23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate about half a dozen questions, just to start with. I put the material in the form of questions because I have never prefaced my questions since I was pulled up a few times for having done so.
– What are you doing now?
– I am just telling you what I intend to do. I hope that it will penetrate your cerebellum.
Is it a fact that the press is a wonderful source of information? ls it a fact that the press is also a source of misinformation, not so wonderful? Is it true, as reported in a section of the press, that Mao Tse-tung, the Chinese leader, is convinced that an atomic war is inevitable? Is it true that Mao Tse-tung holds the view that an atomic war would not destroy humanity? Is it a fact that Mao Tse-tung has almost full control over the minds of more than 600,000,000 Chinese? Is the Government’s source of information such that the Minister can confirm or deny such press statements? Would not a false conception of Mao Tse-tung’s outlook on these matters have a dangerous reaction on Australia’s defence strategy?
– I start by pleading for mercy at being asked to answer such a series of questions. I let pass over my shoulder the request for an expression of opinion about the virtues or failings of the press. I have not seen the press report of the statement attributed to Mao Tse-tung. I strongly doubt that he has complete control over the minds of such a large proportion of the world’s population. There may well be interesting developments on the mainland of China in the future. Events may show that Mao Tse-tung has no more control over the minds of 600,000,000 Chinese than the Leader of the Opposition in another place, despite his claims, would have over the minds of the Australian people in a referendum campaign.
In relation to the general question on atomic war and its terrible effects, let me say that I belong to the school of thought that believes that the possession of terrible atomic weapons has been one of the deterrents to world war. We pay a very high price to ensure that we and our friends who hold those weapons may be in such a state of readiness that humanity will be spared from a third world war.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether he is aware that libraries and other organizations in South Australia have received from the Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics here in Canberra large quantities of books containing Communist propaganda. Is the distribution of such propaganda on such a lavish scale the usual function of embassies in Australia? Are lists of libraries and other organizations compiled ‘by the embassy itself or are they supplied by persons outside the embassy?
– I was not aware that libraries in South Australia had been receiving large quantities of Communist propaganda from the Soviet Embassy in Canberra, but I cannot say that I am surprised to hear that they have been. It is a practice of the Soviet Union and other Communist countries to print highly expensive books, illustrated magazines and booklets in huge quantities and make them available, for a nominal charge, not only in Australia but wherever possible throughout the world. I cannot say who would compile a list of libraries, but I imagine that it would be quite within the competence of anybody serving in an embassy to look up the published lists of public libraries in any State of the Commonwealth. I am not sure whether the honorable senator is asking whether this action by the Soviet Embassy, which is an action not usually taken by embassies, could be stopped. That would be a matter involving censorship - possibly political censorship - and would need to be quite carefully studied. I commend the honorable senator for directing the attention of South Australians to this flood of propaganda.
– I ask the Minister a supplementary question. Has Australia a reciprocal right to distribute throughout the Soviet Union propaganda extolling our system?
– The answer, as I am sure the honorable senator knows, is, “ No “. The freedom that is extended in, this country to people to choose the system under which they want to live, after a study of all points of view, does not exist in the Soviet Union, as was illustrated by a question asked in the Senate a few days ago about the fate of Boris Pasternak, who attempted that very thing.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Can the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs inform me whether any facilities are offered to newspapers printed in English in Russia? Are there any newspapers printed in English available for purchase in Russia?
– I take it that the honorable senator means newspapers printed in English which are published in Russia?
– Available in Russia.
– I gather, then, that she wishes to know whether newspapers printed in English are imported into Russia. I cannot answer that question; but I do know that in that country the censorship of both incoming and outgoing news is completely in the hands of the government and that power is used just as that government wishes at any time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. By way of preface, I refer to a matter made public this week by Dr. P. S. Woodruff, Director of Public Health in South Australia, namely, that four brands of desiccated coconut had been tested recently in the State, that disease germs had been found in one brand, and that, consequently, the whole of this brand of desiccated coconut had been destroyed. I understand that the tests, however carefully done, could not guarantee that the other three brands were entirely free from disease germs. I believe the disease referred to was a kind of typhoid fever. Can the Minister tell me, first, whether the Commonwealth Government has been requested to prohibit the importation of desiccated coconut, and, secondly, what kind of action the Govern ment has taken or will take, and by what department or departments it will be taken?
– I have seen in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ the article to which the honorable senator refers. I recall that a similar incident occurred in Australia about eight to ten years ago in connexion with coconut from New Guinea. I take it the coconut referred to by the honorable senator is that imported from Ceylon. I have directed the attention of the Minister for Health to the article and he has advised me that he will confer with the Ministers for Health in all the States to find out just what the position is. Naturally, if this coconut carries disease it will come under the quarantine regulations and will be prevented from entering Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. I addressed this question to him on Tuesday, but I feel he did not hear the question correctly, and therefore I ask it again. Is the Minister aware that the management of the Austral Bronze factory in Derwent Park, Hobart, claims that its production of metal has fallen from 95 tons to 77 tons per week, consequent upon the importation of copper to Australia at a price lower than that of the locally produced metal? Is he also aware that 16 of the factory’s employees were dismissed last week? Can he indicate the extent of this trend and inform the Senate whether it is Australia-wide? Will he take steps to have the matter investigated urgently, with a view to remedial action, and make a statement on the position to the Senate?
– Senator Poke asked this question previously and I apologise to him for not understanding it correctly and not giving an appropriate answer. In the meantime I have had a look at the matter. The question does not relate to copper proper, if such a term may be used; it relates to fabricated copper products and, in the case of this particular company, to copper strip. These are the circumstances: About a year ago the Tariff Board made an inquiry into fabricated copper products. It made its report to the Government in the usual way and the
Government adopted the report. The Tariff Board’s recommendation had the effect of reducing somewhat the protection afforded to copper strip products. Early this year import licensing was abolished, so now this company faces the situation that its degree of protection has been reduced somewhat, and that it is meeting more competition. The copper fabricators as a whole were apprehensive that these two sets of circumstances to which I have referred would prejudice their activities. However, the Department of Trade kept a close watch on >he situation and the information that I have is that so far there is no evidence that any other company has been affected by that combination of circumstances. Therefore, I think the appropriate thing would be for the proprietors of the company to have a talk with officers of the Department of Trade, putting their problem before the department, to see whether a solution can be evolved.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has he seen reports, published recently, that a new chemical named Delapon, used in lucerne trials in the Lachlan valley in New South Wales, has resulted in highly improved yields? I understand that one trial showed an increase of 53 per cent, in lucerne yield at first cut. Can this chemical be supplied at reasonable prices and in quantity? Is it obtainable freely in all States?
– I understand that the use of this chemical has had a very significant effect on lucerne yields. I do not know the price at which the chemical can be supplied, but I understand that it is available in all States. I shall endeavour to find out the price and sources of supply for the honorable senator.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General a question supplementary to that asked by Senator Drury. Will he have an investigation made to see whether the propaganda to which Senator Drury referred is antiAustralian and designed to undermine our democratic system? If an investigation disclosed that that was so, would he take the steps necessary to prevent the publication of anti-Australian, anti-democratic propaganda in Australia, for the protection of our democratic system?
– What strikes me immediately is the implication of the honorable senator’s question. I do not believe that it is within the competence of the Commonwealth Government to deal with matter published in the States, but, even if it were, I would be reluctant to embark upon the task of endeavouring to define anti-Australian propaganda and of using political censorship, based on a definition formulated by whatever government was in power at the time, to prevent the publication of such propaganda. It may well be that Senator Aylett regards a number of the views which 1 hold as being anti-Australian, and that, should the party that he supports come to power, and follow the course that he would like to follow, it would endeavour to have my views suppressed. Rather than follow a course such as the honorable senator suggests, I think it would be better to do as Senator Drury did, that is, to direct attention to the fact that such propaganda is being distributed and then to trust that the education and good sense of the Australian people will not allow that propaganda to undermine their democratic beliefs.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. In view of the increasing problem associated with the care and training of mentally retarded children, will the Commonwealth Government consider the establishment of a committee within the Department of Social Services to make a thorough investigation into what is needed in the care and training of slow-learning and mentally retarded persons from infancy through to adult age, and to conduct a survey of mentally retarded persons throughout the Commonwealth, the statistics to be made available annually and duly recorded?
– The question that the honorable senator has asked is being dealt with, to a certain extent, by the States, which are responsible for education.
– I have asked for a survey of mentally retarded people to be undertaken.
– Yes. The Commonwealth, through the Department of Social Services, also assists by playing a part, not perhaps in the education of mentally retarded children, but in connexion with spastics and others of that type who need rehabilitation. I shall place before my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, the honorable senator’s request for a survey to be conducted and ask him to furnish me with a reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that, in certain States of Australia, intra-state operational facilities are not available to Trans-Australia Airlines? If this is so, are any steps being taken, or is it contemplated that any will be taken, to obtain intra-state operational facilities for T.A.A.?
– The position is as has been stated by the honorable senator; in some States, Trans-Australia Airlines is not permitted to engage in operations intra-state. I would have thought that the honorable senator would remember that position quite well, because it was only last year that this Parliament considered that matter. This chamber discussed it at length, particularly a provision that was inserted in the legislation of 1959. The position as to intra-state operation is clearly set down in that provision which, I repeat, was discussed fully. However, I should not permit the impression to be left that T.A.A. suffers any competitive disadvantage, in the view of the Government, because of that fact. It is singularly appropriate that this question should have been asked to-day, Mr. Deputy President, because to-day the airline begins intra-state services in New Guinea, in which Territory it has a right that is not enjoyed by its competitor, Ansett-A.N.A.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise say whether it is customary to review periodically tariffs imposed on goods imported into Australia? Is it correct that in the absence of a reference to the Tariff Board, some duties remain in force for years without being disturbed? If so, in the interests of efficiency and competition in Australian industry, will the Government consider reviewing those imposts with a view to their reduction?
– It is customary for the Tariff Board to review tariffs from time to time. It is a fact that some rates of tariff remain on the tariff schedule without review for long periods, but provision is made for importers or manufacturers at any time to seek a review of the tariffs if they think that the duties have operated for such a time that a review is needed.
In regard to the third part of the honorable senator’s question, which relates to a major review of tariff duties, I point out that such a review has been undertaken recently by the Government in relation to a number of industries. I recall that the whole of the radio industry and the whole of the automotive industry have been reviewed. At the present time, a major review is being made of the fats and oils industry, and the review of other industries is pending. It will be seen, therefore, that the Government has the matter well in mind.
I cannot say, of course, whether duties would be reduced as a result of a review by the Tariff Board. That is a matter for the board, which might decide, on investigation, to increase certain rates of duty. I assure the honorable senator that the matter is under constant review and that a great many of the major industries are coming within the jurisdiction, for review purposes, of the Tariff Board.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, who is also Minister for External Affairs and Acting Treasurer. In the interests of Australia’s prestige in the United Nations, in international academic circles and in Commonwealth circles generally, will the Prime Minister state whether it is the prerogative of a civil servant, no matter how highly placed, to determine the admission to or exclusion from Australia’s external Territories of a British subject with high credentials? In view of tile imminent departure from
Australia of Professor Gluckman, who is to visit India on the way back to his important post in the Manchester University, will the Prime Minister make some slight amends to him by withdrawing the objections to his entering New Guinea, thereby proving that while any fool can make a mistake it is a wise man who admits his error?
– These matters are determined by legislation and by regulation. The request for permission came before the Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in the usual manner, and the Administrator made inquiries in the usual way. The result of those inquiries was to the effect that admission was undesirable.
– In a most unusual way.
– There was nothing unusual at all. The ordinary, normal processes were followed. The Administrator, having made the inquiry and having received the information, referred the matter to the Minister for Territories. The Minister, with the information before him, confirmed the Administrator’s decision. What was done was done in all our interests.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I preface it by inviting his attention to the rather notorious fact that the booking of railway passages from Western Australia to the eastern States is under the sole control of the Western Australian Government Railways. I have found, with respect to the trans-continental train which leaves Perth at 7 p.m. on Sunday, that one cannot book a seat in either Perth or Kalgoorlie between mid-day on Saturday and 6 p.m. on Sunday. That, of course, makes things very difficult for persons who contemplate travelling on the train and who have to pack their clothes and go to the railway station to see whether they can travel on the train. If they find they cannot travel on it, they must go home again with their luggage. I ask the Minister whether he will exercise his best endeavours to persuade the Western Australian Government to provide somewhat less primitive facilities for the booking of seats. I under- stand that overtures .in regard to this matter have been made before but that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has not got very far. My second question is this: If we do not get very much further in this matter in the near future, will the Minister consider the setting up of a reasonably modern office in Perth so that modern booking facilities may be provided for interstate travellers?
