23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read’ prayers.
– During the Nigerian independence celebrations held in September last year I, as leader of the Australian delegation, took the opportunity, on behalf of the Commonwealth Parliament, to present to the Nigerian Parliament a traditional sand glass for the timing of divisions. In addition to the thanks expressed when the gift was made, the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives has now written, asking this Parliament to accept the sincere thanks of the entire membership of the Nigerian Parliament for the gift. Mr. Speaker Waziri stated that he wished1 to place on record that Parliament’s appreciation of the gift and expressed the hope that it would remain a lasting symbol of the friendship between our two parliaments.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: ls it a fact that the Reserve Bank’s directive to the private banks on credit restriction specifically indicated that there should be special consideration for credit for housing? Does the Government consider that private banks generally have carried out this part of the directive as the Government intended? If it does not, will the Government, in view of the great urgency of providing credit for housing to assist family needs and the building industry, consider arranging for the issue of a further directive to the private banks that there should be special consideration for housing?
– Recently, in reply to a question asked of the Treasurer in respect of the application of the credit policy to primary production, the Treasurer said that he had received1 word from the banks that they thoroughly understood the application of the directive and that they were satisfied that at branch management level also the directive was under stood. The banks went on to indicate that if persons felt aggrieved and thought that the directive had not been applied as intended, the banks would be prepared to examine the complaints at their head offices. My understanding was that this matter referred exclusively to primary production but it may in fact have included housing. I shall discuss the question with the Treasurer and find out whether housing was included. If not, 1 shall refer to the Treasurer the matter raised by the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Last week there was a spate of questions by gleeful members of the Opposition on the subject of unemployment, allegedly arising from the current economic measures. This week, the silence of the Opposition on the question of unemployment is quite sepulchral. Could the Leader of the Government explain this phenomenon?
– The situation as assessed by Senator Maher has not passed unnoticed toy me. I said in my speech on the motion for the adoption of the AddressmReply that I was quoting accurate figures on unemployment in Australia. I also said - and I have said in reply to questions - that figures relating to unemployment are watched day by day by individual members of the Government. I accused the Opposition of attempting to make capital on an entirely erroneous foundation.
– You never miss doing that.
– I repeat that charge to the Opposition. Honorable senators opposite made a great song and dance last week about the dreadful unemployment in Australia. They refused to accept my assurance in respect of the official figures. Now that the official figures have been circulated there is not a murmur from the Opposition. I have been saying for years in this chamber that the Opposition endeavours to capitalize gloom and depression, but it has been unsuccessful for ten years, and will continue to be unsuccessful in the future.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has he any knowledge of an oil strike at a bore at Tara near Roma, Queensland? Has the Department of National Development been notified of any oil indication, or flow of oil, from this Tara bore? Will the Minister have searching investigations made into the core of the bore with a view to disseminating widely the geological knowledge obtained from depth in the bore, particularly if an oil flow has been discovered?
– The oil bore to which Senator O’Flaherty refers is one that is being drilled with the assistance of a subsidy from the Commonwealth Government. Officers of the Department of National Development are in close touch with developments at Tara from day to day, but in this case - and indeed in every case - any statement about the success, lack of success, or the progress of oil drilling operations, is left entirely to the directors of the company. I think that, on reflection, Senator O’Flaherty would agree that it would be most unwise of me, as a Minister, to be either optimistic or pessimistic, having regard to the possible reactions on the share market. The department keeps in close touch with these operations. Under the subsidy arrangements the companies are bound to make information public at the proper time, but I do not express any views on any oil-drilling operations until the directors of the company concerned themselves have done so.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. He may recall that last year 1 asked questions about an institution known as Lombard (Australia) Limited. Has the Minister noticed the summary of that institution’s business transactions published in yesterday’s issue of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ wherein it was stated that the overdraft of the institution last year increased from £3.900,000 to £10,500,000? What inference are we to draw about the credit policy that is being applied by the Reserve Bank of Australia to such an institution when the institution’s overdraft increases by about £6,000,000 in a year? Has the Minister observed that the earning rate of the institution is 14 per cent., the dividend rate 10 per cent, and the rate payable by the institution on deposits in current accounts is about 8 per cent.? Will the Minister give the Senate the benefit of his comments on the operations of such an institution, first in relation to the banking system, and secondly, in relation to the agricultural industries which, by the conversion of their assets, could improve their earning rate by investing to a considerable degree in such an institution? How does this institution operate within our banking system? Has it a licence as a bank? If not, what is the opinion of the Government, not on the legal point but on a matter of administration, as to whether this institution needs a licence?
– I have noticed comments in the financial pages of various journals on the activities of Lombard (Australia) Limited. The figures that I saw related, I think, to the last financial year.
– ‘For the year from December to December.
– I do not know what the position now is and whether the activities of this company have, as yet, been affected by the application of Government policy. It may well be that they have been so affected. Considering the two sectors of the economy to which the honorable senator referred - embracing this type of financial activity and the activities of the agricultural community - I imagine that many people engaged in agriculture would look over the fence, see what they would inevitably regard as a much greener paddock financially, ‘and wonder why that was so. I understand that the organization is not licensed. That being so, apparently it does not require a licence under the banking legislation.
– il wish to direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. ‘Has the Minister seen a report in the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “ of yesterday’s date that a textile manufacturing company trading under the name of Bruce Pie ‘Industries Limited will dismiss many of its employees this week because, according to the managing director of the company, of the Government’s abolition of imports control and the uncertainty in business resulting from the credit squeeze? Will the Minister say whether there is any truth in the rumour that is circulatng in this Parliament and in business circles that the credit squeeze will be released on or before 30th June of this year?
– I did not see the report in yesterday’s “ Courier-Mail “ about the Brisbane company to which the honorable senator has referred. I shall deal with the question in a general way, giving the reply that I gave earlier concerning the level of employment. We have announced that we will continue the present import arrangements. There is no justification for the view that the credit squeeze will be released this month, next month or on 30th June. As we have stated repeatedly, we are watching the situation to see how it develops. We are getting a result along the lines that we expected and that we desired. When we are of the view that stability has been reached and that circumstances warrant a change of policy, the situation will again be reviewed.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government. It relates to the announcement made over the radio this morning that South Africa will not remain a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations after it becomes a republic. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the precise situation that has arisen? Will he express an opinion on what can be done with respect to a matter which is exercising my mind, and has exercised it for some time, namely, that there will now be large numbers of South Africans who will not wish to remain in the new republic? Will the Government consider taking steps at an early stage to attract these people as immigrants to Australia?
– It was my intention to ask the Senate for leave to make a statement on this matter. As a question has been asked about rt, it may be appropriate for me to make the statement at this stage, if the Senate is willing to give me leave.
– Is leave granted? There ‘being no objection, leave is granted.
– by leave - I commence by reading the press statement that was issued in London last night by the Prime Minister. Mr. Menzies said -
This is a very unhappy day for those who attach value to the Commonwealth as an association of independent nations each managing its own affairs in its own way, but all co-operating for common purposes. Hie criticisms which we all had to make of South African policies were plainly expressed in the conference in a debate which took place with the complete concurrence of Dr. Verwoerd. The debate was of a frankness and intimacy which, in my experience, is possible only in a meeting of Prime Ministers. It is, I think, deplorable that it can never be conducted in such a forum and atmosphere again. What the implications for the future nature of the Commonwealth may be we do not as yet know. For myself, T am deeply troubled.
All I can do now is to add to that the following paraphrase of what the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) has said rn another place to-day -
My advice from the Prime Minister is that, following days of very frank discussion by the Prime Ministers about South Africa’s internal policies, the Prime Minister, Dr. Verwoerd, has finally felt obliged to announce that South Africa will not proceed with her proposal that she should remain a member of the Commonwealth after the republic is established on 31st May.
Mr. Menzies has kept us informed of the discussions, formal and informal, which have taken place on this issue since the arrival of the Prime Ministers in London. A great divergence of views has been apparent to the world. I can only say that the Prime Minister of South Africa has been most forthcoming in his willingness to participate in an unrestricted debate on this issue amongst the Prime Ministers.
It is not to be forgotten that he could have taken a point that the internal policies of member governments have not been regarded as matters for debate by other Commonwealth Prime Ministers.
The final point was reached at which the Prime Minister of South Africa found himself unable to accept a declaration along such lines as could only have left South Africa as a member State of the Commonwealth virtually under direction in respect of its internal policies or as a member State openly defiant.
He has chosen a course which I hone tolerant people in Australia will recognize as representing a completely straightforward demeanour, and we can recognize that and respect it without in any sense subtracting from .our serious disquiet at the policy of apartheid as practised.
This is not an occasion for recriminations. This is an occasion for the quality of tolerance to be exhibited and for the hope to be with us, and to be expressed, that this will not be the final word on this issue.
Against that background I propose to refrain from answering questions which relate to the possible implications for Australia of this most serious development. I do not think sufficient time has elapsed for us to be able to judge the implications of this development and what results may flow from it so far as they affect Australia. I am sure that I am but one of a large number of people throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations who hope that the door has not yet been finally shut and that some remedy for the situation may yet be found.
– by leave- In another place this morning the leader of the Australian Labour Party, after the Acting Prime Minister had made a statement on this matter, said -
In my view, it is most regrettable that South Africa has chosen to leave the British Commonwealth, and I hope that the position so created will be rectified at a later date when South Africa is prepared to meet the requests of he Commonwealth Prime Ministers that she subscribe to the declaration of the principle of racial equality. I believe that South Africa cannot stand alone as an independent republic in a sea of colour, and that for economic reasons, if for no other, and possibly under a new Prime Minister, she will renew her application for admission to the British Commonwealth, as a republic, at a later time. I sincerely hope so, because nothing should bc done to weaken the British Commonwealth, and everything possible should be done to strengthen it and increase its influence in world affairs. I do not agree with Dr. Verwoerd. I have not agreed with him at any time. I do not agree with him that if South Africa walks out of the Commonwealth the disintegration of the Commonwealth- is at hand. It is a tribute to all the Prime Ministers that, apparently, whilst maintaining their own points of view, which differed greatly both in outlook and in detail on different aspects of the question, there was no concerted move to refuse South Africa membership once it became a republic, and no attempt to impose conditions, other than to require it to do what every other country is prepared to do in this day, surely - that is, to acknowledge that all men are created equal, and that all have certain God-given inalienable rights.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry say whether negotiations for the sale of a further £30,000,000 worth of wheat to Communist China have been completed?
– My understanding of the wheat deal referred to by the honorable senator is that up to the present time at least it has been confined to one transaction involving about 40,000,000 bushels, which are being paid for in hard currency on delivery and are currently being delivered to their ports of destination. I have no knowledge of a further sale involving £30,000,000. If my information is not up to date, I shall take the first opportunity to inform the honorable senator.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services read newspaper reports of the proposed payment of £5 a day as witnesses’s fees in a court case pending in Sydney to a mother and her teenage son, with the proviso that if such payment is insufficient for the needs of a family of four special consideration will be given to any application for increased payments to be made? In view of the doubts expressed that £5 a day is sufficient to maintain a mother and three children, will the Minister consider the position of civilian widows with children, who are expected to maintain their families on much less than £1 a day inclusive of child endowment?
– 1 cannot see any connexion between the circumstances of the case mentioned by Senator Tangney and the general level of widows’ pensions.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for National Development, by saying that in this morning’s press it was announced that the Government intended to continue the mining operations at Rum Jungle. Has the Government made sales of uranium oxide at satisfactory prices which justify keeping the mine in full production? If it has not, does it intend to stockpile uranium oxide? If it intends to do so, what is the position of other producers in Australia?
– The decision on Rum Jungle was a big one to make. The whole output of the mine is sold under contract up until 7th January, 1963. From that stage forward the market for uranium is uncertain. It is expected that the demand will revive perhaps six or seven years after 1963 and that uranium again will be in short supply in the early 1970’s. Whether those estimates are good or bad, only the future will show.
The operation of Rum Jungle has been a very profitable venture. We took the decision to re-invest the profits that we have earned and stockpile the resulting product, not only with the object of maintaining such an important industry in the Northern Territory, but also because Australia is one of the few great uraniumproducing countries of the world. Despite all the searches that have been made for uranium, the great producers are Canada, the United States of America. South Africa and Australia. The possession of ample supplies of the base material in the new atomic era is of great national importance. lt is open to other producers to do what we are doing. These uranium contracts have proved very profitable for the producers who have secured them. We are re-investing our profits at Rum Jungle in order to keep the venture operating, in the hope and expectation that it will become profitable again in the near future. We are hopeful that other producers will do the same thing. Tn order to assist them, we have extended the tax concession period until 30th June, 1968, so that they will be under no disadvantage in spreading their deliveries under their contracts over longer periods if, in their wisdom, they decide that that is the appropriate action to take.
– T preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for National Development, by saying that the Australian Oil Exploration Association is currently meeting in Melbourne and that during the meeting references have been made to the very poor efforts that are being made in regard to oil exploration in Australia. Has the attention of the Minister been directed to a statement which appeared in the Adelaide “Advertiser” newspaper, to the effect that Mr. R. C. Sprigg, the chairman of the Australian Oil Exploration Association conference, had said that on many occasions in the last 50 years crud” oil had bubbled from the sea off Beachport. in South Australia? Will the Minister take urgent steps to have this matter investigated?
– 1 commence my reply to Senator Toohey’s question by saying that in this morning’s newspapers I am reported as having said yesterday that I expected that a new oil search policy would be evolved within the next few weeks. I must have made a mistake. What I meant to say was that such a policy would be evolved within the next few months, lt could not be done within a couple of weeks; it will take a couple of months before I can get all the details hammered out. I did not notice that the conference to which Senator Toohey has referred had criticized us on the score of a poor effort in regard to oil search. I thought that, on the contrary, the conference was appreciative of the way in which oil search had developed over recent years. il cited some figures in the Senate yesterday which showed that total expenditure on oil search during the last three years had increased from £5,000,000 to £8,000,000 and then to £11,000,000. If those figures are wrong, I hope I shall be corrected.
– I suggest that you read the article I have mentioned.
– 1 am in pretty close touch with these people. I had a long, encouraging and very interesting letter from Mr. Sprigg this morning, in which he advanced various proposals. I am of the school of thought that believes that you cannot spend too much money on the search for oil in Australia until you find it; but it must be remembered that expenditure of money is not the only criterion. The amount of money that is spent is not the most important matter. The most important thing is that the money should be spent in the right way. after proper preparatory exploration.
I have not heard of oil appearing off the coast of South Australia, but I shall ask my department to make some inquiries.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the Australian Government sent two official observers to South Africa to study the recent change-over to decimal currency in that country. If observers were sent, have they returned to Australia and submitted a report? Can the Minister say whether the sending of observers to South Africa may be taken as an indication that the Australian Government has decided to change over to decimal currency?
– It would be premature at this stage to draw the conclusion that the Government has reached a decision in this matter. It is true that the Government has given very comprehensive consideration to the matter and to many aspects of it that were not referred to the Decimal Currency Committee. Observers were sent to South Africa to watch events during the change-over to decimal currency in that country. A number of aspects that are outside the terms of reference of the Decimal Currency Committee will have to be examined, but the honorable senator may be assured that the matter is under active consideration.
– I am informed that the Minister acting for the Minister for Customs and Excise has an answer to a question I asked him on Tuesday last in relation to the importation of blasphemous, indecent and obscene plays.
– I can now inform the honorable senator that the Commonwealth Government has power under the Customs Act to prohibit the importation of matter which is blasphemous, indecent or obscene or which unduly emphasizes matters of sex, horror or crime.
The Commonwealth has no power in respect of the presentation of stage plays. This is the sole responsibility of the State governments.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Public Works Committee Act - Twenty-sixth General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
– I have received from Senator Wade a letter requesting his discharge from further attendance on the Public Accounts Committee.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the following resolution in connexion with the Foreign Affairs Committee: -
That Mr. Lucock be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and that his place be filled by Mr. Failes.
That Mr. Anderson be a member of the committee in the place of Mr. Failes.
Debate resumed from 15th March (vide page 212), on motion by Senator Mattner -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Administrator be agreed to: -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of
Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Senator Armstrong had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the Address-in-Reply: - “ and the Senate deplores the faulty leadership of the Government in directing the Australian economy resulting in -
loss of overseas funds;
failure of the Public Loan Market;
retarded National development;
injustice to wage earners;
inadequate social services and housing;
high interest rates; and
shortage of steel.
