23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Is not his department in close touch with activities in the field of synthetic oil production? From his undoubtedly wide knowledge, will the Minister inform the Senate and the people of Australia of the advances made in the last year or so in this particular arena? Is there any immediate prospect of Australia using its coal resources for the production of oil, or is the Government banking on the discovery of flow oil?
– There are so many technical angles to the question that Senator Brown asks that it is really difficult for me to give an answer. The way in which the Government approached this problem was to appoint a committee consisting of scientists and business people four or five months ago and to charge that committee with the responsibility of looking at all the research work being done in Australia by the various governments and industries to see whether there was overlapping. The committee was also asked to consult with the various people concerned and then give an opinion as to whether the research programme was being directed along the right channels.
I think we are very fortunate in the members whom we have on that committee. They are really good scientific men. and businessmen. The committee has been operating for only a few months and I have not yet had any report from it.
Taking the matter from there, I think that what Senator Brown asks me to do is to express opinions as to what is happening. The best reply I can give to that request is to say that this situation has arisen in other countries. In Great Britain a similar committee has been appointed, the problem there being much more urgent than ours is. If one were to offer a general answer I think I should he correct in saying that the consensus of professional and scientific opinion is that a process has not yet been evolved by which oil can be produced from coal on an economic basis in competition with natural flow oil.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. As television receivers are very popular on the north coast of Tasmania, largely b;cause of Bass Strait being a good conveyor of signals, and as the owners of receivers in this locality pay the same licence-fee as do the people within the normally recognized range of transmitters, will the Postmaster-General investigate the possibility of reducing or eliminating the duplicating of programmes received in that area from Brisbane and Melbourne, which duplication, I understand, occurs mainly on channel 2?
– I am advised by the engineers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission that this is one of the problems associated with the early development of television, and that they are inquiring into it. They know the effect of Bass Strait upon reception and they hope to be able, at an early date, to make reception better.
– I preface a question, which I direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation, by saying that last Thursday, in answer to a question, he promised that he would make available a report submitted to him by the former chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, Mr. Warren McDonald, as soon as he had completed his study of it and made his comments upon it. As it is now three months since the Minister received the report, has he yet completed his study of the document? If he has not, when does he expect to do so? I shall be very interested to peruse the document, in view of the Minister’s statement last Thursday.
– I appreciate the honorable senator’s quite genuine and objective interest in civil aviation and in this report. I am not yet in a position to make the report available. It is true that it was presented three months ago. It is equally true that it represents the views of a man who was closely associated with the civil aviation industry over a lengthy period and that, as a result, there is much in it that requires a good deal of study.
Although Mr. Warren McDonald is no longer connected with civil aviation, as recently as last Thursday I was happy, because of the interest that this report has created, to have a further discussion with him on some aspects of the report in an attempt to get clarity on some of the issues that he raised. I can only repeat that I shall make the report available just as soon as my study of it is complete. Without committing myself, as I do not intend to rush my consideration of the report, I do not think it will be available in the near future. It will probably be a month or six weeks before the report is available, but by that time 1 shall be happy to let the honorable senator have it.
– I direct a supplementary question to the Minister. Will he consider a possible point of view that if the study continues indefinitely it may be assisted by a contemporaneous study by members of the Parliament?
– No. I do not think that that would be the case, because many of the points raised by Mr. McDonald in the report relate to the administration of civil aviation and the position of the Department of Civil Aviation vis-a-vis the operators in this country.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Treasurer a question. Will the Minister ascertain from the Treasurer the cause of the delay in reaching a decision on the application for compensation made by Ronald Roberts, of Auchenflower, Brisbane, who was injured when undergoing national service training?
– I am not familiar with the cast. All I can do is to tell the honorable senator that I will bring his query to the notice of the Treasurer.
– T desire to ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister a question. I preface it by saying that T have received a complaint that a mother, at her home, and also a teenage girl, at her place of work, were interrogated by a security service officer for approximately four hours. All questions appeared to be directed to ascertaining whether they were members of the Australian Labour Party, and if not, their political affiliations. In point of fact, they do not belong to a political party. Will the Minister obtain a report from the Prime Minister stating the necessity for the security service to try to find out whether people are members of the Labour Party or any other political organization and to waste hours at a time interrogating people, particularly teenage people, at their place of work?
- Mr. President, I give the reply to Senator O’Flaherty that I feel no need to obtain a report on this matter. I am quite certain that members of the security organization would not examine at length any Australian citizen upon the point as to whether or not he was a member of the Australian Labour Party. It is unthinkable that the security organization would proceed in that way. If Senator O’Flaherty does not believe that statement, what he should do is to put a case in specific terms to the Prime Minister. First of all, I do not believe that what the honorable senator has described happened. Secondly, if it did happen I am quite sure that the Prime Minister would have the matter corrected. We pride ourselves in Australia on having free access to our own political and religious convictions.
– I desire to address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the attention of the Minister been directed to the reply by Mr. Anthony Barber, Secretary to the Treasury, to a question asked by Lady Tweedsmuir in the House of Commons on her return to the United Kingdom from an extensive tour of Australia? In reply to Lady Tweedsmuir’s question, Mr. Barber stated that United Kingdom investment in Australia rose from £50,000,000 sterling in 1956-57 to £64,000,000 sterling in 1958-59. Is it not a fact that the confidence generated by the policies adopted by the Menzies Government has been responsible for the attraction of overseas capital investment, without which Australia’s rapid growth as a trading nation cannot be achieved?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question, undoubtedly, is “ Yes “. I am sure that one of the necessary ingredients of Australia’s growth and development is the investment of overseas capital in this country, particularly when that overseas capital is accompanied by manufacturing or agricultural know-how. I think we have been fortunate in the way in which overseas capital has come into Australia. I have not seen a record of this question and answer, but I have quite a clear recollection of Lord Carrington’s recent analysis of the overseas capital coming into Australia. A very satisfactory situation exists concerning both the proportion of British capital coming to Australia and the continuing large investment of British capital in Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In answer to Senator Wright, the Minister said that the report about which I had asked a question previously was one that had contained a lot of important matter and that he expected it would take six weeks before he could make it available. I now ask the Minister: Will he allow the Senate to read that portion of the report in which it is alleged that Mr. Warren McDonald agreed to the recent interchange of aircraft between Ansett-A.N.A. and Trans-Australia Airlines? I shall be glad to see the whole of the report in six weeks’ time, but can be give us the meat of it now?
– I shall certainly give consideration to that request, because the matter appears to be one with a great political content, in which the Opposition has expressed a great interest. The section of the report which I mentioned whenI spoke on this matter last Thursday is interconnected with a number of other sections of the report. As I said last Thursday.I would prefer to release the report as a whole, rather than to release it piece-meal. However, I shall have another look at the document to see whether there wouldbe any advantage in releasing that section of the report now. If I think it would be of advantage, I will be only too pleased to release it.
– My question to the Minister for Civil Aviation relates to the very fascinating sport of gliding. Does gliding come under the control of the Department of Civil Aviation? If so, what steps does the department take to ensure that glider pilots are fully competent? Are gliders permitted to operate in proximity to the routes used by civil airlines, or over built-up areas?
– Senator Anderson was good enough to give me prior notice of this question, and I made inquiries from the department so that I should be able to give him precise information. Gliding comes under the control of the Department of Civil Aviation in that, for the purposes of the application of the Air Navigation Regulations, a glider is regarded in the same manner as other aircraft. This ensures that the general operation of gliders, as it relates to the safety of other aircraft and third parties on the ground, is under the full control of the Department of Civil Aviation. All glider pilots operate under the auspices of gliding clubs which are affiliated under the Gliding Federation of Australia. The licensing of pilots and the control over the airworthiness of gliders have been delegated to the Gliding Federation, with which my officers are in continuous contact.
Gliders are not permitted to operate under instrument flight rules. Thus glider operations in controlled zones around busy airports and on the controlled routes are prohibited. However, arrangements can be made by the gliding clubs for the use of parts of the controlled air spaces when specifically required for particular occasions. Further, where gliding operations are reasonably intense, special areas are designated as danger areas and their promulgation as such is published for the information of pilots of other aircraft. Those areas are then reserved solely for the use of the gliding club. An example is the danger area promulgated in the vicinity of Gawler in South Australia.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by stating that Trans-Australia Airlines is unable to operate intrastate services unless the State concerned and the Commonwealth legislate to allow it to do so. Is it a fact that T.A.A. cannot at present operate intrastate services in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia but that Ansett-A.N.A. can and does operate services within those States? Is it a fact that T.A.A. operates the only service to Darwin and that both Ansett-A.N.A. and T.A.A. operate in Queensland? Is it a fact that, over-all, Ansett-A.N.A. carries 350,000 more passengers a year on its non-competitive routes than does T.A.A.? Is it a fact that these non-competitive routes generate considerable on-traffic? Did T.A.A. in its last annual report complain that it was at a very serious economic disadvantage compared with its competitor because it was barred from major intrastate routes? If so, will the Minister, in view of his oftrepeated desire to have fair competition between the two major airlines, authorize T.A.A. to approach the various State governments concerned to secure access to intrastate routes?
– The position as described by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in his lengthy question with regard to the relevant rights of both Ansett-A.N.A. and T.A.A. to operate in various parts of Australia is, as I heard the question, accurate. I have said before that the Government will keep a continuing watch on the development of feeder line traffic as it affects both operators, and that position still obtains. Indeed, the entire operation of the Australian domestic network is closely watched both departmentally and ministerially, and from time to time the Government gives consideration to these matters. That is, of course, necessary in an industry that I would think is very delicately poised and which operates on such a marginal basis. I do not think it is fair to say that T.A.A. complained in its last report. It commented on the situation and pointed out that it was at some competitive disadvantage. I do not think that T.A.A. made the point in its report that it operated to Darwin and that AnsettA.N.A. did not.
– I did not say that.
– I know, and I do not think T.A.A. made that point. As to the figures cited by the honorable senator in respect of the number of passen gers carried by feeder airlines, I am not sure that they are accurate. Beyond accepting the general proposition that feeder airlines do generate traffic for major trunk airlines, I am not prepared to say any more in respect of that part of the question at the moment.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry tell the Senate whether other States have been as successful as New South Wales in the eradication of rabbits by the use of sodium fluoroacetate, commonly known as 1080?
– In order to obtain the relevant statistics from the Minister for Primary Industry, which would be the only way in which to furnish an accurate answer, I would have to ask the honorable senator to place his question on the noticepaper. I know, however, that other States have used 1080. I know, too, that in Victoria it is used under strict government supervision and that in cases where I have seen or heard of it being used it has been extremely effective. I shall endeavour to obtain statistics showing the number of rabbits killed in each State.
– I was not seeking that information.
– I thought you were.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry know whether an offer which the Government made to the dried fruits industry in, I think, 1957 for the stabilization of that industry is still open? Has the offer been repeated or has it been modified in any way? What stage has been reached in negotiations with the industry?
– T have no knowledge of the development of this matter since the original proposal was rejected at a referendum of dried fruit growers, but I shall obtain the information sought by the honorable senator.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation the following questions: What specific increases have been granted to war- pensioners during the last five years? What increase in allowances has been made to pensioners’ wives during the same period? If the increases are not comparable, can the Minister inform the Senate why the wives’ allowances have not been increased by the same percentage as those of the pensioners?
– There is quite a number of different rates of pension. I think that perhaps I should deal with the main pensions - the 100 per cent, disability pension, the special rate, and the widow’s pension. All three pensions have been increased very considerably over the last five years. For example, in 1954 the special rate pension - the pension for total and permanent incapacity - for a single person was £9 5s. Now in 1960, it is £12 5s. That means there has been an increase of £3. The wife’s allowance is £1 15s. 6d., which means that the total pension payable to a man and his wife at the present time would be £14 0s. 6d. If a married couple conform to requirements of the social services means test, they can get an additional sum of £2 9s. 6d. That means they can get a total sum of £16 10s. a week free of income tax. In addition, there are other benefits which I shall not mention at the moment.
In 1954, the 100 per cent, rate of. pension, for a single pensioner, was £4 10s. a week. At present, it is £5 10s. a week, so that it has increased by £1 a week. The pension for a married couple in 1954 was £6 5s. 6d. a week, and at the present time it is £7 5s. 6d. If they are not debarred by the means test from eligibility for a social service pension for the wife, such as the invalid pension or the age pension, they may have an income of up to £16 10s. a week, entirely free of income-tax.
The widow’s pension, in 1954, was £4 a week, together with a domestic allowance in. the case of widows over the age of 50 years who were either bringing up families or whose state of health was such that they were not able to work for long periods. I might say that 90 per cent, of the war widows receive the domestic allowance. At present, the war widow’s pension is £5 5s. a week, and the domestic allowance £2 1 5s., making a total of £8 a week.
The pension for the wife of a repatriation pensioner has not been increased since 1954. It was then £1 15s. 6d. a week and it is still the same amount. As we all know, at Budget time there is a certain amount of money available to be allocated to the various departments. I have considered that the pensioners who most need increases of pensions are, first, the totally and permanently incapacitated men; secondly, the war widows; and thirdly, the 100 per cent., general rate pensioners. The pension that is paid to the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners, or the special rate pension, and also that which is paid to the 100 per cent, rate pensioners, is more of a family pension, so that to increase k usually increases family income. There is no means test in respect of the 100 per cent, rate pension. Those in receipt of the pension may earn whatever amount they are capable of earning. There is no limit to it. The 100 per cent, rate pensioners who have been able to work would have had the benefit of the various increases of wages that have occurred during the years. I may say that the wives have not been forgotten. When there is an opportunity to increase their pension, thus increasing the family budget, such an increase will be made.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I am indebted to the Minister for sending me information regarding the appointment of the Committee on Taxation. I should like to know whether the committee has yet met, and, if so, the nature of its meetings. Will its members rely exclusively on their own experience or do they propose to receive representations from members of Parliament and members of the public? I should also like to know whether any time programme has been foreshadowed for the entire work of the committee.
– I shall make inquiries immediately and let the honorable senator have an answer to his question.
– By way of preface to a question directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, I direct the Minister’s attention to a report of a meeting in Sydney last week of the Graziers Federal Council and the Australian Woolgrowers Council which carried resolutions favoring increased trade between Australia and Japan. It was stated that for the seven months ended 31st January, 1960, Japan’s purchases of wool had totalled £50,000,000 while those of the United Kingdom amounted to only £43,900,000. Does the Minister expect increased purchases of wool by Japan for the balance of the financial year? Has there been any general increase in the purchase of other primary products by Japan during that period?
– I am not sufficiently conversant with the wool market to say whether I expect any increase in purchases of wool by Japan from Australia. I can only say that I hope they will occur. I think it is correct to say that Japan has now become our second largest purchaser of wool. This is due largely to the trade agreement with Japan. I am secure in the thought that the arrangements that have been made relating to import licensing are such that the offset to Japanese purchases from Australia - Australian purchases from Japan - will be carried out in the way least prejudicial to Australian industry.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice) -
– The Minister for Trade has now advised me as follows: -
The community’s agricultural policy is in the early stages of formulation, however, and it would be premature at this stage to attempt any analysis of the likely effects on Australian trade in individual products. We have the published official summary of the commission’s draft proposals which are tentative and subject to amendment by the commission itself, and by the Council of Ministers. I can say, however, in their present form the proposals contain certain features which give rise to considerable concern including features along the lines mentioned by the honorable senator. You may be assured that the Government is taking what steps are open to it to safeguard Australia’s trade interests.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer: - 1 to 3. Bounties paid by the Commonwealth Government to primary industries in 1958-59 were as follows: -
The payments were made in accordance with Government policy and pursuant to specific legislation applyingto each of the industries mentioned. The Government has also joined with certain primary industries in providing moneys to support scientific research into industry problems. However these moneys are not made available to the industries concerned but are paid into trust funds administered by authorities specially established for the purpose.
– On 9th March, Senator Scott asked a question without notice concerning the shipping service from the eastern States to Albany and Esperance. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answer: -
Vessels engaged in the service between eastern States and Albany and Esperance continue on to Fremantle where after discharge they are scheduled to load either timber at Bunbury/ Busselton, ilmenite at Bunbury or manganese ore at Geraldton.
Proposals that such ships, which are generally in the 5.000/6,000 ton deadweight classes, should load cargo at Fremantle for Albany and Esperance, have been investigated on several occasions in the past and have again been examined as a result of the honorable senator’s question.It has been found that in most cases the forward programmes of the vessels concerned would not allow for them to be diverted to Albany and Esperance. In any case the small quantity of cargo available would not compensate shipowners for the cost of diverting into Albany and Esperance, these or the bigger ships which lift cargoes direct toFremantle and then ballast back to Whyalla.
The honorable senator will no doubt be pleased to know, as I am, that the first voyage in 1960 from the eastern States to Albany and Esperance was very successful.
The Australian National Line vessel “ Bulwarra “ now in Fremantle lifted 1,322 tons for Albany which is the highest figure since August, 1958, and 604 tons for Esperance which is a little above the average for 1958 and 1959.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 29th March, at 3 p.m.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951, Mr. Davis, a member of the House of Representatives, has been appointed a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in the place of Mr. Bland, discharged from attendance.
Debate resumed from 16th March (vide page 210), 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 loyaltyto our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Senator Kennelly 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 “.
– The Governor-General’s Speech was very significant, perhaps not so much for what it contained as for what it did not contain. It did not give to members of the Opposition or to the general public any hope for the introduction of progressive legislation during this session. Frankly, I did not expect any notification of the introduction of progressive legislation, because this Government has introduced little, if any, progressive legislation at any time during the ten years it has been in office.
The Governor-General referred to trends in the economy that were causing grave concern. That concern is felt by virtually everybody in the community with the exception, perhaps, of profiteers. It is felt particularly by wage and salary earners, pensioners, persons on fixed incomes, homebuilders, and especially by young folk who are about to establish homes. When one considers the costs that a young couple face, it is almost beyond comprehensionhow they can establish a home that will provide reasonably adequate accommodation in accordance with present-day standards.
The first thing to be done is to procure a block of land. The minimum price for a block would be about £500. Such a block would be located in the country or in an outlying suburb. In my own town a block of land in the better residential areas cannot be purchased for under £1,500 or £2,000. Blocks may be purchased in outlying suburbs for between £750 and £1,000. In the better areas of Melbourne and Sydney I understand that residential blocks bring upwards of £3,000.
That is the first step. Then the young couple must build a home. They will be very fortunate if they manage to do it for less than £4,000. For that figure they would not get anything elaborate. They must consider the provision of furniture. Anybody who furnishes a home for less than £1,200 or £1,500 is doing a particularly good job. They will then be faced with heavy repayments of capital and interest and without doubt they will have had resort to hire purchase. We all know the interest rates charged on hire-purchase transactions. Perhaps after twelve months of marriage they will have started to rear a family. How a young couple can set out on married life with such a heavy financial burden is beyond my comprehension, particularly if they are earning only a little in excess of the basic wage. We realize that the basic wage does not account for the whole wage structure. Margins are applicable to many classifications of work. In many instances, at least until the family begins to arrive, the wife goes out to work. Why should a married woman have to go to work to finance the purchase of a home? 1 am concerned that the Speech made no mention of relief for persons desiring to purchase or rent homes. No announcement was made of a greater allocation of finance to the States for home-building. Senators from other States may put the problems of those States. I can state the conditions existing in Tasmania. Hobart has only a small population, compared with Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, but in Hobart we have about 2,500 outstanding applications for government homes. The private builder is almost non-existent to-day, and the people, especially those on award wages, are dependent on State governments for housing. Apparently the only people who are themselves building homes are those in the higher income brackets. 1 am very disappointed that the Government did not see fit to announce a greater allocation of loan moneys to the States for home-building. This matter does have some bearing on the present economic situation. The Government has been very lax, over the period of years it has been in office, in endeavouring to correct this situation. I well recall the anti-Labour parties saying on the hustings in 1949, when they were in Opposition, that if returned to office they would put value back into the £1. Yet, in the first three years after this Government took office on 10th December, 1949, prices rose by approximately 50 per cent. Prices have continued to rise up to the present time, and this Government does not ‘ appear to have any plan to correct the situation, except attacking the workers’ wages.
For the first time, this Government, in the Arbitration Court, is opposing any increase of the basic wage. I say that the Government is establishing a dangerous precedent by going to the court and opposing an increase of the basic wage. The Government gives as its reason for this action its belief that the economy has not yet had sufficient time to absorb the last increase of the basic wage and the 28 per cent, increase of marginal rates. Mr. Deputy President, I feel that the court is in a much better position than the Government to assess the economic trends in this country and furthermore, that the court is competent to rule whether or not the workers of this Commonwealth are entitled to a share of the profits that are being made by large companies. It can be proved beyond doubt that disclosed profits are to-day higher than they have been at any other time. Of course, we do not know the position in relation to undisclosed profits. For instance, General Motors-Holden’s Limited will not now have to publish its balance sheet, and consequently the public will not know the extent of that company’s undisclosed profits. I shall leave that subject for a few minutes, as I want to touch on a repatriation matter concerning a resident of Hobart.
I am very pleased that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) is present in the chamber, as I should like him to consider the case I shall outline. It refers to a returned serviceman of the 1914- 1918 war, who has now passed the 65 years of age mark. This man claims that he is suffering considerably from war injuries, and I should think that his condition is due to injuries he received in the war. He was wounded by a bullet in the mouth. It struck his bottom jaw, went down through the jaw and through his chest and lodged in gristle very close to his spine. This man is now suffering from a considerable disability, yet he receives only a service pension. I am not sure of the percentage of pension that he receives, but it is much less than the 100 per cent, rate, As a result of his not receiving the 100 per cent, pension this ex-serviceman cannot obtain any medical benefits from the Repatriation Department. He has to visit a doctor regularly, but has to pay his own medical expenses, despite the fact that he was injured in war and was honorably discharged. If my memory serves me correctly, he was a member of the forces from 1914 until he was discharged in 1919. Here we have a situation in which a man who gave four or five years of the best time of his life to the service of his country is now in illhealth but the Repatriation Department, or a tribunal, will not increase his pension or provide him with the medical attention he requires. I trust that the Minister for Repatriation will have a look at this case to see whether something can be done for this ex-serviceman.
– I shall be only too pleased to look into the matter if the honorable senator will furnish me with the ex-serviceman’s name.
– I thank the Minister for that assurance, and I shall bring to his office when the Senate resumes at the end of this month the full particulars of the case.
I should like the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in this chamber to inform me whether any improvement in telephone services in Tasmania, particularly in the Hobart area, is likely to occur in the near future. I am not referring to trunk line services, which are very good; there has been a vast improvement in the trunk line service over the past twelve months. I give full credit to the Postal Department for the improvement that has been effected in that respect, and I also give full credit to the exchange telephonists. However, I am greatly concerned about the shortage of equipment needed to satisfy the large number of applicants for private telephones and for the installation of additional public telephones. I myself have applied on a number of occasions for public telephone facilities to be installed at various places. I have in mind two instances in which my applications were approved some fifteen months ago but there has not yet been any move to install the public telephone facilities sought. I do not know whether the Postal Department can do anything to relieve the situation. I feel that the department, in view of the enormous profit it made in 1958- 59, amounting to over £6,000,000, ought to be able to provide extra equipment in order to satisfy long-standing applications for telephone facilities. I understand that it is estimated that the Postal Department will make a profit of £11,000,000 in 1959- 60. If it does do so, it will have made a profit of £17,000,000 over a period of two years. Surely out of this profit the department can provide extra equipment to satisfy the applications to which I have referred!
– The amounts quoted by the honorable senator do not take account of interest.
– As I did not hear clearly what the honorable senator said by way of interjection, I shall have to ignore his remark. My hearing is not good and his voice is not very strong.
– I was trying to help you.
– It is very good of a Government senator to try to help an Opposition senator. Probably this is a sign of the times - that we are going to get a little more co-operation. If this is a sign of the times, I hope that the Government will now introduce some of the legislation that would be helpful to and which is desired by the Opposition.
I feel that this Government should be severely censured for its attitude towards the cross-charter of aircraft between TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. We know that the Government has approved the arrangement. Whether or not the Government instructed that this crosscharter arrangement be entered into, the fact remains that it has taken place and the Government has acquiesced in it. That is the situation.
This cross-charter agreement in relation to Viscounts and DC6B’s is one of the reasons why I am prepared to lend all the support 1 can to the amendment to the Address-in-Reply moved by the Opposition. The agreement spotlights the incompetence of this Government so far as airlines are concerned. I think that the agreement was entered into at a time chosen by particular interests with a view to obviating the possibility of this Parliament debating the matter before the transfers of the aircraft took place. I am confident that, if the proposals had been made known during a session of this Parliament, the Opposition would have been able to gain sufficient support from public opinion to prevent the agreement from becoming effective. I think the negotiations took place when they did in order to avoid the possibility of a Parliamentary debate on the matter. lt is significant that the Government is taking with T.A.A. the line that it took with a number of other industries of which it has disposed. Let me mention some of them. There was the Glen Davis project, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd., Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd., the Western Australian whaling station, an interest in ship-building, an engineering works, and - this, perhaps, concerns me more than any of the others, because it hits at my own State - the Dorsett tin dredging project in northern Tasmania. I understand that tenders have already been called for the purchase of that undertaking. Another undertaking which the Government will shortly be getting rid of is the Bel] Bay aluminium works. We do not know what is happening there. We have not been informed by Senator Spooner of the stage the negotiations have reached. Only the other day, he said he was not prepared to give any indication to the Parliament on that subject. It appears that T.A.A. is being set up for the axe, as were Hie other industries I have mentioned.
Let us consider some of the things that have taken place fairly recently so far as T.A.A. is concerned. It will be recalled that T.A.A. purchased Viscount aircraft. At the time it purchased those aircraft, very little tax, if any, was levied on aviation kerosene. Almost immediately after those aircraft went into operation, the Government imposed a tax on aviation kerosene. lt considered, no doubt, that T.A.A. operating aircraft which used kerosene, had a considerable advantage over Ansett-A.N.A., because Ansett-A.N.A. which operated petrol-engined aircraft had to pay petrol tax on the fuel used, whereas T.A.A. was paying very little tax on aviation kerosene. The first move was to strike a blow at T.A.A- by the imposition of a tax on aviation kerosene.
There has been set up a rationalization committee, to which either of the airlines can appeal if they feel they are not getting a fair share of the air traffic that is offering in Australia. To the best of my knowledge - and I have conducted a fair amount of research into this matter - on no occasion has T.A.A. made an application to tho rationalization committee for a greater share of any particular traffic. However, on each occasion that T.A.A.’s passenger figures have gone beyond those of AnsettA.N.A., Mr. Ansett has approached the rationalization committee and complained that he has been placed at a disadvantage. Almost invariably, the rationalization committee has taken a slice of the traffic from T.A.A. and given it to Ansett-A.N.A.
– That is capitalist communism.
– lt may be capitalist communism. At any rate, it does not seem quite fair to me, and to the majority of people throughout Australia, that Mr. Ansett should be able to go to the rationalization committee whenever he finds that he cannot meet the competition he has to face from T.A.A. If he cannot compete successfully, he covers himself by an application to the rationalization committee.
– Very convenient.
– It is very convenient. The committee was set up by this Government to suit the purposes of Mr. Ansett.
There are many aspects of this crosscharter agreement about which I am disturbed. For instance, T.A.A. is not permitted to use a DC6B aircraft on the Darwin route, because that is a noncompetitive route. Why should T.A.A. accept these aircraft under the cross-charter agreement but not be permitted to use them on a route on which they would be a good business proposition? Another disturbing aspect is that on the Adelaide-Perth run, where T.A.A. carried a considerably higher precentage than Ansett-A.N.A. of the total number of passengers, the rationalization committee has now confined T.A.A. to a certain number of flights each week and has given the other flights to Ansett-A.N.A. It is apparent that the aircraft T.A.A. has had in the past have been far superior to the aircraft used by Ansett-A.N.A. and that the service given by T.A.A. has been far superior to that given by its competitor. Consequently, Mr. Ansett has again hidden behind the rationalization committee. 1 also want to touch on the value of the aircraft that have been exchanged between T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A. The other day Senator Paltridge, the Minister for Civil Aviation, noticeably scouted round a question asked bv Senator Brown. The Minister would not give a direct reply to Senator Brown’s question but he did give a partial reply to that part of the question relating to the value of the aircraft concerned in the exchange proposal. While we can accept Senator Paltridge’s assurances that the values mentioned by him were the values accepted by both airline operators, it does not necessarily follow that they were the present-day values of those particular aircraft. Senator Paltridge said that a DC6B was worth approximately ?280,000 and that a Viscount was worth approximately ?226,000. I completely disregard those figures. People in the airline business have estimated the present value of those aircraft as being ?300,000 in the case of the DC6B and ?600,000 in the case of the Super Viscount 700 series. I have no reason to doubt those figures because the person who supplied them to me holds a very high executive position in an airline company and he would have a sound appreciation of the value of those aircraft.
– Do your figures represent the value of each aircraft?
– Yes. On the basis of the figures I have cited Ansett-A.N.A. will be getting one Viscount for the loss of two DC6B’s. Ansett-A.N.A. will be getting the other two Viscounts concerned in the deal, which are worth ?1,200,000, for nothing - a gift of ?1,200,000 to Ansett-A.N.A. I prefer to accept the figures that were supplied to me rather than those given by Senator Paltridge. I am not arguing about the agreed figures. I do not doubt for one moment that the figures mentioned by Senator Paltridge are the agreed figures, but I do not think they are a true reflection of the value of those two types of aircraft.
Senator Paltridge admitted that certain Ansett A.N.A. pilots are to be transferred to T.A.A. to fly the DC6B’s. We can only assume from that that T.A.A. did not have pilots sufficiently trained to fly pistonengined aircraft after having abandoned piston-engined aircraft for two years. T.A.A. therefore had to make some arrangement with Ansett-A.N.A. for a loan of pilots for a sufficient time at least to retrain some of their own pilots on piston-engined aircraft. It is also reasonable to suppose that T.A.A., having been without pistonengined aircraft for approximately two years, would not have the same facilities for maintenance of those aircraft as AnsettA.N.A. Therefore it is reasonable to suppose also that Ansett-A.N.A. will be called upon to do much of the servicing of those piston-engined aircraft that are to be flown by T.A.A., no doubt at added cost to the government airline. Mr. Ansett said that he was very reluctant to exchange aircraft with T.A.A. because of a number of factors, but let us look at the financial side of the arrangement, particularly the daily amount paid for the charter of these aircraft. In the cross-charter plan the amount paid by T.A.A. for a DC6B is ?199 12s. a day. That is Mr. Ansett’s own figure, so I do not suppose it can be contradicted. The amount paid by Ansett-A.N.A. to T.A.A. for a Viscount is ?160 18s.
– That is right.
– The Minister agrees with those figures. So all along the line Ansett-A.N.A. is gaining.
– What utter , rot!
– It is not rot. I know that this is a sore point with the Minister but it is also a sore point to many other people who know that this cross-charter arrangement has taken place with the Minister’s acquiescence.
– That is right.