– I am aware of the fact that the Western Australian Government Railways is the booking agent for the Commonwealth Railways. But I was not aware of the inconvenience that the public is asked to suffer in being unable to book a seat between mid-day on Saturday and Sunday evening. I am sure that my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, would wish to provide a rather more modern booking service to match the very modern and comfortable train service which he administers. I shall certainly be pleased to bring the matter to his notice.
– Does the Minister for Civil Aviation fully subscribe to the principle of competition between TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A.? Has the Australian National Airlines Commission ever applied for permission to fly intrastate services in New South Wales, South Australia or Victoria? Is it not a fact that Ansett-A.N.A. carries 350,000 more passengers on intra-state services than does T.A.A., and is that not because the Government airline is banned from operating such services in those three States? Finally, is it not unfair competition for T.A.A. to be excluded from the advantages to be derived from the operation of feeder services to the main arterial air routes from the most populous States?
– I think that every propaganda attempt that is made to create a belief in the public mind that T.A.A. suffers from a competitive disadvantage in relation to Ansett-A.N.A. is completely destroyed by the fact that T.A.A.’s annual growth is such as to give complete satisfaction to the Government and, I should have thought, to the Opposition. The competitive disadvantage that Senator O’Byrne says T.A.A. suffers by virtue of the fact that it does not operate intrastate in all States is mainly a mirage, because if T.A.A. were permitted to, and did in fact, operate intra-state services within some States, those operations would be completely uneconomic because of the existence already of adequate services provided by other airlines in those areas.
– Is that what Mr. McDonald said in his report?
– Let me make this quite clear. For my part, Mr. McDonald is permitted to have his own view on the matter. His view, however, is not necessarily accepted by me as being the correct view, nor is it accepted by many other people with a knowledge of the airlines business at least as extensive as Mr. McDonald’s. I merely say that T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A. are operating in healthy competition and that they are providing magnificent air services for the Australian people. 1 take leave to remind the Senate . that T.A.A. has been in existence for fourteen years, and that for eleven of those years this Government has been in office. During those eleven years, T.A.A. has continued to prosper and to provide the type of competition in airline services which the Government wants and which is so beneficial to Australian air travellers.
– Has the Minister for National Development seen a statement in the Brisbane newspapers that Mount Isa Mines Limited, which employs some 30 geologists in a search for various minerals, has decided to discontinue the search for uranium ores? Can the Minister say whether the Combined Development Agency is continuing to buy uranium oxide? Is there a sale for uranium oxide on the free market? If there is no sale for uranium oxide on the free market, is it the Government’s intention to continue the policy of giving rewards to discoverers of uranium in Australia?
– I did not see the statement in the Queensland press to which Senator Scott has referred. The market for uranium is passing through a very difficult stage. Uranium was a very scarce metal. Supplies were inadequate and a big demand was expected. Therefore, all sorts of actions were taken to encourage search and discovery. Much more uranium was discovered than was expected, but the demand did not come up to expectations. The result is that the Combined Development Agency, which is the purchasing authority for Great Britain and the United States, has supplies far in excess of its requirements and is not at present purchasing more than it is required to purchase under existing contracts. It is difficult to sell uranium now except under existing long-term contracts. We in Australia are fortunate in that existing producers have such contracts, with a couple of years to run.
The honorable senator asked whether we would continue to offer rewards for uranium discoveries. The answer to that is, “ Yes “. I think these clouds will roll away and that uranium will again be in demand. I think that Australia has big reserves of uranium, although that has not yet been proved, and that in the years to come there will be a market for them. If my opinion proves correct, Australia will be one of the important uranium-producing countries. There is no proposal, at the moment anyhow, to withdraw the offer of rewards for uranium discoveries.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Deputy President, in your capacity as the Presiding Officer of the Senate. Are there any statistics to show the number of visitors each year to Parliament House, Canberra? Are you aware that on Saturdays and Sundays particularly, and during school vacations, many hundreds of visitors inspect Parliament House and its surroundings but are unable to obtain any refreshments within a radius of more than a mile from the building? As similar conditions previously existed at the Australian War Memorial but have now been relieved by the establishment of a much appreciated and well-patronized kiosk in the vicinity, will you, Sir, in conjunction with Mr. Speaker, and with the Minister for the Interior, if necessary, consider the desirability of providing such an amenity within a reasonable distance of Parliament House?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The honorable senator would not, of course, expect me to have that information immediately available, as I am only a temporary occupant of the chair. I shall take the matter up with Mr. Speaker and it will be discussed in the usual way. I hope to be able later on to give an answer to the question.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Will any other offers, from either Australia or abroad, be entertained for the purchase of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s establishment at Bell Bay? I ask that question in order to make certain that the best possible price is being obtained for this industry.
– The Government has decided to accept the offer that it now has before it. Therefore, it does not propose to seek any other offers. I think it may be deduced from that statement that it is the Government’s opinion that this is a very favorable offer.
– I preface a question, which I direct to the Minister for Customs and Excise, by reading an extract from an answer supplied on Tuesday to a question that I had placed on the notice-paper. It is as follows: -
The Department of Customs and Excise has a trained staff of preventive officers which maintains a vigilant watch against ali forms of smuggling.
Will the Minister state the number of trained officers who maintain a watch against all forms of smuggling at each of the following ports - Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie?
– I do not have the figures for each port at hand but I can tell the honorable senator that the officers M each port are completely interchangeable. We do not get overseas ships in all four ports at the one time. We use officers from Devonport to supplement the staff at Hobart if necessary, and vice versa. The officers move around from port to port where their services are required. Also, at times I have made arrangements for officers to be flown from Melbourne to assist in emergencies when more ships may be in a port than I feel can be handled by the Tasmanian staff. Quite recently on one or two occasions I have arranged for a crew of preventive officers to be flown to Tasmania from Melbourne in order to assist the Tasmanian administration. I will give the honorable senator the number of officers at each port, but I ask him to bear in mind that they are interchanged and used wherever their services are required.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform me of the potential export market for Australian bauxite? I ask the question because I understand that quantities of bauxite are to be shipped from Western Australia to Japan. In view of the projected sale of the Bell Bay aluminium factory and the development of the large bauxite deposits at Weipa, could the Bell Bay organization be allowed to exploit the Weipa deposits while at the same time enabling the Queensland Government to fulfil its agreement to supply raw bauxite to overseas countries?
– I doubt whether I could embark on a dissertation about the world markets for bauxite. Bauxite is the basic material for the aluminium industry and there is a large world-wide trade in it. One aspect of the aluminium industry is that smelters are not located on the bauxite fields. Either the bauxite or the alumina must be transported to the smelter. I have seen with great interest reports of shipments of bauxite from Western Australia to Japan. Japan has no bauxite resources, but she has a fairly large aluminium industry. I wish the Western Australian people luck in their endeavours to break into the Japanese market. I think that at some stage bauxite will be exported from Weipa, because it would take some years to build an alumina plant and still more years to build smelters. I think the natural pattern would be to open up the bauxite fields, develop the port and commence to develop the alumina plant. All of those things may well go on concurrently.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has furnished the following replies:-
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The question is a fairly important one. It relates to American and Australian defence arrangements. The Minister for Defence has provided the following answers: -
The Mutual Weapons Development Programme Agreement between the United States of America and Australia provides for co-operation between the two countries to accelerate development by Australia of new non-nuclear arms and equipment. Under this agreement, the United States will provide funds and technical assistance for the development of any mutually agreed project.
The extent of the co-operation and details of any initial work to be carried out under the agreement will now be examined by the two governments.
The results of this examination and other examinations from time to time will determine whether the agreement will have any impact on the programme at the Weapons Research Establishment at Woomera and at Salisbury, but not at Maralinga as the agreement relates to non-nuclear weapons.
It should be borne in mind, however, that activities at the Weapons Research Establishment have increased considerably over the past twelve months and. there are several new large and important research and development projects under way at Woomera and Salisbury. Thus, the decision by the United Kingdom Government to suspend the development of Blue Streak as a ballistic missile has not seriously affected the overall activities of the Weapons Research Establishment.
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Territories whether he is able to comment upon an article written by the well-known feature writer, Mr. Osmar White, which appeared in last night’s Melbourne “ Herald “ and in which he passed some very critical remarks about the Public Service of New Guinea. He said it was no new story that resignations from that service were increasing, and he quoted a statement by the Public Service Commissioner in Port Moresby to the effect that resignations in the last financial year rose by 50 per cent. If the Minister is unable to offer any comment, I should be very pleased if he would bring my question to the notice of the Minister for Territories and ascertain whether, in view of recent public discussion about Australia’s position in Papua and New Guinea, he is prepared to comment on the situation and state what the Government intends to do to improve the position so that Mr. White’s suggestion that public servants are not being recruited in the best manner may be refuted.
My colleague, the Minister for Territories, has now supplied the following answer: -
Judged by Public Service standards it is not a fact that the turnover rate in the Papua and New Guinea Public Service has been continually high. Until the last financial year the rate has been very little higher than obtained in the Commonwealth Public Service although one would normally expect a much higher rate with expatriate officers serving outside their own country.
In the last financial year there was an increase in the rate, but not to the extent suggested in the newspaper article quoted by the honorable senator. Notwithstanding this, the service made a net gain of 230 officers during the year.
The statement in the article, that the service conditions are poor and that this has been the main contributing factor to the increase in turnover of staff, is ill-founded. Australians serving in the Papua and New Guinea Public Service have similar and in some cases better salary classifications than public servants in Australia and have certain advantages by way of territorial allowance, house and furniture at nominal rents, extra leave, leave fares, educational allowances and lower tax rates. Difficulties in recruitment occur only in a few special categories in which, significantly, there is also a shortage in Australia.
Debate resumed from 31st August (vide page 349), on motion by Senator. Paltridge -
That the following papers:-
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1961.
The Budget 1960-61 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable Harold Holt in connexion with the Budget of 1960-61; and National Income and Expenditure 1959-60 - be printed.
– When the Senate adjourned last night I was developing the thought that the primary industries of this country are being so adversely affected by some factors that it is imperative that urgent attention be given to them. I was referring to the difference that figures reveal in a comparison of the expansion and remuneration of the Public Service of the Commonwealth of Australia and the farming community. The memorandum honorable senators have just received shows, as I interpret it, that as a direct result of the two decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission last year, £20,000,000 will be added to the cost of the Public Service to the taxpayer for one year.
Looking into the figures, one finds that at 30th June, 1949, the number of members of the Public Service was 141,700 and the. present number is 162,800. The amounts of money paid to public servants in the year ended 30th June, 1949, and in the last financial year were respectively £60,200,000 and £186,800,000. In eleven years the amount had trebled. If one looks at the section of the White Paper dealing with farm and salary incomes generally, one sees that in 1949 salaries and wages amounted to about £1,100,000,000, and in 1959 they amounted to £3,300,000,000. So, the same ratio is maintained there. That is a fair indication that the chief body responsible for salary increases in Australia, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, has had a governing effect upon the Commonwealth Public Service. In contrast to that, in 1949 farm incomes totalled £321,000,000, and in the last financial year they totalled £466,000,000.
The true effect of that comparison has to be understood in relation to the ratio of prices received to prices paid in the allproducts index to which I referred last night. This morning, Senator Wade gave a further indication of his interest in the wool industry. It is quite interesting to note, in relation to wool, that in 1949-50 the figure derived from the ratio of prices received to prices paid was 142, and to-day it is 67. That reduction in the indicator seems to me to show that Senator Wade’s proposal for an examination of measures to maintain and improve the position of the wool industry is quite timely. The inflation of the cost of the Public Service, the inflation of wages and salaries and the starvation of primary industries have occurred during a period when the primary industries have improved production very significantly and the number of people engaged in the primary industries is practically static. I have the figure for 1950, which I must take instead of the figure for 1949 because the schedule provided to me does not disclose the full figures for 1949. In 1950, the number of permanent rural workers was 405,000, and the number of temporary rural workers was 92,000. In the last year for which I have the figures, 1958, the permanent rural workers numbered 394,000 and the temporary rural workers numbered 106,000. Those figures show a slight increase if the temporary rural workers are taken into account, but the number is practically static.
If we are to develop this country, it is urgently necessary that we see what is causing those adverse effects to the agricultural industries. My thesis is that the chief factor militating against the prosperity of the primary industries is the operation of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I believe that it is wholly inappropriate that three men, whose experience is mainly legal, should make the decisions now that adjudication on basic wage and margins matters has been put on a national basis. The tribunal should not continue in its present form. Attention should be given to its reconstitution. I believe it is imperative that the tribunal should be reconstituted so as to give it a broader basis and a greater variety of experience. Then we would have a more uniform approach to the wage-fixing system and a more responsible result would emanate from the commission.