– I depart for a moment from the theme of the remarks I commenced last night to say a word or two about the matter of South Africa’s withdrawal from the British Commonwealth. It was a shock to me to realize that we have now lost an important member of our Commonwealth. Personally, I did not think it would happen. I thought that a compromise on this vital issue would have been struck and that the South African Government would have seen its way clear to go some way towards achieving such a compromise. But it was not to be. Everybody in the Senate and millions of people throughout the world must have heard the news with a good deal of personal sadness. lt is too early to speculate on the consequences of this event. I think it is too optimistic to believe that, after the discussions that have taken place in London, some compromise can now be achieved. Like the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) I hope that some satisfactory answer will be found but I do not believe that it will, as the matter has now gone too far. To my mind, no one will benefit from the decision that has been made, lt can do only great harm to all sections of the people of South Africa and to the Commonwealth generally. The economics of the question are highly speculative, because we do not know the truth. I cannot see how South Africa or its people can benefit economically or how any other member of the Commonwealth or the Commonwealth collectively can benefit. Even we in Australia will feel repercussions at the economic level, which is perhaps the least important element in the problem.
The South African Government has made a serious decision from a defence aspect. Surely the South Africans are now vulnerable as they have never been before. The pity of it all is that the decision has been made by the South African Government. T should like to believe that that decision is not the decision of the majority of the South African people. The pity of it is also that the break will not solve the great problem at issue; it will not assist in its solution in any way. It will, in fact, probably tend to aggravate the great issue that exists not only in South Africa but, indeed, in the whole of Africa. I think that is the great pity of the decision that was made last night by the South African Government.
There is no easy solution to the problem that South Africa and the Congo pose a problem that is so terrifying at the moment to the whole of the world. Only time will heal that trouble and I was hopeful that South Africa would play for that time. I feel that Mr. Macmillan and our own Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) were striving for time so that feelings could be calmed and an ultimate solution found to this terrifying problem. I do not think I can say much more, other than that I am sad that we have lost a member of our family. I hope that the people of South Africa will feel as I do - that they have lost something that might never be regained.
I turn from that melancholy subject to the theme I was discussing when the Senate rose last night. I was discussing the pattern of the Government’s measures to meet our economic situation. I was endeavouring to show that a plan is revealed which, I think, can be described as three-fold, both in nature and in point of time. I have referred to the first element of the plan as the restrictive element which was announced last November. The Senate is well aware of that aspect of the plan relating to restrictions on credit. I was discussing the second element of the plan when the Senate rose. It concerns the announcement of the Prime Minister about future developmental activities such as standardization of rail gauges, further assistance for oil exploration, further assistance to the tourist trade and modernization of harbours to promote the export of coal. All these things, of course, are significant and form part of the pattern of the Government’s plan.
Last week, the third element of the Government’s planning was revealed when the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) announced certain very important decisions to promote an expansion of trade. The Senate is well aware of those decisions. They concern remission of taxes, including pay-roll tax, for companies seeking overseas markets. I think that is an important pattern.
None of these elements of the Government’s plan can be criticized properly unless each one is considered in relation to the whole plan. I emphasize that the plan should be considered as a whole and not as a series of isolated items. I shall demon- s irate to the Senate that the plan is a closely-knit fabric, as it were, and that to discuss or criticize one element of it in isolation would be quite wrong. When 1 say something about each of these elements, I shall do so with that thought in mind. 1 do propose to offer some criticism.
Let us have a look at the first section - what I have called the restrictive element or that relating to the restriction of credit. We are all well aware by now of the nature of those restrictions and I do not propose to canvass them. However, I do propose to say a word or two about the consequences of them. It taas been claimed by the Government that the measures have met with an element of success and that they are having the effect for which the Government hoped. The facts I shall uut to the Senate will confirm that contention. For example, let us consider the importation of steel which was causing the Government a good deal of concern.
In the first half of 1959-60 this country imported £9,000,000 worth of steel. In the first half of the next financial year the value of imports of steel multiplied fourfold. Australia was then importing £35,000,000 worth of steel compared with £9,000,000 in the first half of the previous year. That was one of the reasons why the Government took prompt action in November.
– Was £9,000,000 the full value of steel imports for the previous year?
– No, for the full half year.
– What would have been the value for the full year?
– It would have been about twice that amount. I quoted the half-yearly figures because they are significant. The Government’s action has already revealed a reduction of imports in steel. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has announced that before intending overseas purchasers place their contracts they should consult the company because the local situation in regard to steel is brightening. In January of this year just over £5,000,000 worth of steel was imported. If you multiply that figure by si” the result is a good deal less than the figure I quoted for the previous half year
Already there is an indication of a reduction of imports due to the Government’s action, lt is not a dramatic one. That could not be expected in such a short time, but 1 think the figures speak for themselves and indicate already the trend in the importation of steel.
If we turn to the matter of bar.k advances, it is shown that the Government’s action has had a certain effect, that effect being, of course, the reduction of bank advances. The figures speak for themselves. I:-. February, 1959, the total amount of the outstanding advances of the major trading banks was £900,000,000. In the following February - twelve months later - the total had grown to £930,000,000, and by October, 1960, it had grown to £1,090,000,000. That was a very large increase within that short period. By February of this year, the total amount of advances had dropped from £1,090,000,000 to £1,030,000,000. There was a drop of £60,000,000 in that time. Whether the critics of the Government’s plan like it or r.ot, they have to admit that the consequence of it has been as 1 have mentioned. We are actually reducing bank advances, as we set out to do.
In passing, I might mention tha! the reduction of advances has not had the effect that some of our critics have suggested; it has not affected the primary industries to any substantial degree. 1 have beer, through quite a good cross-section of our rural areas in recent weeks, but I have yet to learn of one instance of a primary producer being denied credit by his bank for his normal working expenses. 1 have heard rumours to this effect, of course, but when I have investigated them I have found that they are not founded on fact. I think it is correct to say that the Government’s policy has not hit the primary producer. The credit restrictions have affected other industries, but they certainly have not affected the primary industries.
Sir, if we turn to the building industry, which is another industry that was in a state of over-boom, we find that the same pattern presents itself. In January, 1959, the total value of new buildings approved in the Commonwealth stood at some £31,000,000. By January, 1960. the total had grown to £36,000,000, but by January, 1961, it had dropped to £34.000.000.
Again, the Government’s action has had a successful result. Whether or not we accept the policies of the Government to be sound, it cannot be denied that they have had the effects to which I have referred.
The opponents of the Government’s plan have stated that one of its evil consequences has been that men were put off from their work and are now unemployed. Of course, nobody likes to see men being thrown out of work, particularly if they cannot find other jobs, but the facts do not disclose that that is the case. The facts and figures that 1 shall quote indicate that whilst a number of people have been forced to leave work as a consequence of the deliberate action of this Government, they have found employment immediately in other fields. Both the motor car industry and the building trade were in a very serious condition of boom, which is not good for any country. Let me interpolate that I am not suggesting that I do not regard the building trade - or the motor car industry, for that matter - as essential to our economy, but I am suggesting that these two elements in our economy should be maintained in a prosperous condition, as distinct from a condition of boom, because boom conditions are dangerous and unhealthy, and are quite distinct from the normal degree of prosperity from which these industries have from time to time benefited.
I think that the figures in relation to unemployment are most revealing, and I suggest that it is pertinent to compare the existing figures with those of previous years. When we do that, we find that conditions are nothing like those that the Opposition claims now apply. I intend to cite comparative figures, which will speak for themselves. First, I shall quote figures relating to the number of people in receipt of the unemployment benefit. In February, 1959 - that is, three years ago - the figure was about 28,000. In February, 1960, the number of people in receipt of the unemployment benefit had dropped to 20,000, and in February of this year, one year later again, it was about 21,000. In three successive Februaries the figures were 28,000, 20,000 and 21,000. I am giving round figures. This does not suggest that the credit squeeze has had the effect that has been claimed for it by some of its opponents - that is, that many thousands of men were thrown out of their jobs and were not re-employed. The facts disclose that men who lost their jobs were re-employed almost instantly and that the employment situation to-day is about the same as it was twelve months ago and much better than it was two years ago.
When we consider the figures in relation to men awaiting work, the same pattern reveals itself. In February, 1959, there were some 77,000 people awaiting placement in jobs. The number had dropped by February, 1960, to 61,000, and in February of this year it had risen to 73,000. That pattern corresponds roughly to the pattern of figures I have given relating to the unemployment benefit. We are in a better position now than we were two years ara and a little worse off than we were about twelve months ago, but the picture is nothing like the picture that has been painted by the Opposition. It is obvious that this Government has been most conscious of the need to maintain a policy of full employment, because our situation in regard to employment is better than it was two years ago and is still probably about the best in the world. At least, it is better than that in most other countries.
Sir, I have mentioned these consequences because whilst the Opposition has been critical of them, it has not suggested to the Government how else it could have proceeded to rectify the unhealthy situation which existed in our economy. Only one suggestion has been made by the Opposition - that we should re-institute import licensing. I dealt with that suggestion last night and I demonstrated that not even a majority of the people who support the Labour movement would really like import licensing to be re-introduced. As I mentioned last night, it would not rectify our present problems but would put us back to the position of four or five years ago, when we were embarrassed by the evil consequences of imports control.
I believe that the restrictive measures of the Government can be discussed with any satisfaction by the Opposition only by taking them out of the context of the whole of the Government’s plan and criticizing them individually. If that were done, I would be quite prepared to admit that fault could be found with some of them. But I suggest that it is wrong to look at them in isolation, because in isolation they represent only one part of the Government’s programme. When they are considered in their right economic context, if I may use that expression, there does seem to be a good deal of sense in the measures that the Government has adopted.
I pass now from the restrictive measures to what I have called the development measures. They constitute a most interesting subject for discussion. I do not intend to develop my observations on this section, because they are the subject of another motion before the Senate and they can later be discussed more fully. But I believe they should be looked at cursorily during this debate. The Senate is well aware of the measures to which I am now referring. I refer, first, to the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) about the provision of developmental roads in northern Australia. That will be an enormous task, a great national project. It has been talked about for probably 50 years, but now for the first time it is being put into planning form. The Prime Minister announced simultaneously a proposal to standardize rail gauges. I wish to say something about that in a moment or two. A further announcement related to the expansion of the steel industry, increased assistance for oil exploration, and an expansion of the tourist trade.
I suggest that these developmental measures which have been announced by the Prime Minister are not exhaustive. I should like to add to them and to suggest that there is at least one field of endeavour to which the Government could well now look for additional export income. 1 refer to the production of gold. On many occasions in this chamber I have advocated a change of policy in relation to the production of gold. What I have said will bear repetition, because at long last I believe that we as a nation and the Government are becoming aware of the importance of earning export income. But I believe that in Treasury circles the real importance of gold is not even yet understood. The present gold subsidy policy is an unfortunate one; it is a policy of stagnation. As is well known, it is based on the principle that existing production should be maintained, but that it should not be increased. As I have said so often, to adopt that policy is to reject a very elementary mining prin- ciple - that a mine, being a wasting asset, cannot be maintained on that basis without being given the death sentence. And that is really what is happening. A mine’s wasting asset is its capital, and every ton of ore that is removed from the ground means a diminution of its capital. But that is something which our friends in the Treasury do not seem to understand. They regard a ton of ore won from the ground as being income. It is not income at all; it is capital. Once you have removed all the ore from the ground you have not any capital.
To remove ore from the ground is like removing a building brick by brick. No one would suggest that the removal of the bricks in Parliament House would not take away some of the capital value of the structure. If you removed all the bricks, you would, have no Parliament House and no capital - a terrifying thought! If we apply that illustration to the operation of a mine, it will be seen that every ton of ore that is taken from the ground represents a diminution of capital. I. cannot understand1 why our Treasury officials do not understand that elementary proposition.
As there is a growing awareness in governmental circles that export income is now of vital consequence and of immediate implication, I should like to pose a few questions to the Government in relation to gold. I suggest that, although gold is not by any means our greatest earner of export income, of our export commodities it is the most certain to succeed as an income earner. As I have indicated, I should like to pose five questions in relation to gold. The first is this: Is there any other commodity that is as certain to be sold? We produce wheat, but we are not certain that we can sell it. I listened to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) speak to-day about uranium. Already we are in trouble with the production of uranium; we cannot sell our product. Ten years ago every one was very optimistic about the future of uranium as an export income earner, but to-day we cannot give it away. That is not so with the gold. Gold always has been and always will be a certain seller overseas.
The second question I pose is this: Is there any other commodity that does not experience a series of sometimes calamitous fluctuations in price? If the history of gold is studied, it is quite apparent - I am dogmatic about this - that it is the only commodity the price of which does not fluctuate violently. If we study the history of copper, lead, zinc, wool, wheat and all the other commodities that earn export income for us, we discover that from time to time the overseas price of those commodities suffers a calamitous reverse and we find ourselves in serious economic difficulties. But that is not so with gold. Gold has never yet taken a kick, and history indicates that it never can.
I ask a third question: Is there any other product that does not require a most expensive selling organization to enable it to be marketed overseas? We are now asking our wool-growers to kick in again so that we may do something to market our most important export commodity - wool. A most expensive organization will be needed to get our wool sold. But you require nothing more than a telephone in order to sell gold, because every one wants to buy it. It is the most inexpensive item in the world to sell.
The next question I pose is this: Is there any commodity other than gold that is always in short supply and the real value of which is always appreciating? We have only to look at the currencies of other countries, including that of America, to realize how fundamentally true is the proposition inherent in that question. Already on four occasions, I think, President Kennedy has asserted that he will not agree to the fixed price for gold being increased. I think he has said so a little too frequently. I believe there is every indication that he will be forced to agree to an increase of the fixed price of gold. Gold is leaving the United States at such a rate that even President Kennedy cannot stop it. The ultimate, consequence must be that, despite his many assertions to the contrary, he will be forced to agree to an increase of the fixed price.
– That would virtually mean a dollar revaluation.
– Do you think he will come at that?
– He will get to the point where I think he will not be able to avoid it. He was saved this month only by West Germany revaluing the mark. That saved him from considerable financial embarrassment, but West Germany will not continue to revalue its currency. The British would not revalue sterling in order to assist Mr. Kennedy. That step would be only a paliative, but it must come.
I pose this question, which is a most important one in relation to gold: Is there any other commodity that remains in existence in perpetuity - that is indestructible - to promote and to continue to promote world trade? There is not. You can buy wool and wear it, but after you have worn it it is gone and all that is left is the paper money involved in the transaction. Butter can be exchanged for uranium, but both products vanish in time. They are expendables, and after a certain time nothing of them is left. But gold can be used and re-used time and time again to promote trade. After all, are we in Australia not trying to promote trade in order to increase our export earnings? I have raised this matter of the need to stimulate gold production on many previous occasions in the Senate. Surely the strongest possible case now exists for the Government to have a good look at its policy in relation to gold production.
– What is the extent of the export earnings from gold now?
– About £16,000,000.
– What action could we take to increase those earnings?
– I will come to that. For very little public investment gold production could be increased very substantially. Several times the producer organizations in the various States have submitted cases for the encouragement of production. A very large file must exist in the Treasury on this subject. I can remember one case that was submitted seeking assistance to promote an increase in the production of gold. The case was patiently and courteously listened to by the economists, who finally said that they agreed with all that had been said but unfortunately the project would cost money. Does not all expansion cost money? Expansion in any industry costs money, but the economists felt that the money necessary to expand the goldmining industry could be better spent in expanding one or two other industries in Australia which, in their view, would earn more export income. That happened only a few years ago. One of the industries then singled out as better equipped to earn export income was the dairying industry. But to-day we cannot give away our butter. The economists who advocated supporting the dairying industry instead of the goldmining industry would not do so to-day. To-day, the economists would probably advocate encouraging the export of coal or some other product. I do not decry our policies in relation to coal or butter, but J submit that gold is always a better bet. We have been talking about the export of iron ore, a purpose the consummation of which is devoutly to be wished, if I may use that expression, but can anybody say with certainty that in ten years’ time Japan will still want our iron ore? Assuredly she will still want our gold. The strongest possible case has been made out for government action to stimulate expansion in the gold-mining industry. The industry could be expanded rapidly. We have heard about magnificent programmes of roads development in the north. These programmes will take time to reach fruition. The standardization of the railway line between Kalgoorlie and Kwinana and the establishment of a steel-works at Kwinana will take about ten years. It would not take nearly as long as that to increase substantially the production of gold. The money to finance expansion in the industry is available. Additional gold could be produced almost instantly - certainly in a much shorter time than it would take to grow extra wool for export purposes. For the life of me I cannot understand why the Government is not accepting this challenge now. Here is export income ready to be dug out of the ground. The gold is known to exist there. The policy of maintaining the industry at its present level is a futile policy of despair. Such a policy is not an economic proposition.