– Yes, with the Minister’s acquiescence. I can tell the Minister that a great many people in this country are hostile to this cross-charter arrangement. Possibly it has been one of the best advertisements T.A.A. has yet had because many Tasmanian people have indicated to me that if this is the way the Government is going to treat T.A.A., in future they will not travel on the Ansett-A.N.A. services; they will always travel T.A.A. If that is the feeling of many people in Tasmania I should imagine that it is probably the feeling of many people throughout the whole of the Commonwealth.
– Your assessment of public opinion is as inaccurate as your figures.
– I seldom interrupt the Minister when he is speaking. Apparently I am rubbing a little salt into the wound to his self-esteem caused by this deal. I am very pleased that he has seen fit to pay me the compliment of having a go at me while I am on my feet. I am glad that I have been able to rouse the Minister in this way.
I support the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition. I sincerely trust that it will be carried, thus emphasizing to the people of Australia the legislative incompetence of this Government and its failure to deal with the inflationary spiral in this country.
– I associate myself with the expressions of loyalty of previous speakers and join in extending felicitations to Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on the occasion of the birth of their second son.
I should like to say that I received very great satisfaction from the appointment of Viscount Dunrossil to the exalted position of Governor-General of Australia. Previously I had had the opportunity to meet him in London, and I was immediately impressed by him. He has had a distinguished career. When he was appointed I felt - and I still feel - that he would prove to be a very worthy successor to the distinguished Sir William Slim. I am sure, too, that Viscountess Dunrossil will play her part as consort of the Governor-General.
I wish to refer now to Senator Poke’s comments about the cross-charter of aircraft between Ansett-A.N.A. and TransAustralia Airlines, which has been the sub ject of a lot of discussion in this chamber within the last few days. I .ask Senator Poke to tell -us who furnished him with the figures that he quoted. Some of his figures were correct, but I am of the opinion that his assessment of the value of the two types of aircraft .concerned was very much astray. The figure that he quoted for the DC6B aircraft was not far out, but the sum of £600,000 that he quoted as being the value of a Viscount aircraft was very wide of the mark.
– What do they cost?
– They are valued at £225,000 each now.
– I am fortified by the Minister’s interjection. To quote such distorted figures gives a completely wrong picture. The arguments of any one who is prepared to come into this chamber and quote figures that are so wide of the mark can be discounted.
– It does not matter what they cost.
– It matters a great deal. If Senator Poke’s figures are correct, T.A.A. has been very adversely affected. In other words, if Senator Poke is correct, T.A.A. is exchanging three Viscount aircraft valued at £600,000 each for two DC6B aircraft valued at £300,000 each. If those figures were correct, such a deal would be quite wrong.
– Even if the honorable senator takes the Minister’s own figures, he will find that the three Viscounts are worth more than the two DC6B aircraft.
– I admit there is a discrepancy, but it is not very material. When Senator Poke quoted figures that were quite distorted, he threw the whole picture out of perspective.
I now turn to the subject of inflation, which has been mentioned by almost every speaker during this debate. I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is in the chamber, because I propose to refer to the remarks he made last night. I have always come to expect something quite good, something substantial, from the honorable senator. I have never really been disappointed, and even last night I received a great deal of pleasure from listening to what he said.
But I think he should have delivered a speech which departed from the usual pattern of his speeches on financial matters. What he said last night was really a recapitulation of previous speeches. When dealing with the subject of finance, he has followed the same track year after year. I expected something .different from him last night.
Senator McKenna harked back to the time when he was a Minister of the Crown - and I believe a successful Minister - in a previous government. He claimed that the government led by Mr. Chifley was capable of foreseeing what would happen. He claimed that it was able to foresee the conditions that would obtain in the immediate post-war years. He said that just before the end of the last war the Chifley Government foresaw a period of severe inflation after the conclusion of the war. He added that, in order to counter the influences operating in the economy, that government submitted two referendums to the people of Australia.
– It submitted three.
– I was not a member of the Parliament at the time. I can recall only two. I can recall the fourteen proposals that were submitted to the people of Australia in, I think, 1944 and which were decisively rejected. We on this side of the chamber are not ashamed of the fact that we sought the rejection of those proposals. We believed at the time that they not only were unnecessary but if accepted would enable a socialist government to control every individual in the community. I was a private citizen at the time, and I thought it was an insult to the electors of Australia to submit to them a comprehensive list of fourteen proposals which, as far as I can recall, encompassed almost every aspect of life in this country. I would have given the government of the day some credit if it had come forward with proposals that could have been considered individually. But those fourteen proposals were submitted to the people en bloc and the people had either to accept them or reject them as a whole. They rightly rejected the proposals.
The Chifley Government also submitted to the people a further proposal to give it control over the economy in order to pro tect them against the evil of inflation that followed the war. That proposal dealt with prices, rents and charges. I ask honorable senators to consider the implications of such a proposal. It was suggested that the Commonwealth Government should have control over prices. Control over rents and charges was proposed, but where would control over those items cease? Had the proposal been approved by the people it would have given a socialist federal government centralized control, regardless of State rights. Therefore, we make no apology for having opposed that referendum proposal. We opposed it, and it was defeated. The Commonwealth government of the day did not bring forward further proposals because it realized that the people were not in favour of giving this Federal Parliament the extended powers which had been sought.
The years went by, and we saw the prediction of the Chifley Government borne out to some extent. Prices increased, as it was reasonable to expect, because, as Senator McKenna pointed out last night, there was a reservoir of money that had been saved by the people of Australia over the years. War-time conditions had led to the distribution throughout the economy of a great deal of money, but during the war most productive effort had been directed to defence, and civil production was at a comparatively low level, so goods and services simply were not available. The people could not buy the .commodities they required. There was a great reservoir of money in the immediate post-war years, as a direct result of the war.
In those circumstances, it is little wonder that the loan programme of the Labour Government succeeded. It would have been astonishing if it had not succeeded. It is true that loans were successfully floated in the immediate post-war years. But who could predict that, immediately after the advent of this Government, prices for our primary products sold overseas, such as wool, would increase so greatly?
– Senator McKenna did not even mention that aspect last night.
– No, he avoided the subject. Had the Labour Government been successful in having its referendum proposal approved by the people, it would have had power to control prices and other charges such as rents. It would have had almost a free hand to control every aspect of our economic life. I have no doubt that it would have exercised such control, had it been given the powers that it sought, because it was a professedly socialist government. There would have been no difficulty in controlling even wages. The Australian Council of Trade Unions had more or less concurred in wages control.
What steps would that government have taken in the face of extremely high prices for our primary products, in a tied economy? I have never heard1 any suggestion about the steps that it would have taken. I should like to hear Senator Courtice, who is trying to interject, answer that question. Would the Labour Government have allowed the money received by the woolgrowers to remain in their hands? There were enough wool barons as it was, but there would have been wool barons in excelsis had there been no attempt to rectify the position. It would have been necessary for the Labour Government either to have imposed savage taxation or to have allowed the increased income from wool to filter down through the economy. There would have been a large section of the community tied hand and foot to the government, and another section bursting with wealth, which could have been extracted only by means of savage taxation.
The Labour Government could have done as this Government did; it could have provided for pre-payment of tax by woolgrowers. Because this Government made such provision, it was hounded by the supporters of the Australian Labour Party. They said that the pre-payment of tax was, in effect, a sectional tax. Instead, its introduction was one of the finest things that any government ever did. The Menzies Government realized that if all the money that was received from the sale of wool, at such greatly increased prices, came into circulation it would have a disruptive effect on the whole economy. The pre-payment of tax was nothing more than a supplement to the provisional tax paid by the woolgrower, which would have been quite inadequate to meet the demands of successive taxation years. Because we insisted on pre-payment of tax, we were bitterly attacked by the Labour Party, and even by some of our own supporters who had to pay tax in that way. Since then, however, those people have come to us and have said, almost unanimously, that we did the right thing, that in doing so we relieved them of their taxation problems in subsequent years, and that the pre-payment of tax had had an important effect in preventing the enormous inflation that could have been brought about by the influx of such a large amount’ of money into the economy. Sir, I doubt very much whether the Labour Government, had it been re-elected in 1949, would have had the ability to surmount the difficulties that were faced by the present Government.
Senator McKenna attacked the Government on the volume of taxation that it is levying. Naturally, tax collections rise when the national income increases, but taxation rates have not been varied to a great degree since the time of the Chifley Government. We have, in fact, reduced taxation. That is an unassailable fact, although, of course, the total amount of tax collected is very much greater than it was in the days of the previous government. Many honorable senators opposite have attacked us for the degree of indirect taxation that this Government levies. Senator McKenna also referred to that matter in his remarks last night. I have looked at the various Budgets that have been presented over the years and have been surprised to find that the percentage of revenue attributable to indirect taxation to-day is not materially different from that of the days of the Chifley Government. That may be a surprise to some of my friends opposite, but it is true. It does not matter what Treasurer is in office, he has to balance the various types of taxation that are imposed.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the actual amount that is raised by means of indirect taxes?
– No, to the ratio between indirect taxation and total tax revenue. For Senator Kennelly’s benefit, I point out that, in the days of the Chifley Government, indirect taxes accounted for something over 40 per cent, of total tax revenue, and the percentage is somewhat the same to-day. I cannot go into the figures now because I have not them with me. but the percentages are similar.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I do not want to weary the Senate with a lengthy speech on this subject of inflation. We, on this side, are just as much concerned about inflation as are honorable senators opposite. We recognize that there is inflation in the country, but it is controlled, not uncontrolled inflation. Admittedly, it is not something to be desired because inflation brings with it certain handicaps, but although the Labour Party has certain responsibilities as an opposition, I feel that on this occasion honorable senators opposite have gone a little too far. What we need now is a little more co-operation and a little less criticism.
I ask any honorable senator opposite what course a Labour government would have taken in circumstances similar to those experienced by this Government during its term of office. It is all very well to say that a Labour government would have exercised controls. The fact is that it would not have power to exercise controls. Even if Labour’s referendum had been successful in 1 948, just how would a Labour government have managed the terrific impact made by overseas prices on our economy ten years ago when, the present Government assumed office? I do not think Labour’s policy would have been any different from the course we adopted.
Honorable senators opposite say repeatedly that a Labour government would have exercised controls in order to halt inflation. The constitutional power to impose controls did not exist, and, as I see the position, a Labour government would have allowed high prices to filter into the economy just as we have had to allow them to do. A Labour government would have been just as powerless to prevent a rise in prices as we have been. But we have tackled the problem with great courage down the years despite criticism from not only the Opposition but also some of our own people. We have surmounted our difficulties, and we shall continue to do so with the co-operation of not only the Opposition but also the people of Australia. This carping criticism from the Opposition is becoming too monotonous. There are many responsible members of the Opposition in both Houses of this Parliament and I do feel that they could do more with their advice and co-operation to help us counter this insidious thing which we have been experiencing for so long.
I should like to take this opportunity to refer to my trip to the United Nations. First, I extend my thanks to the Parliament and to the Government of this country for giving me the opportunity to attend the United Nations in company with Senator Hendrickson. I found Senator Hendrickson a very good companion indeed and a very worthy representative of Australia at the discussions of the General Assembly. He played his part there most worthily.
It was a wonderful experience for a person like me, who had never been out of the country, to attend those discussions as a parliamentarian. So far as I know, Australia is one of the very few countries which send parliamentarians to the important discussions which take place at the General Assembly of the United Nations. Most of the delegates are career diplomats from all over the world. It is a very wonderful experience indeed for a member of any parliament to have the opportunity of rubbing shoulders with the delegates from 81 countries. I am no exception to the rule. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience there. I found it of tremendous help to me. I feel that it has given me an insight into matters which I could never have obtained in any other way. Therefore, I am deeply appreciative of the honour I had of attending the deliberations of the General Assembly in New York.
I do not think it would be amiss for me to say something about the way in which the United Nations functions. I shall refer in particular to the discussions of the General Assembly. They take place from September to December and I do not propose to attempt to cover the ground which an assembly such as that would traverse. Attendance there gives one the opportunity to mix with people from all over the world. In order that honorable senators may appreciate the opportunities open to any one attending those discussions, I think it necessary to explain what takes place at the General Assembly.
Every year the General Assembly meets at the magnificent building on the east side of Manhattan overlooking the East river. Many people confuse the actual General Assembly building with the very lofty building one sometimes sees in pictures. The Assembly building is a rather squat building adjoining the Secretariat building. Its main feature is the General Assembly Hall, which is a fine auditorium in which seating accommodation is provided for the delegates to the General Assembly discussions.
In addition to the main General Assembly Hall, there are numerous committee rooms. There are quite large auditoriums where the various committees function. I shall have something to say about those committees later. Suffice it for the moment to say that the General Assembly itself is a most interesting assembly. People of all nations, creeds and colours from all over the world assemble there each year. Some of the delegations are quite large. The Australian delegation was quite substantial. A number of officials from the Department of External Affairs here attended in addition to Senator Hendrickson and myself. We also have in New York a permament mission headed by a very able diplomat in the person of Mr. Plimsol!, who has distinguished himself as as Australian ambassador to the United Nations. He has a permanent staff there. In other words, we have a permanent Australian mission to the United Nations.
All the delegates assemble for the purpose of discussing the problems that confront the world. The United States delegation is a very large one. The United Kingdom had a very large delegation there. It seems to me that the size of the delegation is commensurate with the importance, power and population of the nation it represents. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its satellite powers were very well represented indeed.
The huge General Assembly hall is filled to capacity at the opening plenary session, which, of course, is the preliminary session, somewhat like a general debate in the Parliament here. The main general debate begins in the plenary session immediately after the opening of the assembly and continues for approximately two weeks. The questions discussed at the plenary session in the main General Assembly hall are of world moment. The first is the agenda of the General Assembly. Some of the items are debated at considerable length, sometimes with considerable heat. I remember that one related to the admission of red China to the United Nations. That engendered a certain amount of heat, although, strangely enough, it was introduced by Mr. Krishna Menon, the Indian Foreign Minister. Subjects are debated at length in the General Assembly prior to the commencement of committee work. Other matters discussed were conditions in Algeria and Viet Nam, and apartheid, the segregation policy of the Union of South Africa. The conflict between Israel and the United Arab Republic received much attention. It was the subject of very heated debate. The representatives of the nations have no inhibitions about stating their opinions of each other. The passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal was at times very hotly debated, not only by the countries particularly concerned, but also by the countries that opposed or supported them.
We heard a good deal about the old question of colonialism. The Afro-Asian countries, of course, still have that matter very much in mind. The President of Guinea devoted almost a whole speech to colonialism, which is a subject that burns deeply in the breasts of some African people particularly. It comes frequently to the fore also in the speeches of Asian delegates, whether in the General Assembly or in committee.
We had an important debate on the atom bomb test that the French were then contemplating in the Sahara. That evoked a lot of discussion and, as far as I could judge, there was very little sympathy for the French. On that question they were more or less out on a limb. The Algerian question has been festering for years and years. I am afraid that many of us are unaware of the terrific conflict that has been going on in Algeria. This subject also was debated at length, and I learned a great deal about what had taken place and about the difficulties that confront both Algeria and France in coming to a solution of the problems that undoubtedly exist in that part of the world.
The general debate in the General Assembly was most interesting. Not all of us could get in to hear it whenever we wished to do so. Only a limited number of persons could actually be seated. The vast hall is open to visitors and many thousands visit it and have the opportunity of hearing debates. The system of communications is nothing short of remarkable. I suppose it has been built up over the years both in the General Assembly Hall and in committee rooms. Every delegate is equipped with head phones which give him the opportunity of hearing the debate in the language of his choice. The system is a marvel of technical perfection. The translations come through in a most remarkable fashion. This was something that was completely new to me and most educational. [ do not want to spend too much time on this subject, as we want this debate to be wound up as soon as possible. However, I want to pass to the committees that operate at the United Nations. After a settling-down period of about a fortnight, committees are appointed. I was fortunate enough to be appointed to what was called the second committee, dealing mainly with economic matters. I do not claim to be an economist but at least I am interested in these matters and I was able to take part in the discussions. The first committee is mainly political in character. It discusses in more detail the matters I have mentioned as subjects of the general debate. The discussions in that committee are on a high political level, the delegates being almost without exception the top-level diplomats attending the assembly. Australia was represented by Mr. Plimsoll, our ambassador to the United Nations and our No. 1 man. I did not have very many opportunities of listening to proceedings of the political committee but I did, on occasion, hear some of its detailed discussions on important items of international affairs.
As I have said, the second committee is economic in character and deals with important matters of economic development in relation to under-developed countries. Numerous specialized agencies of the organization operate in this connexion. Honorable senators are familiar with many of them. The provision of funds, the expanded programme of technical assistance, and the general economic development of under-developed countries come within the ambit of the second committee. It is split into various sections and its discussions are lengthy. I found the proceedings extremely interesting. Some of the matters dealt with were of very great importance in relation to living standards, and providing stability and a higher level of prosperity for the people of under-developed countries, in an effort to improve their status and give them a much better opportunity to live happier and perhaps more prosperous lives.
The third committee deals mainly with social and humanitarian aspects of assistance to under-developed countries. I was not a member of that committee, but Senator Hendrickson was, and I know that he played his part in the discussions on those very important questions. Among the agencies that operate from the social and humanitarian angle are the United Nations Children’s Fund and associated bodies that do so much to lift the standards, particularly, of children, and to cope with the refugee problem. This very important committee has functioned with a good deal of success down through the years. All of these committees and agencies are, I believe, operating with much success through the length and breadth of the world. They are playing their part in lifting the more unfortunate people to a higher plane. I say that the United Nations, from that angle alone, is justifying its existence by helping these unfortunate people to lift their standards of life and by giving them some opportunity to enjoy the things that the more fortunate people have enjoyed for so many years.
The fourth committee deals with a very important and a very involved matter, the trust territories. Our representative there, Mr. Kelly, handled the matter on Australia’s behalf. He found that this committee encounters many difficulties. The problem of the territories is not an easy one. There is a bit of a line-up throughout the world on this question. The negro population of Africa comes into this matter quite strongly and there seems to be a definite cleavage of opinion on it. I think that if there is anything that would tend to wreck the good relations existing among delegates to the United Nations it is the feeling that is engendered on the territories question. The racial element comes into it quite strongly, unfortunately. That was very noticeable in connexion with the division that took place regarding territories. One burning question is the future of the mandated territory in South Africa.
Honorable senators will remember that after the First World War we in Australia were given by the League of Nations responsibility for the administration of a mandated territory. The League of Nations came to an unfortunate end in the 1930’s. After the Second World War, upon the institution of the United Nations, our mandate became a trusteeship. We do exercise a trusteeship over New Guinea.
South Africa has exercised a form of mandate over German South-West Africa from the end of the First World War. It is not in the form of a trusteeship, because South Africa will not agree to a trusteeship. It is still classed as a mandate. In fact. South Africa controls the territory and will not agree to a trusteeship in the same way as we agreed to a trusteeship of New Guinea. South Africa has considerable power over what was formerly German South-West Africa, and controls the economy of and politics in that area. The place is not a very important one. It is not a very densely populated area. Apartheid is practised in that area and is bitterly resented by many African countries.
Apartheid gives rise to a problem that is not easy of solution. I had many discussions with the South African representative on this matter. I learned a good deal more than I originally knew of apartheid. I must confess that the South African altitude is not understood by very many people. There are two sides to the question. The South African Government itself is doing a good deal to lift the standard of the African people, but I am afraid I did not go so far as to say I abandoned my opposition to apartheid, which, fundamentally, is objectionable to me and to the world at large. In a vote in the General Assembly it was shown quite clearly that South Africa was right out on a limb in that regard.
The fifth committee, having administrative and financial functions, is one that I had very little to do with. I believe it has a great responsibility because the cost of the United Nations is very great. The cost of running this organization is of gigantic proportions; there is no question about that. I do not know how it could be run at less cost to the member nations. Australia’s contribution is only a flea bite comparatively, but at the same time we are bearing our full responsibility as a member nation by paying our dues to the United Nations for its maintenance. It is the function of the fifth committee to operate in that respect.
Having covered those committees, Mr. Deputy President, I want to say that I believe they are doing good work. The agencies that operate include the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Bank - I do not want to overlook the functions of the International Bank - and the Food and Agriculture Organization. The International Monetary Fund is part and parcel of the set-up. It is the responsibility of the member nations to maintain both the International Bank and the International Monetary Fund. I believe the agencies are doing remarkable work in the world. I think we in Australia should be very proud of the fact that we are a member of this great organization.
I should like to discuss one or two matters that came up for discussion in detail at the second committee - the Economic Committee - on which I sat. Various remedies were proposed by representatives, particularly when we were dealing with the question of economic assistance to the underdeveloped countries. I consider to be of prime importance the International Development Association, a new body which it is proposed will be set up to supplement the work of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. I think it has a very worthy objective, and I believe it will assist financially many countries that could not be assisted under the policy of the International Bank. It has a very much wider approach. The association was proposed early in the piece and was adopted by - the second committee very enthusiastically.
The negotiations that take place in these committees are not altogether unlike the negotiations in our parliamentary system. There is a tremendous amount of lobbying. A resolution may be brought forward that is not worded actually as one would like it worded. It might have pitfalls or some objectionable features, and one is not very keen on it. The members of the various delegations show surprising alacrity in getting together and hammering out something that is acceptable to all. In most cases, the resolutions submitted to our committee were carried, if not unanimously, with very large majorities, due mainly to the fact that between sittings the delegates got together - I was included in some of these discussions - and hammered out a form of verbiage that would be suitable to overcome the objections of any particular country. Consequently, delegates showed a surprising degree of unanimity on final decisions on some questions. Another question advanced by a number of countries was that of industrialization. The underdeveloped countries feel that industrialization is the answer to the problem of raising their living standards, so this question was debated at length. I believe that such countries have good grounds for believing that industrialization will, at least partly, improve their situation, lt was pointed out by many delegates that a country that was wholly a primaryproducing country was nearly always underdeveloped, at least to some extent, but that where a measure of industrialization existed the prosperity of a country increased. This point was emphasized strongly by, among others, delegates from a number of LatinAmerican countries, but the view was held by representatives of all the countries concerned. There was a general belief that industrialization was necessary in order to lift living standards and that there was a need for technical assistance to be given by the more developed countries.
The question of the economic effect on various countries of commodity price fluctuation was discussed. We in Australia are well aware of that effect. I had the honour to speak on that subject, and I have a copy of my speech if anybody would like to see it. This is a burning question. A policy of economic nationalism or agricultural protectionism is being followed by some of the more developed countries, particularly some of the European countries, to the detriment of primaryproducing countries such as Australia and some of the South American countries. The problem of commodity price fluctuations came into the limelight. The development of economic community arrangements such as those in Europe was also discussed. This may interest one honorable senator who spoke on this question. Two European economic blocs are becoming prominent in word trade. I think that we in Australia must recognize that, because it is one of the things we will have to counter. There is a feeling in the Latin-American countries, many of which are under-developed, that the time is ripe to implement a LatinAmerican common market.
All these suggestions were advanced as remedies for the difficulties of the underdeveloped areas of the world. The questions which were debated at length by this committee were very interesting indeed, and the discussions will be of assistance to me in the discharge of my duty as a parliamentary representative. I should like more parliamentary representatives to have the opportunity of going to the United Nations and hearing discussions on these questions.
Some of the foremost personalities in the world attended those meetings of the United Nations. First and foremost would be our friend Nikita Khrushchev, who undoubtedly made a very great impression. I am not saying that I was over-impressed by the gentleman, but I could not help but feel that he made a very deep impression on the General Assembly by his speech on the vital question of disarmament. I do not intend to go into that matter now. Anybody who has a solution to the problem is certainly unique. I have not a solution, and I do not think any of us have. Negotiations are going on at Geneva at the present time. We know the problem is confounding and confusing the whole world. I believe that Khrushchev is a realist. I think he realizes that, in this nuclear age, the trend of events in the past few years simply cannot continue. The danger is too great. He advanced a plan for disarmament in four years, and perhaps it caught us somewhat on the wrong foot. However, it did make us exercise our minds on this important question, and probably it was mainly responsible for the present efforts of world leaders to get together to thrash out the problems associated with disarmament. Khrushchev did not advance any suggestion as to how disarmament could be controlled; he merely made a straightout proposal for complete disarmament in four years. It was a suggestion of enormous importance, and I do not think the General Assembly was capable of dealing with it. It will have to be dealt with by the Great Powers in consultation. I believe that other leaders realize, as does Khrushchev, that we cannot allow the present dangerous situation to continue to exist. His speech made a very great impact on the Assembly.
We also had the opportunity of hearing Mr. Herter, the American Secretary of State the American Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Cabot Lodge; the British Foreign Minister, Mr. Selwyn Lloyd; and Mr. Ormsby Gore, Mr. Krishna Menon, the President of Mexico and the President of Guinea. Last but not least, there was our Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Casey - now Lord Casey. I want to say at once that Lord Casey is held in very high esteem by virtually all countries with which he has come in contact. He is held1 in the highest of esteem by virtually all countries which have had any association with Australia, particularly the Asian countries. He has made a great impact on the Asian countries, and I felt proud to be associated with him. His promotion to the House of Lords was well and truly deserved.
I shall not take up any more time, although one could speak on this subject at considerable length. As one who has always had an undiminished faith in the United Nations, I came away completely satisfied that that organization is worth preserving. We ought to be proud to be a member of such a body. In view of the faith that so many of the peoples of the earth are placing in this great organization, it is our duty to see that it continues to work for the welfare and benefit of mankind.
.- During this debate we have heard many expressions of loyalty. I shall not deal with that matter, because I do not think there is any need to stress the obvious. As far as I can glean there is no disloyalty in Australia. There is no republicanism or anti-royalism. Therefore it can be taken for .granted that the Parliament and the people are still loyal to the Throne. This is a different state of affairs from that which existed 60 or 70 years ago when I was .a boy. As a matter of fact, only this morning I was telling Senator Paltridge that it will be 60 years next month since I sold my first pamphlet at a Labour meeting. That pamphlet was entitled “ Britain’s Disgrace “ and it gave an account of the plight of royal pensioners, many of whom were the product of mesalliances between royal rou6s and ladies of easy virtue. Of course, in those days many of our leaders, royal and otherwise, cast their seed carelessly, and as a result the nation, over the years, had to keep hundreds of royal personages, who were made dukes and duchesses. The pamphlet gave details of them. Of course, as time went by a number of those royal paupers compounded their pensions, taking from the Government instead a lump sum. To-day, things are vastly different and we all know that Her Majesty and the Royal Family in general do splendid work on behalf of the nation. We must pay tribute to them. Sometimes I think that our Queen is overworked. She is asked to bring about closer relations between the United Kingdom and countries that may shortly leave the British Commonwealth. Their retention in the Commonwealth might be assured by reasonable action on the part of other members of the British Commonwealth. However, I will not elaborate that theme. Suffice it to say that however loyal we may be, there is in this world to-day much turmoil that our expressions of loyalty to the Queen and the Royal Family will do nothing to overcome.
I was very interested in Senator Hannaford’s remarks about his visit to the United Nations because the Labour Party has always whole-heartedly supported that international body. One of the most eminent men ever to become president of the United Nations General Assembly was Dr. Evatt. However, that is by the way.
It would be a splendid thing if the Government, instead of continually sending politicians overseas, were to send a number of workers. I have nothing in particular against politicians going overseas. I have been in this Senate for 28 years and have never had a free trip abroad. Perhaps I had better ask for one. The Government could select representatives of the unions and of working-class people and give them a trip to other countries. Exchanges of workers between Australia and other countries would, I am sure, go a long way towards achieving unity amongst the workers and people of the world. I make that suggestion in response to the Government’s invitation to us to make suggestions, but I am sure that it will be ignored by the Government.
I say, as I suppose we always say when in opposition, that the Governor-General’s Speech was colourless. It certainly would not arouse the enthusiasm of the people, particularly the youth of this country. Of course, that splendid gentleman, Lord Dunrossil, had to read the Speech ‘that was prepared for him. It was not his Speech; it was a speech written by Mr. Menzies or those controlled :by Mr. Menzies, and it was rather uninspiring.
To-day ‘governments play an increasingly important part in the economy of a country. Things are different to-day from what they were in the old days, when in the Mother of Parliaments, we had men like Disraeli and that grand old man, William Ewart Gladstone. The British Government of those days interfered in very small measure with the nation’s economy. Politicians of those days made speeches embellished with long quotations in Greek and Latin. They tried to exhibit their erudition. To-day, in every country, parliaments are conducted in a businesslike way - perhaps we do not always see evidence of this in the Senate - and exercise greater control over the economy. Recently, I was very interested to view a television programme entitled “The Small World”. The three persons taking part in it were Mr. Nehru, a very intelligent gentleman, Mr. Dewey and, I think, Aldous Huxley. Mr. Dewey said something about controls and socialism in India and Mr. Nehru replied that there were more interferences and more controls in America, the very acme of modern financial capitalism, than in India. So when our friends on the other side deplore control they should realize, if they know their history and if they are watching present events, that no matter whether governments be tory or Labour, they do exercise greater and greater control of the economy. In the 28 years I have been in this Senate I have often noticed how our friends on the other side call for control when some of their entrepreneurs and outside backers are suffering disabilities caused by the contradictions of the capitalist system which they espouse. They are what I call capitalistCommunists, always ready to seek and take help from the government whenever they are in a bad way financially.
I intend to ask a few questions about inflation. I am sorry to inflict the subject of inflation on honorable senators, but it seems to be a topic that has been deliberately discussed during this debate. I intend to ask certain questions because members of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party constantly attack the Labour Party and contend with all the vehemence at their command that if only the workers would be content and not seek higher wages, all would be well in the capitalist world. Well, we on this side of the Senate do not agree with that contention. We have different ideas. I think that if our economists were to study this matter carefully without political prejudice they would find that other conditions obtain in the capitalist world of finance that give rise to inflation. Senator Hannaford mentioned one of those conditions during his speech. I should like to ask the quidnuncs on the other side of the chamber - the intelligentsia, the economic cognoscentic - a few questions because in airing their erudition - whether or not they have that erudition is another matter - they seek to give the impression that they know much about economics. The first question I postulate is: Is the cry of inflation being used to-day to influence the Arbitration Commission? As you know, shortly a case will be decided in the court, and the Menzies Government, despite this country’s wonderful prosperity, is attempting to thwart the workers in their claim for an increase in the basic wage.
The next question I address to those who think about these matters and are not merely roused to a garrulous enthusiasm by their political prejudice is this: What effect has the colossal increase in the hirepurchase debt, which stands at nearly £400,000,000, had on inflation? We do not hear from our opponents one word about the effect of this recent intrusion into the capitalist world of the hire-purchase phenomenon. Instead, they continually say, parrot-like, that wages must be pegged.
I ask another question: What effect has the extraordinary increase in profits had on inflation? The economists in the ranks of our opponents may be able to tell me a few things about that. There is no doubt, according to the economists who write for the capitalist press, that there has been a tremendous increase in profits, much of which has found its way to America. As my friend Senator Poke pointed out. at least one organization - General Motors-Holden’s Limited - intends to hide its profits. It is gerrymandering its financial arrangements so that in future the people will not know what profit it makes.