I cannot leave this subject without expressing my complete mystification and disappointment at the fact that it does not appear that there is a Minister in the Parliament who has had assessed, for the purposes of this Budget, the effect of the two decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission last year upon the Commonwealth Budget. I believe one of the most important inquiries would be to analyse those effects at the very commencement of the preparation of the Budget in order to see to what extent alteration in Budget items was due to the decisions of that tribunal. The next task would be to consider how those alterations could be related in terms of real economics to the Government’s assessment of economic factors. If some unreality were found in the connexion between the two, much more strength would be given to the argument I am putting forward that it is imperative that consideration be given to the reconstitution of this tribunal, the decisions of which have made an impact upon our economy and the cumulative effect of which ultimately damaged the rural industries and directly undermined Australia’s export capacity.
– Is that the sole reason?
– Not at all, but it is the chief reason. Another important factor which affects the farming industry is the tariff. It is the protector of our employment capacity, and from that point of view is important, but it should not be allowed to create waste and bring about inflation, which affects all sections of the community. Inflation gives rise to the form of speculation which generates profits in figures, but not in terms of real value. These profits accrue to people who have the time and the wealth to gain experience on the stock market. This form of speculation is seeping through into the suburban land market. As a result, the costs of stocks and shares and land are being divorced from real values.
– It would be interesting if you would elaborate that theme.
– I will do so at a later stage in my speech, if Senator Courtice’s patience permits his interest to persist. 1 admit that the tariff is the protector of our employment capacity, but although we must maintain the industries that give employment, we must never lose sight of the fact that our economy is dependent upon external markets. Therefore, we must ensure that costs in Australia are not inflated to such a degree, in order to maintain our internal industries, as would destroy our opportunities in the external markets.
In 1951, when the profits of the woolgrowers were high due to the upsurge of inflation, a levy was imposed upon their profits. The proceeds of this levy were held by the Treasury so that the wool-growers would not misapply their excess money, but would have it available to meet their taxation obligations. It seems to me that a little thought might be given to the reverse situation now. Unpalatable as subsidies are as a permanent solution to a problem, some assistance could be given to the exporting industries to counteract the effect of the activities of the agencies that are increasing costs within Australia. I refer to the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission and the Tariff Board. I heard Senator McKellar suggest yesterday that a subsidy should be granted to the producers of superphosphate. I think that that might be appropriate at this stage. Dealing with the suggestion that some assistance be given to the exporting industries, I want to say that at the export conference that was held in Canberra earlier this year it was current news that the exporters, whose energies Mr. McEwen was positively encouraging, had made a practical proposal to the Government to enable them to get access to export markets, despite the high costs of Australian secondary industry. They suggested that they be given immunity from income tax on the portion of their businesses devoted to exports. I have every reason to believe that the proposal was considered seriously, but I suggest that it should not be considered seriously until twelve months after a similar advantage has been given to the exporting primary industries.
– Have not the high land values got more to do with th-i increased costs of primary production than have wages?
– No. They have something to do with the increased costs of primary production, but I am considering the net revenue cost, which is quite distinct from the original capital invest.ment. I agree, however, that in the last five or seven years high land values have been an element in the costs of our agricultural industry. It is almost certain that creeping inflation within our economy will continue. In those circumstances, some people who have an opportunity to buy real estate will do so, even though the return on their capital might be only 1 per cent, or 2 per cent., because if they lent their money to the Government they could be almost sure that their capital investment would be eroded at the rate of 4 per cent, a year. Therefore, by putting the money in real estate, their capital investment would increase by from 4 per cent, to 8 per cent, a year. Surely a man who is a fugitive from inflation in this country is tree to buy real estate and is not forced to invest in Government bonds. The rise in real estate values is a direct result of the churning process that is going on in industry because of the activities of the Arbitration Commission, which are creating not butter, but sour milk.
The Arbitration Commission is hanging the Australian economy on the peg of inflation. Let me give an instance, not only to illustrate the ineptness of the commission and the irresponsibility of its decisions, but also to show that, as a result of the complex mechanism of that body, we are suffering greatly from wasteful and inflationary practices. Let us look at ihe record of the shipping industry of this country during this year. I speak for Tasmania sometimes, and I shall do so again to-day with a very keen sense of the plight of the apple industry on the overseas market and of the potato industry on the interstate market. Both of those industries are facing ruin because of chaotic conditions in the shipping industry. Those chaotic conditions result in higher costs for the shipping companies, which are passed on in the form of higher freights. The potato industry has been almost destroyed, and the apple industry, due to a combination of external factors, is in a precarious position indeed.
The Seamen’s Award was announced on 1st February, after long argument before the commission. What do we find? There was a march of 300 seamen on the offices of the Australasian Steamship Owners Federation. On 18th February, the seamen on eight vessels refused to sail or to work during the week-end and the vessels sailed after the week-end. Four days later, the seamen of eight vessels refused to sail during the next week-end and some of the vessels were delayed for a considerable time.
From 26th February to 26th April there were sporadic and desultory hold-ups of ships, all stemming from the directions of the master-mind, Mr. Elliott. Then the Commonwealth Industrial Court was asked to intervene, and it convicted the union of contempt and imposed a fine. That day, as soon as the news was telegraphed to all ports in Australia, the seamen failed to return to their vessels for duty. The next day they stayed on strike in all ports. I have before me a list of the vessels that were affected; there were some 20 or 30 of them. That afternoon, 500 seamen marched on the federation’s offices in Melbourne. They caused considerable damage to the offices of the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited. In Brisbane, marching seamen were dispersed by the police. There was a further series of sporadic delays and, on 12th May, the court again registered a conviction of the union. This was followed by a three-day strike on the part of seamen. A desultory strike - people suddenly taking ill and people not reporting for . employment - 4has been continued to the present time.
On 26th July, just after Mr. Justice Foster gave his judgment refusing an alteration of conditions, there was another general strike throughout the industry. This strike was followed by sporadic delays due to the fact that crews were not available to meet the specifications required by the coastal navigation legislation. It has been responsibly estimated that ship cost to the steamship owners of Australia involved in that exercise by the Seamen’s Union up to date has “been ?500,000. The indirect cost caused to traders and producers engaged in the industries that would be served by those ships, would bring the total cost, *>n a responsible estimate, to ?1,500,000. Yet the Seamen’s Union, in its claim to the commission, gave only two instances of low wages, stating that in each case the wage that the employee received was ?15 17s. It has been proved by the books that, instead of receiving only ?15 17s., the two seamen involved received in addition an amount of ?7 17s. 6d. in respect of two days off on pay for working on Saturday and Sunday, making a total of ?25 14s. Overtime payments to each of the seamen added about ?15 to their gross earnings for the week, making their total earnings ?40 a week. Mr. Justice Foster, in his judgment which was delivered in July, showed, after taking but figures in relation to the whole of the Australian coastal shipping fleet represented by the federation, and of the Australian National Line, that the average weekly earnings of the seamen were ?28 6s. 2d. The judgment shows that the employment conditions in the industry require the seamen to receive 127 days’ leave and to work for 238 days throughout the year.
My theme is that if we can create a bureau - a body - which can harbour such cancerous, economic sores as that, the health of the general economy of this country is threatened. It is, 1 think, rather a commentary upon the outlook of those who, in producing a budget, see the farming interests starved. The producers are working not 238 days of the year but, on any estimate, an .average of 300 days, and not for eight hours, a day but much longer, and they have the responsibility to maintain our exports. They are being bled white by this sort of activity, which’ goes on under the protection of the industrial legislation. A judge of the arbitration commission referred to Mr. Elliott’s approach to the matter in this way -
In these proceedings in 1959, Mr. Elliott stated on 27th November, “ I was deliberately not going to mention it and have some fun and games subsequently, but I have mentioned other matters which may cause fun and games so I should mention it “.
Mr. Justice Foster said ; fun and games which have cost the men many pounds and, collectively, many thousands of pounds, cost the union thousands of pounds in fines and costs and disrupted the industry and served the community ill.
The only footnote I would add is- that it has cost the unions three fines - abour £1,300 in all. The organization doubtless has some legal costs to pay as well. That would be very salutary were the union on an ordinary trading basis; but never let us forget that it has in its coffers the unexpended balance of £43,000 the proceeds of indemnity payments. That matter was investigated by a select committee of this Senate a couple of years ago and nobody took any notice-
– Oh, yes!
– Well, no effective notice. The Minister fo:- Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has a very urgent responsibility with regard to the economy of this country. It is much more appropriate to give a little consideration in that quarter than to increase income tax by 5 per cent., and company tax by 6d. in the £1. What is the result of an increase of company taxation by that amount? It only adds another layer to the cost structure. Will it restrain demand? The draper will add one half-penny a yard to the price of calico and the grocer will add threepence per lb. to the cost of beans. That is our method of stemming, inflation, in a country where inflation is being fomented chiefly, though not entirely, by the agency of an inappropriate and irresponsible tribunal.
Let us look at the matter from another point of view. This Budget makes provision for the payment of an additional £29,000,000 to the States. During the debate, I have heard reference to the Constitutional Review Committee. An attempt was made by the committee to give attention to the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. The committee, I say with complete sympathy, simply reported that it was unable to provide a solution. The committee collectively so spoke. The fact that it was unable to provide a solution indicates the degree of perseverance of the chief problem of the country, namely Federal-State financial relations. The report of the committee had scarcely been issued, constitutional repairin this respect having been despaired of, when the six State Premiers hastened to Canberra, were satisfied with an increase of some £20,000,000 by way of tax reimbursement, and accepted a new formula.
That was’ last. July. Into that formula is written, as the chief factor*, provision for. increases of - the basic wage. So, we have as the hub of the wheel of- public finance, Commonwealth’ and State, this tribunal comprised of three men, sitting once a year, to adjust wages on a national basis. Those men govern the Commonwealth Budget and also the Budgets of the States. That system is, I think evidence of irresponsibility beyond repair.
The most cardinal exigency of constitutional review is redemption of the Constitution from the destruction of the politicians. The independence of the States with regard to indirect taxation was destroyed in 1910. It was filched from them by the Surplus Revenue Acts, by a manoeuvre in money matters that was not altogether creditable and which has left with the States a distaste for the methods by which public money is administered in Canberra. All the surplus revenues, instead of being honorably made available to the States as required, have been secreted in trust accounts. The States will never forge that discreditable approach to public finance. Until *he States are constitutionally guaranteed their own field of revenue and are made politically responsible for raising the revenue that they, in the main, expend, we shall have this irresponsible system and it will continue to be difficult for this Government to avoid responsibility if the States are facing a crisis.
Such irresponsibility is one of the breeders of inflation. State Parliaments become merely spending agencies and are able- to- escape responsibility to answer for the taxes that they impose, We have there a loose, lopsided, almost monopolistic system from Canberra’s point of view. Over the last ten or fifteen years it has been demonstrated, I think, that the clamour of the States consequent on the operation of the system has been one of the great factors in inflation. I hope to refer to this matter again in a moment or two, when I am speaking about capital works..
Another matter concerning constitutional review which, I should think, is of national importance, is the need to grant to this Parliament power over the entire field of terms and conditions of employment in industry, though not, as some irresponsible member of this assembly said the other night, by giving the Government control of arbitral tribunals. This Parliament should be given such power as is needed to create arbitral tribunals, wage boards and conciliation committees, all within the scope of the authority of the Parliament and therefore Parliament’s responsibility. Senator McKenna has advocated that what the country needs in the way of constitutional review is to give this Parliament economic powers so that it may control the economy on the order and decree system, on the capital issues system. We have a good illustration, in the operation of the banking legislation, of how such controls would work under a system in which had been left an element of free enterprise. Once you start to touch, with the effective finger of official interference, the business relations between men, those men will go to healthier fields. They will turn to healthier activities. Rather than submit to the Reserve Bank, they may even go farming or perhaps have a stab at hire purchase.
I want to say, so that it will not be thought that I am critical for criticism’s sake, that I have already . applauded the Government for the four-pronged approach it made in December last to stemming the crisis that never should have occurred. The Government decided to lift import restrictions, to use Reserve Bank authority to restrict credit, and to go before the arbitration tribunal and plead that the basic wage should not be increased. The Government announced to us, in advance, that it would balance the Budget. I said, at that time, that the fourth prong would have my support so long as that was done on the expenditure side, and that is still the position. But what do we see? Expenditure is to increase by £170,000,000.
The best way to get the money that is needed for budgetary purposes is to prevent an increase of expenditure. Yet, we find that the Public Service Board, which is completely under the control of the Government, is not bound to follow the decision of the Arbitration Commission. Of its own decision, it has allowed the cost of the Public Service to go up by £20,000,000. The Government has said, “We will restrain demand. We will put 6d. in the £1 more on companies “, knowing that the customers of the companies will have to meet the increase, and that it is only another layer of costs. It also says, “ We will repeal the rebate that we gave last year as a sop to individuals and take another £60,000,000 from them in income tax “. If any one thinks that the private individual who has to support his family, pay his tax and have a bit of leisure will not provide for his income tax in the course of his business costing, he is short-sighted indeed. High taxes are not a means of stemming consumption expenditure; they are a means of stimulating it. The real antidote to consumption expenditure is to create an atmosphere in which savings can be increased with advantage to the individual. I have listened with great interest and a good deal of patience to a Minister in this chamber refer to proposals for savings to which attention would be given in advocating a different system altogether for financing Commonwealth public works.