– What is applying the brake to increased gold production at this time?
– Gold is compulsorily acquired by law ‘as soon as it is dug out of the ground and it must be sold at a fixed price. Having turned gold into bullion, if it is not sold within, I think, 28 days, an offence is committed and the person concerned becomes liable to imprisonment. Some men have been im prisoned for not having sold their gold to a licensed gold buyer within the stipulated time. I wonder what would be the reaction of a wool-grower if the Government said that he must sell his wool at a fixed price within 28 days of cutting it from the sheep’s back! I am always amazed when people refer to the fact that gold producers receive a subsidy and have done so for many years, as though that were sufficient to stimulate production. The subsidy does not compensate gold producers to any extent for the losses that they sustain as a result of the compulsory acquisition of their gold at a fixed price.
– Who fixes the price?
– The price is an international price. I am not suggesting for a moment that the Government can force up the price of gold.
– Is it not true that the gold producer receives a subsidy?
– He does receive a subsidy, but it is based on a policy which I think is fatal. The purpose of the subsidy is to maintain production at the now existing level. That policy is sounding the deathknell of the mines because every ton of ore that you dig out of the ground must be supplemented by another ton of ore. The gold producer must explore for new deposits and new seams. That costs money. I think I have developed my argument sufficiently well to show that a good case exists for the Government to have another look at its policy in relation to gold production.
– What could the Government do?
– The solution of the problem is to grant a comparatively small subsidy based on production. That would give the impetus to every gold producer to increase production. I know that in Western Australia, where most of our gold is produced, the big companies are not producing to full capacity. They know very well that the gold will not rot in the ground and that one day the price of gold will rise. How foolish it would be for them to produce to maximum capacity and lose money as a result! The mine owners are only human.
– What is the advantage of producing in conditions under which the price is fixed?
– The price of gold has been fixed for 200 years and will continue to be fixed.
– The price has not kept pace with increased costs.
– No. 1 believe that the fixed price will go up and if we do not plan now we will be caught napping when the price does rise. In view of this morning’s sad news, the situation in relation to new gold mined, which is the important thing, is a most interesting one and one about which I would not dare to express an opinion now. As South Africa produces more than half of the world’s gold, the consequences of this morning’s news to Commonwealth trade could be most unfortunate.
– lt could even bring about a reduction in the price of gold.
– The price of gold has never been reduced for about 3,000 years. I have made an unnecessarily large number of observations on gold, but they have been provoked by certain honorable senators. I venture to suggest that this is one field of developmental activity that could be added to the excellent current programme of the Government.
– Why do you say that the price has not been increased for 3,000 years?
– I did not say thai.
– I must have misunderstood you.
– 1 said that the price has continued to rise for 3,000 years; it has never fallen during that time.
– It has always been subject to fixation.
– In the banking system, the price was first legally fixed by the Bank of England in 1814. There were previous fixations, but they were rot of an international character. I think I am right in saying that since 1814 the price of gold has been fixed internationally and has continued to rise since that time.
– When was the present price fixed and virtually frozen?
– I think it was fixed in about 1922. It has had the advantages of certain devaluations of currency since then, but the actual international fixed price has not risen since 1922.
– You said that if the price of gold rose the gold producers might be caught napping. What did you mean by that?.
– They might be caught napping in this respect: The industry will take time to gear up to increased production. Gold producers all over the world are well aware of President Kennedy’s dilemma and are trying to get ready for the day when the price of gold will go up overnight. There will be no premonition or preannouncement of a rise. When I use the words “ gear up “ I mean plan for increased production. A producer cannot just go underground and take more gold out of the ground overnight. He needs extra plant and underground development works, which take time to provide. That might take twelve months. We do not want to be caught napping.
– Is there not a measure of fear in regard to Russia’s production of gold affecting the price?
– No, there is no fear of that.
– That was an accepted theory a couple of years ago.
– That is a unique theory. I have never heard it expressed.
– It has been recorded.
– I have never heard it expressed by anybody who is regarded as an authority. All the authorities say - a::d have been saying for 200 years - that enough gold has never been produced in the world. The proposition I am trying to expound is a pretty elementary one. The more gold there is mined and added to the supply, the more trade there will be. A country cannot avoid increasing its trade if it has gold. The only fear about the Russian situation that I have heard expressed is that the Russians have more gold than we have. As an anti-Communist, I regard that as a very serious matter.
– One of the fears is that the Russians might provide the gold for non-gold-holding nations to buy and so use it as an economic measure.
– That does not disprove my thesis that we are short of gold.
I should like to return to my own argument. 1 am trying to discuss the Government’s economic activities. I have discussed gold in that context because I believe that it represents one more avenue which the Government could well exploit as a means of earning export income.
– I am not quarrelling with your submission at all.
– Your suggestion is that the Government should increase the subsidy on a production basis?
– Yes, not on the present basis.
I should like to refer to something other than gold. I was talking about development and I insist on talking about it. I want to say a few words about rail standardization.
– Keep off the grass!
– I cannot do any more than say how sorry I am that Sir Thomas Playford chose to commence litigation on this matter. I will not comment on the legal position or the political situation because the matter is now sub judice to an extent. I cannot see how any one can benefit from such litigation, win, lose or draw. Probably the only consequence will be delay. For Western Australia, time is running out. The Western Australian Government has an agreement with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which terminates in twelve months’ time.
– It must be ratified by the end of the year.
– It cannot be ratified until a decision is made on the rail standardization proposal. In that respect, we in Western Australia are short of time. I regret the action taken by Sir Thomas Playford because I think it may delay the rail standardization work and I do not think the South Australian people will get one grain of comfort or advantage from it. I believe that the time for the Kalgoorlie to Kwinana rail standardization project, ten years, is far too long.
– Is the period ten years?
– I understand that it is ten years. In my opinion it is far too long.
– It is seven years.
– 1 regard seven, years as too long. The present line was built in a far shorter time than that. If that could be done in only three or four years, as I think it was, round about 1895,. surely the standardization work can be done in less than seven years in the 1960’s. Again, I consider that time is a, vital element because railways are not built for amusement; they are built to earn income.
I should like to see the section of the line from Southern Cross to Kwinana standardized first. That would not link the eastern States with Western Australia by a standard gauge line, but I do not think that is nearly as important as linking Southern Cross with the coast by a proper railway line, because then the steel industry in Western Australia could start operating.
– Will the line go via Perth and Fremantle?
– It will by-pass Perth and come out on the coast at Kwinana.
– It will not go right away from the existing line, will it?
– A loop line will be built to serve Perth railway stations. In my opinion, the expeditious building of the Southern Cross to Kwinana section of the line is an important feature in the planning of the Western Australian standardization project because it will produce export income and steel.
– Is Southern Cross the source of the iron?
– The source of the iron is north of Southern Cross. The Southern Cross to Kalgoorlie section could be built subsequently. I do not think that section is as important as the Southern Cross to Kwinana section.
I now wish to pass from the Government’s developmental programme to the recently announced incentives for the earning of export income. The Senate will remember that the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) announced two such incentives. I do not want to canvass them because they are well known. Opposition senators have not expressed a view one way or the other, so we do not know whether they agree or disagree with them. Members of the Opposition have remained strangely silent on this part of the Government’s plan. In my opinion, these incentives must be regarded as only part of the plan. They are not an isolated act of the Government because additional exports really mean additional production in Australia. We -cannot export more goods from Australia without correspondingly increasing our overall production of those goods. That again will require capital and additional material resources and man-power. I think that it is all a part of a pattern, Mr. President.
Materials and man-power must come either from within Australia or from overseas. If they come from within Australia, other Australian industries must be correspondingly restricted. Therefore, the restrictive part of the programme is com.plementtary to the expansionist part. I see it all as one plan, and that has been my argument in the Senate consistently. We cannot segregate the repressive measures. They are helping the developmental measures and the expansionist measures, which form a part of the whole economic plan of which I heartily approve.
Let us consider the programme of railwaygauge standardization, which is to cost not millions but tens of millions of pounds. The man-power, material resources and money required for that work will not come out of thin air. They will have to be provided either from within Australia or from overseas, and if they come from within Australia, other industrial activity must be affected. I should always support the idea that the prosperous industries in Australia should assist, to a point, the expansionist projects of the Government so that the country may develop. I think that that is fair. Therefore, the restrictive measures that have been taken by the Government are to me purely a part of a pattern for the development of this nation. To criticize them separately is quite wrong.
We may satisfactorily and with some comfort criticize the restrictive measures as such, but when we look at the background of the Government’s actions, surely it is a fair proposition that the progressive and highly prosperous, over-booming industries of this country should do something about development. That is the programme as I see it, Sir, and that is what I have attempted to express in the Senate to-day. I believe that it is wrong to criticize the increase of sales tax on motor cars as an isolated act. If you do so, Mr. President, you can argue that is wrong, but who can deny that the motor industry is a great and prosperous industry and that it should do something about the development of Australia? We have to spend millions of pounds on rail standardization. We need man-power, capital resources and materials for that work. A great roads network must be constructed in the north, where it is urgently required. Is it not fair that those industries which are being well paid for their work and are making substantial profits should, to use a common Australian expression, kick in a little bit?
I think that that is really what the Government’s programme means. When we look at the programme as a whole we see that it is a progressive one. It amounts to the announcement of a decade of prosperity for this country the like of which we have not seen before. I think that it will exceed the prosperity of the ‘sixties and that if we are careful and plan for it, Australia will be greater still. I therefore support very enthusiastically the Government’s programme. I also support the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply and I oppose the Opposition amendment.
– I wholeheartedly support the justifiable amendment moved by Senator Armstrong on behalf of the Opposition. I suppose that the Address-in-Reply debate can be termed a mixed dish to which, on this occasion, the supporters of the Government have contributed inferior ingredients. Most of the back-benchers on the Government side seem to have lost heart. Their leaders have let them down, just as they have let down the Australian people, and so there is not the enthusiasm which sometimes characterizes the speeches of the supporters of the Government.
In common with other honorable senators and the Australian people generally, I deeply deplore the passing of Lord Dunrossil. We sympathize with his relatives. Here was a man who gave distinguished service in war, in his profession and in his political life. Because of the persistent antagonism of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party to the appointment of a distinguished Australian to the highest post in this Commonwealth, Lord Dunrossil, out of a sense of responsibility, felt that he should accept the position. He had retired to his native heath and his native country and deserved well, but because of this persistent antagonism that I have mentioned, the Menzies Government, through the agency of the Prime Minister, sought to bring in some one from either England or Scotland. I think it was a tragedy that on this occasion it should have persuaded a man so distinguished and so seised of a high sense of duty to come here at such a stage in his life, when I personally felt that he was aged beyond his years. In the short time that he was here, he and his wife endeared themselves, through their graciousness, charm and quiet dignity, to those Australians they met.
It would be remiss of me if I did not express our thanks for the complete recovery of Senator Reid, our Chairman of Committees and Deputy President. Like all other honorable senators, Mr. President, I respect and esteem you and those who deputize for you. You all show an impartiality, a sense of fairness and a degree of efficiency that we, particularly on this side of the chamber, appreciate. In our turn, we try to be tractable and obedient on all occasions.
The pattern of the present debate is identical with the atmosphere of 1949. We can see exactly the issues to be put before the public at the forthcoming general election. They will be similar to those that were utilized to throw the Chifley Government out of power. Those issues were controls, including banking control, petrol rationing, import licensing, price fixing and any other form of community control. The present Government parties in 1949 spoke of communism. The only thing about which they displayed a measure of initiative was the promise, which they have patently disregarded, to put value into the £1.
The tenor of the current debate is similar to speeches that we heard from supporters of the Government in 1949. I recall a statement by Sir Arthur Fadden, when he was discussing, in the pre-election period of 1949, what would be done if the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party were elected. Mr. Menzies was attempting to determine a policy for the Australian nation and its people. Sir Arthur Fadden said, “ Don’t determine a policy. Chif’s got a policy, but we can win the election on catch-cries.” That is exactly how the election of 10th December, 1949, was won.
– Does that explain the Opposition approach at the moment?
– We agree with a measure of control. I say to Senator Wright that I want to make quite clear in the course of my speech that we agree that a measure of control is necessary. The functioning of successive Menzies governments has shown that the present Government parties also believe that they could not carry on without controls. The import licensing regulations have been altered in practically every year since 1951. I do not think that there is one year in which they have not been altered. The Government is now controlling the private banks, and it is talking of controlling to a degree the insurance companies. After all, no community that we regard as civilized could possibly hope to carry on without a measure of control, in the interests of the great majority of the citizens.
I think it is futile and politically dishonest to talk in terms of the abolition of controls. The passage of time has shown just how politically dishonest the Government parties have been in relation to statements that have been made in an unholy endeavour to keep from the treasury bench possibly the greatest government with which this country has ever been blessed. We have heard repeatedly from Government supporters condemnation of the activities of the Chifley Government and of what it did in the interests of Australia. That , government enjoyed only four years’ tenure of office, after the cessation of the war, but what a tremendous number of things it accomplished in the interests of the people of Australia! To begin with, with a minimum of dislocation, particularly of an economic nature, that government transferred a million men and women from wartime occupations to peace-time callings. Many previously unskilled and untrained men and women entered professions.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– When I was unceremoniously interrupted by time at the suspension of the sitting, I was ‘briefly analysing the remarkably efficient performance of the Chifley Government in the comparatively short time of four years following the complete economic dislocation of the country through war. I mentioned that that Government had been under condemnation and fire - not always honestly - and how it had transferred 1,000,000 men and women from war-time occupations to peace-time callings, with no economic dislocation. I mentioned how it had, through its rehabilitation programme, provided professional callings and skilled trades for men and women who had had no prior training or skill. The effort of the Chifley Governmen in this regard received commendation throughout the world. In addition, that Government had a sense of tremendous responsibility and a national approach. Through the agency of its Minister for Immigration, Mr. Calwell, it inaugurated a scheme of mass immigration which was to contribute so much to the development of industry through the length and breadth of this country, the basis of the scheme being so sound that none of the successive Menzies Governments has dared to depart from it.
The Chifley Government also received commendation for inaugurating the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which in no small measure provided homes for the people in a particularly difficult period. The Chifley Government was not only efficient in its approach to the problem, but also completely sympathetic to those on low wages or pensions. It had a rental rebate system which permitted those who could not afford to pay high rentals to live in a decent environment. But, on 30th June, 1956, at the first opportunity, when the old agreement expired and a new one of five years’ duration was forced on the States, the Menzies Government of the time threw overboard the rental rebate system which had meant so much to pensioners and other people in difficult financial circumstances. Now a new agreement, which I believe is not entirely acceptable to the State Housing Ministers, has been pressed upon them. lt was the Chifley Government that made contributions for State hospitals on the basis of daily occupancy of beds. The Minister for Health at the time inaugurated the antituberculosis campaign. But the grandest tribute that can be paid to the late Ben
Chifley, who was Treasurer as well as Prime Minister, is for his wise husbanding of overseas resources. Just prior to his defeat, brought about by misrepresentation often vicious in intent, the financial position of Australia was acclaimed by economic authorities in England and the “ Financial Times “, which by no stretch of the imagination could be called other than a conservative newspaper.
Yet the Chifley Government has been repeatedly condemned in this chamber and in the other chamber. Why has it been condemned on this particular occasion? 1 suggest that it is purely as a prelude to the election. The election of 1961 will be identical in many ways with the election of 1949. We know that petro! rationing was persisted in by the Chifley Government because Mr. Gaitskell of the United Kingdom Government asked the Chifley Government to persist in it in order to assist the United Kingdom’s rehabilitation and recovery. As decent Australians, those Labour members who composed the Cabinet accepted the responsibility and faced the criticism. Those members who were in opposition and who claimed to be more English than the English themselves, were prepared to throw England to the wolves in that difficult period. It did not matter to them that by denying ourselves a few gallons of petrol we might have been assisting the English people. The one major developmental project for which the successive Menzies governments have claimed credit is the Snowy- Mountains hydro-electric scheme, which was inaugurated by the Chifley Government.