Let me ask a further question: What effect have monopolies and manipulated prices had on inflation? We know that prices can be manipulated because of the close control exercised by the prehensile fingers of the monopolists in industry. Senator Ormonde, in a very interesting speech on Tuesday, showed how the coalowners had used the Joint Coal Board to get increased prices so they could pay for modern machinery. That sort of thing will not arouse any enthusiasm in the youth of this country in the effort to defeat communism.
Another question that should be asked is this: What effect has uncontrolled squandering on luxury goods and luxury hotel buildings had on inflation? On that point, I found in my drawer to-day an extract from a statement by Professor Sir Douglas Copland. I do not know whether he was dealing with the subject of inflation or when he made the statement, except that I know it was made recently. The professor admitted that in Australia there was a very great need for the production of capital goods. He said that the basic needs of the workers could be supplied readily. We on this side of the chamber have always said that. We have always pointed out that the age pensioner could well and truly be cared for and that his needs could be readily produced. That is where we differ from our friends opposite. When Labour is returned to office, that will be one of the first matters to which it will direct its attention.
The professor further said that if more labour were needed for capital goods, it must come from the army of men and women who minister to the extravagant wants and demands of the rich. He added that there should be less money for luxury and more for production. As a mere tiro in economic understanding, I should say that that would be a splendid means of offsetting inflation. I have before me a note to the effect that never in the history of our Commonwealth have so few exploited so many in the interests of the few. Luxury hotels and costly modern home units which cannot be bought by the workers are being built.
I shall not go into the details of the matter, but at this moment I think of the plight of a member of my own family down in Adelaide who has a very responsible job but who cannot get a home. The same sort of thing is happening in Brisbane. A government that was out to fight communism and which realized the danger with which Australia is faced would ensure that one of the first things it did was to get the support of the people by attending to their basic needs. This Government will never defeat communism by neglecting the masses and playing into the hands of the rich monopolists.
Why does not the Government, instead of reducing income tax - it reduced revenue from this source by approximately £20,000,000 when the last Budget was prepared - reduce or even abolish the pay-roll tax? Why does it not reduce inflationary indirect taxation? Why does it not reduce sales tax? If the Government was an intelligent government and wanted to destroy inflation - not all governments want to do that, because they pay off their debts with inflated money - it would seek ways and means of reducing inflationary forms of taxation. I ask the Government: Will it or will it not do that? I hope that our friends opposite who have yet to speak will extend me the courtesy of a reply to that question.
I want to bring to the notice of the Senate the kind of practice that is indulged in by monopolists. I refer to the case of a friend of mine who is a retailer. I shall not state the industry in which he is engaged, because if I did so he might suffer an injury. He knew that the Menzies Government stood for private enterprise. He owned one or two shops. He decided to become a wholesaler, so he wrote many letters to various friends and retailers in the industry and told them of his intention. The replies he received were very encouraging indeed, and he could see himself advancing as a wholesaler. After a week or two had1 passed he got letters from almost all his friends saying they were sorry for their change of attitude but that they had been informed by certain other monopolists and wholesalers who had a lot to do with import licences that they would boycott them and destroy their businesses. That is one instance of what happens under free enterprise. When the Government inquires into monopoly practices, I shall be only too pleased to furnish it with details of the methods adopted by these gentlemen who glorify private enterprise.
There is another question that I want to ask our friends on the other side of the chamber. If there has been such a tremendous increase in production and an actual, real, intrinsic reduction of costs, why should there be such a great increase in prices? No doubt Senator Cameron could answer that question. but I want our friends on the other side to do so. We have been told enthusiastically and in glowing terms that Australia was never better off than it is to-day, as a result of Mr. Menzies’ wonderful work in encouraging American and other capita! to come here, and in borrowing from Switzerland and other countries. We have been told that there is tremendous prosperity and that we have used modern machinery in every department of production, including the coal mines. I admit, of course, that there has been progress. Do not run away with the idea that 1 am so stupid as not to admit that fact. Yet, with all the wonders of modern production, prices have gone up, the cost of living has increased, and the women of the working class are compelled to go to work, as my neighbours recently have had to go to work, in order to pay for commodities that are produced so prolifically. I wish our friends opposite would quietly inform me why that is so.
I have here an interesting paragraph from an article which I read last October, written by Mr. P. S. Shrapnel, the chief economist of the economic advisory division of W. D. Scott and Company Proprietary Limited. The article is taken from the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. The first paragraph, which is what might be called a prognosticator, is as follows: -
We can also expect employment to rise faster than population growth for the first time in nearly four years. . . My estimate is that the interim price index will not rise by more than 21 per cent, in 1959-60-
We shall soon reach the end of the financial year - and if it does it will be due to higher food prices rather than to higher wage rates.
The mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply should pause and absorb that paragraph.
It is a change to read such statements in the financial columns of the capitalist press. The article went on -
The Government has planned for big rises in its own expenditure and this year it cannot rely upon the banking system diverting further large sums from bank advances into government securities.
There is therefore a much greater probability that the Government will have to create credit to finance its substantially higher level of spending.
– More inflation!
– Yes. The article continued -
That is, the next financial year, 1960-61 - however, the excellent prospects of further economic progress are much less likely to be dependent on good luck. … To sum up, one could say that the rate of economic development in Australia-
I do not know whether this is true or not - was deliberately slowed down over the last three years in order to avoid serious inflation.
There we have one of the contradictions of modern capitalism. Despite modern tools and the fact that thousands of people are ready to come to Australia, according to this gentleman it was necessary to slow down development in order to defeat inflation. Whether that statement is true or not, we know that there is inflation in this country, as there is in America, England and many capitalist countries. There must be something radically wrong with our modern economic system, with all the modern gadgets, materials and intense organization to produce economically the essentials of life, when we encounter inflation, with all its consequent miseries.
I should like our friends on the other side of the chamber, instead of childishly saying what Labour did and what Labour should have done, to take advice from their own friends and tell the people of Australia what is wrong with our system, that we should have this trouble of inflation, despite the modern conditions that exist in America, in England and also in this country.
In the Australian Labour Party we have a number of men who are highly specialized economists. They could hold their own, and in some cases more than hold their own, with the professors of the various colleges. One of those gentlemen has said -
Inflation comes into an economy as the result of the introduction of new money, or as the result of a manipulated price by those who may have the power independently to manipulate price.
If that is true, the Government of this country, as a responsible government, should see to it as soon as possible that the manipulators of prices are controlled and compelled to work for the happiness and benefit of the people instead of for themselves alone.
– Should the Government also control the new money?
– I do not wish to be rude, but 1 did not hear what the honorable senator said.
– It was not pertinent, anyhow.
– I think it probably was pertinent. We have been told by the Governor-General that the Government intends to inquire into monopolies, and that some day it intends to bring in a measure to deal with them.
– That will be the day!
– Yes. I, too, would be surprised if that were to happen, but I hope that the Government will introduce such legislation, if it is still in power. As honorable senators know, in America it has been necessary to pass anti-trust laws. It is said by those who know that we in this young country are much worse off than are the Americans in regard to control by monopolies. I am not an authority on this subject, but only a little while ago I read that in Australia monopolies have greater control than they have in America.
Our friends on the other side of the chamber put up a jolly good case. I pay tribute to Senator Spooner and Senator Paltridge, and I acknowledge that when the proceedings are being broadcast they are really adept at mob oratory. They understand the psychology of the mob. I am 75 years of age now, and since I was a boy of fifteen I have been a propagandist for the Labour movement. I know the art of propaganda. I admit that I have a sneaking admiration for Senators Spooner and Paltridge, as I have for the boys who found the £40,000 hoard in Sydney recently. I have commended those senators. They were very good indeed, and any poor soul who listened to them and who was torn between two loyalties might have been swayed by what they said. At the moment, I am speaking to a few people, and to “ Hansard “. I suppose that nobody will ever read what I say, but that does not matter. I do not speak now in any querulous or bitter spirit, but, during the last ten years, I do not think the Menzies Government has understood the position. If it has understood the position, it has not taken the proper action to ease the situation. On the contrary, it has panicked on a number of occasions. Whenever overseas funds in London have been reduced, and on other occasions, it has panicked. We all know the story of Flanagan, the plate-layer, telling about the railway engine - it was off again, on again, gone again, Flanagan. The Government has been off the track several times. In 1951, it suddenly introduced import controls. Now, just as suddenly, it is removing them. In good government, there is a real need for stability in matters of economic control, but stability does not exist now because this Government seems to get frightened, or panicky. It puts on controls and takes them off. It opens the flood-gates to the importation into this country of all kinds of luxury articles, including musical toilet rolls!
We have been asked what Labour’s attitude is. Yesterday, Senator Paltridge almost pleaded with the Opposition to ask him some questions and to indicate to him what we would do. I ask him what he understands the duty of the Opposition to be. I remind him that the Government of which he is a member is in control. As our friend, Senator Spooner, has told us so often, the Government has the numbers; and it is the Government’s pigeon. You on the Government side are the people who have contracted with the majority of the Australian people to govern this country. Therefore, you are the ones who have to provide the solution.
Any student of economics knows that the modern economic system known as financial capitalism is full of contradictions, no matter what we do. On *he one hand, in an effort to reduce inflation, the Government tells the people not to buy. On the other hand, television companies plead with us to buy not a small set but a large set and thereby save money. Companies use such slogans as, “ Buy the king size, or the family size and save money “, and all that sort of rot- I repeat that on the one hand we are told to be careful, to tighten our purse-strings, not to spend so much, to save, and on the other hand we see a wealth of activity with millions of pounds paid into the pockets of commentators, advertisers and others who seek to enveigle us into buying more. That is one of the contradictions of the system.
Let me ask honorable senators on the Government side one question. If prices go up - and they do - do honorable senators opposite really and sincerely want the workers to sit back and refuse to fight for higher wages? Have the workers to make all the sacrifices? We did not hear any such suggestions when the Richardson Committee’s report was before us. I do not propose to talk about that, except to say that there is a different climate to-day and the speeches we hear from the Government side now are vastly different from those we heard a few months ago.
According to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), a White Paper states that in 1951 the workers’ share of the national income fell from 47.2 per cent, to 42.4 per cent. I am not in a position to verify the figures, but Mr. Cairns said that £200,000,000 passed from the pockets of the producers over to other people in the community who live in luxury. There is one of the causes of inflation, and a Labour Government worthy of its salt will certainly see to it that £200,000,000 will never pass from the workers, who are doing the work and spending the money to keep industry going, to the other people.
If honorable senators on the Government side want to know what we are going to do, let me tell them that we will use our powers of taxation. We will reduce indirect taxation. We certainly shall control capital expenditure to a degree. We say that any government which sees millions of pounds being taken from developmental works and spent on luxury goods, the building of huge hotels like those on the Gold Coast, and the building of magnificent homes and so on, as a result of prosperity and increased prices for our exports, has a duty so to control capital expenditure that money will go into the right channels with a view to improving the country’s economic position, instead of being spent on luxury goods.
Just as there has been a revolution in banking from 1914 up to the present time, so I do believe that there will be further changes in the banking system. Under our Government, so far as it can possibly be done, banking will be maintained and used for the purpose of advancing the community, not for the purpose of bolstering the monopolists and those who live by exploiting labour.
I admire Senator Spooner because he is straight John Bull. He does not go behind the gate to tell you anything. He is a real fire-eater and fanatic regarding capitalism. He loves private enterprise. He believes that if we sell all the government enterprises, if we will sell the aluminium works and other government undertakings, all will be well. During its ten years of office, the Government has been doing so. It has sold the Commonwealth’s shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and the whaling station in Western Australia. I am convinced that it would sell TransAustralia Airlines to-morrow if it were not afraid of the people.
Only the other day our friend Mr. McEwen, who is a very clever and energetic man, and is the Minister for Trade in the Menzies Government, said that the economy is balanced on a razor’s edge. He did not say that a few years ago when inflation was far worse than it is to-day. But he says it now! Senator Paltridge almost weeps. He says that whatever else it does the Government must go to the court to show how the economy is in danger at present and endeavour to inveigle the Arbitration Commission into refusing to increase the wages of the workers. Why, our friend, Robert Gordon Menzies, said, “ A f urther increase will only be pouring petrol on the fires of inflation “. So there you are! We hear no word about the monopolists! There is not a word about the gentlemen who are exploiting the people; there is never a word about hire-purchase activities, nor is there ever a word about the activities of companies during the last year or two which have been going on to the market from time to time offering people 10 per cent., 15 per cent, and 20 per cent, for money, thus forcing up interest rates and adding to the pressure of inflation. I repeat there is not a word about any of those matters from honorable senators opposite. They worship at the shrine of the golden calf. We do not worship there, and when we are the government we shall see to it that these things are stopped. We must stop them if we are to fight communism.
Our friends opposite are always asking for suggestions. For a long time I have had in my mind one that might have difficulty in penetrating their mentalities. On 19th November, 1959, I listened to a speech in the Senate by Senator Branson, of Western Australia. It was a splendid analysis of the problem of dental decay and I am surprised that no action has been taken as a result of that speech. The honorable senator had evidently gone to great trouble in the preparation of his material. Although the speech came from a political opponent, I am only sorry that a copy of it could not be placed in every home in Australia to awaken the nation to the need for something to be done. He told an appalling story of neglect of the teeth of the young. He made comparisons with the position in the United States of America and in New Zealand. Whereas Australia spends 3s. a head on dental treatment, New Zealand spends £1 2s. 6d. Dental services in America have cost the colossal sum of 1.705,000,000 dollars.
Many facts mentioned in that speech should give us pause. I think much of our teeth trouble is due to faulty diet. I believe that no country in the world takes more pills per head than we do. That is all wrong. We spend thousands of pounds on drugs of every description. I do not decry the action of a man in going to a doctor to obtain a drug when he is sick. I have done it many a time. But surely there must be some reason for all the sickness and for the fact that our children have the worst teeth in the world. Many thinkers who have studied the human body say that most of this sickness is due to faulty diet. As the Government has a splendid organization like the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to look after the animals and plants of Australia, surely the time is ripe for establishing a special department to study man, his food and drink, and the effect of these upon his health, his body and his mind. That would be one of the greatest advances we could make.
We are prepared to make an effort to produce better grain and to enable farmers, by using chemicals, to produce where nothing could be produced before. We devote our attention to stopping erosion and evaporation and to finding water. In these directions a splendid job, that is worth millions of pounds to Australia and to the rest of the world, has been done by the C.S.I. R.O. A special section or department should be established to co-ordinate the efforts of those who look after the welfare of man as man. One of the finest books ever written by a doctor is “ Man the Unknown “ by Dr. Alexis Carrel. He says that in order to understand man, men should dedicate their lives just as a priest dedicates his life to the Church. He says also that a full understanding of six or eight sciences and at least 30 years’ work would be necessary before man would be known, and even then he would not be fully known.
I am a simple member of the Opposition, a Labour member who worked as a patternmaker and is still a member of the proletariat in spirit if not in actual fact. We have been chided time and again with not making suggestions. Here is a suggestion that, if adopted, would in a few years help Australia and the Australian people. If we are to defeat communism, we will need men who are healthy in body and in mind. To-day thousands of people in Australia are being poisoned because they know not what they are taking into their stomachs. Although I have been told, as they have been told, I still carry on poisoning myself in the same way. I should like to know what is in the beer we drink. I remember that one of the first jobs I had as a boy was to look after the beer that a farmer brewed in a big receptacle containing 200 or 300 gallons. In those days we brewed our own beer. I had to look after it and I suppose that started me off on the way to being a politician, as it was an easy job. People who drank that beer never suffered from headaches, although they drank it all day. To-day, when a person drinks a few extra pots he has a headache, his tongue becomes furry and his eyes become bloodshot. There is something wrong. The ingredients are secret, but thousands of people like beer.
That is only a minor detail. I use it just as an illustration of what people are taking into their stomachs. They also eat dehydrated food and denatured food. In television advertisements we are told what such-and-such a wonderful food will do for us. We are told that if we are runners or swimmers and we eat this food, hey presto, we will perform in world record times. I do not know much about it but 1 should like to have such foods analysed. There is need for a proper investigation of the food and drink of the Australian people. The fact that, as Senator Branson told us, our children have virtually the worst teeth in the world, provides something on which to work.
We do not know whether or not we might be destroyed by a nuclear bomb. We are living under that cloud. There is wonderful work waiting to be done, which should occupy the minds, talents and skills of good men and true. Labour and Liberal alike, we have failed in our duty in the past. To-day, we should have 50,000,000 strong, healthy, virile people in this country. Unfortunately we did not see ahead and now we are trying to make up the leeway. Off our northern shores powerful forces are growing, and some of them are vindictive. The masses of those peoples are not vindictive against Australia, but they may be led by men who remember the treatment they received in the past and who would, if they had the opportunity, seek to control Australia. I have told honorable senators on other occasions what Sir John Latham said as to the Japanese intentions towards Australia, and I shall not repeat it now.
Wonderful work is waiting to be done by men who have the country’s good at heart. Much work needs to be done for the young. We must show the young people what democracy can do with proper organization. We must cease the stupid taradiddle of politics. We must cease standing here in the Senate and “ throwing off “ at one another. We should be seeking to understand thoroughly the problems that confront us and trying in every way to build Australia and make it safe from the onslaughts of any Communist nation that wants to defeat us.
– I rise to support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply so ably moved by my colleague, Senator Lillico, and seconded by Senator Drake-Brockman. I join with them in expressing my loyalty to the Crown and goodwill towards the other members of the Royal Family. I should like also to add my voice to the expressions of goodwill that have been made to the Governor-General; I hope that his term of office in Australia will be a very happy and useful one.
Before enlarging on some of the many challenging statements in the Speech that was delivered by the Governor-General on behalf of the Government, I should like to express my very keen disappointment at the approach to national affairs made by the Labour Opposition. It would appear that there is absolutely no sign of new thought in the ranks of Labour although, with the prospect of new leadership, many of us believed there would be a statement of policy and a changed attitude, too, to many world affairs. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in another place, has expressed the view that the new Leader of the Labour Party is a dedicated socialist - whatever that might mean; I do not think socialists are dedicated at all; I would use another adjective - bent on keeping alive the programme of the Hobart conference, the complete nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. I feel that the Labour Party will have very great difficulty, riding under those terms, in persuading the electors of Australia that despite the prosperity which they are now enjoying - and which they have been enjoying for the last ten years, since this Government came into office - they should elect a government which will offer them only socialism, which all history has proved and the Opposition knows as well as I do, simply leads in one direction, and that is to communism. The only way, I think, to answer Labour’s very faint challenge - if we can even call it a challenge - is to state the success story of the coalition Government that we have had in Australia during the last ten years. The old proverb that nothing succeeds like success is, I think, very true in Australia to-day.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), in a very vigorous speech last night, which was full of figures and which I quite honestly believe would only befog the electors who were listening to him, tried to support a pitifully weak case. In answer to- my question about the amount of money in the savings banks, which has always been taken as a very good barometer of the success of the majority of the people of Australia, I thought his answer was particularly weak. The figure I quote, which was given to me, is that savings banks deposits at the present time total £124,000,000. Those who use savings banks are the rank and file of the people; they are not the terrible monopolists we are hearing so much about. The report I saw did not say that this money was invested; it merely stated that this was the total amount of deposits in the savings banks, which come from the rank and file of the people. If this is to be the measure of prosperity of a young country, it is a very wonderful measure. Total deposits of £124,000,000 is an all-time high for the savings banks of Australia.
I should like to commend Senator Ormonde for his very logical and temperate speech - not that I agree with half of what he said. I do think that there was in essence quite a lot in his speech that the Government might well take notice of, and that the Labour Party might well adopt his temperate way of viewing things. He did not try to slash the Government from right to left. He was quite logical in acknowledging that the Government, on- very many things, had been most successful. I think that that is a very good pointer and that the Labour Party should take a leaf out of Senator Ormonde’s book, because I think he is one of the moderates in the party.
I was very astonished, as a lot of us were- to-day, to read in the local newspaper that the Labour Party has rejected the Communist approach. According to this morning’s issue of the “ Canberra Times “’, the secretary of the Communist Party had extended an invitation to the Labour Party to join with his members and take action with them, on matters of common policy. Apparently this invitation was rejected out of hand by the Australian Labour Party. I think that will be tremendous news for the people of Australia, but it would be more news if the Labour Party made a deliberate statement that its members are not fellow travellers of the Communist
Party who use that party when they have an opportunity to do so. Many of us believe that there is too much of this underhand business between the Labour Party and the Communist Party, and that that is one of the real, reasons why for ten long years the Labour Party has been m oblivion in Australia.
I was tremendously interested in Senator Brown’s address. He is always more or less entertaining and I felt that it was such a pity that he stopped giving his little picture silhouettes of members of this Parliament. I was hoping that he would go on after he painted his picture of our leader in the Senate, of whom we are all proud. Senator Brown treated him very well. I thought it was a pity he did not paint little pictures of all the members of the Senate and then we could have known how we might appear in Senator Brown’s next book. I am really distressed, though, to learn that he does not understand that this Government has done something for the basic needs of the Australian people, and I hope, when I have cited certain things, that Senator Brown will know that this Government has attended to the basic needs of the people of Australia and that there is no real necessity for him to get very worried at the present time about the slight inflation that is taking place. This is not the time to panic about inflation.
His Excellency’s Speech, I say, contains many challenging statements. Noteworthy, I think, is the paragraph about international understanding, especially with our nearest neighbours in Asia and South-East Asia. Much goodwill and international understanding have been fostered by the visit that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was able to pay to the countries of South-East Asia and also by the visits of honorable senators from both sides of this chamber to these countries, during which they found out the difficulties under which they are labouring, and ascertained how best we could assist them. I should like at this stage to refer, as my colleagues have done, to the work of our former Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Casey, who was recently elevated to the peerage. He well deserved the honour that was conferred on him. At every place I have visited in South-East Asia, Lord Casey’s name has been mentioned with great respect and affection. I was very glad to hear my colleague, Senator’
Hannaford, refer to the fact that the work of Lord Casey on behalf of Australia and, indeed, on behalf of the world, is being reflected in the work of the United Nations.
There have been trade conferences and meetings of people to discuss their problems. These have led to a greater understanding of our neighbours. They have helped Australia to establish itself as the leading nation in the Pacific. I am very glad that the Government has extended the Colombo Plan for another five years. The plan has accomplished a great deal but I suggest that one of the ways in which we could, perhaps, be of greater help to the people in the undeveloped countries to the north of Australia would be by establishing in those countries institutions such as agricultural colleges, domestic science colleges and trade training centres, through which we could really make contact with the rank and file of the people. After all, the students who come here - to whom the plan has been of great benefit - feel rather at a loss when they go back to their villages. They just do not know how to put into action there what they have learned from the western democracies. I think we should try to establish institutions of the type I have mentioned in these places so that we can make contact with the rank and file of the people - of whom there are so many. If we did that, we would be doing a very good job indeed. The goodwill which has been generated by the Colombo Plan is very strikingly in evidence when one visits those countries, and the continuation of the plan win be a source of great satisfaction to the peoples of Asia.
Bound up with international goodwill is the question of trade. The countries to the north of Australia, with their large populations, can be very valuable customers of ours. In most of them, the standards of living are rising. They are using western techniques to increase their productivity, so that they will be able to produce more, not only for themselves, but ultimately for export also. They will wish to trade with us, just as we wish to trade with them.
At this stage, let me say that Australia has every right to be proud of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, the Honorable J. McEwen, for the wonderful work that he has done in the Department of
Trade. World-wide confidence in this country has ben restored completely by the work of Mr. McEwen and his department. Our trade to-day has reached the highest level on record. The lifting of import restrictions is a very good move. I never believed in them myself, and I think that the lifting of the restrictions will, in the long-term, help to reduce our costs of production. It will also help to reduce prices, as a result of the competition that will ensue. I have no fears about the lifting of import restrictions in spite of what some of our friends of the Opposition may say.
It is very interesting to note the increase in the value of our imports and exports. In February, 1960, our imports were valued at approximately £78,500,000, compared with £58,900,000 in February, 1959. That was an increase of £19,600,000. Our total exports in February, 1960, amounted to approximately £83,400,000, compared with £73,700,000 in February, 1959 - an increase of £9,700,000. The story of our exports and imports so far is a very bright one, and reflects great credit on the Minister for Trade and his department. The removal of import licensing and the taking down of trade barriers will contribute greatly to the peace of the world. If we could remove all trade barriers between countries, so that there was complete freedom to produce and complete freedom to exchange, we would do a great deal for the peace of the world.
The Governor-General referred, quite rightly, I think, to the success of our immigration policy. It is very good to note that refugees from many countries have been able to come into Australia. I am told that about 250,000 of them are in Australia to-day, enjoying constant employment, renewed health and a better standard of living than it was possible for them to enjoy in the countries from which they came. Many organizations have taken a page out of the Government’s book and are helping to solve the refugee problem, which is a blot on the world to-day. One international organization to which I have the honour to belong - the Business and Professional Women of the World - is raising large sums of money and trying in other ways to help the refugees in the camps which are still to be found in Europe and the Middle East. The World Council of Churches is doing a wonderful work in that way, too. It is good that our Department of Immigration has taught the rest of the world a lesson toy taking note of the refugee problem.
It is interesting to note, too, that, after a stormy period, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and the Northern Territory Legislative Council have evolved some sort of a solution of their problems. A new council has been formed, under conditions which should help to make the people of the Northern Territory feel that they are very important to the body governing that part of the country. They are to be allowed to play a greater part in deciding their own future. I remind the Senate that history was made at the recent elections for the new council, when, for the first time, a woman was elected. Her election was quite unexpected, I understand, but it shows the good work that was done by the women of the Northern Territory. One newspaper commented on the election of this lady to the council. It disclosed that she was the wife of the town pest exterminator, and that she worked in partnership with her husband. The newspaper suggested, therefore, that she was well equipped, perhaps, to dispose of some of the pests that might haunt the council.
We have heard a great deal - some people might think a little too much - about how airways are developing in Australia. Negotiations are proceeding to improve and extend our air traffic facilities. Bigger aircraft require bigger airfields, and these are being planned. I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) will take note of what is happening in such places as London and New York, which have two of the world’s largest airports. Local interests in those two cities are very concerned about the extent of vibration and noise caused by aircraft. A document that has been prepared by a committee of residents of Tullamarine and district, who are concerned about noise from aircraft in their area, reads -
In London on 12th January, just a month ago, a. deputation of seventeen local authorities concerned by the noise of aircraft landing and taking off at London Airport waited on the Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr. Duncan Sandys.
Members of the deputation said subsequently they felt Mr. Sandys had not realized before how strongly the 5,000,000 people they represented felt about the matter.
The deputation called on the Minister to tell the public what he proposed to do in order to make their lives more bearable.
The Parliamentary Secretary . . . agreed that the issue was one of general public concern and was almost a national problem. “We fully recognize “, he said, “ that there is a limit to the amount of noise the public will tolerate merely to suit the convenience of a comparatively small number of people “.
His final words were: “We shall do all we possibly can to hurry forward fundamental research and to secure the enforcement of operating procedures. I should like to leave the House with the impression that although we are not so rash as to promise success, we shall do our utmost to achieve it “.
Another portion of this document states -
I have made some inquiries around Melbourne about the trials that were held there on the Boeing 707’s and I was told that it was ridiculous to say that there was no noise or vibration from the Boeing. In fact, the noise was simply frightening. The document continues -
It won’t be easy to get location for future jet airports. Reason: aircraft noise. Port of New York Authority ran smack into violent opposition to its plans to build a “ super Idlewild “ in New Jersey. P.N.Y.A. proposes four 12,000 ft. runways, a 10,000-acre field (twice the size of Idlewild), so that there would be five miles between start of take-off roll and the nearest community.
Australia meanwhile still proposes to have these big jet airports. I am sure that a good deal of attention needs to be given to this matter, just as it is being given to it in other large cities of the world.
Television is a very popular subject to-day and many people are keenly interested in the extension of television facilities in this country. Country people are impatiently waiting to see what arrangements will be made to provide television in their centres. Most of us are impatiently waiting for the findings of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which seems to have been inquiring for an inordinately long time in Melbourne into this matter of the extension of television to country areas. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) offers some hope, however, that the board’s findings will soon be made public.
I am sure that we all agree with the PostmasterGeneral’s statement concerning the use of Australian programmes on television. He said that he was extremely disappointed at the fact that Australian programmes were completely lacking in the peak viewing hours, and that he had told licensees that programmes distinctively Australian in content and character, of at least one hour’s duration, should be provided by each station during the peak viewing period each week commencing as soon as possible in 1960. He was hopeful that he would have the full co-operation of the stations in this development. He said that the television stations have achieved great success in the first three years of their operations and there were gratifying indications of their willingness, now that their services are firmly established, to make special efforts to develop an increasing proportion of Australian programmes.
Another very interesting part of the Governor-General’s Speech was that dealing with social services. When Senator Brown complained that the Government had not attended to the basic needs of people in receipt of social services, he must have been ignoring completely the work of Mr. Roberton, the Minister for Social Services. Mr. Roberton is to be congratulated on instituting a system of social services for our aboriginal population. In association with the various housing plans, the extension of social services to aborigines will soon enable us to feel that the original inhabitants of this country are living more or less in a civilized manner. The Minister is to be congratulated also on his further success in providing subsidies for homes for aged people. I understand that as a result of those subsidies many homes for aged persons are being built in every State.
A fortnight ago I was in Geelong and inspected the latest home there - the Grace McKellar home in Geelong - which is not yet completely finished but already shelters many people. It is a wonderful building, not only providing comfort for its occupants but also providing geriatric and other therapy, which are such wonderful aids in making these people feel that they are still part of the community and are not just laid aside. I think 8,000 aged persons have been accommodated in these various homes since the Commonwealth Government provided liberal subsidies. It is wonderful to think that these citizens are now housed in such comfortable circumstances. Good housing for the aged has been one of the greatest problems confronting this country ever since the war. I remind the Government, however, that a section of aged citizens is still suffering very severely, and I urge that the means test be eliminated. I understand that some discussion is going on at the moment with regard to this matter and I hope that very soon effect will be given to the promise made by the Prime Minister in 1949 to abolish the means test. I know that the means test has been eased, but there are many people who are suffering because they were thrifty in their earlier years. 1 was pleased to hear Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin and Senator Wedgwood refer to physically handicapped persons. I have been visiting a number of States and have seen the work that is being done by the people who are helping our physically handicapped citizens. I should like the Minister for Social Services to pay some attention to one aspect of their needs. With the assistance of rehabilitation many physically handicapped persons are able to do certain work but often they cannot accept employment because they have no means of transport. In many cases these people cannot use ordinary means of transport. They need their own cars, and I urge the Minister to discuss with the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) the removal of sales tax on motor cars that are specially fitted for their use. Probably the Treasurer will say that the removal of sales tax on motor cars would cause a loss of revenue; but I point out that he would gain, because these people would then be gainfully employed and would be subject to the ordinary income tax provisions. Any money lost in the form of sales tax would easily be made up in the form of income tax. Quite apart from that, we would have increased production. We would have the benefit of these peoples’ brains even though their hands or legs may not be as supple as they used to be. But what is most important is that these handicapped people would feel that, despite their limitations, they were of use and as a result would be much happier.