I have had the services of the Treasury in obtaining a statement which shows that lor the years from 1949 to 1959 Commonwealth capital works and services were financed out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the extent of £1,149,300,000. As the Senate knows, related to the falling loan funds and the need to supply money for State public works was the adoption of a policy, I think in 1951-52, of providing funds out of Consolidated Revenue to offset the deficit in loan funds for State requirements. We have provided over that period a total of £703,800,000 to make up the deficiency in State loan requirements. Of that sum, £140,000,000 came from foreign loans, and the balance - a sum of approximately £564,000,000 - has come from Consolidated Revenue, sometimes indirectly from trust funds and so forth. So in that period, for State and Commonwealth capital works - for ten years in the case of the Commonwealth and slightly less in the case of the States - a total of £1,713,300,000 has been provided by the taxpayer.
Last year I put forward the view very timidly, quite tentatively, and very respectfully, that this subject should be further considered. It seems that the spirit of the nation towards the purpose of production would better respond to a system under which, instead of taking that sum of money, which has been confiscated by way of taxation, out of current revenues it could be taken on the basis of exchange security. When I am in a bar and some one blows tobacco smoke at me or blows the froth off the beer and it spatters me, I feel that he is not very respectful. The suggestion I made during the Budget debate last year was received with scorn, and this question was asked: How do I provide for the excise a man pays on a glass of beer by giving him a stamped security? We have been told that it is quite clear that capital works should be financed out of revenue.
That statement has led me to do a little reading on the subject, because I do not despair of learning from many sources - even the Government, as long as it will do me the courtesy of analysing these matters and giving an answer that can be debated here. I find that no less an authority than Sir Douglas Copland has spoken on this matter not once but on several occasions. On the first occasion he suggested that you countered inflation in the wool industry by a development levy, and that you held the money until better economic circumstances accrued to enable it to be released to the industry. That is the position in reverse. I mention these things only as material for consideration; I am not able to assess them. Then I find, more appropriately, that in an article written in November, 1958, Sir Douglas Copland said there was need for growth and expansion in this country. He added -
What is required, therefore, is a considered plan under which the relative needs, of the Commonwealth and States for public investment are clearly defined, and the proceeds of surplus revenue allocated accordingly.
A plan based upon this fundamental assumption would enable the respective government authorities to proceed on long term plans to meet a situation from which there is, in fact, no escape.
Two other points may be implied in such a plan. The first of these is that the net proceeds of uniform taxation should not be regarded as exclusively a property of the Commonwealth, but rather as a joint resource of Commonwealth and States.
If this point is conceded, it is quite inappropriate for the Commonwealth to charge the States interest on the funds it makes available from the proceeds of uniform taxation for the public works programs of the States.
The second point relates to the question whether individuals who are contributing heavily in tax should not receive some equity in the investment itself.
This would mean that the taxpayer would, for a proportion of his income tax, receive a bond bearing a relatively low rate of interest and negotiable for certain purposes.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson) - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to -
That Senator Wright be granted an extension of time for 30 minutes.
– 1 am most obliged to the Senate for giving me an extension of time because 1 have one or two matters that 1 should like to include in the reading material of the Senate, particularly of the Ministers. When Sir Douglas Copland puts forward a view to that effect it deserves consideration - at least ministerial consideration. Sir Douglas Copland persisted with that view and advanced it at a seminar here in Canberra in January of this year. He said -
Sifting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspenpension of the sitting I was saying that it was no part of my intention that the Minister for Customs and Excise should wait at the bar door, collect a proportion of the excise duty on the last beer, and say, “ You can put the rest in your pocket for savings “. I thought that we could take a national outlook on this matter and see how much of the Budget is devoted to financing capital works. In the present Budget, £140,000.000 is provided for Commonwealth works and £80,000,000 is being devoted to underwriting the capital works of the States. That would mean a reduction in taxation of £220,000,000 in an ordinary budget. After further analysis, it might prove to be only £150,000,000. There would be a readjustment of the various taxation schedules a:id then we would have a development tax which would be equated with securities. Those securities would be savings. Instead of representing an avalanche of £1,700,000,000 from Commonwealth to public ownership, the amount would be retained as individual savings by individual people. There are some people who are not in a state of affluence and whose outlook is such that they still get some satisfaction from the independence resulting from savings. I think that saving, rather than confiscatory taxation, is the way to dampen down consumer expenditure and worthless expenditure.
I have referred to Sir Douglas Copland. I have also been interested to re-read the statement that was made by Dr. Coombs last year and published in the “ Economic Record “ of December, 1959. One approaches what he says without inhibitions. Referring to the need to advance our productivity, he said -
First, there must be a high level of expenditure on research - basic and applied - and on education. 1 like this expression, and I am going to quote it -
These are the sources of the growth of knowledge and of skills from which increasing productivity derive. They also form a contribution to the quality of life itself.
I read that only for my pleasure. He went on -
Secondly, we must as a nation, and in our businesses, be willing to spend heavily on capital equipment. It is this equipment which makes possible the application of new knowledge and technology and so produces the increasing productivity upon which rising living standards depend. But we must be willing to provide the resources for this capital expenditure by saving an adequate proportion of current income.
He made two positive suggestions -
The first is that there should be a general contributory superannuation supplementing the basic pensions at present provided. There seems good reason to believe that the great majority of tin people would be willing to contribute to such a scheme for the benefits it would confer to security in old age. But from an economic point of view, it would with the rising population which Australia can expect over the coming decades, produce net savings of very considerable magnitude and so do much to make possible the speeding up of our national development.
A second possibility of a much more radical character is that the Government should accept responsibility for determining the proportion of our Gross National Product which should be devoted to development, public and private, and so modify its tax system to ensure adequate savings to provide the necessary resources. To this end it would need to allow savings to be regarded as a direct alternative to the payment of taxes except to the extent that they were required to finance the Government’s current expenditure. The degree to which it has become necessary to impose taxation to support adequate development expenditure is perhaps not widely realized. In 1958-59 public authority expenditure on works totalled £520,000,000, but the net increase in public indebtedness in that year was no more than £126,000,000.
Consideration might be given to taking out from the Budget proper, provision for capital expenditure and financing it from the proceeds of a development tax. As I envisage it, such a tax wouldnominally be designed to provide the funds to finance all forms of investment, public and private, and would:
Fall on income at appropriately graded rates to produce whatever proportion of total incomes was judged necessary;
be subject to rebate of tax, either wholly or in part for net savings voluntarily made - net savings for this purpose being defined as net worth in the usual accounting sense but excluding unrealized capital gains or losses.
The greater the volume of voluntary saving, the smaller would be the yield of the tax. Ideally, assuming that complete rebates were granted, the yield would be nil if citizens provided adequate savings by their own choice in forms acceptable to them. Such a tax would be capable of many variations - it is in itself a variation of the Expenditure Tax proposed by Nicholas Kaldor–
He is an author unknown to me - but designed for somewhat different purposes. Like the Expenditure Tax it would almost certainly present great administrative difficulties and might on examination prove impracticable. On the other hand, there are attractions about a form of taxation which offers certainty of adequate finance for development, public and private, which bears less heavily on those willing to save and which leaves the taxpayer with freedom to avoid the tax completely by saving voluntarily in ways which suit his own convenience.
I pass no judgment on the matter, but I say that such a proposal at least merits consideration, merits a statement in the Parliament by those responsible for public finance, and, to my way of thinking, merits debate. I want to add only one further reference. It is in relation to the argument as to whether capital works should be financed out of loans or taxation. Responsible opinion assures me that Professor A. C. Pigou, Professor of Political Economy in the University of Cambridge, is a man of very high standing in these matters. Senator McCallum says that he is one of the greatest economists of all time.
– How does he know?
– I think that, from time to time, we owe a great deal to Senator McCallum in matters of this sort. Discussing the financing of public expenditure, Professor Pigou first deals with current expenditure, stating-
He continues -
Next, consider Government expenditure devoted to producing capital equipment - a national electricity plant, municipal gas works or tramways and so on-
Such as we have in the Snowy Mountains undertaking, the hydro-electric schemes of Tasmania, and the railway being built from Albury to Melbourne - the fruits of which will subsequently be sold to purchasers for fees. Here it is generally agreed that the required funds ought to be raised by loans. If this is done, violent and sudden changes in tax rates are avoided: the people who benefit from the service which the new capital equipment renders pay for it in proportion to their use; and, provided, of course, that the fees charged are sufficient to wipe out the principal of the loan during the lifetime of the capital equipment, no additional taxation has ever to be raised on account of it. Upon this matter, as upon that of the proper method of finance for normal recurrent expenditure, there is no room for controversy.
Those who say that if you finance in that way you will increase your interest bill on the Budget forget that you are creating a producing asset. If you look at the accounts of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority as they are set out in the Budget you will see on the credit side a sum of £1,000,000 received this year in repayment of the advances that have gone towards construction of the scheme. Who pays that £1,000,000? The consumers in Victoria and New South Wales pay it. They will go on paying in the form of charges for electricity until the undertaking ceases to produce. It seems to me that there is utter confusion in the idea that all of the cost of the Snowy scheme should be extracted from current revenue - taxes - and that at the same time, once the scheme begins to produce, money to repay the advances should be extracted from consumers as a charge for the services provided. The same criticism applies to other major developmental projects constructed out of funds provided by the savings of the people. It is difficult to justify retailing the services produced by those projects back to the same people who have originally financed them.
If Senator Henty thinks about the matter to which I have referred, he will find confirmation for the statement that he made last night, which in isolation raises no controversy, that there is not much substance in the theory that one generation is paying for another. If the Minister is satisfied with that, all I can say is that I would like to give the matter more ample consideration. This is a problem that is developing in intensity. The continual erosion of savings will lead indirectly to the socialization of the resources of the community. There should be some readjustment of the approach towards financing public works so that the people may feel secure in the knowledge that their savings will be allowed to grow. If we continue to levy confiscatory taxes to meet the increasing needs of capital development, if we diminish the spirit for saving, and if we impose restrictions on investment with the old-fashioned idea of making savings safe - but now for the real purpose of making the savings banks the reservoir of the so-called voluntary Commonwealth loans - savings bank depositors will soon realize that the only way in which they can increase the value of their assets is by investing in the stock market and the land trusts. If that happens the flow of savings investments, upon which the Government depends for its voluntary loans, will dry up in the course of a decade. Savings will become insignificant and the Government will be forced to rely solely upon increasingly heavy taxes with all that they mean historically.
I am most obliged to the Senate for having granted me an extension of time. I took advantage of it only because I thought that other honorable senators would be as interested as I am in a discussion of this subject. I have developed my theme without pronouncing any conclusions upon it. I confess that it would give me great satisfaction if an analytical answer were forthcoming from those who, I believe, have a special responsibility to consider this matter.
– I listened with intense interest to the distinguished senator from Tasmania, Senator Wright. I commend him for much of what he said. Sometimes I do not agree with his views because they are slanted, the degree of slant being determined by his environmental circumstances. What I particularly commend to the Government is his criticism, which was practically continuous throughout his speech, of governmental activity and function. I am sure that we on this side of the Senate appreciate the fact that his views coincide with those of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). We are grateful to Senator Wright for his extremely thoughtful contribution to the debate.
Yesterday, I listened to another senator from Tasmania - Senator Henty - attacking one of his fellow Tasmanians, Senator McKenna. Senator Henty said that the Leader of the Opposition was a critic of little substance. That statement was mean and illogical. The qualities displayed on that occasion by Senator Henty are not characteristic of him as I have come to know him in my short time here. I think that he could not have had his heart in what he said. I am sure that he did not feel secure in handling the Budget, which was presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on 16th August last. Senator Henty’s statement about Senator McKenna was mean because it was untrue; it was illogical because it was not based on rational thinking. Most thinkers in this place will agree that the Leader of the Opposition had made a clever dissection of the position of the nation and its people and plainly pointed out the direction in which we are going.. He gave a clear exposition of what he believed to be a solution of this country’s problems. He claimed no great credit to himself for the solution that he offered. Indeed, he paid tribute to members of the Constitutional Review Committee, particularly those appointed to the committee by the Government, for their share in it. Some very distinguished people served on the committee, including Senator Spicer - now Mr. Justice Spicer - Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan, Senator Wright, Mr. Joske - now Mr. Justice Joske - Mr. Downer and Mr. Hamilton. I think that in some measure the Leader of the Opposition based his case on the views expressed by that committee as well as his own and those of his associates. That is why I say that Senator Henty was mean and illogical in his criti cism of Senator McKenna. I hope that the Minister will quickly revert to his attitude of fairness, a characteristic which we know and love so well.