Those, in brief, are the outstanding features of the situation. We admit that, apart from petrol rationing, there were other controls. These included import restrictions and prices control. Millions of people in Australia to-day regret the lifting of prices control. For a government which is representative of political parties that are so opposed to import restrictions, it took the Menzies Government a long time - just on eleven years - to abolish these restrictions. Yet it has the political dishonesty and colossal impudence to criticize the government of the immediate post-war period for persisting in import controls.
Just let us have a look briefly at what successive Menzies governments have done.
We know that they obtained control of the Treasury bench with the assistance of the banking organizations and the press and radio. False issues were raised and false promises were made. Whether or not it was intended that these promises be honoured, I do not know. I do not wish to impute dishonesty. It is just a case, I am inclined to think, of this Government and its immediate predecessors wandering in a mass of inefficiency.
– It was political dishonesty.
– Senator Courtice says that it was political dishonesty. He has had longer experience here than I have had. I hesitate to impute dishonesty. I think that it was, rather, inefficiency and muddlesome meddling. The Menzies Government said that it would abolish controls. It quickly abolished petrol rationing, irrespective of any responsibility towards the welfare of the British nation. Then, to the sorrow of the Australian people, in the process of time it abolished prices control. It fiddled about with import restrictions. These have been on again, off again, and on again since 1951. On 7th March, 1952, the Menzies Government, in its stupidity, put an almost complete clamp on imports. Because of extraordinarily high prices overseas, our credits had built to the magnificent total of £804,000,000. Not being a wise husbander, the Menzies Government let that money be dissipated, with the result that within less than twelve months the reserves were down to £372,000,000. Then the Government clamped on import restrictions, inconveniencing nearly everyone and putting many out of business. But peculiarly enough, immediately prior to 7th March, 1952, certain big enterprises, many of them known to be friends of the Government, had established enormous credits overseas. In the case of one firm in Sydney, the credits amounted to £2,500,000. Here again, I am loath to impute any political dishonesty, but if we are to recognize the truth we must concede that those friends of the Government were particularly fortunate, in the light of their business interests, to establish such enormous credits overseas with a view to future imports.
The Government has honoured its promise in regard to banking; it has not sought to nationalize the banks. When it opposed the nationalization of banks it said that it would permit credit to flow freely. Credit has never flowed freely for the ordinary person, the small business man or even for the private banks. The private banks were getting vindictive in 1949. They built up an efficient organization that played no small part in the destruction of the Chifley Government. They are not so happy with the Government at the present time because never have they been so restricted in granting credit. Only those institutions on the fringe of the banking system and outside organizations such as merchandising houses, land speculators and builders of luxury blocks of flats and home units can obtain credit freely. That has been the position in relation to the nationalization of banking and the control of credit.
Then we have the old story being raised in all its stark nakedness. Throughout the years Government supporters have been unashamed in their misrepresentation. To-day the Communist issue is being raised again. It was interesting to see the reaction of members on the Government benches yesterday when Senator Benn said he knew of a Communist cell in the Liberal-Country parties. Government supporters have made such an allegation against our party on numerous occasions.
– It was too silly!
– Similar statements have been made about the Australian Labour Party that were just as silly. Honorable senators opposite do not mind inflicting hurt and injustice on members of the Australian Labour Party by the untruths they tell. What they say is divorced from reality and contains no component of truth, but is said merely in an effort to seek success at the poll. It is against the interests and welfare of the Australian people. In the other chamber only to-day a Labour representative was prevented from seeking information on this subject. In the interests of the Australian nation he asked whether there was any evidence to confirm the assertion of Senator Benn. So sensitive is the Government at the possibility of a Communist cell existing in Liberal-Country party circles that it will not even allow an investigation to be made.
Senator Maher titters at my words. 1 was extremely disappointed in the speech he made the other day. I have the greatest admiration for Senator Maher, but I was extremely disappointed in his speech on this occasion. Often, he condemns the inefficient efforts of the Government, but on this occasion, with an election facing his associates - he will not have to face an. election himself - he decently but unjustifiably defended his political associates. There is a distinct possibility of the existence of a Communist cell in the Liberal-Country Party because even Douglas Hyde has said on many occasions that it is the purpose of members of the Communist Party to infiltrate the various political parties in the Western world. It may be quite a distinct possibility that there is a Communist cell in the Liberal-Country Party.
Apparently December is to be the election month this year again. The Government must think that December is a lucky month for it. It is not luck but misrepresentation and distortion that have brought electoral success to the anti-Labour parties of this country-. Do not let us have such misrepresentation again on this occasion.
On each occasion when the Budget is brought down the Minister for National Development talks with pride about the things the Government is doing. One thing to which he always refers is the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme. Far be it from me to take any credit from him. I think he is entitled to every atom of credit for his performance in the development of the Snowy Mountains scheme. He has pushed it along with all the energy of which he is capable, and that is an extraordinarily large amount. It is a pity that he would not devote that energy to development in Queensland. I am not going to deny him his share of praise for his development of the Snowy Mountains scheme, but let him be fair. That is all I ask. Government supporters strike their breasts in admiration and pay tribute to the Government for this scheme, but when we look at other developmental projects sponsored by the Government, what do we find?
The Government sponsored the standardization of the railway gauge from Melbourne to Albury on extraordinarily liberal terms compared with those it was prepared to extend to Queensland for the construction of a line possibly as valuable, or even more valuable, to Australia from an export point of view. The Government has assisted South Australia in liberal terms for the standardization of railway gauges there, but it must be remembered that it was the Chifley Government which first gave consideration to the standardization of gauges in that State. It was the Chifley Government which in no small measure played its part in the industrial development of South Australia - a development which is so much admired1 now - by constructing the Leigh Creek line. Roads have been constructed with money received from the motorists of this country and passed back in small measure to the States. I think that is the most one can say in praise of this Government for assistance it has given to the development of this country.
The Government seeks credit for the immigration scheme. Provided the Government is prepared to find employment for native-born Australians, and other people already here, it is entitled1 to a mead of praise for carrying on the Calwell immigration scheme. The Government’s scheme is the Calwell scheme with virtually no modifications at all.
Let us consider how extraordinarily enthusiastic members of the Government can become and how efficiently they can behave in selling the assets of this country. Members of the Government are really like Jekyll and Hyde. When the real interests of the people are concerned and the development of the nation is at stake they muddle along, but when it comes to selling the nation’s assets they have their running shoes on. Champion sprinters would not be in it with the Government in the race to sell the nation’s assets. Assets that were established by Labour governments have gradually been thrown away - Amalgamated’ Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Western Australian whaling station, the Commonwealth Engineering Corporation, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and only recently the Bell Bay aluminium project.
Trans-Australia Airlines could have gone the same way. All that Ministers think about is their political principle of free enterprise as they call it. It was only because the people of Australia, and on this particular occasion some sections of the press of Australia, were prepared to rail against the Government that T.A.A. was not sold. Even with its colossal hide the Government was not prepared to face the extraordinary criticism that would have been directed against it had it sold this organization, lt can be said, however, that the Government has dehydrated T.A.A. It has whittled the airline down to little more than a skeleton. Why? In the interests of T.A.A.’s opponents who could not compete with the performance of the national airline. Efficiency and a consideration of the personal rights and comfort of travellers were not taken into consideration. The Government made T.A.A. go back to the field. On three occasions we have had legislation dealing with the so-called rationalization of air transport and air travel, but in every case it has been introduced in the interests of the privately owned airline. That is not in the interests of T.A.A. to-day. Every one knows that the services are suffering. Aircraft hardly ever leave on schedule now at the major airports. The meals served in flight are a disgrace. What overseas travellers think of the service provided on aircraft in Australia to-day passes my imagination. This has all occurred because the Government parties are wedded to socalled free enterprise. I do not believe that the Government should jeopardize national instrumentalities that are serving the people of Australia so efficiently. Does that satisfy honorable senators opposite as to what I think is the correct method of handling instrumentalities that serve the interests of the nation? If the Government parties are returned to office at the end of this year, it will be interesting to see what their attitude to these matters will be.
– And to see whether they put value back into the £1.
– They have given that idea away themselves. Statements are frequently made in this chamber, and in the other place, as well as at press conferences, over the air and on television programmes, about the progress that Australia has made since 10th December, 1949. Australia has progressed in spite of successive Menzies Governments, in spite of the muddling of the Liberal Party and the Country Party over the years. It would be peculiar if Australia had no progressed. It has been the nature of the world over the last decade to progress. The tragedy is that Australia could have progressed much more rapidly and much further but for the inefficiency of the people who have been on the treasury bench for the last eleven years. Since this Government has been in office there has been a remarkable run of good seasons. Early in the last decade, unprecedentedly high prices were received for our primary produce overseas, but the Government was unable wisely to husband that export income in the interests of the people of this nation. Yet, this Government claims the credit for Australia’s progress. Actually, it has sponsored very little developmental work and has done little to control the inflationary trend.
Let us look in a greater measure of detail at what are the fundamental responsibilities of a government. We know that there are certain services that are ancillary to those fundamental responsibilities. The greatest responsibility, I suppose, is the wise handling of national finance. A government has a responsibility to provide work for all who are capable and desirous of working. It is also responsible for preserving the health of the people and for providing housing and education facilities. It is a government’s responsibility to undertake development and provide for the protection of the country. These matters, I think most people will agree, are the fundamental responsibilities of a government. Let us see how this Government, and its immediate predecessors, have faced up to those responsibilities. What has been their performance, or their lack of performance? I hesitate to refer to the phrase “ put value back into the £1 “, because it has been used, or misused, so frequently by supporters of the Government, but I feel bound to remind honorable senators that that is what the Government parties promised to do. Even the Government’s own supporters have conceded that inflation exists in this country. Figures that have been quoted show that the inflationary trend in Australia has been much greater than in any other English-speaking country, and very much greater than in countries such as Germany and Japan, yet Government senators still talk in terms of being the financiers of this country. If Mr. Holt is a Treasurer’s bootlace, the late Ben Chifley was a genius when it came to handling national finance.
– Particularly in respect to unemployment.
– The party that Senator Scott supports was knocked on the question of unemployment by a previous speaker. In view of the honorable senator’s interjection - I almost said “ interruption “, but, of course, he has a right to interject - I advise him to read recent issues of “ Hansard “, in which this matter was dealt with.
As recently as sixteen months ago, Dr. Coombs, an eminent authority, delivered a learned address on what he termed creeping inflation and he mentioned what he believed to be the measures to remedy it. He said, in effect, that industrial enterprises, by increased mechanization and increased efficiency, could in no small measure absorb increases in costs. But that is not the way in which the Government has tried to handle inflation. The Government parties have tried to handle it through the workers, both white collar workers and others. There is no point in my dealing further with the question of unemployment, because that subject has been thrashed out by honorable senators on both sides.
– You cannot take a trick on it.
– The people of this country are not taking too many tricks, because of this Government’s performance. 1 am not saying that that is Senator McKellar’s responsibility, because I know that in the Government parties the backbenchers have no influence. They have no responsibility other than to elect their leaders.
– ] thought you told us the other day that we had too much influence. Make up your mind.
– The party may have a measure of influence through its elected leader and members of the Cabinet, but the back-benchers have no influence. We have heard a lot lately concerning the lifting of import controls by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in February of last year. That was the way that the Government tried to handle inflation. The Government’s idea was to make cheap goods available in Australia, which would compel the Australian manufacturers to produce more cheaply. But prices have not fallen; if anything, they have risen. The end result has been that our overseas credits have dropped to an alarming extent and that our warehouses are loaded with imported goods - unnecessary goods, m many instances. The shelves in our shops are overflowing with luxury goods that this country, at the present stage of its development, could readily do without. That has been the end result of the policy applied by this Government.
The Government says that we should not revert to import controls, although it has itself used them. I have here a summary showing the many variations of the Government’s import control policy since 1951. Every year either some items were released from control or the control was tightened; the Government never seemed to know what it wanted to do. When any Government senator is replying to what I have said, it will not be sufficient for him to say that we have condemned the Government because of its flexible policy. We know that there has to be a measure of flexibility, but there must always be a measure of continuity in any policy. The Government is not justified in jumping hither and thither on the grounds of flexibility of policy. Nobody could accept that explanation. How can people carry on their businesses when the Government does not know where it is going?
As recently as a couple of weeks ago the Treasurer stated when he appeared in a television programme - and the excuse has been repeated here in relation to our adverse trade balance - that we trade under trade treaties. It is peculiar that we should have traded so successfully with countries with which we have adverse trade balances. We realize that we must trade with people who trade with us; but, except in certain circumstances, preference should be given to the countries that are our best customers.
Let us consider the flow of trade between Australia and the United States of America. During the seven months ended on 31st January, 1960, America bought £49,000,000 worth of goods from Australia and we bought £77,000,000 worth from America. According to Mr. Harold Holt and his associates, apparently that is successful trading. During this financial year we must be eminently successful, because for the seven months ended1 on 31st January last we bought from the United States £131,100,000 worth of goods and the United States bought from us a miserable £32,700,000 worth. Could any government justify that balance of trade on the ground of fairness, national interest, the rights of the people or on any other ground?
– Yes. There are other ground’s, too.
– The honorable senator has spoken. I hope one of his colleagues will deal with that matter and will be able to justify such an excessively adverse trade balance. This Government is handing Australian industry over to United States investors. It is borrowing from Wall Street and will borrow from any pawnbroker, whether he lives in Europe or the United States. We concede that, during the developmental stages, this nation must trade; but we say that due regard should be paid to trading with nations with which we have favorable trade balances. I would not worry so much, personally or politically, if the goods that were coming into the country were essential and1 could not be obtained from countries with which we enjoy a favorable trade balance. It would be all right if only a few thousand pounds were involved; but when you have hundreds of categories of items each costing tens of thousands of pounds, the cost runs into millions of pounds. Senator Armstrong has told us that canned chicken has been coming from America, that we can buy American hams here, and that we can buy even imported American tripe. Goodness me, enough of it emanates from the mouths of honorable senators opposite!
For the post eight months we have had an adverse invisible trade balance of £182,000,000. That sum does not include commitments in relation to insurance and freights. I repeat that for the eight months ended on 28th February last, we were £182,000,000 in the red in simple trading. It seems that at the end of June we will have an adverse visible trade balance of more than £300,000,000. What does the Government propose to do about it? Does it intend to seek refuge in the same way that it has sought refuge in the past - by going to pawnbrokers throughout Europe and the United States and borrowing money? We may have an indication of just how successful any such move would be in the fact that the last loan which the Government attempted to raise in London was almost a complete flop. So that avenue does not offer much hope for the rehabilitation of our ad verse trade balance.
Does the Government intend to persist in doing what it has done over the last five years - to sell the country’s industrial assets? In the period to which I have referred it has sold assets valued at £750,000,000. It seems as though the Government will have to go to overseas investors and endeavour to sell new or existing enterprises to the value of £200,000,000. That has been the pattern in the past, and it can happen in the future. We have been extraordinarily fortunate in having had a succession of relatively good seasons, but it is inevitable that sooner or later Australia will experience widespread droughts. The situation could easily arise in which, with a small volume of production being sold on the world’s markets, we could do little more than meet interest and redemption payments and dividends due to overseas investors. Then we would not be able to bring in the goods that are essential for the development and protection of a young country, let alone luxuries or consumer goods. That is the situation that confronts this nation following the maladministration of this Government for the past eleven years. There is no alternative to facing up to re-organization. Probably the best and only logical re-organization would be to replace the present Government by the existing Opposition.
– Which Opposition?
– There is only one real Opposition which is acting in the interests of the nation. How did the Government attempt to meet the current situation as it saw it, or as it revealed itself to the Government? This Government is blind to the trend of events; it is only when it is hit that it realizes that something is happening. In February of last year the Government removed import controls. It saw the dreadful situation that such controls got us into, and then thought that something further ought to be done. So it took the unprecedented step of opposing any increase of the basic wage. But never at any time has the Government attempted to curtail profit margins or the extraordinarily large profits that have been made through speculation. It decided that the workers, skilled and otherwise, should bear the burden, as though it were they who, as the Treasurer said, had too much money chasing too few goods. It never occurred to the Government that the wealthy might have too much money chasing too few goods. The end result is that economic injustice has been done to every worker in the country by the Menzies Government. What court, arbitration or otherwise, would dare not to accept such a direction from the government of the day? It is of no use saying that the court was in a position to exercise its own judgment. It had hanging over its head a threat of dire economic tragedy if it neglected to accept the direction of the Government.