I have not left myself very much time in which to discuss the amendment which, of course, I intend to oppose. I ask Senator Kennelly quite seriously whether he and his colleagues really believe that such misstatements as are contained in the amendment could possibly have any appeal to the thinking people of Australia who have been enjoying, as I said earlier, a period of prosperity such as this country has never before experienced. That prosperity has not yet reached its peak. I suggest that what appeals to the thinking elector is the Government’s attention to basic matters during its ten years of office. What appeals to the elector is the Government’s record in the provision of social services, in the provision of houses, in the payment of repatriation benefits, in the implementation of a successful health scheme, in its care of the aged, in its research work at home and in the Antarctic, in its support of United Nations projects, and in the financial and other forms of help it has given to neighbouring countries that have been smitten by fire, flood, famine or volcanic eruption.
All those things, and many more, make up the success story of this Government, which stands for freedom and private enterprise. It is in these things that the Australian elector finds deep satisfaction, and he will not lightly turn to Labour’s avowed plan of nationalization, which could lead only to a servitude that we would all deeply regret. I support the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply and reject the amendment.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, I desire to associate myself with the sentiments of loyalty to the Royal Family that have been expressed by His Excellency the Governor-General and to wish His Excellency and his wife the very best of health, and everything that goes with it, during their term in Australia.
I may say, Sir, that I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly), the introductory words of which were “That the following words be added to the AddressinReply “, and which was more or less in the terms I shall outline. We desire to advise His Excellency that the Government no longer possesses the confidence of the Parliament and of the nation because of, first, 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; secondly, its lifting of import restrictions, thus affecting the employment of thousands of Australians and Australian enterprises; and, thirdly, its decision to ask the Arbitration Commission not to accept the current application by the trade union movement for an increase in the basic wage.
I was interested to hear Senator Drury say, during his contribution to the debate, that it was not so long ago that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that equilibrium had been restored to our finances and that because of the efforts of his Government - then the Menzies-Fadden Government - our economy was back on a stable basis and everything in the garden was absolutely grand1. I know many people on fixed incomes, including age and invalid pensioners who are attempting to balance their budgets on the magnificent sum of £4 15s. a week, who have entirely different ideas about the stability of this country under the maladministration of this Government. I know many primary producers who more or less have been priced out of overseas markets because of the apathy of this Government towards the problem of inflation, and many potential home builders who cannot purchase a block of land to build on because of the inflation of land1 values. All these people will show their revolt in no uncertain manner when the opportunity arises; they will do everything possible to defeat this Government in 1961.
We all know, as Senator Spooner intimated, that at the conclusion of World War II. inflation more or less affected all countries. Most of them dealt with the problem in accordance with their own views and took the necessary action to curb the menace. The people of Australia, together with those of other countries, have had to face the problem. As a matter of fact, as Senator McKenna pointed out, this Government was elected to office in 1949 because it promised to arrest inflation, to keep prices down, and to put value back into the £1. Most of the problems that have arisen in Australia since 1949 have arisen because this Government has lacked a definite and positive policy to deal with inflation, because of the numerous mistakes it has made in attempting to deal with the problem in a piecemeal manner, and because of the inability of the Cabinet to understand the fundamental, causes of inflation and its failure to lake the necessary, steps to correct the situation.
During the last ten years, according to figures submitted by Senator Spooner, retail prices have increased by 76 per cent, and wholesale prices by 53 per cent. Never before in- the history of Australia have we witnessed such unbridled inflation. Yet, Senator Spooner appears to be quite satisfied with the position. The supporters of the Government seem to think, by some process of reasoning that I cannot follow, that the Government has more or less controlled inflation. If that is their opinion, I say that the Government has placed the bridle on the wrong horse. The degree of inflation at the moment is absolutely abnormal. For that reason, abnormal remedies are required’ to keep it in check.
Most of the problems that face the country to-day have already been dealt with by other countries, such as Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada and many others. Because those countries were able to implement rigid controls and were not tied to a constitution of the horse and buggy days, they were able to keep prices down and to stabilize their economy. In this country, prices have continued to soar.
As Senator McKenna intimated, in- 1946 andi again in 1948 the Chifley Labour Government, realizing the danger of inflation to our economy, sought to alter the Constitution to permit the Government to dealt with economic problems, but the forces opposed to Labour, including members of; the present Government, did everything possible to make sure that the proposals would be defeated; We remember what they said on: those occasions. I have a- vivid recollection. o£ Sir Thomas Playford, the Premier of South Austrafia, taking the people, of that State for a walk down the garden path, and telling them that the States could, do the job much better than could the Commonwealth because they were much closer to the people. As Senator Kennelly has said, apparently the policy of the Government is to permit pr.,ces to find their own- level.
If Great Britain had followed” a policy similar to” that which has been followed’ in this country, she would not be the- great and” powerful nation that she is to-day and might well have been relegated! to the position of a. second- or third-rate power. Had the United States, Canada and other countries applied similar principles, they would not have been able to implement the rigid’ controls which they introduced’, or to keep prices down and stabilize, the economy..
Time and again, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), has told the people of what his Government intended’ to do to stabilize the Australian economy. Ohe of the first acts of the Government, on taking office, was to abolish capital issues control which Had been utilized by the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments for the purpose of ensuring that whatever surplus capital’ was available would be directed into certain channels for the manufacture of essential commodities. When this Government abolished^ capital issues control most of the money that previously had been used for the purpose I have mentioned’ found its way into non-essential industries, to> the detriment of the community- generally. Then, overnight, the Government decided to reinstitute capitals issues control. In doing so, it divided industry into three categories: - essential, less essential and non-essential.
In order to implement its policy, the Government introduced a series of drastic credit controls which affected our economic way of life in, a. way that was simply astounding. Things began to happen with startling rapidity. Retail, firms, which were selling goods classified, as. non-essential could not obtain the. necessary materials or credit to enable them to- carry on their business, with the. result that manufacturers producing goods, classified as. essential were unable to dispose of the goods they manufactured. A case- in point is that of the textile industry, from which thousands of employees were dismissed. Yet the goods those people were producing were in short supply and urgently required, by the community. The building trade was unable to obtain, the necessary credit for housing projects, despite the fact that we. needed more homes because of our rapidly increasing population-
I think if was Senator Drake-Brockman who mentioned’ the wool’ boom of 1952’. Wc remember the wool boom, the millions of pounds that it brought into this country and the manner in which it stepped’ up our balances in London. But once again this Government was; remiss in its obligations to the people. A wise and prudent government would have made sure that a tight rein was kept on imports, but the Government did nothing in that respect. I have a vivid recollection of a speech made by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives, dealing with the Budget of that year, in which he claimed credit for hh Government for having permitted the importation of goods to the greatest degree possible. Five months later there was a dramatic announcement from the then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, that because of the serious deterioration of our overseas balances, the importation of goods would be restricted overnight. We remember the chaos that that action of the Government caused.
We have reached a similar stage to-day. Restrictions are being removed from the importation of commodities, and in a few months’ time thousands of employees may be thrown out of their employment because industries, which to-day are importing raw materials, will be closing down. No doubt, the Government will then endeavour to put on the brake, as it did before. This is i stop and start government. It never finishes anything.
Senator McKenna referred last night to the subject of interest rates. The increase of interest rates has played no small part in the inflation that is running riot to-day, because it has seriously depreciated the capital value of bonds; so much so. that at one stage people became bond-shy and refused to invest in Commonwealth bonds. There were immediate repercussions. State Governments, which were dependent on the Australian Loan Council for funds with which to finance their works programmes, found themselves in difficulty. Six hundred men were dismissed from the Cairn Curran reservoir project in Victoria. Yet the purpose of this particular project was said to be to step up primary production in order to assist our balance of payments position! In Queensland alone the Government found itself in difficulty in meeting its obligations to settle men on the land under its land settlement scheme, and work on the Burdekin River and Tully Falls hydro-electric schemes was restricted. Thousands of men were dismissed from those projects. Each and every State could tell its own story of hardship and difficulty in completing urgent and essential public works. Thousands of employees werethrown out of work and denied the right to earn a decent standard of living for themselves and their dependants, not because there was no work for them to do, not because they could not be fully andprofitably employed, but because of thestupid action of this Government inincreasing interest rates. And it did not cure inflation!
Even the last Budget has done nothing to correct the position with fast-rising prices further intensifying the inflationary spiral. The Government’s proposals in regard totaxation retarded production at a time when increased production was essential. But, worse still, the burden which rightly belongs to the wealthier section of the community still rests on the shoulders of the people on the lower rung of the ladder, the workers in industry, the people on fixed’ incomes and others who are least able tocarry it. Further, as Senator Cant and Senator Ridley pointed out, because the basic wage is pegged and quarterly costofliving adjustments have been suspended, the workers in industry are in effect doubly penalized.
We know that wages at no time catchup with prices. Why, the Prime Minister said at one time that there had never been a period in the world’s history when prices had been overtaken by wages! He said’ that prices moved first and wages plugged’ along laboriously after them. The Prime Minister knows the position, yet he intervenes in the basic wage hearing by th? Arbitration Commission in an effort to havethe just claims of the trade union movement rejected. And this from a Government which was elected in 1949 because it promised to arrest inflation, keep pricesdown and put value back into the £1P During this Government’s term, the £1 has decreased in value by 7i per cent, each year. During the last ten years, on the figures submitted by Senator Spooner, retail prices have increased by 76 per cent. In those circumstances, if we were to retire to-morrow on our parliamentary retiring allowance of £21 per week, in approximately ten years time we should be living on the equivalent of one-third of that figure, or £5 a week. If we carried on for fifteen years, we should” be owing money to the Government.
– We would be in the red.
– Yes. The decrease has been 7i per cent, each year, yet the Government does nothing at all about the position.
We remember how the Chifley Labour Government dealt with this problem of inflation. It distributed as widely as possible the prosperity which then existed by applying a graduated scale of taxation under which the wealthier section of the community was compelled to pull its full weight in accordance with its ability to pay. The Chifley Labour Government also stabilized price levels. By paying subsidies as far as its powers permitted, that Government stabilized the prices of commodities which are more or less part and parcel of our everyday existence.
But this Government, immediately it attained office, commenced to undo everything that the Chifley Labour Government had achieved. Subsidies were withdrawn, restrictions on prices and profits were removed and indirect taxation has become the order of the day for raising revenue. To the Chifley Labour Government, indirect taxation was more or less anathema, and for that reason its policy was to make substantial reductions year by year, the ultimate aim being complete abolition of indirect taxation. Those members of the Government who were then in opposition in the Senate and in the other place said time and time again that immediately a Liberal Government was elected it would abolish this form of taxation, yet to-day we find they are the staunchest supporters of higher sales tax rates. I leave it at that.
Senator Spooner said that the motto of the Returned Soldiers’ Association - the price of liberty is eternal vigilance - always appealed to him. He went on to say that this motto was as equally applicable to the control of the economy as to the defence of the nation. I might say that that motto always appealed to me and it is certainly a truism to the Labour Party. Time and time again when we have thought that the tide was flowing in our favour, it has commenced to ebb, leaving us high and dry on the wasting shores of disappointment and disillusionment. Time and time again the Labour Party has been compelled to fight the same old fight, then turn round and fight it all over again.
The people of Australia will have the opportunity to join in this fight in 1961, and if they play their part as it should be played they will return a Labour Government with an absolute majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, giving that Government the authority necessary to implement its powers to the full so that we may have economic stability in the truest sense of the term.
I support the amendment.
.- At the outset, I wish to associate myself with the sentiments of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen and her representative and his wife who arrived in Australia recently. I endorse the sentiments which were expressed so cogently by Senator Lillico and suported so strongly by Senator Drake-Brockman. I suport the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply and oppose the amendment proposed by Senator Kennelly.
I find it literally incredible that an economist of the calibre of Senator Nicholls should complain about inflation in the one breath and in the next complain about the Government’s appearance before the Arbitration Commission. Does he not know that for the past twelve months we have witnessed two very substantial inflationary impacts upon the national economy - a 15s. increase in the basic wage -
– Terrible, was- it not?
– Just wait one moment. That 1 5s. a week has been responsible for an increase of between £105,000,000 and £110,000,000 a year in Australia’s pay packet. Following upon that, the 28 per cent, increase in margins was responsible for approximately another £110,000,000 a year, so that the national pay envelope has already been increased by approximately £215,000,000 or £220,000,000. With this going on, honorable senators opposite are complaining that we are in danger of pricing ourselves out of competitive markets. Is it any wonder? Every one-shilling increase in the basic wage means an increase of a little over £7,000,000 a year in the pay envelopes of the Australian community. Surely in those circumstances it is not only right but also the Government’s duty to place these matters before the Arbitration Commission.
Before leaving Senator Nicholls’ remarks I must .advert to his reference to unemployment. ‘He said that thousands of people were being thrown out of employment by this Government’s policy. I know that Senator Nicholls could not possibly believe that, because the truth of the matter is that thousands of people are not being thrown out of employment. Last month, February, 1960, there was an increase in employment of 4,000 jobs. In Victoria, which is the very hub and centre of Australia’s economics, there are more jobs than there are jobless, in that State there are more jobs available than there are people to fill them, so let us have no more nonsense about the policies of this Government throwing the workers of Australia into unemployment.
Dealing first with the end of the Governor-General’s Speech, I must say that I found intense satisfaction ‘in the promise to introduce legislation to deal with monopolies and restrictive trade practices. I am too modest to believe that my constant nagging over the -past four years has had any bearing on that decision. Whether or not that be -so, it is a matter of intense satisfaction “to me that the Government is going to utilize -the only sound regulating lever in the free -economy ‘by introducing this legislation. On many ‘Occasions in this chamber, I and other honorable senators have referred1 to the old Australian Industries Preservation Act, which was passed in 1907 but, as honorable senators know, has scarcely lever been used, and which is very similar ito the American Sherman antitrust -legislation.
For many years .it has been -obvious that if this ‘legislation were ever to be given teeth, tit had to have injected into it, as the Americans in 1’9-14 ‘injected into their similar legislation, a federal trade commission, whose duty it would be to police the act, prosecute under -it, and enforce it. The Americans have found that since they established the federal trade commission in 1914 «it =has acted as a mighty deterrent. It has been calculated that for every one company, organization, monopoly or trust that has been prosecuted, at least 100 have been deterred from breaking the law in this regard. I was recently looking through the 1945 volume of reports of cases tried by the commission, and I found that some mighty names had gone down before this liberaliz ing legislation. Du Pont, Kodak, the Stetson hat company, and more recently the Imperial Chemical Industries organization, have all had to tap the mat to -this form of anti-mono.poly, antirestrictivetradepractices legislation.
The United Kingdom ^Government - conservative governments, of course, being much more progressive than the socialists in these matters - established a monopolies commission in Britain in -1948, and introduced legislation, not similar to the American -legislation but designed -to achieve the same end, under which registration of restrictive trade practices is compulsory. They are made public, and if a board that comprises a judge and, ‘I think, four laymen, believes that they are bad for the national economy and that -they restrict trade and competition, the board is capable of disallowing the agreements. I hope that when the -proposed legislation does reach the Senate it will have the united support of all parties in this chamber.
Before leaving that .subject, it is well to direct attention to the fact that the most powerful monopolies in his country at the moment ar.e certain trade unions. It is useless to control .monopolies of capital .unless monopolies of labour also are controlled. There must .be no more victims in this country of monopoly power of .trade unions, whether .or not it is exercised, as in some cases it has been exercised, through Communist-controlled executiy.es. There :must be no more Hurseys, Colraines, Trews or Millers. Every Australian worker who is prepared to obey the law must be entitled ito hold .down his job without being hounded by .any -monopoly labour .organization.
– There are not many of them, anyway.
– I concede the point. I know that the -vast Australian trade union movement is itself -opposed to that type of practice, but -the practice has shown its ugly head An the few examples I have given and f hope (hat when legislation is -before the -chamber it will take those into account.
Of course, real competition in industry will be one of the mightiest weapons that the Government can produce in the fight against inflation. The recently announced lifting of import licensing will help to provide competitive prices for the Australian consumer. We have seen various honorable senators opposite shed crocodile tears about the lifting of those restrictions. Often in the past they have abused the Government for its savage import licensing restrictions. Now that these have gone overnight, honorable senators opposite have changed their /Hinds about the worth of the restrictions.
Labour’s views on inflation are, of course, almost completely negative. For example, two years ago when there was some difficulty, Mr. Calwell who is now the Leader of the Australian Labour Party but was then its Deputy Leader said, “ 1 give this advice to the people of Australia: Spend all that you can “. Statements of that sort are not very helpful in dealing with the economic situation in which we find ourselves. I believe that Labour has made no progress in economic thought since Mr. Calwell made that statement. That is just symptomatic of the financial eroticism that characterizes the socialist central economic planners. The one panacea that they are prepared to trot out on these occasions is that of price control. We have discussed that previously in this chamber. We have shown how it was tried by the Romans. We have told how Diocletian in 311, with all the totalitarian powers that the Roman Empire held over its citizens, attempted to control the prices of ail commodities, goods and services in the Roman Empire. He failed miserably. He had the same trouble with black markets that we experienced here during the war, and ultimately his financial system collapsed in chaos. It was tried by the Franks, by Elizabethan England, and by Germany in the war before last, and by the United States of America, and it was abandoned by them all. All that it succeeded in doing was to produce planned shortages.
I am sorry that my friend, Senator Nicholls, has left the chamber. In the years of prosperity shortly after the war to which Senator Nicholls referred when the Chifley Government was in power, we had no coal. The Communists saw to that. To-day, we export coal. After the war, there was not production of goods and services in the volume that we needed partly because - let us be quite fair - there was a great deal of demobilization generally yet to take place. I do blame the Chifley
Government not for the volume of production, but for its approach to the problem. We had no gas. Whether the dinners in Melbourne could be cooked at the week-end depended on some little collier staggering from Newcastle to Melbourne in time. Transport services were chaotic, and in every way underthecounter trade was the rule rather than the exception. The black marketeer flourished. And that is the counter to inflation! That is the economy to which the Labour Party would drag us backward by the heels.
– You do not believe that, surely.
– Mr. Chifley said, “ Never let the same dog bite you twice “. The electors of Australia will never allow the Labour Party to drag Australia back to those dim, dark days because the central economic planners of the ‘fifties have learned nothing from the chaos and the mess they made in the ‘forties.
– It was the war that dragged us backwards.
– I concede the difficulties caused by the war. In Britain, for example, in 1947 the central economic planners were in full control. Mr. Col Brogan said, “We have an island here which is almost made of coal and is surrounded by fish. It would take an organizing genius to produce a shortage of both in our community and unfortunately we have that type of organizing genius in the socialist government of Britain at the time.” It is quite clear that Britain has fought her way back to financial solvency through the merits of the competitive free enterprise system.
His Excellency referred to the Commonwealth’s co-operation in the matter of education. This Government has an enviable record in regard to Commonwealth scholarships and in assistance to universities. The Menzies Government has been the first government in Australia to realize the tremendous role played in Australia by the private ot church schools. With commendable foresight and with a sense of justice it has allowed school bills as a deduction for taxation purposes. In Canberra, this Government pays the interest on new school buildings of all denominations which care to take advantage of this assistance.
– All interest?
– Up to £25,000 a year.
– Why only in Canberra?
– I am just developing the theory, if you will give me a go. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself has always recognized the cardinal importance of education and has had a most illustrious academic career. I think we should all take cognizance of the fact that no man in this country is more wedded to the importance of the education of the youth of the nation than is the Prime Minister. The Melbourne “ Age “ contained this report of a speech delivered by the Prime Minister at Essendon on 28th February, under the heading, “ Church Schools Role Applauded by Mr. Menzies” -
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said yesterday he was a confirmed believer in church schools.
He was officially opening the new senior school of Essendon Grammar School. “ If you detach education from religion you do incredible injury to education,” he said.
Mr. Menzies said the association of the school with the Presbyterian Church was an example of the zeal for education which was a magnificent Scottish characteristic.
It brought the school in touch with the church and the church’s tradition of scholarship.
Church schools aimed not at the production of clever pagans but educated Christian gentlemen.
I trust that the Prime Minister’s approach to this matter may presage the adoption of the enlightened policies of Scotland and of England, where most substantial direct aid is given by the government to private schools which, in Australia, are an indispensable adjunct to our system. They educate approximately one-third of our school population.
I notice, too, in His Excellency’s Speech, the intimation that the Government will be introducing a marriage bill. I sincerely hope that we will be given a thorough opportunity to examine its provisions. I trust that its philosophical background will be more uplifting and based upon a sounder moral appreciation of this sacred institution than the recent divorce bill of unhappy memory.
I found Senator Vincent’s contribution to this debate of absorbing interest. His arguments confirm my view that international communism is the only real threat facing the free world. Recently Khrushchev made a visit very, very close to Australia. During his visit to Indonesia he apparently behaved with characteristic loutishness. When President Soekarno was showing him certain antique silverware plate which his nation had produced centuries ago in their old civilization and asked him which piece of silverware he would care to take back to Russia as a souvenir, all this man could say was, “I do not want any. I am not interested. How many rockets have you got? “ It may be that Soekarno had annoyed the Russian dictator by forbidding him to swim near Bali. Soekarno had said to the Russian, “ Your Excellency must not swim in Bali because your Excellency is rather corpulent and your Excellency might be taken by the sharks “. It might well be that Soekarno’s outspokenness annoyed the Russian, but at all events it was a very boorish way in which he went on when he was offered a souvenir in the interests of international goodwill.
Khrushchev’s visit to India was characterized by one series of inflammatory speeches against the West after another, and a continuous tirade of abuse against Washington in particular - because that is the power that counts - flows from Moscow radio and Peking. This is the background of the Summit conference in which so much faith is placed by certain people. It is doubtful whether President Eisenhower shares his faith, because he said during the week before last -
I am far too realistic to expect any miracles at the summit.
There has been no change of Soviet attitude on the Berlin question. On Tuesday of this week the Soviet Ambassador stated that the only way to unity is for the West to accept Russia’s terms. In this atmosphere, I ask the Senate to consider who stands to benefit from the strange rash of swastika daubings in many parts of the world about five weeks ago. The hateful, brutal, persecution of the Jewish people by Nazi Germany was an appalling thing - one of the most terrible blots on our century. The threat or pretended threat of its resurrection would instantly separate the West German Government from its Nato allies. Who stands to gain from such disruption? Only the Communists! The same underlying thought is apparent in the phony hullabaloo caused by the three-man German mission to Spain. One minute the West Germans are accused of not doing enough to defend themselves - of relying completely on Western aid - and the next minute it is suggested that they are tying up another fascist axis. Who stands to gain from the continued disruption of the Nato forces in this matter by this form of propaganda, which is disseminated so freely in our newspapers? Of course, only the Communists.
His Excellency referred to the oil subsidy being provided by his Government, lt is good to see that the Government is prosecuting the search for flow oil so vigorously. 1 have always been a believer in some form of insurance in these matters, and 1 feel that it would be a worthwhile risk if the Government invested the £9,000,000 which is required to turn the gas generator equipment at Morwell into a synthetic oil plant. That is a very small amount of money, having regard to the fact that the generators at Morwell would be capable of producing, even at the moment, at least 100,000,000 gallons a year. The octane content and the physical properties of this fuel could be indistinguishable from those of ordinary natural petroleum products. I feel that while we are looking for flow oil, it would be at least a reasonable precaution to add to the Lurgi plant at Morwell the other plant and equipment which would give us 100,000,000 gallons of petroleum a year, which, although only a drop in the bucket in our normal national requirements, would be of enormous value if our oil supplies were cut off.
It is good to see that, after the Petrov commission, Australia is to get some form of an official secrets act. I notice, too. that the Copyright Act is to be streamlined and brought up to date. My recollection is that the parent act in Australia was passed 48 or 50 years ago.
– In 1912. I think.
– It was the 1912 Copyright Act, as my friend Senator Laught points out. In these days of radio, television and other forms of mass dissemination of entertainment and communication, it is necessary that the laws of copyright should be modernized and streamlined.
Referring to television, let me say that it is clear that the growth of this medium has reached the stage when the Australian content of programmes must be increased. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) recently made a splendid statement on thi point. I think it is true to say that since the early debates, when the setting up of television in Australia was considered, n one has been more aware than Mr Davidson of the importance of the Australian content in our programmes. I quote from a report of a statement he made about a fortnight ago. It is -
Mr. Davidson stated that he had recently undertaken a general review of the extent to which the licensees of commercial television stations are fulfilling the obligations imposed on them by section 114 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1956 to use the services of Australians as far as possible in the production and presentation of programmes. In this connexion he had also informed i£~:h licensee that he considered that a minimum of 40 per cent, of a station’s time should be devoted to Australian programmes after it had been in operation for three years.
Mr. Davidson said that he was extremely disappointed at the fact that Australian programmes were completely lacking in the peak viewing hours and that he had told licensees that programmes distinctively Australian in content and character of at least one hour’s duration should be provided by each station during the peak viewing periods each week, commencing as soon as possible in 1960. He believed that he would have the full co-operation of the stations in this development.
Television stations, concluded Mr. Davidson, had achieved great success in the first three years of their operations and there were gratifying indications of their willingness, now that their services were firmly established, to make special efforts to develop an increasing proportion of Australian programmes.
That certainly shows that the PostmasterGeneral is acutely aware of the importance of an Australian content in our programmes and that, without being unnecessarily dictatorial to the licensees, he has given a pretty firm indication of what is in the Government’s mind.
– It shows he is an optimist, too.
– Perhaps 40 per cent, is a large quota, speaking as at this moment, but it is certainly a quota at which we should aim in the very near future.
When the Broadcasting and Television Bill was introduced in 1956. the PostmasterGeneral said -
Although I am prepared to concede to Opposition members that they are sincere in their desire to develop the use of Australian artists and Australian television programmes generally, I point out very definitely that no one on. this side of the chamber will bow to anyone else in his realization of the potentialities of television and in his determination to use those potentialities to the utmost extent for the development of Australian art and culture. Let that point be understood immediately.
That is quoted from “Hansard” of 10th May, 1956, at page 1963. In the light of what the Postmaster-General has said, and of many other Government announcements, 1 think it can be fairly said that at no time did the Government envisage television in Australia as being other than a predominantly Australian medium in every phase of programming, lt is also probable that it was the general feeling of those who were active in the fields of drama and music, that Australian artists should predominate.
We have had - and I do not quibble with the commercial station’s decision to use it - a great variety of most entertaining and. I suppose, excellently produced American films, primarily made for the television medium. These films have been sold in Australia very largely at a price which has been made possible because of the fact that they have already earned their main profits in the United States of America. They are. therefore, sold to licensees in this country at a price which is so competitive that the indigenous film industry has no chance whatever. Those of you who watch Australian films on television will, I think, agree with me that they are limited almost exclusively to extolling the virtues of soap, hair oil, baby powder, detergents or what have you.
– Have we got a film industry?
– There are about five producers in Australia, not one of them with any very substantial economic backing, and not one of them in a position to compete with the American imports. I do not complain about the use of American imports. Of course we must use them. They help us to give a very high standard of entertainment in our programmes, but what I do say is that we must not get to the stage where Australian culture, Australian sentiment and Australian ideals are in danger of being swamped by imported material from any nation, even a most friendly nation such as the United States. I hope that in the not far distant future the Government will consider some action to protect, assist, guide and encourage the production of Australian films. If such films cannot be produced as full-length features for use in theatres, perhaps they can be produced for television. 1 have in mind, in this regard documentary films, which could also be screened abroad where they might do us as much, good as does our participation in the Colombo Plan. I do not criticize the Colombo Plan. All I say is that we would get more benefit from the plan and our other activities in South-East Asia if the nations of that area were shown Australian films covering selected topics.
The other matter to which I propose to refer is that part of His Excellency’s Speech dealing with the Taxation. Committee of Inquiry. That committee is a reminder to me of the growth of bureaucracy and totalitarianism in certain Commonwealth departments.
– You should come over to this side.
– Just wait a moment. Under powers originally conferred by a socialist government, and which. I concede we have done nothing to trim, the Taxation Branch has exhaustive powers of investigation, interrogation, search, declaratory assessment and the like.
– Almost intimidation.
– I accept the addendum of Senator Robertson. Perhaps you could say, from the point of view of interrogation at all events, that the investigation officer of the Taxation Branch has all the powers of the Gestapo, with, the exception of the right of summary arrest and punishment. Many people who believe that they have been harshly or wrongly treated by the Taxation Branch are afraid to do anything about the matter because they fear further victimization. I have pleaded with one man in a certain city to give me permission to cite his case in the Parliament. He will not give it because he is afraid to do so. Many of these powers are too dangerous to be left in the unfettered control of any government department which is largely immune from any action by the courts of the land. I sincerely hope thai, this committee’s activities will result in the taxation laws being pruned to conform’ to generally accepted standards of justice and equity. I do not sympathize for a moment with the tax dodger - the man who evades his just obligation - but I do believe there is a very strong case for substantial amendments to the taxation laws.
Before concluding my remarks I turn to another prime example of departmental dictation and, shall I say, legislation. The department concerned is the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. This matter strikes mc as being an example of an attempt to legislate behind the back of the Parliament. I refer to the Cunningham case in Melbourne, which has already been raised in this Parliament. Early in May, 1959, a certain Mr. R. H. Cunningham, an amateur radio operator of Melbourne, was asked by commercial television station Channel 7 to give an educational demonstration on that station’s programme known as “ Young 7 “. Mr. Cunningham duly gave that demonstration. It was a great success and caused no trouble to anybody or interfered with any transmission.
– What did he demonstrate?
– He took his amateur radio equipment to the studio of Channel 7 and rigged up his transmitter in the studio so that he could call up Hawaii and other international amateur stations to show the children how amateur radio equipment is used to contact radio operators throughout the world.
A week or so after the demonstration a newspaper reported details of the telecast. He received a telephone call from a certain officer and almost immediately thereafter, in early May, a letter was received by Mr. Cunningham from the Telecommunications Division of the Wireless Branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department. We are dealing here, of course, with the Wireless Branch only. The letter, dated 11th May, stated that Mr. Cunningham appeared to have broken regulations 55 and 64 promulgated under the Wireless Telegraphy Act. which state that the licensee of an amateur station shall not use his equipment for pecuniary gain or use it except for instructional or educational purposes, and that it shall not be used to transmit any form of entertainment. Mr. Cunningham’s solicitors immediately wrote to the department on his behalf stating that he had received no money for the demonstration and that it formed part of an educational session provided by Channel 7, which has a licence to provide entertainment. The Wireless Branch again wrote to Mr. Cunningham - I am careful to distinguish between the branch and the Minister for reasons that will be obvious when I finish my remarks - stating that while Mr. Cunningham’s contentions may have been correct, he was not to do this thing again. In other words, the branch conceded that what the man did was lawful - that he was within his rights in doing it - but the Postmaster-General’s Department did not like it and was telling him not to do it again. When the unfortunate man, who had received no money whatever for his demonstration, although he had given some instruction to many thousands of Victorian children, complained to the same official who had telephoned him that a similar demonstration had been given by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, he was told by the Wireless Branch that what it allowed on the Australian Broadcasting Commission and what it allowed on commercial channels were two different things.