The Budget has been referred to in some quarters as a cautious Budget and as a carry-on Budget, but the Budget is so typical of the Government’s way of thinking that we should acclaim it - or should I say declaim it - as a muddle-along Budget. Since the Government assumed office in 1949 this country has been beset by a series of crises. The Government muddled along for eleven months from July, 1951, to June, 1952, during which time, by irresponsible acts and non-appreciation of orderly financing, it dissipated Australia’s overseas credits to the extent of approximately £400,000,000. Then, in a panic, it clamped down on almost all imports, but, peculiarly enough, not until certain prominent firms had arranged forward credits. One particular firm did so to the extent of £2,500,000. But the unfortunate small importer was almost thrown out of business or was unable to continue.
Since that time we have had all types of budgets. We had the horror budget. It was known not as the Menzies-Fadden Budget but as the Fadden Budget because it was so extremely unpopular. Anything that was popular was known as an act of the Menzies-Fadden Government. There were nineteen men in the Cabinet who approved of that particular budget, yet it came to be known to the public, by and large, as the Fadden Budget. Within six weeks of its presentation, over 100,000 people were thrown out of employment.
Subsequently, the Government has introduced budgets known by various names - the halt inflation budget, the hold prosperity budget, the little horror budget and the stayput budget. Now the Government has presented a muddle-along budget.
I do not think one can do much better than analyse the speech made by the Treasurer himself. As most honorable senators know, particularly those on the Government side, by nature I am a builder, not a destroyer. However, when a financial policy for a particular year, embracing as it does the functioning of government and its administration, is being formulated, I believe the Opposition has a responsibility to point out the defects, as it sees them, and in the course of various debates to make any constructive points it can make.
As most honorable senators know, I am never other than extremely fair, even bending over backwards to side with the opposition on occasions, the Government being the opposition as far as I am concerned -
– lt is a matter of degree.
– It shows you how courteous I am and the sense of proportion and perspective I possess.
There are certain features of the Budget for which we may pay tribute to the Government. One is the rise of 5s. a week in age, invalid and widows’ pensions. Admittedly, that rise is something, but it is extremely niggardly in a budget which amounts to £1,775,000,000 for the year. The Opposition appreciates the increase in the pensions of the totally and permanently incapacitated. But what we on this side of the Senate really appreciate is the amelioration of the means test. For years the Labour Party has attempted to obtain an amelioration of the means test, but the Government has resisted, and resisted most determinedly too, those attempts. Not so long ago we approached the Department of Social Services, seeking information about the likely cost of various forms of amelioration of the means test. We were given some information, but not an extraordinary amount. What we did get - and it was substantial - was a rap over the knuckles from the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). He castigated us for not going through him in seeking information. At least we provided him with the idea of making some amelioration of the means test, and we are grateful to him for following a Labour idea in the interests of the people of Australia. I do not think there is much more in this Budget for which credit is due to the Government.
– You are not only fair, you are also something of a humorist.
– I am humorist in the right place and I am serious in the right place. On this occasion I am particularly serious and if honorable senators opposite care to ask the pensioners, or if they had listened to Senator Wright speak about the plight of the primary producers, they will realize that this is a particularly serious problem which should be discussed in a serious and sincere manner in a place to which the people send us to deliberate.
The Treasurer introduced his speech with these remarks -
It is my duty to place before the House to-night estimates of receipts and expenditure for the financial year 1960-61 and to explain various proposals related to those estimates.
There could not be anything fairer than that, and the Treasurer cannot be convicted on the ground that he did not know what he was saying. Nor is it a question of some one saying to him, “ Anything you say will be taken down in writing and used in evidence against you “. It is his own statement. If it is not his own statement he is equally culpable because he should have perused the script carefully and if there was anything wrong he should have deleted the passage and put in the right words.
In the third paragraph of the Treasurer’s speech one sees these words, which are his own words -
The Budget is not the only instrument of policy - monetary policy and trade policy have highly important roles to play - and there must be consistency between all three. But the Budget has a great and pervasive influence and, when a Commonwealth government frames its Budget, it must, above all, try to ensure that it serves the paramount common purposes.
We know what is in the Budget, but ‘the Treasurer ties it up with monetary and trade policy. The Government’s monetary policy has been made quite clear. I shall amplify it with reference to subsequent paragraphs of this speech. The Treasurer intends to restrict credit available to the small business man, to many primary producers, and to the ordinary person who is working for wages or a salary, so that it will be extraordinarily difficult - more difficult that it has been before under this Government - for them to obtain homes and the other things which are essential for decent living at the standards of which Australians boast so much.
In regard to trade policy, we have a recurrence of what occurred in 1952. It is no use talking in terms of essential materials because the policy of the Government is freedom to import irrespective of whether the material be essential or in the luxury class. It is quite easy to recognize the possibility that Australia will not be able to meet the cost of imports. As recently as yesterday a statement was made by the retiring president of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce. I do not think he would be a supporter of the Opposition. I take it he would be an ardent supporter of the Government, at least politically,- even though he condemns the stupidity of the Government. He said that he visualizes quite readily that Australia will be £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 in the red, and that includes putting our assets, industrial undertakings and businesses of all types in hock to overseas investors, as the Government is so rapidly doing. The Government boasts very proudly that it is prepared to hand over the industrial undertakings of this country to overseas investors, irrespective of the terms of acquisition. So one can see how Australia will drift under this Government’s muddling policy. In a few months’ time the very people who recently lifted import restrictions completely will be prepared to clamp down rigidly on imports, even to the extent of denying to the people of Australia goods which are essential for the development and settlement of this nation.
Let me proceed further in the Treasurer’s Budget speech. In the fifth paragraph he said -
Thus, in the matter of the Budget, the Government is following through the broad programme of economic policy measures announced by the Prime Minister last February.
That was a month when he was in Australia and not overseas -
Honorable members will recall the main courses of action then proposed. One was to strengthen resistance to the rise in prices and costs and, in .particular, to prevent large increases in the factors which affect costs generally.
Let me carefully analyse the reference to prices and costs. What did the Government do about this matter? Admittedly, it attacked costs, particularly costs in the form of wages, by the unprecedented action of intervening in a hearing by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to ensure that the basic wage would not be increased.
– That is not so.
– It is useless to say that the Government did not do that. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse, and Senator Mattner knows that the commission was like a horse with both eyes open.
– I would not accept your statement.
– You know that your suggestion is completely illogical and unreasonable. Whether or not the Arbitration Commission listened to the Liberal Government of this country - the Country Party has no importance in this Parliament except as a means of making a real majority for the Liberal Party - what happened was that- the commission acted in accordance with the desires of the Government. If it was not a case of cause and effect, there was a real relationship between the two occurrences. Let us put it that way and give to the events the most charitable interpretation that we can put on them. As honorable senators opposite know, we on this side are charitable.
The Government at no stage has made any attempt to control prices. Do not forget that the Government’s own brilliant economist, Dr. Coombs, in a lecture delivered at Perth last year, said that because of increasing mechanization, manufacturers and business men in general had a responsibility to absorb in no small measure increases in costs arising from wage increases. He said that they were not entitled to use automation and increased mechanization only to enhance their own profits, but that they had a responsibility to the community. According to Dr. Coombs, they have not accepted that responsibility. 1 think he let the Government down very lightly and was being charitable when he described as “ creeping inflation “ the process which led to a 3 per cent, rise, on the average, of the cost of living each year. Actually as honorable senators know, since 10th December, 1949, the cost of living has increased by 100 per cent., so I think that Dr. Coombs was being particularly charitable. I am being charitable now, but if I were speaking in circumstances similar to those in which Dr. Coombs was speaking, and were, addressing a general gathering, I should not be so charitable in dealing with the inefficiency of the Government since 1949. The Treasurer went on -
Next, the Government decided to remove import licensing controls.
It did that in 1952, and produced chaos. The Government does not seem to worry about causing economic chaos again. This country is crying out aloud for rapid development and settlement but what would happen if we had no external credits? The standard of living of the people of Australia would deteriorate and development would stop. Government supporters have often proclaimed that we must have national development in order to hold this country against the advance of communism, but they arc the very people who, through the instrumentality of the Cabinet, are doing something which will halt our development. Incidentally, let me say that since I came here I have met many men in the ranks of the Government parties whose intelligence entitles them to become members of the Cabinet, but apparently intelligence is not a qualification for entry into the Cabinet. Subservience appears to be the quality that is most important. I feel that there are, not only in this chamber, but also in the other place, many men who could serve Australia much better than those who occupy Cabinet positions at present. I do not think that Government members: will show any real sense of responsibility to Australia until they rebel and say that Cabinet posts must go to those most fitted to fill them. Until they do that, I will not admire their courage.
The Treasurer continued -
Thirdly, the Government expressed its approval of the action being taken by the Reserve Bank of Australia to prevent any increase in the liquidity of the banking system over the year and said that it would continue to support a policy of restraining excessive liquidity.
They are very nice words, but, as a matter of plain common sense, what do they mean? Do any of us honestly believe that G. J. Coles Proprietary Limited, Woolworths Limited, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries or the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited will be unable to get overdrafts? We know that they will. From where is this liquidity to be drawn off? It will be the small businessman, the small farmer and the home-builder who feel the effects of this policy. Those are the people whose borrowing will be restricted. Big business has always been able to get what it wanted, and it always will unless Labour gets into office. The ordinary farmer, the home- builder and. other small people will be crucified under this system. How they carry on passes my comprehension. 1’ have a measure of sympathy for the ordinary bank manager. He has done his best to establish a measure of friendship and goodwill with his clients, but now he will have to niggle them about their overdrafts. A young married couple may come in seeking an advance to build a home, and thus help to develop the nation, but what will happen? The bank manager will have to tell them that they cannot get an overdraft to build a home because a deposit of £500, £600, £700 or £800 is not enough. That is the position, and honorable senators opposite know it only too well. It will continue to be the position under the present Government.
I pass now to the fourth paragraph, on page 2 of the Treasurer’s Budget speech. I am giving honorable senators opposite the page numbers in case they want to check what I am saying. I want them to know that I am not divorcing statements from their context. I am just taking these statements as they occur and dealing with them in a fair manner. This paragraph refers to a spirit of optimism. The Treasurer said -
Clearly, a strong upthrust of activity is still very much under way. Much of this activity - probably most of it - is desirable in every sense of the word. In point of employment, output and growth of capacity for production, 1959-60 was, without doubt, a notable year.
But now the Government is going to put a brake on expansion. It was optimistic about what happened up to the end of the last financial year, but as soon as we come to August of this year it wants to put the brake on. Is that because the Government believes that the ordinary people have something that it feels they are not entitled to have? Are not the ordinary people entitled to a decent home? Are they not entitled to full employment? Are they not entitled to refrigerators, washing machines, television sets, education for their children and so on? The inference is that they are not, in the light of the fact that the brake is being applied.
In the next paragraph we find a note of pessimism and talk of inflation. The Treasurer said -
That is the favorable side of the picture.
The people were enjoying something that was worth while and something to which they were entitled -
It shows the economy driving ahead, full of enterprise, eager to accomplish real things and big things. But there is another side of the picture, not so favorable.
In other words, the plug is getting something. The Treasurer continued -
Prices and costs rose sharply over last year and, so far, the rate of increase does not seem to be slackening. Shortages of key materials and of some classes of labour have appeared . . .
Does that suggest that the whole inflationary pattern was complete? It might suggest - if that paragraph is to be believed - that the Government - as every one knows - has been completely unsuccessful in halting inflation. These measures have never been effective.
Leading men in Australia, including the Premiers of most States have admitted that measures recommended by an all-party committee of this Parliament could be an effective weapon in the battle against inflation. Six of the members of the committee were Government members. They were not the clowns on the Government side, although the Government has plenty of them. By and large, they were brainy supporters of the Government. There were six Opposition members and they possessed real worth. They made certain suggestions and only in relation to minor points was there a difference of opinion, on the basis of 11 to 1. I might say that I appreciate the attitude of the minority vote, because Labour in its platform provides for minorities to have rights, irrespective of what its opponents so constantly and so untruthfully say. The opinions of the members of the committee were on the basis of 1 1 to 1 on some issues; and in most instances the members were unanimous.
That committee suggested a solution to Australia’s problems. It took some time to make its recommendations. Yet the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is completely contemptuous of the recommendations and he is supported by his Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). Of course, the Prime Minister has plenty of time to analyse the position! He now has three jobs. He is Prime Minister, Acting Treasurer and Minister for External Affairs, and he is to take on the job of
Attorney-General. So he has plenty of time in which to analyse the position efficiently!
I shall proceed with my consideration of the Budget. I come to the warnings from the Treasurer in this period of expansion - a period following eleven years of socalled efficient government and administration. We get nothing but warnings from the Treasurer. Referring to the danger of some rise in levels of expenditure he said in his Budget speech -
One such danger would be a speeding up rather than a slowing-down of price and cost increases.