But the Government thought that that was not sufficient. So in August last, when the Budget was presented, a little more was done. The Government attempted to draw off some more money, as it said, by the imposition of additional taxes. But that was not enough. So in November, on the dreadful day that the Government hates to recall, it increased the rate of sales tax on cars. It subsequently admitted that that action was incorrect and in that way it justified the action of Senator Wood who said originally that the increase was unjustified, unnecessary and unfair. The Government also applied so-called credit restrictions. But to whom? It did not apply them to the big emporiums, which were the banks’ good- customers. Even if a bank manager wanted, out of a sense of fairness, to deny those organizations credit, he dare not. If the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, Myers, David Jones Limited and countless other firms of that magnitude wanted an overdraft, would any bank manager dare to deny them the money? The Government’s directive to the Reserve Bank has meant the restriction of credit to the family man, the young man wanting to build a home, the young farmer wanting to develop his land and the proprietor of a small engineering establishment wanting to install new machinery so that he may expand his activities. Those are the people who are suffering as a result of the Government’s credit policy.
As a result of the Government’s directive country bank managers have become the most unpopular people in towns throughout Australia to-day. They were directed that no new overdrafts should be permitted, that existing overdrafts must not be extended and that persons having overdrafts should be asked to reduce them substantially in a comparatively short time. Most bank managers have regularly voted for the anti-Labour parties but is it any wonder that they have now decided to vote in future for the Labour representatives both here and in another place? That is a fact.
– How do you know that?
– The honorable senator who is interjecting is probably so wealthy that he does not need an overdraft and he would have little sympathy for the people who have been placed in financial jeopardy. No matter what Government supporters may say, the present restrictions have brought chaos to the building industry. I cannot understand how Government supporters can be so callous as to claim that the number of persons unemployed is only 73,000. The Government claims to be wedded to a policy of full employment but for the last two weeks honorable senators opposite have been claiming that the number of unemployed is only 73,000.
– I did not say that.
– What did you say? Did you tell the truth and say that the number was nearer to 100,000?
– No, I did not.
– Government supporters are callously indifferent to the plight of the. unfortunate unemployed man, whose family depends upon him to provide the money with which to pay rent and meet payments on goods bought under hire purchase at Shylock-like rates of interest. The Government has claimed that its policies are having the effect that was expected, so it must have known that unemployment would become the order of the day. In the motor industry alone 7,000 people are out of work. That number does not take into account the many people who depend on the car manufacturing industry for their employment. Senator Toohey dealt with the unemployment situation in South Australia. There is chaos in the building industry. Senator Spooner, who has not done a bad job in relation to housing-
– Be careful! I may use that statement against you.
– I am always truthful and completely fair. On two occasions in the past more than 80,000 homes a year have been built in Australia but I was amazed at the way Senator Spooner referred to the possibility that more than 100,000 homes would be built this year. He sounded as if he thought there was something wrong with that. He said that the cost of homes was becoming too high. The Government clings to the belief that free competition means a lowering of prices but surely it should not mean that mills will be closed down and mill workers be thrown out of work. Surely it does not mean that employees of the Pope organization, which makes articles such as vacuum cleaners and refrigerators, should be thrown out of employment. In northern Queensland alone 1,015 mill workers have been thrown out of work. Many mills have been forced to close down. The same conditions exist in certain areas of New South Wales. Is that the position that the Government visualized when it entered upon its economic policy? Why should we need to import timber from Japan, North Borneo, the United States of America and Canada? If the Government’s reasoning is correct we should be able to obtain even cheaper homes by closing down all the sawmills and plywood mills in Australia. That would be absurd. It is ridiculous to suggest that the building of 100,000 homes a year is anything but right and proper.
Recently, Senator Toohey asked the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) a question about unemployment. The Minister said that Senator Toohey should look at the number of vacant positions advertised in the daily newspapers. We all know that positions are advertised as vacant. Senator Toohey persisted in his line of questioning and asked what was the relationship between the type of positions vacant and the occupations of the people who were unemployed. The Minister for the Navy ducked and twisted like a ship at sea in a wartime convoy. He was almost as skilful in his evasions as the captain of such a ship, but he did not have the same responsibility for his actions. Of what use is a vacancy at Mount Stromlo Observatory for an astrophysicist to an unemployed waterside worker at Mackay, Queensland? Of what use is such a vacancy to an unemployed butcher from Lake’s Creek or Gladstone meat works? Would such persons be interested in a vacancy for a surgeon at Rockhampton Hospital? The suggestion is absurd. How ridiculous the Minister must have sounded to his listeners! Why did not the Minister answer directly and say that he would have inquiries made into the relationship between the positions vacant and the occupations of the persons unemployed? That was the obvious thing to do if he had wanted to accept his responsibilities to the people who are unemployed. Honorable senators opposite should not act in a smart-Alec fashion when honorable senators from this side of the chamber ask questions. Senator Toohey was seeking information in the interests of the unemployed. When we on this side of the chamber speak about the unemployed - their rights and their interests - we do not expect to be ridiculed by honorable senators opposite as though we have no real interest in the matter and are simply out to make political capital. We on this side of the chamber are the only ones who are seised of a sense of responsibility. We do not like to see a pattern of unemployment. How often have advisers of the Government suggested over the years that it is not a bad thing to have a pool of unemployed? 1 am thinking of Professor Hytten when 1 use that hackneyed phrase “ pool of unemployed “. After all, nobody will be more beholden to an employer than a man with a shrunken stomach. That is why a person who must find work will accept conditions and remuneration that he would not otherwise accept if he had a choice of jobs.
– Who on the Government side has said that it is a good thing to have a pool of unemployment?
– I did not say that anybody on the Government side had said it. It was said almost three years ago by Government advisers. Professor Hytten was one of its advisers who talked about a pool of unemployed. Three years ago a Government panel of seven economists talked in terms of unemployment making a desirable contribution towards efficiency in industry.
– You said that Government supporters have claimed that there should be a pool of unemployed. - Senator DITTMER. - I did not. I know what I said. Either Senator Scott was not listening to me or he was not paying careful attention to my remarks. Perhaps he was listening inattentively. I did not say that Government supporters had claimed that there should be a pool of unemployed. We all know the attitude of Government supporters. They are callously indifferent to the 100,000 persons who are now out of work.
– ls that why you asked questions this morning about unemployment?
– I did not ask questions this morning. In recent days the Government’s answers to questions about unemployment have become standardized and it is futile to seek information on this subject. The Government will not even attempt to do the one thing that is necessary and desirable in an endeavour to provide employment for unemployed workers. Senator Scott, who is interjecting, disagrees with me. My time is running out, Senator, and I will not be side-tracked by you, as I very often have been, and allow the people to miss the pearls of wisdom that I wish to cast before them. I think 1 have said enough about: unemployment and the Government’s attitude to it.
Let me refer to the Government’s record in the field of health. I pay a tribute to Sir Earle Page. Certainly, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme he introduced was only a minnow of the Triton pattern visualized by the Chifley Government; but at least the scheme that he introduced was something worth while. I am certain that, in his wisdom and in the generosity that is so characteristic of individual members of the medical profession, he believed that the scheme was something really worth while for the people. He realized that it would not be a static scheme and that with the development of new drugs it would have to be expanded. I feel certain that, in paying this tribute to Sir Earle Page, I am justified in saying that he did not visualize that a succeeding government would take away from the scheme an important element - free medicine. He realized the contribution that it could make to the welfare of the people, a lessening of disability and suffering, a decrease of mortality, and through more rapid recovery and better rehabilitation an increase in productivity, thereby increasing profits and incomes and also the revenue from taxation.
In 1959 this scheme, which was apparently free to the Australian people, was anathema to the Government. It believes in enterprise being free, but nothing being free for the ordinary people of the country. The Government said that costs were increasing and its only solution was to impose a charge of 5s. on every prescription. Admittedly, it enlarged the ambit of the formulary somewhat, but that was inevitable. That was visualized by Sir Earle Page and! would have been visualized by any medical practitioner who introduced the scheme. However, it was not in the minds of the Treasurer and his associates, so a charge of 5s. was imposed on each prescription. The Treasurer did not think in terms of decreased suffering, disability, or mortality, or the contribution to productivity and what it would mean to the country financially. That was the value of the scheme, but the Treasurer had to see it in terms of the pounds, shillings and pence paid by the unfortunate sufferers.
When the Government introduced the scheme there was nothing but chaos. The information which should have been in the hands of doctors and chemists on 1st March, 1960, was not in their hands, or was in the hands of very few, and no one knew what was included in the free pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The scheme has been elaborated1, but there are still quarrels over ft. Apparently the Government has satisfied the chemists, but the doctors are not happy with the scheme and the wholesale drug manufacturers and distributors are anything but contented. They say that there is discrimination against particular firms. They have suggested impropriety, but I do not. I think it is just stupidity and unfairness. The whole crux of the trouble with the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is that the Government has departed from the original ideals of the man who was responsible for its introduction.
The Government still persists in a discriminatory approach to granting money to people who go into hospital. To those who are covered by a particular schedule of a hospital benefit fund, the Government contributes £1 a day. To other people who either elect not to be in a fund or cannot afford to be in one, the Government contributes only 8s. a day. Yet all the money comes out of the one Australian purse. How the Government can justify that gross and unfair discrimination passes my comprehension. Only the supporters of the Government can answer that and accept such an example of unfairness. Only a government such as the one which has been in office in this country in recent years could be responsible for such unfair discrimination.
The Government takes a lot of pride in the introduction of the scheme to meet a proportion of medical fees. The present Government parties sought to destroy any schemes envisaged by the Chifley Government, but what were the assurances given by the Government when it introduced the assisted medical ‘benefit funds? What was the impression left in the minds of the people who joined those funds? They understood that they would have to meet 10 per cent, of medical costs. Although that may have been the position at the commencement of the scheme, what is the position to-day? Very few funds meet more than 66 per cent, of medical expenses and many funds meet less than SO per cent, of them. Does not the Government think it is time that it had a look at this scheme and remedied the defects in it? Contributions to funds have increased and the proportion of medical expenses met has decreased. The very basis of the justification for the introduction of the scheme was to assist people to meet unexpected or large medical bills. But the Government has failed to meet that requirement. I think it is now time that the Government had another look at the scheme and got back to the basis on which the funds met 90 per cent, of medical expenses.
In respect of mental care, the Government has shirked its responsibility.
– That is mainly a State responsibility, is it not?
– But the Commonwealth bought into it! In 1954 and 1955, the Government secured the services of Dr. Stoller, an eminent expert in the field of mental care. Incidentally, Senator McCallum, would you accept mat health is a greater Commonwealth responsibility than education?
– No, but the States have their responsibilities.
– The Commonwealth seems to have bought into many of those responsibilities, although not so eminently successfully. Dr. Stoller went thoroughly into the matter of mental care and left the Commonwealth and the States with nothing of which they could be proud. He said that £100,000,000 was necessary to remedy the defects in the provision of accommodation, treatment, teaching, research and rehabilitation. He visualized that amount of money being needed by 1965. Some years have elapsed since he said that. What is the present position? On the most recent admission by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) the Government has ‘agreed to provide £10,000,000 on the basis of £1 for every £2 that the States spend on capital structures. Up to the present time the Government has provided £5,100,000. Over the years it has been so miserable that it has filched pensions from pensioners when they have been admitted to mental hospitals. How much has the Government saved in that way by its Shylockism? Have honorable senators ever reckoned it up? The Government has paid about £5,000,000 nominally to assist these poor unfortunate people, and at the same time it has filched pensions from the pensioners. It even ceased paying the lOd. a day to the States for the maintenance of such people. How miserable can the Government be? How far can the Government go in its neglect for the Australian people? It has been callously indifferent to these unfortunate people.
In the field of dentistry the States have failed, by and large. In this country, in which the incidence of dental caries in children is one of the highest among the civilized countries, the Government has done nothing. Even the inefficient Nicklin Government in Queensland is saying that if it cannot obtain assistance from the Commonwealth Government it will obtain a loan to provide for the care of the teeth of Queensland children.
In respect of development, members of the Opposition have mentioned the things the Government has done and the things it has carried on from the Chifley regime. All the things it has failed to do make a colossal total. The Government has been attacked even by its own supporters. I believe that only this morning in the other place the Government was attacked very venomously by a Queensland member on the effect of its credit squeeze, which is in keeping with its policy, in his electorate in north Queensland. Under the new roads formula, the Government has deprived Queensland of £1,500,000 over a period of five years, to which it would have been entitled under the previous formula. That is indicative of the Government’s approach to development.
Let me tell honorable senators opposite what Mr. Wally Rae, a Queensland member of Parliament, had to say. I might mention that Mr. Rae is a Country Party member who is particularly popular and well known in rural circles. He has his own property. No one would know more, and many would know less, about the potentialities and possibilities of Queensland. Let me read the following report: -
In the State Parliament, Mr. Rae called the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) “Black Jack “-
I deplore that approach. Personally, I do not believe in it. The article continued -
A great break existed between the Commonwealth Government and the people of the Channel country of Western Queensland. Federal Parliamentarians, Liberal and Country Party, could not care less about the development of Western Queensland. Last night Mr. Rae said that £3,000,000 from the Federal Government would help one of the greatest schemes ever mooted for the development of Queensland.
Mr. Rae made those comments when the Minister for Trade was in the Channel country with a number of associates. Mr. Rae said that it was really a social visit and that they might just as well not have left Canberra.
– He said that last year. He was not referring to the recent economic measures.
– That is so, but he said it about a past bad performance of the Government. Mr. Evans, the Queensland Minister for Development, stated that the Commonwealth Government was not interested in development, particularly in Queensland. He even suggested that Queenslanders sponsor a secession move- ment. Those comments were made not by Labour supporters but by associates of the Government. Men who have lived all their lives with the Government have condemned it. They cannot put up with the Menzies Government. They regard it as a government that is not seized with a sense of national responsibility and as not capable of efficiency. Mr. Hiley, the Queensland Treasurer, has for years condemned this Government’s parsimonious approach to Queensland affairs.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has spoken of the potentialities of coal exports. The coal mines at Kianga and Moura have just received two orders for coal, one for 100,000 tons and the other for 187,000 tons. Recently, the Government was condemned in New South Wales for not assisting in the development of the harbours at Newcastle, Port Kembla and Sydney. The Government has done nothing to improve handling and loading facilities at Gladstone and Bowen. Yet it says that it has a sense of national responsibility and is aware of the need for development in this country. I say that the Government does not know what the word “ development “ means when it comes to the point of actual performance.
How long did.it take the Government to accept its responsibility in regard to the Townsville-Mount Isa railway? It took years. A member of the Government staff approached me and said, “The Prime Minister will have to do something. Not only you, but also Senator Maher is now condemning the Government. He is coming to the Senate and he is writing to the Courier-Mail ‘ condemning the Commonwealth Government for not assisting in the rehabilitation or reconditioning of the Mount Isa-Townsville railway.” All credit to Senator Maher for showing an independence of spirit and a sense of loyalty.
– That was two years ago.
– Very well. When did the Prime Minister agree to do something about the line? It was nearly two years ago, but he has not yet determined the rate of interest to be paid by the Queensland Government under the terms of repayment. The Government is seeking export markets overseas. The Mount Isa mineral deposit is probably one of the greatest commercial deposits in the world.
– Ours is the first Government to do anything to standardize rail gauges, you know.
– That is not right. How long did it take you to begin to play your part in standardization? You have only just begun, after eleven years. I admit that the Government has already spent about £5,000,000 on the Melbourne to Albury line.
Let me refer to the Weipa project, that major development in Queensland. We must weigh what the Liberal-Country Party Government has done in Queensland with what it has been responsible to do. At Weipa, we have what looks like being the greatest commercial deposit of bauxite in the world. I know what it means to Queensland, and also to people of other countries overseas. In 100 years’ time the story will be told that Queensland as a State received 6d. a ton royalty, and that a town of 5,000 people formerly existed at Weipa; that there is an extremely large hole in the ground; and that hundreds of thousands of tons of aluminium, worth billions of pounds, have been smelted and fabricated in New Zealand, New Guinea or Asia. You are the people who sold it out. The Bell Bay aluminium project, which you sold to the Kaiser Corporation and Consolidated Zinc, has undertaken to expand production to 28,000 tons. The companies have said that they may expand production to 45,000 tons, but they have given the Government no assurance that they will even continue to carry on production. All that they have to do is pay. If it suited them economically, they could close the works, or they could jam the Tasmanian operations and the Tasmanian works would not be able to carry on. They would not have the economic independence or the assets to do so.