All this took place in May and June, when this Senate was not sitting. In November, at the first opportunity that I had, I raised the matter in this Senate. At the end of November, I received a letter from the Postmaster-General, two paragraphs of which I propose to read to the Senate. The Postmaster-General said -
I find that the situation to which you refer arose from sincere endeavours on the part of departmental officers to ascertain the circumstances underlying the arrangement entered into by Mr. Cunningham with HSV7 for the telecast in question, it having been noted that he had not applied to the department for permission to carry out the transmissions, as it is necessary for amateurs to do when they wish to use their installations for special purposes apart from experiments which they normally conduct.
All I can say is that that is not correct. The Postmaster-General continued -
Had Mr. Cunningham sought the requisite authority it would have been granted to him subject to compliance with the regulations including the provision that adequate precautions he taken to prevent interference with television and other services.
I ask the Senate to pay particular attention to the next sentence, which reads -
According to information which I have received the operation of his equipment caused severe interference to the sound system at HSV7, because of radio frequency induction effects. This illustrates the need for the vigilance which has to be exercised in enforcing control measures . . .
According to inquiries made by me that statement is completely untrue. If it were true, I ask the Postmaster-General why did his department wait five months to drag up a charge which it failed to make in its original allegations against Mr. Cunningham? If it were true, why was it not raised in May, 1959, when the event took place? If it were true that there was severe interference with the sound from the transmitter, why was the monitor in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department so inefficient and incompetent that he did not pick it up and reprimand Channel 7 away back in May, 1959?
– Why did the department let the A.B.C. do it?
– That is another question. On receipt of that letter I wrote to the Minister and said -
Thank you for your letter of 26th November, relating to the incident of an amateur - Mr. Cunningham, HSV.7 - and your department.
I greatly appreciate the trouble which you have taken to traverse the points which I raised in the Appropriation debate. I have been advised that certain facts relating to the matter are at variance with those set out in your letter.
I think you will agree with me that for the department to demand a permit for the doing of something which the law already allows is scarcely in keeping with the high traditions of service and efficiency for which so many sections of the Post Office are noted.
I am receiving further information on the matter and will write you again at a later date.
With very best wishes for a happy Christmas and a bright and prosperous New Year.
Following receipt of the PostmasterGeneral’s communication I had extensive inquiries made from the general manager of Channel 7, Mr. Cairns, and the chief engineer, Mr. Fisher. I have before me a copy of a lengthy letter which Mr. Cunningham received from Mr. Cairns. I find, first, that there was absolutely no interference with the sound transmission and, secondly, that there was a microscopic interference, not noticeable to the naked eye, with the picture. All those points were checked by the station engineers both prior to and during the transmission.
Accordingly, Mr. Deputy President, I am forced to the inescapable conclusion that the facts submitted by the Wireless Branch to the Minister are demonstrably untrue. What appears to have happened is this:
First, in an unnecessarily officious manner the branch attempted to discipline the man; secondly, he indicated to the branch, through his solicitors, that he was acting well within the law; and thirdly, five months later, when the matter was raised in the Parliament, a fresh and what appears to be an imaginary cause of complaint was discovered. The department has shifted its ground and said, “ You interfered with the sound “. I shall not recapitulate the grave suspicion under which that allegation must immediately fall. The department, in its correspondence, claims that all its actions were based upon sincere endeavours and that it was activated by the highest of motives. I cannot possibly accept those suggestions. I think the action of the branch has been oppressive and dictatorial in the extreme.
If the manager of a private enterprise company had dropped a klanger such as this and had placed before his board of directors what appeared on the surface to be an untruthful report in order to justify his own mistakes, he would very smartly have been replaced. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to carry out the most exhaustive inquiry into all the circumstances of this very small incident. I am not concerned about the size of the incident: it is the principle about which I am concerned. If the facts are as I have stated, it is quite clear that the responsible officer must resign or at least be placed in a less responsible position. The reason for this is obvious.
Over the centuries the British peoples have evolved their parliamentary system. This Parliament, and this Parliament only, can make laws governing the subject-matter to which I have referred. It will not abandon to the Postmaster-General’s Department, or even to the Treasury, the right to make and enforce its own local laws behind the Parliament’s back. Rule by regulation is bad enough; rule by departmental dictation is insufferable.
– Mr. Deputy President. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply proposed by Senator Lillico and seconded by Senator Drake-Brockman in most interesting and appropriate terms. I associate myself also with the expression of loyalty to the Throne and of jubilation at the birth of a baby prince to ensure the royal line of succession. 1 most heartily join in the welcome extended to our new Governor-General, Viscount Dunrossil.
Phineas Fogg went around the world in 80 days at a time when that was a marvellous achievement. Last year I was a member of a party of members of the Commonwealth and Western Australian Parliaments who encircled Australia in six days and who spent most of that time in the little known region of north-west Australia. We saw many things of great interest in that part of Australia. What excited me greatly was the prospect of finding oil. We visited Derby, which was chosen originally by West Australian Petroleum Proprietary Limited, commonly known as Wapet, as the main supply base for drilling operations. The company carried out extensive geological and geophysical surveys as well as important seismographic work. Oil was struck at Exmouth Gulf. Of 50 or more wells sunk, only the very first one gave a positive sign of the presence of oil. The company has done an excellent job in the north-west of Australia and has spent £15,000,000 or more since 1952 in that area. About half of that money has been spent on field work, which is the highly important part of the search for oil and consists of the most careful and expert prior geological evaluation of any area. I sincerely hope that the company’s continued efforts will meet with a high degree of success.
What impressed me most in that region, however, was the Ord and Fitzroy River system. That system provides a mighty stream of water which disembogues into the Timor Sea but which the great Creator intended to be used to produce food and crops for man and beast. Australia, on the whole, is a very dry country. If we exclude the rather fertile heavy rainfall belt along the eastern coast, particularly the northern part, we have a very dry country. Six per cent, of Australia’s water potential lies in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. In my judgment, after travelling through that region, it is obvious that it can never be properly developed without the damming of the rivers and the inauguration of irrigation schemes. In the Fitzroy River area we inspected an irrigation farm where 600 acres of rice had been grown successfully last year. The private company concerned was planning to plant 1,500 acres of rice this year. 1 saw excellent crops of sugar cane, rice, cotton, linseed and safflower growing at the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organization station at Ivanhoe, on the Ord River. It is national folly to neglect the use of this vast area along the river systems for irrigation and closer settlement.
The Commonwealth Government, following the visit of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the north-west of Australia some years ago. has made £5,000,000 available for the development of the northwestern part of the continent. The projects upon which that money may be used have been set out, and among them is the construction of a diversion dam at a natural rock bar known as Bandicoot Bar, in the Ord River. It is estimated that this dam will serve the needs of at least 20,000 acres of farmland and that, with intensive irrigation, it could support a great many farms. The approximate cost of such a dam ranges from £2,000,000 to £2,500,000. The Commonwealth Government has allocated a sum specifically for the purpose, so that the dam may be proceeded with. For all I know, at this moment engineers and workmen may be on the job. If that first dam on the lower reaches of the Ord River proves a success, it is proposed to construct a major dam in the upper reaches of the river, where there are gorges which are suitable for damming. In company with my colleagues on the tour, I had the opportunity to fly over the area and, during a low-level flight, to note the suitability of the gorges for damming purposes.
If the Ord River scheme succeeds, as I am certain it will, the next thing will be to tackle the great Fitzroy River in the same way. Irrigation schemes in that region would mean an increase of population there. Irrigation would mean farms, towns and wealth for the north-west of Western Australia. Mr. Court, the Western Australian Minister for the North-West. accompanied us on the tour, and I wish to acknowledge his great courtesy and his eagerness to help us. I acknowledge, too, the generosity of the Western Australian Government in helping us to see so much of the area during our tour. I came back with great confidence that some day, sooner or later, it will be possible for us greatly to develop that important part of Australia, a region which, till now, has been the Cinderella so far as the development of Australia has been concerned.
I wish> now, Mf. Deputy President, to say a few words about wool, since our whole- economy Ls geared to wool’. As we have been saying for so- many years, Australia rides on the sheep’s back. Senator Drake-Brockman, when, speaking earlier in the debate, referred to our wool marketing problems and the great, degree of unrest amongst woolgrowers throughout Australia because wool prices to-day are below the cost of production. The woolgrower has been told repeatedly that the sharp fall in ihe price of wool, which commenced, in May, 1958, and, with ups and downs, has. continued ever since, was due to. the competition of synthetics.. I do not want to under-rate the competition of synthetics, but the cry that synthetics have been taking the markets from wool has been, used by the woolbuyers as. propaganda, each time they have heavily depressed the value of wool on the markets. In my experience of more than 30 years as a woolgrower, I have noticed that heavy reductions in the prices for wool offered by the buyers have always been ascribed to competition by synthetics. During all that long period when the synthetics were supposed to be depressing the price of wool, we have seen some of the biggest boom prices for wool. So there is no consistency in the argument that the competition of synthetics causes the big reductions in the price of wool that occurs from time to time.
During the whole of the postwar period the whole of Australia’s wool clip has gone into yarn and fabric production. There has been no carry-over of wool from year to year. Statistics suggest that the world’s consumption of wool is steadily rising. Despite the healthy demand for wool., the buyers, during the months of May, June and September of 1958, succeeded in depressing the market until the price of wool fell from a figure that was profitable to the woolgrower to one that was distinctly unprofitable. The price dropped by from 25 per cent, to 33 per cent., and the wool Industry has not since recovered from that fall. It is therefore clear to me and. I think, to all those who closely observe the scene, that the fall in wool values in 1958 and since then, has been due, on the evi- dence, more to manipulation of the wool market than to competition from synthetics. The big drop in wool prices in 1958 took a king’s ransom from the Australian economy and has impoverished the whole pastoral industry ever since.
In, my judgment,, and in that of many other woolgrowers and observers: throughout Australia,, our wool-selling system is basically wrong.. In the light of the known facts to-day, growers who support what they call the free auction system of woolselling, are still living in the era of the blades and the slush lamp. Wool is sold on a market which, beyond all doubt, is. manipulated, even rigged, by the woolbuyers, first, by lot-splitting pies, and secondly, by- torward selling. The woolbuyers sell forward to overseas mill-owners at prices lower than current market values, before they have actually bought the wool at auction, which results in a deliberate depressing of the market. To make the plan succeed, the market has to be depressed at the right time, so that the buyers may meet their contracts with the overseas mill-owners. Therefore, I put it to the Senate that forward selling is a device to depress the market.
Vast fortunes may be amassed, and have been amassed, from the great turnover of wool at the Australian auctions, due to market manipulations in the happy hunting ground provided by the auctions. Who derives the profits? Certainly not the buyers of woollen fabrics and other manufactured products, who still pay for manufactured articles prices which were current before the market was heavily depressed in 1958. Why is all this allowed to happen? That is a fair question from those who listen to what I am putting. I say frankly that those conditions continue because of the lack of understanding by the woolgrowers of what is going on; because of their remoteness from the wool selling centres, their inability to get together often enough to discuss such matters, and, in many instances, their apathy. As Cassius said, “ The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves “. Until the majority of growers wake up to what is happening around them, there is not much hope of progressive development in the matter of wool-selling. If any honorable senator doubts the correctness of what I have stated here to-day, or thinks that I have overstated the case against the wool-buyers and their modus operandi, at a wool auction, let him. read the- sworn evidence given before Mr. Justice Cook at. the- inquiry ordered by the New South Wales Government, last year in. connexion- with the Goulburn wool selling centre. Those- who. seek the. truth, might well spare the time to, read this most interesting report which I understand is’ available in the Parliamentary library/-.
The Australian- wool industry is dangerously poised to-day between low prices for wool - about £72 per bale or 50d. per lb, - and: rising cost’s- which cut heavily into its reduced income: From- 60 per cent, to 80’ pec cent, of a. woolgrower’^ operating costs- are outside, his control. Those costs include: such, items as freight; fencing and building materials, cartage;, farm and station machinery, stock medicines, general supplies* repair bills and rates and taxes. Those are: costs- which the grower himself cannot control,, and- they represent from 60 ger cent., to 80! per cent: of his costs of production* Costs have been rising for some- years now.. During that time the grower- has been faced on- the one hand with rising costs for everything he needs, to run his property and- on the other hand, with lower prices; for his- wool. One? woolgrower5 who- is feeling the- pinch of the times’ put: ifr to me this way -
We have no control1 of our affairs outside the boundary/ fence; and* very little control is. left inside the- fence.
He- plaintively asked’ me whether the Commonwealth Government could ‘ take a. hand. I informed him that, in my opinion, the attitude of the Commonwealth Government was- right. I told’ him that the Commonwealth1 Government takes’ the view that in matters related to wool marketing it must be guided by the view of the. majority of the growers themselves. I indicated to him that I believed that if a majority of the woolgrowers expressed” a desire- for* a changed system- of- auctioning the Commonwealth Government would give very serious and favourable consideration to that view. In my opinion, the growers have to be educated to the- need for a change from the old system of free auctions to a more scientific approach- to the selling of their wool. When General Motors-Holden’s Limited- produces- a motor car, it does not put the vehicle up for sale by- auction, it fixes, the- price at. a figure which covers all the production costs plus a margin for profit. Every other manufacturing company in- Australia does precisely the same thing. But, because his father and> his grandfather did it, the woolgrower sends his- wool along ra the old-time way to be sold where these capable and skilful-1 buyers of- wool assemble, gang: up. and form buying pies- with the result, that- he. does> not get the benefit of competition from the full number of buyers present in. the auction’ room* The only solution to the problem is to establish what Senator Drake-Brockman advocated here the other evening and which an evergrowing number of woolgrowers are advocating to-day. I refer to the fixing of a minimum price for wool, a price based on cost of production and a reasonable margin of profit to the woolgrower. In my judgment the services of a young, energetic and’ highly capable man like Bill Gunn could be used with much greater profit to the industry in developing a> growers’ wool-selling organization on the minimum price basis than in his present, work of wool: promotion.
I do not- doubt for a moment that wool promotion may have some- advantages, but it seems rather odd to me that the woolgrower should be subjected- to substantial levies to promote the- sale of wool in a market where there, is no surplus of wool. One good friend, of mine; who is very highly connected with the marketing of wool in Brisbane - he is not a grazier - put the position-‘ very pointedly and logically to me when he said -
The suggestion that woolgrowers should be levied1 as much as’ £1 per bale to promote the sale of their wool: (f.e; to promote1 the sale of something that is always fully: sold’ from year to year-), is certainly novel.
The novelty certainly increases when the promotion is pushing the price of wool down below the cost of production.
– What about the future?
– I> speak not only of to-day but also, of the future. As- 1 have said,, the. wool industry is in a very bad way at the present- time. The recent 40-hour week award for. station employees has created a chaotic- condition, on many of the farms- and- station properties in Queensland.. It has also caused great alarm amongst- the woolgrowers* It” has forced up the cost of production, to say nothing of the cost rises associated with the increases in the basic wage and the margins last year. These costs have added further burdens to what the woolgrowers carry at the present time. Manufacturers of all kinds of pastoral machinery and equipment pass on these cost rises to the woolgrower who cannot pass them on to anybody else. He, like all primary producers, is at the end of the receiving line.
If the wool industry is to be saved, two courses of action seem necessary to me. First, the woolgrowers must win over enough grower support for the floor price auction and seek Commonwealth Government co-operation for a ballot on the provision of ways and means. The second step necessary is vigorous action to flatten down the inflationary upsurge.
Passing from wool, 1 think that the big problem facing Australia now relates to the effect on prices of the recent increases in the basic wage and margins. In May, 1959, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission increased the basic wage by 15s. a week. This is estimated to cost the economy about £65,000,000 per annum. In November last, the commission granted an increase in wage margins that seems likely to add about £100,000,000 to the national wages bill, making a total of £165,000,000 in wage increases for the year 1959.
– They will help to buy more wool.
– That is not reflected in wool prices. I am sure that if the workers received £5 a week more it would not make any difference to the price of wool on the Australian market, which is largely governed by the great quantity of wool purchased by overseas buyers. It must be clear to all that the release of so much extra spending power will give an extraordinary spurt to existing inflation, and that to that extent the purchasing power of the £1 must fall. If we want to maintain the value of the £1 we do not do it by an assault on the £1, which is the effect of these wage margins. Who can put value back into the £1 in the face of such movement? As prices rise as a result of these awards, the unions will be back before the Arbitration Commission seeking further increases. Where does it stop? Where is the limit? It could go on until men were receiving £50 a week and all our export industries were in the dust, broken and finished, with tremendous unemployment and our economy in deep distress. It is like the old story about the dog that was chasing its own tail. Wages are increased, then prices are increased. Then wages are increased again and prices increased even more, and the higher the spiral goes the nearer we come to economic disaster. It is all so puerile, when one comes to examine it.
I was surprised last night to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) use the fallacious argument that rising prices started the spiral of wage increases. In view of the ultimate ill effects on the economy, it does not matter very much what started it. I am reminded of the enigma about the hen and the egg, and which came first in the great creative plan. The facts are that the present wave of inflation commenced when wage-pegging regulations were relaxed in 1946, at the time when the Leader of the Opposition was a member of Mr. Chifley’s cabinet. The trade unions then immediately moved for wage increases, despite the warnings of distinguished economists, including the former director of the Queensland Bureau of Industry, Mr. Colin Clark who, by the way, was employed by the Queensland Labour Government of that time and was a protege of Mr. Forgan Smith, who was then Premier. Mr. Colin Clark, quite disregarding his association with the Labour Government in the Queensland Bureau of Industry, did not hesitate to strike out and say that precipitate action in the matter of wage increases would lead inevitably to severe inflation.
– He was a Labour man politically, too.
– That is so. At that time, consumer goods were in very short supply and rationing of commodities was in full swing. The unions, however, persevered and succeeded in getting substantial wage increases. As the commodity market was starved for goods of all kinds, the increased wages stimulated an increase in prices and all available goods rose in price. There was a wage increase followed by a price increase.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. President, prior to the suspension of the sitting 1 had dealt with various matters of importance to the people of this country. Before proceeding, with your permission, I should like to correct something which was not stated in terms which correctly expressed my view on the fixing of a minimum price for wool. I said that there should be a price based on the cost of production and a reasonable margin of profit to the wool-grower. I made that statement on the spur of the moment, and it does not correctly express the idea I had in mind. I should like to correct it by saying that a minimum price or what is called in the industry a floor price should be fixed by a board of growers as a base, and the auctions of the wool should proceed from that base - from that minimum. Some honorable senators had the impression that I had advocated the abolition of the auction system altogether. I want to correct that impression and say that nothing was further from my mind. I believe in the auction system, but consider that it should proceed from a base fixed by growers so that wool cannot be depressed to a dreadfully unpayable price.
– You advocate a floor price first?
– Yes, a floor price, and then the auction to proceed on that base.
Having made that point clear, I shall continue my speech. I had referred to the opinion publicly expressed by Mr. Colin Clark, principal of the Bureau of Industry in Queensland in the immediate post-war period, that severe inflation would follow the relaxing of wages control at that particular time. I showed, however, that despite his warnings the unions had persevered and had succeeded in obtaining substantial wage increases. The community at that particular time was starved for goods of all kinds and necessarily and consequentially the increased wages then awarded by the industrial courts forced up the prices of the available goods. That was where the present inflation had its origin. The increases of wages granted in the immediate post-war period started the inflationary ball rolling. Ever since, wage increases have been granted at regular intervals, and each increase has been followed by rising costs. The increase of costs, expressed as a percentage, corresponded closely to the wage increase expressed as a percentage. Each wage increase over the past ten years has been more or less neutralized by the cost rises, so that over all there has been very little gain to the wage earners in real wages as distinct from money wages. There has been an advantage, but very little and not as much as some people think, except in instances where industry has been able to absorb the rises. It will therefore be seen, Sir, that the formula over the period since 1 946 has been “ wages up. prices up “, and so on over this past decade.
To add to the confusion, the automatic quarterly wage adjustment system was conceded by the Arbitration Court. During the period when the automatic quarterly wage adjustment system operated to gran; increases, the continuing inflation received its greatest boost. Things got so bad thai the commission was forced by the weight of evidence to abolish the system. Despite that. I notice that the Australian Council of Trade Unions is pressing again for the reinstatement of the quarterly automatic wage determination.
– Just to catch up.
– In catching up, we might destroy the whole edifice. Let me quote to the Senate what the late Lord Keynes said. He was a noted British economist, and what he had1 to say with respect to automatic wage increases should be weighed by every thinking member of this Senate. I give credit to every member of this chamber for thinking carefully about these problems. His words were weighty and, to my mind, full of very great wisdom. The late Lord Keynes said -
The automatic quarterly increases very often force prices up to dizzy levels.
And then down they go again to awful depths! I should like honorable senators to ponder over the significance of those word’s, because if we were to reinstate these quarterly increases automatically, as advocated by the A.C.T.U., that situation could arise and immediate gains as a result could be lost absolutely and entirely in what would follow.
– Who was responsible for introducing the system?
– If ‘the honorable senator ;had -been here when 1 spoke (earlier, be would :have heard me declare ‘that -the whale wave of inflation -as we know it to-day has stemmed from ‘She .relaxation of wages control in [1-946. There has been a continuing wave of inflation - what “has been called .creeping inflation - -ever since. The creeping .inflation has not done .a great deal of harm, and to some .extent a good deal of benefit has been derived from -it, but it is now increasing as a result of t-he increase of 15s. a week in the basic wage last year and the subsequent big margins increase. The point has been reached where the increase of wages .in one year has now amounted to £J 65.000,0.00 and we ar.e really on the threshold of very great trouble. When, commenting .on the .basic wage increase and the increase of margins last year, Professor H. W. Arndt, Professor of Economics at the .Canberra .University College, said recently -
Wage increases have been the chief cause of increases in the cost .of living.
I may be wrong, but I believe that Professor Arndt contributes to the political thought of the Labour Party.
– He is a member of the Labour league.
– Very good; that makes -my point all the more effective. He is a member of the Australian Labour Party, Senator McCallum informs me authoritatively. Therefore, anything he says in this respect must have some significance His statement debunks completely the argument of those members of the Opposition and those trade union leaders who declare that wages are always chasing rising costs. Professor Arndt supports my view that this all began in 1946, when wage controls were relaxed. When wage controls were’ relaxed the unions secured wage increases, and price increases followed. That pattern has continued ever since. Professor Arndt, being an honest member of the Labour Party, declares what he believes to be right and he is in agreement with what I say, namely, that wage increases have been the chief cause of the increase in the cost of living. Honorable senators opposite may object, but they can fight it out with Professor Arndt. Let them go down to the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour Parry and fight it out with him. I say that what he says -has -some significance and that it is at complete variance with -the .arguments -of -Opposition members, who have been ‘loudly proclaiming in this debate that wages are -chasing prices all the time. The -contrary is true.
– We win see the professor about that.
– Fight it out with Professor Arndt. He has made a statement which supports any line of thought completely, and what ite says is true.
Br. .Coombs, the Governor of -the Commonwealth Reserve Bank, recently warned Australians that there -was a real danger that what we term creeping inflation will grow into galloping inflation. Dr. Coombs is a very capable, thoughtful man who understands all the problems of finance and banking. He has thrown out that warning at this very critical moment in our economic history, based on the tremendous wage increases granted by the Arbitration Commission during 1959, the effects of which are not yet fully felt in the economy of this country. We have left the creeping inflation behind us and have entered the far more dangerous stage, where the economy is facing the risks of the more -malignant forms of this inflationary movement.
The Commonwealth Government, despite what is said in the amendment to the Address-in-Reply moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, has been quick to act. It has decided to balance the Budget. That is a very important decision at a time like this. The Commonwealth Government has decided that the Budget shall be balanced this year, and has also decided to restrain the growth of excessive liquidity by calling up to the Reserve Bank of the Commonwealth any substantial amount of surplus money in the hands of the trading banks. Those are two very good moves. The action of the Commonwealth Government in removing import restrictions is excellent and must have a very useful effect when it becomes fully operative. This action will release a great flow of consumer goods, which, added tothe existing volume of Australian manufactured goods, will help to absorb the enormous spending power which the Arbitration Commission’s decision has generated.
If honorable senators cast their minds back to the period I have described - the immediate post-war years - they will remember it was the time when wage-pegging regulations were relaxed. There was a great shortage of commodity goods. We had just got over the war and industry had not settled down to production. There was a limited production of goods, and the wage increases which occurred following the relaxation of pegging threw an additional sum of money into the economy. This money had to compete for a limited amount of goods and as a result the inflationary movement started. The present position is that the release of this tremendous sum of £165,000,000 during 1959- the effects of which are not yet fully felt in the economy - is going to create enormous competition for the goods which are produced here. Left to itself alone, the force of competition would cause extreme inflation, but by throwing open the gates and allowing a big flow of imported goods into the country, several good things will be achieved. Firstly, this action will act as a sponge to absorb the surplus spending power of the country as a result of increased wages, and secondly, it will help to promote trade and commerce with other countries and keeps the laneways of trade open everywhere so that one country can profit when dealing wilh another.
– If we had never had inflation, would we have had prosperity?
– It is all relative. I say that if we had never had inflation, perhaps we would have had greater prosperity than we know to-day, because our costs would have been down to such a level that our manufacturing industries, on a low-cost basis, could have exported their goods to overseas markets at a price which the overseas markets could pay, and we would have built up our industries on a sound basis. However, to-day we are battling to sell our manufactured goods on the overseas markets. Only a limited number of our manufactured goods can be sold overseas, and we are dependent entirely for the security of our London funds on the sale of our exportable primary products. It is primary production that is carrying the economy of Australia to-day; never let us forget that. I shall develop that theme a little further as I proceed. It is what we produce from primary production sources to-day - our wool, wheat, metals, beef, butter and the rest of it - that is providing the funds overseas to bring in the machinery and plant that is helping to build up our secondary industry.
If our primary industries suddenly collapsed due to our costs getting out of bounds, I can assure honorable senators that all Australian industry would suffer and that our economy would get into a state of partial, if not complete, collapse. Those are the dangers that are lurking in the present situation. In reply to Senator Ormonde, I say that had there been no inflation at all, it is my opinion that we would have been on the highway to far greater prosperity to-day than we are now experiencing. Goodness knows, we are very prosperous to-day except that there is the one weakness of cost inflation. It has various facets, but I stand by what I have just said to Senator Ormonde. This action of the Commonwealth Government in removing the bulk of import restrictions will release a great flow of consumer goods which, added to the existing volume of Australian manufactured goods, will help to absorb the enormous spending power which the Arbitration Commission’s decision has generated. It is too late to remedy the ill-effects of the margins decision, but the Government’s determination to intervene in the present basic wage case so that the commission may be informed that the economy needs time to absorb the wage increases of £165,000,000 awarded last year is a very courageous political action and could well become the most important of the several moves the Government has taken to meet the danger of inflation getting out of hand. The grave risk to-day is that inflation will get out of hand. Inflation has got out of hand in other countries and the same thing could happen here. It has got out of hand in other countries because many governments in other parts of the world have lacked the courage to stand up to the threat.
I want to make it clear that I am wholeheartedly in favour of wage earners obtaining their proper share of the national income, but the present method of determining their share has serious defects in my judgment. The Australian Country Party favours a permanent bureau of economic research being attached to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to keep the commission fully supplied with facts drawn from statistics and obtained by research, so that wages and hours throughout industry can be fixed by the commission in accordance with the capacity of the economy to pay. That is the big point - to fix wages and hours in accordance with the capacity of the economy to pay. If that is done nobody can be hurt, but in the present situation excellent judges, listening in the main to the very capable presentation of claims by able union advocates and the reply by employers of labour, sometimes do not pay sufficient regard to the capacity of the economy to pay.
If 1 recollect correctly, Sir Earle Page was responsible, as a member of the BrucePage Government as far back as 1928, for the inclusion in the arbitration laws ot a provision to establish a permanent bureau of economic research. In the succeeding changes of government over the years since 1928 that provision has not operated, with the result that about the end of the war it was deleted from the arbitration laws. That provision should be restored. It is a very important provision. The central council of the Australian Country Party in Sydney last week carried a resolution recommending that the Government should adopt that method of assisting the economy. The economic scene has changed greatly since the pre-war period and the post-war period. The provision to which I have referred was allowed to drop in days when there was less economic stress than there is to-day. The Australian economy has leapt forward at a terrific rate during the last decade and the problems of wages and hours have become more complex in the light of immigration pressures and a condition of full employment. There is a real need to-day for the collation of facts and figures to help the commission.
I think that such well-organized bodies as the United Graziers Association, the dairy-farmers organization, the National Farmers Union of Australia, and other organizations representative of our primary producing industries, particularly those engaged in the export of primary produce, should always be represented by competent advocates at basic wage hearings. In the margins case the union advocates claimed that there was widespread prosperity in all industries. Nobody appeared to put the case for our primary exporting industries, or indeed any primary industry at all, or to rebut the many extravagant claims that were made by the trade union advocates. The commission, in fact, provides a forum at such hearings where interests that could be injuriously affected by its decisions may appear in addition to the contending parties. That is important. It is not just a matter of the employer interests versus the unions. It is a matter of how far the decision of the court will affect every section of the community; how far the various sections of the community may be injured by the decisions of the court. Those interests should be represented. They should be present to rebut claims, state their case and hold out for what they conceive to be in the interests of the people of Australia generally.
– Some of those primary industry interests are not directly affected by any basic wage decisions.
– I think most of them are affected and decisions of the court in regard to the basic wage are reflected throughout all our Australian industries. A grave injustice is done to those sections of our people on fixed incomes every time these devastating inflationary cost increases are determined. If the recipients of fixed incomes were to organize and send a representative to point out to the commission their plight if increases were granted, the commission would not ignore the representations made on their behalf. The members of the commission are human*; men and would want to know the extent to which the purchasing power of persons in receipt of fixed incomes would decline as a result of any increases that may be granted.
I direct the Senate’s attention to the effects of rising costs piling up against all our exporting primary industries, the maintenance of which is so vital to the capacity of this country to pay any sort of wage. If our primary exporting industries were rendered unprofitable by the commission’s decision, the bottom would fall out of the entire economic system of this country. We cannot get away from that fact. Therefore it is highly important that the primary exporting industries, which earn nearly £1,000,000,000 of export wealth a year, should not be weakened by the court awards beyond their capacity to pay. The effect of the basic wage and margins decisions will be felt very severely indeed by our primary producers because of the increased cost of transport, rates, taxes, roads, water supplies and other facilities, all farm and station equipment, living generally and building materials, and the very high protective duties that will be imposed. All primary producers, particularly those engaged in the export trade, must bear those heavy rising costs. 1 ask the Senate to bear in mind the fact that our exportable primary products must sell at prices which other countries are prepared to pay for them. There is no escaping that. If we could secure substantial margins over and above the prices offered, and also from time to time could obtain substantial price increases at the direction of some overseas court of arbitration, the position would not be so bad. But things do not work in that way and we must face up to the fact that other countries will not pay for our exportable primary products the prices that our producers require lo offset the high cost of production in this country. I ask honorable senators opposite to bear that in mind.