What worries the poor unfortunate Treasurer is his concern for the workers! I think he has enough trouble in trying to succeed the Prime Minister and in doing so to displace the Attorney-General in the rat race. But I do suggest that there is no point in pinning all the responsibility on the wage and salary earners of the community. The wages of the workers have been kept down, but I have not noticed a similar pattern being applied to those in receipt of high salaries. I am not begrudging any man a return for his ability or his energy. Those who use energy and those who use ability are entitled to a reasonable remuneration. My party has never denied that. But the Government is adopting a discriminatory approach to this matter. The Government is not entitled to deny to workers in receipt of a wage of £13 a week a legitimate rise while giving to people in receipt of salaries of £6,000 a year an additional £900. I do not think that is at all fair. It does not come within the ambit of economic and social justice. For that reason, I condemn the approach of the Government to that matter.
If the Government was prepared to peg wages and prices, I would agree with its policy. I believe there is a principle associated with wages. I have always said so. There is a wage below which you cannot afford to live and there is a wage above which it does not pay you to go. The moment you get above it sales tax has an effect, and the margin of profit of the manufacturers, the wholesalers and the retailers is increased. The poor unfortunate wage plug might get a rise of £1 a week, but he then has to pay 28s. for goods for which he previously paid £1. I think that the Government should have a sense of responsibility in this matter and ensure justice to all sections of the community.
The Treasurer went on to say -
A second danger would be a rise in imports to levels higher than we can afford.
Fancy the right honorable gentleman making such a statement a couple of months after the relaxation of import restrictions. Within the last three weeks the Government rushed through a tariff bill to try to meet the position, but in the interim Australian industries could have been sold to the wolves. I agree with the opinion that has been expressed by Senator Wright that tariffs should not be imposed to protect inefficiency, but after all, secondary industry does provide more employment in this country than any other source. I do not think that we should accept the responsibility of selling out our industries which provide food, clothing, shelter, and educational and health facilities for our men, women and children. I do not think they should be sold out to low-wage countries. I am not opposed to reciprocal trade agreements. I am happy to agree to trade in certain lines, but 1 would not sell out Australian industry and jeopardize the employment of Australian men and women.
Here the Treasurer has made an irresponsible statement. It could not be termed any other than irresponsible by any one who analyses it closely. This Budget should make proper provision for the financial functioning and the administrative performance of the Government for the year 1960-61. Yet all these things occur in it. I do not suppose I have the ability to administer the portfolio of Treasurer, but at least I have sufficient modesty not to take on the job if I have not the requisite ability. We can see what has happened in relation to the control of imports. The Treasurer went on to say -
Within the province of the Commonwealth, such restraint has to be sought chiefly through monetary and budgetary action.
What does the Government propose to do? How far does it intend to go? To what lengths will the Government go in its monetary and budgetary action? We know what it has done by budgetary action. This is plain to all who can read. But the monetary action is to be taken by a mechanism concealed from the people and uncontrolled and uninfluenced by them. Of course, certain sections of the community, through their prestige and power, can influence monetary action. As I have said, the great mass of the people cannot do so. They are victims of the circumstances consequent on Government inaction, and if the Government is unsympathetic to their desires in life and does not appreciate their ambitions, it can determine their standard of living in no small measure by monetary action. There is no doubt that that is what this Government will do; in other words, it will slug the poor. This has been the trend of budgetary action since this Government has been in office. If there is any merit for constancy of action, this Government has earned that merit for the constancy with which it has slugged the poor. It has moved the emphasis from direct taxation on to indirect taxation.
– Do not say that. Let us have a look at what has happened in the United States, Great Britain and Australia. In Australia, there has been a tendency to decrease direct taxation. In the United States, 66 per cent, of the revenue comes from direct taxation. In Great Britain, 58 per cent, of the revenue comes from that source. I have not the figures for last year in relation to Australia, because they are not yet available, but I assure honorable senators there has not been much difference from the previous year. I am not an actuary or a statistician, but I have analysed the position and conclude that 53.7 per cent, of the revenue is derived from direct taxation. This is the position in a country where tremendous fortunes are being made through land speculation, takeovers and so on. I am not talking about a person who buys a home for £3,000 and sells it for £5,000 after he has lived in it for some years. I am not speaking of the person who buys a couple of acres for a couple of hundred pounds and sells them for a couple of thousand pounds, or even for £10,000. I am speaking of people who are making millions and, in the process, sending up the price of allotments for young people. Let me give an example - I am always prepared to back my statements with examples. An orchard situated a few miles out of Melbourne-
– You are pointing the wrong way.
– There is nothing wrong with Melbourne and nothing wrong with the place concerned, except that it happens to be about 20 miles out of Melbourne and that the Victorian Government will have to provide facilities, such as roads and so on. A certain group has paid £250,000 for that orchard of 80 acres. I would not have begrudged the couple who lived there the opportunity to make a reasonable profit out of it, such as if they had sold it for £40,000 or £50,000 - I suppose the real value of the place as an orchard was between £10,000 and £15,000. But one of these groups of land sharks paid £250,000 for that orchard of 80 acres. As honorable senators know, depending on the site and the city, the demands of the municipal authorities in respect of average sized allotments range from approximately £4 to £5 an acre. With those basic costs, and without taking into consideration subdivision costs, it can be seen that the cost for a home allotment in that instance would be very high. Yet, honorable senators opposite deny the justification for the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that the Government should have power, as a central authority, to deal with these anomalies. In fact, they are more than anomalies. They are rank injustices to the people who have made this country and those who, in the process of time, will make it still greater if we permit them to do so.
The Government does not worry about such things, nor does it worry about the great appreciation that has taken place in share values. I am not speaking now of some one who buys a share for 5s. and sells it for 6s. That is an infinitesimal transaction. But when we think in terms of hundreds of thousands of shares and of the way that share transactions of that kind draw money from essential development, it is little wonder that people are going in for land trusts and hire purchase. In any newspaper published in an Australian capital city we find advertisements seeking loans on debenture, notes of security, or no security at all. Interest of up to 5 per cent, is offered on immediate call conditions, and up to 12 per cent, for loans for a period of years. Admittedly, 12 per cent, is high, but there is no scarcity of notes available at from 8 per cent, to 10 per cent. The people who are borrowing at those high rates of interest have to go for 20 per cent, and 25 per cent. Every one here knows they are going for such rates and getting them, at the expense of the community. That being so, how can the Government expect people of some measure of financial substance to place their money on fixed deposit in the banks? How can it expect the banks to lend at 5 per cent, and 5i per cent, when they see outside investments which are earning 8, 9 or 10 per cent., and perhaps more? The banks will demand of their directors freedom to go into hire purchase, and the Government has permitted them to go into hire purchase. That is the reason that government loans are not being filled, together with the lack of confidence of the people in the Government’s financial methods. Many of them have been bitten. The Government has allowed interest rates to increase. It has allowed bonds to depreciate, so that when the bondholders have needed their money, the original value has not been there. People who have invested money in loans have not received value for their money when they have sought it in an emergency. That is why this country is reaching a state of economic chaos.
Repeatedly, both in this place and in the House of Representatives, I have heard supporters of the Government, individually and collectively, claiming credit for the development of Australia between 10th December, 1949, and 1st September, 1960. The only supporter of the Government who was a little modest in this respect was Senator Henty who said yesterday that the Government and the Australian people had been responsible for the development. He at least paid a measure of tribute to the people of Australia. Does not the Government realize that, with rare exceptions, there has been a succession of extraordinarily good seasons? Does it not realize that the Australian people have virility and will progress, irrespective of the inefficiency and ineptitude of successive Menzies governments?
There has been a natural course of expansion, and the Government has not been able to stop it.
– In other words, the expansion-
– I shall adopt only the first three of the honorable senator’s words. I do not want to follow the rest of his ideas, because they are probably not as brilliant as mine. In other words, what the Government has done to bring about a measure of orderly planning, has been to follow the developmental projects laid down by the Chifley Government. What has the Government brought into being anywhere? Do I hear Senator Mattner interjecting?
– Yes. I am saying that you stifled the initiative of the people very effectively up to 1949.
– We had a record unparalleled in the history of the world, in that the government of that day was able to transfer from war-time occupations and service requirements to peace-time callings 1,000,000 men and women. Many of the skilled tradesmen and professional men of to-day owe their position in life to the consideration extended to them by the Labour government of the time. That government also was able to inaugurate the Commonwealth scholarship system, which this Government has retained, although it has not increased the number of scholarships. From that system are coming the scientists, engineers and technicians of to-day. Because this Government has done nothing to expand the system, we are lagging behind all the other English-speaking countries of the world in the numbers of trained people coming forward. That is the position to-day as any intelligent observer would see it.
I feel that the time has come when we must face up to the responsibility, not to restrict credit for the ordinary people of the country or to restrict wages and thereby curtail expenditure in some measure, but to do something more positive. During the debate earlier to-day I heard a scream of sympathy for companies because the Government proposes to increase company tax by 6d. in the £1. A measure of sympathy might be justifiable for the smaller companies which, in any case, have a degree of consideration extended to them, but I cannot see companies such as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, David Jones Limited, General MotorsHolden’s Limited, or the Ford1 Motor Com pany of Australia Limited being very hard hit. I am not damning those companies - do not make any mistake about that. If, at any time, honorable senators opposite want an argument about the right of such companies to exist under particular conditions, I am prepared to argue the case, hut I cannot see any of them going out of existence as a result of the proposed increase of company tax. What I decry is the fact that the increase of 6d. in the £1 will be charged against the consumers. Responsibility for that will rest fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Government. I am not the only person to level that charge. Senator Wright, in a brilliant analysis, also said that the increase of 6d. in the £1 would be charged against the consumers.
That was never previously the basis of taxation. Surely, no government worthy of the name, and conscious of the fact that it controls the destiny of a country such as Australia, would permit that to be done, no matter how low it had sunk in trying to control wages.
– Does the honorable senator believe that?
– I do believe it, and Senator Wright also believes it. There can be no comparison between the analytical approach of Senator Wright and the approach of Senator Scott. Senator Wright would1 bring a measure of real ability to bear and would analyze the matter brilliantly. I have devoted a lot of time to this particular problem, and I know some business people. If I were in business, I should accept the responsibility to pay the tax out- of profits, and not at the expense of my customers. However, Senator Scott is wasting my time.
– Tell us how the Mount Isa company will pass on to the consumer the extra 6d. in the £1.
– The Mount Isa company is in another category altogether. I take it that Senator Wright was referring to companies which can pass on the additional tax. A large percentage of companies will be able to do that. In my humility, I am prepared to accept Senator Wright’s analysis, and I hope that the Government will do similarly.
Let us go a little further and examine the details of expenditure. I have analysed them and have been truthful in my analysis. If any one thinks I have been otherwise, he will have an opportunity to say so. But in the process of time I will be able to assure honorable senators that I have been truthful and that if they think otherwise they have a wrong impression of what I am about to say. This year the Government proposes to spend £198,153,000 on defence - an increase of £4,568,000. In no phase of activity has the Government been more inefficient than it has in relation to defence. Time will not permit me to make a close analysis of the expenditure, but I invite honorable senators to take a broad view of the problem.
During the period of office of the successive Menzies governments approximately £1,700,000,000 has allegedly been spent on defence. Let us think in terms of the broad arms of defence, including the rocket range at Woomera, which of course is administered by the Department of Supply. I do not condemn the personnel who work there, and I do not want any distortion of my statements. Australia is proud of her ex-servicemen and those who are in the forces at the present time, but just what do we find when we have a look at Australia’s defences? We find that the Navy is largely in mothballs. The Government has one aircraft carrier and a motley group of other vessels.
– You waited until the Minister for the Navy left the chamber to say that.
– I did not. Let the honorable senator be fair. I did not even notice that the Minister was in the chamber; he made no impression on me. I repeat that the Navy consists of an aircraft carrier and a motley group of vessels. We have not even got a submarine.
In the Army the proportion of officers to men varies so frequently that the Government does not know whether there are more men than officers or more officers than men. The national service training scheme was conceived in the mind of some one who had grandiose ideas about becoming a hero. It was inevitable that it would contribute nothing to the welfare of the country other than a measure of community spirit, which, of course, was worth some thing. Years ago the Labour Party pointed out that the abolition of the scheme was inevitable. The only thing I want to say about it is that the Government was slow to accept our advice.
The Air Force is an arm of defence of which Australia was very proud during the last war. But what do we find the situation to be now. The Air Force has a few Hercules transport aircraft and a group of fighters. For years the Government has boasted that Australia will be provided with a strong fighter arm and it has sent missions overseas to inspect fighter aircraft. But so far no results have flowed from the efforts of those missions.