The Government has sold every bauxite deposit with the exception of those that possibly may be developed by the Western Mining Corporation in Western Australia. What has been done with the deposits in the Northern Territory? British Aluminium has those, and it also has rights over the hydro-electric potentialities of New Guinea. So the Government has sold the basic raw material of aluminium. That fact indicates its attitude to the development of the resources of this country. I think that I have said sufficient about the Government’s sins of omission and commission.
The supporters of the Government persistently ask - and I think they are justified in doing so - “What would Labour do if it were returned to office? “
– We would not do as this Government has done - too little, too late. It has been too slow, too often. We would engender a measure of confidence in the community. Idealism is not dead; it is dormant because of the soporific effect of successive Menzies Governments. Australians are proud of their country and, given a purpose in life, they will meet its educational and other needs. But what can they visualize for themselves or their families to-day? The primary education of their children has been neglected. The universities are crammed, although in this respect I will pay a tribute. I admit that the Government has done something in the field of university education, though not before it was necessary.
– Do not spoil it.
– I pay tribute where I possibly can. I know that it is infrequent, but I cannot do so if it is not justified. There is not much that calls for praise or tribute when we think of the many years that the Government has been in office and remember that it has had to spend in that time more than £15,000,000,000. Australia has not too much to show for the expenditure of that money. There is no doubt that we would carry on in a somewhat similar fashion to that in which this Government carried on during part of 1960. We would have import restrictions.
– Senator Benn does not believe in them.
– Who said that?
– He did.
– If he did, that was his personal belief. He also said that there was a Communist cell in the Government parties. If honorable senators opposite accept him on import restrictions, they must accept him on the Communist cell in the Government parties. I give my view of the position as I believe it to be, and as it has been enunciated by the leader of the party. We shall re-impose import restrictions. For the abuses that were associated with them - we all know of them - there is a remedy. If there is trafficking in licences, make a gaol sentence, without an alternative, the only punishment. If there is any action in the way of raised prices by Australian manufacturers, tell them that they will lose their protection, and they will soon come to heel in the interests of Australia. There is no abuse in the field of imports that a government has not authority to remedy. We would restrict imports to essential goods and those consumer goods or luxuries that we can afford. Who wants American ham at the cost of something essential? Who wants American tripe and Cadillac and Chevrolet cars? We say that only essential things should be imported, plus any consumer goods that we can afford. That is the position with regard to import controls and restrictions. There is no need for me to go into detail, because the pattern has been repeated as recently as 1951. The Menzies Government adopted Labour’s classifications in the various categories of imports - category A, category B, and a special category for those goods in respect of which there was administrative permission for importation in the national interests or for special reasons.
The Government is talking of obtaining loans by threats. Peculiarly enough, the recent internal loan was almost totally subscribed. Total subscription of loans under Liberal-Country Party Administrations has been a rarity rather than the rule, yet speaking from memory, under the Chifley Administration only one loan was undersubscribed. This Government’s solution of the problem caused by the failure of the loan market was to threaten insurance houses only that they would have to earmark 30 per cent, of their funds for Government loans. Why the Government picked on those institutions passes my comprehension because they are, by and large, mutual societies. I am not disagreeing with the general principle. I believe that public bodies such as insurance companies and similar enterprises should make their contribution to the welfare of the people. But honorable senators opposite are the people who believe in the free flow of credit and free enterprise. This action, coming from them, seems very peculiar. I find it very hard to analyse the reason for pushing insur- ance houses about. They represent groups of tens of thousands of people who subscribe funds, by and large, on a mutual basis. Certainly, the power is held by directors, and very often the men who sit on the boards are directors also of mills, merchandising houses and other enterprises. The real power over the money of insurance companies is exercised by the boards, but the interests of tens of thousands of Australians are involved.
The Government says that it makes a certain concession to the people by allowing them to deduct, for income tax purposes, life insurance premiums and like payments to a total of £400, but not many workers subscribe £400 a year to an insurance company. Be that as it may, why does the Government intend to belt these organizations when it does not even attempt to rectify the abuses associated with land speculation and hire purchase, from which millions of pounds are made? How can Australians have confidence, when the best that they can see in life is the possibility of owning a home and having three meals a day? They cannot see proper and efficient education for their children. They cannot see reasonable medical or dental care for their families and they cannot see any great development of Australia under the present Administration. Yet, when they invest a few pounds of their money in insurance, the Government is talking about compelling them to place 30 per cent, of it in government loans at 5i per cent, interest.
If the Government has not power over the financial vultures of this country, why is it not honest enough to go to the people and ask for sufficient power to control credit in the interests of the country and its people? The Government will not take on these organizations. It even went to the extent in the last Budget of creating in no small measure an inflationary trend by allowing exemption from income tax of interest paid on money raised by way of debentures and secured or unsecured notes. This exemption does not apply to organizations coming anew into the field. They have to pay tax on the interest charges attracted by the money that they raise or the notes they issue.
The Government has not created in the minds of the average Australian a sense of purpose in the development of his country. lt has not engendered in his heart a real sense of sacrifice in the interests of the nation. It has not recognized that Australians are prouder of their country than are any other people. Our people are willing to accept sacrifices. We cannot have advancement, development, education or ideal medical care without a measure of sacrifice; I recognize that. The sacrifice must be not only financial; on occasions it must be physical. This Government is not capable of engendering that spirit of sacrifice. Why is that? lt is because the Menzies Government suffers from a policy of procrastination and a disease of inaction - of too little too late. With successive Menzies governments, the disease has become chronic and incurable. Give Labour a chance when the opportunity arises at the end of this year, and not when you might suggest, in your selfishness and in your desire to retain control of the Treasury bench. Australia will then go forward1, cursing the day when, on 10th December, 1949, it elected the first Menzies Government.
.- At the outset, I wish to associate myself with the expressions of loyalty in the Address-in-Reply, the adoption of which was moved so capably by Senator Mattner and supported so firmly by Senator McKellar. I oppose the amendment moved by Senator Armstrong. Reading the list of items included in the amendment, it is almost impossible to believe that the honorable senator was serious. One comes to the conclusion that he must have been joking, because they simply do not make sense. The propositions are preposterous and I am opposed to them all.
At the outset, also, I convey my sympathy to the family of the late Lord Dunrossil and express my appreciation of the services that he rendered to this country in the few short months that he held the high office of Governor-General.
It is impossible to follow the ridiculous gallimaufry that Senator Dittmer poured out. I did note one or two points, but there was such a farrago of nonsense that it was impossible to chase up every alley and byway that he traversed. I come back to one of the canards on petrol rationing. Listening to him, one gathered the impression that, first, we won the 1949 election by abolishing petrol rationing and, secondly, by abolishing petrol rationing we wrecked the dollar pool of the British Commonwealth of Nations and impoverished the Mother Country, bringing her on to the rocks and virtually making her bankrupt.
– Do not distort the story.
– That is the purport of what the honorable senator said. It is amusing when people who have spent half of their lives abusing the British way of life suddenly find themselves shedding crocodile tears because of some fancied injustice done to the Old Country. The truth, of course, is that the Attlee Government was doing its best to ruin England at the time, and came within an ace of success. Mr. Attlee, or Earl Attlee as he is now, rather wrecked the propaganda story by lifting petrol rationing in England three months after we did. If we were about to destroy his economy by the small impact made by our inroads on the dollar pool, what can we think of the British Labour Prime Minister’s action?
His Excellency the Administrator said that he trusted Divine Providence would guide our deliberations in this chamber. After listening to Senator Dittmer, I am convinced that Divine Providence has given up the task of attempting to guide all of us along the lines of sense and responsibility. I note also that one of the great advantages of being a Labour propagandist is that if the Labour Party does something good when it is in office it does it off its own bat, but if the Liberal-Country Party Government does something good it is because the Labour Opposition has forced it to do so. On that fantastic line of reasoning we can never win.
Let me refer to the development of the Leigh Creek coal mine. I give the Labour Party some credit for the development of that mine, but not the credit that the honorable senator has claimed. South Australia found it was impossible to get coal because the then Labour Government of this Commonwealth had allowed the coal-mining unions to fall under Communist control. The Communists called a strike whenever it suited them with the result that there was a shortage of coal. That is why the Labour Government developed Leigh Creek. It was an attempt at self-sufficiency forced on it because the coal miners of New South Wales were at the mercy of red agitators. That, perhaps, is not the type of credit which the honorable senator expects for his former leader.
He went on to say in another part of his speech that the Labour Party had been challenged to say what it would do to meet the present economic conditions. He conceded that the question was legitimate and replied that the first thing it would do would be to engender confidence. If there is one thing which a party that cannot rule itself, which is torn into disputing shreds and which does not know which way it is going from one day to another, cannot do, it is to engender national confidence. In an attempt to engender national confidence in 1949, Mr. Chifley issued an arrogant communiqué that the trading banks of Australia would be nationalized. That was a great method of restoring confidence to the commercial community or to housewives or anybody else who had two or three shillings!
Did it engender national confidence when overseas defence secrets were refused to this country? The Labour Administration and the honorable senator have not far to seek for the answer. Is that his idea of engendering confidence? The Labour Government failed to deal with the most obvious menace to our national existence - the Communist menace. It failed also to ensure production and to maintain coal supplies. In fact, the Labour Government failed in almost everything that was necessary to engender confidence in the community. It is this discredited rump which the honorable senator asks should be given a commission to govern this country! All that I can say is that it is highly improbable that it will be given the opportunity this century to do so. I will not speak for the next century.
– You must be a bit optimistic!
– Everything comes to those who wait, but I doubt whether the Labour Party can wait long enough.
Senator Hendrickson spoke of the virtues of the controls maintained by the Labour Party after the war. I ask him why the Labour Party voted against prices control when Mr. Menzies introduced it during the war. If ever a case can be made for prices control it is during the emergency of a war, but when Mr. Menzies introduced prices control at that time the Labour Party voted against it. Now Labour advocates prices control as a panacea for all our economic ills. My friend Senator Lillico pointed out that it failed in the time of the Emperor Diocletian in A.D. 311. Prices control failed under the Pranks, the Goths and the Vandals. It failed in the Puritan colonies in America and it failed in Germany during the First World War and after the First World War. It has been tried and discredited1 in every era since the time of Diocletian, and I cannot go back any further than that.
– You must have read that somewhere!
– I was not alive at the time of Diocletian, so I had to get it from a book.
– It is inscribed in the scrolls of the Roman Senate.
– I think the Government should be given some credit for its economic measures because it has deliberately courted and risked unpopularity. Nobody in this Senate has ever suggested that the economic measures propounded last November were popular, that they are going to be vote catchers, or that they cause the man in the street to say, “ This is a cracking good job the Menzies Government has done. Sales tax has been bumped up and a credit squeeze has been applied.” But the introduction of unpopular measures is a reflection of the integrity and sincerity of the Government. It has been prepared to do these things for the national good at the risk of unpopularity. That is the short range problem. In a few months’ time the benefits of the measures will be apparent and1 many of the critics will undoubtedly be running for shelter.
Let me be perfectly honest and say that I think that a sales tax of ecn 30 per cent, on motor cars is a very high penal tax, and I am prepared to accept it only as an emergency measure necessary in times of economic stress and strain brought about by the boom that the motor industry was enjoying. When the increased tax had done its work, it was instantly removed.
Before dealing with my own views I should like to refer to remarks made by honorable senators opposite on the question of unemployment. To my way of thinking unemployment is too serious and too important to be made a political football. It is a matter of flesh and blood. The lives of men, women and children are determined by whether the breadwinners are employed or whether there are jobs for them. Honorable senators opposite do these people a disservice by attempting to magnify and falsify the impact of such unemployment as there be. They thereby create lack of confidence which causes difficulties and chaos instead of doing something to help these poor unfortunate people who are their own kith and kin, and their own flesh and blood. Opposition senators should not do anything to aggravate and exacerbate the position of those people. I appeal to honorable senators opposite to forget about this nonsense of attempting to find their way to power over the unfortunate bodies of those who may have been crushed by economic unemployment.
The reference made to Professor Hytten by an honorable senator opposite was entirely unfair. The suggestion that Professor Hytten advocated1 a pool of unemployed was made, not three years ago as the honorable senator said, but twelve years ago, at the end of 1949. The statement about the pool of unemployed was made not by the professor but in newspaper advertisements propounded by the Labour Party. My recollection of the matter is that the professor issued a writ. I do not know the actual terms of the settlement but the advertisements were withdrawn and I understand the newspaper concerned apologized for the travesty of what the professor had said. It is grossly unfair to bring up in this chamber a reference to something a man is supposed to have said, when in fact he did not say it, and when he has no opportunity to defend himself.
I am forced reluctantly to the conclusion that there are some members of the Labour Party - and I say this more in sorrow than in anger - who would welcome Unemployment if, over the bones of its victims, they could see the glittering prize of the treasury bench. They have made no progress at all in their approach to this problem. As a matter of fact, it is like their approach to the problem of economic thought. Three years ago, Professor Arndt, delivering the Chifley Memorial Lecture - he was not delivering Liberal propaganda - said -
The Labour Party has made no progress in economic thought for 25 years.
That statement is still perfectly true, although the period now is 28 years instead of 25 years. The sooner our friends opposite show a little initiative, do a little thinking and research and get rid of the discredited shibboleths they have used as slogans for many years, the sooner they may hope - I would not say expect - that some confidence ultimately will be reposed in them as an alternative Administration. His Excellency said in his Speech -
The policies of the new administration in the United States of America will have a profound influence throughout the democratic world, and my advisers are in close touch with the United States Government
I take this opportunity, Mr. President, to say that I believe it is fortunate for Australia that at this moment in her history she is represented by a government which is both respected and trusted by our American allies. Tt is undoubtedly true that the United States is the corner-stone of the Anzus pact and also of the Seato alliance. I think it is due to the Menzies Government’s integrity that when the former United States Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, was here a couple of years ago, shortly before his death, he was able to promise us, “ You will never stand alone in the Pacific “. He said that when he was in Canberra. That is a kind of promise that the United States has never made to any other country in peacetime. Our own Prime Minister has already had important talks with President Kennedy, and it is obvious that there will be the closest cooperation between them in the future.
Look at Labour’s foreign policy. The statement was made at the rump conference in Hobart, and repeated in Brisbane, that recognition of red China is a cardinal point - I emphasize the words “ cardinal point” - of the Labour Party’s foreign policy. I ask honorable senators opposite: Who benefits from this cardinal point of their foreign policy? The Commonwealth Prime Ministers met in London recently and there was a deluge of reports to the effect that Australia had joined with all the other Commonwealth countries in urging the recognition of red China, her admission to the United Nations, and the betrayal of the people of Formosa. I did not need to be told that those reports were incorrect, but it was very cheering to read a press statement by the Acting Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick), announcing that there had been no change in Australia’s foreign policy, despite all the wishful thinking by the Australian Labour Party and many of the Australian newspapers.
If we ignore the ethics of the matter, and if we consider it on the lowest possible level, why should we annoy a powerful and generous ally, the United States, in order to please our only potential enemy in this area of the world - international communism? It should be observed that we do not say that red China is our enemy. We do not say that at all. We have a very high regard for the Chinese people. We say that the enemy is international communism, whether it comes in the guise of red Chinese or anybody else. Why should we betray 10,500,000 decent Chinese on Formosa, who have trusted us and our alliances, in order to appease the brutal dictators who at present hold sway in red China?
Famine is a terrible thing, and man-made famine is appalling. In the Ukraine, in 1933, 7,000 Ukrainians were starved to death at the dictate of the great liberator, Stalin. That was one of the greatest manmade famines of all time. There cannot be any doubt that in 1961 Communist mismanagement has worsened the impact of the terrible famine which is at present affecting the Chinese mainland. In my view, the Communists have done this in two ways. They have concentrated unwisely and, in very many areas exclusively, on the rapid development of the industrial potential. Throughout the country, men and women have been called off farms. Little blast furnaces have been set up and an attempt has been made to overtake the pigiron production of Great Britain. As a result, apart from unfortunate seasons and the failure of crops, not enough men and women were engaged in agriculture to feed the nation.