Other countries are not concerned1 one iota about our cost of production. They pay what they can afford to pay for our products, and not a penny more. They will not increase the price they are prepared to pay just because the Arbitration Court in this country orders wage increases which place us beyond the reach of those markets.
– The farmers are on clover locally.
– I am talking about the primary producer who has to export his products. If there was only the local market to consider and we did not have to sell £1.000,000,000 worth of goods to maintain our position in the world and to keep our economy on a sound basis, it would not matter a toss what other countries were prepared to pay. But the position is not governed by local prices’, it is governed by overseas prices. It is the balance of our funds in London which enables us to maintain our position. Honorable senators must get that thoroughly into their minds.
– Would not the woolgrower be affected most?
– The wool-grower is badly affected. In fact, because of these increases to which I have referred, all primary industries are affected. The dairy farmer is affected. There is a great section of public thought against the Commonwealth Government’s subsidy of £13,000,000 a year to the dairy industry. But if surplus dairy products are sold on the world market at prices that are not favorable, the dairy farmer can lose money, despite the payment of that subsidy.
– But the greatest export would be wool.
– Wool is the greatest export, admittedly. But we must accept the price which other countries pay us for our wool.
– We were getting too much for it a few years ago and we could not get rid of the surplus money.
– That was part of the ups and downs of the industry. But it does not help the woolgrower. If a boom comes and he gets a high price, he is taxed. The extra money is skimmed off into various funds, as happened in 1951-52. But the point is that the wool-grower has to take what the world market pays him, and at the present time it is not paying him a profitable price. Woolgrowers provide the greatest part of our overseas funds. If the woolgrower does not get a fair price and costs continually rise against him, it is possible that he will not be able to continue production profitably.
Our primary industries generally are being driven to the wall by rising costs. The problem for us all to consider is this: Can our exporting primary industries continue to stand up much longer to these regular and additional imposts without serious detriment to production and employment? It is a sobering thought thai, if our exporting primary producers go down they will not go down alone: we will all go down the drain together. Let that bc understood. That has happened in this country before, and I do not think any one wants it to happen again.
In conclusion, let me say that the Opposition’s argument that the measures taken by the Government to halt inflation are attacking the living standards of the people is pure demagogic nonsense. This Government has ac.te.d to save and protect the living standards of the Australian people. Opposition speakers have worked themselves, into, a fury about exploitation of the worker by big business; but they overlook the fac$ that our greatest volume of wealth i.s produced by little business- small manufacturers, small farmers, whose industries are being progressively- undermined- by rising costs. X reject the amendment and support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
– I join with other honorable senators in supporting the expression of loyalty to our gracious sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, f also extend’ my good” wishes to Viscount Dunrossil and his wife; I wish them, a happy stay in Australia. I congratulate Senator Lillico and Senator Drake-Brockman, the mover and seconder respectively, of the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply.
Earlier to-day Senator Poke made a statement about the. cross-charter of aircraft between Ansett-A.N.A. and. Trans-Australia Airlines and quoted some figures which he said he had. obtained, from, an airline operator. Th.e honorable senator did. n.o.t tell us the. name, of the person concerned. I checked, with. the. Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator. Paltridge) the, figures that, the Minister himself furnished to. us. He said that the. QC6B. aircraft, were, valued at £2,8.1,000, each. and. the. Viscount 700s at £225,000. There is. a. distinct, difference betwen those figures and the figures quoted by Senator Poke. Senator Poke quoted the sum- of £300,000 for the DC6B aircraft and £600,000’ for the Viscounts.
– Is that the cost price?
– No. That is the value of the aircraft. The Minister gave us the official valuation and Senator Poke gave us his valuation.
– Can any one furnish us with the cost price?
– The Minister cannot?
– I do not know. The honorable senator can ask the Minister.
– We have been asking him for days but he has not answered, the question.
– The Minister has assured me that those valuations were, obtained and. agreed to by the boards of both Ansett-A.N.A. and T.A.A. They were confirmed, by inquiries made in all parts of the world, and ‘they took into- account recent sales in various countries. I want to place on record the fact that the figures furnished by the Minister can be corroborated, whereas at no stage has Senator Poke told us his authority for the valuation of £600,000 for the Viscount aircraft.
In. his attack on the1 Government’, the Leader of the; Opposition in another place said-
We believe that the1 country is- prosperous..
That sounds very strange coming from Mr. Calwell, after his prophecies of doom, poverty, recession, and depression over the last ten years. The Opposition, has based its attack, on. the Government, on the ground of inflation. Yet the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who knows quite well that saving is- one of the best methods to defeat inflation, said in- 1951, at a meeting at Brighton, in Victoria -
Buy all you can.. Do not save your money, because the position is. going to be desperate.
That is what he. said nine years ago. That highly inflationary suggestion was made by a senior member of the Australian Labour Party who to-day holds the very high position, of Leaden of Her Majesty’s. Opposition. He now proposes to save this, country from inflation.
In, his- speech) last. week,, he said that we were experiencing profit inflation, and, he cited some, figures. He: said, that Australian companies, other than mining- companies, last year made a profit of £130,000,000. I am, sure that the supporters of the Opposition appreciate that the last two decisions of the, Commonwealth Conciliation and. Arbitration. Commission have added £165,000,000 to the annual wages bill. That annual addition exceeds the total company profits, about which Mr. Calwell complained, by £3-5,0.0.0,000.
His suggested method of combating inflation, is to seek, powers, by way of a referendum. He wants to ask the people of Australia to hand to> the National Parliament economic powers, and-, of- course, he wants to retain import licensing. My comment on the suggestion, in, regard to a referendum is that history has proved that it is very difficult to have proposals accepted by the people at a referendum, and that the Australian people are very reluctant to hand to the Commonwealth Parliament sweeping powers which could,, perhaps, be misused; by an. unscrupulous gove.rnm.ent. I do not know that I have heard Qf a more futile suggestion for the solution of a problem which, according, to the. Opposition, requires immediate solution. I think we all are well aware that alterations of the Constitution are very difficult to bring about and could take many years tQ achieve.
The Opposition asserts that the relaxation of import controls is a very dangerous thing,. I suggest that, the Opposition, should be consistent. In. 1952, when the Government introduced the more modern edition of import licensing,, the members pi the Labour Party threw up their hand* in. horror and said that tha.t was* a very bad thing to dss. D,f. Evatt, who was the Leader pf- the Opposition, at the time, said, “I look forward to the. time when this system can be removed “. Now, when the Government proposes to remove import restrictions, the Opposition says that that is a very wicked thing to do.
Let me now turn to some of the Government’s positive proposals to deal with inflation. One such proposal is to. avoid deficit financing because that adds to the supply of money, ahead of the supply of goods and services, and is an economic weapon to be used only in a time of recession. The direct opposite of that, of course, is to budget for a surplus, as a counterinflationary action. Secondly, the Government intends as far as possible to remove import restrictions so that a greater flow of goods may come on. the market. I think it is a recognized fact that inflation represents an over-supply of money in relation to the supply of goods and services available. I hope that the Opposition will continue to use the bogy of disaster as the main plank of its platform of attack against the Government. I certainly hope that that method of attack will be used at the next general election, because I do not think that the electors will fall for it.
It is interesting to find, when one converses with the managers of some of the larger manufacturing concerns, in Australia to-day, that their problem is not so much to obtain land to expand their factories as to obtain sufficient land, to provide parking facilities, for their employees’ cars. Is that a sign of poverty, disaster and; subjection?
– It is a sign of hire purchase..
– .Well, the employees have the cars, and the manufacturers have the problem of finding sufficient parking space, for them. I was told, three or four days, agO, that the Pope industries in Perth will have to provide more parking facilities, for their employees’ cars. At present, the cars are parked in the streets and are creating a traffic hazard.
The Address-in-Reply debate gives honorable senators an opportunity- to direct attention to hardships which certain sections of the community are suffering. I intend to take advantage of that opportunity. I associate myself- with the remarks of Senator Kendall and I join with, him in asking the Government to make available, rental and installation-free, telephones, for the totally blinded people of this country. Blindness is a very cruel affliction. It robs the unfortunate people who are so afflicted of many of the beauties of this world, which we who can see often take for granted. Surely, a government that has shown itself to be so sympathetic towards the unfortunate members of the community will make this concession to blind people, I have not gone into the figures, but on the figures that Senator Kendall stated, the cost of this benefit would be only 1 per cent, of the profit of the Telephone Branch of the Postal Department which was referred to in yesterday’s newspapers. I suggest that the telephones be installed free and that no rental be charged, but that the people concerned pay for their calls. I ask the appropriate Minister to place these views before his colleagues.
In Perth, there is an organization known as the Professional Photographers Association which has been suffering the effects of rather harsh sales tax legislation. In 1950, I understand, sales tax on photographic material was increased from 8i per cent, to 33£ per cent., which was rather a steep increase. It was reduced for a brief period to 16J per cent., and then was increased to the current rate of 25 per cent. To indicate the effect that the sales tax has had on photographic businesses, I shall read the following submission made by the Professional Photographers Association: -
Except in a few rare cases, the portrait photographer is required to pay sales tax on his total monthly receipts, even including deposits where possibly no eventual sale is made. Thus, the sales tax becomes virtually a turnover tax; an insuperable burden for a struggling business. If, as the Federal Treasurer stated in 1950, photography was placed in the higher sales tax rating “ for the purpose of freeing and diverting labour to more essential industries and drawing away surplus money to prevent further inflation “, then the measure has met with unparalleled success, as the following facts will graphically illustrate.
Ten years ago, three of Perth’s oldest established studios - La Fayette, Langham and Ruskin - employed staffs of 20, 13 and 30 respectively. To-day those figures are 7, 2 and 1. (Mr. Fielding, of Ruskin Studio, after 40 years in business, will soon be closing altogether.) Of the remaining portrait studios operating in the city, it is doubtful if there is more than one employing as many as six on their staff. Throughout the State few photographers are in a position to maintain staff of over one or two, in fact, most members of our profession have been reduced to the one-man business category, relying to some extent on pieceworkers.
I shall not read further from the submission, but I again ask the appropriate Minister to consider this request for either complete abolition of the sales tax on photographic material, or at least a reduction of it, with the sympathy that it deserves.
– It should be removed altogether.
– I suggest that it be abolished. Very few people are involved, and it is killing this industry.
In June, 1958, a submission was made to the former Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, by the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association asking for the revision of sales tax on motor cars used for the physically handicapped. Apparently this was not acceptable to the Government as nothing eventuated. The association now puts forward a suggested amendment to the act. It seeks, for a physically-handicapped person, the remission of sales tax on -
Motor vehicles and parts thereof for use in his personal transportation (and not for sale) by a person who has lost a leg or a major part thereof, or such proportion of the efficient use of one or both legs as, in the opinion of a medical officer of the Department of Health, or a medical practitioner appointed by the DirectorGeneral of Social Services for the purpose of examining claimants for invalid pensions under the Social Services Consolidation Act, renders him unable to use public transport.
That is not an unreasonable amendment. In its submissions, the association goes on to say -
It is our intention in this submission that cars be made more readily available to people who have difficulty in walking, who cannot use normal public transport and are therefore debarred from obtaining employment.
Their case is a fairly strong one and it is built on the following bases: -
Economic grounds -
The figures which I have were obtained from the New South Wales association; and, basically, the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association is interested in the happiness of the hopelessly physically handicapped individual. We know that there are 70,000 invalid pensioners in Australia, a big percentage of whom could be usefully occupied. The association uses the words “ usefully occupied “ in the broadest sense. It says that any person who must spend years occupying his time by reading and diversionary activities tends to become introverted, gradually withdrawing himself from society, suffering from an unexercised personality and loss of selfconfidence. In its submission to me, the association says1 -
There has been and still is a tendency in the community to treat physically handicapped persons as being mentally dull and for either over-protection by parents and friends or complete rejection by parents and friends. Most physically handicapped persons are perfectly normal in every way except for their physical disability. To maintain their emotional and mental balance, it is necessary, for the sublimation of their creative energies, to become useful units within the community pattern. We have waged a continuous campaign in trying to educate the public at large to the acceptance of the human rights of physically handicapped people, as has been accomplished 50 years aso by the more advanced countries in the world.
Our programme of sheltered workshop activity has reversed the introversion process in the limited number of people whom we have handled. Of a total turnover exceeding 400, 40 people who were previously in receipt of the invalid pension are now receiving full award wages directly through our workshop activities. Of that 40. twelve cannot possibly go to work without a cur of their own or being transported by somebody else. In addition to the 40 former invalid pensioners, we have assisted five sickness beneficiaries to go back to work, all of whom required cars, and eight others who, because of private income or being in receipt of workers’ compensation, were excluded from social service benefits.
Also, many examples can be given where the ownership of a car has virtually been the restoration of loss of legs, the development of independence and a fantastic improvement in motivation with a resulting desire to be completely selfsupporting.
I shall not weary the Senate by reading the whole of the submission, although it is excellent. In 1950, the United Kingdom Government established that 75 per cent, of the people who received free vehicles - these unfortunates do enjoy that privilege in the United Kingdom - went to work and the association says that its experience has been that when a car must be paid for not many people can afford this means of providing freedom for the physically handicapped unless the physically handicapped work. Therefore, it argues that the number who would find employment under its suggestion would represent a higher percentage than those who obtained employment in the United Kingdom. I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and the Government to examine the submission made on behalf of the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association with a view to giving some relief and encouragement to those people who, through their affliction, cannot use public transport.
I turn now to the Postal Department and draw the attention of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) to the very bitter complaints that I have received - I have no doubt that a number of my Western Australian colleagues also have received them - from local authorities in Western Australia over the proposed coverage of television in country areas. Here I should like to place on record the names of the various local authorities which have written to me asking me to make representations on their behalf. They are -
Corrigin Roads Board.
Wongan Ballidu Roads Board.
Cuballing Roads Board.
Narrogin Roads Board.
Beverley Roads Board.
Gnowangerup Roads Board.
Phillips River Roads Board.
Lower Great Southern Regional Council.
Wagin Roads Board.
I shall not weary the Senate by reading all their submissions; I content myself! by quoting the submission from a representative of the Wagin Roads Board which, broadly, covers most of the complaints. It reads -
I have been directed to approach you in regard to television for residents of Wagin and other centres in the Great Southern area for whom it seems there is no provision whatsoever in present government planning.
Press reports state that of twelve stations to be allotted for Western Australia, in the future, four will be located in Perth and the remainder at coastal towns of Geraldton, Bunbury and Albany, and the only inland station at Kalgoorlie. Two will be approved for each of the four latter towns.
My Board believes that television could be of immense value to the community with improved techniques and well informed supervision, and can see no reason why the need for this service in a highly developed area, with numerous established towns like the Great Southern, or any other inland area, should be completely and utterly ignored, with no attempt at any explanation why the transmitting stations should all be located in a vast perimeter serving an area of only 50 miles on the landward side of each, when a similar transmission to sea will be completely wasted.
Farmers and other residents of this district are incensed at the Government’s proposals in this matter and we ask that you assist in positive action as soon as possible, to effect the granting of sufficient licenses to effectively cover our area and other centres in this region.
Representations were made through parliamentary members in September last, but from replies received these were directed to the Hon. PostmasterGeneral. 1 forwarded the representations to the Postmaster-General, and I know a number of my colleagues did. The submission continues -
On this present occasion however, it would be appreciated if the subject could be brought up in the House during the next session, in order that some definite information may be supplied as to when the Great Southern area can expect to share in this popular service.
Honorable senators will remember that last year I asked the Postmaster-General to investigate the possibility of using Adler translators as a means of providing a service, even though it might be only a stopgap service. These translators are not expensive units to install and operate. The figures that I cited were £4,000 for the small unit and £10,000 for the large one. These country areas should receive first consideration, because after all the city dweller is fairly well catered for in the provision of numerous amenities. I am just as perturbed as are country people that many country areas will have to wait until 1962 at the earliest for a television service, and even then large areas will not receive a coverage. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to have another look at the proposed positioning of these stations. 1 close on the note that it was refreshing to Government supporters to hear the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in another place, Mr. Calwell, finally admit, as he did at 3-40 p.m. on 9th March, 1960. that, “ We of the Labour Party believe that the country is prosperous “. 1 congratulate the Menzies Government on this achievement and on having finally wrung that admission from the Opposition. 1 support the motion and oppose the inclusion of the additional words as proposed in Senator Kennelly’s amendment.
– At this late hour I rise to support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly). In doing so, 1 wish to associate myself with all other senators in expressions of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen and other members of the Royal Family, and also in the welcome that has been accorded to our new Governor-General, Viscount Dunrossil. I regret, however, that on the occasion of His Excellency’s first public function in Australia he should have been called upon to present to the Parliament a Speech in which there was really so little substance but in which there was a great deal that was disappointing to those of us who had expected so much from the Government this year. However, we are quite used to disappointments of that kind. Our disappointment turned to dismay yesterday, when we read of the huge profit that was made by the Postmaster-General’s Department, despite the excuses put forward last year by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), for the substantial increases that were then made in postal and telephone charges, in the face of requests from senators on all sides for reconsideration.
This is a matter in which I have a proprietary interest because quite recently I became the centre of a controversy between a newspaper and the Postal Department, from which I was the one who came out worst. The newspaper had conducted a competition in which, by some fluke or other, I had submitted a successful entry. However, my entry, although posted in adequate time, did not arrive at the newspaper office until a week later. I suffered quite a large monetary loss, but I did not raise this matter with the press or make a protest to the department about it, because I felt I had taken that risk when the letter was posted. I would not have known that I had submitted a correct entry had I not been telephoned by the newspaper concerned ten days later, as I was about to leave on a country trip. I said that the entry must have been transmitted by camel train or smoke signal in order to take a week to reach Melbourne. The Director of Posts and Telegraphs, in Melbourne, later wrote to me, assuring me that there had been no delay by postal officials in Melbourne. I am quite certain that there was no delay in the post office of my own home town of Claremont, because I have seen the post mark on the envelope. The “ Herald “, which is the newspaper concerned, has been equally convincing to me on the score that there was no carelessness on the part of its staff. So, I can only blame the leprechauns, I suppose, and lose gracefully.
I would not wish it to be thought that I was in any way critical of the employees of the Postal Department in this matter. I mention that because something to the contrary has been stated in the press. I did not want to be a figure of controversy between the press and the Postal Department. I do not bear anybody any ill will over the incident. What one has never had he does not miss. I was more than a little disappointed when I found what had happened, but in any huge organization such as the Postal Department, where the human element is involved, there is always a possibility of error, and I accept that position.
However, I do say emphatically that there have been, to my knowledge, in the last few weeks some very serious instances of non-delivery of telegrams. Whereas mail goes through various processes before finally reaching the addressee, the sender of a telegram, which is generally of an urgent nature, is always confident that it will reach on time the person to whom it is sent. 1 have received letters from people all over the Commonwealth who have had similar experiences to mine, but there are many more thousands of people who have had excellent service. I am one of those who always had excellent service until, quite recently, I sent two very important telegrams, one to my leader, which he has not yet received, about a conference I was to attend in Melbourne, and another, lodged at the same time, cancelling travel arrangements and accommodation in Melbourne. The latter telegram also has not been delivered. Another telegram that was sent by a member of my family was not delivered and ultimately the sender received a refund of the cost of the telegram. I know of several instances where people have suffered pecuniary loss, not such as that which I suffered, which really concerned a matter of chance, but in business matters through the non-delivery of telegrams.
I know that this matter is at present being investigated by the department. I have a written notification from the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Perth that my specific complaints are receiving full investigation. But I feel that, in view of the increased cost of telegrams and other postal services, the very least the public is entitled to expect is prompt delivery. So much for that matter now. I know that an opportunity to discuss the Post Office fully will be given to us at a later date, when the report promised by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is presented to the Parliament after investigations into the workings of the department are completed. Tonight, my remarks must necessarily be brief. 1 make it clear that I should not like any member of the postal service or of the staff of the newspaper concerned to feel that I was vindictive towards him or that I blamed him in any way for an unfortunate incident in. which, after all, I was the only sufferer.
I should like to refer now to some of the contents of the Governor-General’s Speech. Very much has been said about inflation. Although I often find myself in agreement with Senator Hannan, I violently disagree with a statement he made this afternoon about Australia’s economy at the end of World War II. I remind him that when this Government took office, Australia had recently finished a war for survival. A terrific effort had been put into it by the Government, by those who are now the members of the Opposition, and also by the people because everybody had subscribed fully to all policies that were adopted by the government of the day in order to bring it to a successful conclusion. Therefore, it is hardly fitting for members of the Governmnet parties to talk as they do about those dark and dire days of the forties when they must realize that if sacrifices had not been made we might not be in our places now. We might not have survived. It is very much better to be alive, even though weather-beaten, than not to be alive at all.
His Excellency has stated that legislation will be introduced to curb monopolies. Such legislation is long overdue. We all know how one by one the small corner shops are disappearing, how the big supermarkets are taking over and how the amalgamations, one after the other, are taking place. Many millions of pounds are being applied in the amalgamation of large businesses. I do not blame the people, particularly the housewives who do their shopping at supermarkets where, perhaps, they can buy goods cheaper. The housewife has to try to make her money go as far as she can. As a result of inflated prices, she perhaps goes to the supermarket rather than to the old-fashioned corner store, although she has received faithful service there over the years. The corner store cannot compete with these big monopolistic ventures because the individual storekeeper cannot buy the huge quantities of goods that are bought by the big stores, and he is not given as much discount as the big stores. I know of this because my sister had a shop once and I used to help her quite a bit. We found that we could go into a chain store and buy goods much more cheaply than we could from the warehouse. Consequently we could not sell at anything like the prices available to the people at chain stores. The fault does not lie with the small shopkeeper. The housewife has to buy at the best price within her means. I think that a better deal could be given to the small shopkeepers by the middleman and manufacturers in the matter of discounts and so on. The family doctor is fast disappearing over the horizon, and I think it is a tragedy when the small family store goes out of business.
Some honorable senators have referred to the workers having motor cars and refrigerators and so on. Why should not they have these things? Surely to goodness we have come to the stage in our thinking when we believe that these things are not luxuries but necessary adjuncts to normal life. Many of them, of course, are bought on the hirepurchase system. I have no quarrel with the hire-purchase system in its original conception. Where I find myself in deep disagreement with it is when I see the high rates of interest that are being charged to persons who are buying goods under this system, compared with the old timepayment system.
There is another danger to the community in the number of mushroom hire-purchase firms which are arising overnight, in which the people invest money because of the excellent prospective dividends that will be payable. Some of these concerns have crashed within a few months and the small investors have been the ones who have been left out in the cold. There have been several such instances in Western Australia during the last couple of years. I know of one firm that went bankrupt and owed a couple of hundred thousand pounds. The majority of the investors were people who had put their life savings into the firm in the hope of gaining greater income, and when it went bankrupt they got nothing. It is all right to gaol the guilty person concerned, but that does not get back to the small investors their money. We had another instance ot a firm which failed in the last twelve months to the extent of £80,000; that money was lost within a few months. People subscribed to its capital because the name of a very reputable member of this Federal Parliament appeared in the original prospectus. The small investors thought that their money would be safe because of the high standing of the member to whom I have referred; his high standing was an important factor in their considerations. But their money was not safe.
– There have been many more failures because of high costs.
– I am mentioning these things because of the loss being incurred by small persons. The loss of a few pounds might not seem very much, but it is a great deal to these people to whom I refer. T know personally so many people who have put their life savings into these companies which have sprung up overnight without sufficient backing and so on - the get-rich-quick type of companies. I think the time has come when proper legislation should be introduced on a Commonwealthwide basis to ensure that these happenings do not become more frequent. I do not know whether this matter was considered by the Constitutional Review Committee, concerning as it does company law. I have no legal qualifications; I can see that Senator Wright understands what I mean. From the common-sense point of view I think there should be Commonwealth legislation to protect small investors in these firms. It should ensure that these firms have a certain amount of stability and that in the event of a crash the small investors will receive some special consideration because a loss means so much more to them. Of course, this might not be possible, but I should like to see something done about it.
There has also been a great deal of talk about the recent margins adjustments. 1 feel that perhaps some people do not know precisely what a margin is because when they talk about a rise of 28 per cent, in margins they seem to think that this is a rise of 28 per cent, in wages. It is a rise of 28 per cent, of the margin for skill above the base rate in industry.
– Nevertheless, it has cost industry millions of pounds.
– Exactly, but I point out to Senator Maher that the millions of pounds extra that have been received by the workers in margins increases have gone back into the community almost immediately - back to the people who provided the extra money. The amount of 4s. or 5s. extra a week - up to 26s. a week - that has been received by the workers has been spent on things that they need; it has not been money poured down the drain. In many instances the manufacturers of goods have got back far more than they have paid out because of the increased consumption of their goods.
– The manufacturers passed on the additional cost to the community.
– T agree with Senator Maher’s contention that the manufacturers and others are passing on the increase. However, we members of this Parliament should examine our consciences on this matter because we ourselves set the example last year not only by raising our wages but also by increasing our margins to the extent the like of which has never been seen before in any Parliament in Australia. We made a terrific increase in the base wage paid to members and the wages or salaries or emoluments - whatever you like to call them; it is still the same - paid to Ministers. We even differentiated between senior and junior Ministers. We have made a very bie discrimination in this matter by introducing such very big margins.
I do not quarrel about the payment ot margins for skill; I entirely agree with that. I think that the Prime Minister of the country and his Ministers, if they are to do their jobs properly, ought to be adequately recompensed. As they have very responsible jobs, I think they should be paid as much as the country can afford to pay them, commensurate with the degree of responsibility they carry. But let us look at the position in Canberra where we all stay at the same hotels. Some of us receive an allowance of £4 a day for staying in certain rooms - I am not going to mention the number - and the chap next door, occupying similar accommodation, receives £12 a day. Margins have been introduced into living allowances.
Therefore, we cannot refuse to the workers in industry the principle that we have introduced in assessing our own salaries in this regard. I am not an industrialist in that field, and we have heard a great deal about this matter from those more expert than T am. Therefore, as the hour is late, I shall not deal further with this matter now but shall pass on to something in the Governor-General’s Speech that leaves me quite cold. I refer to the very little hope that is given whereby the people might expect very great increases in social services. We are told that the means test also will be looked at. That is very good. I am always pleased to see an improvement in social services. I give credit to the Government for what it has done in providing some of our social services. I always give credit where it is due, but I fail to see how any credit can be given to a government which continues to give the wives of invalid pensioners only £1 15s. a week. They are expected to live on that, but you cannot take a dog to a dog’s home for a week, when you go away on a holiday, without having to pay much more than that. At the same time, we find this Government imposing a tax of 12£ per cent, on baby biscuits, but not imposing any tax at all on dog biscuits. It is obvious that the Government is more concerned with the animal kingdom than it is with humans.
Civilian widows and war widows are . still not receiving, to my way of thinking, the social justice to which they are entitled. A civilian widow gets an extra 10s. for each child, after the first, with which to feed, clothe, house and educate that child, whereas, harking back to the dog’s home, it costs at least £1 15s. a week to keep a dog. A foster mother is given by the State anything up to £2 10s. a week for the maintenance of a child, and the same amount is given to homes which care for children. The ordinary mother, however, is given only 10s. a week. There is something radically wrong with that. We should not talk about attracting millions of pounds from overseas for investment here when we cannot look at ourselves in a mirror because we are condoning this kind of treatment of widows.
I was very interested to learn that only about 12 per cent, of the widow pensioners are able to claim the additional 10s. that is given to pensioners, mainly because they have to pay rent. There is a reason for that state of affairs, and I have spoken about it often before in this chamber. If a widow has a child, often she finds it almost impossible to rent a home to-day. She has to use any capital she has to pay a deposit on a home. It may be that her husband had paid a deposit on a home. The weekly payments that she has to make on the mortgage are not regarded as rent under the act; they are regarded as repayment instalments. She has rates, taxes and maintenance costs to pay, and they are far in excess of what she would have to pay if she could rent a home. Because she has a financial interest in her home, she is deprived of the additional allowance of 10s. a week which would be granted to her if she were living in a rented house.
It is no good my going to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) about this .matter.. I ‘would foe accused of acting in -a party .political manner, .although that would not foe ‘the case. However, I ask honorable senators opposite, before the Budget lis brought down, ito see whether .they can :get around She Minister tor Social Services. There are a few good Scots on the other ‘side, and1 I am quite certain that they should be able to get around him somehow and tell him that it is vitally necessary that women should .get a fair deal in the pensions field. We are not asking for anything excessive; we are asking only for .a .fair deal, not .only for the women themselves, but also for their children.
I read in yesterday’s ““Western Australian “ that a magistrate had castigated a mother for going out to work. She was not a widow; she had a .husband1, who was in employment. This mother was working and her child had appeared in a juvenile court, charged with some misdemeanour or crime. The magistrate said the mother should1 stay at .home. -She said that :she could not stay .home because she had .to go -out .to work to -help .buy her home. That as .typical of society to-day. We have many married women working in industry, not because they want to do so, but because they have to. I agree with Senator Wedgwood who, when she was discussing the question of equal -pay for equal work, said that married women should not be deprived -of the right to a permanent appointment in the Public Service. I think that a woman should not be compelled to go to work due to economic circumstances, but she should be able to work if she so desires. We find that there is a sort of economic conscription these -days and1 that women are forced to go to work in order to maintain their homes at a decent standard. If that is true of the married women whose husband is earning wages, how much more true is it of the widow who lias nothing except her pension? Yet if she dares to continue working, after she has earned a certain amount her pension is cancelled! The plight of women and children in this field is very bad1 indeed. I know there are charitable organizations in all ‘States working to help them, but that is not the point. The question is not what they receive in the way of charity, but what they should receive as of right.
I was rather amazed, Mr.. Deputy Chairman, lo lead -yesterday a reply given to a question asked of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). Despite ‘the muchvaunted and ^over-praised ^divorce legislation of last -year, no provision is made, and he does not contemplate making any Commonwealth provision, ‘for ‘the maintenance of deserted wives. II think this ds a very sad -state of affairs. An honorable member on the Government benches pointed1 out that, despite inflation and the rise in the cost of (riving, ‘some deserted wives are receiving the same maintenance payments as they were receiving years ago. ‘They can be numbered amongst the -people who are living on .fixed incomes, if they are lucky enough to be receiving maintenance :at all. If they are receiving maintenance, they are still receiving a rate of payment that was fixed .some years .ago. The honorable member asked the Attorney-General whether -he ,could do .anything -to see -that these wives received some increase. The Attorney-General said that there was no power .whereby the Commonwealth could intervene in such .a matter. I thought that, after the very heated debate -we ‘had in this chamber at the end of last year :and the very Jong ‘discussion that was held in another place, ‘these matters had been -settled.
– Only when they arise incidental to divorce.
– I am referring to a .case of separation or desertion. If a wife does not divorce her husband because of religious .or .other reasons, she has -no course except to go to a count if her husband defaults on maintenance payments.. I know of a case where .the wife .is in Perth and the husband -is in -Bowen, in Queensland. Unless I can -get some of my -Queensland friends to find that man and bring him back to the west, the woman will be -deprived of any assistance from him. I understand that the Attorney-General is to bring down a marriage bill. I think it was Senator Cole who said that it seems a little irregular to have a divorce bill first and a marriage hill afterwards and that it should be the other way round. If the Government is contemplating bringing in a marriage bill, I hope the Attorney-General will give some consideration to this very important point, which is allied, of course, to matrimonial causes.