The less the Prime Minister says about the Woomera establishment, the better it will be. The Woomera undertaking is well sited, and the scientists there are outstanding men. The undertaking could have contributed substantially to scientific knowledge. Indeed, within the limits imposed on the scientists who are there, a contribution has been made. But in recent times most of their efforts have been devoted to preparations for obtaining the knowledge that would have been obtained from the launching of the Blue Streak missile. After millions of pounds had been spent at Woomera on equipment and the preparation of three launching pads, the British Government decided not to proceed with the project. Even the journalists knew that the British Government did not intend to go on with it. When they interviewed the Australian Prime Minister a few days before the British Conservative Government announced that it was not going on with the project for certain reasons, the Prime Minister said that the information was not true. I am certain that the right honorable gentleman was not willingly telling an untruth. The British Government just did not bother to consult him, because as leader of this Government he does not enjoy any great prestige in Britain.
– I would not say that.
– Well, if the British do appreciate him and acknowledge his greatness, why did they not tell him the truth? There is nothing in the history of this nation on which the Prime Minister has left his personal impress. Is there any national undertaking that he has sponsored other than - and I pay him due credit for this - accepting responsibility for university expansion?
– Do you not think you are leaving yourself open?
– Let me proceed. I have quite a lot of facts to mention which I know will be of interest to the people, even though honorable senators opposite do not appreciate the telling points L am making and are eager to interrupt me. I refer now to the amelioration of the means test. Ultimately, each and every one of us will have to meet his Maker. Therefore, I suppose we must do something good during our lifetime. The Government has done at least one good thing in ameliorating the means test. I give it credit for doing that, even though it borrowed the idea from us after resisting it for years.
There is one class in the community lor whom I make a plea - the pensioners who are in receipt of medical benefits from the Government. I think particularly of the single pensioner who earns more than £2 in addition to his pension and the married couple who earn more than £4. The rate of benefit was determined at a time when the basic wage was little more than half what it is now. These pensioners to whom I am referring are at a stage of life where they are seeking medical attention much more constantly than does the average member of the public. I commend to the Government the suggestion that these people, in their distress, suffering and humiliation, are entitled to a greater measure of consideration. In fact, the Government has not given them any consideration. It cannot be that it did not think of these people, because when considering an amelioration of the means test it must have thought of the various avenues in which it could help people. Having thought of those avenues, the Government was not prepared to do anything for these people.
The Government boasts of having provided a medical service for Boer War veterans, most of whom were more then twenty years of age away back in 1901 and very few of whom now remain. But how much will that benefit cost the Government? Honorable senators opposite big-note themselves for a miserable gesture like the one they have made to the Boer War veterans, but for the thousands of pensioners to whom I have referred they do nothing. If the Government is not prepared to introduce a supplementary budget to make provision for these people, I suppose we will have to wait until the next Budget is presented. The public just cannot do anything about it, and we can do little about it.
– What will you do about the Budget after that?
– We will leave that to the people of Australia. I come now to the matter of pharmaceutical benefits. The Chifley Government visualized the pharmaceutical benefits scheme as being one which would benefit the public by allowing medicines to be free to the recipients. But so many of the Liberals - I have a measure of sympathy for members of the Country Party, simply because they are misguided - are determined to pursue a certain course of action. The scheme evolved by Sir Earle Page has been anathema to the Liberals ever since it was introduced. They felt that the people were getting something for nothing, and they were determined that in the process of time those who received medicine would have to pay for it.
In August last year the Treasurer announced the imposition of a charge of 5s. for each prescription. Neither he nor the Liberal Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) knew what it was all about. As I said in November when the necessary amending legislation was introduced, there was confused thinking on the matter. If time permits, I will show honorable senators opposite that the Government and its supporters were quite confused about the whole issue. As I have just indicated, in November the amending legislation was introduced, and the necessary regulations were promulgated to make the scheme effective as from 1st March this year. The Government must have thought about the matter long before August of last year, but the necessary documents and information were not in the hands of many medical practitioners and chemists until a couple of days before 1st March, and they were not in the hands of the majority of them until after 1st March, when the scheme was to come into effect. This led to the utmost confusion and to a great deal of brawling. Doctors adopted either of two courses. Some said that they would not have a bar of the scheme because in the lists the drugs were given their complex chemical names, whereas most doctors know the drugs by their trade names.
– These doctors are ignorant blokes, aren’t they?
– No, they are not. They are not as ignorant as members of the Government. The drugs were described by their complex chemical names and there was confusion. Some doctors decided not to use the official prescription forms, but to use instead their own prescription forms. When the patient took the prescription to the chemist, the chemist said, “ But you are entitled to get this for 5s.”. That led to a brawl between the patient and the doctor. The doctors then adopted what I thought was the only logical solution, in the light of the confusion in the mind of the Government in relation to the functioning of this part, of its administration. The doctors wrote out all prescriptions on official forms. When the patient went to the chemist he was then told, “You are not entitled to this under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme “. This- led to a real Donnybrook, with the patient, the chemist and the doctor in it.
Then the Government issued a glossary identifying the drugs under their trade names. This led to a brawl with the manufacturing chemists, because some firms were excluded, irrespective of the quality of their drugs and the fact that their prices were competitive. There was gross discrimination as between the manufacturing chemists. Even to-day firms with world-wide reputations and with established laboratories in Australia are being discriminated against.
Then, in June, 100 items were added to the list, which suggested that the Govern- ment had not given the matter mature consideration when it determined to implement the scheme. There has been further brawling because certain firms are still being excluded and certain worthwhile drugs are being excluded. When the Liberal Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) was being challenged about a certain drug called Butazolidine, he said, “ It is on the list for pensioner pharmarceutical benefits, but it is not on the pharmaceutical benefits, list for the general public “. He said also that the drug was potentially dangerous. In other words, he was saying, “ God help the poor old pensioner! Don’t worry about him. But there must be a measure of protection for the ordinary person. We must protect his health and welfare.”
Does that suggest that the scheme received mature consideration when it was being implemented? It suggests that the Government introduced, this measure without mature consideration. The Government was obsessed with the idea that there must be a charge. Incidentally, in August, 1959, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) emphasized that expenditure on pharmaceutical benefits was getting out of hand. An analysis of the figures shows that in the last year expenditure on this service to the people diminished.
I should like to deal now with payments to States for capital works, but we shall get on. to that subject in the course of time. There is one issue in particular with which I should like to deal now. Government supporters have now come into the field in support of the establishment of a northern Australian development and settlement organization. I have in my hand a pamphlet issued by the Federal Inland Development Organization. This was submitted to senators and members for mature, and wise consideration. The Government should not think that this association is isolated in its approach to this problem and the solution of it. Senator Spooner said that it was not easy to establish a committee for the development and settlement of northern Australia. The matter is not complicated. I feel certain that, given the green light, he could readily establish such a body. If he finds himself in any difficulty, I will be prepared always to make my advice and services available to him. I would not find it difficult to help him and I would gladly do it. The original meeting of this organization was attended by over 300 graziers and other people. The organization is supported by Mr. George Fisher, the chairman of directors of Mount Isa Mines Limited, and probably the outstanding figure in the. Australian mineral world to-day.
– Were you at the original meeting? I was.
– I have only a couple of minutes left, so I shall deal with the honorable senator outside. The organization was supported also by Mr. J. W. Fletcher, a well-respected and competent grazier of long standing in Queensland, who was a member of many committees and commissions of inquiry into the development and settlement of northern Australia. It was supported by many other national figures. The organization suggests the only way in which the northern half of Australia can be ultimately settled efficiently and in an orderly fashion. The Governments boasts about doing much for that area, but comparatively it is doing nothing, except for the expenditure of a few million pounds in the Northern Territory and a £1,000,000 grant to Western Australia for the development of the northern half of that State. The Government is giving nothing to Queensland other than a loan of £20,000,000 on Shylock terms for the reconditioning of the railway from Mount Isa to Townsville. If the Government had had the objective of northern development, what is now proposed would have been planned five years ago.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator O’Byrne). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– In speaking to the motion for the printing of the Budget papers, I desire to answer a number of statements made by Opposition senators, but as time is drawing on and the afternoon sitting is to be short, I shall refer first to three matters that I wish to bring to the Government’s notice. Two of them are budgetary matters. In raising the third matter, I take advantage of the fact that during Budget debates one may talk on practically any subject.
The first matter is related to the ambulance services of Australia. I speak on behalf of the Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade, the New South Wales Ambulance Transport Services Board, the Victorian Civil Ambulance Service, the Tasmanian Ambulance Transport Services Board, the St. John’s Ambulance of Western Australia, and the St. John’s Ambulance of South Australia. Some five years ago, correspondence on this matter began. The ambulance services wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and asked that some con sideration be .given to the work that they did throughout Australia in the transport of indigent and aged persons, and to the fact that they travelled many hundreds of thousands of miles in carrying these people to hospital.
It is two years since that correspondence ceased, and I am raising the matter again in the hope that the Government will have a change of heart. In Queensland in particular, the ambulance services are getting into such a parlous position that something must be done to compensate them for the thousands of miles that are covered by their vehicles. In Queensland in the year ended 31st September, 1959, 42,900 age and invalid pensioners were carried 520,000 miles without charge. Indigent persons, numbering 16,460, were carried nearly 250,000 miles. In New South Wales approximately 33,000 age and invalid pensioners were carried 500,000 miles. In that State approximately 8,000 persons in indigent circumstances were carried 112,000 miles. The position in respect of Victoria is little different from that in the other States. With the exception of Tasmania nothing has been done to assist the ambulance services to transport pensioners and persons in indigent circumstances over hundreds of thousands of miles in order to obtain treatment from their doctors. In answer to requests for assistance for the ambulance services the Government has said that this is a matter for the State governments. When the requests were pressed the Government has said that any assistance granted to the ambulance services would benefit only a limited number of pensioners and the Government preferred to increase pensions when possible. Since then, the Government has said that it has no authority under the Social Services Act to grant assistance to ambulance services.
Let us consider the Government’s arguments in this regard. First, 1 suggest that this is not a matter for the State governments. It is a matter for the Department of Social Services. Secondly, there is an answer to the Government’s statement that any assistance provided would benefit only a limited number of people and that the Government preferred to increase pensions generally. I remind the Senate of just how much the Government has been able to increase pensions. The increases have been so small that they have had no effect on the ability of pensioners to pay for ambulance services. Thirdly, as to the Government’s contention that it has no authority under the act to grant assistance to ambulance services, I point out that the Department of Social Services in Tasmania has an arrangement whereby it pays £2 to the ambulance service whenever it transports a pensioner. The department in Tasmania must be acting outside the legislation.
The Government’s statement that it prefers increasing pensions to granting assistance to ambulance services has little bearing upon this issue. The ambulance services and I are not asking for assistance to pensioners. We are asking for assistance for the ambulance brigades, which are not interested in how much is paid to pensioners. We want some recognition of the fact that we are working for the Commonwealth Government and the Department of Social Services. The Commonwealth grants a subsidy on a basis of £2 for £1 to institutions providing accommodation for aged persons. It grants a subsidy on a £1 for £1 basis for nursing services and pays doctors who attend age pensioners and people in indigent circumstances. The Government pays hospital and chemists expenses for these people. The only people who do not get any assistance from the Commonwealth are the ambulance services. They travel hundreds of miles in a State the size of Queensland to take indigent people to a doctor for treatmet. I ask the Government to review its attitude in this matter and to make some arrangement to provide assistance to the ambulance services, either by way of a mileage allowance or a flat rate per annum in respect of every person carried. I do not care what arrangement is made as long as some assistance is given to the ambulance services. In Brisbane householders may pay £1 a year, for which they are entitled to an ambulance whenever they need one. Pensioners and other people in indigent circumstances cannot afford to spend £1 for ambulance services. Do not let the ambulance brigades in Australia be the only organization that does not obtain assistance from the Government.
– Has the honorable senator any idea of the actual cost to ambulance services in any State? Has he any idea of the cost in his own State?
– In Hobart 600 pensioners and people in indigent circumstances are transported yearly at an approximate cost to the ambulance service there of £1,000. If the honorable senator wishes I will supply the details to him later. At this stage I ask the Government to look into this matter. The Government has considerable financial resources available to it. The cost to ambulance services of transporting pensioners and people in indigent circumstances in the bigger cities runs into many thousands of pounds.
– On what basis is the ambulance service organized in Queensland - municipal or State?
– It is organized on a municipal basis. Most of the ambulance vehicles used in the smaller towns and in the centre of Australia are purchased with money raised by public subscription.
I wish to say a few words now about the fluoridation of drinking water. This is a matter that I have wanted to raise for quite some time but it is not often that the opportunity presents itself. I shall take advantage of the opportunity afforded ‘ by this debate on the Estimates and Budget Papers to do so. On 11th May last 1 asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health in the following terms: -
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether he has seen a report of evidence given before the Royal Commission on Fluoridation, at present sitting at Toronto, where Dr. Charles Brusch stated that - fluorine could cause damage to the brain, premature births and paralysis of nerve ends . . .
And also that - there was complete evidence that the Nazis used fluorine in brain-washing processes.
In his reply the Minister said -
No, but I have examined similar statements which have been published from time to time.