Secondly, the organization of such a great percentage of the Chinese people into the unspeakable communes meant that men and women had lost all incentive and, in many instances, even the desire to produce food. They were reduced in the communes to the level of animals. They were mere social machines, instruments of production. Even the normal relations between men and women were regulated. We can imagine, let us say, the enthusiasm which a Chinese farmer who is allowed to see his wife for one hour a week has for maintaining the welfare of the commune. When all these things are added together, I think it is true to say that the regime in China has undoubtedly worsened the impact of the famine that the Chinese are suffering.
I want to say here and now that I have no objection whatever to supplying wheat to starving people, be they Communists or anybody else. But what I do say is that we would be entirely unwise to get any ideas that we are going to correct the adverse balance of payments by fabulous sales to red China. I also think that it would be wrong of us to use the supply of wheat as a means of saddling this iron dictatorship more firmly on the Chinese people. At the present time, I myself have no confidence whatever that the wheat will be used in a humane, generous manner; I believe that it will be used almost certainly in a selective fashion, in order to make the rule and control of the Communist leaders and their sub-leaders and gauleiters more effective.
Reverting once more to the question of trade, I think we must remember that a Communist is all Communist; he is not 90 per cent, a Communist and 10 per cent, a house painter. The Communist philosophy, or lack of it, and the Communist way of thought permeate his entire being. Nine years ago, one of the top theoreticians in Moscow said that trade is an economic and political weapon. Notice the use of the word “ political “. Trade is a political weapon. In the last few years, the red Chinese have shown that they do not scruple to use this political weapon for their own purposes. Recently they concluded a deal with Burma. The Burmese were to supply red China with rice. They were to be paid partly in cash and partly in cement. The Burmese fulfilled their part of the contract and delivered the rice. But the Chinese never paid the money, and the cement which they delivered had gone hard. To add insult to injury, the Chinese used the rice which they got from Burma, to undercut Burma in her traditional markets. That is the standard of morality and mentality of the people to whom, it has been suggested in many press articles, we should look for a vast improvement in our overseas balances. A similar story, but one which is perhaps not quite as bad, can be told in relation to Thailand and Malaya.
In Japan the Communists have been very arrogant. They said to the Japanese, people prior to the election before the last one, “ We insist that, if you want us not to cancel our orders, you must throw out the Kishi Government.” Those orders were worth some millions of yen. The Japanese resented that attitude and re-elected the Kishi Government. For once, the Communists kept their word and cancelled their orders in an attempt to embarrass the Kishi Government by causing economic chaos. It is not drawing too long a bow to suggest that, if we were silly enough to believe that by selling wheat to red China we would get out of the red and would solve the problem of our overseas payments, we would get to the stage where the Chinese would say, “We will buy your wheat, but you must elect a Labour Government.” That would be intolerable - the sort of thing we could not possibly put up with.
Before I leave that subject, I wish to make a passing reference to an appalling statement that was made by Sir John Teasdale, the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board. He said -
I had to keep negotiations with the Communists secret, because good Christian shipowners would raise their freights otherwise.
If Sir John is negotiating a contract, I do not challenge his right, as a matter of normal commercial practice, to keep the matter quiet until the contract is finalized. But I do take umbrage at the action of a Commonwealth functionary - in a sense he is a Commonwealth functionary, despite the fact that the States as well as the Commonwealth have interests in the Australian Wheat Board - in making such an insulting reference to shipowners and Christianity. I regard his statement as being intolerable. I suggest that in future Sir John should leave theology, philosophy, and politics to those who are better equipped to deal with them.
– I thought the Communist buyers of wheat stipulated that the matter should not be publicized.
– I do not challenge the right to keep the matter quiet. What I do take exception to is the insulting reference to Australian shipowners and Christians. Those words are in unfortunate juxtaposition.
– It is typical of capitalism, of course.
– I am amazed that you should say that. I should have expected the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board to be more circumspect.
It was good to note in His Excellency’s Speech a reference to continued research and work preparatory to the introduction of anti-monopoly legislation. To my way of thinking, free and open competition are essential for the proper working of the price mechanism. That is the real way in which to keep prices at a reasonable level in a free economy. I believe that the diligence and acumen of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), applied to these matters, will give Australia legislation which will be of very great assistance in coping with future economic difficulties. Our friends in America did not scruple a few weeks ago, after a conviction had been recorded, about putting behind bars for a month the directors of the giant Westinghouse Electric Corporation for a breach of their anti-trust laws. That shows the degree to which a country which is regarded as being the bastion of private enterprise is prepared to pursue its anti-trust and anti-monopoly legislation.
A few of my friends opposite would be disappointed if I did not refer to the serious attack on our living standards which is materializing as a result of close and active co-operation between the Australian Labour Party and Communists in the trade unions.
– That is not a new statement; it has been made in this chamber very often. I believe that the existing example in Victoria is so outstanding that it is worth more than passing comment. I have never taken the view that all Labour men are Communists or that all Labour men support communism. For me to do that would be ridiculous. What I do say is that there are some powers within the Labour Party and ‘its organization who take a line which is indistinguishable from the Communist line and that, if they were given the chance, some of them would much prefer Communist control of certain matters to control by Liberal Party, Australian Country Party or Democratic Labour Party people.
Recently the Labour Party elected Mr. Stout to the office of federal president. He has said quite bluntly that he always gives his second preferences to the Communists in preference to the Liberals or any one else. The new federal secretary of the Labour Party is Mr. Chamberlain, a man who has co-operated very strongly with industrial left-wingers throughout Australia. He is a man who, as federal president of the party, succeeded in losing eight out of nine federal seats in Western Australia and who has had an unparalleled record of failure in everything he has touched in the Labour Party. Except for having been electedto his present office, he has not taken a solitary trick.
– You should be happy.
– I am happy.
– What are you moaning about?
– I should like to think that there was not a monopoly of wisdom and integrity in the ranks of any one political party in this country. This gentleman, Mr. Chamberlain, holds democratic pre-selection ballots in contempt. He actually names the starters and says in his book, “ Labor’s Road Back “ - he does not say where it is back to -
We cannot afford to continue with ‘ popular boy’ competitions under the guise of democratic selection ballots.
That is what the new federal secretary of the Australian Labour Party thinks of the democratic method of selecting a candidate for election to parliament. It is not very difficult to find, under the aegis of a man such as this, an extraordinary approach to co-operation with Communists in the unions.
In Victoria this week an election has already begun for a Division 1 council man for the Amalgamated Engineering Union, that being one of the three voting positions. There are four candidates for this important office in the union, three of whom are non-Communists and one of whom is a Communist. The Communist is a man named Southwell. Who is Southwell’s organizing secretary? The man who is running Southwell’s campaign, who is organizing his meetings, who is collecting his finance and doing all that he can to have him elected as a council man for the A.E.U. is W. Butler, a member of the Victorian State executive of the Australian Labour Party.
That is the way the present rump Labour Party fights communism. It allows a member of its State executive - not an ordinary rank-and-file man - who has a say in nominating who shall stand for election to parliament to be the organizing secretary for this self-confessed Communist who is standing in this A.E.U. election. An ordinary unity ticket is bad enough. Unity tickets have been flourished around Australia by means of television, in this chamber and in another place; but to get a straight-out alliance such as this at the top level must shock those members of the public who have a lingering idea that the Labour Party is a democratic organization. I think I am right in saying that few electors would be prepared to transfer power from the present Government to a party dominated by Communists and fellow travellers and riddled with Communist intrigue.
– We do not know whether what you have said is true or not. We have only your word for it.
– I challenge the honorable senator to disprove what I have said. I have named the man, the place, the candidate and the election.I cannot do more. I suggest that Senator Brown telephone the Melbourne Trades Hall and check on what I have said.
– I will check with Tony McGillick, who is a supporter of your party.
– I do not mind if you check with McGillick. I have quoted date, time and place. I have quoted chapter and verse. Professor Hytten is not represented in this place. There are plenty of people here who will speak for the State executive of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour Party. I speak for Professor Hytten because there is nobody else here to do so. If honorable senators opposite believe that they can challenge my facts, let them do so. They may speak for Mr. Butler.
In his Speech His Excellency said -
There is a continuing expansion in the petroleum refining industry. . . . More than £100,000,000 is being invested in work in progress or planned . . .
That is a highly commendable state of affairs. As the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said yesterday, already Australia has exported a considerable amount of refined petroleum. I give full marks to the Government for the efficient and energetic way in which it has pursued the search for oil in this country but while we have been waiting to strike oil we have been neglecting to use the gift that is available to us at the Lurgi gas plant in Victoria. That plant is operated by the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria, a State instrumentality. I am sure that if discussions were entered into with the proper authorities much greater use could be made of that plant because the corporation is eager to establish a refinery using the Fischer-Tropsch process of turning coal into liquid fuel. I do not think there are more than three or four Lurgi plants of the type possessed by Victoria operating throughout the world. The addition of a £9,000,000 refinery to the existing gas generating plant would enable us to produce many hundreds of millions of gallons of liquid fuel a year. It is very difficult to give a firm approximation of the cost of such fuel, but assuming that distribution costs through the oil companies would be no greater than they are at the moment, and that the Commonwealth would be prepared to waive some portion of the taxes on oil and petrol produced in this fashion, the product could be sold at a price more or less competitive with that prevailing for ordinary petrol.
In view of the importance of a plant such as this to the defence of Australia - such a refinery could keep going the Defence Forces in time of hostilities - its establishment should be pursued energetically. I realize that £9,000,000 is a lot of money but in view of the almost immediate return that could be obtained from an investment of this kind, and the prospects of increasing that return, I cannot think of a more worthwhile investment for us to make. It would greatly assist in the solution of our balance.ofpayments problem. Honorable senators should disabuse their minds of the idea that synthetic petrol is inferior to natural petrol.
It is not. Chemically and scientifically synthetic petrol and naturally occurring petrol are the same. I do not suggest that we emulate the policies of Hitler, but let it be remembered that Hitler ran 80 per cent, of his air force on synthetic fuel during the last war. In South Africa an enormous synthetic petrol plant is in operation. The authorities hope that it will in time supply all of South Africa’s liquid fuel requirements. In the Lurgi plant in Victoria we are being offered a great national asset on a plate. From recollection I think there are six gas generators at that plant. Three of them are kept in active operation and a fourth is being continuously serviced. Sufficient space is available to enable the number of generators to be at least doubled. This is a matter that we could pursue with considerable advantage to the nation.
– Who operates the plant?
– The Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria. It is estimated that the cost of a refinery would be £9,000,000. In essence the FischerTropsch process involves the heating of coal, turning it into vapour, filtering it, condensing it and producing a liquid, which is distilled at various temperatures. As in an ordinary petroleum refinery different products are obtained at different temperatures. Seventy-five per cent, of the cost of that process is involved in the gasification of the coal. At present the production of the fuel is expensive because briquettes, which are costly, are used for heating purposes, but scientific progress is ever on the march and when the stage is reached where damp raw brown coal, which has not been turned into dry briquettes, can be shovelled into the generators we will certainly be able to make synthetic oil at a price as cheap as that of imported oil, irrespective of excise and duty. It is almost certain, according to chemical engineers, that that will be possible.
– Is there a sufficiency of coal resources in Victoria for this purpose?
– Yes. Almost the entire countryside is composed of brown coal, with an overburden to a depth of about 20 feet. To reach the deposit merely involves the scraping away of the 20 feet of overburden. Much of the brown coal mining is done by the open cut method. I am informed that the Victorian deposits are probably the best brown coal deposits in the world. It is odd that although brown coal and the best Maitland coal have different qualities for heating and other industrial purposes, Maitland coal being the better of the two, for purposes of synthetic fuel production there is no substantial difference between cheap black coal and ordinary brown coal. I hope that the Government will examine this matter.
I support strongly the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply proposed by Senator Mattner and seconded by Senator McKellar and I oppose the amendment moved by Senator Armstrong.
. -I wish to associate myself with the expression of loyalty contained in the Address in these words -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
I am in agreement with that. I think the Government owes His Excellency more than thanks; it also owes him an apology for the very innocuous document that it recommended he should read to this Parliament. The Speech did not deal with the matters which are causing the nation very grave concern at the present time. It is really humbug to come into this Senate with great pomp and ceremony and listen to the advice given by the Cabinet, through the representative of the Crown, to a responsible democratic parliament. The Speech is a mere juggling of words. There is nothing definite in it. It contains absolutely no mention of any of the matters to which the minds of the people of Australia are attuned and which the Government itself declares are serious.
Therefore, the amendment moved by Senator Armstrong on behalf of the Australian Labour Party to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply is thoroughly justified. If we are to keep this democratic Parliament operating in a proper way without evasion by the Government by the juggling of words and circumventing Parliament, very often it will be necessary for the Opposition to introduce in the Senate by this method matters of real importance and urgency. I support the amendment moved by Senator Armstrong, which reads -
That the following words be added to the Address-in-Reply: - “ and the Senate deplores the faulty leadership of the Government in directing the Australian economy resulting in -
continuing inflation; (to) loss of overseas funds;
failure of the Public Loan Market;
retarded National development;
injustice to wage earners;
inadequate social services and bousing;
high interest rates; and
shortage of steel”.
After the word “ earners “ in (f) I would have liked to add “pensioners, and people on fixed incomes “.
The Government attempts to present a defence in relation to those matters but they are factual. Actually, they are admitted by the Government. Despite all the explanation and circumlocution, nobody can deny that inflation is continuing. Australia was showing the effects of inflation before this Government took office. As a matter of fact, inflation was one of the cardinal points on which the Government parties sought election to office. It is well known that in their policy speeches and printed booklets the Government parties claimed that they would stabilize the Australian £1 or, to use the hackneyed phrase, “ put value back into the £1 “. They admitted that the Australian workman was being cheated out of his proper reward by inflation and they said the situation would be altered. Very shortly after that Mr. Casey, as he then was -I suppose he has been elevated to the peerage because of the embarrassment he caused to his party - said -
The Menzies-Fadden Government has found it impossible to honour its pledge to put value back into the £1. The Federal Government has found it very difficult to maintain the purchasing power of the £1, much less to put value back into it. The Australian £1 is worth less, but we are lucky to get away with no greater depreciation when you consider the economic tornado the country has been through.
It is not surprising that Lord Casey was allowed to go overseas and was ultimately elevated to the peerage.
I was very sorry to hear Senator Hannan, after expressing his loyalty to Her Majesty, insult the integrity and loyalty of Mr.
Clement Attlee, one of the leaders of Great Britain during the war and a man who paid a tremendous sacrifice. Senator Hannan spoke of him as if he had tried to destroy Great Britain. What was the result of Mr. Attlee’s service to his country? As a mark of approval and esteem he was elevated to the peerage; he is a Labour lord. He was given the greatest honour that any nation can bestow upon a man. Why should he be maligned in the Australian Parliament without any rebuke from the Chair? Criticism of him bears the mark of hypocrisy. However, I do not think that Senator Hannan’s words will hurt Lord Attlee. I compare the whole incident with a worm’s eye view of something great. I liken it to the action of a little man throwing up mud in the hope that it would hit something big and somebody would take notice.
I come now to the manner in which the leaders of the Labour governments prior to this Government taking office have been maligned.
The Second World War was won by the co-ordinated efforts of the Australian people and the sacrifices made by many people throughout the world. Australia was very fortunate to come out of the conflict so lightly. Nevertheless, the war brought in its train many responsibilities to which supporters of this Government have referred in an utterly hypocritical manner. They have prostituted liberalism in their criticism of the shortages of supplies under the postwar Labour Government. Senator Hannan and other honorable senators on the Government side have said that there is no need for prices control except in war-time. But the aftermath of the war was far more vicious in respect of prices movements than in war-time and demanded the control of prices to a greater degree than did conditions during the war itself. In war-time the Government could procure, acquire or demand supplies. After the war our allies, devastated territories and even our defeated enemies were crying out for food. In Australia there was no shortage of food, but there had to be austerity. Is it not easily recognizable and quite natural that under normal conditions of trade the prices demanded would be terrific? And they were! After the 1914-18 war some Australian goods were sold overseas at extortionate prices. Do not forget that the control of prices meant both upward and downward movements.
The post-war period was a most successful one. The regulation of prices was not easy. The States were given the right to control prices. I say that it is thoroughly wrong and hypocritical to make the comparisons that honorable senators opposite have made.