There are 13,000 women in Australia who are deserted wives, but the Government has made no provision for them to receive any increase in maintenance, or to receive maintenance at all, because as has been pointed out, the Government has no power to do so. And somebody said it was a woman’s world!
Senator Branson has already spoken on two matters which I intended to raise. One of them is the provision of television stations in the country districts of Western Australia. I think that Western Australian honorable senators from both sides of the chamber have received communications on this subject from the various municipal authorities. 1 should like to add a few remarks to Senator Branson’s excellent exposition on the subject of the provision of radio stations. When we are talking about television we must remember that certain areas of Western Australia are not yet blessed with the benefits or otherwise of radio. It is much more important that those outback areas should receive a radio service than that there should be a surfeit of television stations in the city areas. A suggestion has been made that a radio station should be established on the coast at Carnarvon, but that would not alleviate the problem. If the department establishes radio stations at places like Carnarvon and Bunbury at least half of the power of the transmission is lost out to sea. Surely it would be a better proposition to set up radio stations inland, thus giving a better coverage and better service to the people in inland districts. From the point of view of defence also it seems rather stupid to set up radio stations on the coast.
Recently I visited the south-eastern goldfields of Western Australia around Norseman and Esperance. There has been a lot of talk about Esperance. It was in the news recently when some American experts thought they would get rich overnight by developing the Esperance Plains and showing the people of Western Australia how to do things. Unfortunately for Western Australia and for the investors in the company the venture was not successful because the people concerned disdained the advice of the Department of Agriculture of Western Australia. If they had heeded that advice their venture may have been a success. However, the interest stimulated savings bank ten years ago he finds now pleasing effect of encouraging settlement in the area. When I visited the district with other honorable senators recently I was very pleased to see the development that is taking place there.
I make an appeal to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson). While visiting the Esperance area I was approached by a businessman who had been unable to obtain a telephone at his premises, which were a couple of miles out of the town. A telephone would not only be of use to him in his business but would also serve many people living round about, where there is no telephone communication. Quite a number .of people are building homes in the area. This businessman made application for a telephone a couple of years ago, but his application has been fobbed off and nothing has been done. I am sure that in the next few days the Postmaster-General will be deluged with applications for all sorts of things because he has such a wealthy department under his control. I hope that in the first flush of enthusiasm to get rid of some of his embarrassing surplus he will not forget the outback districts of Western Australia where postal, radio and telephone services are so badly in need of enlargement.
This year is World Refugee Year and I congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) on carrying on the very successful immigration programme established by Mr. Calwell, our present leader, and pursued by other Ministers for Immigration over the last ten years. I further congratulate the Minister on his warning to migrant members of unions who aTe endeavouring to set up their own unions. That is something we do not want in this country. We want more workers, no matter what may be their country of origin. We want them to feel that once they are here they are members of the Australian community and of the Australian trade union movement. We do not want them setting up national groups within trade unions. I sincerely congratulate the Minister for Immigration on the firm stand that he has taken in this matter.
I join with Senator Branson in the appeal that he made on behalf of civilian maimed and limbless persons for the abolition of sales tax on vehicles necessary to their employment. I raised this matter in the Senate last week and I now do no more than endorse Senator Branson’s remarks, which must have found favour with every member of this chamber. The removal of sales tax on vehicles used by these people would not mean very much to the Treasury but it would mean a great deal to the individuals concerned, to whom happiness and health are so difficult of attainment with their present physical handicaps.
I now wish to deal with another matter, and I am not sure that this is the appropriate time to mention it. However, this is the only opportunity that I will have to raise this matter because when the Senate adjourns to-night all honorable senators will return to their States and we will not meet here next week. On Friday of next week a very fine public servant, who has rendered great service to this Parliament, will retire. I refer to Mr. Blackman, who is secretary of the Public Works Committee. When I first came into the Senate in 1943 Mr. Blackman was a fine officer of this Senate. He has been in public service since he was sixteen years of age, when he entered the Public Service of South Australia. In 1926 he commenced duty with the Commonwealth Solar Laboratory, now Mount Stromlo Observatory. In 1927 he became a clerk on the staff of the Public Works Committee. He later transferred to the Joint House Department of this Parliament and later still became correspondence clerk on the staff of the Senate. When I first came into the Senate he was accountant of the Department of the Senate. We all owe a great deal to the accountant. We have to keep on the right side of him. That was a responsible job. During the war years when the Parliament was understaffed, as were all public utilities, Mr. Blackman did an excellent job. He made me and all other new senators in those years very welcome, and he helped us in every way possible. Shortly after the war ended he became secretary of the Public Works Committee - a position that he still holds.
I feel that too often these men who give years of valued service to the community through the Public Service are too lightly brushed off as bureaucrats. When they die we may say something nice about them, but it is better to say something that is truthful and good about them while they are still alive and able to appreciate it. I hope that I am not speaking out of turn when I say that I wish Mr. Blackman, as a former member of the Senate staff, everything that is good in his retirement. He looks to me as though he has many years of good work left in him yet and that he is too young for retirement. 1 know that he will continue to give valuable service to the community, particularly here in Canberra. I am not quite certain that my latter remarks are in keeping with the motion and the amendment before the Senate, but I want to pay tribute to Mr. Blackman and to all other public servants who, behind the scenes, so unobtrusively carry on work for us. It is only when things go wrong that they get the full blast of our ire and are referred to as bureaucrats. We could not get very far without them, no matter how clever we may think we are.
For all the reasons that have been advanced by honorable senators on this side of the chamber - because inflation is galloping and the Government after ten years is at last attempting to close the stable door by methods of which we do not approve - I support the amendment proposed by my deputy leader.
– I support the motion, so ably moved by Senator. Lillico and seconded by Senator Drake-Brockman, for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech and I oppose the amendment moved by Senator Kennelly. To His Excellency and Lady Dunrossil we convey greetings and ask His Excellency to convey our expressions of loyalty to our Sovereign. Australia has had a distinguished line of Governors-General and the present occupant of that exalted office will add further lustre to this important position of State. He brings to his task a knowledge of our parliamentary system gained by a notable parliamentary career. For years he presided over the House of Commons with dignity and impartiality and held the esteem and regard of every member of that House. May his stay, during which he will be assisted by his gracious wife, bring pleasure and satisfaction.
The Governor-General’s Speech presents a challenge to every section of the community to maintain and increase the opportunities available to expand the versatility and productivity of our primary and secondary industries. Fate may have been kind to Australia in the last fifteen years, but the good rule and management of this Government since 1950 have given people added confidence in hoping that the years ahead will be even more fruitful than has been the past decade - a decade of growth which we can hardly realize has occurred. Let us not mar by inflation the expansion that we envisage. The export of primary and secondary products will do much to check inflation, but it does not provide the complete answer. The past ten years have brought industrial peace, which goes hand in hand with stability of government.
We have listened to a great deal of quotation and misquotation of the Government’s policy, but in presenting its policy the Government said it would encourage men and women to earn a good living, to save money and to own property. The majority of Australians are doing that. They are property owners, they possess savings accounts and they are shareholders in business. What they have gained they want to hold. They resent being classed as wage slaves, that being the manner in which they are regarded by the Australian Labour Party. We will continue to safeguard the interests of income earners.
I indicated earlier that we have had good average prices for our wool and wheat and have had good seasons. There has been a satisfactory flow of British and American capital into Australia. During this debate the subject of inflation has received a fair amount of attention. Opposition senators have been vociferous in their criticism, but they have not offered any solution of the problem. They have criticized the steps being taken by the Government to check the rise in prices - three of those steps being the maintenance of a balanced Budget, the lifting of import controls and the appearance of the Government’s representative before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to state the Government’s case at the basic wage claim hearing.
– To oppose it.
– I repeat those words - the appearance of the Government’s representative before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to state the Government’s case at the basic wage claim hearing. I think that is clear, and that you realize its meaning. There is a vast difference between stating a case and opposing a claim. If the unions have the right to go before the commission to state their case, so have the employers. And the Government is the biggest employer in Australia. You would deny the Government the right to appear before the commission, even though the unions have that right. What utter rot that is! Where is your sense of fairness, which you pride yourself upon? Have you suddenly lost it? If you have, the quicker you regain it the better it will be.
It is the aged and thrifty citizen who is the chief sufferer because of inflation. I hope the Government will quickly introduce a national contributory insurance scheme to alleviate the unfortunate position of those worthy citizens who depend upon fixed incomes and savings for their sustenance. The wage-earner is not harshly affected by rising costs. He is protected to a great extent by the Arbitration Commission. It has been said by honorable senators opposite that employers in secondary industry and retailers are allowed to make huge profits out of rising prices. I shall deal at a later stage with what are alleged to be profits.
The pensioner usually receives an increase when the basic wage rises. This Government has never cut the pension. At 30th June last, there were in Australia 678.224 females over the age of 60 years and 369,772 males over 65 years of age - a total of 1,047,996 persons. Approximately 526,000 of those were pensioners, leaving approximately 522,000 who could be seriously affected by inflation. The greater proportion of those are on fixed incomes or live mainly on interest from government bonds. A national contributory insurance scheme related to the basic wage would help those worthy people.
The Arbitration Commission and the Tariff Board exercise great powers in our community. I believe that the useful services of those two powerful institutions should be more closely co-ordinated. To do that would have a stabilizing influence on our cost structure. I ask myself and Opposition senators: Has productivity increased during the last fifteen years? Money incomes, be they wages, salaries, or business and farm incomes, must not rise faster than productivity. Statistics indicate that productivity increases at the rate of from 1 to 1 .5 per cent, per annum, but over the last ten years wages have increased by 110 per cent. Higher living standards are not obtained by boosting money wages alone. If I had any other comment to pass about the Arbitration Commission, I would say that it should determine our true productivity in all phases of production and not in selected industries.
Last night, Senator McKenna agreed with the assertion of the learned judges of the Arbitration Commission that Australia’s prosperity had never before been as great as it is to-day. Perhaps it was disorderly of me to interject, but I asked the honorable senator whether he agreed with the learned judges. He said that he agreed with them in that particular respect. That admission wrecked every other submission that he made. I am of the opinion that basic wage claims and margins claims should be considered concurrently. If the commission, after hearing evidence, finds that primary and secondary industry can stand an increase of, say, 3 per cent., I believe all wages should rise by that percentage. In that way the margins for skill would be preserved. We need skilled workers urgently, and in abundance.
The Opposition has criticized the making of profit, and monopolies. But the trade unions are the biggest monopolists that we have in Australia. Some trade unions exercise their vast power in a dictatorial manner, not only over their members but over the general public as well. For example, in our public tranpsort system, when the unions decide that the sale of labour does not return ample profit, work ceases, resulting in great inconvenience and monetary loss to their fellow workers on the lower income ranges. The trade unions are among the greatest monopolists in Australia. They fix their price, and if it is not agreed to, they refuse to work. If that is not monopoly, I should like to know what is.
Now, I want to give honorable senators opposite something that they can put their teeth into. I refer to the 37th annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation, dated 12th May, 1959. I found, on delving into that report, that there were 3,811,005 taxpayers and that they paid a total amount of £346,355,277 in income tax. Surely, if people were raking off enormous profits, this report would disclose the fact. There were 2,628,071 people in the salary range from £105 to £999 a year. That number consisted of 1,625,348 males and 1,002,723 females, and they paid £106,271,969 in tax. If we analyse that group a little further, we find that the 1,417,532 persons earning between £600 and £999 paid £68,396,885.
Let me turn to the group earning between £1,000 and £1,999 a year. In that group there were 1,017,665 taxpayers, and they paid £112,602,545 in tax. In the £2,000 to £2,999 bracket, there were 84,721 taxpayers, and in the group earning between £2,000 and £3,999 there were 142,873 taxpayers and they paid £76,885,035 in tax. There were 3,996 people with incomes of over £10,000 a year, and they paid a total amount of £29,566,109. In this group, there were 45 persons who received over £50,000 per year. Let us go further. There were 7,717 persons who earned between £5,000 and £5,999, and 55 persons who earned £50,000 or more. In the fourteen groups earning more than £5,000 a year, there was a total of 22,396 taxpayers, and they paid £71,695,638 in tax between them. The actual amount of their income was £182,967,350, so that while the public received £71,695,638 from them, they retained £111.271,712.
In the group earning between £4,000 and £4,999, there were 14,984 taxpayers, and they paid total tax of £17,265,643, or an average of £1,153. Let us see what would happen if we took the 22,396 who earned £5,000 or more, stripped them down to £5,000 per annum and then gave the strippings to the public purse for distribution. Their total earnings were £182,967,350. At an average of £1,153, these 22,396 people would pay total tax of £25,822,588, leaving £157,144,762. We had previously taxed them £71,695,638. Thus, all that there would be left for distribution would be £85,449,124. How would we propose to distribute that money? I think that honorable senators opposite will agree that it would be fair to distribute it amongst those earning between £105 and £999 a year.
If we divided that sum amongst the 2,628,071 taxpayers in that group, they would get approximately £32 each a year, or 12s. 6d. a week. Put in another way, if they worked for two hours at 6s. an hour, they could have just about the lot. Honorable senators opposite may analyse the figures if they wish and see for themselves whether my calculations are correct.
– Where did the honorable senator get them?
– From the thirtyseventh report of the Commissioner of Taxation. Surely the honorable senator will accept that. If we go a step further and include the group earning between £1,000 and £1,999, and divide the amount between the total number in those two groups, we see that they would get £23 8s. a year each, or 9s. a week, or the equivalent of one and a half hours’ work at 6s. an hour. Men and women must be given incentive, under our system, to work and make profits. Henry Ford made profits, but I think that his work benefited mankind. I agree with Senator Tangney’s reference to hire purchase and the charges that hire-purchase firms make for the services they render. That is something that we may have to consider very seriously.
There are two matters, referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech, about which I want to speak very briefly.
I touch upon the questions of defence and repatriation only briefly. I regret the cessation of national service training. It was worth while. Did lack of zeal in Army administration kill it? The layman feels that the so-called top brass could not or would not shake off its lassitude, that it did not tackle the task assigned to it. In national service training was an opportunity similar to that which comes to the headmaster of a new school - the opportunity to build up a tradition, to infuse into the young men of to-day a desire to carry on the traditions handed down by the men and women who have saved this land from foreign foes. What is going to happen to the vast amounts of such capital equipment as houses and so on that were erected to meet the housing requirements of the army personnel connected with national service training?
The second matter to which I wish to refer is something about which I have spoken on previous occasions and will speak about again. It relates to the hospital treatment of the veterans of the Boer War and World War I. I support those other honorable senators who have asked that the psychiatric ward at the Dawes Road hospital be built at an early opportunity. A total of 343,000 men went overseas during that war. Of that number, 59,342 were killed, 166,819 suffered from gas and wounds and 87,957 suffered desperate illness. The recorded casualties number 340,118, but there are hundreds and thousands which were never recorded. If any of them were recorded, the records have been lost. Only 264,000 men returned. Approximately 150,000 of that number have died since their return. There are approximately 110,000 alive to-day. Of these 110,000, there are 36,974 who receive service age pensions.
So that the public may understand the position, I point out that a service age pensioner is one who receives the ordinary age pension on attaining 60 years of age instead of having to wait until he is 65 years of age. An additional 7,398 men receive either a pension for tuberculosis not attributable to war service or a pension for the fact that they are permanently unemployable because of accident or other cause not due to war service. The 36,974 men who receive the age service pension must comply with the means test.
This is the remnant of the greatest fighting force that ever helped to win the war. They are the men who carried on, in the Navy, Army and Air Force. They are the men who carried on the battle whether it was on land, at sea or in the air, whether it was on Gallipoli, in the desert campaigns or in France. The country is proud to recall the exploits of these men. They are the men who won the war, and I say that with all due respect to those who paid the supreme sacrifice, those who were wounded and those who suffered desperate illness. The men are the remnant who stayed on and won the war. They were among the men who, almost 40 years ago to this day, were rushed to stem the advance of the German army when the British and French armies were split. These men fought in front of Villiers Brettoneux on 8th August, 1918 - one of the greatest exploits in the history of British men and women - and smashed the Hindenburg Line. For 40 years after their return, they have continued in their jobs in civilian life asking nothing from the public. These are the men who were promised all sorts of things but who have been asking nothing for their services.
Can we not open our repatriation hospitals to them now? We do not ask that one item be taken from those who are receiving war entitlements. I want it clearly understood that we do not wish to take one thing from those who already have war entitlement, but, believing that there are from £00 to 1,000 unoccupied beds available in our repatriation hospitals, I ask that hospital treatment be accorded these men who are pensioners. The hospitals have the medical staff, the nursing staff and all the equipment necessary to treat these men when such serious illnesses as cancer, heart trouble or arthritis overtake them. The extra cost to the Government would not be great although the relief of pressure upon public hospitals would be appreciable. Certainly a great degree of satisfaction would be experienced by these old diggers at the knowledge that a grateful public had not forgotten them. I am confident that the public would acclaim the Government’s action if my suggestion were adopted. What stands in the way of the Government’s taking this humane action? 1 support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and I oppose the amendment.
– Even at this stage when one is conscious of the fact that the discussion has been so long as to become rather tedious to the Senate, I think it is a privilege to participate in a -debate in which the Crown’s part in the formulation of the Government’s policy is acknowledged and to discuss the proposals contained in it.
I rise at this juncture for a two-fold purpose. First, I rise to enjoy what to me is a rare pleasure, that of expressing warm approval of several substantial items in the programme. Secondly, I rise to pursue a policy of penetrating the understanding of the Government of matters which I believe should be understood and acted upon immediately. I think the last-mentioned : matters are of critical importance to the welfare of this Commonwealth for the -.next two years.
I associate myself with other honorable senators in expressing pleasure at the news of an increase in the Royal Family. I also express the greatest appreciation of the arrival in this country of such a character as Lord Dunrossil, and his lady.
I want to proceed immediately to the subject matter of the Speech. It is heartwarming to me to find what I believe is a reorientation of thinking in the Western world with regard to the attendance of our highest diplomats in Summit conferences. I am not one who expects immediate practical results from those conferences. I know the type of tyranny that is represented by the Communists who will take part in them, but I rejoice to find that our own Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has adopted the view that conferences on this level should be of great benefit. Having regard to the issues at stake, I think we all ought to welcome this procedure.
The other matter relating to international affairs to which I wish to refer is the reference made in His Excellency’s Speech to Australia’s willingness to participate in a constructive programme of water diversion as a contribution to the solution of the tense problem between India and Pakistan. I warmly approve that use by the International Bank of money power to build assets and manage the resources of those countries for the people’s benefit as an alternatve to the possibility of a PakistanianIndian war, leading to a wider conflagration. I like to remind myself that I took exactly the same attitude with regard to Suez when I said that by a bit of commercial negotiation in three months, with the use of money and without the punitive war that Anthony Eden engaged in on that occasion, the whole of the commercial interests that were then being sought could have been bought out, using a little sense in a constructive way and the International Monetary Fund through the initiative and at the instance of the International Bank. If this sort of thing goes on, the people who create and aggregate wealth can have tremendous satisfaction in using it for the constructive improvement of benefits for mankind which will do away with the causes of war.
There are other things in the Speech which I would be niggardly not to refer to. By comparison with the matters I have just mentioned, they are of minor importance. It gives me pleasure to find a further assertion in the Speech that the Government is to put the Public Works Committee on a basis which will enable it to be a real instrument of Parliament, and that Parliament will be guaranteed the right to scrutinize every public works project costing more than £250,000. I just remind the Senate that the effort to obtain that provision has extended over perhaps four or five years, not only at the instance of individual senators, including myself, but also at the instance of committee members and members of the House of Representatives. It shows that there may be purpose even in speaking to-night. We entertain the hope, when we come to matters of challenge, that in the next six months a reorientation of Cabinet thinking may take place on matters that are drifting at the present time. Perhaps I should not introduce that note, but it is necessary, because otherwise we become completely dispirited and despairing of getting action such as that being taken in relation to the Public Works Committee.
Another matter in the Speech which is most stimulating to me is the reference to proposals for legislation to curb monopolies and restrictive trade practices. That shows that we are getting into a truly liberal gear. If the Parliament can provide machinery that will curb these things, which are not manifestations of free enterprise but are the cancers of free enterprise, then, though taking some political vinegar by the way, the Parliament will be doing a great service to the ordinary people. I hope that the legislation will not discriminate on any political grounds between monopolies wherever it finds them, whether on the right or on the left, because one of the reasons why this sort of legislation has been impotent over the last 30 years is because monopolies, in some instances of superior strength to the monopolies that capital created, have been growing on the left side of politics.
I wish to express my pleasure at what I think was a sound administrative decision in relation to the union of the Canberra University College with the Australian National University. I express my pleasure also that a decision has been made to finance the reconstruction of the railway from Mount Isa to Townsville. With somewhat less modified rapture, I wish to make a reference to the committee appointed to inquire into our taxation laws. I have shown an interest, which is not yet exhausted, in finding out just how that committee proposes to operate. I was delighted to find that Sir George Ligertwood was the chairman of the committee. That in itself is to me a guarantee that genuine, practical and just work will be done, but I hope that we shall watch the work of the committee and see that so far as any assistance can be given by us within or without this chamber the work of the committee will be facilitated.
The other passing reference that I make is to the fact that the advisers of the Governor-General are reviewing the general insurance legislation. I claim no insight into what that might mean, but I have felt for almost a decade now that the insurance part of the commercial world was one of the parts which was not entitled to full credit. I hope that this announcement means that a comprehensive consideration will be given to the insurance laws of this Commonwealth, because in the technicalities in which the insurance world indulges, the rights of individual persons are many times repudiated according to the letter of the law, which should be in some way remedially amended. I leave it at that.
Then we come to what is, I submit, the most critical question in Australian politics to-day, that is, the question of inflation. We are exhorted not to become alarmed at the situation and not to become purveyors of the idea that there is an economic crisis upon us. Quite so. Let that be accepted, but this is no time for complacency. Let us reflect upon the degree to which the savings, especially the saving bank deposits, of the thrifty, their policies, and their investments in loans to the government of the nation itself, have dwindled into insignificance and have been running out of value year by year. Some of these people resort to this type of investment because of their inexperience in the maelstrom of the financial world. This is a situation which not only demands a restoration of justice to these people, but also threatens the whole economy with the development of a new group of men and women who will have no incentive to thrift and who will have lost the confidence that stimulates people to lend for public works programmes. They will prefer speculative investments and endeavour to make the only untaxed increments that one can make in this country to-day, either by gambling or operating on the stock exchange, and will contribute nothing to the productivity of the nation in so doing. Those are the values that are at stake in this question. I regret the irresolution that has attended the remedying of the situation over ten years. I am not one of those who got any encouragement from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), nor much, although a little, from that of the Deputy Leader of the Government, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). To say that what the Labour Party has propounded has been unfortunately laid aside, and that the policy, if it had been adopted, would have remedied the situation, is unfortunate nonsense. But 1 do not go along with my valued friend, the Minister for Civil Aviation, when he claims that the mistakes that have been made in this field over the last ten years are, in the main, only minor ones. I will make clear what I mean in that respect in a moment.
Having said that, I welcome intensely every one of the four propositions that the Government has recently announced as a solution to this problem. I will just mention them in order to remove misunderstanding as much as possible. The Government proposes, first, the use of central banking control to moderate the liquidity of funds. Any realist knows that so long as this control is exercised over the limited field of banking - and that is all it can be exercised over - the area of control will be narrowed by the ingenuity of those who think that they can control their wealth better than can the Reserve Bank of Australia. So it does not surprise me at all to know that the financial resources available to commerce have dwindled from about 56 per cent., if I remember the figure quoted by Senator McKenna correctly, to between 20 per cent, and 30 per cent, to-day. But as an aid to preventing cost inflation, central bank control has my support.
The next thing is that I notice the Government has introduced the policy of balanced budgets. On one interpretation that, too, has my very warm support, if it means that governmental expenditure will be reduced and that we will be guaranteed value for all expenditure incurred. If, in the public works field, the Public Works Committee now scrutinizes every project, that will be another contribution to the endeavour. But if this balanced budget announcement means that the inflationary situation is to be remedied by increasing taxation, such as imposing sales tax of 30 per cent, on motor cars, it will require a great deal of argument to convince me, even in view of the responsibilities that would be involved in such a financial measure, that a vote should be cast in favour of it. My view is that heavy taxation in such fields feeds the fires of inflation; it does not quell them at all.
The third proposition of the Government is the almost entire removal of import licensing. Really, Mr. President, one feels free to expand the lungs again because of the assurance that the air he is going to take in is liberal - cleansed of this bureaucratic, abhorrent, and arbitrary control under a system honeycombed, as it were, with opportunities for corruption, for injustice, and for illicit profiteering behind the protection of import licensing, thus aggravating inflation. I cannot too strongly express my pleasure at the decision that men shall be permitted to trade as they wish and no longer will be subject to an official edict from a clerk’s office in the Public Service determining that you can trade and I can starve. I welcome that decision; and I agree with Senator Maher that it was a decision pregnant with political courage.
That brings me to the fourth matter. The Government has announced that its advocate will go before the Arbitration Commission to express the view that an increase in the basic wage should not be made. Why it should not do so, if that feeble effort is of any effect, I do not know. If there is any man or woman in this chamber who can see any benefit for any section of this Commonwealth community in an increase in the basic wage this year, his insight into the situation must be of a peculiar character. We want to get for the workers of Australia a just share of the productivity. The determination as to the share is made by what I think is the most important agency in the country in fomenting inflation. The agency has been carrying out that activity for ten years. The remedy is overdue and its application is imperative now. If we let this agency just pass out paper increases which are vicious in their trading effects, the little man will be involved more than the big man in any money inflation. The man with his savings bank deposit or his basic wage envelope will suffer much more from the rigging of prices than the man who has £20,000 and can lay off £5,000 as a wager on the stock exchange or in wheat futures or in investments in oil. It is the men with resources to gamble in an inflationary situation that make money out of speculation - not the little man. The advocates of real wages for the basic wage earner do him a very poor service by suggesting that his wages should become more unreal than ever because of an increase granted by a commission that adds nothing whatever to the productivity of the nation.
– Should the unions ask for a decrease, Senator?
– Well, that is a question from a senator to whose speeches I give quite sober thought. The question is put to me to attract an expression of opinion - to stimulate discussion. I am one of those who think that a decrease in wages can have very adverse and explosive effects. Knowing something of the psychology of the man who works and earns money, I say that he will not willingly regard as an act of justice a reduction of his earnings. Therefore, the responsibility is very much increased of those who put up wages year after year on some effervescent or transitory consideration and fail to take the long view that our export industries, trading externally, can support a stable economic structure that will guarantee the payment of real wages. I do not run away from the proposition that wages should be reduced. I would hate to see a reduction in wages.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The situation demands an intelligent and unremitting effort on the part of all sections of our economy to see that the wages that are being received are stabilized in value.
– That is where we agree.
– It is a curious thing that any real opposition should be made to the Government’s proposal, because what is the situation? The commission is an agency presided over by three judges, but it is not a judicial body.
– The honorable senator is attacking the judiciary.
– It is not a judicial body, it is a commission. The first question I put to the Senate is: Is it proper for a responsible member of the Senate, while these three judges are engaged in an important case, to be discussing the constitution of their tribunal and the scope of their duty? If I were to concede that it is not proper, just think of the palsied impotence that it would impute to this Parliament Therefore, delicate as the task is, I think that when Parliament sits it is imperative that we direct our attention to how this agency of government is operating. It is an administrative agency. As Mr. Justice Foster said in the basic wage case it is a pseudo legislative body. Outside of that judgment, I think, he went further than that.
The true position is that that body, by fixing the basic wage year by year, really makes an economic assessment of the nation which has as powerful an impact upon the economy of the country as has the Commonwealth Budget. Last year that agency was responsible for injecting £160,000,000 into the economy. The adjustment made to the economy by last year’s Budget covered items which aggregated about £68,000,000, and when we take the Post Office charges, pharmaceutical benefits and the remission of income tax together, and inter-relate them, we find that the effect of the operation of the Commonwealth Government Budget was infinitesimal compared with the potency of the decrees of the Arbitration Commission.
The Arbitration Commission is composed of three men. I read a very thoughtful speech in another place by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). He advanced the view that lawyers have no particular claim to occupy a position in this field. I am the first to agree with his view. Lawyers should not occupy this field exclusively. A sound practical knowledge of the country’s trade and a sound practical knowledge of the inter-relation of economic laws are essential to the proper functioning of this agency. First of all, lawyers are needed to ensure that people are rightly heard and that their rights are guaranteed according to the traditions of that great profession, but they should be assisted by those with other experience in the community. If it requires 60 of us in this chamber to deal with the matters that come before us, is it not an act of the highest irresponsibility to allow the re-assessment of the economic factors involved in wage fixation to be decided year after year by three men alone?
In 1949, Mr. Justice Kelly declined to grant any increase. Two judges, as a matter of compromise, granted an increase of £1 a week which dealt the economy a dreadful blow and it never regained any degree of balance due to the process of multiplying that error by the automatic statistical quarterly adjustments until 1953. Last year the chief judge, Mr. Justice Kirby, said that 15s. should be awarded, Mr. Justice Foster said £1, and Mr. Justice Gallagher said 10s. Is that responsible government? Knowing that these judgments have such a direct effect year by year on the economy, is it a responsible action to leave the decision to the minds of three men alone? I consider that nine or eleven is the minimum number that should be sitting on such a body.
– How many?
– Nine or eleven is the minimum number that should be sitting to decide an issue of such importance.
– How many sit on the High Court?
– Seven in constitutional cases, five in some cases and three in others, and the High Court sits on occasions to decide whether or not A owes B £3,000.
– It interprets the Constitution of Australia.
– Whether a rabbit racing across a border has infringed the free trade section of the Constitution. The court sometimes has to make very important decisions such as it made in the banking case. And remember the boilermakers’ case. Remember that the High Court, as the result of that case, gave us constitutional independence for the judiciary, and remember that it was the occasion of that decision that prompted the Government to divide this organism - to which I am directing attention - into two sections. There were six judges. The High Court said that, for judicial purposes there should be one institution and for arbitral purposes there should be another institution. Three judges went to the judicial body and three to the arbitral commission. That just shows how superficial and unfundamental was the thinking that gave rise to how this commission should’ be constituted.
Then let us consider the principles upon which this commission acts. It formerly was a needs principle. It is now what has been called the capacity-to-pay principle. Is it the capacity to pay of any one industry on which the commission focuses its attention? No. It focuses attention on the industry of the whole nation and acknowledges an assessment of the capacity of industry to pay - precisely the same assessment as a member of the Government must make in Budget making. There is no principle or written expression of principle involved in the process and the very indefiniteness of it shows the amplitude of the power that is conferred on this commission. I think we all recognize the impact on the economy that followed the commission’s decisions last year. Certainly the Arbitration Commission cannot be eliminated from the Australian way of life. That has been decided 6y the people and everybody accepts that. But let us ensure that this body acts with responsibility and adjusts wages equitably so as to ensure that industry will survive. Only by the survival of industry can wages be paid and the bankruptcies referred to by Senator Tangney in a slightly different sense be avoided.