Fluorine, like chlorine, iodine and bromine, all of which are consumed at some time or other by most people, could be harmful if more than a certain level of dosage were to be taken.
The Minister dealt with fluorine in the same way as he would deal with chlorine, iodine and bromine. Most scientists state that chlorine is put into a swimming pool, for instance, with one object in view - to kill certain bacteria harmful to humans. Having killed the bacteria, the chlorine is no longer harmful. But fluorine is a cumulative poison. Let me stress that I am not speaking from my own knowledge; I am merely stating what the scientists of the world, who have studied this matter, contend. Fluorine is a cumulative poison. It is of no value from a dental standpoint to people over seventeen or eighteen years of age. It is of very doubtful value only, as far as I can gather, to very young children - up to about the age of seven or eight years.
– Would not the simple solution be for parents to give fluorine to their children as a separate dose.
– That would be very difficult because the dilution used is one part of fluorine to 1,000,000 parts of water. A great deal of argument has raged over this matter. In quite a number of small towns in Australia the local authorities have been prevented from introducing fluorine into drinking water. One thing that astounds me is that the Commonwealth Government has permitted some local authorities to make their own arrangements about this matter. The Department of Health should stop local authorities, which in many instances are acting on the advice of a local doctor or one or two people in the town, from introducing fluorine into drinking water. These small local authorities carry out gallup polls to ascertain whether the people want fluoridation. One was taken in the Chinchilla area, which has only about 400 people. I have always maintained that the function of any such public body is to produce pure drinking water and not water which has been contaminated by a drug which is said to have a cumulative effect.
It is very interesting to know what other countries have done in relation to this matter. Among the various European countries from which I have information, I find that in West Germany fluoridation is ultra vires the Constitution; in Norway it was prevented by a High Court decision; in France it was rejected on the advice of the Scientific Assemblies of France; and in Denmark, Spain, Sweden and South Africa there is no fluoridation. In Switzerland the matter was considered at Berne, but otherwise was left to the cantons, some of which were experimenting with tablets on a voluntary basis.
A pamphlet entitled “ A Statement on the Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies “ gives the names of a number of scientists - about 5,000 of them - who have signified their very strong opposition to contamination of water by fluoride. I say to the Government that when 5,000 well-known scientists from all over the world have signed a statement against the use of fluoride until further information is obtained, it is not within the province of the Federal Government to sanction its use, particularly when some of those scientists are Australians. Three or four scientists in Melbourne have been writing about this matter quite recently. I ask the Department of Health to withdraw the sanction it has already given to fluoridation.
I read the following paragraph which refers to statements by Professor Amies and Dr. Sutton, dental scientists of the Melbourne University and of world-wide repute: -
The case against fluoridation was based mainly on two points:
Sodium fluoride is a potent cumulative poison.
After a careful examination of the official reports of the main tests on which the case for fluoridation is based, Professor Amies and Dr. Sutton have stated that these tests are not adequate and do not prove the safety of fluoridation and do not prove that it will reduce dental decay.
Their findings are fully supported by Professor Steyn of the University of Pretoria, by Professor Polya of the University of Tasmania, and by many other scientists of world repute. In America 1,500 doctors and dentists have put their names to a statement which says that fluoridation has not been adequately tested and that 1 ppm of sodium fluoride in drinking water is in the toxic range.
I ask the Government to have another look at this matter and to withdraw its sanction of the use of fluoride in Australia until such time as the scientists of the world say it is safe to use it, if they ever do say so. There is one ray of light in this connexion. Recently, I read that a firm in the United States of America has found some way of making a toothpaste in which the requisite amount of fluoride is mixed. If that is the case, it will overcome all this trouble and people will be able to stop worrying about their drinking water being contaminated.
I should like now to discuss some statements that were made during this debate.
Senator Poke suggested that an excess profits tax could be introduced and thereupon sales tax and pay-roll tax could immediately be abolished. I should like to remind the honorable senator that if he bothers to read “ Hansard “ he will find that the pay-roll tax produces £55,000,000 and sales tax produces £164,000,000, a total of £219,000,000. An excess profits tax of even 100 per cent, would hardly produce £219,000,000. The honorable senator also discussed the profits of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and General Motors-Holden’s Limited, using as his yardstick the original capital of the latter company, which 1 think was £1,300,000. I suggest that a far fairer yardstick to use is the difference between the company’s gross profit and the net profit, or its sales. Surely the original capital must be continually increasing; otherwise the company would go out of existence, especially a company of that type.
Senator Poke also raised the usual cry from the Labour Party about putting value back into the £1. All the members of the Opposition who have used the phrase - which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) uttered when he was Leader of the Opposition - seem to forget that inherent in the promise to put value back into the £1 was the fact that it could be done only by increasing the amount of work done per capita for the same money and in the same time. Unless that is done, value cannot be put back into the £1, as was suggested at that time.
Senator Wright has given us a good idea of how big a part the industrial troubles of Australia are playing in the perpetual rise in the cost of living. Apropos of that, I should like to make a few remarks in regard to shipping. Senator Poke spoke of ships being held up for six days because an able seaman refused to haul a greasy wire without a pair of gloves. I have never heard such damned nonsense in all my life! This sort of demand reminds me of the time when the matelots of the Navy started to wear pyjamas. Both things are utterly derogative of seamen as I know them and as I remember them when I was at sea.
The sailormen on the Australian coast are mostly good fellows. I have known many of them in the past and I have met a few of them comparatively recently. It amazes me that they should be willing to waste their money and their country’s time by going on strike at the behest of a few people like Elliott and Healy who are determined to damage Australia, and admit it. To-day, our seamen enjoy conditions which in my time at sea would have been classed as far-fetched dreams. Able seamen earn salaries of £120 a month and more. They have rooms for two persons and good accommodation facilities. They have two days leave a week, one in their home port. They have overtime and everything one can possibly think of. Yet they are led by the nose by these few people whom the Australian Labour Party and many members of the Opposition for some reason seem to support. They cause all this industrial trouble which, as Senator Wright has shown far better than I can, has such a detrimental effect on industry and the cost of living in Australia.
Senator Hendrickson, in discussing the Constitution, said that the Federal Government had defence powers in war-time. The Federal Government also has defence powers in peace-time, although not such sweeping powers. Senator Hendrickson apparently forgets, or he does not know, that when the Constitution was drafted the Federal Parliament was given authority over activities such as defence, immigration and customs, which were rightly regarded as being federal in character. In Canada, I understand, the reverse process was adopted, in that the National Government ceded powers to the States.
The suggestion by Senator Hendrickson that more power be vested in the Parliament in Canberra is rather interesting if you carry it to its logical conclusion. At present we have a Federal Parliament and six State parliaments, five of which have two Houses. If we were to superimpose on the work already being done in Canberra that which is being done by the six State parliaments, we would bring about a state of complete chaos. Not only would this Parliament be sitting for 365 days a year, but we would have here a conglomeration of people with no idea of what was going on 2,000 or 3,000 miles away. The result would be absolute chaos. I do not think very much of Senator Hendrickson’s idea. I agree with Senator Lillico that we need, not fewer States, but more States, and there is provision in the Constitution for new States to be formed.
I was interested in what Senator Cant had to say about the hard lot of the working men to-day. I am not quite sure about whom he was talking, but I presume he was referring to men earning a wage somewhere near the basic wage. He said that they had to live on the bare necessities of life, but what he overlooked was that during the last 40 years the term “ bare necessities “ has come to include such things as motor cars, washing machines, refrigerators and, more recently, television sets. All of these things are now considered to be - perhaps rightly so - the bare necessities of life. Although salaries and wages have gone up in almost the same proportion as the cost of living, as assessed by the C series index, the cost of living now includes the cost of the articles that I have mentioned, which have become recognized as necessities.
I suggest that the Government should give consideration to the averaging of medical expenses over three or five years for income tax purposes. I have raised this matter before, but without success, and I will continue to raise it in the hope that eventually I will be successful. I shall illustrate my point by referring to a person who has been ill for twelve months and has earned nothing, or very little, during that period. His medical expenses might have amounted to £300 or £400, even allowing for medical benefit payments. During that year he is allowed to claim a deduction of £150 in .respect of medical expenses, but as he has earned nothing during that year, the concession is of no value to him. If, as primary producers- can do in regard to their incomes, he were able to average his medical expenses over three years, it would mean that he could claim a deduction in respect of those expenses over a period of three years. He could claim in that period a deduction of up to £450, or three times the £150 which he can claim in a single year. If he could do that he would get some of his money back, instead of making a complete loss as at present.
I was pleased to hear the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) announce recently that the Navy was arranging for a survey to be carried out in New Guinea waters. This is something that I have advocated since 1934. During my time on the coast of New Guinea, there was nothing on the maps but a line which gave you a rough idea of where the coastline might be, except for perhaps 100 miles of coastline which had been surveyed by the Germans in 1914. I think the Minister is to be congratulated for arranging for this work to be started.
Senator Wright quoted from the recent arbitration judgment affecting the maritime unions. I should like to say something which he omitted to say - whether on purpose or not, I do not know. In appealing for a variation of the award which was made recently, the unions are claiming an extra £10 a month for men serving under articles, time and a half instead of time and a quarter for Saturday work and double time instead of time and a half for Sunday work. The claim for an extra £10 a month for men while on ships’ articles seems to me to be extraordinary, because if a man is not on articles he is not working on a ship.
– You would not say that the present award gives a seaman more carry-home money than the last award gave him? The present award, in the majority of cases, gives the men less money than they received before, even after the marginal increases.
– I do not agree at all. The average A.B. serving on the Australian coast would be receiving from £122 to £130 a month, and a donkeyman or a bosun would be receiving from £1,600 to £2,000 a year.
I shall conclude by saying that I support the motion for the printing of the Estimates and Budget Papers.
– The present Budget has very little to commend it. There are some facets, such as the amelioration of the means test, of which, like Senator Dittmer, I am in favour, but I feel that the Budget has very little else to commend it. It was brought in by the Government supposedly to halt inflation, but I agree with the rest of my colleagues, and even some Government supporters, that this Parliament cannot adequately control inflation unless its present powers are increased. As we all know, these powers are very limited. I emphasize that this Parliament cannot adequately control inflation unless it is given greater legislative powers.
– Does the honorable senator mean an alteration of the Constitution? We have plenty of legislative power.
– Yes. As we know, it costs a great deal of money to conduct a referendum. History shows that, in the majority of instances, the proposals that have been placed before the people by means of referendums have not been accepted by them.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - I have to advise the Senate that Professor Georges Portmann Vice-President of the French Senate, is in the precincts of the Senate. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I propose to invite him to take a seat on the floor of the Senate.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
Professor Georges Portmann thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– Before proceeding with my speech, Mr. Deputy President, I should like to take this oportunity, on behalf of all members of this chamber, to extend a welcome to our distinguished visitor.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– I assure Professor Georges Portmann that we are all interested to hear of the reconstruction of the French Senate, and we trust that its prestige will be enhanced as a result.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– When our distinguished visitor was announced, I was discussing the history of referendums. If my memory serves me correctly, 24 referendums have been conducted by the Commonwealth, only four of which resulted in the proposal submitted to the people being endorsed by them. Regardless of personal views that individual senators may have on the desirability of additional powers being given to the central government, I think that the people of Australia should be afforded an opportunity to say whether they believe that the government at Canberra is capable of administering the greater authority efficiently. I believe that, in the past, the people were not influenced by the different attitudes to the issues that were adopted by various political parties, but voted for or against the proposals according to their own dictates. The people have minds of their own. I believe that if they feel that more power should be given to the central government in Canberra they will endorse any proposal to that end submitted to them by referendum; otherwise, they will reject it, as they have done in the past. I do not -say that all of our problems can be solved by additional legislative power being given to this Parliament, but I am convinced that the effect of giving necessary powers to this Parliament would be to halt inflation.
From time to time, honorable senators on the Government side have asserted that increases in wages have been an important factor contributing to inflation in this country. Let us consider the reason why wages have been increased. Prior to the suspension of quarterly adjustments of the basic wage, every increase that was granted was based on increased cost-of-living figures for the preceding quarter. Immediately thereafter, prices rose in consequence of the increase of the basic wage, and the process I have mentioned was repeated. As I have said before in this chamber, wages have never forced prices up; on the contrary, increased prices have forced wages up. After the system of quarterly adjustment of the basic wage was abandoned, the measuring-stick adopted by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, when considering an application for an increase of the wage, was the state of the national economy. Both the last increase of the basic wage and the increase of margins last year were granted by the commission on the ground that the economy of the country justified them and could absorb the increases. Again, what did we find? The same thing happened as had happened after each quarterly adjustment of the basic wage. Prices immediately began to rise. The cost of consumer goods increased to such an extent that the Government thought fit to intervene in the application for an increase of the basic wage before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Government practically asked the commission not to increase the basic wage any further. At this stage, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.16 p.m. ~
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 September 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19600901_senate_23_s18/>.