to Senator Benn, stated the present market value of the aircraft, and he then continued -
When these wild statements were made about the comparative values of the aircraft, I was interested to know who had supplied the Deputy Leader of the Opposition with information which may have led him to the conclusion that the Viscount 700 was worth more than the DC6B, because in my three years’ experience of this portfolio, which has necessitated a close following of aircraft values, I had not previously heard such a suggestion. I caused inquiries to be made at a number of places in Australia to which Senator Kennelly might have addressed an inquiry regarding the comparative values of the aircraft, and in all those places there was a negative result. Senator Kennelly had not inquired where one might reasonably have expected him to inquire. I can only draw the conclusion, therefore, that his statement was a mischievous one, made without knowledge and for the sole purpose of attempting to gain some cheap political capital - an attempt in which he failed dismally.
I do not mind the Minister’s trying to get out of answering a question - he only half answered it - but 1 take strong objection to his drawing me into it. I have a happy knack of getting into many fights and I hope I shall always have the happy knack of getting out of them. I ask the Minister whether he can show where I have been reported, in the press or otherwise, as stating the prices of the respective aircraft. I have looked through the reports of statements I made and I cannot find such a reference. I do not mind the Minister’s making Aunt Sallies of others when he cannot supply information, but I ask him not to pick me in future. I do not think he is entitled to bolster an answer to a question by making any senator an Aunt Sally for something that he did not say.
– I should be the first to rush in and assert that Senator Kennelly was never other than a good, full-blooded fighter, and if I have offended him by attributing to him some statement which he did not make, then I shall be the first to apologize. But Senator Kennelly, and every other honorable senator, will remember, I think, quite clearly the circumstances in which he and other members of the Labour Party, including its present leader, Mr. Calwell, Mr. Fraser, and others, attempted to get on to the band wagon and make a good deal of political capital out of this transaction. If it is a fact that Senator Kennelly did not, as did some others, specifically mention prices, he will not deny, I am sure, that the import of the many statements he made was that the transaction was one that was financially unfavorable to Trans-Australia Airlines.
– I still say that, but that is not the point at issue. Would you come to the point at issue?
– My statement on Thursday in the Senate, which honorable senators will recall was made at the conclusion of a series of questions that lasted, according to my memory, about 25 consecutive minutes, referred to a matter raised by Senator Kennelly.
– No, it did not.
– IfI was in error in stating that he actually, at some point in his many statements, referred to price, for that small sin I extend my apologies. But I repeat that his many statements and the statements made by other members of his party were directed to the point that the DC6B aircraft was a clapped-out, oldfashioned, piston-engined aircraft that was not worth anything like the value of the Viscount. My statement made the position in regard to that completely clear.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 March 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19600315_senate_23_s17/>.