This Government is fighting a rearguard action to defend itself in the position into which it has drifted economically, politically and externally. Let me analyse the economic position. Between 1946 and 1949 the Labour Government reduced taxation by £280,000,000 per annum. The maximum rate of sales tax was 25 per cent. Many items that are now subject to sales tax had been removed from the schedules. Sales tax on motor vehicles was 6i per cent. At that time, the motor industry was in its infancy. Within three years of the Menzies Government taking office, the maximum rate of sales tax had jumped from 25 per cent, to 66* per cent. That rise indicates the way in which indirect taxation, the most vicious form of taxation that can be levied because it pays no regard to the ability of persons to pay - it is imposed on every citizen - was used by the Menzies Government.
Let us look at the Budgets of this Government down the years to see how honest it is when it says to the nation that it wishes to restrict spending and appeals to the people to refrain from unnecessary spending. It has created a position in which private industry is dismissing men in great numbers. Industry is embarrassed; small businessmen are forced to close their businesses because combines have made it impossible for them to exist in circumstances of credit restrictions, increasingly severe taxation and growing unemployment. I wish to show how the Government has managed its own affairs. In 1951-52, it brought down a Budget that was greater than the budgetary requirements of war-time governments. I am not saying that there had not been inflation. The Government took from the people in that year £1,017,000,000. In 1952-53, the amount rose by £23,000,000 to £1,040,000,000. It is interesting to note that that was a year in which the Government was facing a general election. In 1953-54, the budgetary provision dropped by £18,000,000, to £1,022,000,000. That period over, the increase of governmental expenditure continued, while inflation kept pace with it, of course. In 1954-55, the amount of the Budget was £1,067,000,000, and in 1955-56, £1,112,000,000. Actually, the Government, through bad budgeting, for which the Treasurer of the time and other members of the Government might be blamed, actually took from the people £1,138,000,000 or £16,000,000 more than was really necessary. That was an all-time record for an inflationary budget.
In 1956-57, the amount of the Budget was £1,312,000,000. In 1957-58, it was £1,323,000,000. In 1958-59, revenue was less than the Budget provision. The Government budgeted for £10,000,000 less than the proposed expenditure. In 1960-61, we had the all-time record Budget of £1,616,000,000. As Senator Dittmer has stated, there has been great inflation in Government expenditure. The Government has increased its demands on the people by £600,000,000 during its years of office, and all the time it has been saying to the businessmen, the bankers and the workers, “ Do not spend “. If the figures that I have given do not indicate inflation, I do not know what does.
The Government might perhaps ask, “Well, how would you fix the matter?” My answer is that we had the economy in proper focus when we left office. Production costs were the envy of the world. World parity could be undersold by Australia. Now, the opposite is true. The embarrassments of this Government cannot be said to be due to lack of production or because we have not great reserves of oil and other commodities. We are exporting coal and we also can export minerals and metals. We have sold our birthright in the aluminium field. In that industry we have become the hewers of wood and the drawers of water. The great world combine could say to Australia to-morrow, “ We will close your aluminium industry”. We have not established an aluminium industry at Weipa, although we did so at Bell Bay. Under this Government, a national asset has been handed over to the world aluminium combine. The combine will establish a mining town in Queensland, make a large hole in the ground, extract the ore and send it away to New Zealand, or wherever it chooses, and have it manufactured into the goods which command the big prices and provide great employment opportunities.
– The fabrication is to be done in Australia, is it not?
– The companies concerned have said that a lot of their industrial activity will be performed outside Australia. The minimum will be done in Australia. Then, I have no doubt, they will sell the finished products back to us.
Let us consider the position of the motor industry which was established in this country with a certain amount of Australian capital. It is perhaps good to see trade alliances, but it is bad to see a national industry, which Australia has the skill to run, now totally owned and controlled outside Australia. It could be closed overnight. If General Motors-Holden’s Limited cared to say, in another depression or recession, or because of competition for markets, that Detroit would in future supply our normal Asian market, we would have no answer.
As I have said, governmental expenditure has increased by £600,000,000 a year while this Government has been in office. Hypocritically, it has been saying that only the Government can spend money wisely in the interests of the nation. Let me say something of the prostitution of liberalism - I refer to the manner in which the Government speaks of the need to encourage free enterprise. It knows full well that there is no free enterprise in this country. The members of the Government may try to convince the Senate that there is, but they have not even succeeded in convincing their own supporters. The Government regimented its supporters into voting for a bill to increase sales tax on motor cars, although its supporters did not believe in the measure and would have defeated it had they voted according to their conscience. Honorable senators opposite now say that that legislation has had the effect that it was intended to have and has done its job. That is sheer lying. It has not had such an effect. The fact is that certain unfortunate individuals have had to pay an increased amount of sales tax because the Government made a serious mistake in handling the economic affairs of the country. The money should, at least, be put in a suspense account, but it will, I expect, go into Consolidated Revenue to be abused as all of the £600,000,000 has been abused during this Government’s period of office. There is a moral duty to refund that money.
The Government says that the credit squeeze is necessary to correct our economy and that it is much fairer than import restrictions, but the Government has once again prostituted its ideals. The Government allowed the import position to get out of hand as a result of political patronage and by making concessions to people, especially big business people, who support it. It will have to remove this festering sore that has been allowed to develop. Privilege has been extended to the point where we cannot control it. The Government says that there is only one cure for our economic ills, namely, the entire removal of controls. It tried this course before, and it failed. It re-imposed restrictions and the abuses were even more vicious than they had been before because the position had got out of hand. Now the Government has handed the problem over to the banks in the form of what is called a credit squeeze. That is not only my opinion. Thinking people generally know that the Government has dodged its responsibility. If any proof is needed, we might take note of a statement by the Research Director of the Australian Bankers Association, Mr. R. B. Prowse, who was interviewed by Oliver Hogue, a Sydney journalist, a man who sorts out very many pertinent points. Mr. Prowse made an initial statement, which was plagiarized and brought into the Parliament; politicians, of course, do not miss these things. He said something that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and every other Minister in turn have said. They gave the banks something and the banks gave them back a quip to use. Mr. Prowse said -
Criticism is an occupational hazard of bankers, just as it is of politicians.
That is their escape. They deny that they have any control over the matter. Mr. Hogue said to Mr. Prowse -
It has been said that most, if not all of the banks, deserve criticism for wrong application of the Commonwealth Government’s credit squeeze policy. Is this right?
Invariably we find that Ministers, especially members of the Country Party, say that they are not responsible for the credit squeeze. They say, “ If your bank is not giving you credit, it should be “. They say that no primary industry has been denied! credit and they challenge us to produce evidence to the contrary. They ask us to provide information from the very people whom they are supposed to represent. They know the facts and they know that the squeeze is being applied. They know that the small business men from whom they collected 5s. a week in the early period of organization in 1949 have been crushed out of business as a result of the prostitution of liberalism, the restriction of credit, and because big combines, which the Government said it would regulate, have been permitted to make it impossible for the small business men to continue. Mr. Prowse replied -
I agree that at present some politicians are ducking for cover from the responsibilities of their own policy, and are blaming the banks for alleged wrong application of that policy. The politicians are trying to draw attention away from themselves. For instance, some politicians have been reported as claiming that the small businessman is not getting a fair share of bank credit. Home owners, too, one reads, are being ruthlessly neglected by the banks, while primary producers and other exporters are being denied their just rights.
Mr. Prowse then went on to summarize the position. This was not a matter of removing controls. It was a matter of removing responsibility for applying controls from the democratically elected government of the country and placing it in the hands of private bankers, from whom there is no appeal. We have reached a most desperate stage in our monetary affairs, and the position is most damaging to the economy of the country. We have got to the stage where persons over whom no government has control can say to a man, “ Economically, you can live “, and to another, “ Economically, you must die “. There is no appeal at all. Notwithstanding the very quick reversal of the Government’s policy under just criticism and pressure, the objective sought by the Government in its economic policy has not been achieved. Mr. Prowse went on to say -
The banks had to reduce the level of thenadvances substantially by the end of March. The figure which the Reserve Bank had in mind has never been publicly stated, but one federal Minister was reported to have said that the reduction was to be “ of the order of £100,000 “. The final quarter of the financial year (April-June) would see a huge run-down in bank liquidity because of heavier than usual seasonal taxation payments and because of the continued loss of Australia’s overseas balances.
That is the statement of a man who has no axe to grind. He is the Research Director of the Australian Bankers Association. If he had any political axe to grind he could have been very much more scathing in his survey of the Government’s attitude. He admits quite clearly that the full economic effect of, and the real hardship imposed by, the Government’s policy would not be felt until June or July. In the interim, the people who are first hit are the workers, who have nothing to sell but the labour of their hands.
Senator Hannan made a very trite statement in relation to unemployment when he said of unemployed persons that they are our flesh and blood and have to live, and that nobody should make political capital out of the unemployed. I hope that nobody is so poor in his outlook and so narrow in his mind as to think that stating a case for people who have been thrown out of employment is capitalizing on their misery. The misery is admitted, otherwise no one could capitalize on it. There are 79,000 persons registered with the Commonwealth as unemployed. That number does not in any way reflect the total number of unemployed. I do not know the total, and neither does the Commonwealth Statistician nar the Government. We do not know to what degree unemployment has actually manifested itself. We do know that 1,600 have been dismissed from the motor industry in South Australia. Textile mills have dismissed men. Timber mills have closed and their employees have been thrown on to the employment market. Even the newspaper proprietors have reduced their staffs in quite considerable numbers and advertising has been reduced. As a result of the Western Australian Government’s use of oil instead of coal, the employment of nearly two-thirds of the people of Collie has been affected. They have been promised possible alternative employment in six months. The Government, while asking for higher production, pursues its present economic policy, and a large portion of the skilled work force of this country is not being utilized because of the credit squeeze. Experience leads us to believe that the Government’s action will not correct the position. If we are to maintain our position as a nation, every man in this country who is willing and able to work should be permitted to do so.
Another aspect of this matter is that Government supporters, because of their nonassociation with working people, do not regard the problem of unemployment as seriously as they should.
– What about the waterside workers in Western Australia?
– They stopped work and the arbitration court is dealing with them. Make no error about the waterside workers or the workers in any other industry that is subject to the industrial awards of this country. It is not the responsibility of the Labour Party to correct these things; it is the responsibility of the Government. The honorable senator has asked about the waterside workers. It is well known that when the Government has any trouble with the unions it asks the Opposition to do something about the matter; but it does not do anything itself, or if it does it invariably aggravates the position.
Government supporters have spoken about communism in this country, but irrespective of anything that has been said in this chamber, the only sincere fight against communism has been waged by the Labour Party.
– Which Labour Party?
– The Australian Labour Party.
– I thought you meant the Australian Democratic Labour Party.
– I do not deny that it has done the very best it could; but I do say that the Government has done nothing at all to deal with communism.
– Are you defending the fifteen-week hold-up of cargo in all the ships at Fremantle recently?
– I am not interested in anything that is ultra vires a decision of the arbitration court. I subscribe to arbitration. I believe that the honorable senator who has just interjected is a most humanitarian woman, but she knows very little about industrial affairs. The dispute at Fremantle is a dispute about demarcation and it is being dealt with in the federal court by Judge Ashburner. I regret that I have to interrupt my speech to educate a supporter of the Government about something she should know. A legitimate union in Western Australia was registered in the State arbitration court to cover a certain job. A federal union claimed that it was registered to cover that same job and therefore a demarcation dispute existed. It is a matter of law and is in the hands of the court at the present time. Why should I defend either one side or the other? I am prepared to wait until the evidence given before the court has been properly sifted. I have full confidence in Judge Ashburner and in the arbitration court.
– You do not need to defend a strike before it goes to arbitration.
– Who is defending a strike?
– You are.
– I am not defending a strike.
– There is the answer, Senator Robertson, to your question.
– I do say that workers have the right to strike, and if they ever lose that right it would be a poor outlook for them in their efforts to sell their labour.
– They usually strike for better wages and conditions.
– That is so, but the most vicious strikes in this country have been strikes over demarcation disputes.
– What do you mean by demarcation?
– My friend, go back to the kindergarten! I will tell you outside the chamber. I am sure that if I told him here he would not absorb what I was saying. Demarcation simply has to do with the coverage of certain work by a particular union.
– There is a fairly wide and definite line of demarcation between you and me.
– There is. You must be sub-normal when you ask such a question.
As Mr. Prowse has said, the Government has used every endeavour to sidetrack its responsibility. The banks have been blamed. The Government has made two bad mistakes by introducing two economic measures and then deciding to withdraw them. The Government says that it has caused little disturbance to industry but claims that its measures have had a good effect.
Having dealt with that particular phase very briefly, I shall discuss some of the other matters in the amendment moved by Senator Armstrong. It refers to the loss of overseas funds. This raises another matter in which the Government has had a vacillating policy. Import restrictions have been removed because they got out of hand. They were causing great embarrassment to business people who had not been informed that import restrictions were to be imposed or withdrawn. The Government set a new pace in imposing and repealing control measures by hurriedly re-introducing import licensing after the terrific disadvantages that had been caused by their repeal. Of course, the Government did not admit those disadvantages at the time, but the lifting of restrictions had the effect of shaking out the little men and causing unemployment. When the restrictions were re-imposed the position got out of hand and became even more embarrassing to the Government. Patronage and privilege went beyond the Government’s capacity to justify, with the result that the Government had no alternative but to take the restrictions off. The Government did not lift the restrictions because it was against its policy to maintain them. The controls had previously been put on and taken off, and put on again so no matter of principle or policy was involved. If principle were involved the Government had either prostituted its policy or it had dealt dishonestly with the people of Australia.
The Government lifted import restrictions because they were becoming a festering sore, and it was better to do away with them. They were not abolished because of national considerations, but in order to avoid an investigation which would have been one of the most sorry investigations that this nation had ever had into political patronage. The Government would have been wide open to criticism, not from the Labour Party, but from a people who had been prepared to support it. Because of the pressure, restrictions were lifted. I repeat that no matter of principle was involved because the restrictions had been put on twice and removed, to the detriment of the nation.
Since the lifting of import restrictions a flood of goods has come into Australia, and our balance of payments has. seriously deteriorated. We have been told time and again in this chamber that our small industries - infant industries - are being destroyed or forced to close down. The Government says that they can appeal to the Tariff Board for protection, and so they can, but in view of the time and expense involved in making such appeals many of them would be forced out of business before the appeal was heard. After the Government had prostituted Liberal principles and had said, “ We will pull off import controls, whether we like it or not”, a flood of imports came into the country. Of those imports, 65 per cent, were essential goods but the other 35 per cent, were non-essential goods.
– What do you mean by “ essential “?
– Essential for development. I refer to items of heavy equipment and other items that we have to import in order to continue our developmental work and to maintain our economic fabric. We have to import them because we have not developed our own manufacturing industries sufficiently.
The Government has said that the nation was being embarrassed because we were required to import steel. It said that the motor car industry and the building industry in this country were using too much steel. For over a decade, we on this side of the chamber have said that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is the most efficient steel-manufacturing company in the world, and that it can turn out steel of as good or better quality than can any other country, and at a lower price. But B.H.P. has been holding the country to ransom throughout that period and the Government has not done anything about it. We cannot blame the shortage of steel in Australia on a lack of raw materials.
– The company has spent £35,000.000 on new coking ovens.
– Only £35,000,000! I was in Formosa recently and I saw what was being done there. They were talking in terms of works costing £350,000,000.
This country is said to be very prosperous and it is acknowledged that our per capita production is higher than that of any other country in the world. A great deal of credit for that must go to the primary producers. New industries, efficient and capable, are being established, yet the Government jibs at spending enough money to give them, so to speak, the sinews of war - the means to enable them to compete with similar undertakings overseas. I believe that the Government would prefer to import steel rather than to expand our steel production capacity. We have the resources to make steel and many other products. The Government said that steel imports were embarrassing the country.
– What sort of steel was imported?
– I shall not tell you. I am sure that you know. The Government said that the steel demands of the motor car industry and the building industry were causing embarrassment and that those demands for steel had to be reduced.
– What would you do?
– I would not import any steel if I could help it. If the Labour Party had continued in office, this nation now would be independent of other countries for the supply of steel. When the phoney war was on, we had great difficulty in getting formulas for the making of steel and very severe action was taken. That action was successful. After the present Prime Minister had walked out on the nation and after Sir Arthur Fadden, as he now is, had completed his very temporary term of office as Prime Minister, a proper Government was formed and these matters were dealt with.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 March 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19610316_senate_23_s19/>.