Following the decisions of the commission last year we had an avalanche of price rises, the last of which has not been announced. Anybody who has an insight into methods of contracting for big projects or for any construction job at all knows how the whole process grows. This development has the effect of eviscerating the value of money. These things must be borne in mind when this Parliament is dealing with that part of the community with which it is its special prerogative to deal. I refer to the Public Service and to the adjustment of the salaries of heads of departments and public servants.I will vote for such increases in future only if I think they bear a proper relationship to increases granted to other sections of the community. This Parliament cannot absolve itself of responsibility for stimulating these untoward decisions that have triggered off the spiral of inflation. As I said last April, it was very unwise of this Parliament to concern itself with rises in salaries of members and aggravated rises in the emoluments of Ministers. Those rises triggered off the idea that general increases in remuneration could be made without damaging the economy. In the outcome great damage is being done to our export industries and to our much applauded immigation programme.
I have before me information compiled by the Division of Agricultural Economics which indicates that the trend in the ratio of prices received and prices paid, taking 1956-57, the most favourable recent year for farmers generally, as the base year with an index figure of 100, is as follows: -
In other words, in recent years the prices paid by farmers have continued to increase, the increase being 5 per cent, between 1956-57 and the second quarter of the present year, whilst prices received by farmers have fallen by 10 per cent. The Division of Agricultural Economics has prepared for me a table setting out the net farm income in relation to volume of rural output. It is staggering to see how the incomes of farmers are falling while the incomes of wage and salary earners are going sky-high. To take but one instance, in 1956-57 the net farm income was £519,000,000. In 1958-59 it fell to £408,000,000, or, as recent adjustments disclose, probably £420,000,000. That was despite the fact that as regards production, taking 1938-39 as the base year with an index figure of 100, 1956-57 gave an index of 131 and this year the figure has risen to 153. So, despite an increase of approximately onesixth in the volume of the farmers’ production, their net income is about 20 per cent, less than it was two and one-half years ago. We should heed the warnings given by Mr. Scott and Mr. Falkiner at the recent graziers’ conference in Sydney as to the effect this will have on the wool industry. What would happen if we had a drought such as we had in 1946, when the sheep population was reduced by more than 30 per cent.? We would find that money that had been invested in the wool industry was being withdrawn to offset the effect of dwarfed incomes. We must realize that people will not stay indefinitely in agricultural industries to be our hewers of wood and drawers of water while public servants and parliamentarians grow fat. Do I hear Opposition senators croaking? I direct attention to the fact that the exports of the farming community are financing the imports into this country upon which manufacturing industries and the continuance of our immigration programme depend. If a policy of cost inflation is pursued in this country it will crucify those upon whom we depend to maintain the life-line of Australia.
Let me cite one set of figures to illustrate my point. In the sheep industry the average income between 1952 and 1956 in the high rainfall area was £2,885. In 1957-58 the income had dwindled to £1,613, and in 1958-59 it had fallen further to £924. That was the amount of the farmer’s remuneration, and the return on his capital which this year in that area is estimated to be £37,000. If you were to take that amount and invest it on an urban instead of a rural basis, you would have no difficulty whatever in drawing an income, behind your tariffs walls and your basic wage protection, of at least £2,500 a year, while sitting back in an armchair and not using a muscle.
So that I shall not have to read these figures in detail, Mr. President, and so that they will be available for the consideration of the Senate, not only on this occasion, but on an occasion in the near future when I hope this matter will arise for direct decision, I shall, with the concurrence of honorable senators, incorporate in “ Hansard “ the table that has been prepared by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, and three sets of figures showing the varia tions in income in the sheep industry and the capital values involved. They are as follows: -
I think that there are sections of the rural industry - I have taken the sheep industry as an example, but similar remarks apply to other branches of rural industry, such as vegetable and fruit growing - which are not getting an increase in their basic wage. Rather are they being given a decrease in their basic wage when one considers their capital outlay and the labour they expend.
Unless action is taken to adjust this situation, the wealth and prosperity that you say is forthcoming to-day will receive a pretty cold blast when we commence trading externally, not only by exporting, but by freely importing, as we will shortly be able to do. It is imperative that the challenge be accepted and resolved with prudence by constituting the wage-fixing commission on a broader basis, a basis that will give us a better guarantee of responsibility in wage assessment for all sections of the community. Our condition of full employment will be in great peril unless all sections of the community can be guaranteed stability of their earnings, and the security of investments which, in many cases, are responsible for the payment of the wages of the employees of the persons and companies making the investments.
– I join in the expressions of loyalty contained in the AddressinReply, and in the welcome to the GovernorGeneral.
I have no intention of flogging any horse, whether living or dead, that has been already thoroughly flogged, but I shall refer to a few matters on which I think 1 have the right to compliment the Government. I think the Government has shown, of late, extraordinary energy and decision. In making these statements I am not merely repeating idly things that have been said before, because there have been many occasions on which I have thought the Government did not show enough energy or decision. I refer in particular in this connexion to the progress that has been made in Canberra, and to the remarkably good administration by the National Capital Development Commission and by the Minister. I refer specifically to the decisions made with regard to the lakes scheme and the building of the King’s-avenue bridge. I shall not spend a great deal of time on this subject, however, because there arc many aspects of development in Canberra about which I am still critical. I think the buildings here are too monotonous in design, and that the commission accepts too readily the kind of architecture which is called utilitarian, and which has the result of imprisoning us in boxes of glass and steel.
I wish also to congratulate the Government on the decision to amalgamate the Canberra University College and the Australian National University. For the greater part of the time I have been here I have acted as your representative on the council of the National University, and I was always in favour of this move. While the councils of the university are, of course, confidential, and I shall not disclose any such confidential matter, I can tell the Senate that on one occasion I made a recommendation on exactly the same lines as this decision that has been made so suddenly. I am reminded of a description given by Macaulay of a scene in the House of Commons, when he said -
And when that was said, the jaw of X fell and the face of Y looked like the face of a damned soul.
Some years ago I advocated the very move that has now been decided upon, and I got no support from any quarter. Nevertheless, the proposal is now considered to be quite good. 1 approve also of the decision to abolish ultimately all import licences. I think the system is bad. I believe the plea that has been made, that industries which have grown up under the shadow of this system should be protected by it and not by the normal process of tariff protection, cannot be sustained.
I approve also of the decision of Senator Paltridge, who has worked tirelessly and patiently towards this end, to negotiate an air agreement with the French Government and with a French company, so that we may travel, if we choose to do so, by French aircraft to Paris or to New Caledonia. When we think of the Pacific, I believe we should think of our nearest neighbours in New Caledonia, a country from which many good citizens have come to Australia, and a country with which we can be on friendly terms much more easily than with many other countries.
Finally, I approve of the decision to legislate against monopolies, but this matter has been treated so well, and so fully by my colleague. Senator Hannan, that I shall not go into it.
The gentlemen and ladies in this chamber who are doing so much talking amongst themselves now will be glad to hear that 1 have reduced my speech by at least onethird, so that I may devote my time to something which is new and which, I believe, will be of benefit to the Senate. Like many other honorable senators, I listened with great interest to Senator Vincent when he told us the other night of his experiences in Germany, in Poland and in other countries. He pointed out the enormous importance to us and to the whole world of what is happening in Western Europe. I wish to tell you of a country which 1 think is less understood by most of you, and by most Australians, than Germany or Poland or even Russia. 1 refer to France. I recently spent some six weeks there. That was not the first time I had been there, nor even the second. During the First World War, 1, like three or four other honorable senators, such as Senator Sir Walter Cooper, Senator Spooner .and Senator Mattner, lived in France. We knew the people and we knew the country. In addition, I have read French history all my life, and I believe I understand what the French people are. The caricature which is presented of France in our popular press, the misstatements and, at times, the complete falsehoods, give us a very wrong impression of that country.
I am not one of those who love humanity but do not love any particular country or people. I have never had any sympathy for those who are friends of everybody in general and of nobody in particular. I think that, if one wants to understand the world we live in, one must try to understand particular people - the people with whom one has sympathy. In ordinary life we do not like some people as well as we like others; we have our prejudices. We know a great deal about some people but very little about others. It happens that I know a great deal about France, because I have been studying that country all my life. I do not remember a time, even in my earliest boyhood, when I did not know French people intimately.
France has been represented by the popular press throughout the world as being the sick man of Europe. Of course, that is a second rate phrase. It was applied originally to Turkey. But it was not a very happy phrase, even when applied to Turkey. It was applied well over 100 years ago, but since then Turkey has shown an amazing vitality. I want to put to the Senate tonight the proposition, based on my own experience and study, that to-day France is not the sick man of Europe but is the healthiest man in Europe. I think the French economy is in a better position today than that of Great Britain and Western Germany, and certainly in a better position than that of any of the other countries except possibly Switzerland and Sweden, which, of course, have not suffered the depredations of war or internal trouble and are, for their size, in an extremely healthy position.
I wish to quote a few figures which are quite recent. I happen to have found them in other ways, but honorable senators may find them in the review of the Institute of Public Affairs in an article by Monsieur Raymond Aron whom I met in Paris and with whom I had a very long conversation. Industrial production in France has increased by 50 per cent, since 1952. Production of the key industries, particularly the chemical industries, has doubled. Last year the production of automobiles rose to 1,100,000, half of which will be exported. France is now the third car exporting country in the world. For the benefit of the
Minister for Civil Aviation, may I say that from another source I ascertained that the Americans have just bought twenty Caravelle aircraft. That transaction took place a few days ago. It will be recalled that the Department of Civil Aviation some time ago did not think too much of the Caravelles.
The output of coal has increased to, I think, 66,000,000 tons. That has been achieved with a smaller amount of labour in the coal mines. Agriculture has undergone a complete revolution. Both Senator Spooner and Senator Sir Walter Cooper will remember the old windmills that were to be seen in every village. They have all gone. They will remember, too, the horse and cart and the use of the pitchfork. They have nearly all gone. Mechanization has taken their place and to-day France is probably the most solid country in the world from an agricultural viewpoint. When I was there, the people of France thought that they had a drought.
– What about Mademoiselle from Armentiéres?
– The frivolity of that interjection marks, I think, the whole attitude that prevents people from really understanding what France is doing to-day. It is an ingrained English belief that the French are wholly frivolous and that they produce nothing of any value, but that is quite the reverse of the true position. In any case, if the honorable senator remembered his quotation well, he would remember that Mademoiselle from Armentiéres was a most virtuous woman. I am referring, of course, only to the words of the old song. Agricultural production has increased by from 20 to 25 per cent, in the last three or four years, even though every year 50,000 labourers are lost to agriculture. They are no longer needed and are going into other industries. Those figures ought to be convincing.
– Have they any marketing problems?
– Of course they have. They have plenty of problems. They have all the problems we have, but they are solving them.
– When was the honorable senator there?
– I was there at the end of May and in June and July of last year. That was my last visit. During that time I had many interviews with people of all kinds. I attended the two Houses of Parliament - the Senate and the National Assembly, as it is now called. Formerly, it was called the Chamber of Deputies. The debates were of a very high order. Those in the Senate were quite as good and quite as well conducted as are our debates. The debates in the National Assembly were much better and much better conducted than those in another place. I witnessed only one scene, and I shall refer to it later. lt was most illuminating as a revelation of policy. lt would take more than the wit of a Philadelphian lawyer to understand the new French Constitution. I have read it and have asked some of my legal friends, including honorable senators who are lawyers and the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), to help me. But they have said, “ We do not pretend to understand it “. The great defect of the French constitutions since France adopted the republican form of government has been just the reverse of ours. We have built up a great Public Service and our Executive is very strong, but I think the legislature has tended to lose power. In France the reverse is the position. Every one knows about the changes that occurred during the period of the third and the fourth republics and before De Gaulle came to power.
I think every French person I. spoke to said that the one problem to be solved was that of getting a strong executive. By rallying round De Gaulle, who was a great war leader and a man of marvellous force of character - I think he will ultimately go down in history as being one of the great men of this age - the French people have been able to strengthen the republic. I think my judgment on that matter has been fairly sound, and it was largely to test it that I went over to France. I had been following what happened, in the press and in other reports. It was popularly said here when the revolt occurred in Algiers on 13th May, 1958, that you get either a military dictatorship or a civil war and that the fate of France would be like that of Spain or Germany. But nothing of the kind happened. I said at the time - events have vindicated my judgment - that De Gaulle would come to power peacefully, and that he would strengthen the civil government and keep the army in its place. That is exactly what has happened. The last so-called revolt in Algiers proves that.
When De Gaulle decided to dismiss General Massu, who was being used by a military group and some local settlers, he showed amazing strength of character and vindicated the republic for which he stands. He does not bear any resemblance to the dictators we have seen in Italy, Spain, Germany, or even in the South American republics. Under the present form of government in France, the ministers are right outside the Parliament; they are not members of it. The President has the right to dismiss them or accept them, just as the President of the United States of America can dismiss his ministers. But the French ministers still have to come to the Parliament and justify their actions before the deputies and the members of the Senate. The French Parliament has the same form of procedure as the House of Commons - namely, with the consent of the man who is on his feet, any member may rise and make a short speech. He can only do it with the consent of the man who has the ear of the President as they call the presiding officers in both chambers.
I heard the Prime Minister, Debre, speak about a dozen times. They were all short speeches. He was brought to his feet by some remark by the man who had the ear of the House and I was able to form a very good impression of his ability and character. While this new constitution, I think, must ultimately be modified and while it has been patterned and fashioned to suit one man only, the general - when he goes nobody knows what will happen - I think there is a new seriousness and a new stability in the whole French people. The great problem - a most difficult problem - that they have to solve is the question of Algiers and of the whole colonial empire. Of course, those of us who were brought up in the old British tradition are apt to believe that only the British have ever been good colonizers. I believe that in their own way and in certain places, the French have been quite successful colonizers. Their methods have been different from ours but they have, to use a current expression, liquidated - got rid of - colonialism just as thoroughly as have the British. While it may be thought that, in the past, they did no train, as the British did, sufficient people to take over the colonies, they did train a great many.
It happened that I was not only in France but also for several days in Saigon, the capital of what is now South Vietnam. I saw the whole city and I felt that the French colonialism which has now gone from there had left a remarkable impression. Every member of the South Vietnamese Parliament could speak French quite fluently. Some could speak English but very few could speak it well. There were evidences of French education and French culture everywhere throughout that city. The same is true of the rest of what was known as French Indo-China. The other day, some of us had the opportunity of meeting the new ambassador from Cambodia. His speech had to be translated but he spoke, not in his native language, but in French which was translated by one of our own officers.
I think it should be remembered that in Algiers the problem is not colonialism in the sense in which it existed in Egypt, Indonesia or even Indo-China. There was no Algeria before the French went there. There were only a few little nests of pirates, governed by the bey or dey, as he was called, of Algiers. Nobody ought to know that better than the Americans because President Jefferson sent his warships to blow the pirate city of Algiers to pieces. The famous song that we heard during the last war - the song of the American marines - “ From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli “ - goes back to the days when the Americans played their part in Algiers and in other ports in North Africa.
The French have been in Algeria since 1830. There is a population, I think, of 2,000,000 Europeans and a good many million Moslems. The real difficulty there is the difficulty that the British found in Nigeria, which the Dutch found in South Africa and which we Australians will find, ultimately, in New Guinea. I refer to the lack of sympathy between the local European population and the indigenous population. The great difficulty has been that the European settlers in North Africa, the “ Colons “ as they are called, want to retain their old domination. But the French people, the French Parliament and the French Ministry are not going to allow them to do that. I ascertained that from debates and from conversations that I had with officials, with ministers and with everybody else. They said, “We will never consent to forcing the rule of a dominant white race over the native people. The only settlement for Algeria must be one which gives full rights to the Moslems.”
One of the great difficulties at the present time is simply this: The terrorists, under the so-called Algerian Government - this rebel body - prevent the other Algerians from accepting the benefits that are offered. Farm land and schools have been made available, but the terrorists say, “ If you accept that farm land you will be murdered “. We have heard of stories of wrongful action by French generals and I believe that there is some truth in them. I heard them ventilated fearlessly in the French Senate. The minister answered and gave a definite promise that whatever had happened in the past, it would never happen again. The Government would hold every general and every officer personally responsible. I believe that he meant the pledge and that the French people are determined, in good faith, to solve the Algerian problem in a way which is satisfactory to the Moslems as well as to the European settlers there.
There is another great development in France - oil from the Sahara. That, of course, is purely a French accomplishment. There was hardly any one there before. They have developed the project and have built a pipeline. They have already reduced their imports of oil from abroad and they hope, ultimately, to become almost selfsupporting in oil.
Then you come to the problem which is similar to problems encountered in the British Commonwealth - of colonies where there is a French community. Complete freedom of action has been given to the African and other colonial communities, but two, only, of the former French colonies have decided for complete independence. The others have adhered to the French union. I believe they intend to stay there. The President of the French Senate in which all these communities are represented is not a Frenchman but a coloured man from one of these countries, and he is a remarkably good chairman. 1 do not intend to go into other matters although I have prepared a great deal of information, but I think I will read one little quotation. On the question of inflation, I may say that 1 read a long debate in the House of Lords in which the great British economist, Lord Robbins, gave a most illuminating speech which would have been a perfect reply to much of what 1 have heard from the other side of the chamber. I shall conclude merely by quoting from Lord Faringdon a laudation of the policy of our own bank and our own Government. At the beginning of his speech he particularly praised Dr. Coombs, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, for his wisdom and his knowledge of the factors that make for inflation. I cannot resist quoting these words of Lord Faringdon which are very commendatory of our own Government -
It is instructive to compare the way in which the British economy staggered into an exchange crisis, even in a period of improving terms of trade . . . with the brilliantly successful management in far more difficult circumstances of the Australian economy by the Australian Government and Central Bank.
So prophets are often honoured outside their own country.
I conclude by congratulating the Government on the vigour and energy which it is showing at the present time. I approve entirely of the policy as laid down in the Governor-General’s Speech and I hope that that whole policy, in this session or the next session, will be speedily made a part of the law of this country.
– Mr. Deputy President, I regret addressing honorable senators at such a late hour and so late in this debate, but I promise to be brief. In conjunction with previous speakers, I welcome the opportunity of expressing loyalty to Her Gracious Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, as contained in the Address-in-Reply, the motion for the adoption of which is now before the Senate. The people of Australia wholeheartedly welcome the appointment of Lord Dunrossil as Governor-General of Australia. We hope that he and Viscountess Dunrossil will have a very pleasant time in Australia, where they have already been so enthusiastically received. Australia has recently lost the services of two very great men. I refer to Field-Marshal Sir William Slim, our former Governor-General, and Lord Casey. They have both served Australia, and the Empire too, with outstanding ability and distinction. I wish them continued success, good health and happiness in their new spheres of activity in the United Kingdom. I know, as we all know, that they will prove splendid ambassadors for Australia.
I congratulate Senator Lillico, the mover of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and Senator DrakeBrockman, the seconder, on the excellent speeches they made. Both honorable senators have the advantage, in my opinion, of being primary producers. They directed their remarks to the difficulties and troubles of the primary producer, I think with great success. I support wholeheartedly Senator Lillico’s remarks about the successful inauguration of the new vehicular passenger ferry service provided by the “ Princess of Tasmania “. As Senator Lillico stated, during the first five months of her service, the “ Princess of Tasmania “ carried a total of 37,152 passengers and 13,666 vehicles. I think that honorable senators will agree that that was an outstanding achievement. To watch the speed of loading and unloading is a revelation. The “ Princess of Tasmania “ has succeeded in speeding up shipping services to Tasmania to a marked degree. Indeed, in my opinion it has opened a new era in shipping services. We look forward to the advent of the “ Bass Trader “, which we hope to see in November next. She is one of the most modern freighters in the world and will, of course, trade between Melbourne and northern Tasmanian ports. The forthcoming service to be provided by the “ Bass Trader” has already helped Tasmania by encouraging the companies which provide shipping services to Tasmania to speed up their service. The new ships will serve Tasmania well for the next ten years.
I should like to see a new ship supplied by the Government, on the same terms as the “ Princess of Tasmania “ has been supplied, to provide a service between Hobart and Sydney. A larger ship would be required for that service. Probably one of 8,000 tons, or twice the size of “ Princess of Tasmania “, would be needed.
I take this opportunity to thank the Goverenment and the Australian National Line for supplying us with the two ships that I have mentioned. 1 pay a sincere tribute to the former Minister for Shipping and Transport, Senator Paltridge, for the initiative he displayed in the prompt provision of the “ Princess of Tasmania “. 1 wish to compliment Senator Wright on the speech he made to-night. I think that he dealt with the situation of the primary producer in a very able and forthright fashion, and I back to the hilt everything he said. He spoke on that subject as 1 would like to be able to speak about it.
The excellent Speech delivered by the Governor-General when he opened the Parliament recently, sets out clearly and concisely the policy of the Government to be implemented during the next twelve months. Its contents, in order to be thoroughly digested, need to be read carefully. This Government, of course, has never engaged in making empty promises. On all occasions it has relied on solid and generous performance. Its record during the last ten years proves that that has been so. The record of this Government since it came to office, could genuinely be described as both spectacular and inspiring. During its term of office Australia has made tremendous progress. There has been solid development and expansion.
There are three passages in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which interest me personally. The first passage is as follows: -
My Government will continue its policy of extending wherever possible measures to promote the welfare of ex-servicemen and their dependants. In the general field of social services my Government, consistent with its policy over the past ten years, is keeping all benefits under review, and prior to the preparation of the next Budget will consider particular problems associated with the application of the means test and the general pensions system. With the co-operation of the Stales, my Government has recently put into effect the legislation passed last year to extend the complete range of social services to Australian aboriginal natives.
The Government has been fair and, indeed, generous to ex-servicemen and their dependants. I think that this policy has met with the approval of all parties in the Parliament and of all sections of the community. In my opinion, it has been a great credit to the Government.
The Government has promised that, prior to the preparation of the next Budget, it will consider particular problems associated with the application and, 1 should say, the evils of the means test. That is good news. I think we all admit that savings have become totally inadequate to meet the needs and normal requirements of the average man. Therefore, the first thing we must do is to correct the position by abolishing the means test and establishing a national contributory scheme. This would provide at least one remedy for inflation. We must give the people some incentive to save. There must be no penalty for thrift. In the absence of such a scheme, other measures may have to be taken, and one of them could easily be increased taxation. I am not forecasting, of course, that that will be one of the measures which the Government will adopt. I am merely saying that such a scheme could take the place of increased taxation and, I think, would be much more preferable.
A start could be made by removing the means test in respect of persons who are seventy years of age and over. Some years ago, a similar suggestion was made by the Government parties’ social services committee, but to abolish the means test now would not be so easy as it was when the scheme was first mooted. When we discussed this matter we decided that a contribution of 3id. in the £1 from all taxpayers would just about do the job required, but the position now is that, although there are more taxpayers, the amount needed has increased considerably. I remember that the cost of bringing about this very desirable objective of doing away with the means test for people 70 years of age and over was originally estimated at £38,000,000. That estimate has since grown to £55,100,000, because the total number of pensioners over 70 has increased to 328,700. Of course, the taxpayers are receiving higher wages and salaries and are now in a better position to pay more than they were at that period. But whatever the cost might be, I think such a gesture would be well worth while.
Honorable senators may be interested to know that 328,700 pensioners of 70 years of age and over draw the age pension, but there are 204.000 more who are not eligible to do so, but are excluded by the means test. Thus there are 539,000 people in Australia of 70 years of age and over, and if the means test were abolished the colossal sum of £131,700,000 would be required to provide a pension for them. It would be impossible under present conditions to make such provision.
The second paragraph, to which I referred earlier, reads as follows: -
My advisers have informed me that, whilst employment and production are high and increasing 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 continue it would bring needless hardship to a great many people and it would imperil the stability upon which the further growth of Australia depends.
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 Opposition has charged the Government with bringing about inflation deliberately. Honorable senators opposite say that it has deliberately allowed inflation to develop to serious proportions, and that there will be dire consequences if it is allowed to continue. They stress the effect that it will have upon the economy of the country. This criticism, in the light of the fact that during the last three years of Labour rule inflation in this country increased by 9 per cent, per annum, is somewhat ridiculous. Inflation has never increased to that extent while this Government has been in office. The Government admits that there is a measure of inflation, and has always admitted that fact; but it is taking adequate measures to deal with it. These measures have been strongly criticized by honorable senators opposite, but I think that secretly they regard them as necessary and admit that they will meet the situation. Of course, nothing that the Government does or proposes to do meets with the open approval of honorable members opposite.
A monthly journal which I was reading recently points out that the Korean wool boom of hte ‘fifties, which honorable senators will remember, sparked off a momentum which still retains some of its strength in this country. During the last ten years Australia has indeed grown economically and is attracting the favorable attention of overseas investors in all parts of the world. Internally, we can say that we have arrived and have become a shining light, or a shining land of development and opportunity, not only for Australians but also for the wealthy overseas investors to whom I have just referred. They approve of the Government’s policy and have shown their readiness to assist by their enterprise in a very practical way. Although we have a population of only 10,000,000, Australia ranks as the eighth trading nation in the world. According to recent press reports, overseas visitors have been greatly impressed and surprised at the extraordinary economic expansion and the multiplicity and versatility of our industries which have grown at such a rate during the last decade in spite of many difficulties.
The percentage of unemployed has never been higher than 3 per cent, since this Government has been in office, and the annual average has been a little under 2 per cent. As Senator Spooner pointed out in his recent address, the percentage of unemployed stands at about 1 .6 per cent, of the working population. That is a very satisfactory condition. I think it is the lowest percentage of unemployed in any country of the world, and of that fact we can be very proud. The main trouble with honorable senators opposite and their supporters is that the policy of the Australian Labour Party is outdated. In this country there is virtually no unemployment. I remember a few years ago Mr. Dedman describing people who wanted to own their own homes as “ little capitalists “. Many have become investors in a very real sense of the word. I was interested in a recent statement by a broadcaster to the effect that, within the next decade one-sixth of the money invested in capital works and industry in Australia would be owned by the so-called working man of yesterday. That is an indication of our progress and it opens up wonderful prospects for the future.
Opposition speakers still see a great division between the workers on one hand and big business interests on the other. They refer to the latter as financiers, exploiters, profiteers and racketeers, and even in worse terms. A great deal has been said about the basic wage and the misery suffered by people who seek to live on it. We all know that basic wage earners are as rare as the dodo to-day, they virtually do not exist. I do not know of one of my electors who is receiving only the bare basic wage. Another paragraph to which I refer relates to primary production. It reads -
The prospects for 1959-60 favour a continued high level of production for most of our primary industries, and wool production is estimated at a new record level of 1,690,000,000 pounds. My advisers recognise that an important factor in these achievements is the continued support for research activities from Governments and industries and the ability of Australian primary producers to put the results of research to good practical use. In this session legislation will be introduced to permit the establishment of a research scheme in co-operation with the beef industry.
During the whole of its term, this Government has been a strong advocate of increased production of wheat, wool, butter, cereals of all types and other primary products. The past few years have been very difficult ones for the primary producers, as Senator Wright has so ably pointed out. I know from experience that what he has said is true. Over that period, the primary producer has suffered from the effects of droughts, adverse seasons, and low prices for wool and other products, coupled with rising costs. That condition has obtained in all branches of primary industry. During that period, the farmer has suffered from rising costs, higher wages and great difficulty in obtaining employees. During a period of constantly increasing charges for such things as locally produced machinery and implements, the production of which has been heavily protected by either tariffs or import licensing, he has been visited by adverse seasons. His lot has not been a happy one. Undoubtedly our stability depends upon the early recognition by the Government of the fact that the maintenance and development of our primary industries are essential to the success of our export position, which has been very successful from all points of view.
I believe that the lifting of import restrictions will both sharpen competition considerably and bring great benefit to the primary producer. I am confident that lt will bring him great relief in costs, especially the cost of spare parts which has always been a bugbear to him in the past. I am not one of those who believe that the lifting of import restrictions will have any great effect on employment. It may have some slight effect in the early stages, but I believe that later our employers will meet the position and surmount any difficulties that may arise.
– Do you think their removal will cause any unemployment?
– No. I think that manufacturers have had adequate protection over the past eight years and as a result are now in a very good financial position. One manufacturer told me last year that he would not be very worried if he had a bad year or two. He said that he had sufficient in reserve to pay dividends of 10 per cent, for four years even if he made no profits at all. I hope that many manufacturers are in that fortunate position. They may be.
His Excellency has stated that the farmers have benefited by research to a very marked degree. I trust the farmers will continue to follow the advice offered by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to their practical advantage. In my opinion, the establishment of a research organization for the beef industry is long overdue. It should meet with enthusiastic support from primary producers.
His Excellency’s Speech covers many other important matters including Summit conferences. The last-mentioned subject has been ably dealt with by Senator Wright. The Speech also refers to the Colombo Plan, civil defence, taxation, trade relations and many other interesting subjects with which I could deal at great length if the hour were not so late. Under the circumstances, as they have been dealt with very ably by my colleague, Senator Wright, I conclude by emphasizing that I strongly oppose the censure motion moved by Senator Kennelly and support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
.- in reply - It has been suggested to me that for two or three minutes I should refer briefly to some of the things which have been said during this debate over the past fortnight. First, I pay tribute to those who have taken part in the debate. In my opinion, the debate has been of a high standard. I was associated for a number of years with one parliament in which some members refrained from speaking to the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply because they said that to do so would be only beating the air. In this National Parliament, I believe that it is good that those matters which so closely affect the welfare of Australia should be ventilated thoroughly, and I feel that this has been done during the past two weeks. I think the discussion has been good and it may well be that by dint of many words some of the suggestions submitted during the debate will receive recognition eventually.
I do appreciate the courtesy that has been extended to me. I greatly appreciate the honour of being asked to propose the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
In conclusion, I hope that some notice will be taken of what has been said by some honorable senators concerning the position threatening primary production in this country. I know from experience that if anything drastic happens to our primary industries we cannot have a prosperous community nor can we go ahead and develop in the way in which every one hopes and expects we will.
– Mr. President, before the vote is taken on the amendment, I suggest for the consideration of the Senate that the question be divided into three parts. This procedure will enable the Senate to vote as it sees fit on each of the three propositions.
– Is leave granted?
Honorable Senators. - Aye.
Question put -
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 “
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . … ..11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
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 action in lifting import restrictions with its accompanying threat to the employment of thousands of Australians and the security of Australian enterprises “.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
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 decision to ask the Arbitration Commission to reject the current application of the trade union movement for an increase in the basic wage “.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . … ..11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Presentation of Address-in-Reply.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That the Address-in-Reply be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General by the President and such honorable senators as may desire to accompany him.
– I shall ascertain when His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the AddressinReply. When a time has been fixed, I shall acquaint the Senate thereof.
Senate adjourned at 12.3 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 March 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19600317_senate_23_s17/>.